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Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

WATCH: Memphis head coach Mike Norvell surprises walk-on with scholarship at community service event

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Memphis defensive lineman Joseph Dorceus thought he was accompanying Tigers head coach Mike Norvell to a community service event at a Memphis restaurant.

Turns out, Dorceus was the evening’s honoree, as Norvell surprised the walk-on with a scholarship.

Norvell surprised Dorceus, a walk-on, with a scholarship

“The work that you put in, and everything you mean to not only me, but our football program, and today all these people are here celebrating you, because now you are officially on a full scholarship here at the University of Memphis,” Norvell said.

A redshirt sophomore from Spring, Texas, Dorceus appeared in 11 games and collected 16 tackles with one sack and five TFLs in 2017. His older brother, Doroland Dorceus, played for Memphis from 2013-17.

‘Personal reasons’ lead Houston’s leading rusher to leave team

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Well, this is certainly an interesting, and wholly unexpected, development.

According to multiple media outlets, running back Duke Catalon has decided to leave the Houston football program for what were described only as personal reasons.  The football program hasn’t yet, at least publicly, addressed the running back’s status with the team moving forward.

It’s also unclear at this point whether this would be a temporary or permanent departure.

Catalon was originally a four-star signee as part of Texas’ 2014 recruiting class who transferred to UH in August of 2015.

After sitting out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Catalon led the Cougars in rushing each of the past two seasons.  Catalon, who would be entering 2018 as a fifth-year senior, ran for 637 yards this past season and 528 the year before.  In 2016, he was also fourth on the team with 44 receptions out of the backfield.

Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta steals show in Senior Bowl; Baker Mayfield leaves early

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The Senior Bowl can be a terrific opportunity for top senior prospects from the lower divisions of football to make a serious impact in the NFL draft cycle. On Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, it was Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta who shined the brightest in the annual Senior Bowl. Lauletta passed for a game-high 198 yards and three touchdowns to help the team of top seniors from the South blow out the North, 45-16.

Lauletta, the CAA Offensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-CAA, took advantage of the opportunity against some of the top senior players college football had to offer in the top all-star game college football has. Lauletta connected on some big plays to LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark (who had five receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown). Lauletta was named the Senior Bowl MVP for his performance.

Lauletta also showed off the ability to send a laser into the end zone when needed.

The South also got a big game out of Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White, who completed eight of his 11 pass attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown. It was White who was one of the stars of the first half of the game. San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny was also making plays all day long, ending his final college game with 64 rushing yards on nine attempts and one 73-yard touchdown reception (after Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert made a nice play to avoid pressure).

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen had a slow start to the game once coming into the game for the North, but he was in control in the second half. Allen threw both of his touchdowns in the third quarter before ending his day with 158 yards and 9-of-13 passing.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield started the game for the North team but appeared just for a couple of offensive series before leaving the game late in the first quarter and then leaving the stadium entirely at halftime. After completing three of seven pass attempts for nine yards, Mayfield’s exit from the Senior Bowl came quickly. Mayfield reportedly left the stadium to return home to be with his mother, who was recently hospitalized for a heart condition. Washington State quarterback Luke Falk left Mobile, Alabama on Friday to attend the funeral services for former teammate Tyler Hilinski.

South Alabama safety Jeremy Reaves had a solid outing in his home stadium. Reaves was tasked with covering Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki in coverage, and Reaves broke up two passes intended for one of the top tight ends in the country, including one on a two-point conversion try in the third quarter. Not too many players managed to cover Gesicki that well the past couple of seasons. Reaves also came up with an interception of Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee later in the third quarter.

Other players having solid outings included Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage (10 carries for 57 yards), Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup (3 receptions for 60 yards), and UCF wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (5 receptions, 79 yards, 1 TD).

There was a moment of comedy late in the game when UCF’s Shaquem Griffen was doing a sideline interview for the NFL Network. While discussing his chances of being invited to the NFL Combine and his tackling techniques, Griffen was alerted he was supposed to be on the field for punt coverage, which sent Griffen scrambling to get on the field before being pulled back to the sideline.

After having great weather all week long, the Senior Bowl moved to a running clock in the second half as the weather continued to turn nasty. And now, another Senior Bowl is in the books as some of the top seniors in college football now officially move on to pursue their NFL dreams.

Record number of players on NFL’s official early-entry list for 2018 draft

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If it seemed to you like there were an inordinate number of early cannonballers jumping into the draft pool, you were correct.

Four days after the Jan. 15 deadline, the NFL Friday announced that 106 players have been granted special eligibility for the April draft.  That sets a new record for early entrants, breaking the mark of 98 set in 2014.  The past two seasons, there were 95 and 96 in 2017 and 2016, respectively.  In 2015, there were just 74.

The SEC was hit hardest by attrition with 26 players leaving early, although the ACC wasn’t far behind at 24.  The Pac-12 was next among the Power Five conferences with 17, followed by the Big 12’s 13 and the Big Ten’s 11.

Among Group of Five leagues, Conference USA lost the most with four.  The Mountain West saw three go early, with the AAC (two), MAC (one) and Sun Belt (one) coming next in line.  There were also two non-FBS players who left early, as well as two from Notre Dame.

As far as individual schools go, there were three that lost six apiece — Florida State, LSU and Texas.  Alabama lost five, while Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC all lost four apiece.  Clemson, Florida, Louisville, Stanford and Tennessee were on the losing end of three players each.

In addition to the 106 granted special eligibility — they’ll be listed at the end — the NFL also granted eligibility to 13 players who the league writes “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements.” Those players are listed below:

» Jordan Akins, TE, UCF
» Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
» Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
» Will Clapp, C, LSU
» Terrell Edmunds, DB, Virginia Tech
» Taylor Hearn, G, Clemson
» Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
» Sam Jones, G, Arizona State
» Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
» Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh
» Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
» Tre'Quan Smith, WR, UCF
» Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Courtesy of the NFL, below is the complete list of 106 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft:

» Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
» Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, DE, Toledo
» Jaire Alexander, DB, Louisville
» Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
» Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas
» Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
» Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
» Jessie Bates, DB, Wake Forest
» Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
» Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
» Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
» Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
» Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
» Geron Christian, T, Louisville
» Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
» Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
» Vosean Crumbie, DB, Nevada
» J.J. Dallas, DB, Louisiana-Monroe
» James Daniels, C, Iowa
» Sam Darnold, QB, USC
» Carlton Davis, DB, Auburn
» Michael Dickson, P, Texas
» Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
» DeShon Elliott, DB, Texas
» Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
» Matt Fleming, WR, Benedictine
» Nick Gates, T, Nebraska
» Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee
» Frank Ginda, LB, San Jose State
» Rasheem Green, DT, USC
» Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
» Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama
» Quadree Henderson, WR, Pittsburgh
» Holton Hill, DB, Texas
» Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State
» Jeff Holland, LB, Auburn
» Mike Hughes, DB UCF
» Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
» Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky
» Ryan Izzo, TE, FSU
» Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
» J.C. Jackson, DB, Maryland
» Josh Jackson, DB, Iowa
» Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
» Derwin James, DB, FSU
» Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
» Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
» Courtel Jenkins, DT, Miami
» Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
» Ronald Jones, RB, USC
» John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
» Arden Key, LB, LSU
» Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
» Du’Vonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
» Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
» Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
» Tavares Martin, WR, Washington State
» Hercules Mata’afa, DE, Washington State
» Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson
» Tarvarus McFadden, DB, Florida State
» R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
» Reginald McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
» Quenton Meeks, DB, Stanford
» Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
» D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
» Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State
» Nick Nelson, DB, Wisconsin
» Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
» Isaiah Oliver, DB, Colorado
» Dwayne Orso-Bacchus, T, Oklahoma
» Da’Ron Payne, NT, Alabama
» Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
» Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
» Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
» D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State
» Justin Reid, DB, Stanford
» Will Richardson, T, NC State
» Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
» Austin Roberts, TE, UCLA
» Korey Robertson, WR, Southern Miss
» Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
» Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
» Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
» Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
» Andre Smith, LB, UNC
» Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
» Van Smith, DB, Clemson
» Breeland Speaks, DE, Ole Miss
» Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
» Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
» Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
» Maea Teuhema, T, Southeastern Louisiana
» Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
» Kevin Toliver, DB, LSU
» Travonte Valentine, NT, LSU
» Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
» Vita Vea, NT, Washington
» Mark Walton, RB, Miami
» Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State
» Chris Warren, RB, Texas
» Toby Weathersby, T, LSU
» Jordan Whitehead, DB, Pittsburgh
» JoJo Wicker, DT, Arizona State
» Jalen Wilkerson, DE, Florida State
» Connor Williams, T, Texas
» Eddy Wilson, DT, Purdue