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President Trump praises Urban Meyer as ‘great coach, great guy’

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Given the main characters involved, there’s no way this one slides sideways or goes completely off the rails in the comments section/on Twitter, right?

President Donald Trump was in Lebanon, Ohio, Friday night for a “Make America Great Again” campaign rally a month ahead of the midterm elections.  As Lebanon is a little over an hour away from Columbus, the POTUS — and no doubt his staffers — was well aware that his audience would be littered with fans of The Ohio State University.

According to the Washington Examiner, Trump did the obvious and invoked the name of Urban Meyer to what was a very receptive crowd.

“It sounds like we’re in the middle of an Ohio State football game. And speaking of Ohio State, they’re not doing too badly are they?” Trump said according to the Examiner. “They have a great coach, a great coach — a great guy. A great guy.”

There should be little argument that Meyer is a great coach, one of the greatest of all-time and a future College Football Hall of Famer.  Some outside of Buckeye Nation, though, might quibble with the “great guy” label slapped on the Buckeyes head coach by the most powerful man on the planet.

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1 as questions into his handling of domestic abuse allegations made against his now-former assistant coach, Zach Smith, surfaced.  The university announced the launching of an investigation into Meyer’s actions the day after the head coach’s leave was announced.

In a statement Aug. 3, Meyer claimed that he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.” Allegations of domestic abuse stemmed not only from Zach Smith’s time at OSU, but while he was on Meyer’s Florida staff in 2009 as well.

In late August, it was announced that Meyer would retain his job as the Buckeyes’ head football coach but would be suspended from coaching the first three games of the 2018 season.  As part of the findings from the report stemming from the investigation into Meyer’s actions — or lack thereof, as some would say — it was revealed that the coach’s initial reaction to a damning report released Aug. 1 was to have a discussion with his director of football operations about how to delete text messages older than a year.  The investigative report also learned “that Coach Meyer has sometimes had significant memory issues in other situations where he had prior extensive knowledge of events. He has also periodically taken medicine that can negatively impair his memory, concentration, and focus.”

That memory loss has been attributed to an arachnoid cyst that causes chronic headaches, and the medication he takes to treat the issue.  This past weekend, Meyer was seen on camera dealing with the pain of one of those headaches on the sidelines during OSU’s win over Indiana.

After the press conference announcing his three-game suspension Aug. 22, Meyer was roundly criticized for his tone-deaf failure to use the public forum to apologize to Courtney Smith, who had accused Zach Smith of spousal abuse.  Two days later, the embattled Buckeyes head coach released a statement in which he “sincerely apologize[d] to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through.”

Despite the apology, which many deemed as too little, too late, Meyer remained the subject of intense media scrutiny not only for his initial fumbling of the press conference but also for his handling of the domestic abuse allegations levied against his former assistant.  Aug. 31, Meyer issued yet another statement through his personal Twitter account, writing that “there have been a number of things reported in the media about President Drake’s decision and the Investigative Team’s Report that have not been correct and must be clarified.”

Meyer’s main point, it seems, was to reiterate that he “was not suspended because I knew about or condoned Zach Smith’s alleged domestic abuse.” Additionally, the coach acknowledged that it was “my fault [for] not taking action sooner against a troubled employee about his work-related issues.”

“With respect to Zach Smith and the events that led to his termination, it’s clear I could have done a better job,” Meyer wrote in a statement released on Sept. 17, the day his three-game suspension officially came to an end. “I should have done a better job, and I’ll always regret that I didn’t.”

During the campaign leading up to Trump’s 2016 election, the future POTUS claimed that Meyer had “said some awfully nice things about me.” Meyer’s response to that claim?

“My job description is very clear, and that’s to coach Ohio State football, and the focus is on 17 to 18 to 22-year-olds,” the head coach said in early March of 2016, two weeks before the Ohio primary. “I have strong beliefs, but I’m not going to share that with you guys. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

It remains unclear whether Meyer has ever publicly or privately ever said awfully nice things about the most polarizing human being on the face of the Earth.

Running back Deshawn McClease is latest player to leave Hokies

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It has been quite a busy couple of days for Virginia Tech transfer news. Within hours of Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente releasing a statement about the program’s dedication to strengthening the culture of the Virginia Tech football program after a handful of players had decided to leave the program, running back Deshawn McClease added his name to the list of transferring Hokies.

