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CFT 2017 Season Previews: Heisman Watch List

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While every college football player dreams of being on the last team standing at the end of a season and winning a national title, just about all of them have struck the stiff arm pose and imagined holding up the Heisman Trophy as well. It may be a team sport when all is said and done, but the most prestigious individual award around is the entry ticket to one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet.

Adding to the normal intrigue surrounding the race to be the most outstanding college football player, the 2017 campaign for the Heisman is shaping up to be the most exciting — and wide open — in a long time. To start with, there’s a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson who won the award last December and could be even better after an offseason developing as a passer. Add in veterans with plenty of name recognition like Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett, to go along with an eye-popping group of tailbacks, and the amount of players who have the potential to be holding up the bronze statue is both lengthy and impressive.

Who are the favorites? Here’s CFTalk’s look at all things Heisman and which players will be in the running for the most famous award in all of college football.

SAM DARNOLD, QB, USC
2016 Stats: 3,086 yards passing, 31 TD, 9 INT, 250 yards rushing, 2 TD
The golden boy of Troy is the prohibitive favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy this year and it’s hard not to figure out why. Playing the marquee position on the field for a powerhouse like USC helps but make no mistake, Darnold showed everybody what he could do in reeling off nine straight wins with the Trojans and capping it off with a thrilling five-score performance in the Rose Bowl. He’ll put up plenty of numbers through the air and on the ground and should be in thick of the race even if the Trojans take a loss.

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
2016 Stats: 3,965 yards, 40 TD, 8 INT, 177 yards rushing, 6 TD
Mayfield has finished in the top five of voting for the Heisman… twice. Could the third time be the charm in 2017? Based only on the numbers, you would think so as the Sooners signal-caller is as efficient as he is insanely productive. The return of the Big 12 title game presents one additional opportunity for Oklahoma’s quarterback to leave a lasting impression on voters and that might just be enough for one of the best in the game to finally be recognized as such.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
2016 Stats: 3,543 yards passing, 30 TD, 9 INT, 1,571 yards rushing, 21 TD
Could Archie Griffin have company? Jackson has a shot to repeat and win the Heisman again but the road will not be easy if history is any indication. That said, few possess  the kind of talent that the Cardinals’ QB does as a true dual threat who can find the end zone on any play. He’s expected to be even sharper throwing the ball going into his junior year and if he can stave off the losing streak like the one at the end of last year, he’ll be right back in New York again.

J.T. BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
2016 Stats: 2,555 yards passing, 24 TD, 7 INT, 845 yards rushing, 9 TD
Barrett became a household name when he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national title but the old man of this year’s Heisman frontrunners is hoping to go out with a bang by returning to that form he showed early on. While the OSU passing game hasn’t quite been explosive the past two years, the addition of offensive innovator Kevin Wilson as the new coordinator should provide a huge boost in terms of playcalling and developing Barrett as a passer. Playing for a marquee team that will once again be in playoff contention is a plus already and all the QB needs to do is follow through and deliver.

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
2016 Stats: 1,496 yards rushing, 18 TD, 402 yards receiving, 4 TD
Quarterbacks always have a leg up when it comes to the Heisman but it was just two years ago that running backs were the talk of the town when it came time to vote. That could be the case once again with freaky athletes like Barkley around. He was terrific in helping the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title and has a chance to rack up even more numbers in the team’s explosive offense.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 15 TD, 106 yards receiving, 1 TD
Leonard Fournette received all the Heisman hype for the Tigers but his former backup may prove to be the one who can actually bring home the award to the bayou. Even splitting carries last year he managed to rack up over 1,300 yards and average nearly seven yards a touch. If LSU can threaten to win the SEC West behind Guice, he certainly could run all the way to the Big Apple to capture the trophy.

Chasing the Pack:

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama — Heisman buzz started late in the year after he led the Tide to the national title so it stands to reason the dual-threat QB on one of the top teams in the country will be in the mix as a sophomore.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama — Tide tailbacks have fared well when it comes to the Heisman the past few years and Scarbrough looks to be next in line based on the way he finished 2016 up.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State — He’ll have a big time opportunity to state his case by knocking off Alabama in the opener and put up numbers the rest of the way in ACC play.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State — Defenders are almost an afterthought for the trophy but Jabrill Peppers was a finalist last year and James is just as versatile — and perhaps more dangerous.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn — Gus Malzahn has already turned one transfer QB into a Heisman winner and one-year wonder, what’s another?

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Cowboys signal-caller has the best receiving corps in the country and will be able to pile up numbers every week against Big 12 defenses.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA — He drew plenty of attention this offseason for his mouth, now he’ll try to wow voters with his arm by sparking a turnaround in Los Angeles.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF — Group of Five candidates have a steep hill to climb but if anybody can emulate Lamar Jackson and overwhelm through the air and on the ground, it’s a dynamic player like Flowers.

Star Clemson WR Justyn Ross will miss entire 2020 season because of neck issue; Dabo Swinney says there’s no guarantee he can play football again

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One member of the Clemson football program has been dealt a very significant blow.  Whether it’s a blow that costs him the remainder of his career remains to be seen.

