Ezekiel Elliott, Marcus Mariota semifinalists for Sullivan Award

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One current and one former college football player are in the running to take home one of the most prestigious awards in amateur sports.

Monday morning, the AAU James E. Sullivan Award announced the semifinalists for the 85th edition of the honor.  Among those 16 semifinalists are two college football players: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Elliott’s Buckeyes, of course, handled Mariota’s Ducks in the championship game of the College Football Playoff, with the running back taking home MVP honors to put the finishing touches on a historic run.  Mariota had won the 2014 Heisman Trophy a month earlier.

Here is the description of the award from the award itself:

Known as the “Oscar” of sports awards, and older than The Heisman, the AAU Sullivan Award honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the Amateur Athletic Union, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character.

Both Elliott and Mariota will be looking to enter select company.

Last year’s winner of the Sullivan Award was Penn State’s John Urschel.  The Nittany Lion offensive lineman became just the seventh college football player to stake his claim to the iconic honor, joining Felix “Doc” Blanchard (Army, 1945), Arnold Tucker (Army, 1946), Charlie Ward (Florida State, 1993), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), Tim Tebow (Florida, 2007) and Andrew Rodriguez (Army, 2011)

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This year’s field of 16 semifinalists will be pared to six finalists prior to the award being handed out April 19. Fans can vote for their favorite semifinalist once a day through March 15 by clicking on the link right HERE.  Below, you’ll find the complete list of semifinalists for the 85th annual Sullivan Award:

  • Pole vaulter Shawn Barber
  • Gymnast Simone Biles
  • Ice dancers Meryl Davis & Charlie White
  • Ohio State football player Ezekiel Elliott
  • Wrestler Adeline Gray
  • Luger Erin Hamlin
  • Penn State volleyball player Micha Hancock
  • USC diver Haley Ishimatsu
  • Stanford swimmer Katie Ledecky
  • Oregon football player Marcus Mariota
  • UConn basketball player Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
  • Duke basketball player Jahlil Okafor
  • Georgia Tech golfer Ollie Schneiderjans
  • Water polo player Maggie Steffens

(Photo credit: BET.com)

SMU WR Reggie Roberson, Jr., to return for senior season

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SMU wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr., will return for his senior season in 2020, he announced earlier this week.

Roberson did so through a statement that at first read as if he would leave the Hilltop. “In the past couple of weeks, it has come to my attention that I am able to forgo my senior year and enter the NFL draft. I want to thank Coach Dykes for giving me the opportunity to come to SMU, and play the game I love in my hometown in front of my family and friends,” it began.

However, like a a classic Roberson open field move, he quickly changed directions and sprinted toward opportunity. “I have decided to come back and play my senior year at SMU. There is a lot of unfinished business that I left on the field that I need to take care of next season.”

A native of DeSoto, Texas, just south of Dallas, Roberson was one of SMU’s top players before he was lost to a foot injury in October. He caught 11 passes for 180 yards in the Ponies’ opening week win over Arkansas State and hauled in eight passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-21 drubbing of Temple on Oct. 19.

For the year, Roberson caught 43 passes for 803 yards and six touchdowns over seven-plus games. Spread over a 13-game season, he was on pace to end the year in the neighborhood of 80 receptions for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Roberson originally signed with West Virginia out of high school.

Zack Moss to play in Alamo Bowl

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It’s become A Thing ever since Christian McCaffrey bailed on Stanford for that Sun Bowl: Draft eligible players announcing whether or not their prep for the next level begins for or after their team’s upcoming bowl game.

For Utah running back Zack Moss, that will begin after the Alamo Bowl.

“I just wanted to play with my guys,” Moss told KSL Sports. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come back was to play with these guys and I definitely want to finish it off. I am healthy enough to play and that’s exactly what I want to do.

“I love this team, I love the program, coaching, fans and community, so why not give everyone one last game.”

Moss’s teammate Jaylon Johnson previously announced he will skip the game.

The senior will look to polish off a career in which he’s carried for 4,010 yards and 38 touchdowns.

No. 11 Utah will close the career of Moss and backfield mate Tyler Huntley opposite Texas on Dec. 31 (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

Tom Herman reportedly set to hire Chris Ash as defensive coordinator at Texas

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Sometimes it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to solve these equations. Tom Herman and Chris Ash worked together previously at Iowa State and Ohio State, and when Herman’s team couldn’t stop anyone and Ash found himself out of a job, it seemed like they would try to channel that 2014 energy for the 2020 Texas Longhorns.

And now it seems that’s about to happen.

Multiple reports out of Austin on Sunday indicate Ash is close to being named the new defensive coordinator on Herman’s staff at Texas.

Ash worked with Herman previously for two seasons at two separate stops. In 2009, Ash was the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator on a Paul Roads-led Iowa State staff for which Herman was the offensive coordinator, and in 2014 Herman and Ash led the offense and defense on a national championship Ohio State team.

Shortly after his firing at Rutgers, Ash was spotted in Austin, leading, well, pretty much everyone to start putting two and two together.

And that cliche is a good place to start, because Ash is expected to install a 4-man front, a welcome change in Austin from the 3-man scheme that grew unpopular under Todd Orlando. Texas finished 83rd in sacks, 70th in tackles for loss, 96th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in yards per play and 74th in scoring defense en route to one of the most disappointing seasons in school history.

Orlando was fired back on Dec. 1, and with Ash very much available, it would seem Herman conducted a search beyond his old colleague given that two full weeks passed without a defensive coordinator, though virtually no names beyond Ash circulated amongst the media.

With Ash coming aboard, the focus will now turn to the remainder of the UT defensive staff. Safeties coach Craig Naivar has been appointed interim coordinator for the upcoming bowl game, and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington and defensive line coach Oscar Giles remain in their posts. Ash’s speciality has been in the defensive backfield, so presumably Texas will be in the market for a linebackers coach while Naivar, Washington or both could possibly move on.

Transferring Florida QB Feleipe Franks to visit Kansas

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Does the Mad Hatter have a graduate transfer under center up his sleeve?

On a post on his Instagram story Saturday, Franks indicated that he is currently in Lawrence, Kansas. A Kansas official subsequently confirmed that the quarterback is in town for a visit to the Big 12 football program.

Adding to the intrigue, and according to 247Sports.com, Franks recently began following KU head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon on Twitter.

In early December, Franks had announced that he would be leaving Florida. At the time, it was unclear if Franks, who signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox this past summer, was leaving to play a professional sport or transfer to another school, although this latest development seems to indicate the latter is likely.

After starting eight games in 2017, Franks started all 13 for the Gators in 2018. He had started the first three games of 2019 before going down with a season-ending ankle injury.

During his time in Gainesville, Franks threw for 4,593 yards, 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in completing exactly 59 percent of his 622 passes.