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Where does Florida go without Will Grier?

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Florida quarterback Will Grier announced plans to transfer out of Gainesville yesterday, leaving the future of Florida’s quarterback position looking a bit thinner. Because he was already serving a one-year suspension, the Gators had no other choice but to ride with Treon Harris for the second half of the 2015 season, but will Harris be the guy in 2016?

Harris will get a chance to end the season on a high note against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. A good performance in the bowl game with the extra time to prepare a solid Michigan defense could lead to some momentum heading into the spring practice season. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it is overrated, however in this case it would seem to be a positive if Harris can end the season on an upswing after ending the season two losses to Florida State and Alabama as well as some ugly wins against Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt.

In Florida’s Class of 2016, as currently lined up, the Gators have a commitment from four-star pro-style quarterback Feleipe Franks from Crawfordville, Florida. The second-best pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals could get an early shot at competing for the starting job under center with Harris. Harris, of course, will have the benefit of having playing experience at Florida over the past two seasons, including one year under McElwain, but Franks will be the quarterback hand-picked by McElwain and will offer more the style of passer McElwain will prefer to build his offense around, instead of Harris as a dual-threat. An early enrollee, Franks will get a chance to work with the team this spring and make his case for the starting job leading up to the season opener in 2016 against UMass.

If Franks still needs some time to develop and get comfortable in the offense, one other possible contender for the starting job could be Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio who joined the Gators last summer. Previously a walk-on at Alabama in 2013, Del Rio transferred to Oregon State in the spring of 2014. Del Rio then transferred to Florida in the spring of 2015 and was forced to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. That makes him eligible to compete for a job in 2016.

One of the biggest areas of need for improvement on Florida’s roster is at quarterback. Offense has been lagging for Florida in recent years, and McElwain is tasked with improving that while keeping the defense solid. Whoever becomes the Gators starter in 2016, if he can provide a lift on offense and make the Gators at least formidable on offense, Florida could be the top team in the SEC East once again in 2016.

NFL Network to air 10 Conference USA games each fall

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The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.

“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”

The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.

“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.

June Jones resurfaces as XFL Houston head coach

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The last we saw of June Jones, at least in the continental United States, he was mailing it in as SMU’s head coach. After leading the Ponies to four straight bowl trips from 2009-12, Jones watched SMU slip to 5-7 in 2013, then walked out the door after losing the first two games of the 2014 campaign by a combined score of 88-6. (That SMU team would finish the ’14 season at 1-11.) It seemed the then-61-year-old had given football all he had to give, at least on a competitive level.

Jones took 2015 off, then spent 2016 in a semi-retirement gig as the offensive coordinator at a high school in Hawaii.

But Jones must have really missed football, because he gave up the Hawaiian life to spend the past two seasons as head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now he’s back stateside as the head coach of the XFL’s Houston franchise.

“I’ve spent a few years coaching in Houston, and having a chance to return to be a head coach in the XFL is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Jones. “I had a really great time coaching in the CFL, but this new fresh opportunity to build a team from the ground up is extremely rare in this game, and I’m looking forward to working with Brian Cooper and our coaches to give football fans in Houston a team that’s truly exciting to watch and worthy of their support.”

He was formally announced in a press conference at the University of Houston, and the as-yet-unnamed club will play its games at the Cougars’ TDECU Stadium.

It will be the fourth different professional league Jones has coached in, following stints in the USFL and NFL, in addition to six-plus seasons at SMU and eight at Hawaii.

The eighth of eight head coaches to join the league, Jones will join a roster that includes Bob Stoops and former Michigan offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
 

Father of LSU CB Kelvin Joseph says he’s not entering transfer portal after all

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Well, hold all that.

It was reported Monday morning that LSU sophomore cornerback Kelvin Joseph had entered the transfer portal, but on Monday afternoon Joseph’s father, Kelvin Joseph, Sr., told the New Orleans Times Picayune his

“He’s staying,” Joseph told the paper. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Joseph, Sr., confirmed to the paper that Kelvin had put his name in the portal, doing so Thursday after a trip to Florida with Baton Rouge-native rapper NBA YoungBoy. But by the time Joseph returned to Baton Rouge, whatever issue between he and LSU had been resolved — just in time for Joseph’s name to appear in the portal.

A top-50 recruit in the class of 2018, Joseph, a Baton Rouge native, played in five games as a true freshman last fall, collecting 12 tackles with a pass breakup. He is expected to battle with 5-star recruit Derek Stingley, Jr. for a starting role opposite senior Kristian Fulton. With Fulton out for the spring game, both Stingley and Joseph earned starts, a sign that the sophomore is in line for major snaps this fall.

And it appears Joseph intends to take those snaps after all.

USC considering dropping prohibition on scheduling FCS opponents

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Since Division I split into two subdivisions in 1978, only three FBS schools have refrained from scheduling FCS opponents — Notre Dame, UCLA and USC. That number soon could drop to two.

USC senior associate AD Steve Lopes sat down for an interview with The Athletic on USC’s scheduling philosophy and said the Trojans could soon schedule games with FCS opponents.

“If you start looking at the teams that are available, it’s very limited,” Lopes said. “We’re looking at schools that might not even be FBS, which I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We may get criticized if and when we do it, but everybody does it. …  Are you going to die on that sword? You can play very good FCS schools that are better than some of the FBS schools you’ll play, the directional schools you’ll play.”

The purists will be upset by this… but they’ll be the only ones. It won’t affect the Trojans’ College Football Playoff chances — Alabama and Georgia already play FCS opponents each year. USC faces a nine-game Pac-12 regular season, an annual game with Notre Dame and, if the Trojans prove worthy, the Pac-12 North champion in their path to the Playoff.

And it likely won’t affect the Trojans’ gate, either. How many USC fans would have stayed home had the Trojans dropped UNLV from their 2018 opener for a game with Sacramento State?

Perhaps the purists would stay home, but nobody else would.