Todd Gurley thinks Leonard Fournette should play football in 2016

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LSU running back Leonard Fournette was contained by an opposing defense for a second straight week, as the Tigers dropped a second straight game. Arkansas held Fournette to just 91 yards and  rushing touchdown in a week that also saw reports of LSU investigating Fournette’s family for possible NCAA rules violations related to the selling of merchandise. Still another year away from being able to declare early for the NFL Draft, the discussion of whether or not Fournette should sit out the 2016 season to focus on training for the NFL scouting combine may eventually pick up, and it has been mentioned before already. Such talk tends to be silly, but one current NFL running back has some advice for Fournette.

Speaking from experience, former Georgia running back and current St. Louis Ram Todd Gurley says he believes Fournette should absolutely play football in 2016.

Gurley jumped from Georgia into the 2015 NFL Draft last season, but he did so as a junior that was looking like a lock for a first round draft selection before tearing his ACL later in the season. Last season, Gurley was suspended for what turned out to be four games after he admitted to accepting money for autographs. In his first game back from the suspension, Gurley tore his ACL to end his once-promising season.

There may be some pressure from those connected to the NFL for Fournette to be the first player to actually sit out a college football season in order to train for the next level, but the odds of that actually happening may not be very good. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney was faced with similar pressure and attention, but the defensive end returned for one more season at South Carolina before entering the NFL Draft and becoming a top pick of the Houston Texans. Running backs have relatively short lifespans in the NFL, to staying healthy in college is key for many. Just ask Marcus Lattimore. Fournette may have little more to prove, but he don’t expect him to sit out the 2016 season in Baton Rouge.

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Heisman Watch List

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With the last two Heisman winners, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, off to the NFL, a fresh batch of contenders will make up the pool of preseason candidates to potentially take home the 2015 version of the Heisman Trophy.  And, perish the thought, a running back could actually (gasp!) claim an honor that’s become yet another annual quarterback award.

In fact, six running backs were among the baker’s dozen of favorites in the most recent set of Heisman odds released by Bovada.lv last month.  The other seven, of course, were quarterbacks.

With that as a backdrop, let’s take a snapshot look at a handful of players, in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone, who could become the next first-time winner of the most prestigious trophy in college football.

CARDALE “J.T.” JONES-BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
2014 STAT LINE: J.T. Barrett — 203-of-314 passing (64.7 percent), 2,834 yards, 34 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 171 carries for 938 yards (5.5 ypc), 11 touchdowns | Cardale Jones — 56-of-92 passing (60.9 percent), 860 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions; 72 carries for 296 yards (4.1 ypc), one touchdown.
QUICK HIT: By now, everyone knows the tale of these two quarterbacks’ tapes.  Barrett led the Buckeyes to the cusp of a College Football Playoff berth as he set a Big Ten record for total touchdowns in a season prior to sustaining a serious leg injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan.  That opened the door for Jones to shine in the postseason, helping OSU to three straight wins to claim its first national championship in over a decade.  Whoever wins the much-discussed starting job coming out of summer camp will be one of the in-season front-runners for this year’s version of the trophy — and I have a sneaking suspicion that player’s going to be Barrett.

TREVONE BOYKIN, QB, TCU
2014 STAT LINE: 301-of-492 passing (61.1 percent), 3,901 yards, 33 touchdowns, 11 interceptions; 152 carries for 707 yards (4.7 ypc), eight touchdowns.
QUICK HIT: The highest finisher in the Heisman voting last season (fourth) of any returning player this season, Boykin is poised to improve upon a breakout 2015 campaign.  Boykin will have the kind of pass/run totals that catch the eyes of voters, while his Horned Frogs will likely be ranked among the top two or three teams for a sizable chunk of the regular season, shining an even brighter spotlight on the player.  High-profile games against Minnesota, Oklahoma and Baylor won’t hurt his candidacy either — provided he rises to the occasion in winning efforts, of course.

