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Florida, Miami, Arizona, Hawaii open practice as college football begins

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Welcome to the start of a brand new college football season. It’s essentially here now that the conference media days have come and gone and the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes have officially opened practices in preparation for the upcoming 2019 college football season.

Florida begins year two under head coach Dan Mullen and Miami opened up the Manny Diaz era of Hurricane football on Friday with the first practice for the program. The reason for the relatively early start to fall camp, which typically gets underway for most programs in August, is Florida and Mami are scheduled to play each other in Week 0 on August 24 in Orlando, Florida.

“I was so excited today just to be able to coach football, regardless of the role,” Diaz said on Friday. “It’s fun to actually have something to do and a practice to take part in.”

In an effort to reach out to fans, Miami opened the first practice of the summer up to fans, with a reported 1,000 fans coming out to check out the evening practice.

Florida and Miami aren’t the only programs getting started in Week 0. Arizona will play at Hawaii later that same day. Both programs opened their fall practices on Friday as well. Arizona opened their first practice with the official renaming of the practice field after former Arizona head coach Dick Tomey.

“This is what we work all summer for,” Arizona cornerback Jace Whittaker said as the Wildcats got started. “So antsy, (on a scale of) one to 10, I was a 20. It just feels great to be playing football again.”

Welcome to the start of a new college football season. Let’s get going.

Texas LB Caleb Johnson enters transfer portal

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Sitting at the quarter-pole of the 2019 regular season, and Texas is the latest FBS program to feel the pain of the portal.

Joe Cook of InsideTexas.com was the first to report that Caleb Johnson has placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the initial report, writing that the junior linebacker “feels he has not fit in well since he arrived at Texas.”

247Sports provided further details as to the events leading up to Johnson’s decision.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Johnson met with the staff Monday morning to inform them of his intentions to enter the transfer portal. While the staff requested he think more about his decision, Johnson decided to enter his name into he NCAA Transfer Portal, and is listed in the portal as of Tuesday morning.

Johnson joined the Longhorns from the junior college level, enrolling early and taking part in spring practice this past offseason.  He was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 3 JUCO outside linebacker in this past year’s class.

Through three games, Johnson hadn’t yet taken the field for the Big 12 program.

Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow surge past Trevor Lawrence in Heisman odds

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When the 2019 campaign kicked off, most assumed that the 2019 Heisman Trophy would be a two-player race. Three weeks in and that number has more than doubled.

In odds released by one offshore sportsbook, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is listed as a 2/1 favorite to win this year’s Heisman. The other preseason co-favorite, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, whose odds now sit at 15/2 — they were at 3/1 a week ago — after a start to the season has seen him throw more interceptions in three games (five) than he had in 15 games (four) as a true freshman a year ago.

Lawrence was actually leapfrogged in this latest odds release by a pair of quarterbacks: Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, who went from 7/2 to 3/1, and LSU’s Joe Burrow, up to 4/1 from 18/1.

Another quarterback also made an upward move as Ohio State’s Justin Fields climbed from 16/1 to 10/1.

The only non-quarterbacks on the list?  Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor sits at 20/1, while fellow running backs Travis Etienne of Clemson and D’Andre Swift of Georgia, along with Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy,  are sitting at 33/1.  Another running back, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, is listed at 100/1.

Other quarterbacks that were listed include Georgia’s Jake Fromm at 14/1 (12/1 a week ago), Oregon’s Justin Herbert at 18/1 (25/1), Texas’ Sam Ehlinger at 18/1 (16/1), Notre Dame’s Ian Book at 50/1 (50/1), Michigan’s Shea Patterson at 66/1 (22/1) and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez at 100/1 (off the board).

Ex-Auburn WR Nate Craig-Meyers cleared to play at Colorado State

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A couple of weeks into the 2019 season, Colorado State has realized an immediate infusion of Power Five talent.

Nate Craig-Meyers transferred from Auburn in September of 2018; three months later, he landed at Colorado State.  After being sidelined the first three games of this season, CSU confirmed Monday that Craig-Meyers is now eligible to play for the Rams, beginning in Week 4 against Toledo.

“Nate’s been an awesome teammate,” head coach Mike Bobo said according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan. “He’s done a good job learning our offense. The first two weeks of the season he did scout team. This past week, when we knew he was going to be eligible for this week, he came down and repped some with the offense.

“He’s in a good position. He’ll be ready to go.”

Craig-Meyers was a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 receiver in the country; the No. 6 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 45 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. He was the highest-rated signee on the offensive side of the ball for the Tigers that recruiting cycle.

Despite starting all three games for the Tigers prior to his transfer last season, Craig-Meyers had just two receptions for 39 yards. He finished the AU portion of his playing career with 394 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns on his 22 catches.

Four-year-old opens lemonade stand to help buy out Willie Taggart’s contract

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As a head football coach, you know you’re in trouble when you lose the preschoolers bloc.

Willie Taggart was officially hired as Florida State’s coach Dec. 5, 2017; on Sept. 16, 2018, we ran a post noting that FSU fans had started a GoFundMe page seeking a buyout of Taggart’s contract just three games into his first season in Tallahassee as the Seminoles started the year at 1-2. That season ended with FSU’s bowl streak snapped at 36 straight; this season began with yet another 1-2 record, including second-half defensive collapses that have left the ‘Noles with that same 1-2 mark in back-to-back-to-back seasons (now-Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher authored the first) for the first time since 1974-76.

The drumbeat surrounding Taggart has grown louder entering Week 4, with one four-year-old young man, whose father is an FSU booster, setting up a lemonade stand in Tallahassee in which the proceeds from his sales are earmarked toward buying out the coach’s contract.

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

That’s what 4-year-old Grayton Grant did early Sunday, setting up a “Free Willie” lemonade stand outside of his grandmother’s Tallahassee home and raising $241 in just under three hours.

Grayton charged $20 per cup, with one customer donating $100, before running out of lemonade in the sunny, 90-degree weather.

Grayton’s father – FSU graduate and booster Daniel Grant – teamed up with his son. He matched the total and stroked a check for $482 to Seminole Boosters, Inc.

The check – earmarked for “Taggart Buy Out!” – was accompanied by a formal yet tongue-in-cheek, typewritten letter signed by Grayton to Seminole Boosters, Inc.

For those wondering: Taggart’s buyout is in the neighborhood of $17 million if he’s fired without cause before February 1, 2020.  For those keeping score at home, and at $20 a pop, young Mr. Grant would have to sell 850,000 cups of lemonade to cover the entire cost of Taggart’s buyout on his own.

So, get to work young man.  You (and by “you” I mean your dad) have a long ways to go.