Al Golden picks true freshman to be Miami’s starting QB

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Ryan Williamsoffseason injury paved the way for a true freshman to become the starting quarterback of the Miami Hurricanes.

Brad Kaaya will be the starter,” Miami head coach Al Golden told the Miami Herald‘s Susan Miller Degnan. “Jake (Heaps) understands exactly what he needs to do in terms of getting ready and supporting Brad, and Brad knows that the competition is going to continue.

“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of the season. There’s competition at every position.”

It comes as a surprise for Golden to name Kaaya the starter. The freshman wasn’t an early enrollee, while Heaps was a senior transfer. It wasn’t too long ago Heaps was considered the favorite to win the job. In a close competition, though, the younger player usually gets the nod.

“It was a tight battle,” Golden stated. “It was a battle that none of us, including you guys, could have foresaw at the end of June or beginning of July or maybe even at the beginning of camp. I’m excited about that position.”

Kaaya was considered a four-star recruit and ranked by Rivals.com as the eighth-best quarterback prospect in the nation. While Heaps had an advantage in experience, he didn’t clearly outplay Kaaya. At 6-4 and 206 pounds, Kaaya fits the mold as a traditional pocket passer to play in Golden’s system.

“He’s really maturing,” Golden said. “We’re putting him in a tough environment every day in terms of the music [UM blasts at practice]. I think the biggest thing now is to get him to… because we don’t have our whole offense in for the opener, he’ll improve by leaps and bounds in the next three or four days.”

The most interesting aspect of Golden’s decision is how the coach handles the situation moving forward. Golden already stated the competition will continue. Kaaya isn’t guaranteed anything beyond starting the season opener. If and when Kaaya struggles, Golden may quickly switch to Heaps.

There is also the question of what happens if Kaaya embraces the position and how the Hurricanes move forward with a recovering Williams and improved Kevin Olsen champing at the bit to start in 2015.

But Kaaya has to prove himself first. The freshman already gained the trust of his coaches. It’s now time to prove he can make plays during live game action.

“If he wasn’t here for 13 weeks before preseason camp plus three now, I don’t think we would be having this conversation,” Golden said. “That combined with the fact that he made incredible sacrifices personally, and he’s smart, and he’s disciplined. He is one of those guys that got better incrementally every day so here we are.”

And a trip to Louisville to open the season against a Cardinals’ defense, which was ranked No. 1 overall last season, is as tough as it gets for an 18-year old quarterback making his first start as collegiate quarterback.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Miami athletic department)

USC transfer Clayton Bradley tweets move to UNLV

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One former USC football player has found himself a new home.  Unofficially.

Clayton Bradley had entered the NCAA transfer database back in January.  Four months later, the offensive lineman took the next step in leaving USC football by committing to UNLV.

Bradley made the announcement of a move to the Rebels on Twitter.

“I would like to thank the Trojan family for the past five years at the [U]university of Southern California,” Bradley wrote. “My experience and the relationships I’ve made will last a lifetime.  I’d like to thank the coaches who have recruited meduring my time in the transfer portal for the opportunity to complete my final year of eligibility.

“After speaking with Coach Arroyo and Coach Norcross I am excited about the program that they and the staff are building.  I have decided to attend the University of Las Vegas for my final season.  Excited for the journey ahead!”

Bradley had been granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA earlier this offseason.

Bradley was a four-star member of the USC football Class of 2015.  The Anaheim, Calf., product was rated as the No. 33 tackle in the country.  He was also the No. 42 player regardless of position in the Golden State.

In five seasons with the Trojans, Bradley appeared in 17 games.  The lineman started three of those contests.  All three of the starts, and 14 of the appearances, came during the 2016 season.  Bradley didn’t see the field at all this past season for USC football.

In December, UNLV turned to Marcus Arroyo as its next head football coach.  The Oregon offensive coordinator replaced the dismissed Tony Sanchez.

Clemson announces football players can return to voluntary on-campus activities June 8

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Thanks to Clemson football, another return domino has fallen.

Last week, the NCAA announced that it would allow schools to bring its student-athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1.  The SEC subsequently confirmed its players would be returning June 8.  Both Ohio State and Illinois from the Big Ten will be doing the same on the same date.

Monday afternoon, Clemson announced that some student-athletes, including football players, will be permitted to return to campus for voluntary activities starting June 8.  Clemson is the second ACC school to announce such a return, View.

As will be the case with the Cardinals, the Tigers are doing a phased approach to the return.  From the school’s release:

Clemson Athletics has planned a three-phase approach to return, with oversight from the University, as well as guidance from local and national health officials and best practices. The first phase is expected to commence in conjunction with Clemson University’s previously-announced Phase I target date.

All phases include guidelines for social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitization, limited groups, modified use of space and other safety measures. In addition to the overarching plan, the department has worked at a granular level with coaching and support staffs, looking at each facility and developing guidelines for those individual spaces. The plans are subject to change based on guidance from the CDC, DHEC, State of South Carolina, Clemson University, the NCAA or the ACC or new medical information and research.

