Lou Groza Award watch list headlined by FSU’s Aguayo

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Award watch list season continued Wednesday with a nod to the kicking game. The watch lists for the Lou Groza Award and Ray Guy Award were on the agenda for the day, giving special teams players their day in the sun. First up is the Lou Groza Award, which is awarded to the best place-kicker in the country by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.

Last year’s Lou Groza Award went to Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo. He headlines this year’s watch list as he looks to become the first player since Sebastian Janikowski, also from Florida State, to win the award in consecutive seasons. Janikowski won the award in 1998 and 1999. No school has more Lou Groza Award winners than Florida State. In addition to Janikowski and Aguayo, Graham Gano won the award in 2008. Joining Aguayo on the watch list is 2013 Lou Groza Award finalist Marvin Kloss of USF.

Semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award will be announced November 6 and the finalists will be unveiled on November 24. The winner will be named at the award’s banquet on December 9.

Here is this year’s Lou Groza Award watch list:

Roberto Aguayo, Florida State

Kyle Brindza, Notre Dame

Ryan Bustin, Texas Tech

Jack Cantele, Kansas State

Will Conant, Air Force

Brad Craddick, Maryland

Colby Delahoussaye, LSU

Jeremiah Detmer, Toledo

Jake Elliott, Memphis

Kyle Fischer, Louisiana Tech

Elliott Fry, South Carolina

Michael Geiger, Michigan State

Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State

Dan Goodale, Boise State

Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

Maxwell Johnson, New Mexico State

Marvin Kloss, USF

Austin Lopez, San Jose State

Shawn Moffitt, UCF

Marshall Morgan, Georgia

Jaden Oberkrom, TCU

Will Oliver, Colorado

Andy Phillips, Utah

Jared Roberts, Colorado State

Niklas Sade, North Carolina State

Carl Salazar, Tulsa

Tyler Tate, Bowling Green

John Wallace, Louisville

Jordan Williamson, Stanford

Josiah Yazdani, Ohio


Catch up on your watch lists released this week:

Maxwell Award (best player)

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)

Hornung Award (most versatile player)

Mackey Award (best tight end)

Rimington Trophy (best center)

USC’s Jake Olson named 2018 Walter Camp Award of Perseverance winner

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One of the most inspirational stories in college football the past few years has earned Jake Olson some much-deserved hardware.

Tuesday, the Walter Camp Foundation announced that Olson has been named as the recipient of the 2018 Walter Camp Award of Perseverance.  Olson, without sight in either eye since the age of 12, made history last year as a member of USC’s special teams by becoming the second legally-blind player to appear in an NCAA football game.

“Jake’s story is an inspiration to all, and our Foundation is honored to recognize him with the award of perseverance,” said Michael Madera, Walter Camp Foundation president, in a statement. “Jake has demonstrated courage and a strong will to succeed despite the challenges he has had to overcome.”

The award is merely a continuation of what’s been nearly a decade’s worth of touching moments for a remarkable young man.

In 2009, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Olson, a teenage fan of the program at the time suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old).  It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.

Fast-forward a few years, and Olson walked on to the USC football team as a long-snapper in 2015.  He took his first live-drill reps with the Trojans in September of that year, then snapped for the team in the 2016 spring game.  While he didn’t see any real-game action either year, in last season’s opener, at the end of USC’s closer-than-expected win over Western Michigan, Olson finally got to take his place on the field in an actual game with the rest of his special teams teammates as the long-snapper on an extra point — thanks in large part to a very classy assist from WMU head coach Tim Lester.

Olson remains a playing member of the Trojans football team, and is currently in his redshirt junior season.  He’s listed as the Trojans’ third-team long-snapper on the team’s most recent depth chart, although he hasn’t taken the field in a game this season.

As speculation swirls around Clay Helton, USC fans push for change

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To change or not to change, that is the question facing the USC administration when it comes to its head football coach. If they were to ask a growing segment of the fanbase, though, the answer would be resounding “yes!” to change.

In the days leading into this past Saturday’s rivalry game with UCLA, Clay Helton outwardly expressed confidence that he would return as head coach next season.  After coughing up a fourth-quarter lead in the loss to a Bruins team that came in at 2-8, Helton stated “that’s a great question for [athletic director Lynn] Swann” when asked if he thought he’d be returning in 2019.

