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Deshaun Watson claims back-to-back Manning Awards

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Deshaun Watson may be off to the NFL, but he’s taking one more piece of collegiate hardware with him.

Thursday, the Allstate Sugar Bowl announced that Watson, one of 10 finalists, has been named as the recipient of the 2016 Manning Award.  The Clemson quarterback won the Manning after the 2015 season, making him the first player to win the award in back-to-back seasons.

The other finalists for this year’s Manning Award were: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Luke Falk (Washington State), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Zach Terrell (Western Michigan).  Seven of those 10 finalists (Barrett, Browning, Darnold, Falk, Hurts, Jackson, Mayfield) will return in 2017 with another opportunity to claim the Manning.

The award, named in honor of the quarterbacking Mannings — Archie, Peyton and Eli — is the only one to take into account a player’s performance in the postseason.  And what a postseason performance it was for Watson.

In the national championship game win over defending champ Alabama, Watson accounted for 463 yards of offense and four touchdowns against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense.  It was the perfect ending for a stellar collegiate career.

“Over the years, we have seen so many tremendous performances in the postseason, and this year we saw Deshaun Watson turn in an amazing two-game playoff performance,” said Archie Manning in a statement. “When the Allstate Sugar Bowl created the Manning Award in 2004, one of the key components was to recognize achievements throughout the entire year, including bowls, and now the playoff. This year is a prime example of why we do that.”

A Heisman finalist each of the past two seasons — some would say if the Heisman followed the Manning lead and voted after the postseason he would’ve won at least one — Watson also claimed the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas quarterbacking awards.  He also won the former in 2015.

Reports indicate Florida State starting RT Josh Ball could be suspended for all of the 2018 season

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Florida State’s offensive line may have been dealt a rather significant blow a couple of months before summer camp kicks off.

In November of last year, reports surfaced that Sandra Sellers, an FSU student who dated Seminoles football player Josh Ball for a year and a half, had accused the offensive lineman of dating violence, including allegations that he physically attacked her on at least three occasions.  Tuesday, Warchant.com reported that, in connection to those allegations, Ball has been suspended from the university after a ruling by the school’s judicial panel.

At this point in time, it’s unclear how long Ball’s suspension will last.  According to a since-deleted social media post made by the alleged victim, however, Ball will miss the entire 2018 season.

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

Sellers posted to her public page on social media that she was happy the matter was concluded and that she will now be able to enjoy football season because she will not see Ball on the field.

“This long journey has finally come to an end!” Sellers wrote in the post that has since been deleted.

“After two long days of testifying and two agonizing weeks of waiting for this letter, it’s finally here. Thank you FSU for making campus a better place. Stand up for yourself and stand strong. God doesn’t put you through obstacles that you can’t learn and grow from.

“Thank you to all my family, friends and amazing boyfriend for having to hear about all these cases over and over again and consistently standing by me in my decision to continue to pursue charges. So cheers to finally being able to close this chapter of my life for good and to being able to enjoy football season, and not seeing him on the field!

Warchant.com notes that “Ball was not charged by the Tallahassee Police or the state attorney’s office following Sellers’ complaint” in connection to the allegations.

As of yet, neither the university nor the athletic department has confirmed Sellers’ version of Ball’s status with the team. Sellers’ attorney Leonardo Arias Vera told the Democrat he could not comment on the situation.

Ball started the last nine games of the 2017 season at left tackle for the Seminoles.  Exiting spring practice this year, and with last year’s starter Rick Leonard no longer around due to expired eligibility, the redshirt sophomore was penciled in as FSU’s starting right tackle.

RB Jawon Hamilton transferring from UCF to FCS James Madison

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For the second time this offseason, UCF and new head coach Josh Heupel have a seen a running back depart the football program.

In January, Cordarrian Richardson decided to transfer to Texas A&M, a move he still plans to make despite some uncertainty of late.  On Instagram four months later, former teammate and backfield mate Jawon Hamilton made a similar move, revealing on the social media website that he’ll be transferring from the Knights.

Not only that, but the back revealed his transfer destination in the missive — FCS powerhouse James Madison.

