Andre Smith

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UNC linebacker Andre Smith heading off to NFL

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North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith will pass on his final year of eligibility to go play in the NFL in 2018. UNC officially announced Smith’s intention to declare for the NFL Draft on Sunday, and Smith shared the new son his Twitter account.

Smith started 17 games for the Tar Heels but missed most of the 2017 season after going down with a season-ending knee injury in a September 9 game against Louisville. SMith’s college career ends with 187 tackles, a pair of sacks and two interceptions. In 2016, Smith averaged 8.7 tackles per game. He had 21 tackles in two games this season, including a 73-yard interception return against Cal.

Given his recent injury history, it makes sense to go into the NFL Draft now rather than return to play college football next season. Returning for another season may have served his NFL Draft stock well if he was at full strength for a full season and proved an ability to come back from the knee injury, but if the advice of those he trusts suggested he would fare well in the draft next spring, then there is little incentive for coming back next season.

‘Cuse adds TEs coach, adjusts Bobby Acosta’s role

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Scott Shafer has officially made a couple of tweaks to his Syracuse coaching staff, including filling the lone hole in his nine-man group.

In a press release, the Orange confirmed that Jake Moreland has been hired as Shafer’s tight ends coach.  Moreland will replace Bobby Acosta, who will slide outside from tight ends to wide receivers.

George McDonald, following his in-season demotion from offensive coordinator, had finished out the 2014 season as receivers coach and is now in the same position at North Carolina State.

“Jake is an outstanding leader of young men and a terrific football coach,” Shafer said in a statement. “The expertise he brings from his 12 years as a tight ends coach will greatly enhance that area for our program as he and Joe Adam work together to mold our offensive line into a productive and cohesive group.

“Adding Jake to our staff allows Bobby Acosta to resume coaching receivers, a position he has mentored at three other schools, and serve as our recruiting coordinator. Along with offensive coordinator Tim Lester and running backs coach DeAndre Smith, Jake, Bobby and Joe will lead a productive offense and develop the young men in our program. We are thrilled to welcome Jake, his wife, Anne, and their daughters, Courtney, Grace and Emma, to the Syracuse family.”

Moreland comes to the ‘Cuse after spending the past three seasons as the tight ends coach at Air Force. He also has a history with Shafer, serving on the same staff at Western Michigan in 2005-06.

“It is a unique opportunity to come to Syracuse after having been at Air Force because both programs focus on the development of the student-athlete, emphasizing academics and athletics, to build student-athletes of high character and mentor young people who will become leaders,” Moreland said. “All of the values Coach Shafer instills in this program parallel what I believe in. My relationships with this coaching staff began early in our careers and then we went our separate ways to continue to grow. It is special to be back together again.”

(Photo credit: Air Force athletics)

The Fifth Quarter: Week 11 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

SEPARATION SATURDAY
Thanks to a handful of games, the divisional and conference races have become, for the most part, much clearer in Week 11 than they were in Week 10.

Three of the divisional races in four of the Power Five conferences have either officially been decided (Pac-12 North) or are all but officially decided (ACC Atlantic, Big Ten East).  At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Big Ten West and SEC West are only slightly clearer than a week ago.

Below we take a quick trip through each of the Power Five conference races and see exactly where things stand with three weeks left in the regular season (four for the title game-less Big 12).

ACC

Atlantic
With the win over Virginia, all Florida State (6-0) needs to do is beat either Miami (Fla.) next week or Boston College the week after to claim the division title and a spot in the conference championship.  Clemson (6-1), which lost to FSU earlier in the season, would need to win its last ACC game against Georgia Tech in Week 12 and have the Seminoles lose both of their remaining league games to win the Atlantic.  Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.

Coastal
With three weekends left in their regular seasons, the Coastal race is essentially a three-team chase: Duke (4-1), Georgia Tech (5-2) and Miami of Florida (3-2).  If the Blue Devils win out — Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest, all at home — it’ll be a second consecutive Duke-FSU ACC title game.  Should the Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets trip once and the Hurricanes win out — they still face FSU — it’d be The U in Charlotte based on the win over Duke earlier in the season.  The ‘Canes, though, don’t own the head-to-head over Tech, so they’ll need to finish ahead of the Yellow Jackets.

BIG TEN

East
This one is very straightforward: all Ohio State (5-0) has to do is avoid losing two of its last three games while Michigan State (4-1) wins all three of its in order to stake its claim to a spot in the Big Ten title game.  The remaining games on the slate are certainly manageable, with contests left against Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan.  The win over the Spartans gives the Buckeyes the head-to-head tiebreaker and affords them a cushion should they slip up once the rest of the way.  Maryland, at 3-2, is technically still alive but unofficially eliminated.

West
Three teams are tied at 4-1 — Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin — and one is at 3-2 — Iowa — in what’s easily the most muddled divisional race in the land.  The last three games for NU and UW are all against teams from that group of four, while the Gophers will face the two teams it’s currently tied with plus Ohio State.  The Hawkeyes, who lost to the Gophers in Week 11,  have Illinois remaining in addition to Nebraska and Wisconsin.  Given how the schedule is assembled, the B1G East very likely won’t be decided until the final weekend late this month.

BIG 12

Thanks to TCU’s win over Kansas State, and Baylor’s thumping of Oklahoma, the Big 12 now features a trio of one-loss teams.  TCU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over K-State, while BU holds the same over them.  The Bears and Wildcats meet in the regular season finale; the winner of that game and the Horned Frogs could very well finish in a tie if everything goes to form.  Based on the head-to-head, you can bet your behind that they’ll be rooting like mad for K-State.

(more…)

Tide’s starting LT likely out a ‘couple of weeks’

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The good news for Alabama is that it gets a bye weekend before what’s turned into a primetime showdown with an SEC West nemesis.

The bad news is that a key line component likely won’t benefit health-wise from the week off.

Starting left tackle Cam Robinson suffered a high-ankle sprain in the third quarter of the win over Tennessee this past weekend. Monday, Nick Saban said it’ll likely be a “couple of weeks” before Robinson is healthy enough to return to the playing field.

If Robinson misses a “couple of weeks,” he’d be sidelined for the Nov. 8 game against LSU in Baton Rouge. At least as far as talent goes, that’d be a significant development in a hostile environment on the road. And that’s armed with the knowledge that Robinson is a true freshman.

The 6’6″, 323-pound was a five-star member of UA’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 1 tackle in the country and No. 17 player at any position. Robinson has backed up that recruiting hype by starting the first eight games of his collegiate career.

Robinson is also the first true freshman to start at left tackle for Alabama since Andre Smith in 2006. Who would replace Robinson should he not play against LSU is not clear, although Leon Brown moved over from right guard after the starter went down against UT.

‘Cuse RB given the all-clear to play after offseason surgery

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Syracuse has been getting good news on the injury front lately. Earlier this month, it was announced that not one, but two defensive starters should be good to go for Week 1 of the 2013 season. Now, the Orange can count on one of their offensive weapons to be back as well.

Running backs coach DeAndre Smith recently told The Post-Standard that Prince-Tyson Gulley, who was the MVP of the team’s Pinstripe Bowl victory last December, has been given the all-clear to play by medical staff.

He’s good to go,” Smith said.

Gulley was one of three players ruled out of spring practices in January with undisclosed injuries. Gulley was the team’s second-leading rusher last season with 833 yards — roughly a quarter of which came in the aforementioned bowl win over West Virginia — but led the team with nine rushing touchdowns.

He is currently listed second on the running back depth chart, but will undoubtedly be considered a key contributor to the Orange offense this season.