Nation’s top tight ends named to Mackey Award watch list

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A grand total of 38 tight ends from around the country have been named to the John Mackey Award watch list. This is a refreshing total to lay eyes on when most watch lists seem to include about half of the nation’s players at a certain position by default.

The John Mackey Award is presented annually to the nation’s top tight end. It is named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, who played his college football at Syracuse. Semifinalists for the award will be announced on November 17 and finalists will be announced on November 24. The Mackey Award will be awarded on December 10 in Baltimore.

The Mackey Award was first awarded in 2000. In the 14 years the award has existed, no school has had more than one Mackey Award winner. Last year’s Mackey Award winner was Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Florida State’s Nick O’Leary was a finalist for the award last season and is listed on the watch list this season.

Here is this year’s Mackey Award Watch List:

Rory Anderson, Sr, South Carolina
Kennard Backman, Sr, UAB
Blake Bell, Sr, Oklahoma
EJ Bibbs, Sr, Iowa State
Pharof Brown, Jr, Oregon
Kyle Carter, Jr, Penn State
Kivon Cartwright, Sr, Colorado State
Gerald Christian, Sr, Louisville
Braxton Deaver, Sr, Duke
Thomas Duarte, So, UCLA
Luke Eakes, Sr, Northern Illinois
Evan Engram, So, Ole Miss
Billy Freeman, So, San Jose State
Darion Griswold, Jr, Arkansas State
Connor Hamlett, Sr, Oregon State
Hunter Henry, So, Arkansas
Mitchell Henry, Sr, Western Kentucky
Jeff Heuerman, Sr, Ohio State
Wyatt Houston, So, Utah State
OJ Howard, So, Alabama
Jesse James, Jr, Penn State
Malcolm Johnson, Sr, Mississippi State
Ben Koyack, Sr, Notre Dame
Tyler Kroft, Jr, Rutgers
Devin Mahina, Sr, BYU
Taylor McNamara, So, Oklahoma
Jimmy Mundine, Sr, Kansas
Johnny Mundt, So, Oregon
De’Marieya Nelson, Sr, Arizona State
Nick O’Leary, Sr, Florida State
Casey Pierce, Sr, Kent State
Sean Price, Jr, USF
Jay Rome, Jr, Georgia
Tyreese Russell, Sr, Eastern Michigan
Wes Saxton, Sr, South Alabama
Randall Telfer, Sr, USC
Eric Tomlinson, Sr, UTEP
CJ Uzomah, Sr, Auburn

The Rimington Trophy watch list (best center) was also released today. On Monday the watch lists for the Maxwell Award, Bednarik Award and Hornung Award were released.

Minnesota regents approve new contract for P.J. Fleck

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As expected, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck now has a brand new contract to remain the head coach of the Golden Gophers. After agreeing to terms on a new deal and the school officially recognizing the new deal last week, just before a monster of a win for the program, the contract has been given the final green light to become officially official after the Board of Regents voted to approve the terms of the new contract.

As previously reported, Fleck will have a new seven-year contract good through the 2026 season and the terms of the buyout were significantly increased to fend off would-be suitors looking for a new head coach this year on the coaching carousel, and potentially in the next few years as well before the buyout drops off in price. Of course, any school with deep enough pockets willing to pony up to get Fleck to be their guy will still make a phone call or two, but Fleck appears to be settled in with Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

In addition to Fleck seeing his own pay increase, Minnesota’s regents also signed off on providing more combined salary for an assistant coaching staff with an extra $1.05 million being placed in the budget for assistant coaches.

Now that all of that contract business is squared away, Fleck can continue to focus on Minnesota’s next task on the field. This week, Minnesota heads on the road to face Iowa in a pivotal Big Ten West Division game. The Gophers remain undefeated and have climbed to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff ranking. A win on the road against Iowa could set Minnesota up for a regular-season finale riding an 11-0 record and the division already clinched for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

It’s no wonder Minnesota decided to lock down Fleck while they still could.

FAU TE John Raine awarded another year of eligibility

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We overlooked this one earlier in the week, but it’s a rather sizable piece of official news for Lane Kiffin‘s Florida Atlantic football program.

By way of the Palm Beach Post Tuesday, it has been confirmed that John Raine was recently awarded a fifth season of eligibility.  The ruling will allow the senior tight end to play for the Owls in 2020.

A broken ankle cost Raine all but four games of his true freshman season in 2016, paving the way for the NCAA to rule in his favor on his appeal for another year of eligibility.

“I’m super excited about it,” Raine told the Post about the NCAA’s approval of a medical hardship waiver. “I love being here; I love playing football.”

With two regular-season games plus a bowl remaining, Rainer has already set career-highs in receptions (26), receiving yards (426) and receiving touchdowns (five).  The touchdowns are tops on the Owls.

This weekend, a Notre Dame home game won’t be sold out for first time since 1973

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All good things, streaks in this particular case, must come to an end.

Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Notre Dame will play host to Navy in the 93rd renewal of their football rivalry.  And, according to the South Bend Tribune, the game won’t be played in front of a sellout crowd at Notre Dame Stadium (capacity: 77,622), which is actually a startling development.

This weekend, you see, will mark the first time since Thanksgiving Day 1973 (vs. Air Force) that the Fighting Irish haven’t sold out a home football game, snapping a streak of 273 straight sellouts.  Ahead of that streak being snapped, the Irish’s athletic director for the past dozen years, Jack Swarbrick, attempted to downplay the development.

From the Tribune:

It was never sort of important to me to keep it alive, but I understand why other people thought so. It’s a point of distinction to a lot of people and our fans.

“For me it’s always been: What’s the stadium environment like? Are we creating a great environment for our team and for our student-athletes? That you can say it’s also sold out is sort of a byproduct of that.

“But if my choice is (77,622) people in an environment that’s not really good versus 75,000 in a raucous environment, I’ll take the latter every time.

Notre Dame’s 237-game streak had been the second-longest active streak in college football behind Nebraska’s 373, which will move to 374 when Big Red hosts Wisconsin this weekend. The last time the Cornhuskers failed to sellout Memorial Stadium was during the 1962 season.

Four finalists named for 2019 Paul Hornung Award

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The field for the award that fetes the nation’s most versatile college football player has been whittled down significantly.

Earlier Thursday, the Louisville Sports Commission announced the four finalists for the 2019 Paul Hornung Award that have been chosen by the 17-member selection committee.  And (surprise!), all four of the finalists come from Power Five conferences: Lynn Bowden Jr. (Kentucky), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU), Joe Reed (Virginia) and Wan’Dale Robinson (Nebraska).

All four of the finalists come from the offensive side of the ball and have spent time as return specialists as well.  Because of injuries at the position, Bowden, listed as a wide receiver to start the season, has started the last three games at quarterback for UK, with the Wildcats going 2-1 in that span.

Reed is primarily a wide receiver and Edwards-Helaire a running back, while Robinson has split his time between both positions.

The 2018 winner of the Hornung Award was Purdue’s Rondale Moore, who likely would’ve been given serious finalist consideration again this year if not for his season essentially being derailed by a lingering hamstring injury.

For all of the statistical particulars for each candidate, click HERE the award’s press release: