Connor Wood

Colorado junior QB will not return for 2014

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Colorado junior quarterback Connor Wood is stepping away from football and will not play in the fall of 2014. The university announced the retirement decision Friday through a release, stating Wood will graduate this spring and not pursue a transfer to play elsewhere next season. He will do so with one year of eligibility remaining.

Wood transferred to Colorado from Texas after the 2010 season and sat out the 2011 season before competing for the starting job under center in 2012. That competition was won by Kansas transfer Jordan Webb, but Wood came back in 2013 to win the starting job at the start of the season. He was eventually replaced by freshman Sefo Liufau in the middle of the season.

“Connor is a great young man and was a big part of our program,” Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said in a statement released by the university. “He had a phenomenal game in our win over CSU in our season opener. He means a lot to our program and to our team, but he has decided to graduate and move on to other things in life.”

NCAA transfer rules would allow Wood to play at another FBS program in the fall because he will have graduated, but according to Colorado he intends to graduate this spring and move on to life after football.  

“First of all, I want to thank my family for sticking by me through the thick and thin,” Wood said. “Whether I was the starting quarterback or battling for third string, their unwavering support for me was beyond compare. Secondly, I want to thank (Texas) coach Mack Brown for giving me a scholarship and the opportunity for me to pursue my dream of playing college football.”

Pac-12 QBs are throwing it like crazy

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The Pac-12 has always been known as a conference with wide open offenses and sophisticated passing schemes. But this year’s crop of conference quarterbacks may be taking that reputation to the next level.

The top three quarterbacks in the nation in passing yardage per game — and nine of the top 26 overall — come from the Pac-12.

Leading the way is true freshman Jared Goff of California, who recently became the first Bears quarterback since Aaron Rodgers to have three-straight 300-yard passing games. Goff is averaging 434 yards per game and is on pace to finish the regular season with an astounding 5,204 yards.

After Goff comes Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, who is averaging 412 yards per game while tying for the national lead with 12 touchdown passes. Mannion is on pace to throw for 5,356 yards and 52 touchdowns, assuming the Beavers make a bowl game.

Next is Colorado’s Connor Wood. The Texas transfer is averaging 370 yards per game, which puts him on pace for 4,440 yards for the season.

If Goff and Mannion keep their pace, they’ll become the first duo from the same conference to throw for over 5,000 yards in the same season. If Wood stays on his pace, they will be the first trio from the same conference to throw for over 4,400 yards in a single season. There’s a decent chance that the conference could have as many as six quarterbacks with 4,000-plus yards.

Other prolific quarterbacks this year in the conference include Washington’s Keith Price (7th nationally, on pace for 4,329 yards), Taylor Kelly of Arizona State (11th nationally, on pace for 4,238 yards), Connor Halliday of WSU (15th nationally, on pace for 3,768 yards), Marcus Mariota of Oregon (19th nationally, on pace for 4,144 yards), Brett Hundley of UCLA (23rd nationally, on pace for 3,692 yards) and Utah’s Travis Wilson (26th nationally, on pace for 3,666 yards).

This list is even more impressive when you consider that Goff, Mariota, Hundley and Wilson are all either freshmen or sophomores.

Blame most of this offensive explosion on the changing of the guard in the coaching ranks that went on in the league recently. Sonny Dykes and Mike Leach brought the Air Raid offense to Cal and WSU, respectively. Noel Mazzone’s offensive style reigns at both UCLA and Arizona State. Dennis Erickson is helping to revive Utah’s offense. Colorado has ditched its pro-style scheme for a more wide open style. Rich Rodriguez has Arizona’s offense playing at a high level. Teams like Washington State and Oregon State are doing their best to keep up with the Joneses by tweaking what they do on offense. About the only teams refusing to go along with the new styles are Stanford and USC, both of which rank near the bottom of the conference in total offense.

The SEC became the hands-down best conference once it upgraded its coaches starting in 2005. Great head men like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban came aboard, which helped change the balance of power in the league and, hence, in college football (these two won five of the SEC’s seven BCS titles during its recent run). If the Pac-12’s flagship program — USC — finds its way and installs a quality coach, the conference might actually be able to challenge the SEC for conference supremacy.

MacIntyre’s debut a success as Colorado snaps eight-game losing streak by beating CSU

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What a difference a coach makes.

Mike MacIntyre’s debut as Colorado’s head man was a successful one as his revitalized Buffaloes beat in-state rival Colorado State, 41-27, on Sunday to snap the school’s eight-game losing streak. Colorado now leads the series between the two teams, 63-22-2.

The Buffs looked much improved over last season’s 1-11 squad, though it was admittedly hard to get much worse. But it’s worth noting that after turning the ball over 25 times during the eight-game skid, this rather young CU team didn’t lose the ball once against the Rams.

