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Nick Saban: NCAA violations led to Alabama trio’s suspensions, which could last beyond this season

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And now we know a little more of the rest of the story.

Monday night, Alabama confirmed that three players — offensive lineman Deonte Brown (pictured), offensive lineman Elliott Baker, tight end Kedrick James — had been suspended for the Dec. 29 College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.  Thursday, Nick Saban confirmed that the trio would also miss the national championship game if the Crimson Tide gets past the Sooners Saturday night.

Additionally, the head coach also confirmed that unspecified NCAA violations were at the root of the suspensions, which could extend beyond the 2018 season.

“Those things (the NCAA violations) carry certain consequences,” Saban said according to al.com. “And those players knew the situation. They made poor choices and decisions.”

The most notable name of the group is Brown, who has started five of the last six games at left guard for the Crimson Tide.  With Brown out, Lester Cotton, who lost the job to Brown midseason, is expected to take over once again against the Sooners.

James, listed as the Tide’s third-string tight end, has played in 10 games the past two seasons, with five of those appearances coming this year and five coming in 2017.  He has yet to catch a pass at the collegiate level.

Baker has yet to play a down for the Tide, although he has earned his degree from the university.

One starter among three Alabama players suspended for playoff game against Oklahoma

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Tua Tagovailoa may be full-go for Alabama’s playoff game, but a trio of his teammates won’t be.

Monday night, Alabama confirmed that three players — offensive lineman Deonte Brown, offensive lineman Elliott Baker, tight end Kedrick James — have been suspended for the Dec. 29 College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.  The only reason given was unspecified violations of team rules and policies.

The most notable name of the group is Brown, who has started five of the last six games at left guard for the Crimson Tide.  With Brown out, Lester Cotton, who lost the job to Brown midseason, is expected to take over once again against the Sooners.

James, listed as the Tide’s third-string tight end, has played in 10 games the past two seasons, with five of those appearances coming this year and five coming in 2017.  He has yet to catch a pass at the collegiate level.

Baker has yet to play a down for the Tide, although he has earned his degree from the university.

There’s no definitive word yet on any of the suspended players’ statuses moving forward should Alabama find its way past Oklahoma and advance to the national championship game next month.

Nick Saban is not the only high-profile head coach dealing with personnel issues ahead of this year’s playoff.  Earlier today, Dabo Swinney confirmed that three of his players, including All-American defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, are facing suspensions for the playoff game against Notre Dame because of failed drug tests.

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

USC QB Sam Darnold, Houston DL Ed Oliver headline FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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USC quarterback Sam Darnold and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver were the stars of the FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team for the 2016 season, and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and USC head coach Clay Helton shared the award for First Year Coach of the Year.

The FWAA’s Freshman All-America Team, announced today, includes 20 true freshmen including Oliver, Ohio State running back Mike Weber, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill and Florida State defensive lineman Brian Burns.

Fuente is coming off his first season as the head coach at Virginia Tech after a successful stint as head coach at Memphis, with an ACC Coastal Division championship and appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Helton overcame a rough start to coach USC into a top 10 finish and a Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten champion Penn State. Both have been head coaches before, of course, but the FWAA First Year Coach of the Year is open to any coach in his first full season as a head coach at his current school.

OFFENSE

  • QB Sam Darnold, USC
  • RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
  • RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
  • RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
  • WR Ammon Richards, Miami
  • WR Demetris Robinson, California
  • WR Ty Lee, Middle Tennessee
  • TE Isaac Nautta, Georgia
  • OL Michael Jordan, Ohio State
  • OL Jawaan Taylor, Florida
  • OL Ryan Bates, Penn State
  • OL Thomas Shoaf, BYU
  • OL Ben Bredeson, Michigan
  • AP Donnie Corley, Michigan State

DEFENSE

  • DL Ed Oliver, Houston
  • DL Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
  • DL Brian Burns, Florida State
  • DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
  • DL Reggie Walker, Kansas State
  • LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
  • LB Troy Dye, Oregon
  • LB Leo Lewis, Mississippi State
  • LB Josiah Tauaefa, UTSA
  • LB David Reese, Florida
  • DB Xavier Crawford, Oregon State
  • DB Javon Hagan, Ohio
  • DB Taylor Rapp, Washington
  • DB Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
  • DB Clifton Duck, Appalachian State

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
  • P Tom Sheldon, North Carolina
  • KR Tony Pollard, Memphis
  • PR Malik McGue, Army

Rainbow Warriors roll in Hawaii Bowl win over Middle Tennessee

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Being home for the holidays sounded pretty good for Hawaii, as few things could compare to having a bowl game win as a nice present under the tree.

The Rainbow Warriors continued their hot play down the stretch and used a couple of Middle Tennessee turnovers to capture a 52-35 Hawaii Bowl win in a wild one on Saturday night.

After the Blue Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead just a few minutes into the first quarter, the home team decided to wake up and join the postseason party, turning three first half takeaways into three touchdowns and come roaring into the lead. Quarterback Dru Brown threw for 274 yards and four scores on the night overall (and added another rushing) as the offense threw a little bit of everything at their opponents to keep them on their heels.

Warriors running back Diocemy Saint Juste also had one of his best outings in a Hawaii uniform, rushing for 170 yards on 25 carries and helping power the team over the 500 yards of total offense mark.

As good as the offense was though, it was the defense for the home team that really helped them regain momentum with a fumble recovery in the red zone and a pair of interceptions in the first half, one of which was returned for a 68-yard pick six.

Despite those issues holding onto the ball, MTSU was still able to move down the field fairly effectively. Quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to action for the first time in nearly two months since breaking his collar bone and would have had a pretty nice game if it weren’t for those turnovers, throwing for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Richie James was the target of most of his passes (nine catches for 175 yards, two scores) while I’Tavius Mathers was contained fairly well with just 57 yards on the ground.

But none of that trio could get the Blue Raiders over the hump after a big early hole. Although they threatened down the stretch, ultimately Hawaii had an answer at every turn to capture the program’s first bowl victory in a decade, dating back to a blowout win of Arizona State on this same date and game back in 2006.

That puts the Warriors back at .500 for the season and caps off an impressive turnaround for first-year head coach Nick Rolovich after the team had just seven wins the past two seasons combined coming into 2016.