“After discussing with my family, we believe that it is best for me to transfer to another university following graduation this spring,” McClease said in a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday evening. “I am very eager to continue my football journey and further my education.”

McClease did not say where he is heading next. His departure is another blow to Virginia Tech’s offensive outlook for the 2019 season on a day that also saw starting quarterback Josh Jackson decide to transfer out of Virginia Tech a day after a couple of other transfer headlines surfaced around the program. As McClease mentioned in his statement, he is scheduled to graduate from Virginia Tech this spring. That will mean he will be eligible to play right away next fall for whatever team he ends up joining. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

McClease was Virginia Tech’s second-leading rusher in 2018 and likely would have been the starting running back in Blacksburg for the 2019 season had he decided to stick around. McClease rushed for 433 yards and two touchdowns last fall behind senior starter Steven Peoples.

Oklahoma State QB Keondre Wudtee leaving Stillwater via transfer

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The quarterback competition at Oklahoma State this spring has been reduced by one. Keondre Wudtee is one his way out of Stillwater after entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, it was reported on Wednesday.

As noted by Pistols Firing, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders appears to be the most likely candidate to land the starting job at quarterback for the Cowboys in 2019 following the graduation of Taylor Cornelius. Wudtee was the only other quarterback to record any passing stats for Oklahoma State in 2018 in his backup role, completing two of five attempts for 26 yards and a touchdown. A pair of wide receivers, Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner, were the only other players to attempt a pass for Oklahoma State in 2018.

Oklahoma State’s quarterback depth chart will still be padded even with the departure of Wudtee. Dru Brown, who transferred to Oklahoma State from Hawaii, is still around and the Cowboys added an early enrollee in three-star Class of 2019 quarterback Brendan Costello. Being enrolled early will allow Costello to get started with spring practices this semester in Stillwater and could potentially have him prepared to step in if needed in the fall.

As for Wudtee, we’ll see where he heads next. He will have to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules, of course.

After dustup with Uga, Texas president says Bevo is not leaving the sidelines

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Finally, a story NOT about the transfer portal.

Prior to the Sugar Bowl between Texas and Georgia, somebody decided it would be fun to do a photo with the live animal mascots of the Longhorns and Bulldogs. As Uga made his way over to see Texas mascot Bevo, the longhorn burst out of his caged area and made it known he was not about being a part of a fun photo opp. Fortunately, there were no injuries to report for any people or animals in the incident, but concerns about the handling of Bevo were certainly raised.

And despite pressure from PETA to stop including live animal mascots as part of the gameday experience and any others who may have voiced concerns about the worst-case scenarios involving a live steer, Texas president Gregory Fenves says Bevo will not be retired and forced to watch Longhorns football games from the ranch.

“We take the safety very seriously, but we’re going to continue to have Bevo as our mascot,” Fenves said in a recent interview with the American-Statesman. “He’s an incredible animal and a great symbol for the university. Seriously, we’re always looking at the protocols for Bevo at public events. I don’t think they need to be revised.”

So there you have it. Bevo stays. Sorry, not sorry, PETA. Unless Bevo does decide to enter the transfer portal…

Wisconsin TE Kyle Penniston enters transfer portal

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I have never seen it myself, but the transfer portal must be the place to be. Wisconsin tight end Kyle Penniston is just one of the many players putting his name in the transfer portal, as reported Wednesday, as he begins to look for a new place to finish up his college football career.

First reported by 247 Sports, Penniston will have one year of eligibility left to use for the 2019 season. He will be eligible to play right away this fall as a graduate transfer. Penniston enrolled at Wisconsin in 2015 after accepting an offer from Wisconsin over offers from Oklahoma and a handful of other top programs in the Class of 2015.

Penniston appeared in 13 games for the Badgers in 2018 with three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown. The instant rise of Jake Ferguson at the tight end position on his way to becoming the second-leading receiver for Wisconsin meant Penniston likely wasn’t going to play a pivotal role in the offensive gameplan in 2019. Wisconsin should still be in decent shape at the tight end position this fall, not that losing an upper classmen at the position is ever a good situation for a program. It’s worth noting Penniston was recruited under former head coach Gary Andersen, who adopted a different type of offensive scheme that would have potentially been a better fit for Penniston.

Where Penniston goes next remains to be seen.