The fanbase, on the other hand, is making its feelings loud and clear.

A petition appeared on Change.org earlier this week calling for the firing of Helton, although that one hasn’t gotten much traction.  Another, this one a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com, has started to take off as fans are looking to fly a banner over the USC campus before the Notre Dame game this weekend calling for the firing of Helton.  Additionally, the same group is seeking to take out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times calling for the same thing.

The $2,000 needed for the airplane and banner has easily been raised already; the newspaper ad will cost the group $20,000 and, as of this posting, they have raised just over $8,000 toward that goal.

“This is not designed to publicly humiliate Clay Helton,” the fundraising page stated. “The vast majority of USC fans like him as a person and wish it had worked out for him here and we will be rooting for him enthusiastically at his next destination. However, this job is beyond his capabilities at this point in his career and we are not doing anyone any favors by retaining him, including Clay himself. This is about bringing the USC administration’s attention to that fact.”

With the loss that dropped them to 5-6, USC now needs to beat third-ranked Notre Dame next week to become bowl-eligible.  The last time the Trojans failed to qualify for a bowl, outside of the NCAA-administered two-year bowl ban in 2010-11, was in 2000.  Following that 5-7 season, Paul Hackett was fired and Pete Carroll ultimately hired to replace him.

Prior to this year, Helton had won 10 and 11 games in his first two full seasons with the Trojans.

It remains unclear in which direction Swann and other USC administrators — and big-money boosters — will head, but one report has them keeping the status quo.

Should USC ultimately move on from Helton, James Franklin has already been mentioned as a possible replacement.  Tuesday, the current Penn State coach was asked about the potential opening.

“It’s that time of year where all this stuff happens,” Franklin said. “It’s that time of year. It’s the crazy, mad time of the year when these types of things happen. …

“As you guys know, like always, we’re focused on Maryland completely, 100 percent. I don’t think it’s even fair or right to be even talking about that job from everything I understand about it, but we’re completely focused on Maryland.”

Alabama RB Damien Harris (mild concussion) back at practice, status for Iron Bowl up in the air

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Alabama’s leading rusher is making progress, but whether it will lead to an Iron Bowl appearance remains to be seen.

Damien Harris sustained a hard hit early in the fourth quarter of UA’s win over Citadel and didn’t return.  Following the game, Nick Saban confirmed that the running back had sustained what he described as a “mild concussion.”

Harris didn’t practice Monday but was able to return Tuesday, albeit while wearing a non-contact jersey and limited to some individual drills.  With rival Auburn on tap this weekend, Harris’ status will likely be determined later in the week.

“As everyone knows, we have a concussion protocol,” the head coach said. “Because we have a baseline test on every player and when a player gets back to his baseline… this was called a mild concussion, and hopefully he’ll be back to his baseline soon and he can resume activity when that occurs.”

Through 11 games, Harris is the defending national champion’s leading rusher with 678 yards on the ground.  He had 83 yards on just seven carries against the Bulldogs, including a 73-yard run that ended with the head injury.

Najee Harris‘ 639 yards are second on the team.

Oregon, Oklahoma State line up home-and-home

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Oregon and Oklahoma State will conduct a home-and-home series in 2025-26, the schools jointly announced on Tuesday.

Oregon will host the Cowboys on Sept. 6, 2025, while Oklahoma State will return the favor on Sept. 12, 2026.

The schools have met once prior, a 42-31 upset Oregon win in the 2008 Holiday Bowl.

The Ducks also have a home-and-home with Boise State lined up for 2025-26, with hosting duties swapped from its Oklahoma State series. The Oklahoma State series also comes amid a phase of Big 12 non-conference games for the Ducks; they’ll play Texas Tech in 2023-24 and Baylor in 2027-28. Oregon also has future home-and-homes with Ohio State (2020-21) and Michigan State (2029-30), plus neutral site games with Auburn in Dallas to open 2019 and against Georgia in Atlanta to begin the 2022 campaign.

For Oklahoma State, the Oregon series are the only games on the books for 2025-26 at this point and also comes amid a run of home-and-homes against teams from out west. The Pokes, who hosted Boise State in September, begin a home-and-home with Oregon State next season, will pay a return visit to Boise State in 2021, and will play a home-and-home with Arizona State in 2022-23. The Oregon series is sandwiched between a home-and-home with Arkansas in 2024 and ’27.