QB Brandon Connette’s transfer from Duke official

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Following up on speculation that first surfaced overnight, there has indeed been some definitive clarity added to Duke’s quarterback position.

The university announced Thursday afternoon that Brandon Connette has decided to play his final season of collegiate football at another school.  The release stated that “Duke has fulfilled Connette’s requests to provide permission to schools closer to his home of Corona, Calif., to contact him regarding future athletic and academic opportunities.”

Connette’s decision to transfer has nothing to do with a depth chart or unhappiness with his standing with the football program.  Rather, it has everything to do with a family matter.  Connette’s mother was diagnosed with brain cancer in December of last year, which prompted the quarterback to take a leave of absence from the team prior to the Blue Devils’ bowl game.

“First and foremost, our prayers and concerns are with Nancy Connette and her quest for good health,” head coach David Cutcliffe said.  “We thank Brandon for his many contributions to Duke University and our football program.  We want nothing but the best for Brandon – both on the football field and off – and his personal situation is very close to our hearts.  He’s been an integral part of our program over the past four years, and we wish him continued success going forward.”

In 2013, Connette played in all 14 games for the Blue Devils in their stunning run to 10 wins.  When starter Anthony Boone went down with a collarbone injury, Connette replaced him; Duke went 1-2 with Boone out of the starting lineup.  After Boone returned, the two players spent a large portion of the remainder of the season in a quasi-platoon system.

Boone was the primary weapon in the passing game, while Connette led the Blue Devils in rushing touchdowns with 14.  Connette, though, did his share of damage through the air, matching Boone with 13 touchdown passes.

A three-star member of Duke’s 2010 recruiting class, one of the offers Connette coming out of high school in Corona, Calif., was Stanford.  Whether the Cardinal would be an option four years later is unclear.

“I could not be more appreciative of Coach Cutcliffe for his understanding of this situation,” Connette said.  “Being away from my family during my mother’s illness has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to endure.  I’m thankful that Duke University afforded me so many incredible opportunities – academically, athletically and socially – and will always hold my experience here in the highest regard.”

As Connette will be a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2014 at an FBS program.

Oregon LB arrested for removing parking boot dismissed by Ducks

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In April, Fotu Leiato was arrested on a couple of charges related to the illegal removal of a parking boot from his vehicle.  A month later, we’ve learned Leiato was given the boot from his current football program for good measure.

247Sports.com was the first to report that Leiato has been dismissed by first-year Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.  Further to the point, the linebacker’s dismissal came a day after his April arrest but the news didn’t surface until Thursday.

In the April incident, Leiato was arrested on charges of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree theft and criminal trespassing.  That was actually his second arrest this year as he was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in January.

The combination of the two arrests led Cristobal to pull the trigger on a dismissal.

Coming to Eugene as a three-star safety, Leiato played in 37 of 38 games the past three seasons.  The Washington native earned the first start of his collegiate playing career during the 2017 season.

The senior had been in line to earn a starting job exiting spring and heading into the summer phase of the offseason.

LB Darrin Kirkland announces transfer from Tennessee

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Darren Kirkland‘s injury-plagued time on Rocky Top has come to an end.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Kirkland announced that he has decided to transfer out of first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt‘s Tennessee football program.  The linebacker gave no specific reason for his decision to move on from the Volunteers.

“Tennessee will always hold a special place in my heart,” Kirkland wrote. “These moments have been priceless and I’m a better player and man from this experience.”

As a graduate transfer, Kirkland would be eligible to play for another FBS program in 2018.  Not only that, but he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining counting this year.

A four-star 2015 signee, Kirkland started 10 games as a true freshman and then another six in a sophomore campaign marred by a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games.  In summer camp last year, he suffered a knee injury severe enough to sideline him for the entire 2017 season.

The rehab from that injury kept Kirkland from being a full participant in Pruitt’s first spring practice this year.

North Texas dropping $625,000 to install new turf that naturally includes new design

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Seth Littrell has done a great job turning around the program at North Texas but fans getting a look at the 2018 edition of his team will notice something right away that’s different when they take the field for the home opener: new turf. The Denton Record Chronicle reports that UNT is ponying up $625,245 for the latest “FieldTurf CoolPlay” turf at Apogee Stadium.

“We are excited about the turf,” Littrell said recently, according to the paper. “It was much needed. That turf has been used a lot and has gotten worn down. The new field will improve safety and will be a great resource for our kids.”

The old turf had a good run at the stadium after being installed back in 2011 but obviously the summer heat and 300+ pound bodies playing football will cause a little wear and tear. The Record Chronicle says that “North Texas” and “Mean Green” will be the end zones text while the midfield school logo will include a “dark green outline of the state of Texas.”

Completion of the project is expected to be done well in time for the first game against SMU in September. The school has released some shots of Apogee Stadium without the old turf and it certainly looks kind of wild to see a stadium sans a playing field:

Kansas State AD open to scheduling Nebraska in the future

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Conference realignment ended a bunch of big rivalries, from the major (Texas-Texas A&M) to the mundane. Former Big 8 and Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Nebraska were somewhere on the middle of that scale after playing each other in football for decades. While nobody is clamoring for the two to get together quite like they are the Longhorns and Aggies, there’s plenty who would still love to see them schedule a non-conference series given how close Lincoln and the Little Apple are to each other (135 miles across the border).

Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor has been in the job just over a year and it seems like he’s very aware of the scheduling situation between the two schools and is open to getting something done eventually. He was asked about adding the Cornhuskers to the slate in a Q&A on the school’s website and had this to say:

“That is a school that makes a lot of sense,” said Taylor. “We are pretty well-scheduled out in football with our one Power Five opponent, but we do play them in baseball and have had conversations in men’s basketball. If the opportunity were to arise, they are someone we would certainly entertain if it made sense for us.”

KSU is fully booked on the scheduling front through 2022 but have been open to adding home-and-homes with former Big 12 opponents with Missouri on tap for 2022/23 and Colorado on 2027/28. They’ve got a Power Five opponent on the docket until 2031 so it seems like the team wouldn’t be able to get something done with Nebraska until after then. That is, to say the least, a long ways away.

Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to meet in a bowl game at some point over the next few years. The Cornhuskers and Wildcats last met in 2010 in a series that is heavily weighted to Big Red. At least Taylor is leaving the door open and leaving a chance of the two programs hooking back up on the gridiron.