A not-so-surprising Heisman Trophy first in NFC Championship Game

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The NFL’s conference championship weekend is set with another bout between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the AFC and the top two teams in the NFC, Arizona and Carolina, going toe-to-toe for the NFC championship. While there will be plenty of attention given to yet another meeting between Manning and Brady, the NFC Championship Game is making some history with a college football twist. With Cam Newton of the Panthers and Carson Palmer of the Cardinals set to start in the NFC Championship Game, we will see the first NFL postseason meeting between two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.

At first glance, that comes across as a surprising factoid to consume, but it should not come across as a major shock. Given the track record of Heisman Trophy winner sin the NFL, we already know the Heisman Trophy is far from a guarantee for sustained NFL success. This is especially true for quarterbacks, although the jury is still out on a number of the more recent Heisman-winning QBs (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota offer some good promise, and who knows if there is still time to save Robert Griffin III, for example). Also keep in mind that for the majority of the history of the Heisman Trophy, running backs were the dominant position before the turn of the 21st century gave way to quarterbacks taking control of the award more often than not.

Take a look through Heisman history and look at the quarterbacks who have won the stiff-arm trophy over the years. Just two quarterbacks won the award in the 1960s, Navy’s Roger Staubach and Notre Dame’s John Huarte. Staubach went on to have a stellar career. Huarte? Not so much. Two quarterbacks won the Heisman in the 1970s, and once again the careers of Jim Plunkett of Stanford and Pat Sullivan of Auburn took drastically different paths. Of the three quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy in the 1980s (Doug Flutie, Andre Ware, Vinny Testaverde), only Miami’s Testaverde proved to have a sustained NFL career, which included a couple of solid runs here and there, but he almost never faced another Heisman-winning QB during his lengthy career.

The 1990s saw four quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. Ty Detmer was essentially a career backup. Gino Torretta‘s run in the NFL was brief. Danny Wuerffel did not fare too much better. And Charlie Ward went on to play in the NBA instead of the NFL. Ward may have been the best NFL QB out of that bunch had he focused on the NFL instead.

Even the quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 2000 have been farther from competing for an NFL conference championship more often than not. This weekend, 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer just won his first postseason game as a starting quarterback since blowing out Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl. 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke has an NFC Championship ring, but that came as a backup. 2001 winner Eric Crouch played four years in the NFL with three teams and ended his playing career in the short-lived UFL with the Omaha Nighthawks. 2003 winner Jason White was not even drafted and stepped away due to bad knees. 2004 winner Matt Leinart never lived up to his perceived potential in Arizona and moved on to Houston, Oakland and Buffalo before getting into TV. 2006 winner Troy Smith was a career back-up, for the most part, behind Steve McNair and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Sam Bradford has been plagued by injuries and Robert Griffin III is looking to rejuvenate his career in a new situation in 2016. And I’m even going to spare you the talk about Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel.

One more piece of information to keep in mind was the AFC and NFC Championship Game structure was not utilized until 1970 when the NFL merged with the AFL. For an award that was first handed out in 1935, that cuts out a number of quarterbacks from even having the possibility to play in an NFL conference championship game (Davey O’BrienAngelo Bertelli, Lee Horvath, Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Terry Baker).

So yes, it is surprising we have not seen a matchup of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in an NFL postseason game before, but it is not at all shocking given the history of the Heisman Trophy. And no, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady never won the Heisman Trophy either.

NCAA extends recruiting dead period through May 31

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The NCAA has officially extended its dead period for all recruiting activities, shutting down the key spring evaluation period for college football in the process.

In a brief statement released Wednesday afternoon, via Twitter, the NCAA announced the recruiting dead period, which was originally put into effect in mid-March, was extended through May 31. The decision was made following advice and information from experts monitoring the ongoing pandemic linked to COVID-19.

The extended dead period means no face-to-face contact for coaches and recruits, official and unofficial visits, Junior Days, and more. The decision is not unexpected given the current climate in the sports world and with various stay home orders being extended on a state-by-state basis and federal guidelines and recommendations being adjusted.

As with the previous announcement of the dead period, texts and phone calls (and Zoom conference calls?) are all still allowed to keep communication on the recruiting trail open during these unique times.

