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ACC leads Bednarik Award watch list with 18 out of 85 players

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If you needed one more sign that summer is transitioning to college football season on top of the start of SEC media days, the Maxwell Football Club is here for you. Today, the Maxwell Football Club unveiled the watch lists for their two highest individual player awards; the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. The Bednarik Award is presented to the nation’s top defensive player in the country and has been awarded annually since the 1995 season when current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald won the inaugural award.

This year’s preseason watch list is certainly not lacking for players to keep an eye on. A total of 85 players landed on the watch list, with the ACC leading the way with 18 players. The Big Ten followed in the order with 15, and the SEC had 14 players named to the watch list. The Pac-12 had 13 and the Big 12 had 10. The American Athletic Conference led the Group of Five with six players named to the watch list.

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen won the 2016 Bednarik Award, becoming the first player in school history to win the defensive award. Penn State has the most Bednarik Awards in the history of the award, with three players (LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor) winning four awards.

This year’s watch list for the Bednarik Award is below.

CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
S Marcus Allen, Penn State
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas
S Dravon Askew-Henry, West Virginia
LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State
S Quin Blanding, Virginia
DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
LB Jason Cabinda, Penn State
LB Jermaine Carter, Maryland
S Sean Chandler, Temple
DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
LB Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
LB Koron Crump, Arizona State
CB Duke Dawson, Florida
LB Troy Dye, Oregon
LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
DE Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
DE Kylie Fitts, Utah
DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
DE Marcell Frazier, Missouri
DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF
LB Porter Gustin, USC
CB Heath Harding CB Miami (Ohio)
DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
LB Travin Howard, TCU
LB Ben Humphreys, Duke
DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
S Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern
S Derwin James, Florida State
DE Cece Jefferson, Florida
LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
LB Josey Jewell, Iowa
LB Jordan Jones, Kentucky
DE Arden Key, LSU
LB Micah Kiser, Virginia
DE Harold Landry, Boston College
DE Justin Lawler, SMU
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
DE Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
DT Lowell Lotulelei, Utah
CB Iman Marshall, USC
DE Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State
S Tray Matthews, Auburn
CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
NT David Moa, Boise State
LB Skai Moore, South Carolina
LB Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
CB Deatrick Nichols, USF
DT Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
DT Kendrick Norton, Miami
LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
NG Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford
LB Shaq Quarterman, Miami
CB D.J. Reed, Kansas State
DE Malik Reed, Nevada
S Justin Reid, Stanford
DT Steve Richardson, Minnesota
DE Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State
LB Tegray Scales, Indiana
DT Conor Sheehy, Wisconsin
DE KJ Smith, Baylor
LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
LB Cameron Smith, USC
CB M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
LB Ty Summers, TCU
LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
LB Matthew Thomas, Florida State
LB Micah Thomas, Navy
CB Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia
CB Kevin Toliver, LSU
DT Vita Vea, Washington
LB Azeem Victor, Washington
CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
LB Fred Warner, BYU
S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
S Kyzir White, West Virginia
S Jordan Whitehead, Pitt
DE Christian Wilkins, Clemson
S Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
LB Kenny Young, UCLA

Pac-12 responds to football players threatening opt-outs

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The Pac-12 responded Monday to football players who have threatened to opt-out of the season because of concerns related to health and safety, racial injustice and economic rights with a letter touting the conference’s work in those areas and an invitation to meet later this week.

A letter from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, dated Aug. 3, was sent to 12 football players leading the #WeAreUnited movement. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press and first reported by Sports Illustrated.

The players say they have been communicating with more than 400 of their peers throughout the Pac-12. The group released a lengthy list of demands Sunday and said if they are not addressed they will not practice or play. The group said it reached out to the Pac-12 on Sunday to request a meeting. In the letter, Scott said he was eager to discuss their concerns.

“I will come back to you in the coming days following discussion with our members and student-athlete leaders to schedule a call for this week to discuss the matters that you have raised,” Scott wrote.

Also Monday night, Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said in a statemen t he regretted cautioning one of his players about being part of the #WeAreUnited movement. A recording of a conversation between Rolovich and receiver Kassidy Woods obtained by the Dallas Morning News revealed the coach seemingly warning the player that being involved with the group would hurt his standing with the team. Woods had called Rolovich to inform him he was opting out of the season for health reasons related to COVID-19.

“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns,” said Rolovich, who is in his first season was Washington State coach. “Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”

The #WeAreUnited players’ demands focused on four areas: health and safety protections, especially protocols related to COVID-19; guarding against the elimination of sports programs by schools during an economic downturn; ending racial injustice in college sports; and economic freedom and equity.

Scott addressed each area, highlighting the conference’s:

— Medical advisory committee working on COVID-19 protocols and webinars for student-athletes and their parents;

— Support for reforming NCAA rules regarding name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes;

— Recent initiatives to address racial inequities such as the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group that includes student-athletes representatives.

Scott also listed 10 areas in which, he wrote, “The Pac-12 has been a leader in supporting student-athlete health and well-being …” Included were enhanced medical coverage post-eligibility; cost-of-attendance stipends added to the value of scholarship; mental health support; and the Pac-12′s support of reforming NCAA transfer rules to allow athletes more freedom to switch schools.

Pac-12 football teams are scheduled to begin preseason practices Aug. 17 and the league’s conference-only regular season is set to start Sept. 26.

