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Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts two of 16 QBs added to Manning Award midseason watch list


By most accounts, there are currently four viable contenders for the 2019 Heisman Trophy. Two of them had already caught the eye of the Manning Award; this week, the other two officially drew the honor’s attention as well.

Thursday, the Manning Award, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the only major trophy to take into account postseason performance, announced that it has added 16 quarterbacks to its midseason watch list. The two most noteworthy additions are Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.

Both Fields and Hurts came to their current schools as offseason transfers, the former from Georgia and the latter from Alabama. Fields was granted a waiver by the NCAA for immediate eligibility while Hurts landed at Norman as a graduate transfer.

Of the 16 additions, four come from the Big Ten, three each from the AAC and the Pac-12 and two from the ACC. Per the award’s release, “[t]he newcomers include six seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.”

Below is the entire list of 16 midseason additions to the Manning Award’s watch list:

Ryan named title sponsor of Conference USA title game

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The Conference USA football championship game now has a title sponsor and it is…. Ryan. No, not Ryan of the Gosling variety, or Nolan, or your friend from college. It’s Ryan, a “leading global tax services and software provider,” a Dallas-based LLC that offers corporate tax services firm.

The Ryan refers to the firm’s founder, G. Brint Ryan, a North Texas graduate and the namesake of UNT’s business school.

The firm will sponsor the game through 2021.

“It is an honor to welcome Ryan as the title sponsor for our premiere football game for the next three years,” commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “With Ryan, we have an outstanding local partner that will be involved not only in our sports, but also in our community efforts on campus in conjunction with the C-USA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. We are excited to move forward and want to thank Chairman and CEO G. Brint Ryan for his team’s efforts in making this partnership a reality.”

Ryan is the third title sponsor of the C-USA Championship, now in its 15th year. Dynacraft BSC sponsored it in 2016-17, and Globe Life did the same in 2018.

All ten FBS conferences now stage their own title games thanks to the Sun Belt’s addition in 2018, and eight have title sponsors:

  • Dr. Pepper — Big 12, SEC, ACC
  • Discover — Big Ten
  • 76 — Pac-12
  • Hampton by Hilton — Mountain West
  • Marathon Petroleum — MAC

The 15th Conference USA Championship, and the inaugural Ryan Conference USA Championship, will take place at the home of the winningest division champion on Dec. 7 (1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).

Now a Texas high school football head coach, Art Briles publicly reprimanded for using ineligible players, using unapproved assistant

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Art Briles‘ second act as a high school football coach in Texas kicked off amidst controversy nationally even as it was hailed locally.  A little over a month into his tenure, Briles is embroiled in controversy yet again.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Briles and his high school, Mount Vernon, were publicly reprimanded for using two football players who “were ruled to have moved into the district for athletic purposes.” Such transfers are normally required to sit out a season of varsity athletic competition; however, a mid-September vote by the District 7-AAA Executive Committee initially ruled that the players were eligible immediately.

Tuesday, though, the same committee, in a unanimous vote, ruled that the players are ineligible.  The two players played in Mount Vernon’s first five games, although it’s unclear if the school will be forced to forfeit those games, all of which were wins.  The fact that the committee initially ruled the pair eligible could mean that there will be no forfeitures of wins.

In addition to the ineligible players, Briles was also publicly reprimanded for using an assistant coach who wasn’t a full-time employee of the school district.

In late May of this year, the school’s Board of Trustees approved a two-year contract for Briles to serve as the program’s head football coach.  Briles spent nearly three decades as a head coach in the state of Texas at both the high school level and, after a three-year stint as an assistant at Texas Tech, the University of Houston (2003-07) and, most infamously, Baylor University (2008-15).

In its release announcing the hiring, the school system noted “that Briles never incurred a single recruiting infraction during his time at the collegiate level, and previous supervisors and other references also provided strong recommendations.” It was further stated that the hiring was made because, “[a]fter a thorough due diligence process and several earnest conversations, we believe our students will benefit greatly from his skills and experience.”

Given Briles’ past, the school’s wordsmithing in announcing the decision was understandable considering the amount of heat and outside public pressure the system endured.

Briles was fired by Baylor in May of 2016 amidst a sexual assault scandal involving his Bears football program.  In August of 2017, the disgraced coach was hired by a CFL team; a couple of hours later, after the hiring was denounced by fans and sponsors, the organization announced that Briles would no longer be joining the team.

