Marcus Mariota

AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies

Ex-Oregon Duck QB landing at Towson

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Former Oregon quarterback Morgan Mahalak is heading to the FCS for a chance to compete for a starting job. Mahalak will join the Towson Tigers of the Colonial Athletic Association, where he will be eligible to play immediately starting this fall.

“We are happy that we have secured a commitment from such a talented young quarterback,” said Towson head coach Rob Ambrose in a released statement.  “Morgan brings a tremendous amount of potential and secures great competition at the quarterback position.”

Mahalak was released from his scholarship at Oregon in January, at his request. The former four-star recruit should be a nice addition for the Towson program. Mahalak had a tough time finding playing time in Eugene during his two seasons with the Ducks while Marcus Mariota was winning a Heisman Trophy and Vernon Adams was transferring to take the starting job for Oregon. Mahalak served on Orgeon’s scout team last season. With Oregon once again going the FCS transfer QB route this season with Dakota Prukop, it appeared unlikely Mahalak was going to get a chance once again.

Derrick Henry headlines five Walter Camp Award finalists

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As the wagering front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, it’s no surprise that Derrick Henry is up for some additional prestigious hardware this award season as well.

Wednesday afternoon, the Walter Camp Football Foundation announced the five finalists for the 2015 version of its Player of the Year award.  In addition to the Alabama running back, Iowa defensive back Desmond King, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson were named finalists for the award.

Four of the five finalists play on teams currently ranked in the College Football Playoff top four, the lone exception being McCaffrey.  Even then, though, McCaffrey’s Cardinal is at No. 7.

Last year’s winner of the Camp Award, which is voted on by FBS head coaches and sports information directors, was Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.  This year’s winner will be announced Dec. 10.

Below are some quick biographical sketches provided by the Camp foundation:

DERRICK HENRY – ALABAMA – Junior – Running Back – The nation’s rushing leader (1,797 yards), Derrick Henry has rushed for 200+ yards in a game four times, including a season-high 271 in a win over Auburn. Henry’s 22 touchdowns also lead the nation. The second-ranked Crimson Tide (11-1) will face Florida on Dec. 5 in the Southeastern Conference title game.

DESMOND KING – IOWA – Junior – Defensive Back – The Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, Desmond King leads the nation with eight interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He has added 61 tackles and 11 pass breakups for the Hawkeyes, who have won a school-record 12 games, and play Michigan State on Dec. 5 in the Big Ten Conference title game

BAKER MAYFIELD – OKLAHOMA – Junior – Quarterback – The leader of the Big 12 champion Sooners (12-0), Baker Mayfield has passed for 3,389 yards and 35 touchdowns this season. His 178.9 passing efficiency rating is ranked third in the nation. Mayfield has also rushed for 420 yards and scored seven touchdowns.

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY – STANFORD – Sophomore – Running Back/Kick Returner – The nation’s leader in all-purpose yardage (3,305 – 252.9 yards per game), Christian McCaffrey is among the nation’s leaders in rushing (1,640 yards) for the 10-2 Cardinal, who will face USC on Dec. 5 in the Pac-12 championship game.

DESHAUN WATSON – CLEMSON – Sophomore – Quarterback – The leader of the top-ranked Tigers offense, Deshaun Watson has accumulated 3,979 yards of total offense and 36 total touchdowns, both of which rank first in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Watson’s 161.9 passing efficiency rating also leads the ACC. Clemson (12-0) will play North Carolina on Dec. 5 in the ACC Championship Game.

Oregon continues late-season hot streak with wild Civil War win

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“Oh what could’ve been.”

That has to be the mantra — well, that and “that escalated quickly” — of the Oregon football program and its fan base this evening after watching the Ducks jump out to a huge lead and then hang on against in-state rival Oregon State in a wild 52-42 Civil War win Friday.  The Ducks had sprinted to what appeared to be a comfortable 31-7 halftime lead before the Beavers scored 35 of the next 45 points to pull within three points at 45-42 with 7:05 remaining.

A Vernon Adams touchdown pass two and a half minutes later, his third of the game, essentially iced the game for the Ducks.

And, speaking of Adams, that’s where the what-ifs come in.

The FCS All-American transfer from Eastern Washington was viewed as a more-than-capable replacement for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota entering the season.  However, he was injured early on as the Ducks stumbled to a 3-3 start that included a three-point loss to Michigan State and seven-point loss to Washington State.  Adams finally overcame the health issues in mid-October and the Ducks have rolled ever since, ripping off six straight wins to close out the regular season.

