Whopping 123 players included on Lombardi watch list

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Another day, another watch list — and a ridiculously big one, size-wise, at that.

The Rotary Lombardi Award announced its watch list Monday morning, with a whopping 123 players and 76 universities as a part of the initial group.  In other words, there’s a fairly decent chance that just about anyone, including yourself, will be featured on the list.

For those unaware of what actually qualifies a player for consideration for this particular trophy, here you go: “[e]ligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.”

The positional breakdown for this year’s watch list is as follows: 48 offensive linemen — 19 guards, 16 tackles, 11 centers and two listed as “offensive lineman” — 38 linebackers, 21 defensive ends, 14 defensive tackles and one “defensive lineman.”

Last year’s winner was Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald.

If you have a half hour or so, below is the complete 2014 Lombardi Award preseason watch list for your reading pleasure:

Henry Anderson, DE, Sr. – Stanford
Stephone Anthony, LB, Sr. – Clemson
Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Sr. – Northwestern
T.T. Barber, LB, Jr. – Middle Tennessee State
Jamaal Bass, LB, Sr. – Northern Illinois
Vic Beasley, DE, Sr. – Clemson
Michael Bennett, DT, Sr. – Ohio State
Austin Blythe, C, Jr. – Iowa
Joey Bosa, DE, So. – Ohio State
Brett Boyko, T, Sr. – UNLV
Kelby Brown, LB, Sr. – Duke
Brandin Bryant, DT, Jr. – Florida Atlantic
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Jr. – Michigan State
AJ Cann, G, Sr. – South Carolina
Justin Cherocci, LB, Sr. – Central Michigan
Le’Raven Clark, T, Jr. – Texas Tech
Ben Clarke, C, Jr. – Hawaii
La’El Collins, T, Sr. – LSU
Christian Covington, DT, Jr. – Rice
Carl Davis, DT, Sr. – Iowa
Tyeler Davison, DT, Sr. – Fresno State
Reese Dismukes, C, Sr. – Auburn
Jamil Douglas, G, Sr. – Arizona State
Spencer Drango, T, Jr. – Baylor
Ejiro Ederaine, LB, Jr. – Fresno State
Steve Edmond, LB, Sr. – Texas
Mario Edwards, DE, Jr. – Florida State
Cameron Erving, T, Sr. Florida State
Dominic Espinsoa, C, Sr. – Texas
Kyler Frackrell, LB, Jr. – Utah State
Devonte Fields, DE, So. – TCU
BJ Finney, C, Sr. – Kansas State
Trey Flowers, DE, Sr. – Arkansas
Leonard Floyd, LB, So. – Georgia
Alani Fau, LB, Sr. – BYU
Bryce Giddens, C, Jr. – Arkansas State
Hroniss Grasu, C, Sr. Oregon
Randy Gregory, DE, Jr. – Nebraska
Bryce Hager, LB, Sr. – Baylor
Justin Hamilton, DT, Sr. – UL-Lafayette
Lincoln Hansen, T, Sr. – Eastern Michigan
Rob Havenstein, T, Sr. – Wisconsin
Brock Hekking, DE, Sr. – Nevada
Ben Henney- LB, Sr. – Kansas
Treyvon Hester, DT, So. – Toledo
Sean Hickey, T, Sr. – Syracuse
Jermaine Holmes, LB, Sr. – Marshall
Chucky Hunter, DT, Sr. – TCU
Martin Ifedi, DE, Sr. – Memphis
Scott Inskeep, G, Sr. – UTEP
Myles Jack, LB, So. – UCLA
Tre Jackson, G, Sr. – Florida State
Grady Jarrett, DT, Sr. – Clemson
Chris Jasperse, C, Sr. – Marshall
Cameron Jefferson, G, Sr. – UNLV
Chris Johnson, LB, Sr. – Navy
Kaleb Johnson, G, Sr. – Rutgers
A.J. Johnson, LB, Sr. – Tennessee
Gerrand Johnson, DT, Jr. – UL-Monroe
Tyler Johnstone , T, Jr. – Oregon
Chris Jones, DT, So. – Mississippi State
Bronson Kaufusi, LB, Jr. – BYU
Eric Kendricks, LB, Sr. – UCLA
Andrae Kirk, LB, Sr. – Florida Atlantic
Arie Kouandjio, G, Sr. – Alabama
Qushaun Lee, LB, Sr. – Arkansas State
Cyril Lemon, G, Sr. – North Texas
Braden Lyons, T, Sr. – Florida Atlantic
Luther Maddy, DT, Sr. – Virginia Tech
Derrick Malone, LB, Sr. – Oregon
Greg Mancz, G, Sr. – Toledo
Nick Martin, OL, Sr. – Notre Dame
Shaquille Mason, G, Sr. – Georgia Tech
Tyler Matakevich, LB, Jr . – Temple
Josue Matias, G, Sr. – Florida State
Derrick Mathews, LB, Sr. – Houston
David Mayo, LB, Sr. – Texas State
Benardrick McKinney, LB, Jr. – Mississippi State
Silverberry Mouhon, DE, Jr. – Cincinnati
Ryan Mueller, DE, Sr. – Kansas State
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, So. – Ole Miss
Shawn Oakman, DE, Jr. – Baylor
Cedric Ogbuehi. T, Sr. – Texas A&M
Andrus Peat, T, Jr. – Stanford
Remington Peck, DL, Jr. – BYU
Denzel Perryman, LB, Sr. – Miami
Andy Phillips, G, Sr. – Central Michigan
Terrance Plummer, LB, Sr. – UCF
Hayes Pullard, LB, Sr. – USC
Mykhael Quave, T, Jr. – UL-Lafayette
Daniel Quave, G, Sr. – UL-Lafayette
Cedric Reed, DE, Sr. –Texas
Jacob Richard, C, Jr. – Ball State
Tyler Roberts, DE, Jr. – Troy
A’Shawn Robinson, DE, So. – Alabama
Jake Ryan, LB, Sr. – Michigan
Ty Sambrailo, T, Sr. – Colorado State
Brandon Scherff, T, Sr. – Iowa
Isaac Seumalo, C, Jr. – Oregon State
Danny Shelton, DT, Jr. – Washington
Steve Shumaker, OL, Sr. – Army
Robert Singletary, DE, Sr. – UTSA
Jake Smith, C, Sr. – Louisville
Jaylon Smith, LB, So. – Notre Da
Quinton Spain, G, Sr. – West Virginia
Eric Striker, LB, Jr. – Oklahoma
Junior Sylvestre, LB, Sr. – Toledo
AJ Tarpley, LB, Sr. – Stanford
Shaq Thompson, LB, Jr. – Washington
Laken Tomlinson, G, Sr. – Duke
Dominique Tovell, DE, Jr. – UL-Lafayette
Max Tuerk,G, Jr. – USC
Clint Van Horn, T, Jr. – Marshall
Zach Virgil, LB, Sr. – Utah State
Diaheem Watkins, DE, Sr. – UAB
Cody Whitehair,G, Sr. – Kansas State
Cody Wichmann, G, Sr. – Fresno State
Ucambre Williams, T, Sr. – South Alabama
Leonard Williams, DE, Jr. – USC
Ramick Wilson, LB, Sr. – Georgia
Eddie Yarbrough, DE, Jr. – Wyoming
Mason Y’Barbo, G, Sr. – North Texas

