Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

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A week ahead of its spring game, the Iowa football program has taken a rather significant hit on the recruiting front.

The Hawkeyes announced in a press release Saturday that assistant coach Eric Johnson has decided to leave Kirk Ferentz‘s coaching staff.  The state reason is that Johnson wants to pursue an unnamed career opportunity outside of football.

Johnson was a part of Ferentz’s first Iowa staff as a grad assistant.

“I know Eric and his family have given this decision great attention and thought, and we all wish them the best as they move forward,” said Ferentz in a statement.  “Eric has been a valued staff member since he joined our original staff in 1999 and has made many contributions to our program and team as a coach, recruiter and mentor.  I am very appreciative of Eric’s efforts and his commitment to Iowa and wish him all the best in the future.”

Johnson has served as assistant defensive line coach (2012-13), tight ends coach (2010-11; 2003-07) and assistant linebackers coach (2008-2009) during his decade-plus career with the Hawkeyes, but it was on the recruiting trail where Johnson made his biggest mark and where his departure will hit the program the hardest.  From the release on Johnson, who had spent the past 10 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator:

Johnson has been heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting efforts since joining the Hawkeye staff. Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class was ranked extremely high by all the recruiting experts. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was ranked among the top 10 in the nation by all of the top recruiting services, while Iowa’s classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009 were all ranked in the nation’s top 25. Sporting News ranked Iowa’s 2011 recruiting class second best among Big Ten programs and the 2012 class was ranked third among league programs.

Johnson ranked as one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 2001 and was named one of the Top Ten Recruiters in the Big Ten Conference by Rivals.com in 2007.

“My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa,” said Johnson. “It has been a great time in our lives. From a family standpoint, we had a chance to raise our children in a tremendous community. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way. I have also been mentored by three great coordinators in Norm Parker, Phil Parker and Ken O’Keefe, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best people anyone can ask for in Reese Morgan.”

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

Jim Thorpe Award reveals 14 semifinalists for 2018 honor

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You know how I know we’re getting close to the end of another regular season? Award semifinalists are being announced.

The first major award to do as such is the Jim Thorpe Award, with the trophy going to the nation’s top defensive back announcing a 14-player list of semifinalists. None of this year’s group were finalists or semifinalists for an award claimed last year by Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The SEC leads the way with three of the 14 semifinalists, followed by two apiece from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. Two Group of Five conferences, the AAC and Conference USA, have one each. Notre Dame is the lone independent to make the in-season cut.

Miami, LSU and Texas are the lone teams with two semifinalists — Michael Jackson Jr. and Jaquan Johnson for the Hurricanes; safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Greedy Williams (pictured) for the Tigers; and cornerback Kris Boyd and safety Caden Stearns for the Longhorns.

Nearly half of the announced semifinalists (six) are seniors. Another three each are juniors and sophomores, while there is one freshman — the Longhorns’ Stearns.

As far as specific positions, eight are corners and six are safeties.

Below is the entirety of the players eligible to claim the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award:

Ugochukwu Amadi, Oregon, Safety, Sr.
DeAndre Baker, Georgia, Cornerback, Sr.
Kris Boyd, Texas, Cornerback, Sr.
Nate Brooks, North Texas, Cornerback, Sr.
Grant Delpit, LSU, Safety, So.
Richie Grant, UCF, Safety, RSo.
Lavert Hill, Michigan, Cornerback, Jr.
Michael Jackson, Sr., Miami (FL), Cornerback, Sr.
Jaquan Johnson, Miami (FL), Safety, Sr.
Julian Love, Notre Dame, Cornerback, Jr.
Amani Oruwariye, Penn State, Cornerback, Sr.
Taylor Rapp, Washington, Safety, Jr.
Caden Sterns, Texas, Safety, Fr.
Greedy Williams, LSU, Cornerback, So.

Duke loses starting LT to fractured ankle

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Duke’s fairly astonishing spate of injuries to starters shows no signs of abating anytime soon.

The Blue Devils announced over the weekend that Jaylen Miller underwent surgery Sunday morning to repair a fractured right ankle. Miller suffered the injury in Saturday’s loss to Virginia.

As a result, the redshirt sophomore offensive tackle will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2018 season.

Miller had played in all seven games this season, starting each of the last three contests at left tackle. Those were the first starts of his career. Prior to this season, the 6-3, 310-pound Miller had played in just two games.

Miller’s ankle is just the latest in a long line of injuries that have hit the Blue Devils this season. From the football program’s release:

Miller becomes the 11th Blue Devil with starting experience to miss at least one game this season due to injury, joining running back Brittain Brown, cornerback Michael Carter II, defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord, cornerback Mark Gilbert, center Zach Harmon, safety Jordan Hayes, quarterback Daniel Jones, defensive end Drew Jordan, safety Jeremy McDuffie, linebacker Koby Quansah and wide receiver Aaron Young.

Report: USC starting QB JT Daniels expected to play vs. Arizona State

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Could it be much ado about nothing?

With starter JT Daniels in concussion protocol and his backup, Matt Fink, nursing three broken ribs, it was appearing somewhat likely that USC would be forced to turn the offense over to No. 3 quarterback Jack Sears. According to one report, however, the redshirt freshman may not be needed this weekend after all — at least to start with.

Obviously, the Trojans’ quarterback situation/predicament will be fluid throughout the rest of the week leading up to the Week 9 matchup with Arizona State this Saturday and possibly not decided until we get closer to kickoff.

Daniels, the true freshman who has started every game this season, suffered his head injury in the loss to Utah this past Saturday. Fink injured his ribs in the same game.

Sears, meanwhile, has not attempted a pass in his collegiate career.

Warde Manuel essentially claims ‘SCOREBOARD!’ in latest Michigan-Michigan State salvo

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The most recent public pissing match between a pair of in-state rivals shows no sign of abating anytime soon.  At all.

To recap:

In response to that statement, U-M athletic director Warde Manuel released his own statement Monday night.  In it, Manuel began by writing about a pregame conversation with his MSU counterpart, Bill Beekman, that he preferred to keep private.  To end it, Manual not-so-discreetly declared “SCOREBOARD!” on his rivals.

“It is a great rivalry between two Michigan Universities, and the focus should remain on the game, the way it’s played and,” wait for it… “the final result.”

Well played, Mr. Manuel.  Well played.

I had a conversation on the field with Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman prior to the game regarding the situation that occurred during pregame warmups. My preference is to keep that conversation and any further discussions between us. I will work with our staff and the conference to see how this situation can be prevented from happening in the future. It is a great rivalry between two Michigan Universities, and the focus should remain on the game, the way it’s played, and the final result.