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Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa’s Josey Jewell among Nagurski Trophy finalists

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Another day, another award has released its group of finalists.

The latest to do this particular deed is the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which on Wednesday announced its five finalists for its 2017 award.  Those five finalists include North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa middle linebacker Josey Jewell, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith.

The Nagurski Trophy, given out annually since 1993, is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player regardless of position.  The 2016 winner was Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.

Below is a rundown of each of the five finalists, courtesy of the Football Writers Association of American:

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State (6-4, 275, Sr., Marietta, Ga.): Chubb leads the FBS in tackles for loss this season for the Wolfpack (7-3). Of his 23.5 tackles for loss (for minus-98 yards), 10 have been sacks for 66 yards in losses. He has 62 total tackles, nine quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, two passes broken up and a blocked kick. Chubb joins linebacker Levar Fisher (2000) as the only Wolfpack players to earn a Nagurski finalist nod.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama (6-1, 202, Jr., Old Bridge, N.J.): The leader of the defensive backfield for the unbeaten Crimson Tide (10-0), Fitzpatrick has made 44 total tackles, collected 5.5 tackles for 25 yards in losses, including 1.5 sacks for 15 yards in losses. In addition, he has intercepted a pass, broken up six passes, hurried the quarterback three times, forced a fumble and blocked a kick. Alabama ranks eighth in the country in fewest passing yards allowed per game (167 ypg). Fitzpatrick is the 11th Alabama player to be a Nagurski finalist, including last year’s recipient Jonathan Allen. The Crimson Tide has had a finalist now in each of the last seven seasons.

Josey Jewell, MLB, Iowa (6-2, 236, Sr., Decorah, Iowa): Jewell is fourth in the country in total tackles (104) for the Hawkeyes (6-4). He has registered 9.5 tackles for 39 yards in losses (including 2.5 sacks for 24 yards in losses). He has chipped in an interception (and returned it 33 yards) and added five passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. Jewell is the second Iowa player to be named a Nagurski finalist, joining linebacker Pat Angerer in 2009.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston (6-3, 290, So., Houston, Texas): A second-team FWAA All-American in 2016, Oliver followed up his freshman season with another fine year. He has 53 total tackles for the Cougars (6-3). Of those, he has 10 tackles for 39 yards in losses (with 2.5 sacks for 13 yards in losses), three passes broken up, seven quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. Oliver is the first Houston player to earn a Nagurski finalist accolade.

Roquan Smith, OLB, Georgia (6-1, 225, Jr., Montezuma, Ga.): The leading tackler for the Bulldogs (9-1), Smith has made 82 total tackles this season. He has 4.5 tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks for 14 yards in losses. He also has broken up two passes, hurried the quarterback 10 times and forced a fumble. Georgia ranks fifth in the FBS in total defense, giving up just 277.5 yards per game. Smith is the fifth Georgia player to be named a Nagurski finalist, joining 1998 recipient Champ Bailey and two-time finalist David Pollack (2002, ‘04).

McKenzie Milton set for another surgery, but will be in attendance for UCF’s Fiesta Bowl matchup vs. LSU

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McKenzie Milton wasn’t in attendance as his UCF teammates won back-to-back AAC championships earlier this month.  Very early next year, however, he’ll be there as the Knights look to put the finishing touches on a second consecutive unbeaten season.

In an update on the UCF quarterback’s status, Teresa Milton, McKenzie’s mom, revealed in a statement posted to Twitter that her son is undergoing another surgery Thursday “to get him more comfortable.” Additionally, the mom confirmed that Milton “will be at the Fiesta Bowl to cheer his [teammates] on to Victory!”

UCF will face LSU Jan. 1 in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl.

In the second quarter of UCF’s win over rival USF last month, Milton went down with a horrific and gruesome injury to his right leg. Medical personnel immobilized the quarterback’s entire leg before he was taken to a local hospital for further treatment of an injury that his head coach, Josh Heupel, deemed “traumatic.”

It was subsequently confirmed that Milton underwent emergency surgery to repair unspecified damage in his knee as well as what was described as “other internal issues.” Not long after, McKenzie’s family issued a statement in which they described the surgery as being successful but provided no details on the specific nature of the injury.

In the days following the injury, one of Milton’s teammates, Jordan Johnson, revealed that he had FaceTimed with Milton and that the quarterback stated he was able to take steps for the first time since the initial surgery was performed.  In another statement, the family confirmed that “blood flow has been restored to his right leg and his nerve is injured but intact.”

