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Butkus Award names 51 linebackers to 2018 watch list

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College football watch list season resumed Monday with the release of the Butkus Award and Jim Thorpe Award watch lists. The Butkus Award watch list named 51 linebackers to its preseason list, including players from 41 different schools.

This year’s watch list is highlighted by finalists for the 2017 Butkus Award in Devin Bush of Michigan and T.J. Edwards of Wisconsin. Josh Allen of Kentucky and Cameron Smith of USC are also on the list after being a semi-finalist last year. Former high school Butkus Award winners Caleb Kelly of Oklahoma and Dylan Moses of Alabama also were named to the list.

Alabama and Wisconsin lead the nation with three Butkus Award watch list players each. Ryan Connelly and Andrew Van Ginkel join Edwards of Wisconsin and Anfernee Jennings and Mack Wilson of Alabama are also included.

The list will be trimmed down to a list of semi-finalists on October 29 and then down to a smaller list of finalists on November 19. Georgia running back Roquan Smith won the award last year.

2018 Butkus Award Watch List

Curtis Akins, Memphis
Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M
Josh Allen, Kentucky
Jeffrey Allison, Fresno State
Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
Joe Bachie, Michigan State
Markus Bailey, Purdue
Thomas Barber, Minnesota
Bryton Barr, Massachusetts
Tevis Bartlett, Washington
Devin Bush, Michigan
Josh Buss, Montana
Te’von Coney, Notre Dame
Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin
Deshaun Davis, Auburn
Troy Dye, Oregon
Koa Farmer, Penn State
Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
Joe Giles-Harris, Duke
Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
Porter Gustin, USC
Nate Hall, Northwestern
Terez Hall, Missouri
Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State
Darius Harris, Middle Tennessee
De’Jon Harris, Arkansas
Khalil Hodge, Buffalo
Justin Hollins, Oregon
Oluwaseun Idowu, Pitt
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
Gary Johnson, Texas
Kendall Joseph, Clemson
Caleb Kelly, Oklahoma
Jordan Kunaszyk, California
Tre Lamar, Clemson
Dylan Moses, Alabama
Bobby Okereke, Stanford
Justin Phillips, Oklahoma State
Germaine Pratt, N.C. State
Shaq Quarterman, Miami
David Reese, Florida
Cameron Smith, USC
Ty Summers, TCU
Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin
D’Andre Walker, Georgia
Devin White, LSU
Mack Wilson, Alabama
Juwon Young, Marshall

NFL Network to air 10 Conference USA games each fall

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The NFL Network and Conference USA struck a deal that will see the league air 10 C-USA games, starting this fall.

“While exploring new media options for football, NFL Network stood out as an excellent opportunity for national exposure,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “We look forward to showcasing our conference through their tremendous platform and reach.”

The contract runs for four years, and will see NFL Network air one game a week for 10 weeks.

“We are excited to showcase the next generation of NFL athletes to our fans on a weekly basis,” said Hans Schroeder, Chief Operating Officer of NFL Media. “Our fans crave live football, and partnering with Conference USA – a conference which boasts several Hall of Fame players – provides us with an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Specific game announcements will be named at a later date. It’s an important move for C-USA, who has seen more and more of its games moved off of TV and onto streaming platforms, such as ESPN Plus, Stadium and Facebook. The league also has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network.

June Jones resurfaces as XFL Houston head coach

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The last we saw of June Jones, at least in the continental United States, he was mailing it in as SMU’s head coach. After leading the Ponies to four straight bowl trips from 2009-12, Jones watched SMU slip to 5-7 in 2013, then walked out the door after losing the first two games of the 2014 campaign by a combined score of 88-6. (That SMU team would finish the ’14 season at 1-11.) It seemed the then-61-year-old had given football all he had to give, at least on a competitive level.

Jones took 2015 off, then spent 2016 in a semi-retirement gig as the offensive coordinator at a high school in Hawaii.

But Jones must have really missed football, because he gave up the Hawaiian life to spend the past two seasons as head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now he’s back stateside as the head coach of the XFL’s Houston franchise.

“I’ve spent a few years coaching in Houston, and having a chance to return to be a head coach in the XFL is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Jones. “I had a really great time coaching in the CFL, but this new fresh opportunity to build a team from the ground up is extremely rare in this game, and I’m looking forward to working with Brian Cooper and our coaches to give football fans in Houston a team that’s truly exciting to watch and worthy of their support.”

He was formally announced in a press conference at the University of Houston, and the as-yet-unnamed club will play its games at the Cougars’ TDECU Stadium.

It will be the fourth different professional league Jones has coached in, following stints in the USFL and NFL, in addition to six-plus seasons at SMU and eight at Hawaii.

The eighth of eight head coaches to join the league, Jones will join a roster that includes Bob Stoops and former Michigan offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
 

Father of LSU CB Kelvin Joseph says he’s not entering transfer portal after all

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Well, hold all that.

It was reported Monday morning that LSU sophomore cornerback Kelvin Joseph had entered the transfer portal, but on Monday afternoon Joseph’s father, Kelvin Joseph, Sr., told the New Orleans Times Picayune his

“He’s staying,” Joseph told the paper. “He’s not going anywhere.”

Joseph, Sr., confirmed to the paper that Kelvin had put his name in the portal, doing so Thursday after a trip to Florida with Baton Rouge-native rapper NBA YoungBoy. But by the time Joseph returned to Baton Rouge, whatever issue between he and LSU had been resolved — just in time for Joseph’s name to appear in the portal.

A top-50 recruit in the class of 2018, Joseph, a Baton Rouge native, played in five games as a true freshman last fall, collecting 12 tackles with a pass breakup. He is expected to battle with 5-star recruit Derek Stingley, Jr. for a starting role opposite senior Kristian Fulton. With Fulton out for the spring game, both Stingley and Joseph earned starts, a sign that the sophomore is in line for major snaps this fall.

And it appears Joseph intends to take those snaps after all.

USC considering dropping prohibition on scheduling FCS opponents

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Since Division I split into two subdivisions in 1978, only three FBS schools have refrained from scheduling FCS opponents — Notre Dame, UCLA and USC. That number soon could drop to two.

USC senior associate AD Steve Lopes sat down for an interview with The Athletic on USC’s scheduling philosophy and said the Trojans could soon schedule games with FCS opponents.

“If you start looking at the teams that are available, it’s very limited,” Lopes said. “We’re looking at schools that might not even be FBS, which I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We may get criticized if and when we do it, but everybody does it. …  Are you going to die on that sword? You can play very good FCS schools that are better than some of the FBS schools you’ll play, the directional schools you’ll play.”

The purists will be upset by this… but they’ll be the only ones. It won’t affect the Trojans’ College Football Playoff chances — Alabama and Georgia already play FCS opponents each year. USC faces a nine-game Pac-12 regular season, an annual game with Notre Dame and, if the Trojans prove worthy, the Pac-12 North champion in their path to the Playoff.

And it likely won’t affect the Trojans’ gate, either. How many USC fans would have stayed home had the Trojans dropped UNLV from their 2018 opener for a game with Sacramento State?

Perhaps the purists would stay home, but nobody else would.