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Gary Pinkel to step down as Mizzou’s HC over health concerns

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In a week of tumult that included the school’s president and chancellor stepping down, Missouri’s football team has now seen its leader step down as well.

In a stunning turn of events, Mizzou confirmed in a press release Friday evening that Gary Pinkel has decided to step down from his post as the Tigers head football coach.  According to the school, and unbeknownst to the public, Pinkel was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer of the blood in May of 2015.

Pinkel received multiple treatments in May and June, with doctors indicating that the treatments wouldn’t interfere with his coaching duties.  At that point, Pinkel decided to coach the Tigers in 2015; however, Pinkel reassessed his situation during Mizzou’s bye week and opted to step down following the 2015 season.

“I made the decision in May, after visiting with my family, that I wanted to keep coaching, as long as I felt good and had the energy I needed,” said Pinkel, who informed his staff and players this evening, in a statement. “I felt great going into the season, but also knew that I would need to re-assess things at some point, and I set our bye week as the time when I would take stock of the future. After we played Vanderbilt (Oct. 24), I had a scheduled PET scan on Oct. 26th for reassessment, and then visited with my family and came to the decision on October 27th that this would be my last year coaching.

“I still feel good physically, but I decided that I want to focus on enjoying my remaining years with my family and friends, and also have proper time to battle the disease and give full attention to that.”

The 63-year-old Pinkel will remain on as the Tigers’ head coach through December of 2015 or until a new head coach is in place. The two sides will look for a role that will keep him connected to Mizzou athletics.

“It’s been an honor working with Gary since I joined the Mizzou family,” said athletic director Mack Rhoades. “Gary is truly a coaching legend as the winningest coach at two Division I institutions while leaving a profound impact on a countless number of young men. We are extremely appreciative of all that he has done for Mizzou. It’s tough emotionally knowing that his fight with cancer is bringing his run to an end sooner than any of us thought. I want to commend Gary with how open he’s been with me the whole time, from the first day he came to my office in May and told me about his diagnosis, all the way to now and when he met with me personally on October 28th to tell me he’d made up his mind. He’s been nothing but first class in how he’s handled the situation the whole way.”

Pinkel is in his 15th season as Mizzou’s head coach, posting a 117-71 mark at the school.  The Tigers are 4-5 this season.

Where Pinkel really made his mark, though, was in Mizzou’s move to the SEC.  After a rough 5-7 mark in the Tigers’ inaugural SEC campaign, Pinkel led Mizzou to back-to-back East division titles.

All told, Pinkel’s squads won five division titles across the SEC and Big 12.   In the 17 years prior to Pinkel’s arrival, Mizzou posting just two winning seasons; in the his first 14 seasons, the Tigers were above .500 10 times.

Including his time at Toledo, Pinkel has a career record of 190-108-3.  He’s also one of a handful of coaches who are the all-time winningest head coaches at two FBS programs.

“I want to make very clear that I’m not doing poorly, and that this is a manageable disease, but it’s one that will never go away,” Pinkel said in continuing his statement. “So many people have bigger struggles with other forms of cancer and other serious diseases, and I feel blessed that I’ve got something I can fight and still enjoy a good quality of life. I don’t know how many years I have left, but I want to turn my focus to life outside of the daily grind of football,” he said.

“Words can’t express how grateful I am to the University of Missouri and all of the amazing people who make it up, from the administration to the students and our fans. Obviously, I’m so appreciative to all of my coaches and athletes. Leaving them makes this decision so tough, but I do so feeling good that the Mizzou Football program is in a better place than it was when we came in 15 years ago. I feel that Mizzou is a great job at a great school and has so much going for it that they’ll find an outstanding coach to move the program forward.”

When it comes to a replacement for Pinkel, one name to keep in mind is Tom Herman. Herman is in his first year as Houston’s head coach, and was hired by… you guessed it, current Mizzou AD Mack Rhoads.

Herman will be in high demand, though, as, with Pinkel’s resignation, there are 10 FBS head-coaching openings.  Including Mizzou, seven of those are Power Five jobs: Illinois, Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, USC, Virginia Tech.  The other three openings are Hawaii, North Texas and UCF of Group of Five conferences.

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

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The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Ryan Day isn’t going to name Justin Fields as Ohio State’s starting QB just yet

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Almost as soon as Justin Fields’ waiver to play right away in 2019 was approved, the Georgia transfer was pegged as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Day, however, is picking up this whole being a head coach at media day thing pretty good because the new leader of the Buckeyes offense declined to anoint Fields as the starter despite ample evidence that he’s the guy for the job.

“It’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar (Hoak) are going to compete like heck to go win the job,” Day said from the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.”

Hoak, who grad transferred over from Kentucky, was a key pickup for the program in the offseason not just to provide some competition for Fields but to provide much-needed depth after a host of quarterbacks left for other schools. While he has experience playing in five games last year with the Wildcats, there’s a gap in terms of natural talent between him and Fields.

Day seems likely to stick to his timetable of naming the starter a few weeks into camp but it still seems pretty clear as to who eventually will take over for Dwayne Haskins under center for the scarlet and gray.

Still though, you have to hand it to the rookie for going full on coach-speak when it came to his signal-caller at his very first media day in charge.

Big Ten’s Jim Delany upset with College Football Playoff Selection Committee

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Thursday marked the final Big Ten Media Days press conference for outgoing commissioner Jim Delany.

While his appearance was fairly low-key all things considered, the longtime college athletics stalwart didn’t hold back when it came to discussing his league and the College Football Playoff, lobbing some critical comments towards the Selection Committee in particular.

“I wish we had a little more continuity. I wish they would demonstrate as well as state the stronger commitment to strength of schedule,” Delany said. “We should be playing comparable schedules and if we’re not, there should be somewhat to differentiate that.”

The Big Ten has missed out on the playoff the past two seasons and saw its champion be skipped over in another year for a divisional runner-up.

Delany also voiced support for something suggested by Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby to require all teams to play at least 10 Power Five opponents in a season, helping even out the difference between eight and nine conference slates.

“I’ve been disappointed, quite honestly, about the strength of schedule,” he added. “We’re not going to change. There may be pressure to change, but I think that’s short-selling our fans, our players, our TV partners. I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders.”