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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.

Matthew Baldwin’s decision leaves Ohio State with two scholarship QBs

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And then there were two.

Seeing the Justin Fields writing on the wall, Tate Martell transferred from Ohio State in mid-January and ultimately landed at Miami.  Three months later, another OSU signal-caller, Matthew Baldwin, confirmed on Twitter Thursday night that he too has decided to take his leave of the Buckeyes and place his name into the NCAA transfer database.

“[S]pring was a tough time for me personally. My family and I have prayed and talked a lot about where I belong and what is best for me,” Baldwin wrote as part of a very classy Twitter post revealing his decision. “In the end, we feel like it’d be better for me to step away from Ohio State.”

A four-star member of OSU’s 2018 recruiting class, Baldwin was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Austin, Texas.  Baldwin didn’t play a down for the Buckeyes as he continued his rehab from an ACL injury he suffered late in his high school career at Lake Travis.

With the twin departures of Baldwin and Martell, OSU is now down to two scholarship quarterbacks — the Georgia transfer Fields (HERE) and West Virginia transfer Chris Chugunov (HERE).  Fields was widely expected to be the Buckeyes’ starter under center in the 2019 opener; Baldwin’s decision ensures that, barring injury, that will indeed be the case.

Arkansas to add former Notre Dame OL Luke Jones

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A week and a half after word broke Luke Jones was intending to leave Notre Dame comes the announcement Jones is going to be playing closer to home. The Arkansas native announced with a message on Twitter he is coming home to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“I would like to thank the University of Note Dame for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing college football,” Jones said in a brief message on his Twitter account. “However, I have decided to transfer and play football for the University of Arkansas. I will be enrolling in the summer and am excited for this new chapter in my life!”

Jones spent a brief moment with the Notre Dame program as he was a member of the Class of 2018 in South Bend. Prior to committing to the Fighting Irish, Jones had been committed to the Arkansas football program in his recruiting process, but Notre Dame emerged victorious in the recruiting game during a coaching change with the Razorbacks.

Jones will be required to sit out the 2019 season under standard NCAA transfer rules, although those seem to be more like guidelines these days, so we’ll wait to see if there is a chance Jones gets to jump into the mix in the offensive line for the Razorbacks this fall.

Ex-Pitt TE Tyler Sear announces transfer to Temple

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Tight end Tyler Sear is hopping on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and heading from one metropolitan corner of the state to the next. Sear announced on his Twitter account on Thursday he is transferring from Pitt to Temple.

The Class of 2017 recruit of the Panthers left the program last October for what was simply described as personal reasons. It was unknown if the leave of absence was a short-term or long-term plan as the decisions about the status were being kept close to the vest within the Pitt program.

Sear did battle some injury concerns during his time at Pitt that prevented him from potentially reaching his full potential for the Panthers. He caught two passes for nine yards last season prior to his stepping away from the team.

Perhaps a clean slate with a new program will do Sear good as he steps in to try contributing with the Owls in the AAC. Sear will have to sit out the 2019 season due to standard NCAA transfer rules, unless an exception is granted by the NCAA. It is unknown if a waiver will be filed by Sear and Temple for immediate eligibility.

Sear has not used a redshirt year yet so he could burn that in 2019 while waiting to get back on the field if he is forced to sit out the 2019 season. That ould leave Sear with two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2020 season.

Michigan CB Myles Sims enters transfer portal

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Add another name to the growing list of players entering the transfer portal. This time it is Michigan cornerback Myles Sims. According to a report from 247 Sports, the former four-star prospect in Michigan’s Class of 2018 is evaluating his options.

Any player who adds his name to the transfer portal is allowed to make contact with potential programs of interest, but it does not automatically mean that player is gone for god. Sims will have the option of pulling his name out of the portal in the event he decides to stay in Ann Arbor. How quickly Sims will make any decision one way or the other remains to be seen.

Sims did not see the field last season for Michigan so he can use the 2018 season as his redshirt year. That gives the former four-star recruit four years of eligibility remaining, although he will likely have to burn one year of eligibility by sitting out the upcoming 2019 season.

Standard NCAA transfer rules require a player to sit out a full season before being ruled eligible to play again, although exceptions have been made a bit more frequently over the past year. Whether or not Sims will have the chance to play right away this fall will have to wait to be determined when he decides what his plans will be moving forward.