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Navy QB Zach Abey moves to wide receiver

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Zach Abey was Navy’s starting quarterback for the bulk of the 2017 season. The junior led the Midshipmen with 293 carries for 1,413 yards (the second-highest single-season total in academy history) and 19 touchdowns while completing 31-of-72 passes for 805 yards and seven touchdowns. But the Middies went 6-6 in the regular season — the program’s worst season since 2011 — and dropped its second straight game to Army, sending Navy into its first losing streak against its archival in more than 20 years.

So head coach Ken Niumataololo announced ahead of the Military Bowl that sophomore Malcolm Perry would be the starting quarterback moving forward, and the move worked. Perry rushed 16 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns, but Abey still got his touches, rushing for five touchdowns in his 13 carries, and Navy crushed Virginia, 49-7. The expectation moving forward was that, while Perry would start, Abey would remain involved as the short-yardage quarterback.

But when Navy released its post-spring depth chart on Monday, Abey was unexpectedly listed as a co-starter at wide receiver. It’s not that Abey won’t play quarterback, it’s just that Navy won’t waste him on the sideline for every 1st-and-10.

“We’re just trying to get our best players on the field. Zach is clearly one of our best players and this is a good way to get him out there,” Niumatalolo told The Capital Gazette. “Zach is still going to play quarterback, but he is just too valuable to sit on the bench for most of the game.”

Abey is listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, a rugged frame that will help him excel at what Navy wideouts do most often: block.

“Zach wants to play as much as possible and I completely understand that,” Niumatalolo said. “When I mentioned the possibility of playing wide receiver, Zach was very excited about it. He is confident he can contribute at that position.”

Kansas State WR Hunter Rison suspended following arrest for alleged domestic battery

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Kansas State wide receiver Hunter Rison, the son of former NFL wide receiver Andre Rison, has been suspended by the Wildcats following an arrest Friday afternoon. Rison was charged for an alleged domestic battery incident and has been freed on a bond. the suspension of Rison was announced by Kansas State on Saturday morning, according to The Mercury in Manhattan, Kansas.

“Our program will be one that is built on hard work and integrity and doing things the right way,” Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman said in a released statement. “We have extremely high expectations for our players on and off the field.”

For now, Kansas State will continue to monitor the situation as the legal process plays out, which is the typical operating procedure in cases like this. While details of the incident have not been shared, Rison was formally charged with one count of domestic battery/knowing or reckless bodily to family/person in a dating relationship.

Rison transferred to Kansas State from Michigan State last year and was slated to return to eligibility for the Wildcats this fall. Rison sat out the 2018 season under standard NCAA transfer rules after leaving the Spartans in East Lansing.

Nick Saban’s hip-replacement surgery scheduled for Monday

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We already knew that one of the greatest college football coaches in the history of the game was set to undergo a rather invasive medical procedure. Now, we know exactly when it’ll take place.

This past weekend, Nick Saban confirmed that he’ll have hip-replacement surgery at an unspecified time this offseason. Friday, USA Today was the first to report a specific date as the Alabama head coach is set to go under the knife this coming Monday. According to the Tuscaloosa News, the surgery will be performed that morning by Dr. Lyle Cain of Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center.

The procedure is expected to sideline Saban for a period of 6-8 weeks, a timeline that will allow the coach plenty of time to recuperate and rehabilitate ahead of the start of summer camp in early August.

That said, Saban’s biggest concern involves a sport that’s not football.

“The only thing I hate about it is, I’ll have to not play golf for six weeks or so,” Saban told USA Today. “… But this is the best time for me to do it. I do a lot of speaking and evaluating and film work and stuff like that, but we’re not practicing. Other than playing golf, I probably wouldn’t be very active. So this is the best time, and then it gives me a lot of summer to get back in shape.”

The 67-year-old Saban will be entering his 12th season with the Crimson Tide in 2019. “I don’t want to coach for one more year. I want to coach for a lot of more years,” the future College Football Hall of Famer said in explaining his decision to undergo the surgery at this point in time.

Jacksonville Jaguars taking over Gator Bowl operations as game faces financial difficulties

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NFL teams owning (or providing significant assistance) to a bowl game is nothing new in this day and age but you can add another to the list of operators as the Gator Bowl has turned to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an effort to cut costs and help save the 75-year-old postseason game for several more years.

The Jacksonville Daily Record first made note of the moves, which were announced at the Jaguars’ annual state of the franchise presentation on Thursday. The team will formally take over “ticket sales and back shop operations.” The Florida Times Union also provided more context on the moves, which note that contracts expire after the upcoming game on everything from the TV deal with ESPN to title game sponsorship agreement.

“We’re in negotiations now for everything,” said Gator Bowl CEO Rick Catlett. “We got a good deal overall with the city [on the stadium], but not a great deal. We got to get the city to give us the same deal as Georgia-Florida with rent, concessions and parking. “We have to step up our game. We’re not going to be the Poulan Weed-Eater [Independence] Bowl. My instructions from our board is to move it forward or we’re done.”

Ticket sales and local revenue dropping were cited as the most pressing concerns to the financial health of the bowl, which is one of the oldest in the sport and has been held continuously since 1946.

It will be interesting to see if these financial trends continue for both the Gator Bowl and others at large. We’ve seen more and more bowl games get added to the docket in college football over the years but one of the mainstays to the lineup facing such challenges could be a warning that the system in the College Football Playoff era isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Five college football officials joining NFL ranks for 2019 season

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The NFL draft is this week and hundreds of college football players will formally be making the jump to the pros as a result. They won’t be the only ones going from Saturday’s to Sunday’s this fall however.

Per the NFL’s Twitter account dedicated to all matters officiating, five officials from the college ranks are being bumped up to crews in the league:

All five of the college football officials were part of the NFL’s Officiating Development Program according to Football Zebras. The Memphis Commercial Appeal also notes that the five were also involved as officials in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football this spring. Based on that, it’s pretty clear that the group as a whole was really focused on moving up to the NFL at some point and now get the call up to the big leagues.