Big 12 to allow teams to play 1 non-conference football game

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Two people involved with the decision say the Big 12 will permit its teams to play one nonconference football game this year to go along with their nine league contests as plans for the pandemic-altered season continued to fall into place.

The people spoke Monday night to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conference was still preparing an official announcement.

The Big 12 university presidents signed off on the conference’s scheduling model, which gives schools the ability to play one nonconference game at home. The conference’s championship game is scheduled for Dec. 5, but one of the people told AP that the conference is leaving open the possibility of bumping it back a week or two.

The 10-team Big 12 already plays a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule. Unlike other Power Five conference that have switched to either exclusively (Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) or mostly (ACC) league games this season, the Big 12 could not add more conference games without teams playing each other more than once.

Several Big 12 teams have already started preseason practice, with Kansas and Oklahoma slated to play FCS teams on Aug. 29.

As conferences take steps toward a football season that seems to be in precarious shape, the NCAA is expected to weigh in Tuesday on fall sports other than major-college football.

The association’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet and whether to cancel or postpone NCAA championship events in fall sports such as soccer, volleyball and lower-division football is expected to be a topic.

Only the Pac-12 has a full football schedule with matchups and dates in place among Power Five conferences. The Pac-12 will begin Sept. 26, along with the Southeastern Conference, which is still working on its new 10-game slate.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has opponents set for its 10-game conference schedule and will start the weekend of Sept. 12, but no specific game dates. The ACC has also said it will permit its teams to play one nonconference game.

The Big Ten, first to announce intentions to go conference-only this season, has yet to release a new schedule, but that could come later this week.

Now that the Power Five has declared its intentions the Group of Five conferences can start making plans and filling holes on their schedules.

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has said the AAC could stick with its eight-game conference schedule and let its members plays as many of their four nonconference games as they can salvage or replace.

The Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences are likely to take similar approach.

Early Monday, Texas State from the Sun Belt announced it was moving a nonconference game against SMU up from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29.

Good morning and, in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night! CFT, out…

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CFT is no more. At least, when it comes to NBC Sports.

The first of last month, I — this is John Taylor (pictured, catching the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII) — began my 12th year with CFT and NBC Sports. This morning, I was informed that my position was being eliminated and I would not be completing that 12th year. Which, of course, meant I wouldn’t be eligible for the traditional 13th-anniversary gift of lace. Which really bummed me out. Because I really like lace.

The jarring phone call was both a slap in the face and a relief. Jarring because, well, it was completely unexpected. Out of the blue, even amidst the pandemic that is wreaking absolute and utter havoc across the country. A relief, on the other hand, because, every single day for the past four months, I woke up wondering if this would be the day I get that call.

Would this be the day? Would this be the day? A question played on an endless loop that just f***s with you mentally, emotionally, physically.

That’s no way to live.

Then again, being job-less is no way to live, either. But, here we are.

So many people I want to thank. First and foremost, Mike Florio and Larry Mazza. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Especially Mr. Mazza on the food front. Hopefully, lunch at Oliverio’s — best damn stuffed shells I have EVER had — can still be a thing, Larry.

And so many people that have worked for me. Not to single anyone out, but I’m going to single one out in Ben Kercheval. Ben, non-biological son of Hoppy, you were and continue to be the man. I appreciate you more than you know.  Rasheed Wallace may indeed be your biological father, but I will forever consider you my illegitimate Internet stepson.

Mike Miller is the best boss anyone could ever ask for.  Hire that man.  You can thank me later.

Kevin McGuire, Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, I will always treasure what we did, together, these last few years. Things were on the uptick, and it’s sad that we won’t be able to see it through. Together.  We should’ve — SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE — been given that opportunity.  And it will forever piss me off that we weren’t.

Brent and Chris and JJ, much love to you all as well.

Shortly after I received the job call of death, I called my dad. Told him what was going on in his son’s life.  After I hung up the phone, he sent me a GIF in a text message a few minutes later.  I’ll link it here to end whatever this is, because it’s appropriate.  And old school.

And, well… bye.

via GIPHY

2018 FCS All-American RB commits to Virginia

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Virginia joined South Carolina over the weekend as Power Five football schools realizing a personnel benefit from a lower-level program’s loss.

Two weeks ago, the Colonial Athletic Association announced that it was canceling its 2020 college football season because of the coronavirus pandemic.  One member of that FCS conference is Towson.  Coincidentally or not, one standout member of the Tigers, Shane Simpson, took to Twitter last week to announce that he has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.

On that same social media service Sunday, the running back confirmed that he has committed to the Virginia football team.  Simpson had his transfer to-do list down to Virginia and Texas.

As Simpson was a fifth-year senior in 2019, it appears he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility.  Or, is fairly confident he will receive one.

Simpson would likely be eligible for that sixth season as he missed all but four games of his true freshman season in 2015 because of injury, then missed all but the first three games last season because of a serious knee injury.

In 2018, Simpson earned first-team All-American honors.  He finished second in all of FCS with 171.5 all-purpose yards per game, totaling 2,058 yards on the season.  That same season, the Pennsylvania product was the CAA’s Special Teams Player of the Year and earned three different all-conference honors: first-team at running back, second-team as a kick returner and third-team as a punt returner.

Simpson would be eligible to play immediately in 2020 at the FBS level.