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NCAA: Stanford boosters gave ex-WR Devon Cajuste $3,500 in impermissible benefits

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Known across the country for its football program’s squeaky-clean image, Stanford has seen that reputation take a slight hit.

The NCAA announced Thursday afternoon that “two boosters impermissibly provided nearly $3,500 in extra benefits to a football student-athlete, including an impermissible loan, free use of an automobile, meals and other extra benefits.”  While the NCAA didn’t specify the player’s name, the university subsequently confirmed that it was former wide receiver Devon Cajuste.

The Cardinal self-imposed a one-game suspension on Cajuste.  Additionally, the receiver was forced to pay the value of the impermissible benefits to charity as a condition of his 2014 reinstatement.

Below is the school’s explanation as to how they ran afoul of NCAA bylaws:

Student-athletes had been residing with community homeowners during the summer for a number of decades, and in 2007 Stanford football initiated structured process to help student-athletes connect with community homeowners to obtain rental housing in the summer months. The program helped football student-athletes remain in the area to train, attend summer classes and participate in internships and other activities that would benefit them after graduation.

In the summer of 2014, the university discovered that one student-athlete had received impermissible benefits from his landlord in violation of NCAA rules. Impermissible benefits valued at under $400 included restaurant meals with the landlord’s family, movie tickets with the family and the use of a local vacation home. Another impermissible benefit was a loan to purchase a bicycle, which, at the time of the review, had already been repaid.

The NCAA investigation explored whether there was a possibility of other violations. No other violations were addressed in the report. But in 2014, recognizing the risks of these housing arrangements, the university revised its policy and now prohibits student-athletes from renting local housing during the summer. Student-athletes are now housed on campus. The university has provided additional education to community members and boosters regarding impermissible benefits.

“Earlier today, the NCAA released a report announcing that Stanford self-reported a violation involving a Stanford football student-athlete in 2014. I am the student-athlete involved in the violation,” Cajuste said in a statement. “I unknowingly accepted impermissible benefits from my summer landlord. I look forward to moving on from this incident and to supporting my alma mater for many years to come. I will have no further comment on this matter.”

The NCAA accepted Stanford’s self-imposed penalties for what were deemed Level II violations, while adding an additional $5,000 fine and a public reprimand of the university.  Those are the first “major” violations for the football program.

“The university will continue to be diligent about educating student-athletes and supporters, monitoring its programs and, when a potential violation is discovered, vigorously reviewing the matter and self-reporting to the NCAA any findings,” the university stated in its release. “Stanford will continue to work towards a tradition of excellence and hold itself to the highest standards of conduct and compliance.”

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.

Report: USC OC Graham Harrell interviewing for NFL job

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Clay Helton has been searching for a defensive coordinator the past several weeks and may need to expand his search to include an offensive coordinator as well.

According to a report out of Philadelphia, USC OC Graham Harrell has interviewed with the Eagles for a spot on Doug Pederson’s coaching staff in a similar role:

Harrell was retained this offseason amid plenty of fan fare (and money) in Los Angeles. He reportedly had interest from Texas in the same position on Tom Herman’s staff but a return to the Lone Star State was put off for a multi-year deal with the Trojans.

The former North Texas OC and Texas Tech quarterback oversaw one of the more impressive turnarounds in the country in 2019. Despite being forced to play true freshman Kedon Slovis at quarterback following J.T. Daniels injury, USC still added nearly a touchdown per game with the move to the Air Raid and rose from 91st in scoring offense to 35th.

This wouldn’t be the first time Helton and the Trojans will feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them by the NFL after a splashy move on offense. As many know, Kliff Kingsbury was on the job for a few weeks before moving on as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals last January. We’ll see if anything becomes of Harrell’s flirtation with the pros but there’s little doubt that this will not be the last time his name comes up for a bigger job going forward.