During this six-game streak, Adams has thrown 21 touchdown passes; in the first six games of the season, three of which he missed, Adams threw four.  Throw in the fact that he’s completed nearly 80 percent of his passes the past three weeks — 77.3 to be precise — Adams is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country entering the final weeks of his one and only season in Eugene.

If Adams had been healthy the first-half of the season, could it have changed the direction of the season?  It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty, although the odds seem pretty good that UO wouldn’t be sitting at 9-3 and looking at a middle(ish)-tier bowl bid if he had been his late-season self.

Finally, a Chip Kelly coaching story not connected to a college vacancy

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You’ve surely had your fill of Chip Kelly coaching rumors involving USC and Miami, so maybe it will be refreshing to see Kelly’s name attached to another job vacancy that just went on the market. That vacancy, of course, is in Tennessee with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

The NFL franchise parted ways with head coach Ken Whisenhunt this afternoon, which led Mike Florio over at Pro Football Talk to serve up some thoughts on why Kelly and the Titans would be a good fit. Spoiler alert: Marcus Mariota. It may be the worst-kept secret in football that Kelly, the former head coach of the Oregon Ducks and current head coach and general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, made offseason roster moves to attempt to draft the former Heisman Trophy winner. That ultimately failed and the Titans drafted Mariota before Kelly and the Eagles could even sniff him in the draft.

Just for the record, I am not convinced Kelly is ready to jump ship with the Eagles, even if the team ends the year with a losing record (they are currently 3-4). Kelly just attained Gm responsibilities to allow him to have deeper creative freedom with the roster in Philadelphia. No program at the college level is going to pay him enough to woo him back to the college cycle to deal with boosters and recruiting.

Not yet, at least.

Until lucrative and appealing coaching vacancies are filled in the college level, Kelly’s name for one reason or another will likely remain floating out there despite his attempts to silence the speculation. And once all of the spots are filled this year, they will swirl again next year as jobs open up and coaches are placed in a broiler. This will be the norm for Kelly for as long as he is coaching in the NFL unless he wins a Super Bowl.

Big 12, Pac-12 lead Maxwell Award semifinalists; SEC leads Bednarik semifinalists

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The push for the College Football Playoff is not the only thing heating up in November. Award season is started to come closer and closer. On Monday, the Maxwell Football Club released its list of semifinalists for two of the top individual awards in college football, the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. Every Power 5 conference is represented on the Maxwell Award semifinalist list with 2 from the ACC, 4 from the Big 12, 2 from the Big Ten, 4 from the Pac-12 and 2 from the SEC. The SEC led the power conferences with seven players named to the Chuck Bednarik Award semifinalists with four.

Last year’s winner for the two Maxwell Football Club awards were Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (Maxwell Award) and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (Bednarik Award). A quarterback has won the Maxwell Award 13 times since 2000 and has included players like Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise gives the Irish a chance to move into sole possession of first place in the list of all-time winners by school. Notre Dame and Penn State each have seven Maxwell Award winners for the most of all-time. Navy, Ohio State and Texas each have four winners.

Penn State also has more Bednarik Award winners than any other school with four. LSU has a chance to come within one with linebacker Kendall Beckwith named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award. Past winners of the Bednarik Award, first awarded in 1995, include Pat Fitzgerald, Charles Woodson, LaVar Arrington, Ndamukong Suh, Tyrann Mathieu, Manti Te’o and Aaron Donald.

The winners of the Maxwell Award and Bednarik Award will be announced on December 10, 2015 during ESPN’s college football awards show. Three finalists will be announced for each award prior to that on November 24. A formal presentation for the awards will be held during the Maxwell Football CLub’s annual awards gala in Atlantic City, New Jersey, currently scheduled for March 11, 2016 at the Tropicana Resort & Casino.

2015 Maxwell Award Semifinalists

2015 Chuck Bednarik Award Semifinalists

  • LB Kendall Beckwith, LSU
  • NT Andrew Billings, Baylor
  • DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
  • DE Jonathan Bullard, Florida
  • DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
  • S Jeremy Cash, Duke
  • LB Su’a Cravens, USC
  • DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  • CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
  • DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  • CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
  • LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple
  • DE Carl Nassib, Penn State
  • DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
  • DE Emmanueal Ogbah, Oklahoma State
  • LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
  • CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
  • DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
  • LB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
  • LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame