ND’s Brian Kelly: ‘shock… disappointment’ over academic probe

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An imbroglio that slammed headfirst into the Notre Dame football program yesterday had the same initial impact on its head coach.

As you have no doubt heard by now, four members of the Irish football program — thee starters, one key reserve — have been suspended from the team pending the outcome of an investigation into academic fraud.  Brian Kelly was alerted to the situation during a Thursday meeting with athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

Saturday, Kelly addressed the media for the first time and was, of course, immediately asked about the situation.

“My emotions were shock and disappointment at the time,” Kelly said when asked what he felt upon first learning of the probe.

The four players — wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams — remain enrolled in school but are not permitted to take part in any football activities with the team.  Kelly revealed that he has not yet talked to any of the players involved, but expects to do so within the next 24 hours or so.

As for the players’ futures at the school?

Notre Dame football has long prided itself on doing things “the right way,” an image that was dented, some would say severely, with the news that broke yesterday.  While that image took a hit, Kelly continued to espouse the virtues to which the university in general and the football program in particular clings.

“It’s a privilege to play at Notre Dame, not a right. We don’t say one thing and do another. I’m proud of Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “There are no shortcuts in what we do. You can’t win taking shortcuts.”

Kelly added that he has not been interviewed as part of the investigation and doesn’t expect to be going forward.  He also confirmed that no other current Irish football players are under investigation.

The investigation is weeks away from completion, if not months, which means that all four players will most certainly miss the season opener against Rice.  The Irish also have games against Michigan (Sept. 6), Stanford (Oct. 4), North Carolina (Oct. 11) and Florida State (Oct. 18) in the first month and a half of the season, a tough stretch that won’t be helped if all or part of the quartet is still sidelined.

Report: Georgia RG Ben Cleveland suffers fractured left fibula

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Georgia starting right guard Ben Cleveland suffered a fractured left fibula in the Bulldogs’ 43-29 win at Missouri, according to Dawgs247.

According to the site, the injury will not require surgery or a cast, but Cleveland will miss “at least a month.” No. 2 Georgia hosts Tennessee on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) and Vanderbilt before a massive visit to No. 5 LSU on Oct. 13. They’ll take Oct. 20 before closing SEC play with Florida, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 10 Auburn.

The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone and, thus, a significantly less damage break than the tibia.

Cleveland is a redshirt sophomore from Toccoa, Ga. He has started Georgia’s last nine games at right guard.

The Cleveland injury is not the only ailment Georgia is dealing with at the moment. Dawgs247 noted starting left tackle Andrew Thomas, who missed the Middle Tennessee game with a left ankle injury and seemingly re-aggravated it in the first half, when a player rolled up on him. He did not return to the game afterward.

Fellow sophomore Justin Shaffer replaced Cleveland at right guard in the Missouri win.

Tennessee LB booted from Florida loss releases statement

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On a night the Vols celebrated their 1998 national championship team, Tennessee played about as far away from national championship-caliber football as you’ll ever see a Tennessee team play. The Vols lost to Florida 47-21 in a game that was simultaneously better and worse than the final score. Tennessee was only out-gained 387-364 and won the first downs battle 18-14, but much of that was due all the short fields the Vols gave Florida after coughing up half a dozen turnovers. When fans started pouring out of Neyland Stadium early in the third quarter, the scoreboard read Florida 33, Tennessee 3.

And that’s not all.

Over the course of the game, head coach Jeremy Pruitt told linebacker Quart’e Sapp to leave the field after Sapp, Pruitt said, declined to enter the game.

“Since I’ve been here, Quarte has been a really good ambassador to our program, he’s done everything I’ve asked him,” Pruitt said. “He left the field because he wouldn’t go into the game when he was asked to go in. I don’t know how things were done before, but when you tell somebody to go in and they refuse to go in, we’re not going to do that around here. So I asked him to leave.”

On Sunday, Sapp released a statement on Twitter saying he did not refuse to go in the game. Sapp’s statement does not clarify exactly what happened, but he expressly denies he was asked to enter the game and refused.

“During the UT vs. UF game I was never asked nor did I refuse to go into the game. There was a sideline confrontation (I’m sure will be resolve internally that occurred and the other party had to be restrained.”

Sapp, a redshirt junior, was listed as Tennessee’s No. 2 weakside linebacker entering the Florida game. Given the praise Pruitt heaped upon Sapp above and the fact Tennessee can’t exactly turn away able bodies with Georgia, Auburn and Alabama coming up in its next three games, but bet here is this spat gets resolved internally and everyone moves on.

Minnesota DB Antoine Winfield, Jr. to miss remainder of season with foot injury

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For the second year in a row, Antoine Winfield, Jr.‘s season ends just four games after it started.

After appearing in 12 games and starting nine as a true freshman in 2016, Winfield was lost for the year four games into his sophomore campaign of 2017. He obtained a hardship waiver to play this season as a redshirt sophomore, but now will miss the rest of the season to a foot injury suffered in a 42-13 loss to Maryland on Saturday.

He will undergo surgery on Monday.

In a statement announcing the injury, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck announced the Gophers will pursue another hardship waiver for Winfield, meaning he would be a fourth-year sophomore in 2019 if approved.

Winfield is the second Gopher to be lost for the season, following running back Rodney Smith.

“We are heartbroken for Antoine,” Fleck said. “Like Rodney Smith, I know he will keep his oar in the water, keep moving forward and will work tirelessly to return to the field next season. We believe Antoine meets the waiver requirement for a sixth year of eligibility and we will file that waiver with the NCAA at the conclusion of the season.”

Winfield led all Gophers defensive backs with 17 tackles on the year while tying for the team lead with one interception. He was also the team’s punt returner, notching a 76-yard score in a 48-10 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 1 and a 31-yard return in a 26-3 defeat of Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 15.

Minnesota (3-1) is off Saturday before visiting Iowa on Oct. 6

Wake Forest fires defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel

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Wake Forest has relieved defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel of duties, head coach Dave Clawson announced Sunday.

After starting the season 2-0 with wins over Tulane and Towson, the Demon Deacons have allowed 97 points in consecutive losses to Boston College and No. 8 Notre Dame.

“This was a difficult decision and not a spur of the moment decision,” said Clawson.  “I want to thank Coach Sawvel for all his hard work with our football program over the last two years.  Coach Sawvel is a very good person and a good football coach.”

Wake Forest ranks 110th nationally in yards per play allowed (6.35) and 106th in scoring (33.5).

With Sawvel out, defensive analyst Tom Gilmore has been elevated to the full-time staff as outside linebackers coach. Coordinator duties will be split up amongst the remaining staff, and specific duties have yet to be assigned. Gilmore joined the Wake staff over the summer; he was formerly the head coach at Holy Cross.

Wake Forest (2-2) hosts Rice on Saturday.