Michigan’s Tyrone Wheatley describes his ideal running back

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Former Michigan running back Tyrone Wheatly is back in Ann Arbor this season. The former Wolverine is a running backs coach for Jim Harbaugh, and he is getting to work on figuring out how to get the most out of the running game in 2015 as the Wolverines have opened spring practices. As he gets acclimated to his new position on the staff, he is taking the spring to evaluate what he has to work with before making any hard decisions with Harbaugh.

Michigan has a good stable of running backs, which adds USC transfer Ty Isaac and welcomes back Derrick Green from a collarbone injury this season. With some talented options to work with, Wheatley says he is unsure just how the ball will be distributed this fall.

“You would like to say you want one back, but right now you really can’t tell,” Wheatley said in an interview published by Michigan’s athletics website. “We don’t know who’s going to emerge; we don’t know what’s going to emerge. You want great competition and every one to rise to the top. You want the decision to be the hardest decision to ever make.”

The decision may be a difficult one by the end of the spring, but Wheatley did expand on the characteristics he is hoping to see from his most ideal running back.

“A smart guy that handles not only the ball but can handle the game. Meaning that the game never gets too big, and that he can basically be a coach on the field, make corrections, see the game and make the game slow down for himself, understand the ebb and flow, situations,” Wheatley explained. “Sometimes a three-yard run is the best one you can have in a game — not always looking to hit the home run. And pass protection — just a real well-rounded back that is going to play within his talent level and take care and manage the game.”

Does Michigan have a running back that meets that criteria? It would seem so.

In a year that could be huge for running backs, Michigan has two players potentially worthy of national recognition. Green is a former five-star recruit. His season was brought to a premature end when he broke his collarbone in a game against Rutgers. He has returned to practice this spring and has put in some good early work according to Wheatley. Isaac is also a former five-star recruit who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Drake Johnson is recovering from knee surgery but is using his time on the sideline to observe and learn. And do not forget about De’Veon Smith, last season’s leading rusher. He could still fill a role in the running game as well.

Wheatley says there is pressure to get the running backs going this spring, but there is no pressure now to figure out which running back, if any, will be the one that carries the bulk of the action in the fall. He has plenty to evaluate before getting to that point.

TCU transfer QB Justin Rogers tweets move to UNLV

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A prized former signee of the TCU football program has unofficially found a new collegiate home.

In very early November, it was confirmed that Justin Rogers had entered the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a move away from the TCU football team.  Nearly three months later, Rogers took the second step by announcing on his personal Twitter account that he has committed to continuing his playing career at UNLV.

Rogers’ announcement came after he took a visit to the UNLV campus this past weekend.

Barring something unexpected, Rogers will have to sit out the 2020 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.  That would then leave him with two years of eligibility, starting with the 2021 season.

However, that 2020 door isn’t completely closed as Rogers is expected to pursue a waiver from the NCAA.  Just what that waiver appeal would entail is unclear.

A four-star 2018 signee, Rogers was rated as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the country; the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Louisiana; and the No. 43 recruit overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  He was the highest-rated member of the Horned Frogs’ class that year.

Rogers suffered a severe knee injury during his senior year of high school that ultimately led to a case of drop-foot for the player as a true freshman in college.  The recovery from those ongoing issues contributed to Rogers’ positioning deep down on the depth chart, which, ultimately, triggered his decision to enter the portal.

Rogers did make one appearance as a true freshman, completing his only pass attempt in TCU’s Cheez-It Bowl win over Cal.  He hadn’t seen the field at all this past season.

Pitt mourns passing of Chris Doleman following ‘prolonged and courageous battle against cancer’

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The extended Pitt football family is grieving the loss of one of its own.

Late Tuesday night, it was confirmed that Chris Doleman, 58, had passed away following “a prolonged and courageous battle against cancer.” Two years ago this month, Doleman had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Doleman played his college football at Pitt from 1981-84.  From the school’s release:

Doleman finished his college career third all-time at Pitt with 25 sacks, a total that still ranks eighth nearly four decades later. He played in the Sugar, Cotton and Fiesta bowl games, while helping the Panthers earn three Top 20 finishes, including a No. 2 ranking in 1981 and No. 9 finish in 1982.

