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Rimington Trophy announces three finalists, two of which play for playoff semifinalists

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Award season in college football is set to kick off in earnest this coming weekend, and yet another honor has significantly whittled down its to-do list.

Monday, the Rimington Trophy announced three finalists for the 2018 version of an award that honors the most outstanding center in college football.  Two of those three finalists come from teams that will be a part of the College Football Playoffs: Alabama’s Ross Pierschbacher, Notre Dame’s Sam Mustipher.

NC State’s Garrett Bradbury is the other of the three finalists for an award won last year by Ohio State’s Billy Price.

Below are the profiles for all three Rimington Trophy finalists for this year’s honor:

Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama
After making 42 career starts at left guard in his first three years at UA, Pierschbacher transitioned to starting at center for the 2018 season, where he helped open holes for the nation’s 32nd ranked rushing offense, the number two scoring offense, and the number three total offense. He earned Midseason All-America first team honors from the AP, was on the Outland Trophy Watch List as well at the Rimington, and earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week accolades for his play at Arkansas.

Garrett Bradbury, NC State
Named a team captain for the 2018 season, Bradbury played 99.0% (901 of 910) of the snaps for the Wolfpack this season. He did not allow a quarterback pressure all season and was named a first-team All-ACC performer (the first first-team selection for a Wolfpack center since 1987) as well as being named a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy – the only center on that list. Most recently, Bradbury scored a touchdown in the final regular season game against East Carolina, rushing the ball from the one-yard line.

Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame
Mustipher has started all 12 games in the 2018 season at center, where he helped Notre Dame average 39.3 points per game in road and neutral-site matchups, which ranks ninth-best in the FBS. With his leadership, the Irish did not register any lost yardage on offense against Florida State – the first time since at least the 1964 season Notre Dame did not allow a tackle for loss in a game. In addition to being named team captain, Mustipher was also named to the Outland Trophy Watch List and named First Team CoSIDA Academic All-District in 2017.

Kentucky’s Josh Allen adds fourth national trophy honor

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When it’s all said and done, Josh Allen is going to need a bigger trophy cabinet — or at least significantly expand his current one.

Monday, it was announced that the Kentucky senior was named as the 2018 recipient of the Jack Lambert Award. That trophy is handed out annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (OH) and given to the national linebacker of the year.

Previously this awards season, Allen had been named as the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Award (HERE) and Chuck Bednarik Award (HERE) as well as the recipient of the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy (HERE). He also earned unanimous first-team All-American honors.

Allen’s 14 sacks this season set the football program’s single-season record, while his 28.5 career sacks are the most ever for a member of the Wildcats.

Utah State OC Troy Taylor named head coach at FCS Sacramento State

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For the second time since the 2018 regular season came to an end, Kyle Whittingham has seen one of his assistant coaches leave for a head-coaching job.

Exactly a week ago, Utah State announced that Utah associate head coach Gary Andersen was returning to again lead the Aggies.  Monday, Sacramento State announced that Troy Taylor has been hired as the FCS program’s next head football coach.

Taylor, who spent two seasons as Whittingham’s offensive coordinator, was the starting quarterback at Cal in the late eighties after playing his high school football in the state of California.  He also began his coaching career at the high school level near Sacramento.

“I am thrilled to be the new head football coach at Sacramento State,” Taylor said in a statement. “My family and I are excited to move back home and take on the challenge of building the Hornet Football program into something the city can be very proud. I want to thank President Nelsen, Mark Orr and the rest of the search committee for giving me this opportunity.”

With bowl season left, Utah is sixth in the Pac-12 and 67th nationally in scoring 28.7 points per game.  In Taylor’s first season in charge of the offense, they averaged 29.5 ppg.

Whittingham has already replaced Andersen with former Ute football player Sione Po’uha.

Nick Saban says Tua Tagovailoa ‘probably ahead of schedule’ in recovery from ankle surgery

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One of the biggest storylines leading into the 2018 College Football Playoff is the health of this year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up.  With Alabama’s date with Oklahoma less than two weeks away, the signs are pointing in a positive direction for Tua Tagovailoa.

The sophomore quarterback suffered a high-ankle sprain in Alabama’s SEC championship game win over Georgia two weeks ago and underwent surgery shortly thereafter to help aid the healing process.  Monday, Nick Saban sounded decidedly optimistic in giving an update on the status of his starter, who has participated at least partly in all four of the Crimson Tide’s practice session since the title game.

“He’s doing well,” the head coach said by way of ESPN.com. “I think he’s probably ahead of schedule. He’s been able to take a lot of reps. He’s been able to throw the ball from the pocket. He can run. …

“I don’t think he’s 100 percent in terms of change of direction yet. But he’s already going 100 percent on the gravity treadmill. So he’s been able to practice and he’s made really, really good progress. So we’re encouraged by that.”

Tagovailoa had been bothered by knee issues for a sizable chunk of the regular season before hurting his left ankle earlier this month.

Top-ranked Alabama will face Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 Orange Bowl, which this season is serving as one of the two playoff semifinals.  The winner of that game will face the Notre Dame-Clemson in the national championship game next month.

Justin Fields’ family says QB ‘hasn’t made a decision’ to transfer from Georgia

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Maybe the future quarterback situation in Athens isn’t as straightforward and black and white as it seemed earlier in the evening.

Monday night, it was reported that Justin Fields has notified Georgia of his intent to transfer.  Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Fields is exploring the possibility of transferring, though he hasn’t yet told the Bulldogs’ coaching staff that he’s leaving.”

Additionally, at least one member of Fields’ family told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a decision hasn’t been made one way or the other.

Asked if she could confirm reports that her son intends to transfer from Georgia, Fields’ stepmother said she could not. But she also didn’t deny them.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss anything,” Jo Ann Claudrick Fields said via telephone Monday night. “We’re not confirming or denying anything. We haven’t made a decision.

Fields’ mother also told the Journal-Constitution to talk to the quarterback’s father, Ivant Fields, as “[h]e handles everything involving football.”

If the transfer were to come to fruition, ESPN reported that Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma would be potential landing spots.  That website also reports that Fields is expected to play in the Sugar Bowl for the Bulldogs.

Fields was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 1 player regardless of position in the Class of 2018.  He spent his true freshman season as the primary backup to sophomore starter Jake Fromm.