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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.)

University of Minnesota distances itself from Minneapolis Police Department in wake of George Floyd’s death

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A despicable, abhorrent, unconscionable situation that unfolded in Minnesota Monday has a college football connection.

Monday night, 46-year-old George Floyd died after a Minneapolis Police Department officer took a knee on the man’s neck.  For several minutes.

Floyd was a black man.  The police officer is a white man.

“I can’t breathe, please, the knee in my neck. I can’t move … my neck … I’m through, I’m through.”

Four police officers connected to the death of Floyd have since been fired.

Wednesday, the University of Minnesota announced that it has severed its most significant ties to the Minneapolis Police Department.  The MPD had assisted the university for large events, including Minnesota football games. That relationship will not move forward for now and the foreseeable future.

From a letter attributed to university president Joan Gabel:

Today I am announcing two immediate changes regarding our relationship with MPD.

First, I have directed Senior Vice President Brian Burnett to no longer contract with the Minneapolis Police Department for additional law enforcement support needed for large events, such as football games, concerts, and ceremonies.

Second, I have directed University Police Chief Matt Clark to no longer use the Minneapolis Police Department when specialized services are needed for University events, such as K-9 Explosive detection units.

The university hasn’t completely severed ties with Minneapolis police, though, with Gabel explaining that UM will “limit our collaboration with the MPD to joint patrols and investigations that directly enhance the safety of our community or that allow us to investigate and apprehend those who put our students, faculty, and staff at risk.”

Outside of that? The university’s “hearts are broken” and filled with “overwhelming sadness.”

Our hearts are broken after watching the appalling video capturing the actions of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers against George Floyd leading to his tragic death. As a community, we are outraged and grief-stricken. I do not have the words to fully express my pain and anger and I know that many in our community share those feelings, but also fear for their own safety. This will not stand.

I write to you to express our overwhelming sadness, and our demands for accountability and justice. Our campuses and facilities are a part of the communities in which they reside. University students, staff, and faculty are day-to-day participants in the life of every community in this state, and we must act when our neighbors are harmed and in pain.

According to Blake Wilcox, the punter was told he wouldn’t be welcomed back by Wisconsin after taking personal leave of absence

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The latest exit from Wisconsin football is a curious one.

In early February, Blake Wilcox took a leave of absence from the Wisconsin football team for unspecified personal reasons. Wilcox, though, continued to work out on his own.  In fact, he told the Wisconsin State Journal that “he sent coaches videos of workouts and indicated he would be back with the team.”

On May 15, however, Wilcox claimed he was told by a member of the UW football program that he was no longer a part of the team. “It wasn’t my choice at all. I think it wasn’t a good representation of the program on their end,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Thus far, the Wisconsin football program has not commented publicly on Wilcox’s allegations.

“I sent them videos of workouts, me punting, and somehow they thought I wasn’t planning on coming back,” Wilcox told the State Journal in a direct message. “All things considered, I learned that things don’t always work out the way you planned. I’m in a better head space than I’ve ever been it, my grades this semester were great, and I’m ready to keep grinding.”

Wilcox was a three-star member of the Wisconsin football Class of 2019.  According to the 247Sports.com composite, the Wisconsin native was the No. 8 punter in the country.

Wilcox didn’t see the field at all as a true freshman.

Anthony Lotti and Connor Allen were the only two punters who saw action last season for the Badgers.  With Wilcox’s situation, Gavin Meyers and Jack Van Dyke are the only two punters on UW’s roster at the moment.  The program also signed a pair of punters as part of its 2020 recruiting class.

Wisconsin is coming off its fifth 10-win season the past six years.  Four of those have come under Paul Chryst.  In January, the head coach was given a contract extension through 2025.

Syracuse loses second linebacker to the transfer portal in less than two weeks

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When it comes to its linebacking corps, the transfer portal hasn’t been kind to Syracuse football of late.

In mid-May Juan Wallace announced on Twitter that he has entered the NCAA transfer database.  On the same social media service, teammate and fellow Orange linebacker Kadeem Trotter announced that he has taken the plunge into the portal as well.

It appears that Trotter will be leaving the Syracuse football program as a graduate transfer.

“I would like to thank Syracuse University for everything,” Trotter wrote. “I’ve decided to enter the transfer portal with two years of eligibility remaining.”

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Trotter was a three-star member of the Syracuse football Class of 2017.  The Canton, Ohio, product was the No. 48 player in the Buckeye State regardless of position.  Boston College and Iowa State were his only other Power Five offers.

As a true freshman, Trotter took a redshirt.  Then, in 2018, he didn’t appear in any games.  This past season, the 6-2, 226-pound redshirt sophomore played in six games.  All of that action came on special teams, the kick coverage unit specifically.

It was expected that Trotter would’ve seen his role expanded to include snaps on defense prior to his decision.

NCAA extends recruiting dead period through July 31; The Association will also allow strength coaches to ‘virtually observe voluntary physical workouts’

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Not surprisingly, the NCAA has reset its recruiting trail policies.  Again.

As the coronavirus pandemic effectively shuttered the sports world, the NCAA announced in mid-March that it was putting a halt to all in-person recruiting until at least April 15.  Last month, that dead period was extended through May 31.  This month, another extension took us to June 30.

As we close in on the month of June, another extension is official.  As expected, the NCAA announced Wednesday evening that the recruiting dead period has been extended through July 31.  That means all in-person recruiting activities — either on-campus or elsewhere — are prohibited.

The latest edict impacts all sports, not just football.

“The extension maintains consistent recruiting rules for all sports and allows coaches to focus on the student-athletes who may be returning to campus,” said Division I Council Coordination Committee chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “The committee is committed to reviewing the dead period again in late June or early July.”

One potential effect of all of these dead-period extension bans?  It could force The Association to, for one year, temporarily get rid of the December Early Signing Period.

The NCAA earlier this month also announced that football programs could begin bringing players back to campus for voluntary workouts starting June 1.  In the dead-period release, The Association also updated its tack on that front:

Additionally, the committee decided to allow strength and conditioning coaches to virtually observe voluntary physical workouts for health and safety purposes but only if requested by the student-athlete. The measure goes into effect June 1. The strength and conditioning coach will be allowed to observe the workouts and discuss items related to voluntary workouts but not direct or conduct the workout.

The decision was supported by the Committee on Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports Prevention and Performance Subcommittee. The subcommittee encouraged schools that decide to allow their strength and conditioning coaches to observe voluntary workouts to proactively consider the school’s overarching responsibility to protect the health of and provide a safe environment for each student-athlete. More specifically, the subcommittee stressed that schools should plan for how the strength and conditioning coach should respond if they observe an unsafe workout environment or in the event that a medical emergency occurs during a voluntary session.

The committee will continue to explore the opportunity for strength and conditioning coaches to conduct voluntary workouts virtually, as they do during in-person, on-campus voluntary workouts.