Phase I includes just those staff members directly responsible for the health and well-being of student-athletes, as well as those preparing facilities for Phase II. Sport coaches are expected to work remotely for Phase I, which will last no fewer than 14 days. Coaches may begin activity within facilities in limited numbers and employing recommended protocols with objective-based duties no sooner than Phase II.

Phase II and Phase III each further integrate staffs and student-athletes, and make adjustments to capacities and group settings, as well as facility access. Clemson will continue to evaluate policies and procedures on spacing, contact tracing, testing, and other safety measures as more is known from the CDC, DHEC, ACC, NCAA or other medical research or guidance. Details regarding fall competition are not available at this time.

“We are encouraged to begin the first step in the implementation of our Phase I planning, and appreciate the leadership of our University in helping us prepare for our student-athletes and staff to return in early June,” said athletic director Dan Radakovich in a statement. “We are confident in our ability to provide a safe environment and have put our energy into that goal. We’re encouraged by the progress and remain vigilant as we begin to welcome a limited number of student-athletes back to our facilities.”

Iowa State reveals it would limit Jack Trice Stadium to half-capacity this fall

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Thanks to Iowa State, we have yet another tangible sign that there will quite possibly be a 2020 college football season.  Maybe.  Possibly.

In a message to fans of the Cyclones, Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard stated that he and the university “fully anticipate playing football this fall.” In fact, “[a]s of today, we fully anticipate playing football in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5.,” Pollard wrote.

That was in response to the question of whether football will be played this fall.  When it comes to fans in the stands?  Pollard revealed that Iowa State home football games would be played at about of the capacity at Jack Trice Stadium.  The home of the Cyclones officially holds 61,500.  Per Pollard, the university is “planning as though the capacity of our stadium would be limited to 30,000 spectators.”

And, just how will the university determine who gets in?  And who gets shut out?  From the letter:

As of today, approximately 22,000 season tickets have been renewed for this fall. That leaves us approximately 8,000 seats to be filled. Because we need to make plans to accommodate those fans who will be allowed into the stadium (based on state and local guidelines), we have decided to implement the following:

  1. Any fan who does not renew their season tickets and make their Cyclone Club donation by June 12, 2020, will not be provided the opportunity to attend any games this fall unless it is later decided that we can safely exceed the 50% capacity restriction.

  2. The only fans who will have the opportunity to be in the stadium this fall are those who renew their season tickets and their required Cyclone Club donation (if applicable) by June 12, 2020. If you have not done so already, please contact our staff ASAP to complete those processes. +Renew Now

  3. Because we expect to reach the 50% capacity limitation through season ticket sales, we do not anticipate selling single-game tickets unless the capacity limits are raised.

  4. Any season ticket holder who does not renew their season tickets for 2020 will continue to have first rights on their same seats for 2021. We believe it is very important to honor prior loyalty, as there may be some fans who are not comfortable attending games this fall or are experiencing financial challenges.

  5. Any season ticket holder who renews their season tickets but later decides they are not comfortable attending games this fall because of COVID-19 may request a refund of their season ticket purchase or defer the purchase of their season ticket to the 2021 season.

The university’s game-day mitigation strategies and measures that will be implemented will be unveiled at a later date.  Iowa State had previously confirmed that its coaches, including head football coach Matt Campbell, will take a one-year reduction in pay and eliminate all bonuses.

Iowa State is scheduled to open the 2020 college football season at home against FCS South Dakota Sept. 5.

WATCH: Ex-Notre Dame WR Corey Robinson tackles ‘voluntary’ aspect to return of on-campus workouts

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The NCAA confirmed May 20 that it would allow student-athletes, including college football players, to return to campus for workouts.  Voluntary workouts.

As we wrote at the time, the NCAA made sure to stress that the on-campus activities are voluntary.

“Voluntary on-campus athletics activity must be initiated by the student-athlete. Coaches may not be present unless a sport-specific safety exception allows it, and activity cannot be directed by a coach or reported back to a coach.”

This past week, one former college football player tackled the voluntary aspect of the return of workouts.  And, yes, used air quotes around the word “voluntary.”

“We’re talking all things college football-related.  This kind of seems, like, normal, to be completely honest with you,” ex-Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson said on NBCSports.com. “Normally, I’m pretty sure we had to be back on campus June 1 anyways.  And all the summer activities beyond weight-room activities were all ‘voluntary’ and led by us.  They weren’t led by the coaches, the coaches couldn’t be on the field for seven-on-seven or any type of wide receiver-quarterback drills.  So, this looks very normal to me.

“I think that when it comes to voluntary, we had a saying back in the day called ‘mandatory optional.’ And I think that’s what this is. You’re going to have people wondering, ‘oh, the SEC is coming back June 1*, but then the Big Ten is thinking about June 8.’ People are gonna look for any edge they can get.  I feel like I’d be pressured into wanting to play or wanting not to play.

“That’s going to be a really sticky situation.”

(*For clarity, the SEC subsequently announced that schools could allow college football players to start returning to campus for voluntary workouts June 8.  A handful of Big Ten schools will return at the same time.  The Big 12, meanwhile, likely won’t allow a return until mid- or late June.  Neither the ACC nor the Pac-12 has announced its plans, although that could very well change this week.)