Because of the move down a level, Hamilton will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.  He’ll be a redshirt sophomore this coming season.

God’s Plan ☝🏾 #GoDukes🐶💛💜

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As a true freshman in 2016, Hamilton led the Knights with 495 yards on the ground. A knee injury sustained in the second game of the 2017 season sidelined Hamilton for the remainder of the year.

The Orlando Sentinel wrote that Hamilton “missed all of spring practice after being suspended by [former head coach Scott] Frost’s staff for an undisclosed violation of team rules” and “[t]he suspension continued” under Heupel.

Florida, USF schedule three-game series, including one in Tampa

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When it comes to scheduling arrangements involving a Power Five and Group of Five program, this is certainly an interesting one.

Both Florida and USF announced Tuesday a future series between the two schools.  As part of the three-game series, the Bulls will travel to Gainesville’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for two of the matchups — Sept. 17, 2022, and Sept. 6, 2025.  In between is the interesting aspect as the Gators will make the trek south to play at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 9, 2023.

That latter game will mark the first time ever the two teams will square off in Tampa.

“We are very excited for our program and our fans to add three games against the University of Florida to our schedule,” a statement from USF athletic director Mark Harlan began. “I would like to thank Coach Strong for his desire to play a challenging non-conference schedule and the leadership at Florida for their partnership in making this happen. We are committed to scheduling opponents that our fans are excited to see the Bulls compete against and Florida certainly ranks very high on that list.”

“This is a unique scheduling opportunity that allows us to get three games against a quality FBS opponent, with two at home and one in a great venue in Tampa,” Harlan’s UF counterpart, Scott Stricklin, said in his statement. “A lot of Gator fans will have the opportunity to attend that game and we are looking forward to being able to play a regular-season game in central Florida.”

The two teams have met just once previously. In Week 2 of the 2010 season, the Gators dropped the Bulls 38-14 in The Swamp in what turned out to be Urban Meyer‘s final season with the program.

Charlie Strong, the current USF head coach, was in his first season in the same job at Louisville that year after spending the previous seven seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Gators.  UF’s current head coach, Dan Mullen, spent four years as Meyer’s offensive coordinator before taking over at Mississippi State in 2009.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to host South Florida twice in The Swamp and also play them in Raymond James Stadium,” Mullen said. “The Tampa/St. Petersburg area is an important recruiting footprint for us and our players will love playing another game in an NFL stadium.”

Alabama continues to block grad transfer Brandon Kennedy

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Continued kudos, Alabama.

Earlier this month, Brandon Kennedy opted to leave Alabama as a graduate transfer.  The offensive lineman, as it turns out, is interested in a transfer to Alabama rivals Auburn and Tennessee; as has been the case in the pastor not — Kennedy has been barred by UA from transferring to any other school in the conference despite the fact that he’s a graduate transfer.

Kennedy, a graduate transfer, appealed the initial decision that blocked him from an intra-conference move.  In a stunning turn of events, that initial appeal has been denied by the university.

Al.com writes that “[t]he next step for Kennedy, who graduated in December, is an in-person hearing with Alabama’s appeal board.” As noted by the website, Kennedy graduated from the university in December, which makes him a graduate transfer.

When that in-person hearing in front of Alabama’s appeals board will take place for the student-athlete who has already graduated is unclear.

Kennedy, prior to becoming a graduate transfer, served as the Crimson’s Tide backup center in 2017, his redshirt sophomore season.  After graduating in December, Kennedy exited spring practice this year as the defending national champion’s likely No. 2 center.

As a graduate transfer, Kennedy would have a two-year eligibility clock that begins immediately with the 2018 season even if he stays in the FBS.

On a completely related note…

Since last summer, at least two players have transferred within the SEC. In June of 2017, running back David Williams moved from South Carolina to Arkansas. Earlier this month, defensive back Nick Harvey left Texas A&M and chose South Carolina over, among others, Auburn and Tennessee.

Both Williams and Harvey left their former schools as graduate transfers.

Kudos, Alabama.  Still.