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Texas leads Notre Dame, 21-14, at halftime as QB picture comes into focus for each

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Both Notre Dame and Texas kicked off the 2016 season still uncertain who would, or should, be their team’s starting quarterback this fall. Consider this season opening game a live audition of sorts. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly started by alternating his two quarterbacks, DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, each series the Irish had the ball. Texas head coach Charlie Strong was a bit more reserved, starting the game with Shane Buechele for one full quarter before getting Tyrone Swoopes onto the field following a timeout. As the first half drew to a close, if that is enough of a sample size to base any important decisions, it appeared Kizer and Buechele were establishing themselves as the top options for their respective teams after leading, or finishing, two touchdown drives each. Buechele and Texas have the edge on the visiting Irish, 21-14 at the half.And what a half it was.

And what a half it was.

Notre Dame was first on the scoreboard when Kizer completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown to cap the opening drive of the game. The two had tried hooking up on the first offensive play of the game, but Kizer’s pass attempt fell incomplete. Fortunately for the Irish, running back Tarean Folston broke free for a 54-yard gain after breaking a tackle through the line of scrimmage. With a few blockers opening up a huge piece of open field on the right side of the line, Folston put the Irish inside the red zone for the first time this season. A few plays later, on 1st and 10 from the Texas 13-yard line, Kizer tried finding St. Brown once again in the end zone for the early touchdown. St. Brown later caught a fantastic pass from Kizer and did a somersault into the end zone after planting his hand on the ground to keep his movement going toward the end zone.

Buechele led Texas for a touchdown on Texas’ first possession, and he later finished off a second touchdown drive midway through the second quarter. He looked sharp as well with a good deep ball and perfect placement, and he received some good help from his receivers as well. Buechele dropped a perfect pass on the edge of the end zone sideline that was able to be hauled in by Armanti Foreman to tie the score at 7-7.

Texas later put together an impressive 16-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, which saw Swoopes make his season debut before Buechele finish things off with a short touchdown run from the one-yard line. After the Irish tied the score at 14-14 in the second quarter, it was Buechele again showing off his arm and dropping a ball in the hands of 68 yards to Jerrod Heard, who was taken down at the one-yard line. With a first and goal from the one-yard line, it took Texas three tries to push across the goal line against the Irish defensive line. It was Swoopes who took the snap and dashed to the right edge of the line with Notre Dame stacking the middle.

It was an eventful first half between the Longhorns and the Irish. In the second half it will be fascinating to see how the dynamic of the offensive decision-making goes at the quarterback situation. Texas has gotten some really good stuff through the air from Buechele, although Swoopes has produced on the ground. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is still getting most fo their offensive production with Kizer on the field.

Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

TEAM ACC
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

TEAM BIG TEN
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

TEAM BIG 12
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

TEAM PAC-12
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

TEAM SEC
Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

TEAM WILD CARD
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

TE Jordan Wilson to transfer from UCLA

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UCLA redshirt junior Jordan Wilson has announced he is leaving the Bruins. In a post on his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wilson announced he is entering the transfer portal with the intent of finishing up his collegiate career with some other program.

“[I’d] like to announce that I will be entering the transfer portal, graduating at the end of the Spring quarter, and playing my final year of eligibility somewhere else,” Wilson announced in a statement on his Twitter account.

The decision of Wilson to leave UCLA comes at an unfortunate time for the Bruins. Wilson was likely to be a starter at tight end for UCLA in the fall. Wilson is the third tight end to leave UCLA this offseason. Devin Asiasi previously made the decision to declare for the NFL draft a year early. Matt Lynch also stepped into the transfer portal. Now, UCLA has a wide-open competition for playing time at the tight end spot beginning this spring.

Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards for UCLA in 2019. He will leave UCLA having caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the past three seasons. As a graduate transfer, Wilson will be eligible to play his final year of eligibility anywhere he ends up this fall.

USC nabs Todd Orlando from Texas Tech

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USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.

Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.

Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.

Cal loses assistant Gerald Alexander to NFL job

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Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.

Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.

Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.

This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.