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Report: Jay Hopson pursued recruit accused of raping two women at knife point without disclosing allegations to Southern Miss

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Could we see yet another head coaching change at the FBS level?  Based on the last 72 hours or so in Hattiesburg, it certainly seems as if it’s a possibility.

Earlier this week, Jay Hopson interviewed disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles for the offensive coordinator vacancy at Southern Miss. Wednesday, the university, which was not initially aware of the head coach’s interview with Briles, announced in a statement that Briles was informed he is no longer a candidate for a position with the football program; shortly thereafter, Hopson released a statement that very publicly questioned his employer’s decision, writing in part that Briles “is a man who deserves a second chance” as he “personally… committed no crime.”

On Thursday, a report from The Athletic‘s Nicole Auerbach further cast both the coach and the university in a negative light.

According to Auerbach, Hopson had signed junior college transfer Charles West as part of USM’s 2019 recruiting class.  The problem?  West was accused of raping two women at knifepoint in 2015 in two separate incidents.  A potentially bigger problem for Hopson?  As was the case with the Briles interview, the head coach, again per Auerbach, never informed the university of West’s past.

West was set to enroll in classes at the university Jan. 24 of this year before “someone in the athletic department found the Dallas Morning News article detailing the sexual assault cases that West’s background was brought to light,” Auerbach wrote. “Then West’s application was denied by the admissions office,” she added.

While initially accused of rape, West, 18 years old at the time of the attacks, subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after the case fell apart as both alleged victims were “having a hard time testifying in front of [their] attacker” and declined to take the witness stand.  West was one of the highest-rated members of BYU’s 2015 recruiting class before the football independent parted ways with the player as a result of the off-field issues; in between the first assault in early 2015 and the parting of ways, West was shot in the left arm while playing a game of pickup basketball at his former Texas middle school in July of that year.

In the assault cases, West reached plea deals in July of 2016 and was sentenced to four years of deferred adjudication probation.  If he violates probation at any point between then and July of 2020, he would be facing 20 years in prison on each count.

In addition to the West situation, Auerbach also detailed in her exceptional piece “Hopson’s previous tenure as a head coach at Alcorn State [that] included recruiting a registered sex offender and a player who saw game action while awaiting rape charges.” In the latter case, Hopson added a player to his Alcorn State roster who was connected to the Vanderbilt rape scandal, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, in 2013, although the university quickly did an about-face after the addition brought significant scrutiny to the university.

West, who eventually returned to Alcorn State as a player after Hopson left for Southern Miss, was sentenced to 10 years of probation in May of 2018 as he was never accused of actually raping the victim but rather standing by as it happened.

Auerbach also detailed Hopson taking in another player with a sketchy past after the McKenzie imbroglio:

Jamil Cooks had enrolled at Alcorn State after he was dismissed from the Air Force Academy. Midway through the 2014 season, ABC News reported that Cooks had to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after a court-martial panel convicted him of abusive sexual contact in 2013. Cooks pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering women’s dorm rooms at Air Force the week prior to the conviction.

Despite his status as a sex offender, there was no rule that prevented Cooks from playing at another university. His 11 sacks led the Braves in 2014, and his 14 tackles for loss were second on the team.

Despite repeated requests, Southern Miss officials have thus far to comment publicly on Auerbach’s report.

Toledo announces future three-game series with Kentucky

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How about a little Power Five-Group of Five scheduling news to start off your Wednesday morning?

This week, Toledo announced that it has reached an agreement on a future three-game series with Kentucky, which is essentially a home-and-home plus a one-off.  The two schools will play in Lexington during the 2025 and 2028 seasons, with the Wildcats traveling to the Glass Bowl in 2027.

Specific dates for those matchups, which will be the first-ever between the school, weren’t divulged.

“We are very pleased to enter in this three-game series with the University of Kentucky,” said UT athletic director Mike O’Brien in a statement. “Bringing an SEC opponent into the Glass Bowl is huge for our football program and for our fans. We look forward to an exciting series with the Wildcats, beginning with the game in Lexington this fall.”

That 2027 game will mark just the second time an SEC school has ever traveled to Toledo for a football game, with the first being Missouri in 2014.  All told, the Rockets have played four games against members of that conference and have gone 1-3 in those contests, with the lone win coming against Arkansas in 2015.

Love lost as Memphis LB enters transfer portal

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For the third time this offseason, Memphis has seen a member of its football program sucked into the infamous portal.

Citing a source familiar with the decision, the Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that Nyle Love has entered his name into the transfer database.  No specific reason was given for the departure, although positioning on the depth chart would be a likely place to start.

Other FBS schools will be able to contact Love without receiving U-M’s permission, with the linebacker also retaining the ability to return to the Tigers if he so desires.  As we have noted multiple times in the past, the school now also has the option to strip Love of his scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered the portal.

If Love moves on to another FBS school, it’s very likely he’ll have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Love didn’t play a down for Tigers after coming to the AAC school as a three-star 2018 signee.

USC confirms JT Daniels is still Trojans’ starting QB

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The drama in the Land of Troy, such as it was, is officially over.

For most, there was a three-man battle for USC’s starting quarterback job throughout this offseason — incumbent JT Daniels, Matt Fink and Jack Sears.  Tuesday, the Trojans ended the competition charade by confirming that Daniels will indeed be the team’s starter when they open the 2019 season later this month.

Most intriguing, though, is the fact that true freshman Kedon Slovis, who has been mostly an afterthought in the competition, has been chosen as the true sophomore Daniels’ backup over Fink, a redshirt junior, and Sears, a redshirt sophomore.

Daniels started 11 games as a true freshman for the Trojans this past season, with Sears starting the other.  Fink seriously contemplated a transfer this offseason before opting to remain at USC.  Slovis, meanwhile, was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 26 pro-style quarterback in the country.

In his first season as a starter, Daniels completed almost 60 percent of his 363 passes for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Michigan transfer Brandon Peters wins starting QB job at Illinois

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Michigan transfer Brandon Peters has won the quarterback derby at Illinois, Lovie Smith announced Tuesday.

“We loved Brandon when we got a chance to know him during the recruiting process,” Smith said. “Now that we’ve seen him on the field, he has been everything we though he would be. He has really thrown the ball well and is a better runner than he’s given credit for. Most importantly, he has moved into a leadership role for us. We’re pumped up about Brandon leading us heading into the season.”

A former 4-star recruit, the Avon, Ind., native is a graduate transfer who still has two years of eligibility remaining.

At Michigan he appeared in 10 games with four starts, completing 53 percent of his 110 throws for 680 yards and four touchdowns.

Illinois opens its season Aug. 31 at home versus Akron.