NICK CHUBB, RB, GEORGIA
2014 STAT LINE: 219 carries for 1,547 yards (7.1 ypc), 14 touchdowns; 18 receptions for 213 yards, two touchdowns.
QUICK HIT: The first of three true sophomore backs on this list, one could make the argument that Chubb is the most talented of that trio.  He backed up such talk with an outstanding first season in Athens, with his 1,547 yards rushing serving as the second-most ever for an UGA freshman, behind only the 1,616 yards put up by the great Herschel Walker in 1980.  The most impressive part of Chubb’s debut?  He rushed for a modest 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the first five games of the 2014 season; then, after Todd Gurley went down for the rest of the season, ripped off 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns in the final eight games.  With the Bulldogs breaking in another starting quarterback, Chubb should once again be the focal point of the offense — and the opposing defense as well, to be fair.

CONNOR COOK, QB, MICHIGAN STATE
2014 STAT LINE: 212-of-365 passing (58.1 percent), 3,214 yards, 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions; 51 carries for 80 yards (1.6 ypc), two touchdowns.
QUICK HIT: The good news for any Heisman candidacy Cook entertains is that the Spartans should be good enough to be a Top-10 presence throughout most of the regular season.  The bad news?  Cook likely won’t put up the type of numbers that grab the attention of voters.  The past two seasons, he’s accounted for just under 6,000 yards passing and 46 touchdowns, while he’s ran for less than 160 yards and three touchdowns in that span.  Still, if he can lead MSU to an unbeaten regular season — that would mean an upset over the likely top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes — Cook, as a quarterback, will be in the thick of the Heisman discussion late into the year.

EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, OHIO STATE
2014 STAT LINE: 273 carries for 1,878 yards (6.9 ypc) and 18 touchdowns; 28 receptions for 220 yards.
QUICK HIT: Prior to last month’s set of odds, Bovada had Elliott tapped as its Heisman wagering front-runner on two different occasions.  That status made sense, given how the true junior was coming off a postseason in which he ripped off nearly 700 yards in wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.  With all of attention now focused squarely on the quarterback situation in Buckeye Land, Elliott stands the best chance of any player to break the stranglehold quarterbacks have on the award, a streak that now stretches back five years since Alabama running back Mark Ingram won the honor in 2009.

LEONARD FOURNETTE, RB, LSU
2014 STAT LINE
: 187 carries for 1,034 yards (5.5 ypc), 10 touchdowns; seven receptions for 127 yards.
QUICK HIT
: If Chubb isn’t the most talented super soph back in the country, this guy is.  His ill-timed Heisman pose notwithstanding, Fournette was mostly up in an up-and-down start to a much-hyped debut.  Fournette had five 100-yard rushing efforts last year, with four coming in the second half of the season.  On the flip side, he was held to 50 or fewer yards five times, with the lowpoint coming on a five-carry, nine-yard performance in a 17-o loss to Arkansas in mid-November.  His two top rushing performances, though, came in the last two games of the season — 146 vs. Texas A&M, 143 vs. Notre Dame — so he had some modicum of momentum heading into the offseason.

CODY KESSLER, QB, USC
2014 STAT LINE: 315-of-452 passing (69.7 percent), 3,826 yards, 39 touchdowns, five interceptions; 55 carries for -152 yards (-2.9 ypc), two touchdowns.
QUICK HIT: For whatever reason, and despite outstanding numbers, Kessler was on the outside of the Heisman discussion looking in last season.  With the Trojans expected to be a much-improved squad, to the point where they could very well spend a considerable amount of time in and around the Top 10, Kessler should be a season-long presence in the stiff-armed talk.  Perhaps the biggest question mark for Kessler is whether or not the skill players around him can help him get back to, or surpass, his 2014 production as his rushing prowess — or lack thereof — won’t gain him any points with the voters.

SAMAJE PERINE, RB, OKLAHOMA
2014 STAT LINE: 263 carries for 1,713 yards (6.5 ypc), 21 touchdowns; 15 receptions for 198 yards.
QUICK HIT: If Chubb or Fournette aren’t the most talented sophomore back in the nation, Norman’s finest would certainly qualify for that honor.  Perine, of course, set an FBS single-game rushing record with his 427 yards in a late October win over Kansas.  That yardage was part of a four-game stretch in which he ran for 925 yards — and 10 touchdowns for good measure — to close out the 2014 season.  As Perine didn’t become a focal point of the offense until a third of the season was in the books, he should have the kind of full-season numbers that puts him squarely in the Heisman mix.