The NCAA had originally planned to have a dead period lasting until April 15, at which point the NCAA would evaluate the situation before making another decision. As previously noted, April 15 is traditionally the day when coaches were allowed to visit recruits for the spring evaluation period. This extended dead period will wipe that out, at least for now.

Ex-Duke OT Jaylen Miller grad transfers to Tulane

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Tulane is preparing to fill one spot on the offensive line with a graduate transfer from Duke. Offensive tackle Jaylen Miller has committed to the Tulane Green Wave, as reported by NOLA.com on Tuesday. Miller reportedly made his announcement with a message on his Instagram account.

“[I] am beyond excited to start my new journey at Tulane University,” Miller said in his Instagram post. “I am looking forward to grinding, sacrificing, and winning with my new family. Let’s get it.”

As a graduate transfer, Miller will be eligible to play this season for Tulane. It will be expected Miller will be a candidate to fill a starting vacancy on the offensive line for Tulane given his previous experience at Duke.

Miller’s 2018 season was cut short in mid-October due to a fractured ankle. Although Miller eventually missed practicing in the spring of 2019 for the Blue Devils while rehabbing, he did serve in a backup role for the Blue Devils last fall. Miller appeared in nine games.

Rutgers adds commitment from Div. II corner

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Whether on the recruiting trail or transfer portal, Rutgers football is working it on the personnel front under Greg Schiano.

On his personal Twitter account this week, Keenan Reid announced that he will be continuing his collegiate playing career with the Rutgers football team.  The cornerback spent his first three seasons at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  Because he’s moving up from the Div. II level, Reid would be eligible to play immediately for the Scarlet Knights in 2020.  He also has a redshirt available if the need arises.

The move will serve as a homecoming as Reid went to high school in Somerset, NJ.

Reid actually enrolled in classes at Rutgers before he even received an offer from the football team.  He participated in walk-on tryouts in late January.  That tryout led to a preferred walk-on offer from Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano.

“I wanted to take a chance on myself. I grew up around Rutgers in Franklin Township right down the street,” the 6-0′, 175-pound Reid told 247Sports.com. “I just wanted to take a chance, come back home and be where I wanted to go from the beginning. This is big for me and my family.”

Reid was a three-year starter for the Lions.  He finished with a pair of interceptions.  He also blocked six kicks during his time at the lower-level school.

Rutgers football hasn’t been shy in dipping into the transfer portal under its first-year coach.  In early February, the program confirmed the addition of four transfers from Power Five programs.  Three of those came from the Big Ten.  Late last month, an FCS offensive lineman was added to the roster as well.

Michigan State sees one punter leave team, another pull his name from transfer portal

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It was a busy day personnel-wise on the punting front for the Michigan State football program.

Last year, Bryce Baringer placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  This week, it was reported that Baringer had pulled his name out of the portal, an indication that the punter has decided to remain as part of the Michigan State football team.

Conversely, Michigan State confirmed that Jack Bouwmeester is no longer part of the Spartans football team.  According to mlive.com, Bouwmeester has returned to his native Australia.  No reason was given for the development.  It’s unclear at this point whether the move is permanent.

Baringer began his collegiate career at Illinois.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman in 2017, Baringer transferred to Michigan State prior to the start of the 2018 season.  Because of injuries that year to the two punters ahead of him on the depth chart, Baringer played in four games.  In that action, he averaged 32.4 yards on 15 punts.  Four of those punts landed inside the 20-yard line.

Mlive.com wrote that “Bouwmeester, who Michigan State found through ProKick Australia, was the program’s first incoming punter recruit to land a scholarship since [Jake] Hartbarger.” Bouwmeester was a three-star 2019 signee, rated as the No. 9 punter in the country.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman after not playing in any games.

Hartbarger served as the primary punter for Michigan State last season.  As a sixth-year senior, Hartbarger’s eligibility has expired.

Baringer is one of three punters currently on the Michigan State roster.  The others are redshirt junior walk-on Tyler Hunt and redshirt freshman walk-on Evan Morris.  Hunt was the second of the two punters injured during that 2018 season.  Hunt, who replaced the injured Hartbarger that year, started five games, punting 36 times for an average of 40.1 yards per.