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Temple’s Tyler Matakevich named Nagurski Trophy winner

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One of the most productive players on the defensive side of the ball that most people have likely never heard of has been regarded for his on-field excellence.

Late Monday night, the Football Writers Association of America announced that Temple’s Tyler Matakevich has been named as the 2015 recipient of the 2015 Bronko Nagurski Trophy.  The Nagurski is handed out annually and honors the nation’s top defensive player.

The other finalists for this year’s award were Duke safety Jeremy Cash, Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson, Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib and Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.

Matakevich, a two-star 2012 recruit, was the only player in the country this season to lead his team in tackles in every game.  He also became the seventh player in college football history to record 100 tackles in four straight seasons, and the first since Houston’s Marcus McGrew from 2008-11.

The Owls were the only FBS program to offer Matakevich a scholarship coming out of high school in Connecticut.

“They (most recruiters) told me I was too small, too slow and I could not play at this level,” Matakevich said. “It was everybody. …

“[Head coach Matt Rhule] saw that I could be a hard-nosed, physical football player. All the time I always tell him thank you for bringing me here. He says, ‘No, thank you.’ I said, “You believed in me.’ He said he saw potential.”

Matakevich, Temple’s first-ever defensive first-team Al-American, is also a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy.

Former Penn State LB Manny Bowen transfers to Utah

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Manny Bowen’s winding roller coaster journey in his college football life will include the Pac-12 as his next stop.

On his personal Twitter account late Wednesday morning, Bowen announced that he “will be playing my final season of college football for the University of Utah.” Bowen, who announced his transfer from Penn State in mid-October, is set to graduate from the university next month.

The Utes subsequently confirmed the addition of Bowen.

In late August, James Franklin confirmed that Bowen had left his football program; that move came a little over three weeks after the fourth-year senior rejoined the team and was practicing with the rest of the Nittany Lions in preparation for the 2018 season.  Bowen was suspended late last season and then dismissed in late December for what were described as violations of team rules.

Bowen had started the first nine games of the 2017 season, before the disciplinary issues hit, after starting a dozen contests during the 2016 campaign.  He didn’t play in the Rose Bowl that season because of, you guessed it, unspecified violations of team rules.

At the time of his 2017 suspension, Bowen was third on the team with 51 tackles and tied for second in quarterback hits with four.

Rumored to have left Hurricanes, Miami says Jeff Thomas still ‘a member of the football team’

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Is he or isn’t he?  That’s a rather significant question that’s being asked regarding the status of one of Miami’s most productive players on the offensive side of the ball.

Earlier in the day, speculation was swirling that Jeff Thomas had left the Miami football team. Not long after, a UM spokesperson stated that the wide receiver would not be at practice Wednesday due to what were described as personal reasons but that he’s still a member of the football team.

It has been rumored that there was some type of issue between Thomas and unspecified members of the coaching staff earlier this week that led to the current situation.

Head coach Mark Richt is not scheduled to meet with the media Wednesday or Thursday.  It’s unclear if the football program will send out an update on Thomas’ status with the team, although it’s possible that could happen at some point today.

Thomas is currently leading the Hurricanes in receptions (35) and receiving yards (563).  The sophomore’s 16.1 yards per reception are second on the team while his three touchdown receptions are tied for third.

Miami closes out the 2018 regular season with a home date against ACC Coastal champion and 24th-ranked Pitt this Saturday.

USC’s Jake Olson named 2018 Walter Camp Award of Perseverance winner

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One of the most inspirational stories in college football the past few years has earned Jake Olson some much-deserved hardware.

Tuesday, the Walter Camp Foundation announced that Olson has been named as the recipient of the 2018 Walter Camp Award of Perseverance.  Olson, without sight in either eye since the age of 12, made history last year as a member of USC’s special teams by becoming the second legally-blind player to appear in an NCAA football game.

