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Four-star QB-turned-minor league baseball player narrows football choices to Auburn, LSU, NC State

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And then there were three.

Earlier this month, Cord Sandberg announced his retirement from baseball after a six-season career spent entirely in the minor leagues.  Simultaneously, the four-star member of Mississippi State’s 2013 recruiting class announced that he would be resuming his football career, confirming that he had received a scholarship offer from Auburn and a pair of offers to be a preferred walk-on at two other SEC schools — Florida and LSU.  The Gators are coached by Dan Mullen, who was the head coach of the Bulldogs when Sandberg signed with MSU in February of 2013.

That led to some assuming UF perhaps had the inside track for Sandberg.  That assumption turned out to be inaccurate as the quarterback confirmed to Rivals.com that he has narrowed his football to-do list to Auburn, LSU and North Carolina State.  Sandberg will take an official visit to each of those schools this month before making a decision, with the recruiting website reporting that he will make trips to NC State July 25-26, Auburn July 26-28 and LSU July 28-29.

Sandberg had previously stated that he wanted to enroll in classes no later than Aug. 20, meaning a decision on his next school should come shortly after his final visit later this month.  Given that the 23-year-old Sandberg hasn’t played the sport since high school, it’s widely expected he’ll take a redshirt this coming football season; he would then have four years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2019 season.

“I have definitely enjoyed my conversations with those coaches staffs and I feel good about those situations,” Sandberg told the site. “I can see myself enjoying going to school for 3-4 years in those towns. …

“I feel comfortable with the conversations I’ve had with all of those guys and what my role would be playing quarterback at all of those schools.”

In addition to the schools already mentioned, UCF and UCLA also expressed interest/extended offers.

Coming out of high school in Bradenton, Fla., in 2013, Sandberg was rated as the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the country. Only three signees in MSU’s class that year were rated higher than Sandberg — defensive end Chris Jones, safety Ashton Shumpert and wide receiver Fred Ross.

In nearly 500 games at the minor league level, Sandberg, a center fielder, was a career .243 hitter with 29 home runs and 173 RBI. He finished with a slash line of .243/.298/.348.

Jake Browning, Jalen Hurts highlight Davey O’Brien Award watch list

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Once the Conference of Defenses, has the SEC morphed into the Conference of Quarterbacks?

According to the folks at the Davey O’Brien Award, that certainly could be the case as the hardware handed out annually to the nation’s top quarterback released its 2018 watch list Tuesday morning, with the SEC accounting for six of the 26 players listed.  Next up are the remaining Power Five conferences, with the Pac-12 leading that group with four, followed by three apiece for the Big Ten and ACC as well as two for the Big 12.  With two each, Conference USA and the MAC pace all Group of Five leagues, with the AAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt all seeing one player on the initial watch list.

Individually, there are a pair of two-time O’Brien Award semifinalists on the roll — Washington’s Jake Browning and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts (whether Hurts gets the opportunity to three-peat as a finalist is another matter entirely).  Additionally, there are six other 2017 semifinalists on the list as well — Clemson’s Kelly Bryant, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, UCF’s McKenzie Milton and Arizona’s Khalil Tate.

Of the 26 players on the list, 13 are listed as seniors and 12 as juniors.  The lone sophomore is Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Below is the complete 2018 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List:

Jake Bentley, South Carolina, (Jr., Opelika, Ala.)
Jake Browning, Washington (Sr., Folsom, Calif.)
Kelly Bryant, Clemson (Sr., Calhoun Falls, S.C.)
Mason Fine, North Texas (Jr., Peggs, Okla.)
Ryan Finley, NC State (Sr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (Sr., Richmond Hill, Ga.)
Andrew Ford, UMass (Sr., Camp Hill, Penn.)
Jake Fromm, Georgia (So., Warner Robins, Ga.)
Will Grier, West Virginia (Sr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Justice Hansen, Arkansas State (Sr., Edmond, Okla.)
Justin Herbert, Oregon (Jr., Eugene, Ore.)
Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin (Jr., West Chester, Penn.)
Jalen Hurts, Alabama (Jr., Houston, Texas)
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo (Jr., Norton Shores, Mich.)
Daniel Jones, Duke (Jr., Charlotte, N.C.)
Kyle Kempt, Iowa State (Sr., Massillon, Ohio)
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.)
Drew Lock, Missouri (Sr., Lee’s Summit, Mo.)
Trace McSorley, Penn State (Sr., Ashburn, Va.)
McKenzie Milton, UCF (Jr., Kapolei, Hawaii)
Nathan Rourke, Ohio (Jr., Oakville, Ontario)
Brett Rypien, Boise State (Sr., Spokane, Wash.)
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (Jr., Stephenville, Texas)
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee (Sr., Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Khalil Tate, Arizona (Jr., Inglewood, Calif.)
Manny Wilkins, Arizona State (Sr., Novato, Calif.)

