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Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, Eno Benjamin and more set for State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

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It may fly under the radar for most, but the 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge is set to take place on Jan. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The skills competition will pit 24 college football stars in a team event. Among those participating in this year’s challenge will be Boston College running back AJ Dillon, Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Five teams representing each of the power five conferences will consist of players from those respective conferences: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. A sixth team of “wild card” players will be comprised of players from the Group of Five or below. This year’s wild card players will come from the Mountain West Conference (Utah State QB Jordan Love, Boise State DE Curtis Weaver), Conference USA (FAU TE Harrison Bryant) and the South Atlantic Conference of Division 2 (Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger).

The individual events included in the competition are a quarterback accuracy contest, obstacle course, strength challenge, and a hands competition. A team event will complete the overall event.

TEAM ACC
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Bryce Perkins, QB, Virginia
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina

TEAM BIG TEN
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

TEAM BIG 12
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Carter Stanley, QB, Kansas

TEAM PAC-12
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

TEAM SEC
Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

TEAM WILD CARD
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

Ex-Indiana OL Coy Cronk lands at Iowa as graduate transfer

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Kirk Ferentz is not a regular dipping into the NCAA Transfer Portal but has landed one of the bigger gets of the 2020 cycle out of the database.

According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Indiana offensive tackle Coy Cronk will be making an intra-conference move to Iowa for the upcoming season. Cronk’s father confirmed the news to the paper on Wednesday morning.

The 6-foot-5, 325 pound Cronk looks to be a plug-and-play replacement for former Hawkeyes tackle Tristian Wirfs — who likely will wind up as an early first round pick in April’s NFL Draft.

While at Indiana, Cronk developed into one of the team’s best players right away and earned several All-American honors as a true freshman. He started 40 straight games for the Hoosiers from 2016-18 but was knocked out for the season after an ankle injury against UConn.

As a result, Cronk redshirted in 2019 after playing in just four games and will head to Iowa City as graduate transfer who is immediately eligible in 2020. Even if he doesn’t ultimately take Wirfs’ old spot at left tackle for Iowa, an already deep offensive line group for the Hawkeyes apparently just got even deeper thanks to a rare move inside the Big Ten.

Official number of early entrants in 2020 NFL Draft is 115

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There is an update when it comes to the 2020 NFL Draft and early entrants.

Over the weekend, we noted that the unofficial count of early entrants for the 2020 NFL Draft was sitting at 111.  Tuesday, the NFL released the official number: 115.  Of those, 99 were granted special eligibility (players three years removed from high school) and 16 who have already graduated but have collegiate eligibility remaining.

While 115 is certainly a large number, it’s far from the record.  Last year, a whopping 135 players left early for the 2019 NFL Draft, 32 of which had already graduated.  In 2018, the number was 119.

Prior to 2018, the record was 98 who left for the 2014 draft.  The next three years saw 84 (2015), 96 (2016) and 95 (2017) early entrants into the respective drafts.

The SEC, yet again, lost more than any other conferences, with 35 players from that conference leaving eligibility on the table.  The Big Ten was a distant second with 21.  With 13 apiece, the ACC and Pac-12 were the only other leagues in double digits.

  • Big 12, eight
  • Mountain West, seven
  • AAC, five
  • Conference USA, four
  • Independents, three
  • Sun Belt, one

The MAC was the only FBS conference to not lose a player early to the 2020 NFL Draft.  Five of the early entrants came from a lower level of football.

As for individual schools, LSU lost the most with nine, followed by Alabama’s six and Georgia’s five.  Iowa and Texas A&M both lost four apiece.  With three, Boise State and Temple lost the most among Group of Five schools.

LSU, two B1G schools will have most players on Super Bowl rosters

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The LSU Tigers football program represented the sport well in winning the 2019 national championship, and now they’re set to be well-represented when the next level crowns its Super Bowl champion as well.

Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs again overcame an early deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship game. In the NFC championship game, the San Francisco 49ers pummeled the Green Bay Packers to earn a berth opposite the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That game will be played at the home of the Miami Hurricanes, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Feb. 2.

The 49ers, seeking their first Super Bowl win since 1994, have four former LSU football players currently listed on their official online roster*. The Chiefs, in search of their first title since 1969, have one former LSU football player on their Super Bowl roster. That total of five is tied for the most for a single school in this year’s game.

The number for LSU is matched by a pair of schools from the Big Ten — Iowa and Penn State — for the most players on Super Bowl rosters this year. Three former Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes play for the 49ers, two for the Chiefs.

Two SEC schools, Florida and Vanderbilt, each have four former players as part of the game, as does Stanford. Middle Tennessee State and San Diego State are two of a gaggle of schools with three players on teams playing in the game, which is the most of any Group of Five conference member.

Conference-wise, it was the SEC leading the way (again) with 32 players, followed by the Big Ten’s 22. The ACC (17), Pac-12 (16), Big 12 (12) and Conference USA (11) were the only other FBS leagues in double digits.

As for the other conferences?

  • Mountain West, nine
  • AAC, six
  • MAC, five
  • Sun Belt, four

Football independents accounted for six players. There were a total of 21 players who played at levels of football other than the FBS.

Below are all of the individual schools that will be represented on Super Sunday:

FIVE
Iowa
LSU
Penn State

FOUR
Florida
Stanford
Vanderbilt

THREE
Arizona
Auburn
Clemson
Kansas State
Middle Tennessee State
Mississippi State
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Pittsburgh
San Diego State
South Carolina

TWO
Alabama
BYU
Central Michigan
Duke
FAU
Florida State
Georgia Southern
Michigan
Michigan State
NC State
Ole Miss
Oregon
Purdue
Southern Miss
Tennessee
Texas
Texas A&M
USF
Utah
Virginia

ONE
Air Force
Alabama A&M
Appalachian State
Arizona State
Arkansas
Baylor
Boston College
Bowling Green State
Buffalo
Cal
Cincinnati
Colorado
Colorado State
Colorado State-Pueblo
Eastern Illinois
Eastern Michigan
Eastern Washington
Georgia
Georgia Tech
Grand Valley State
Harvard
Hawaii
Illinois
Indiana
James Madison
Louisiana Tech
Louisiana
McGill (Canada)
Minnesota
Montana State
New Hampshire
New Mexico State
North Texas
Northern Illinois
Northern Iowa
Oklahoma State
Old Dominion
Oregon State
Princeton
Samford
San Diego
San Jose State
SMU
South Carolina State
TCU
Temple
Texas Tech
UConn
Utah State
Valdosta State
Villanova
Virginia Tech
Wagner
Washington
West Alabama
Western Illinois
Western Kentucky
Wyoming

(*Includes players on injured reserve, practice squad, etc.)

Iowa losing AJ Epenesa to the 2020 NFL Draft

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For the Iowa Hawkeyes football team, Tuesday morning brought an expected personnel loss.

In a statement, AJ Epenesa confirmed that, “after long discussion with my parents and loved ones, I have decided to follow another childhood dream and enter the 2020 NFL Draft.” The defensive end is widely viewed by most draftniks as a Top-20 talent.

“Over the last three years, I have had the amazing opportunity to play for the University of Iowa,” the Iowa Hawkeyes football player wrote. “I got to live my childhood dream and represent the black and gold. …

“My time at Iowa has been everything I have dreamt it would be.  I couldn’t be more grateful and proud to have been given the opportunity to be a part of The Swarm and play in Kinnick Stadium in front of 70,000 Hawk fans! I will never forget the many great memories that have come from Iowa!”

Epenesa will finish his collegiate career with 26½ sacks.  Nearly a dozen of those sacks came in 2019, with seven of those coming in the final four games.

Each of the past two seasons, the Illinois native was named first-team All-Big Ten.  In 2017, he was named to the conference’s All-Freshman team.