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Baker Mayfield cleans up at Home Depot College Football Awards

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Thursday night was a veritable smorgasbord of awards as ESPN shone a bright spotlight on a who’s who of the 2017 college football season.

At the 27th annual Home Depot College Football Awards show, originating again this year from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, more than a dozen awards were handed out on the night. Arguably the highlight of the night — outside of the awarding of the Disney Spirit Award that for some reason made the room extremely dusty — was the announcement of the winner of the prestigious Walter Camp Player of the Year honor, and that came in the “pregame” show.

Last year’s winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, was seeking to become just the fourth two-time winner of the award, joining USC’s O.J. Simpson, 1967-68; Ohio State’s Archie Griffin, 1974-75; and Texas’ Colt McCoy, 2008-09.  It wasn’t to be, however, as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield became the fourth Sooner and first since Josh Heupel in 2000 to win the acclaimed honor.

Mayfield wasn’t done there, however, as he also took home the equally prestigious Maxwell Award, which dates back to 1937 and goes to the top player in college football, as well as the Davey O’Brien Award, given out annually to the nation’s best quarterback since 1981.  Just as he wasn’t done after he won the Camp Award, he’s likely not done collecting hardware as he’s the overwhelming favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy Saturday night.

Some additional tidbits — and one must-watch video — from the night before getting on to the full roster of winners:

  • Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick became the third player to win the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards in the same year, joining Michigan’s Charles Woodson and LSU’s Patrick Peterson.
  • Houston’s Ed Oliver became the first defensive player (Pitt’s Aaron Donald) to win the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman since 2013 and just the sixth in the last 24 years.  All six of those players were defensive tackles; the last nose tackle to win the honor was Arizona’s Rob Waldrop in 1993.
  • Ohio State has won the last two Rimington Awards for nation’s best center — Billy Price this season, Pat Elflein last year.
  • Auburn’s Daniel Carlson was a three-time finalist for the Lou Groza Award, and ends his collegiate career as a three-time non-winner as Matt Gay of Utah took home the honor for the nation’s top kicker.  Gay is the third straight kicker from the Pac-12 — Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez last season, UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn in 2015 — to win the Groza.  The junior, who walked on to the team in summer camp this year before earning a scholarship in October, is the first Ute to win the award.
  • Four consecutive Australians have won the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s best punter.  Texas’ Michael Dickson is the latest, joining Utah’s Tom Hackett in 2014 and 2015 and Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky in 2016.  Wishnowsky nearly made it four in a row for the Utes as he was a finalist for this year’s award.
  • With James Washington‘s win, Oklahoma State has now claimed three Biletnikoff Awards, the most of any school since it was first presented in 1994.  Just two Cowboys won those awards, though, as Justin Blackmon became the only player to win twice when he grabbed back-to-back Biletnikoffs in 2010-11.

Below are all the awards that were presented on the evening, with the full acknowledgment that a couple of the winners have previously been announced.

(Winners are in bold, listed along with the rest of the finalists)

WALTER CAMP PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Lamar Jackson, Louisville (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State (Sr.)

MAXWELL AWARD
(Player of the Year)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)

CHUCK BEDNARIK AWARD
(Defensive Player of the Year)
Bradley Chubb, NC State (Sr.)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Jr.)
Roquan Smith, Georgia (Jr. )

FRED BILETNIKOFF AWARD
(Outstanding Receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State (Sr.)
David Sills V, West Virginia (Jr.)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (Sr.)

LOU GROZA AWARD
(Outstanding Placekicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn (Sr.)
Dominik Eberle, Utah State (So.)
Matt Gay, Utah (Jr.)

RAY GUY AWARD
(Punter of the Year)
Michael Dickson, Texas (Jr.)
JK Scott, Alabama (Sr.)
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah (Jr.)

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
(Best Quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (Sr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (Sr.)

OUTLAND TROPHY
(Most Outstanding Interior Lineman)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma (Jr.)
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Sr.)
Ed Oliver, Houston (So.)

JIM THORPE AWARD
(Best Defensive Back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas (Jr.)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Jr.)
Josh Jackson, Iowa (Jr.)

DOAK WALKER AWARD
(Best Running Back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (Fr.)

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
(Best Tight End)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma (Jr.)
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin (Sr.)
Mike Gesicki, Penn State (Sr.)

RIMINGTON TROPHY
(Best center)
Bradley Bozeman, Alabama (Sr.)
Will Clapp, LSU (Jr.)
Billy Price, Ohio State (Sr.)

HOME DEPOT COACH OF THE YEAR
Scott Frost, UCF

WUERFFEL TROPHY
(Community Service)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State (Sr.)
Courtney Love, Kentucky (Sr.)
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (Sr.)

Family of the first Black football player in University of Texas history suing the NCAA

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A racial pioneer in the Texas football program is back in the news.

As we have noted previously, dozens of Texas student-athletes, including football players, are demanding change at the university.  One of those demands is naming a part of Royal-Memorial Stadium in honor of Julius Whittier, the first-ever Black player in University of Texas football history.

Coincidentally or not, the family of Whittier this week filed a lawsuit against NCAA.  In the suit, which is seeking damages in excess of a million dollars, the Whittier family is accusing the NCAA of negligence and wrongful death in connection to the pioneer’s passing in September of 2018.  Whittier had been battling Alzheimer’s for several years prior to his death.