College Football Playoff extends agreements with Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowl through 2026

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The College Football Playoff is unsurprisingly sticking with what works.

Executive Director Bill Hancock announced on Friday that the postseason organization had extended their agreements with the Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowl through 2026. With the Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowl already extended, the playoff semifinal rotation is now signed, sealed and delivered through most of the next decade.

“These bowl games have provided a quality experience for the student-athletes and fans for many years, including the first four seasons of the CFP, and we know that will continue,” said Hancock in a statement. “The communities of greater Dallas, Phoenix and Atlanta have fully embraced the opportunity to be a part of this very popular event and to showcase the unique opportunities they offer to visitors.”

As a result, the College Football Playoff semifinal schedule for the next eight seasons is:
2018-19 – Cotton and Orange Bowls
2019-20 – Fiesta and Peach Bowls
2020-21 – Rose and Sugar Bowls
2021-22 – Cotton and Orange Bowls
2022-23 – Fiesta and Peach Bowls
2023-24 – Rose and Sugar Bowls
2024-25 – Cotton and Orange Bowls
2025-26 – Fiesta and Peach Bowls
The extension of agreements with the major bowl games that form the New Year’s Six means that all that is left to do is determine the title game sites in 2025 and 2026. Miami, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Houston were awarded the championship games through 2024 late last year.

Mitsubishi Motors new title sponsor of Las Vegas Bowl

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There’s been yet another significant development on the Las Vegas Bowl front.

Thursday afternoon, Sin City’s only postseason game announced that Mitsubishi Motors will serve as the bowl’s title sponsor for the next two years.  Not surprisingly, the game will be referred to as the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl.

Since it first debuted in 1992 as the Las Vegas Bowl, the game has been known at various points as the EA Sports Bowl (1999), the Sega Sports Bowl (2001-02), the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl (2004-06), the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl (2007-08), the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas (2009-12), the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (2013-15) and the Las Vegas Bowl presented by GEICO.  From 1992-98, as well as in 2003 and 2017, it was sponsor-less and thus known simply as the Las Vegas Bowl.

This will mark Mitsubishi’s first-ever sponsorship of a college football bowl game.

“This new partnership brings together two exciting and world-renowned brands in Mitsubishi Motors and Las Vegas,” said Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl Executive Director John Saccenti in a statement. “We are proud of how our event has grown so much along with our great city the last quarter-century and with the addition of a world-class title sponsor the future looks even brighter.”

While the 2018 game, scheduled for Dec. 15, and the one in 2019 will again pit a Pac-12 school against one from the Mountain West Conference, it was reported last month that the 2020 game will feature a Pac-12-SEC matchup.

Last season, Boise State dropped Oregon 38-28 in the 26th annual Las Vegas Bowl.  It marked the Broncos’ fourth win in the postseason game — they won three straight from 2010-12 — leaving them third in Las Vegas Bowl appearances behind only BYU (six) and Utah (five).

Four-star wideout committed to Notre Dame says Irish pulled offer

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Not too surprisingly, it’s not just recruits who flip-flop on verbal commitments.

With more than a dozen offers from Power Five programs on the table, four-star 2019 wide receiver T.J. Sheffield announced July 6 that he had verbally committed to Notre Dame.  Five days later, the Tennessee high schooler took to Twitter to announce that the Fighting Irish had pulled their scholarship offer.

Why? “I received a call from [wide receivers coach DelVaughn] Alexander stating that Notre Dame was not going to honor my commitment due to a change of plans,” Sheffield wrote in the social media missive.  What those change of plans are specifically is the great unknown and, as Notre Dame is forbidden by NCAA rules from commenting on unsigned recruits, we are left with just one side of the story.

To Sheffield’s credit, he reacted to the football program’s about-face with grace and class.

“I completely accept Notre Dame’s decision as God’s will for me and know that God has an open door for me that no man can shut,” the receiver stated. “Thanks again to Notre Dame for considering me as a possibility for their program.”

The four-star prospect is rated as the No. 38 receiver in the country and the No. 9 player at any position in the state of Tennessee on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  He still holds offers from, among others, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Tennessee.