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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

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

Nyheim Hines leaving NC State early for draft

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For the first time this year, North Carolina State has lost a standout performer early to the NFL.

NC State announced Friday afternoon that running back Nyheim Hines has decided to forego his remaining eligibility and enter the April NFL draft.  Hines made the announcement in a press release issued by the school.

“We appreciate Nyheim’s contributions to the entire athletic program as a multisport athlete,” said head coach Dave Doeren in a statement. “He could’ve played college football anywhere in the country but he chose to stay home and come to NC State. He has made an impact on and off the football field.”

“I would like to thank the coaches for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to play at my dream school,” Hines began in his. “I appreciate everybody at NC State who has helped me along the way. Last, but not least, I want to thank Wolfpack Nation for always supporting me – even in high school – to help make my dream come true. NC State will always be a part of me wherever I am in life, and I will always be drawn back here.”

A first-team All-ACC performer in 2017, Hines was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation’s most versatile player.  Additionally, as a member of the NC State track team, he was an ACC champion and All-American as the leadoff leg for the 4×100-meter relay team.

Pac-12 bowl woes continue as Arizona State falls in Sun Bowl to NC State

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The bowl season has not been kind to the Pac-12 this season. After entering the day with a dreadful 1-5 record, the conference of champions fell to a lowly 1-6 after Arizona State (7-6) started slow and could not rally enough to catch No. 24 NC State (9-4) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Friday afternoon in El Paso, Texas. The 52-31 win by the Wolfpack improves the ACC to 4-3 after Wake Forest topped Texas A&M earlier in the day.

Ryan Finley was efficient in his final game of the season, completing 24 of 29 pass attempts for 318 yards and a touchdown. Nyheim Hines rushed for three touchdowns in the first half but Reggie Gallaspy II picked up the pace after Hines got banged up on a play. Gallaspy scored twice. Jaylen Samuels didn’t get his touchdown until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Samuels also recovered an onside kick attempt by Arizona State and nearly returned the football for a touchdown before being brought down at the seven-yard line.

Arizona State did try to make a game of it in the fourth quarter with a couple of touchdown drives, but the damage had largely been done by then. By then, three turnovers and a lackluster first half and a few too many gambles not paying off made for too big of a hole to climb out of against a solid NC State team. Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins was picked off three times but did have three touchdowns and 2352 yards through the air.

NC State ends the season with the most wins in a season under head coach Dave Doeren, and the Wolfpack will be finishing in the top 25 for the first time under his watch. This will be just the third season NC State finishes the season ranked in the top 25 since 1995. With win totals of 9, 8, and two years with 7 wins the last four years, the trick is for Doeren to be able to get NC State to take that next step forward as an ACC contender, and perhaps as a playoff contender.

Todd Graham goes out as Arizona State’s head coach with a final record of 46-32 and a bowl record of 2-3, with the last win coming in 2014. Graham was fired by Arizona State in late November. The School then went out and hired former NFL head coach Herm Edwards with the intent of keeping the coaching staff together, but Edwards has already had to replace both of his coordinators after each left voluntarily following his hiring.

NC State will open their 2018 season on Sep. 1, 2018 at home against FCS powerhouse James Madison. The highlight of the non-conference schedule will be a home game two weeks later against West Virginia, while the Wolfpack will get Florida State at home and Clemson and Louisville on the road in division play. Arizona State’s season will also begin on Sep. 1, 2018 with a home game against UTSA. The Sun Devils will also play Michigan State at home and San Diego Stae on the road in non-conference play.

Nyheim Hines scores 3 TDs to lead NC State to halftime lead in Sun Bowl

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Arizona State kicked up some dust at the end of the first half, but NC State reaches halftime in a favorable position in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The Wolfpack own a 28-10 lead on the Sun Devils in El Paso, despite not having standout defensive end Bradley Chubb on the field. NC State running back Nyheim Hines has done most of the scoring for the Wolfpack so far with three touchdowns in the first 30 minutes.

Arizona State wasted no time trying to catch NC State off guard, but a trick play on the opening play of the game did not get past the Wolfpack for more than a couple of yards. One play later, the Sun Devils fumbled the football away and NC State’s offense got to work. But when a drive stalled at the Arizona State four-yard line, it was the Wolfpack who tried catching Arizona State off guard to no avail. A fake field goal was sniffed out by Arizona State and kicker Kyle Bambard had to take off running for the corner when there was nobody to throw to. He came up just one-yard shy.

NC State scored touchdowns on their next four possessions in the game, with Hines ending each of the first three drives with a touchdown run.

After Arizona State scored a touchdown to cut the NC State lead to 21-10, Todd Graham elected to try a surprise onside kick with the hope of getting a little bit closer before halftime. That quickly backfired as NC State recovered the onside kick and started a possession at the Arizona State 49-yard line. Five plays later, Ryan Finley completed a 25-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers to pad the lead at 28-10.

Arizona State has some work to do in the second half. NC State will get the ball to open the second half.