“Jake’s story is an inspiration to all, and our Foundation is honored to recognize him with the award of perseverance,” said Michael Madera, Walter Camp Foundation president, in a statement. “Jake has demonstrated courage and a strong will to succeed despite the challenges he has had to overcome.”

The award is merely a continuation of what’s been nearly a decade’s worth of touching moments for a remarkable young man.

In 2009, the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans football team essentially adopted Olson, a teenage fan of the program at the time suffering from cancer of the retina in his right eye (he lost his left eye when he was less than one year old).  It was subsequently determined that Olson would need the right eye removed; on his final day of sight prior to the surgery that would leave him blind for the rest of his life, he chose to attend a Trojans football practice.

Fast-forward a few years, and Olson walked on to the USC football team as a long-snapper in 2015.  He took his first live-drill reps with the Trojans in September of that year, then snapped for the team in the 2016 spring game.  While he didn’t see any real-game action either year, in last season’s opener, at the end of USC’s closer-than-expected win over Western Michigan, Olson finally got to take his place on the field in an actual game with the rest of his special teams teammates as the long-snapper on an extra point — thanks in large part to a very classy assist from WMU head coach Tim Lester.

Olson remains a playing member of the Trojans football team, and is currently in his redshirt junior season.  He’s listed as the Trojans’ third-team long-snapper on the team’s most recent depth chart, although he hasn’t taken the field in a game this season.

As speculation swirls around Clay Helton, USC fans push for change

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To change or not to change, that is the question facing the USC administration when it comes to its head football coach. If they were to ask a growing segment of the fanbase, though, the answer would be resounding “yes!” to change.

In the days leading into this past Saturday’s rivalry game with UCLA, Clay Helton outwardly expressed confidence that he would return as head coach next season.  After coughing up a fourth-quarter lead in the loss to a Bruins team that came in at 2-8, Helton stated “that’s a great question for [athletic director Lynn] Swann” when asked if he thought he’d be returning in 2019.

The fanbase, on the other hand, is making its feelings loud and clear.

A petition appeared on Change.org earlier this week calling for the firing of Helton, although that one hasn’t gotten much traction.  Another, this one a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com, has started to take off as fans are looking to fly a banner over the USC campus before the Notre Dame game this weekend calling for the firing of Helton.  Additionally, the same group is seeking to take out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times calling for the same thing.

The $2,000 needed for the airplane and banner has easily been raised already; the newspaper ad will cost the group $20,000 and, as of this posting, they have raised just over $8,000 toward that goal.

“This is not designed to publicly humiliate Clay Helton,” the fundraising page stated. “The vast majority of USC fans like him as a person and wish it had worked out for him here and we will be rooting for him enthusiastically at his next destination. However, this job is beyond his capabilities at this point in his career and we are not doing anyone any favors by retaining him, including Clay himself. This is about bringing the USC administration’s attention to that fact.”

With the loss that dropped them to 5-6, USC now needs to beat third-ranked Notre Dame next week to become bowl-eligible.  The last time the Trojans failed to qualify for a bowl, outside of the NCAA-administered two-year bowl ban in 2010-11, was in 2000.  Following that 5-7 season, Paul Hackett was fired and Pete Carroll ultimately hired to replace him.

Prior to this year, Helton had won 10 and 11 games in his first two full seasons with the Trojans.

It remains unclear in which direction Swann and other USC administrators — and big-money boosters — will head, but one report has them keeping the status quo.

Should USC ultimately move on from Helton, James Franklin has already been mentioned as a possible replacement.  Tuesday, the current Penn State coach was asked about the potential opening.

“It’s that time of year where all this stuff happens,” Franklin said. “It’s that time of year. It’s the crazy, mad time of the year when these types of things happen. …

“As you guys know, like always, we’re focused on Maryland completely, 100 percent. I don’t think it’s even fair or right to be even talking about that job from everything I understand about it, but we’re completely focused on Maryland.”