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USC QB Sam Darnold, Houston DL Ed Oliver headline FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver were the stars of the FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team for the 2016 season, and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and USC head coach Clay Helton shared the award for First Year Coach of the Year.

The FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team, announced today, includes 20 true freshmen including Oliver, Ohio State running back Mike Weber, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill and Florida State defensive lineman Brian Burns.

Fuente is coming off his first season as the head coach at Virginia Tech after a successful stint as head coach at Memphis, with an ACC Coastal Division championship and appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Helton overcame a rough start to coach USC into a top 10 finish and a Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten champion Penn State. Both have been head coaches before, of course, but the FWAA First Year Coach of the Year is open to any coach in his first full season as a head coach at his current school.

OFFENSE

  • QB Sam Darnold, USC
  • RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
  • RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
  • RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
  • WR Ammon Richards, Miami
  • WR Demetris Robinson, California
  • WR Ty Lee, Middle Tennessee
  • TE Isaac Nautta, Georgia
  • OL Michael Jordan, Ohio State
  • OL Jawaan Taylor, Florida
  • OL Ryan Bates, Penn State
  • OL Thomas Shoaf, BYU
  • OL Ben Bredeson, Michigan
  • AP Donnie Corley, Michigan State

DEFENSE

  • DL Ed Oliver, Houston
  • DL Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
  • DL Brian Burns, Florida State
  • DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
  • DL Reggie Walker, Kansas State
  • LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
  • LB Troy Dye, Oregon
  • LB Leo Lewis, Mississippi State
  • LB Josiah Tauaefa, UTSA
  • LB David Reese, Florida
  • DB Xavier Crawford, Oregon State
  • DB Javon Hagan, Ohio
  • DB Taylor Rapp, Washington
  • DB Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
  • DB Clifton Duck, Appalachian State

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
  • P Tom Sheldon, North Carolina
  • KR Tony Pollard, Memphis
  • PR Malik McGue, Army

Matt Leinart says Lane Kiffin was ‘obviously joking’ about offering 11-year-old son a scholarship

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Haha. Good one, Kiff.

In a Twitter exchange with Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports/The Athletic Tuesday, Lane Kiffin indicated that he had indeed offered a scholarship to Cole Leinart, the 11-year-old quarterback son of former USC Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart.

Apparently, however, the current Florida Atlantic and former USC head coach — and former Leinart offensive coordinator with the Trojans — was just yanking everyone’s chain. At least, according to Cole Leinart’s father he was.

Following the ruckus kicked up by what was apparently an in-jest tweet, Kiffin explained his relationship with the elder Leinart. From the Sun-Sentinel:

Matt, we’ve always had a good relationship,” said Kiffin of Leinart, who after an NFL career is now a college football analyst for Fox Sports and covered FAU’s opener at Oklahoma. “We’ve been communicating a lot over the last couple of months. They had the opener, their broadcast and stuff. He lives right down the street from my kids in Manhattan Beach out there. There’s some crossover, kids in different sports and things like that.

And, for those wondering, Kiffin is permitted to discuss the younger Leinart, who would be a Class of 2025 recruit if he continues on his current trajectory, as he’s only in sixth grade; the NCAA doesn’t consider a player a recruitable prospect until they reach the ninth grade.

WATCH: Nick Saban appears in campaign ad endorsing U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

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Involved in a hotly-contested U.S. Senate race, Joe Manchin is bringing out the big guns in the form of one West Virginia’s favorite football sons.

In a political ad that debuted Wednesday, Alabama head coach — and Fairmont, WV native — Nick Saban, along with other God’s Country hoops favorites Bob Huggins and Jerry West, gave an unflinching endorsement of the 71-year-old Manchin, the incumbent U.S. Senator who is running for re-election against Republican Patrick Morrisey.

“Joe and I grew up together in West Virginia and he never forgets where he came from,” Saban said in the ad. “I don’t have a better friend or know a better person than Joe Manchin.”

Other than not even realizing it was Election Day two years ago and some of his statements from the past — “I don’t really make political comments. So, if I say I like one person that means everybody who voted for the other person doesn’t like me. So, why would I do that?” — it’s not surprising that Saban has endorsed Manchin.

Manchin, who is five years older than Saban, was coached in Little League baseball by the Alabama head coach’s late father. “They used to take family vacations to Myrtle Beach together,” al.com wrote four years ago in profiling the relationship between the two that extended into adulthood. “Manchin laughs telling stories about going horseback riding with Saban.”

Manchin, who went to West Virginia University on a football scholarship before an injury ended his playing career, also wholeheartedly endorsed the high school-aged Saban, who ended up playing at Kent State, while at the same time lamenting his alma mater letting one get away.

“His size was always a challenge playing these tough sports,” Manchin said. “But Nick was as tough as anyone could be. My god, if he had a little more size, he would have killed everybody. I think the biggest mistake WVU ever made was not giving Nick Saban a scholarship.”

Alabama WR Devonta Smith questionable for Tennessee game

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Alabama could be down its second-leading receiver when it takes the field for one of its two annual rivalry games.

Devonta Smith suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter of the Week 7 win over Missouri, and was then labeled as questionable as ‘Bama began prep work for this year’s Third Saturday in October clash with Tennessee in Knoxville. As preparations hit the midway point Wednesday, Nick Saban indicated there hasn’t been much if any change in the wide receiver’s status.

A final decision on Smith’s availability likely won’t be made until closer to Saturday’s mid-afternoon kickoff.

Smith is second on the team in receiving yards with 409 and tied for second in receptions with 21. The sophomore’s 19.5 yards per catch are second on the Crimson Tide as well, while he’s fourth in receiving touchdowns with three.

Western Michigan’s starting free safety questionable for Week 8 game vs. rival Central Michigan

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Western Michigan could head into a rivalry game this weekend at less than full strength in the secondary. Fortunately for them, the rival’s passing game isn’t exactly a strength — or is much of the rest of the offense, for that matter.

A.J. Thomas suffered a knee injury in practice last week and didn’t play in Western Michigan’s win over Bowling Green last weekend. With Central Michigan on the docket this weekend, the free safety is officially labeled as questionable by his head coach.

“He got a twisted knee last Wednesday, and we didn’t actually know (the extent),” Tim Lester said by way of mlive.com. “We thought it was going to be bad. We had the MRI, nothing’s wrong with him.

“He got shaken up a little bit, but no surgery is required.”

After playing in nine games as a true freshman in 2017, Thomas emerged as the Broncos’ starting free safety this season. In six games in 2018, he’s fourth on the team in tackles with 32. WMU has three interceptions as a team, and Thomas is responsible for one of them (Anton Curtis has the other two).

This Saturday’s opponent, CMU, is 117th nationally in passing at 147.9 yards per game. That, though, is part of an overall anemic offense in Mount Pleasant that’s 126th in total offense (286.7 ypg) and 124th in scoring offense (18.1 points per game).

The 1-6 Chippewas haven’t scored more than 24 points in any game this year.