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)

Tennessee’s Kurott Garland pulls name out of transfer portal

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It doesn’t happen very often, but it does, every once in a great while, play out this way.

Earlier this offseason, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kurott Garland signaled his intention to leave Tennessee by placing his name into the NCAA transfer database.  As we often note, players are not bound to transfer by entering the portal and can instead return to the team.

Tuesday, that rare phenomenon played out as Jeremy Pruitt confirmed that Garland has decided to remain with the Volunteers.

“He was thinking about possibly transferring. We supported him all the way through, and in the end, he decided to come back here,” the head coach said by way of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “He’s here. We’re excited that he’s here. I think the guy has lots of ability.”

Garland was a three-star member of the Volunteers’ 2018 recruiting class.  He played in four games as a true freshman, which allowed him to take a redshirt for the past season.

Prior to his decision to enter the portal, Garland had been in line to see increased playing time as part of the Vols’ defensive line rotation. How that plays out moving forward this season remains to be seen.

NCAA denies third immediate-eligibility waiver for transfer to Georgia Tech this month

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It hasn’t been a good month waiver-wise for the Georgia Tech football program.

As we noted Tuesday, the NCAA has already denied immediate-eligibility waivers being sought for Antonneous Clayton and Myles Sims, who transferred to Tech from Florida and Michigan, respectively, this offseason.  That same day, Marquez Ezzard took to Twitter to reveal that “[t]he NCAA has decided to not grant my waiver to play at Georgia Tech this season, and I will have to sit out.”

The wide receiver opted to transfer from Miami in January of this year, ultimately landing at Tech the following month.

With the decision, Ezzard will still have three years of eligibility he can use beginning with the 2020 season.

Ezzard was a four-star 2018 signee who played in three games as a true freshman, catching two passes for 24 yards during his brief stint with the Hurricanes.

Ex-Minnesota QB now in the FCS facing multiple felony rape, sexual assault charges

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A rather disturbing story involving a former Power Five quarterback is currently playing out in the state of Tennessee.

According to The Tennessean, Tennessee State quarterback Demry Croft was arrested Monday and charged with six felony counts of rape and two counts of sexual battery.  The charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred Dec. 1 of last year and came about after the allegations were presented to a grand jury by the university police department.

Other than the alleged rape wasn’t reported until April 4 of this year, no details surrounding the case have been revealed.

Croft remains a part of the FCS school, with the newspaper writing that “TSU officials would not confirm if Croft has been suspended from the football team.”

Croft began his collegiate playing career at Minnesota, but opted to transfer from the Gophers and ultimately landed at Tennessee State in December of 2017.

During his last season with the Gophers, Croft, who started the last six games of 2017,  completed 42 percent of his 122 passes for 674 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. His 87.6 pass efficiency rating is not amongst the top 126 quarterbacks in the country.  Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of his Gophers career was posting a negative quarterback rating in a mid-November loss to Northwestern two weeks before he decided to transfer.

Conversely, though, he was good with his feet as his 309 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns were fourth and third on the team, respectively.

At TSU, Croft started four games before missing the last half of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury.  Prior to the off-field issue, Croft had been penciled in as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.

Willie Taggart says turnover backpack won’t be a thing at Florida State this coming season

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Thankfully, mercifully, one of the most laughably embarrassing turnover “traditions” is no more.

In recent years, turnover props have become all the rage in college football, the most notable of which may have been Miami’s gaudy but very apt gold chain.  There has also been Boise State’s throne, Louisville’s boxing gloves, Memphis’s Ric Flair-inspired robe, Tennessee’s trash can, Tulane’s beads and Boise State’s throne, which is so damn awesome it deserves a second mention.  Multiple nods to professional rasslin’/boxing with championship belts for the likes of Alabama and Ohio State among others have become the norm as well.

Not to be forgotten is Virginia Tech, whose lunch pail is arguably the granddaddy of all props.

And then there’s Florida State.

Last year, in the midst of a five-win season that saw the Seminoles’ bowl streak snapped at 36 straight, someone on the FSU staff added off-field insult to on-field injury by busting out a turnover… backpack.  Yes, a turnover backpack.

Fortunately for all involved, saner heads have prevailed and the backpack has been retired.

“Nah, you are just going to see us play football,” second-year head coach Willie Taggart, by way of the Miami Herald, said on a CBS Sports podcast this week. “You are not going to see a backpack, anything, you are going to see us play football and have fun playing the game with each other and having fun making plays. I think that is what you are going to see out of our guys.

“That was something that our guys wanted to do and they enjoyed doing it. This is the 2019 team and guys want to do things different, they want to be different and expect to be different.”