Milton, who was released from the hospital eight days after sustaining the injury, will have to undergo reconstructive surgery at some point in the next month or so “depending on his vascular recovery.” At this point in time, it remains decidedly uncertain what if any future Milton has in football.

App State officially hires NC State OC Eli Drinkwitz as new head coach

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Wednesday, interim head coach Mark Ivey informed the Appalachian State football team that he wouldn’t be named as the school’s permanent head coach.  A day later, the players officially found out in which direction the football program was headed.

Following up on reports that bubbled to the surface earlier in the morning, App State confirmed that Eliah Drinkwitz has agreed to become the Mountaineers’ next head football coach.  Drinkwitz will be officially introduced at a Monday press conference, two days after Ivey leads App State in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against Middle Tennessee State.

The 35-year-old Drinkwitz replaces c, who left earlier this month for the head job at Louisville.

“I’m excited to welcome Eliah and his family to App Nation,” App State athletic director Doug Gillin said in a statement. “The App State football program is in great position to continue its championship ways. Eliah is committed to excellence academically, competitively, socially and to the well-being of our student-athletes. There was significant interest in our process throughout a national search. Eliah has great character and a clear vision for the future of Mountaineer football. I’m excited about the future of our football program.”

Drinkwitz spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Carolina State. Prior to that, he spent two seasons at Boise State, the last of which he took over the title as coordinator.

In embarking on the first head-coaching job at any level of football, Drinkwitz will be taking over an App State program that has won 40 games the past four seasons and won all three of its bowl games since moving up to the FBS level in 2014.

Days after effusively praising UCLA for getting him a sixth season, Justin Murphy announces transfer from Bruins

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Well, this is a tad bit awkward.

In announcing Monday that he had been granted a sixth season of eligibility, Justin Murphy was effusive in his praise of the work put in by the UCLA compliance department. “None of this could’ve been possible if it weren’t for the amazing job done at @UCLACompliance,” the offensive lineman wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for everything y’all do over there, it doesn’t go unnoticed!”

Two days later, however, Murphy took to Twitter again, only this time to announce that he “will be transferring to another university to finish out the last year of my college football career.”

This latest development continues an “interesting” path Murphy’s collegiate career has taken.

In the middle of the 2016 season, Murphy, then at Texas Tech, announced that he was taking a medical retirement because of knee injuries.  In April of 2018, however, Murphy revealed that he would be moving on from Tech to UCLA as a graduate transfer.

Murphy played in the first four games of his first season with the Bruins this year before going down with a knee injury.  That issue kept the lineman sidelined for all but the final two games of the year.

At Tech, Murphy started a total of 12 games — eight at right guard, four at tackle — in a little over two seasons before leaving the Red Raiders midway through the 2016 season.

Mizzou’s Tre Williams still facing felony domestic violence charge

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Over the weekend, Missouri’s Tre Williams was arrested at his off-campus apartment for suspicion of second-degree domestic assault following an incident involving a woman with whom he was having “an intimate relationship.”  Tuesday, the assistant prosecuting attorney of Boone County (MO), Susan Boresi, told multiple media outlets that the charge, a Class D felony, would not be filed against the defensive lineman.

“Additional information came forward that made it impossible to prosecute the case,” Boresi was quoted as saying.

Wednesday night, however, Boresi’s boss, Boone County prosecuting attorney Dan Knight, confirmed in a statement that Williams is still facing a felony domestic violence charge.

“The case involving Tre Williams has not been dismissed,” Knight said. “Because this is a pending case, no further comment will be made by this office at this time. Please refer to (Case.Net) for any updates. A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch offered up the details of the events leading up to Williams’ arrest:

Williams, 21, was arrested after a verbal argument turned physical early Sunday morning, Columbia Police Department spokesman Jeff Pitts said. Around 1:45 a.m., officers responded to a report of a physical altercation along South Providence Road. The alleged victim, described as an ex-girlfriend by Williams’ mother, Teresa Crews, told police there was a verbal argument with Williams while the victim was driving. Williams became physically aggressive with her in the vehicle, Pitts said. Officers observed physical evidence that supported the claim that the victim gave.

According to the police’s probable cause statement… Williams grabbed the woman’s steering wheel while she was driving to get her to pull over. He also hit her with his forearm and elbow and slapped her on the chest, according to the statement. The woman threw Williams’ phone out the window and when Williams later exited the car, he reached into the driver’s open window and choked the woman with both hands. She then rolled up the window and drove off.

Because Williams was arrested on a felony charge, he was automatically suspended by the football program.

A redshirt sophomore, Williams began the 2018 season as a starting defensive end for the Tigers before losing the job over the last half of the year. Williams’ 2½ sacks are still good for third on the team.