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LSU looks to keep Butkus Award with four watch list honorees

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Continuing the parade of watch list honorees, the Butkus Award announced its list on Monday, given to the nation’s top linebacker. Fifty-one players made the cut — honoring the number 51 worn by the award’s namesake — a group that is at once diverse and uniform.

For instance, LSU placed four players on the list — K’Lavon Chaisson, Michael Divinity, Jr., Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen. Baton Rouge is the current home of the Butkus Award after Devin White won it in 2018.

LSU is far from the only team to boast multiple players under the eye of the Butkus Award committee. Alabama placed three (Anfernee JenningsTerrell Lewis and Dylan Moses), while Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Ohio State and Penn State placed two. On the flip side of that coin, nine of the 51 players hail from non-Power 5 schools, including a rare FCS appearance, from Montana’s Dante Olson. A consensus All-American and Phil Steele’s FCS Defensive Player of the Year, Olson compiled 151 tackles, 11 TFLs, six sacks, two interceptions and five passes defended in 2018.

Purdue’s Markus Bailey is a returning semifinalist, while Moses is looking to double-dip. He won the Butkus’s high school honor in 2016.

The full list:

Joe Bachie, Michigan State
Markus Bailey, Purdue
Mohamed Barry, Nebraska
Zack Baun, Wisconsin
Tuf Borland, Ohio State
Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
Cameron Brown, Penn State
T.J. Brunson, South Carolina
Calvin Bundage, Oklahoma State
K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State
Michael Divinity Jr., LSU
Troy Dye, Oregon
Tony Fields II, Arizona
Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
Cale Garrett, Missouri
Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi State
De’Jon Harris, Arkansas
Malik Harrison, Ohio State
Khaleke Hudson, Michigan
Dontavious Jackson, Florida State
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
Clay Johnston, Baylor
Nate Landman, Colorado
Sage Lewis, FIU
Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Kamal Martin, Minnesota
Dylan Moses, Alabama
Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
Dante Olson, Montana
Micah Parsons, Penn State
Jacob Phillips, LSU
Michael Pickney, Miami (Fla.)
Shaquille Quarterman, Miami (Fla.)
Patrick Queen, LSU
Chapelle Russell, Temple
Mohamed Sanogo, Mississippi
Colin Schooler, Arizona
Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Charles Snowden, Virginia
Justin Strnad, Wake Forest
Darrell Taylor, Tennessee
Davion Taylor, Colorado
Kyahva Tezino, San Diego State
Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State
Joshua Uche, Michigan
Mykal Walker, Fresno State
Evan Weaver, California
Javin White, UNLV
Logan Wilson, Wyoming
David Woodward, Utah State

Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

TEAM ACC
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

TEAM BIG TEN
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

TEAM BIG 12
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

TEAM PAC-12
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

TEAM SEC
Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

TEAM WILD CARD
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

TE Jordan Wilson to transfer from UCLA

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UCLA redshirt junior Jordan Wilson has announced he is leaving the Bruins. In a post on his Twitter account on Friday afternoon, Wilson announced he is entering the transfer portal with the intent of finishing up his collegiate career with some other program.

“[I’d] like to announce that I will be entering the transfer portal, graduating at the end of the Spring quarter, and playing my final year of eligibility somewhere else,” Wilson announced in a statement on his Twitter account.

The decision of Wilson to leave UCLA comes at an unfortunate time for the Bruins. Wilson was likely to be a starter at tight end for UCLA in the fall. Wilson is the third tight end to leave UCLA this offseason. Devin Asiasi previously made the decision to declare for the NFL draft a year early. Matt Lynch also stepped into the transfer portal. Now, UCLA has a wide-open competition for playing time at the tight end spot beginning this spring.

Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards for UCLA in 2019. He will leave UCLA having caught 25 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in the past three seasons. As a graduate transfer, Wilson will be eligible to play his final year of eligibility anywhere he ends up this fall.

USC nabs Todd Orlando from Texas Tech

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USC has a new defensive coordinator. The Trojans announced on Friday the school has officially hired Todd Orlando to fill the role of defensive coordinator. Orlando joins USC after coaching the past three seasons at Texas.

Orlando actually joined the Texas Tech program after being let go by Texas following staff changes with the Longhorns. Despite landing a job with the Red Raiders, Orlando remained a top target for USC head coach Clay Helton.

“We are excited to have Todd join our Trojan football program,” Helton said in a released statement. “He is an experienced and successful defensive coordinator who has made an impact everywhere he has coached. He brings a passion, energy, toughness and discipline to his coaching and those characteristics were evident in our discussions. His defensive system poses an extreme challenge to offenses.”

Orlando replaces Clancy Pendergast, who was let go by Helton amid USC’s own staff changes after a down 2019 season. As previously mentioned (HERE), Orlando actually had worse defensive numbers compared to what Pendergast coached with USC last season. However, a contrast of playing styles and offensive outputs between the schedule Texas faced in 2019 (including games against LSU and Oklahoma) and what USC faced could lead to some skewed figures.

Orlando’s first test as a defensive coordinator will be a monster. USC opens the 2020 season in Arlington, Texas against Alabama.

Cal loses assistant Gerald Alexander to NFL job

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Cal assistant coach Gerald Alexander is leaving to coach with the Miami Dolphins. Alexander confirmed in a message posted on his Twitter account he is heading to the NFL for a coaching opportunity. Multiple reports have confirmed it will be with the Miami Dolphins.

Alexander thanked Cal head coach Justin Wilcox for the opportunity to be a part of Wilcox’s first coaching staff at Cal.

Alexander joined the Cal program in 2017 and spent the past three seasons as a defensive backs coach for the program. He has played a role in helping to coach one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. He previously coached at Montana State, Indiana State and with Chris Peterssen at Washington. Alexander played for Petersen at Boise State.

This will mark a return to the NFL for Alexander. He previously played in the league for five seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and, appropriately enough, the Miami Dolphins. Alexander was a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007.