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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

Baylor’s Matt Rhule on Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd: ‘He will be an elite wide receiver’

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Baylor’s secret weapon for the upcoming season may very well be somebody who Tennessee fans are intimately familiar with: former Vols tailback Jalen Hurd.

In a lengthy article on Bleacher Report on Hurd’s decision to change positions and enroll in Waco, Bears head coach Matt Rhule did not seem to downplay expectations for one of his likely starters this fall and lobbed some pretty high praise on the former five-star recruit who had a rather controversial exit from Knoxville two years ago.

“He’s going to play a long time in the NFL—as a wide receiver,” said Rhule. “He will be an elite wide receiver.”

Hurd announced he was transferring in the middle of the 2017 season and eventually settled on a rather surprising move to Baylor. He racked up 2,635 yards and 20 touchdowns in three years as a Vol runner but has apparently slimmed down by 20 pounds and shown off surprising agility in the passing game during his time sitting out a season in Waco.

The entire piece is well worth a read on the why Hurd wound up playing where he is and why the big change to catching passes instead of running the ball between the tackles. NFL scouts don’t seem entirely convinced until he’s actually impressed on the field this season but Rhule, while no doubt wanting to talk up his player, does have pro coaching experience to lean on when evaluating players.

Either way, Hurd figures to be one of the more interesting players in the Big 12 given his very unique career path up to this point.

WVU QB Grier, TCU DE Banogu headline Preseason All-Big 12 team

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The puffs of white smoke continue to fly out the chimney, and we got a big one on Wednesday with the first unveiling of a conference’s Preseason All-Big 12 team. It’s just a preseason team, yes, but it’s actual football talk about the actual season that’s actually about to happen…. in seven more weeks.

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier earned Preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors and TCU defensive end Ben Banogu garnered Defensive Player of the Year accolades. Grier is easily the pass-happy conference’s leading returning passer; his 3,490 yards from 2017 place him more than 1,500 yards ahead of the pass-happy conference’s second-leading returning passer in Texas’s Sam Ehlinger (1,915 yards). Banogu leads all returning pass rushers with 8.5 sacks in 2017.

Oklahoma defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles, a freshman from Inglewood, Calif., by way of IMG Academy, earned Newcomer of the Year honors. Radley-Hiles was the 38th-rated player in the 247Sports Composite rankings for the 2018 class; for what it’s worth, three Big 12 signees ranked higher in Texas safeties Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster and Oklahoma offensive tackle Brey Walker.

The 3-time defending Big 12 champion Sooners placed five players on the Preseason All-Big 12 offense and none on the defensive side. Texas Tech did not have a single player placed on the offense but put three players on defense.

Here’s how the full teams break out.

OFFENSE
QB Will Grier, West Virginia
RB David Montgomery, Iowa State
RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
WR Denzel Mims, Baylor
WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
WR David Sills V, West Virginia
TE Grant Calcaterra, Oklahoma
OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State
OL Bobby Evans, Oklahoma
OL Ben Powers, Oklahoma
OL Marcus Keyes, Oklahoma State
OL Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia

DEFENSE
DL JaQuan Bailey, Iowa State
DL Daniel Wise, Kansas
DL Jordan Brailford, Oklahoma State
DL Ben Banogu, TCU
DL Breckyn Hager, Texas
LB Joe Dineen, Jr., Kansas
LB Dakota Allen, Texas Tech
LB David Long, Jr., West Virginia
DB Brian Peavy, Iowa State
DB Kendall Adams, Kansas State
DB Kris Boyd, Texas
DB Jah’Shawn Johnson, Texas Tech
DB Justus Parker, Texas Tech

SPECIALISTS
P Austin Seibert, Oklahoma
PK Austin Siebert, Oklahoma
PR/KR KaVontae Turpin, TCU

Nation’s leading receivers named among 10 Biletnikoff Award semifinalists

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The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation has trimmed down the list of the nation’s top receivers to 10 semifinalists for this year’s Biletnikoff Award. The award doesn’t necessarily have to go to a wide receiver, but this year’s award will maintain that tradition with 10 semifinalists all playing the wide receiver position.

Among the semifinalists are the nation’s leading receiver, Colorado State’s Michael Gallup (1,298 yards), the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns, West Virginia’s David Sills V (18 touchdowns), and the nation’s leader in receptions per game, SMU’s Trey Quinn (9.6 receptions per game). The semifinalist list also includes key players on conference contenders like Deontay Burnett of USC and James Washington of Oklahoma State.

A Big 12 receiver has won the award each of the past two seasons, so that may be good news for one of the three semifinalists from the Big 12 this season. Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook won the award a year ago, preceded by Baylor’s Corey Coleman in 2015.A Big 12 player has won the award a total of six times since 2007, with Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon each winning the award twice.

2017 Biletnikoff Semifinalists

  • Darren Andrews, UCLA
  • A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
  • Deontay Burnett, USC
  • Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
  • Michael Gallup, Colorado State
  • Steve Ishmael, Syracuse
  • Anthony Miller, Memphis
  • Trey Quinn, SMU
  • David Sills, West Virginia
  • James Washington, Oklahoma State

Josh Gordon says Baylor assistant helped him cheat drug tests

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It’s been a while, relatively speaking, since there’s been a negative story regarding Baylor football, so I guess you could say we were due.

In a book released in late August on the sexual assault scandal at Baylor, the athletic department’s drug testing policy, or lack thereof, came under heavy fire.  It was alleged that the program circumvented the university’s harsh policy on drugs — one positive test for marijuana resulted in a semester suspension, a second likely expulsion — by avoiding random drug testing.  Not all of the random tests were avoided, however, as former Bear wide receiver Josh Gordon was dismissed from the team in August of 2011 after he failed a second test.

Now attempting a comeback in the NFL — the 26-year-old hasn’t played in a game since 2014 because of drug suspensions — Gordon opened up to Uninterrupted.com in a documentary that debuted Tuesday morning, telling the website among other things that, while at BU, an unidentified Bears assistant coach helped him pass what otherwise would’ve been failed drug tests.

From the Akron Beacon Journal:

Not too long after I got arrested for possession of marijuana at Baylor, one of my coaches came by saying, ‘You are going to get drug tested by the compliance office. This is how it’s going to work. This is what they are going to do. If they do call you in, here goes these bottles of detox,’” Gordon said. “He showed me how to drink them, showed me how to take them. That was my first real experience with getting over on the system and that authority not really being taken serious because it was kind of being guided by somebody that’s employed by the same university.”

Gordon explained he failed a drug test at Baylor when he ran out of the masking agent and the coach didn’t replenish his supply in time.

“I failed the drug test because I was getting high,” Gordon added with a laugh.

Since last year’s purge of the football program and athletic department, the university has revamped its drug policies when it comes to student-athletes.  ESPN.com has the details of that new policy:

It calls for a six-month probationary period for the first positive test for marijuana; one year of probation and ban for 33 percent of competition for a second; one-year ban and probation for a third; and dismissal from the team for a fourth. There are more severe penalties for using street drugs other than marijuana, including a one-year ban for a second positive test and dismissal from the team after a third.