Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

ACC and SEC load up on Jim Thorpe Award semifinalists

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The Butkus Award semifinalists were announced Monday morning, and so too were the semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award. The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame announced the 15 names on the semifinalist list for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the top defensive back in college football.

The ACC and SEC each have four players appearing on the semifinalist list. The Big 12 and Pac-12 each have two players listed and the ACC, Big Ten and Conference USA each have one player. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard was named the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award, but an SEC player had won the award the previous four seasons.

Of the players listed as a semifinalist, Louisville’s Gerod Holliman and Senquez Golson of Ole Miss are tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions. Each player has eight picks this season and each has returned one of those turnovers for a touchdown. None of the players with two pick-sixes this season is a semifinalist for the award.

THORPE AWARD SEMIFINALISTS
Sam Carter, TCU, Sr.
Jeremy Cash, Duke, Jr.
Landon Collins, Alabama, Jr.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon, Sr.
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech, So.
Senquez Golson, Ole Miss, Sr.
Josh Hawkins, East Carolina, Jr.
Gerod Holliman, Louisville, Jr.
Ronald Martin, LSU, Sr.
Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss, Sr.
Jordan Richards, Stanford, Sr.
Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, So.
Triston Wade, UTSA, Sr.
Trae Waynes, Michigan State, Jr.
PJ Williams, Florida State, Jr.

350 players named to Senior Bowl watch list

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If you thought watch list season was over, think again. The Senior Bowl, the nation’s premiere college football all-star game, released a watch list with a massive list of players that will be eligible and scouted for the 2015 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. In all, 350 of the nation’s top seniors are named on the watch list, although other players may be added at any time just in case the folks at the senior Bowl happened to miss one of the seniors from around the country. Players from all levels of college football are considered for an invitation to the Senior Bowl, so the possibility exists for a Division 2 or Division 3 players to make a push out of nowhere for consideration.

The SEC has 75 players on the watch list, more than any other conference. The ACC (56), Pac-12 (40), Big 12 (36) and Big Ten (35) are all well-represented on the list. Clemson has the most players from one school on the list with 12 players named to the watch list, followed by Auburn (11), Alabama (10), Mississippi State (9), Georgia (8) and Louisville (8).

Many of the top names from around college football are included in the list, including Texas A&M left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, Florida State offensive tackle Cameron Erving, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley, Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker. Five Pac-12 quarterbacks are also on the list including Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley.

“With both of these players already graduated from college, we hope the opportunity to invite this duo will present itself through their play on the field in the Pac-12,” said Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage, speaking of Mariota and Hundley.

A total of 110 players will initially receive invites to the 2015 Senior Bowl. The game is generally attended very well by top players invited as it serves as the last major showcase for rookie NFL talent before the NFL Scouting Combine. The game is a big draw for NFL coaches and scouts and is the last chance to see players in pads and gear before the combine in Indianapolis.

You can check out the full watch list, and you can even break it down by position, conference or school for making browsing the list a bit easier.

Oregon reimburses insurance premiums for Marcus Mariota, three other players

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One of the newest trends in college football is for universities to use part of the athletic department’s student assistance fund to pay for the insurance premiums on policies taken out by football players with promising NFL futures. The Oregon Ducks are the latest to do so.

Four players from Oregon — quarterback Marcus Mariota, center Honriss Grasu, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and defensive end Arik Armstead — took out insurance policies for this season. Mariota, Grasu and Ekpre-Olomu did so after passing on the NFL for one more year in Eugene, Oregon. Armstead will be eligible for the NFL draft after this season, but his brother, Armond Armstead, once had to sit out an entire season due improper administration of painkillers and his family made sure to protect their younger son’s future.

The family of each of these players initially paid the premiums, because the university was worried about violating NCAA rules. Once the athletic department discovered they could use the money provided by the NCAA from the school’s student assistance fund to cover the cost, it chose to do so.

The athletic department released a statement Friday, “The UO athletic department is reimbursing four families of football players for out-of-pocket expenses related to the purchase of insurance policies for loss of future earnings in the event of an injury…”

The trend began when talented offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was lured back to Texas A&M with the promise to provide insurance in case of injury. Florida State may have bought itself another year or two by doing the same for quarterback Jameis Winston.

The estimated amount Oregon will pay for each of the four players wasn’t revealed, but, in the cases of Ogbuehi and Winston, their estimated premiums were over $50,000. Winston’s premium may even be near $60,000.

That’s a lot of bills for these current Ducks.

Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu coming back to Ducks in 2014

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Yesterday Oregon learned they would be losing De’Anthony Thomas to the NFL, but Monday brings some good news on the defensive side of the football. Defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has decided to return for one more year in Eugene and will be back on defense for the Ducks in 2014.

According to CSN Northwest, Ekpre-Olomu will be the only returning starter in the secondary for Oregon next season, so his veteran presence will be valuable as new faces fill in all across the field. In a statement shared by CSN Northwest, the desire to improve his overall skill before turning pro was a primary reason for returning to Oregon for his final year of eligibility.

“The two main factors related to my decision to return were my continued progression as a person and a player, and I felt Oregon was my best option to achieve those goals and improve my situation for next year,” Ekpre-Olomu told GoDucks. “I should be able to finish my degree by next fall, possibly by the end of the summer. Football is only one phase of who I am; my degree will be forever. Secondly was my ability to make an impact and become a top (draft) pick, and I felt staying one more year would only help me.”

If he entered the draft this season he may have been a late first round draft pick or early second round draft pick. this past season Ekpre-Olomu had three interceptions and 84 tackles.