Justyn Ross was very limited as Clemson worked its way through spring football practice that was ultimately scuttled because of the coronavirus pandemic.  In lieu of an official explanation from the program, rumors of the seriousness of Ross’ health issues have been bouncing off the vast expanses of the Internet.

In mid-March, Dabo Swinney attempted to clear the air, saying that the standout wide receiver is “perfectly fine” even as he’s dealing with what’s being described as “stinger symptoms.” Late last month, however, it was reported that Ross will undergo surgery in June.  A Clemson football official subsequently confirmed that a medical procedure is in the offing.

Monday, Swinney confirmed that Ross will undergo surgery this month.  In doing so, Swinney also confirmed that the receiver will miss the entire 2020 season.  And, it’s an issue that could end his playing career.

Ross was the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama in the Class of 2018, and he has more than lived up to the recruiting hype.

His first two seasons with the Clemson football program, Ross has totaled 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns on 112 receptions.  This past season, caught 66 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.

In four career College Football Playoff games, Ross has a statline of 23-424-3. for the Tigers

Texas kicker/punter Chris Naggar reportedly transfers to SMU

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SMU is once again on the positive side of the football transfer portal.

Earlier this offseason, Chris Naggar entered the NCAA transfer database.  This weekend, 247Sports.com indicated that the kicking specialist has transferred into the SMU football program.

As of yet, neither the player nor the school has confirmed the development.

Naggar would be heading to the Mustangs as a graduate transfer.  The upcoming season would serve as his final year of eligibility.

Naggar joined the Texas Longhorns as part of its Class of 2016.  His first three years in Austin, the Arlington, Tex., native didn’t see the field.

This past season, Naggar appeared in seven games for the Longhorns.  He punted the ball 25 times in 2019, averaging 39.3 yards per punt.  He also kicked off three times in his seven appearances.

This offseason, SMU has added a pair of Power Five transfers to its football roster.  Stanford offensive lineman Mike Williams joined the AAC team in February.  Arkansas wide receiver TQ Jackson did the same three months later.  Additionally, starting linebacker Richard Moore was granted a sixth season of eligibility.

The Mustangs are coming off a 10-3 campaign, the program’s most wins since the pre-death penalty season of 1984.  In December, SMU announced it had reached an agreement on a contract extension with head football coach Sonny Dykes.

Tom Allen addresses ‘devastating’ shooting death of former Indiana defensive lineman Chris Beaty

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A tragedy that struck the Indiana football program has drawn a response from its head coach.

It was reported Monday that Chris Beaty “was one of two men shot and killed in separate incidents over the weekend as violence erupted in Downtown Indianapolis.” The 38-year-old Beaty was shot multiple times shortly before midnight local time Saturday and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Beaty was a defensive lineman for the Indiana Hoosiers football team from 2000-04.

Monday afternoon, Tom Allen addressed the tragic development.

“I am at a loss for words. The news of the passing of Chris Beaty is just devastating. Since I returned home to coach at Indiana, Chris embraced me, encouraged me and supported me! His passion for life and Indiana Football energized me every time we were together. He was one of our first alumni that displayed his unwavering support for what we are building here at Indiana and how we are building it. I am so heartbroken for his family and he will be deeply missed by all those that were blessed to call him a friend! LEO”

Despite being away from the Indiana football program for nearly two decades, Beaty remained close to it.

HoosierHuddle.com wrote that “Beaty was still actively involved with IU football. He tweeted on April 26th a screenshot of head coach Tom AllenMark Deal and several other Indiana football alumni. He thanked Allen for checking in with the former players and said that IU football was in good hands.”

Included was a tweet from Beaty’s personal Twitter account.

College Football Hall of Famer Pat Dye dies at 80

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In Pat Dye, Auburn has lost one of its most storied head coaches.

Last month, Dye was hospitalized for kidney-related issues.  During that hospital stay, Dye tested positive for COVID-19.  At the time, his son, NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., stated that “[w]e fully anticipate his release from the hospital in the next few days once his kidney function is stable.

Sadly, 247Sports.com is now reporting that Dye died on Monday at 80.  A cause of death has not been released.

The website wrote that “Dye, who was moved to Bethany House in Auburn following a stay at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, listened to phone calls on Monday morning from family, friends and former players on Monday morning.”

A Georgia native, Dye played his college football at the University of Georgia.  He began his coaching career as linebackers coach at Alabama from 1965-73.  From there he became the head coach at East Carolina from 1974-79, then at Wyoming for one season in 1980.

Most famously, though, Pat Dye spent a dozen seasons as the head coach at Auburn.  From 1981-92, Dye went 99-39-4 with the Tigers.  Included in that was a 6-6 record in the Iron Bowl.  And a national championship in 1983.

Under a cloud of NCAA controversy, it was announced on the eve of the 1992 Alabama game that Dye would be resigning at season’s end.  There was also the Condoleeza Rice playoff committee flap.

All told, though, Dye went 153-62-5 as a head coach.  In 2005, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.