Quarterback Connor Wood was 33 of 46 for 400 yards and three touchdowns, including strikes of 75 and 82 yards to receiver Paul Richardson (10 catches, 208 yards), as the Buffaloes offense exploded for 513 yards of offense. It was an especially rewarding performance for Richardson, who is coming off a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last fall.

The Buffs defense held CSU to just 295 yards of offense and forced two fumbles, one of which was returned for a score by defensive back Greg Henderson. If not for a 74-yard punt return touchdown by Joe Hansley, CU would’ve allowed its fewest points since the 2011 season.

As it is, Colorado has already matched it’s win total from last year. MacIntyre, who helped lead San Jose State to an 11-2 mark in 2012, seems to have a real gift for resurrecting moribund programs. It’s only one game, but the Buffaloes look nothing like the pushover they’ve been the last couple years. While it’s going to take time for Colorado to return to its former glory, a win like this against a heated rival is just what the doctor ordered.

Colorado State has some work to do, too, as it must travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama on Sept. 21. One bright spot for the Rams was freshman punter Hayden Hunt, who averaged 49.7 yards on seven punts. He should be a busy man in three weeks.

Ex-Longhorn Connor Wood named Buffs’ starting QB

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During the offseason, Colorado lost two quarterbacks to transfer and their starter for the first nine games of a woeful 2012 season, Jordan Webb, tore an ACL during spring practice.

After all the turmoil and tumult of the past few months, the Buffs have some clarity at the position.

Continuing the string of similar announcements — or non-announcements as the case may be — CU confirmed late Monday morning that Connor Wood will start the opener against in-state rival Colorado State Sunday.  Wood’s backup will be true freshman Sefo Liufau, who won that job over JUCO transfer Jordan Gehrke and redshirt sophomore Stevie Joe Dorman.

“I’ve been pleased with his progress,” CU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “Attending the Manning Academy in the summer was really big for him, being around some starters from around the country. You could tell his confidence was boosted from that. And being selected a captain by his teammates – that’s as big an honor as you can have, in my opinion. It shows the confidence this team has in him.”

In August of 2011, Wood transferred from Texas to Colorado.  After sitting out that season, he started one game for the Buffs in 2012.

Wood was a four-star member of the Longhorns’ 2010 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country.  He plummeted to No. 4 on UT’s depth chart his true freshman season before leaving a year later.

Award named in honor of Earl Campbell releases inaugural watch list

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(Apologies; forgot to post this yesterday)

Just like bowl games, there’s another new postseason award that will be handed out after the end of the 2013 regular season.

After announcing its creation last August, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, by way of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce and SPORTyler, revealed Wednesday its inaugural watch list.  The initial group of players released by the Campbell Award consists of 35 players.

While the award ostensibly goes to the top offensive player in the country, it’s very much a Texas-centric trophy.  The release states that “the winner must meet one or more of the following criteria: born in Texas and/or graduated from a Texas High School and/or played at a Texas-based junior college or four-year college.”

As a result of that criteria, nine of the players are from the Big 12, while a total of 14 are from Texas-based FBS football programs.  The Pac-12 has five players on the list, while the Big Ten, Conference USA and Mountain West have four apiece.  One of the three SEC players to watch is, obviously, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.

A total of 13 running backs were recognized, followed by quarterbacks (10), wide receivers (eight), offensive linemen (three) and tight end (one).

The newest award is named in honor of, of course, the former Texas Longhorn legend and College Football Hall of Famer.  He earned the nickname “the Tyler Rose” coming out of high school in the Texas city.

Below is the inaugural Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award watch list:

· Ross Apo, BYU, WR
· David Ash, Texas, QB
· Kolton Browning, Louisiana-Monroe, QB
· Damon Bullock, Iowa, RB
· Shane Carden, East Carolina, QB
· Kasey Carrier, New Mexico, RB
· Tim Cornett, UNLV, RB
· Cody Davis, Purdue, OG
· Adam Dingwell, San Diego State, QB
· Cameron Fleming, Stanford, OT
· James Franklin, Missouri, QB
· Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa, WR
· Ryan Grant, Tulane, WR
· Deontay Greenbury, Houston, WR
· Marion Grice, Arizona State, RB
· John Hubert, Kansas State, RB
· Nathan Jeffrey, UTEP, RB
· Jeremy Johnson, SMU, WR
· Chuckie Keeton, Utah State, QB
· Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, QB
· Venric Mark, Northwestern, RB
· Ty Montgomery, Stanford, WR
· Casey Pachall, TCU, QB
· Lache Seastrunk, Baylor, RB
· Charles Sims, West Virginia, RB
· James Sims, Kansas, RB
· Eric Soza, UTSA, QB
· Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State, WR
· Travis Swanson, Arkansas, C
· Zachary Swanson, Virginia, TE
· Eric Ward, Texas Tech, WR
· James White, Iowa State, RB
· Rodrick Williams Jr., Minnesota, RB
· Connor Wood, Colorado, QB
· Storm Woods, Oregon State, RB