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Head coach of Mississippi State’s season-opening opponent resigns amidst investigation

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Exactly 25 days from today, Stephen F. Austin will kick off the 2018 season against a team from the SEC.  As it turns out, the FCS school will do so without its head coach.

In mid-July, SFA announced that Clint Conque has been suspended “pending an investigation into alleged violations of university policy.” Nearly three weeks later, Conque announced Monday that he has resigned his post as the Lumberjacks’ coach.

“Today I announce my decision to step down as the head football coach at Stephen F. Austin,” Conque said in a statement released by the university. “Although I have remained confident in the ongoing investigation into the potential violation of university policy, as a family of faith and out of respect to my profession, I do not want this situation to be a further distraction to the 2018 football team and season. I deeply care for my players and wish them great success this season and beyond. …

“It has been a privilege to serve the university and to work with many outstanding players and coaches – past and present. I am proud of the foundation that is in place both on and off the field,” he said. “I have arrived at this decision on my own and look to move forward in my career.”

Defensive coordinator Jeff Byrd will continue on as interim head coach, with the school stating in its release that “[w]e will re-evaluate the leadership structure of our team at the conclusion of the year”

Conque has been the head coach at SFA the past four seasons.  In that span, he went 21-25 overall and 17-18 in Southland Conference play.  Since going 8-5 and qualifying for the FCS playoffs his first season, the football program has gone 4-7, 5-5, 4-7 the last three years.

Prior to that, Conque was the head coach at Central Arkansas from 2000-13, with the last seven of those years spent in the Southland Conference.  During his time with the Bears, he went 105-59.

Stephen F. Austin will open the upcoming season against Mississippi State in Starkville Sept. 1.

Academics force App State’s Jermaine McDaniel to take sabbatical

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A familiar face in Appalachian State’s defensive line rotation early on in the season hasn’t been seen around of late, and now we know why.

Following practice Tuesday, Scott Satterfield confirmed that Jermaine McDaniel has left the football team as he focuses on getting his academic house in order.  The head coach did, though, leave the door open for the defensive end to return — if he decides to return to the sport.

“Well, No. 1, I love Jermaine,” Satterfield said according to the Winston-Salem Journal. “Awesome player for us. He just wants to focus on academics, and I’ll support him and whatever his decision is.

“That’s what he wanted to do, so we’ll just support him and wish him well finishing his academics and whatever career he decides to go into.”

The redshirt freshman played in the first six games of the 2018 season, recording a pair of sacks in that span.  However, he saw action in just one of the last four.

Despite missing all of that action, his two sacks are still tied for third on the Mountaineers.

2017 finalist Jonathan Taylor headlines Doak Walker Award semifinalists

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Not surprisingly, Jonathan Taylor will get another crack at claiming a piece of running back hardware.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Taylor was announced as one of the 10 semifinalists for the 2018 Doak Walker Award.  The Wisconsin sophomore was one of the three finalists for the 2017 award won by Stanford’s Bryce Love.  Despite the fact that Love returned for another season,  he’s not one of this year’s semifinalists as nagging injuries have hampered the senior all season long.

The nation’s top four backs in terms of rushing yards are represented, including Taylor (first, 1548 yards), Memphis’ Darrell Henderson (second, 1,446), Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin (third, 1,295) and Arizona’s J.J. Taylor (1,221).  Two others in the Top Ten — FAU’s Devin Singletary (sixth, 1,169), Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams (eighth, 1,159) — are included as well.

The other four to make the cut are Kentucky’s Benny Snell (11th, 1,089), Clemson’s Travis Etienne (13th, 1,076), Michigan’s Karan Higdon (18th, 1,005) and Boston College’s AJ Dillon (24th, 936).  Dillon moves up to ninth in yards per game (117) as he’s battled a leg injury for the last few weeks.

Higdon is the only senior in the group, while Benjamin, Dillon, Etienne and both Taylors are sophomores.  The other four are juniors.

Walter Camp Award announces 15 semifinalists

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An award that many consider the second-most prestigious in the sport has further narrowed the field of players who can claim this year’s honor.

Wednesday, the Walter Camp Foundation announced its 15 “Players to Watch,” essentially semifinalists, for its prestigious Player of the Year Award. The Walter Camp Award is voted on by the 130 FBS head coaches/sports information directors and is the fourth-oldest award in the sport.

“It’s been another exciting college football season with many teams and players still in the hunt for national recognition,” Camp Foundation president Michael Madera said in a statement. “We’ve identified some outstanding players and we know the final weeks of the regular season should be even more thrilling.”

Top-ranked Alabama is the only team with two semifinalists — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams.  UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor are the only 2017 semifinalists to make the cut this year.

The 2017 Walter Camp Award winner was Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Josh Allen, Senior, Linebacker, Kentucky
Deandre Baker, Senior, Defensive Back, Georgia
Devin Bush, Junior, Linebacker, Michigan
Travis Etienne, Sophomore, Running Back, Clemson
Will Grier, Senior, Quarterback, West Virginia
Dwayne Haskins, Junior, Quarterback, Ohio State
Darrell Henderson, Junior, Running Back, Memphis
Trace McSorley, Senior, Quarterback, Penn State
McKenzie Milton, Junior, Quarterback, UCF
Gardner Minshew, Senior, Quarterback, Washington State
Kyler Murray, Junior, Quarterback, Oklahoma
Tua Tagovailoa, Sophomore, Quarterback, Alabama
Jonathan Taylor, Sophomore, Running Back, Wisconsin
Jerry Tillery, Senior, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
Quinnen Williams, Sophomore, Nose Guard, Alabama

Knee injury to sideline UConn RB Zavier Scott until next summer

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A rather significant injury will cost one playing member of the UConn football program more than just the rest of this year.

Randy Edsall confirmed Tuesday that Zavier Scott is set to undergo season-ending knee surgery on Friday.  According to the head coach, the running back suffered tears to his MCL and PCL in last Saturday’s loss to SMU.

Not only will Scott be sidelined for the last two games of the regular season, but he’s also already been ruled out for spring practice as well.  Edsall expects the redshirt freshman to be healthy enough to participate in summer camp next year.

Scott is currently third on the Huskies with 194 yards on the ground.  Where they’ll arguably miss him the most is in the passing game as his 33 receptions coming out of the backfield are tops on the team.

Scott’s injury continues the spate of attrition at the position for the Huskies over the last couple of months.

In early August, Nate Hopkins, who led the Huskies in rushing touchdowns in 2017, decided to leave the football team.  Two weeks later, Donevin O’Reilly, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship over the summer and was on track to be the No. 1 running back, was lost to a season-ending ACL injury.  In late September, freshman Khyon Gillespie went down with his own ACL injury in the loss to Syracuse.

Quarterback David Pindell is the Huskies’ leading rusher with 1,118 yards.  Kevin Mensah has taken over as the lead back and is second on the team with 860 yards.  Those two have accounted for all 16 of UConn’s rushing touchdowns this season, with Pindell leading the way with 10.