According to the Houston Chronicle, “[p]ostmortem examination of his brain at Boston University… revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma.” The suit, filed by Whittier’s sister on behalf of her brother’s estate and three surviving children, alleges the Whittier’s death at the age of 68 was the direct result of football-related head trauma.

“Julius Whittier was a pioneer who became a lawyer and a member of the district attorney’s staff in Dallas County, and his life was about justice,” the family’s attorney told the Chronicle. “His family wants to carry on in his name and hope that we can make changes.

“We don’t want to end football. We just want to make it as safe as possible and make sure that everybody is informed about what can happen. That has not been the case historically, and we want to change that.”

The sister, Mildred Whittier, had previously filed a lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of college players who suffered brain injuries from 1960 to 2014.

In 1970, Whittier became the first black player to letter in football at Texas.  He first joined the Longhorns in 1969.  At the time, though, the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play.  Whittier lettered every year from 1970-72, first as an offensive guard and then as a tight end his senior season.

Memphis to wear ‘BLM’ decals on their helmets this season

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Memphis will take its off-field social activism onto the football field this fall.

Across the country, student-athletes, football players especially, have seen their collective voices grow louder in protesting for racial equality and against social injustices. And flags.  Several members of the Memphis football program took to the streets of their city last month to do just that.

This week, on his personal Twitter account, first-year Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield announced that his players will wear “BLM” decals on their helmets throughout the 2020 college football season.  “BLM,” of course, stands for the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“The use of the BLM logo on a helmet decal was an idea from our student-athletes,” Silverfield told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal in a text message. “It doesn’t mean we support any anti-American, violent organization or hate group or any specific political party. In fact, I love this country and I love our players. Rather the decal is a show of support to our team.”

And what of a backlash against wearing the decals?  It was subsequently reported by The Athletic that “[a] prominent University of Memphis booster has informed the school that he will match, and then double, whatever donations the school might lose as a result of the Black Lives Matter helmet decal.”

The name of the booster was not revealed.

Memphis is coming off a school-record 12-win football campaign.  They claimed the program’s first-ever win in the AAC championship game after two straight losses.

Head coach Mike Norvell left the school for the same job at Florida State in mid-December.  Memphis stayed in-house for its next head coach, with Silverfield, the offensive line coach, promoted three days later.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history, including experts holding out hope that the famed oaks on Toomer’s Corner could survive being Updyked

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on July 4, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Five-star 2020 LSU commit probably would’ve committed to Ohio State if Urban Meyer hadn’t left
THE SYNOPSIS: Elias Ricks is the recruit in question.  The cornerback ended up signing with LSU earlier this year.  Ricks, expected to contribute to the defending national champs immediately, underwent offseason surgery for a torn labrum.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Fox, BTN reportedly among those making run at Paul Finebaum
THE SYNOPSIS: Yeah, that didn’t work out as the SEC mouthpiece remains at ESPN.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Penn State suing Tennessee DC Bob Shoop for breach of contract
THE SYNOPSIS: Nittany Lions were seeking $900,000 the university said Shoop owed after he left as the defensive coordinator at Penn State for the same job at Tennessee in January of 2016.  In February of 2018, the two sides settled their dispute.  Terms of the settlement weren’t divulged.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Alabama self-reports multiple secondary violations
THE SYNOPSIS: “Alabama” and “NCAA violations” always bring out the commenters.  This was no exception.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Tragic: new Ole Miss OL killed in car accident
THE SYNOPSISPark Stevens’ truck collided with the back of a semi-truck attempting to cross a four-lane highway.  The lineman was a 20-year-old junior college transfer.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Experts not ready to say Toomer’s oaks are ‘definitely not going to make it’
THE SYNOPSIS: Thanks to Alabama “fan” Harvey Updyke, the iconic trees at Auburn definitely didn’t make it.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Purdue player missing; last seen swimming in Indiana lake
THE SYNOPSIS: Sadly, 22-year-old running back Sean Matti‘s body was found a day later.

Pandemic-related restrictions force Western Michigan to schedule a new season-opening opponent

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The coronavirus pandemic has already impacted the 2020 season for Western Michigan football.

Western Michigan was scheduled to open the upcoming football season against Colgate on Sept. 4.  However, the Patriot League, Colgate’s conference, mandated late last month that all of its member schools not be permitted to travel by air or stay overnight in another locale.  As the distance between Hamilton, NY, to Kalamazoo, Mich., is nine-plus hours, that opener was certainly in jeopardy.

This week, Western Michigan confirmed that it will now open the 2020 college football season against Stony Brook.  The game will still be played Sept. 4 at Waldo Stadium, the football home of the Broncos.

“We are looking forward to opening the 2020 season with Stony Brook,” WMU head coach Tim Lester said in a statement. “We know coronavirus has changed, and will keep changing, how we operate this season. We will continue to operate with an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, staff members, fans and WMU community.”

It should be noted that Syracuse is also supposed to open its home schedule Sept. 19 against Colgate.  It’s unclear if that game will be played, although distance certainly isn’t as much of an issue as it was for Western Michigan.

WMU is coming off a second consecutive 7-6 season under Lester, who will be entering his fourth season with the Broncos.  That 2019 campaign also included narrowly missing out on a berth in the MAC championship game.