DAK PRESCOTT, QB, MISSISSIPPI STATE
2014 STAT LINE:
QUICK HIT: Prescott was one of the Heisman favorites for the first month and a half of the 2014 season before the combination of the MSU quarterback stumbling a bit and the rise of Mariota put an end to any such talk.  Still, he nearly became one of just a handful of FBS quarterbacks to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.  Prescott’s plummet from the Heisman radar coincided with his Bulldogs’ tumbling from a No. 1 ranking; if MSU can avoid such a swoon again, Prescott will be in the discussion yet again.

DESHAUN WATSON, QB, CLEMSON
2014 STAT LINE: 93-of-137 passing (67.9 percent), 1,466 yards, 14 touchdowns, two interceptions;
QUICK HIT: There seems to be little question about Watson’s talent level; as a true freshman, he was wise beyond his years in seeing the field and had the production to match it.  If the injury-plagued Watson had played just one snap in one additional game, even if he didn’t attempt a pass, his pass efficiency rating of 188.6 would’ve been the best in the country, ahead of Mariota‘s 184.4.  The biggest “if,” though, when it comes to Watson is his health as he missed five full games and parts of two others with injuries.  If he can stay healthy, Watson possesses the type of talent that can get him into and keep him in the Heisman discussion for the better part of the upcoming season.

SCOOBY WRIGHT, LB, ARIZONA
2014 STAT LINE:
QUICK HIT: A defensive player will ultimately win the most prestigious award in the country, right?  Right?!?!?  If one should happen to break through this season, Wright, a former two-star recruit, could very well be the one on that side of the ball.  As a sophomore last season, Wright seemingly came out of nowhere to finish ninth in the Heisman voting as just a sophomore.  He led the nation in tackles and forced fumbles on his way to winning three of the top honors a defensive player can claim in the game — the Bronko Nagurski trophy, the Lombardi award and the Chuck Bednarik award. Thanks in part to his status as an “underdog,” Wright, if he can match his performance from a year ago, stands a good chance to improve upon that ninth-place finish this season.

Former UNC, Marshall DB arrested for violating North Carolina sports agent law

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Former North Carolina and Rutgers defensive back Chris Hawkins appeared in an Orange County, N.C., court via teleconference Tuesday after he was arrested for acting as an agent and violating North Carolina law for attempting to lure college athletes to break NCAA agent rules, according to the Associated Press.

Hawkins has been charged with contacting former Tar Heels defensive end Robert Quinn on behalf of an agent by providing $13,700 in cash and helping Quinn secure another $1,700 through selling game-used equipment. He has also been charged with contacting UNC defensive back Jabari Price without being an agent and intentionally failing to register as an agent. The latter two charges are misdemeanors.

The Hawkins case is part of a larger probe by the North Carolina Secretary of State office for violating agent contact laws in the Tar Heel state. Quinn, along with defensive lineman Marvin Austin and wide receiver Greg Little, were suspended by the NCAA for violating the organization’s impermissible benefits bylaws. Little and Quinn were ruled ineligible by the NCAA, while UNC kicked Austin off the team. Ultimately all there were banished from the North Carolina athletics program.

Forty-three states have such laws regulating contact by agents, though anecdotal evidence says North Carolina’s are the most stringent. The state of Georgia recently adopted the Todd Gurley” bill, which criminalizes the attempt to lure college athletes to accept benefits deemed impermissible by the NCAA.

As for Hawkins, Tuesday was just the initial appearance for his case, where District Court Judge Beverly Scarlett secured a $300,000 bond.

 

Georgia governor signs ‘Todd Gurley bill’ into law

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Why have the NCAA’s asinine rules survived decade after decade and well beyond their usefulness? Perhaps because so many people outside the blue disc’s Indianapolis headquarters and compliance offices on campuses across the country are so interested in helping them.

Exhibit A: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

On Thursday, Deal signed into law a bill making the crime of enticing athletes into breaking NCAA rules in exchange for money punishable by up to a full year in the slammer. It’s known as House Bill 3, or the Todd Gurley bill.

