Former Rutgers, Minnesota QB Philip Nelson reaches plea deal in assault charge

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The saga of former Minnesota and Rutgers quarterback Philip Nelson has come to an end – for now.

Charged with two felony assault charges after a May incident left former Minnesota State-Mankato linebacker Isaac Kolstad in critical condition, Nelson accepted a misdemeanor plea on Tuesday which carries a maximum 90-day sentence and $1,000 fine. Sentencing has not been set.

At the crux of the trial was whether it was Nelson’s kick to Kolstad’s head or a punch by a third party that ultimately caused Kolstad’s severe brain injury. Nelson’s attorney James Fleming said three doctors found “a lack of medical certainty” that his client was at fault for Kolstad’s most serious injuries, according to the Associated Press. Prosecution expert Michael B. McGee concurred, saying the punch that sent Kolstad’s head to the ground caused the majority of the damage. Thus, the plea deal. (The other assailant has also been charged with assault.)

Nelson was also hit in the head during the scuffle and sustained a concussion which robbed him of all memory of the incident.

“I still don’t remember what happened that night after I was hit in the head, but I recognize that I let down my family and friends by my actions. I offer my sincere apologies to everyone involved, and I wish Isaac Kolstad the best as he continues in his recovery,” Nelson said.

Nelson threw for 2,176 yards with 17 touchdowns in two seasons with Minnesota before transferring to Rutgers following the 2013 season. Scarlet Knights head coach Kyle Flood dismissed Nelson from the team following his arrest.

“We are just happy that this is finally coming to an end, and Philip is able to get on with his life and get back to his dream of playing football,” Nelson’s father Pat told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We’re going to move forward.”

Kolstad, a married father of two, is still working to regain the skills he had before the May 11 incident, including passing a recent benchmark of showering himself while standing up.

“This case is not simply about a kick in the head. It’s a series of decisions Mr. Nelson made,” Kolstad’s attorney Kenneth White said, noting that his client expects to file civil suits against both defendants in the future.

New USF HC Jeff Scott lands commitment from ex-South Carolina RB

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After a season away, Lavonte Valentine is back at the FBS level.

By way of his personal Twitter account Wednesday, Valentine announced that he has decided to transfer to South Florida and continue his collegiate playing career with the Bulls.  As Valentine, whose transfer from South Carolina was confirmed in August of this year, comes to USF from the NAIA level, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2020.

The move comes a couple of days after Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott was named as the football program’s next head coach.

Coming out of high school in Melbourne, Fla., Valentine was a three-star member of South Carolina’s 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 18 all-purpose running back in the country.  In part because of a torn ACL suffered his senior season of high school that caused him to miss spring practice and fall behind on the depth chart, Valentine took a redshirt for his true freshman season.

Valentine did, though, run track for USC this past spring, and he told The State that he will run track and play football at USF.

Eli Drinkwitz adds Charlie Harbison to first Mizzou staff

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Not surprisingly, Eli Drinkwitz‘s first coaching staff in Columbia is taking on a bit of a Boone feel to it.

Although it has yet to be confirmed, Drinkwitz is expected to add Appalachian State special teams coordinator Erik Link in the same capacity at Missouri.  What has been confirmed, though, is that Drinkwitz has brought Charlie Harbison along with him to the Tigers, a release from the football program announced.

Right now, Harbison will carry the official title of Associate Head Coach/Defense; his specific duties will be spelled out later.

“Charlie brings a wealth of experience with him to the defensive side of the football, having coached at the highest levels including the SEC and the NFL,” said Drinkwitz in a statement. “He’s an outstanding man of character who knows what it means to mentor players both in football and in life.”

Harbison spent one season with Drinkwitz at App State, where he served as the Mountaineers’ cornerbacks coach.  He was also the Sun Belt school’s associated head coach.

Previously, Harbison has spent time as the defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator at three Power Five programs — Auburn (2013-14), Clemson (2009-12) and Mississippi State (2008).  He’s also was the cornerbacks coach at Alabama from 1998-2000.

In addition to bringing in coaches that worked on his staff at App State, he’s expected to retain at least three of Barry Odom‘s former assistants, including defensive coordinator/safeties coach Ryan Walters, defensive line coach Brick Haley, and defensive backs coach David Gibbs. Those retentions have yet to be officially announced.

Willie Taggart’s new job will offset the money Florida State owes him as part of his buyout, but not by much

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Every little bit helps, right?

Florida State’s decision to fire Willie Taggart less than two years into his contract came with a steep financial cost, with the deposed head coach being owed in the very ritzy neighborhood of $18 million. That buyout, though, would be offset by any money Taggart would make in his next job(s).

Wednesday evening, Florida Atlantic announced that Taggart had been hired as its next head football coach. As of this posting, FAU has yet to release the financial particulars of Taggart’s deal with the university.

At least a portion of that info, though, has now been made public.

 

For perspective, the man Taggart is replacing, new Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, was paid $1.432 million in guaranteed compensation for 2019.

So, if Berkowitz’s numbers are accurate — and they normally very much are — FSU’s future obligation to Taggart would drop to just under $14 million.  So they have that going for them.  Which is nice.

LB Joseph Ogunbanjo arrested after allegedly trying to carjack a police car, attempting to grab officer’s handgun; sophomore dismissed by Cal following weekend incident

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Joseph Ogunbanjo‘s recent downward spiral has taken a decidedly southward turn.

According to the Daily Californian, Ogunbanjo (pictured, center) was arrested early Sunday morning following a very disturbing incident this past weekend that certainly could’ve ended in tragedy.  The student newspaper reports that the erstwhile Cal linebacker is facing one count each of suspicion of carjacking, threatening violence on a police officer, attempting to remove an officer’s weapon and battery on a police officer.

From the newspaper’s report:

The man, identified by [Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Byron] White as Ogunbanjo, allegedly opened the driver’s side door and attacked the officer, prompting the officer to exit the vehicle and order Ogunbanjo to sit on the ground, the email said. White said in his email that a struggle followed as Ogunbanjo allegedly approached the officer and grabbed him — he also alleged that while the officer attempted to handcuff Ogunbanjo and call for emergency cover, Ogunbanjo reached for the officer’s handgun.

“The man continued his attack—demanding that the officer give him his handgun,” White alleged in his email. “At one point during the encounter, the man elbowed the officer in the head—knocking the officer off-balance. That’s when the man got in the driver’s seat of the police vehicle.”

According to White, with the assistance of other officers, Ogunbanjo was removed from the vehicle and restrained. According to the City of Berkeley Open Data booking log, Ogunbanjo was booked into Berkeley City Jail at 5:28 a.m. on Sunday, and Berkeleyside reported that Ogunbanjo was moved to a hospital as of about 2 p.m. Monday.

As a result of the incident, a football program official has confirmed that the 6-3, 240-pound Ogunbanjo is no longer a member of the Bears’ football team.  The sophomore’s name has been removed from the team’s official online roster as well.

“We are aware of an incident involving Joseph Ogunbanjo, and the details as described by the Berkeley Police Department are troubling,” a statement from the university began. “While he is no longer a member of our football program, we remain concerned for his well-being.”

After playing in 10 games as a true freshman, Ogunbanjo had seen action in seven games this year.  He has been credited with eight tackles, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble in 2019.

In mid-October, it was confirmed by head coach Justin Wilcox that Ogunbanjo was not with the team at the moment as he served an indefinite suspension.  Late in the regular season and prior to this off-field incident, Ogunbanjo had been permitted to return to the team.