Former Penn State LB Manny Bowen transfers to Utah

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Manny Bowen’s winding roller coaster journey in his college football life will include the Pac-12 as his next stop.

On his personal Twitter account late Wednesday morning, Bowen announced that he “will be playing my final season of college football for the University of Utah.” Bowen, who announced his transfer from Penn State in mid-October, is set to graduate from the university next month.

The Utes subsequently confirmed the addition of Bowen.

In late August, James Franklin confirmed that Bowen had left his football program; that move came a little over three weeks after the fourth-year senior rejoined the team and was practicing with the rest of the Nittany Lions in preparation for the 2018 season.  Bowen was suspended late last season and then dismissed in late December for what were described as violations of team rules.

Bowen had started the first nine games of the 2017 season, before the disciplinary issues hit, after starting a dozen contests during the 2016 campaign.  He didn’t play in the Rose Bowl that season because of, you guessed it, unspecified violations of team rules.

At the time of his 2017 suspension, Bowen was third on the team with 51 tackles and tied for second in quarterback hits with four.

Rumored to have left Hurricanes, Miami says Jeff Thomas still ‘a member of the football team’

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Is he or isn’t he?  That’s a rather significant question that’s being asked regarding the status of one of Miami’s most productive players on the offensive side of the ball.

Earlier in the day, speculation was swirling that Jeff Thomas had left the Miami football team. Not long after, a UM spokesperson stated that the wide receiver would not be at practice Wednesday due to what were described as personal reasons but that he’s still a member of the football team.

It has been rumored that there was some type of issue between Thomas and unspecified members of the coaching staff earlier this week that led to the current situation.

Head coach Mark Richt is not scheduled to meet with the media Wednesday or Thursday.  It’s unclear if the football program will send out an update on Thomas’ status with the team, although it’s possible that could happen at some point today.

Thomas is currently leading the Hurricanes in receptions (35) and receiving yards (563).  The sophomore’s 16.1 yards per reception are second on the team while his three touchdown receptions are tied for third.

Miami closes out the 2018 regular season with a home date against ACC Coastal champion and 24th-ranked Pitt this Saturday.

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.”