UCF QB Bortles makes NFL decision official, RB Storm Johnson joins him

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As expected, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles is cashing in his NFL Draft stock at its peak. Bortles made his decision official on Monday afternoon, informing head coach George O’Leary he will enter the NFL Draft this spring. He will be joined by UCF running back Storm Johnson.

Bortles had been holding off on making his decision until receiving his evaluation from the NFL to get a better sense of where he may be expected to be drafted. After an impressive showing in the Fiesta Bowl victory over Big 12 champion Baylor, the input must have been promising for the Offensive Player of the Year in the American. Bortles has been moving up various draft boards over the last month and his performance in the Fiesta Bowl did nothing to take away from his momentum heading in to the draft season.

Bortles completed 67.8 percent of his pass attempts this season for 3,581 yards. Both were second in the league behind only Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, who himself is considered a top draft pick candidate after leaving with one year of eligibility to spare. Johnson was the American’s leading rusher this past season as well. Johnson rushed for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Where UCF goes from here now should be interesting. The Knights look to have a winning foundation set up for years of success within the American moving in to the new College Football Playoff era, but replacing the top two offensive players will leave for some interesting position battles heading in to the spring. Freshman William Stanback was second on the team in rushing this season with 443 rushing yards and six touchdowns, so he should be the leading candidate to lead the running game in 2014. Freshman quarterback Justin Holman played sparingly behind Bortles this season but could be a leading contender for the starting job in 2014.

Urban Meyer calls LSU QB Joe Burrow “a Buckeye forever”

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The majority of players that end up transferring from one school to another probably leave on mostly positive terms with their previous school. In the case of quarterback Joe Burrow, there appear to be absolutely no bitter hostilities left at the table at Ohio State as far as Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is concerned.

Speaking to the media at a job fair recently at Ohio State, Meyer gave a glowing review of the conversations he had with Burrow and his family before Burrow made his decision to transfer to LSU.

“It was a situation that his last two weeks of spring were excellent,” Meyer said, according to 247 Sports. “I just talked to him the other day and his family, I saw his dad. He’s great. He’s a Buckeye forever and he’s going to go do the best he can at LSU and wish him well and I understand.”

Burrow was officially added to the LSU program last month. Burrow is expected to compete right away for the starting job with the Tigers after undergoing surgery for a broken hand last year. In Columbus, Meyer just named Dwayne Haskins as the starting quarterback for Ohio State this season.

Mike Leach goes on defense over tweet including edited Obama speech

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Washington State head coach Mike Leach remains one of the most intriguing coaches to follow on Twitter simply because you never know what to expect to pop up on his timeline. On Sunday evening, Leach shared a video of former President Barack Obama in an attempt to open a dialogue about government. The biggest problem with that was the fact the video had been heavily edited to omit major portions of the speech Obama was giving, and the trimmed down quotes pulled together offer a different meaning.

The tweet in question, which remains standing on Leach’s timeline as of Monday morning (UPDATE: The tweet has been removed from Leach’s account);

As quickly as Leach started receiving blowback from people on Twitter for sharing an edited video clip that fits a political narrative that contrasts the fuller context of the speech, Leach went on a tweet and retweet frenzy defending his attempt to spark a conversation.

The video may not be false, but it has been documented to be missing large portions of the original speech the doctored video used as a source.

Whether the video was doctored or not never seemed to be something Leach was concern3d about, as he was more focused on the lines that were recited. Whatever the reasoning for sharing the video, Leach sure found a way to keep busy on Twitter as he defended his original tweet.

Whether you agree or disagree with Leach and his political views, there is no questioning he is up for a discussion at any time.

UPDATE: Wouldn’t you know it, but literally seconds after this post was originally published, Leach tweeted a link to the full Obama speech.

UPDATE NO. 2: The controversial tweet has now been removed from Leach’s account.

Ex-Western Michigan WR reportedly holding up payouts in $208 million lawsuit with NCAA

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It’s been well over a year since the NCAA reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over grant-in-aid/cost of attendance and yet the $208 million the organization is still just sitting in a bank account waiting to be doled out. While you might first think that this is the result of the usual dragging of their feet from those in Indianapolis, it turns out that is not the case at all.

USA Today is reporting that it’s actually former Western Michigan wide receiver Darrin Duncan who is the one holding things up. He withdrew from the class-action case but his attorney, Caroline Tucker, “attempted to obtain $200,000 from the plaintiffs’ lawyers in exchange for dropping the objection.” The lawyers on the plaintiffs’ side have naturally responded in force, asking either of the two to post a five-figure bond to cover their own legal fees resulting from this delay. The judge in the case, Claudia Wilken, knocked that down to $5,000 last Friday by calling Tucker/Duncan’s objection to the case “meritless and thus his appeal is unlikely to succeed.”

At this point, Duncan/Tucker can either put up the money and risk losing it to continue their objection or drop things and let the payments — which could go as high as $6,000 per athlete — begin. While this is naturally focused on money, there’s a bit more to what the former Broncos receiver is going through:

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of Duncan dealing with personal hardship.

Now 28, he has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to his mother and a GoFundMe page established on his behalf about a year ago. He has received death threats because of his objection to the settlement, his mother, Arleen Pollard, said in an interview with USA TODAY Sports.

It does appear as though a solution to this long-running saga is in the cards somewhat soon but until then, the wait continues before the checks can start hitting the mail.

Pitt reportedly poaches Mississippi State staffer to be new director of recruiting

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Could we have the start of a budding rivalry between Pitt and Mississippi State? No, but the two programs did see one poach a staffer from the other.

A source told FootballScoop that Mississippi State assistant director of football operations Reed Case has taken the director of recruiting position at Pitt. Both positions are off-the-field roles but as anybody who has worked in a football office will tell you, each is crucial to the day-to-day success of a program.

Per the folks over at FootballScoop, this is one of the first big jobs that Case has had at an ACC program in the Northeast but he’s got a diverse background from stops at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and East Carolina among others.

The move by Pat Narduzzi fills the vacancy left behind by long-time staffer Mark Diethorn, who previously served as the Panthers’ director of recruiting for six years before heading to a new job at his alma mater of Virginia Tech last week.