Gurley, of course, was the fabulously talented running back who had the middle of his junior season detonated with a four-game suspension for accepting more than $3,000 for autographed memorabilia.

So, should an enterprising autograph dealer secure some signed Keith Marshall helmets next year, Marshall could be on the sidelines while Johnny Autograph sits in jail.

But wait, there’s more.

“We plugged it into a law about alumni being overzealous,” state Rep. Barry Fleming, the driving force behind the law, told the Associated Press. “Now it’s a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. It can be up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“On the civil side, the university can sue the person who does this for any damages sustained, like losing a TV contract, not going to bowl games.”

Who, exactly, are we protecting here?

Pac-12, ACC lead way with nine first-round picks

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Many of us watching college football maintained the Pac-12 was college football’s strongest conference in 2014. The NFL agreed – but it also liked the ACC a whole heck of a lot, too.

The Pac-12 and ACC led all conferences with nine selections apiece. The Pac-12’s nine selections was the most it has ever had according to ESPN’s research department. The SEC, normally the far-and-away leader of this category, followed with seven. The Big Ten claimed three picks, followed by the Big 12 and American with two each.

A few notes:

– The Big 12 narrowly avoids its worst first-round ever: Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown snuck into the first round at No. 32, the Longhorns’ first pick since 2013.

– ACC leads off for the first time in a while: As widely expected, the Tampa Bay Bucs lead off the night by taking Florida State’s Jameis Winston. He became the ACC’s first No. 1 pick since the Texans grabbed N.C. State’s Mario Williams in 2006. Winston also became just the fourth player ever to complete the trio of a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a No. 1 NFL Draft pick.

– Just because you have good players doesn’t mean you’re good: Al Golden‘s 6-7 Miami team had two first-round picks in offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and wide receiver Philip Dorsett. So did 4-8 Florida with defensive lineman Dante Fowler, Jr. and offensive lineman D.J. Humphries. Washington led all teams with three picks – defensive lineman Danny Shelton, cornerback Marcus Peters and linebacker Shaq Thompson – despite going 8-6 and posting a losing Pac-12 record.

– Other schools with multiple selections: Florida State (Winston, Cameron Erving), Clemson (Vic Beasley/Stephone Anthony), USC (Leonard Williams/Nelson Agholor) and Oregon (Marcus Mariota/Arik Armstead) Speaking of the Oregon…

– Chip Kelly just can’t help himself. Eventually there will come a time when the Pac-12 is no longer stocked with players the former Oregon coach recruited and/or coached against. Until then it’s insider trading in Philadelphia as Kelly nabbed USC’s Agholor.

– Duke is off the clock: Laken Tomlinson‘s selection was the Blue Devils’ first first-rounder in the lifetime of its entire roster.

For those of you living under a rock, here’s how the first round played out:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, Florida State
2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, Oregon
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, Alabama
5. Washington Redskins – Brandon Scherff, Iowa
6. New York Jets – Leonard Williams, USC
7. Chicago Bears – Kevin White, West Virginia
8. Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, Clemson
9. New York Giants – Ereck Flowers, Miami
10. St. Louis Rams – Todd Gurley, Georgia
11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, Michigan State
12. Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, Washington
13. New Orleans Saints – Andrus Peat, Stanford
14. Miami Dolphins – DeVante Parker, Louisville
15. San Diego Chargers – Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
16. Houston Texans – Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
17. San Francisco 49ers – Arik Armstead, Oregon
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Marcus Peters, Washington
19. Cleveland Browns – Cameron Erving, Florida State
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Nelson Agholor, USC
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Bud Dupree, Kentucky
23. Denver Broncos – Shane Ray, Missouri
24. Arizona Cardinals – D.J. Humphries, Florida
25. Carolina Panthers – Shaq Thompson, Washington
26. Baltimore Ravens – Breshad Perryman, Central Florida
27. Dallas Cowboys – Byron Jones, Connecticut
28. Detroit Lions – Laken Tomlinson, Duke
29. Indianapolis Colts – Phillip Dorsett, Miami
30. Green Bay Packers – Damarious Randall, Arizona State
31. New Orleans Saints – Stephone Anthony, Clemson
32. New England Patriots – Malcom Brown, Texas