Has Auburn found someone better than Dee Ford?

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With Auburn’s spring game on tap for this coming weekend, have the defending SEC champions already found a replacement for Dee Ford, one of the top defensive players in the country last season? With Ford off to the NFL, Carl Lawson has stepped in to fill some big shoes this spring, and he is winning the respect of his teammates in the process.

“Carl’s a physical beast,” defensive tackle Gabe Wright said to Al.com. “Carl is definitely showing some traits on that left side, looking almost as good or better than Dee.”

Better than Dee?

Ford was named First-team All-SEC in 2013 who recorded 14.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in helping to get Auburn to the BCS Championship Game. He finished the 2013 season second in the SEC in sacks per game despite missing the first two games of the season due to a left knee sprain. Can Lawson be better than that? He is certainly showing he has the work ethic to clear the bar. As a true freshman last season Lawson won playing time as the season progressed as he was named to multiple Freshman All-America lists at the end of the year. As good as he was, even Lawson believes he could have been better last season, and that thought should send fear down the spines of opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks in the fall.

“I feel like now that I have more of an understanding of what I’m doing, I can coach (the rest of the line) up,” Lawson said to Al.com. “The older guys, too, they coach me up as well. I guess there’s nobody in particular I lean on. We all lean on each other.”

Time will tell just how much of an impact Lawson has on the Auburn defense in 2014, but this Saturday could provide a glimpse of what is to come as the Tigers wrap up spring practices with the annual spring game.

Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard among semifinalists for Doak Walker Award

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is attempting to do something that has only been done twice before by winning the Doak Walker Award in back-to-back seasons. Taylor was one of the 10 semifinalists revealed by the Doak Walker Award on Thursday, putting last year’s top running back one step closer to pulling off the rare feat on the college football award circuit.

Taylor will have some stiff competition for the award this season. Among the other semifinalists for the award include Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s rushing leader with 1,726 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (Taylor has 1,463 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in the same number of games as Hubbard).

Darren McFadden of Arkansas is the most recent player to win the Doak  Walker Award in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2006 and 2007. The only other player to win the award in consecutive seasons, and the only other two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, is Ricky Williams of Texas. Williams won the award in 1997 and 1998. Taylor joined former Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon (2014), Montee Ball (2012) and Ron Dayne (1999) to move Wisconsin into first place for most all-time Doak Walker Award winners. Texas also has four awards won, but by three players (Ricky Williams twice, Cedric Benson in 2004 and D’Onta Foreman in 2016).

The other semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Award this year include LeVante Bellamy of Western Michigan (21 touchdowns leads the nation), AJ Dillon of Boston College, JK Dobbins of Ohio State, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU, Travis Etienne of Clemson, Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis, Xavier Jones of SMU, Zack Moss of Utah.

Boise State’s second-leading rusher arrested for failure to appear

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Were it not for its demise, it’d once again be time for the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker to shine.

The latest college football player with an off-field dustup is Boise State’s Robert Mahone, with KTIK‘s Mike Prater reporting that the running back was arrested earlier this week for misdemeanor failure to appear.  The arrest stemmed from a speeding ticket that went unpaid.

That ticket has since been taken care of, and it’s not expected to impact Mahone’s availability for this weekend’s key Mountain West Conference matchup with Utah State.

A junior, Mahone is second on the Broncos with 411 yards rushing and is tied for the team lead with five rushing touchdowns.  He’s also caught seven passes for another 62 yards coming out of the backfield.

At a perfect 6-0, Boise State leads the MWC Mountain division by one game over USU (5-1) and Air Force (5-1).  Boise is ranked 20th in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, third behind No. 18 Memphis and No. 19 Cincinnati among Group of Five schools.

With Ralphie V’s retirement, PETA calls on Colorado to end live mascot program

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They’re at it.  Again.

Earlier this month, Colorado announced that its live buffalo mascot since 2008, Ralphie V, will be retired after this weekend’s home finale Washington.  In that same announcement, the university confirmed that it is searching for a successor, which will make its debut in 2020.

If it’s up to the individuals at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, though, the live mascot program at CU will end with Ralphie V.

In a letter posted on its website and addressed to CU System President Mark Kennedy — and as they have done in the past when it comes to the likes of Texas (HERE), Georgia (HERE), LSU (HERE), Mississippi State (HERE), among others — PETA “respectfully request[ed] that you agree not to replace this individual with another animal but rather forgo their use from now on.”

From the letter, which you can read in full HERE:

Using live animals as mascots is often a recipe for disaster. For example, at this year’s Sugar Bowl, Bevo, the longhorn steer used by the University of Texas, broke out of an enclosure and charged the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga, nearly trampling him. Then just last month, an Auburn University football player collided with Mississippi State University’s mascot, Bully. Mascots from falcons to big cats have sustained physical injuries because they were being used as living props.

Even if animals aren’t physically harmed, it’s hard to imagine that they enjoy being paraded before raucous crowds, entirely out of their element, and treated as if they were toys rather than living, feeling beings with interests, personalities, and needs of their own. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, exuberantly screaming fans, and loud noises is stressful—and can be terrifying—for animals who have no idea what’s going on or why.

Fortunately for those who appreciate the beloved tradition, Ralphie isn’t going anywhere, a university official has confirmed..

Alabama fan charged with murder of LSU fan after shooting during LSU-Alabama game

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Sadly, this has become a ghoulish tradition of late when it comes to the LSU-Alabama game.

Last year, an Alabama fan was fatally injured after a verbal altercation with two LSU fans during the annual SEC West clash turned physical.  This year, an LSU fan, 29-year-old James Michael Roland “Mikie” Merritt, was shot with a pistol by 31-year-old David Allen Fulkerson, an Alabama fan, during the game.  After spending nearly a week on life support, Merritt died last Friday after the family decided to pull the plug.

Fulkerson was originally charged with attempted murder; that charge has since been upgraded to murder.

“They just got into it over the ball game,” Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson said by way of the Baton Rouge Advocate. “They’d been jawing at each other all day. Alcohol played a big part in it.”

Williamson said that Fulkerson’s and Merritt’s girlfriends are sisters and that the fight broke out at Fulkerson’s residence in Littleville, Alabama. People had gathered there to watch the game in which LSU beat Alabama 46-41.

Court records obtained by AL.com say that Fulkerson, a 31-year-old from Tuscumbia, Alabama, was cheering for Alabama and Merritt was cheering for LSU. When Merritt called a football player an expletive, Fulkerson thought he had said it to him and grabbed his gun.

Fulkerson’s defense attorney has claimed that the shooting was in self-defense, evidenced by a black eye he suffered. However, one witness told authorities that she watched Fulkerson hit himself in the face.