As a senior, Doleman was elected a Pitt tri-captain with linebacker Troy Benson and offensive tackle Bill Fralic. In addition to his immense athletic gifts, the 6-foot-5 Doleman also set a standard with his desire and relentless play.

The late Foge Fazio, Doleman’s defensive coordinator in 1981 before serving as head coach from 1982-85, said: “Sometimes we’ll stop the game film just to point out to the team Chris’ desire and hustle to get there.

In December of 2018, Fralic passed away at the age of 56.

“I had only been at Pitt for a few months when I first met Chris and he could not have been more supportive and enthusiastic about the University of Pittsburgh,” said Pitt football head coach Pat Narduzzi in a statement. “It was obvious that he took great pride in being a Panther. I remember we had him as our honorary captain when we played at Georgia Tech one year and he was so energetic with our kids. You know he wanted to put on that Pitt helmet one more time. Our deepest sympathies to the Doleman family. His passing is a great loss for all of us, but his memory and legacy, on and off the field, will never be forgotten.

The fourth-overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Doleman was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

Third Oklahoma State WR in a week enters transfer portal

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It’s been quite the past handful of days for the Oklahoma State football receiving corps.

On Twitter a week ago Tuesday, Tyrell Alexander announced that he has decided to transfer from the Oklahoma State football team and “reopen my recruitment process.” The wide receiver would be leaving Stillwater as a graduate transfer for his final season of eligibility.

Two days later, teammate and fellow receiver LC Greenwood entered the portal as well.

Tuesday, another of Greenwood’s and Alexander’s receiving teammates at OSU, C.J. Moore, announced on Twitter that he too will be entering the transfer portal.

“God has a different plan for me,” Moore wrote. “Please respect my decision.

A four-star 2018 signee, Moore was rated as the No. 26 receiver in the country. He was also the No. 5 player in the state of Oklahoma regardless of position. More to the point, Moore was the highest-rated signee in the Cowboys’ class that year.

Despite that recruiting pedigree, the 6-5, 175-pound receiver failed to even remotely live up to it on the field. He played in one game as a true freshman and took a redshirt. In 2019, he totaled 81 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions in five games.

It’s likely that Moore will have to sit out the 2020 season if he lands at another FBS school. That would then leave him with two seasons of eligibility beginning in 2021.

Moore, Greenwood and Alexander are actually the second, third and fourth wide receivers to leave the Oklahoma State football team this cycle, joining Patrick McKaufman.  Like Moore, Greenwood was a four-star recruit, albeit in 2017.  Alexander was a three-star signee in 2016.  McKaufman came to OSU from junior college.

All told, a dozen Cowboys have left the program.

Tight end Grayson Boomer was another of those transfers.

Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence co-favorites in latest odds to win 2020 Heisman Trophy

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We’re nearly three full weeks into the college football offseason, so what better time than the present for some 2020 Heisman odds?

Shortly after suffering the first loss of his collegiate career, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was listed as a 7/2 favorite to claim this year’s Heisman Trophy. Right behind Lawrence was Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields at 4/1.

In the updated 2020 Heisman odds released by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Fields and Lawrence, both true juniors, are list as co-favorites at 4/1. No one else is really all that close, with Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler coming in at 12/1.

Interestingly, new Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman, who transferred in from Wake Forest this month, is one of two listed at 14/1. The other is also a quarterback, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger.

The shortest odds for a running back are Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, who surprised many observers by returning to the Cowboys for his senior season, and Clemson’s Travis Etienne, who surprised most observers by staying with the Tigers and returning for his senior season, at 20/1.  The last two decades, just three running backs have won the Heisman.  The last player at that position to claim the most prestigious trophy in collegiate sports was Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015.

The two quarterbacks expected to replace 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow and 2018 Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa, LSU’s Myles Brennan and Alabama’s Mac Jones, respectively, are both at 25/1.  One 2020 signee, though, will have some say in the Alabama competition.