Hoke: Veteran corners will be pressured by younger options

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Michigan head coach Brady Hoke seems to have a knack for suggesting there is a battle for a starting job at positions that likely already have the starters figured out. After trying to suggest there is a competition at quarterback this offseason, Hoke is also setting the tone for the defensive backs despite having a pair of players that combined for 10 interceptions last season. The message is clear though; there is room for improvement across the board in Ann Arbor.

Fall camps in college football should always be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of a clean slate across the roster, but Michigan has senior cornerbacks Raymon Taylor and junior Blake Countess the likely starters for the upcoming season, whether Hoke confirms that or not. Hoke sees these two players as leaders but goes on the record of saying “they’ve got to play every day.”

“I think Blake and Ray, they’re both older guys, who have played a lot,” Hoke said Friday, according to MLive.com. “Then you’ve got (sophomores) [Jourdan Lewis] and [Channing Stribling], guys who have done a nice job (developing). The leadership from Blake is going to be important, and from Raymon. But there’s also great competition. They’ve got to play every day. … They all know, they’d better have a day, every day.”

Why would Hoke shy away from just leaning on his upper classmen, including one earning first-team All-Big Ten honors last fall (Countess)? Simple. Michigan’s pass defense needs to improve and cut down on big plays by opposing offenses. Everybody on defense needs to step things up this season in order for Michigan to improve in the win total and Big Ten standings. If Michigan State has a no-fly zone in effect, all air traffic appears to be seeing clearer skies in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines ranked seventh in the Big Ten in pass defense in 2013, the lowest conference ranking since Hoke was named head coach following the Rich Rodriguez era, which ended with Michigan ranked 11th (out of 11 teams at the time) in the Big Ten’s passing defense ranking. The 231 passing yards per game allowed last season by Michigan was the second highest total allowed dating back to 2007.

As for the quarterback situation, Hoke previously has said he plans to have a starter figured out early in camp. Spoiler alert: It will (most likely) be Devin Gardner.

Fourth & fifth Auburn players leave Tigers since 2018 season started

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In what’s quickly becoming a trend, Auburn has lost yet another couple of players to in-season moves.

Citing an unnamed source, Rivals.com was the first to report that Nate Craig-Myers is leaving the Tigers and will transfer out of Gus Malzahn’s football program. No specific reason for the abrupt departure of the wide receiver was given.

Despite starting all three games for the Tigers this season, Craig-Meyers had just two receptions for 39 yards. He’ll apparently finish the AU portion of his playing career with 394 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns on his 22 catches.

Craig-Meyers was a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 receiver in the country; the No. 6 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 45 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. He was the highest-rated signee on the offensive side of the ball for the Tigers that recruiting cycle.

Additionally, 247Sports.com reported that Craig-Meyers’ half-brother, Jayvaughn Myers, did not attend Thursday’s practice and is leaving the team as well. The defensive back was a 2016 signee who played sparingly during his two-plus seasons on The Plains.

Head coach Gus Malzahn subsequently confirmed both of the departures.

Including Craig-Meyers and Meyers, a total of five Tigers have left the program since the start of the 2018 season. Just this week, tight end Jalen Harris took to Twitter to announce his decision to transfer. Additionally, cornerback John Broussard Jr. and punter Aidan Marshall parted ways with the team earlier this month as well.

Most, if not all of those players are taking advantage of a new NCAA rule implemented this offseason that allows them to play in up to four games in a season and still be able to take a redshirt and preserve a year of eligibility.

Miami to be without its leading tackler for FIU game

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As it closes out the non-conference portion of its 2018 schedule, Miami will (again, in one case) be at less than 100 percent at a couple of key positions.

Mark Richt confirmed Thursday that Jaquan Johnson will be sidelined for The U’s Week 4 matchup with Florida International. The safety suffered a hamstring injury in the Week 3 road win over Toledo and did not practice at all this week.

Johnson has started 17 straight games for the Hurricanes — three this season, all 13 in 2017 and the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl win over West Virginia. In 2018, the fourth-year senior leads the ‘Canes in tackles with 22. He also has one of UM’s two blocked kicks on the season.

In addition to Johnson, wide receiver Ahmmon Richards will miss his third straight game because of a knee injury suffered in the season-opening loss to LSU. Like his teammate, Richards did not practice at all this week.

The knee issue continues a string of injuries that Richards has had to battle through the past two seasons.

Richards missed the first two games in 2017 because of a hamstring issue, then suffered a season-ending meniscus injury in late November. At the time of that latter injury, Richards was third on the Hurricanes in receptions (24) receiving yards (439) and receiving touchdowns (three). The year before as a true freshman, he led the team with 934 receiving yards.

Prior to being injured in the opener this season, Richards had one catch for nine yards.

Miami will open ACC play next Thursday against North Carolina, with that short week likely playing at least a small role in erring on the side of caution with the players, Johnson in particular.

Scott Frost: This could get worse before it gets better

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Nebraska’s hiring of Scott Frost to take over as the head coach of the Cornhuskers came with a red wave of high optimism, but this was always going to be a bit of a rebuilding process in Lincoln. After an 0-2 start to the season, Frost is already bracing Nebraska fans about what could come next for the Huskers, because it may not be all that happy.

This could get worse before it gets better,” Frost said this week, as quoted in a Sports Illustrated story by Andy Staples. Frost is fair with his assessment.

This week, Nebraska opens Big Ten play with a road game in Ann Arbor against Michigan. The Wolverines are hoping the offense is on track after a tough season opener and playing at home could be a nice advantage against a Nebraska team with a young quarterback and a team still trying to come together under Frost. After that, Nebraska will get a home game against Purdue before back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Nebraska also has games later this season at Ohio State, home against Michigan State, and at Iowa to close out the season. The schedule was not a kind one to Nebraska this particular season, but the Huskers should improve over time under Frost.

Making a bowl game in Frost’s first season was always going to be a nice accomplishment if Nebraska could pull it off this season. After a tough 0-2 start with home losses to Colorado and Troy, Nebraska’s bowl hopes already look razor thin, but this is still a team that should continue to grow as the year moves along.

Rutgers completes 2021 schedule with addition of FCS school

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The final piece of the scheduling puzzle for Rutgers has been found for the 2021 season. Rutgers announced the addition of a home game against Delaware, an FCS program, to the 2021 schedule to give the Scarlet Knights a full schedule.

Rutgers will host Delaware on September 18, 2021. Other non-conference games lined up for Rutgers includes a season opener against Temple at home and a road trip to Syracuse for a pair of games against former Big East foes.

Rutgers has not faced the Blue Hens of Delaware since 1973. Rutgers leads the all-time series, 15-13-3. Delaware was also recently added to the future schedule of Penn State, with road trips to Penn State slated for 2023 and 2027.

In a fun little uniform twist, Rutgers will play teams with the signature winged helmet with shades of blue and yellow in back-to-back weeks. A week after hosting Delaware, Rutgers is scheduled to play a Big Ten contest at Michigan. Delaware and Michigan wear similar uniforms highlighted by a similar winged helmet design.