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SEC passes changes to intra-conference transfer rules, players no longer must sit out a year

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It’s been a rather sleepy set of league-wide meetings for the SEC in their annual retreat in Destin, Florida but the conference did release some rather notable changes to their rules on Friday that will be a net positive for several players. Most notably, that includes transfers who will no longer have to sit out a season when moving from one conference school to another.

At the heart of the matter is Alabama offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, who announced his transfer out of Tuscaloosa last month but has been seemingly in limbo awaiting a change to the SEC’s rules so that he could play immediately at either Tennessee or Auburn. Naturally, Nick Saban is not super happy at that possibility and has been upholding the league rules to block Kennedy from doing just that but Friday’s decision means it’s now out of the coach’s hands.

Also affected by the change should be former Ole Miss wideout Van Jefferson. He made the move to Florida following NCAA sanctions being announced on the Rebels but was similarly stuck in a bit of limbo trying to be eligible right away for the Gators.

The rules changes announced by the SEC are really just getting ahead of broader changes coming to the NCAA level in the coming months. Many coaches have been pushing back against a number of these ideas but it’s pretty clear by the vote coming out Destin that they’re going to be on the losing end of this battle.

That’s good news for players everywhere as they get a bit more freedom to pick where they want to play in the future.

J.T. Ibe becomes third former Rice player in two days to announce graduate transfer

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It’s Selection Sunday weekend in college basketball, but in college football we’re celebrating a different holiday. It’s Former Rice Owls Announce Graduate Transfers To Power 5 Institutions Weekend. (Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?)

After left tackle Calvin Anderson — arguably the most sought-after non-quarterback graduate transfer in the rule’s history — announced his commitment to Texas on Saturday and defensive lineman Preston Gordon revealed his commitment to Texas Tech, former Owls safety J.T. Ibe confirmed he is leaving for South Carolina.

“I love the environment of the coaches and players,” Ibe told GamecockCentral.com. “I want to play the biggest football and compete to win an SEC championship.”

In Ibe, South Carolina adds an experienced player to a green secondary. The Mansfield, Texas, native appeared in 33 career games for the Owls and registered 42 tackles with one forced fumble in 2017.

South Carolina loses both starting safeties — D.J. Smith and Chris Lammons — to graduation from the 2017 team. Ibe figures to compete with a fellow senior transfer Keisean Nixon or junior Javon Charleston for a starting spot.

Antonio Callaway takes some blame for Jim McElwain losing his job at Florida

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The Florida Gators turned the page on the 2017 season by attempting to breathe new life into the program coming off a tumultuous season on and off the field. A season was essentially lost before it ever could truly get going when wide receiver Antonio Callaway was suspended for the season as part of a felony fraud case and a drug charge over the summer, as well as being connected to a Title IX investigation. As the now former Gator prepares for the NFL, he is faced with questions regarding his past in Gainesville, and he is shouldering blame on his shoulders for how it all came to an end for Jim McElwain as head coach of the Gators.

As reported by Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter Trevor Sikkema, via Twitter, Callaway says McElwain may still be the head coach at Florida (and not an assistant coach at Michigan) if Callaway played last season.

Callaway may not be too far off the mark. Callaway was the explosive playmaker Florida desperately needed last season. Callaway was Florida’s leading receiver in 2016 with 721 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore and a team-high 678 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. Callaway also returned two punts for touchdowns in 2015, proving to be a threat any time he stepped foot on the field during his two seasons on the field at Florida. Would Callaway have been able to turn a team that went 4-7 into a team that could muster together enough wins to save McElwain’s job?

Considering Florida lost three of their seven games by a single score, the case could be made that Callaway may have been able to save McElwain’s job. But McElwain pretty much talked his own way out of the job by throwing out the idea his family was being targeted and never being able to provide the evidence asked of him.

Florida replaced McElwain with Dan Mullen, previously of Mississippi State, as their new head coach.

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

Heart condition forces WR James Robinson to end career at Florida

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A heralded recruit with a headline-making past even before he got to Gainesville, James Robinson has seen his playing career at Florida come to an end before it ever really got started.

In early September, doctors diagnosed the true freshman with a heart abnormality.  Further genetic testing in mid-October, UF stated at the time, wasn’t expected to yield any results for at least another month.  Friday, those results were made public, first cryptically by the player on Twitter…

… and then specifically by the football program in a statement that confirmed the wide receiver has not been medically cleared to play football at the university.

After a thorough evaluation by doctors from across the country and our medical staff, it has been determined that James Robinson will not be medically cleared to play football at the University of Florida. The University Athletic Association has offered their support to James and his family during this very difficult time.

The combination of the health concern and off-field issues means that Robinson never suited up or took the field for the Gators.

Because of an August citation for marijuana, Robinson was suspended for the season opener.  The fact that Robinson even made it to the Gainesville campus to be suspended initially served as somewhat of a surprise.

The four-star recruit was arrested for a pot possession offense during an official visit to Ohio State in late January of this year. As a result of his arrest, Florida reportedly was set to prevent the Gators from adding Robinson to their recruiting class.  However, he did end up signing with the Gators this past February and was the team’s second-highest-rated recruit, behind only offensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton.