Vonn Bell

Surprise! Mountain West leads all conferences on Jim Thorpe Award watch list

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Today may be the beginning of college football’s media day season, but it also marks the continuation of watch list season. Today’s watch list reveal came from the Jim Thorpe Award, which named 42 of college football’s top defensive backs. In what may be considered a bit of a surprise as far as watch lists go, the Mountain West Conference landed the most players on the watch list for the award. Take that power conferences!

Six players from the MWC appear on the watch list, including a pair of players from Boise State (Donte Deayon, Darian Thompson). The ACC and Pac-12 each had five players on the watch list, including 2014 semifinalists Jeremy Cash (Duke) and Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech). The Big 12, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt Conference each have four players on the watch list, and the Big Ten, SEC and American Athletic Conference each have three.

2015 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List

Ishmael Adams, UCLA
Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
Tony Annese, Central Michigan
Budda Baker, Washington
Adairius Barnes, Louisiana Tech
Dante Barnett, Kansas State
Vonn Bell, Ohio State
Quin Blanding, Virginia
Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee
Michael Caputo, Wisconsin
Jeremy Cash, Duke
Tony Conner, Ole Miss
Donte Deayon, Boise State
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Nate Holley, Kent State
Adoreé Jackson, USC
William Jackson, Houston
Randall Jette, Massachusetts
Jonathan Jones, Auburn
Karl Joseph, West Virginia
Damontae Kazee, San Diego State
Montres Kitchens, Troy
Mitch Lane, ULM
Richard Leonard, FIU
William Likely, Maryland
Paris Logan, Northern Illinois
Trent Matthews, Colorado State
Adrian McDonald, Houston
Doug Middleton, Appalachian State
David Mims II, Texas State
Fabian Moreau, UCLA
Parry Nickerson, Tulane
Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
Max Redfield, Notre Dame
Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
Jordan Simone, Arizona State
Weston Steelhammer, Air Force
Darian Thompson, Boise State
JJ Whittaker, San Diego State
Xavier Woods, Louisiana Tech

Questionable calls in Happy Valley show it’s time for centralized instant replay


Ohio State managed to escape State College last night with a double overtime victory over Penn State. The victory came with the help of some questionable officiating

Ohio State’s Vonn Bell picked off a pass from Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg on the first offensive series of the game. The interception was questionable enough to call for an instant replay review by the Big Ten officials. Video of the play has even Ohio State faithful believing the Buckeyes received a gift early on in the game. The video replay process was hindered in Beaver Stadium by the lack of the proper replay feeds being available for the replay official.

John O’Neill, who was the on-field official in State College, confirmed after the game to a pool reporter the replay was not thoroughly reviewed.

“The play technically was not thoroughly reviewed due to some technical difficulties with the equipment,” O’Neill said after the game. Asked if there are any provisions to receive any other replay feeds available in the stadium (perhaps the one showing on the national broadcast or the one airing on those big fancy HD scoreboards in the stadium), O’Neill said that was not possible.

“The feeds that the replay team looks at are the feeds you get at home,” O’Neill explained. “We can’t create our own rules. The replay rules are clear that we have to use the equipment provided. So, and the team reviewed what they had.”

Ohio State ended up turning that questionable interception into a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. Ohio State also successfully kicked a 49-yard field goal later in the first half, although the kick appeared to be kicked two seconds after the play clock had expired. Again, this was easily captured on TV but missed on the field of play. O’Neill explained there was no review of that call.

Replay official Tom Fiedler went a little more in-depth in explaining why the field goal was not reviewed, saying the play is not a reviewable play.

“That is not reviewable in terms of when the ball is snapped in relationship to the zeros on the clock,” Fiedler said to the pool reporter after the game.

It was a bad night for the officials, who also awarded each team a timeout in the fourth quarter without either team asking for one, missing what looked to be an eye gouging by a Penn State player on J.T. Barrett as well as a crucial false start on Ohio State on third down.

Bad penalties and missed calls happen in every game. Every conference has officials that will have errors magnified in today’s modern world of instant reaction and multiple viewing angles and so on. But there is zero reason for an instant replay official not to have any feed it needs to do its job in today’s world, and there is no excuse for any one of the officials on the field to miss the play clock expiring.

Whether the Big Ten will address these controversial calls remains to be seen. Last week we saw the Big 12 go on record defending its replay officials for attempting to correct errors on the field in a Baylor-West Virginia game. If nothing else, perhaps it is becoming more likely conferences will begin to think about moving all instant replays to a neutralized location, as is done in the NHL, Major League Baseball and he NFL. Power conferences like the Big Ten have the ability to do just that, and there will never be an issue regarding video feed if they do. Every conference should at least consider it as a possibility.

MCL injury sidelines Ohio State safety for spring


Ohio State safety Vonn Bell had knee surgery Thursday to repair a sprained MCL suffered in the first spring practice of the year for the Buckeyes. Multiple reports have said Bell will be out for the remainder of the spring practice schedule in Columbus.

Bell, a sophomore, got his first start for the Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl in January, and he was expected to be a favorite to land one of the starting jobs at the safety position this fall. A former five-star recruit, the potential was high for Bell going in to the spring. There will be plenty of time to rehab and get back in to good shape for the fall. Ohio State expects Bell to be able to workout again in May.

According to Cleveland.com, sophomore Cam Burrows will likely get some more reps in spring practices with the first team defense. The former cornerback was already working on switching positions and competing with Bell and Tyvis Powell for a starting job at safety.