In late January of 2017, damning details in one of the handfuls of lawsuits facing Baylor University emerged, with that suit alleging that 31 Bears football players had committed 52 acts of rape over a period of four years beginning in 2011.

Not long after, a legal filing connected to the libel lawsuit filed by a former BU football staffer produced emails and text messages that painted a picture of the former Bears head coach and/or his assistants as unrestrained rogue elements concerned with nothing more than the image of the football program off the field and its performance on it. The details in a damning document dump included allegations that Briles attempted to circumvent BU’s “judicial affairs folks” when it came to one player’s arrest… and on Briles asking, in response to one of his players brandishing a gun on a female, “she reporting [it] to authorities?”… and asking “she a stripper?” when told one of his players expected a little something extra from a female masseuse… and stating in a text “we need to know who [the] supervisor is and get him to alert us first” in response to a player who was arrested on a drug charge because the apartment superintendent called the police.

In reference to a woman who alleged she was gang-raped by several Bears football players, Briles allegedly responded, “those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?

“Hindsight is a blessing and a curse. I’ve always been about trying to be fair and honest with everyone I came into contact with,” Briles said in July of last year on his unceremonious and controversial ouster from the Bears. “The thing that hurts me as much as anything [was] the culture at Baylor at the time; I don’t think victims, I know they didn’t feel comfortable going to report assaults that took place. I don’t think they were represented and taken care of with the level that needed to be handled with. That’s something that through all of this and as time goes will become more clear.

“Not only me but many of us felt betrayed because we were not privy to the information that was available in a way we wanted to respond. … With the way things are going, with some of the transparency starting to take place, I am confident the truth will come out. It’s not just important for me.”

In August of last year, Briles was named as the head coach of the Guelfi Firenze American Football team in Florence, Italy.  That was his first coaching job at any level since his ouster in Waco.

Briles was hired by a CFL team in August of 2017; later that day, and amidst a public outcry that included a sponsor’s condemnation, that hiring was reversed.  In February of this year, it was reported that Briles would interview for the offensive coordinator job at Southern Miss; shortly thereafter, and after the university and football program faced significant public  backlash, Southern Miss informed Briles he was no longer a candidate for the job, much to the chagrin of that team’s head coach.

Alabama’s LaBryan Ray undergoes surgery, could return for LSU game

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On the LaBryan Ray front, there was a negative development that surfaced Wednesday as well as a potentially promising one as well.

Nick Saban confirmed earlier this week that LaBryan suffered an unspecified foot/ankle injury in Alabama’s Week 3 win over South Carolina and would be sidelined indefinitely.  A couple of days later, is reporting that the junior defensive end has undergone surgery to repair the unspecified damage and will be sidelined “for a significant period of time.”

However, the same website, citing sources, writes that “there is a chance the junior could return later in the season and maybe even in time for the Crimson Tide’s game against LSU in early November.”

Such a timeline would mean LaBryan would miss, at the very least, the next five games.  That stretch includes conference home dates against Ole Miss (Sept. 28), Tennessee (Oct. 19) and Arkansas (Oct. 26) as well as a road trip to College Station Oct. 12 to face No. 17 Texas A&M.  Following a bye weekend after the Arkansas game, Alabama plays host to No. 4 LSU Nov. 9.

Obviously, he’ll miss this weekend’ game against Southern Miss as well.

Ray, a five-star 2017 signee, saw his true freshman season truncated by a foot injury.  After being named third-team preseason All-SEC over the summer, Ray had nine tackles and a sack prior to his injury.

Southern Miss’ leading receiver to miss first two games of ’19

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The offseason travails of Quez Watkins will, briefly, extend into the regular season.

In late January, it was reported that Watkins had been forced to withdraw from Southern Miss and enroll at a junior college in an effort to get his academic house in order. In late June, it was confirmed that Watkins was back on the USM campus and enrolled in classes.

The news regarding the wide receiver was even more positive a month later as head coach Jay Hopson confirmed that Watkins was expected to join the rest of his teammates for the start of summer camp. While that indeed happened, the pause button has been hit on the feel-good storyline for the Eagles as Hopson revealed this week that Watkins will miss the first two games of the 2019 regular season, at home against FCS Alcorn State Aug. 31 and then on the road against Mississippi State the following weekend.

The receiver would then be eligible to return for the Sept. 14 game against Troy.

Hopson declined to address the specific issue or issues that led to what walks, talks, looks and smells like a suspension.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Watkins led the Golden Eagles in receptions (72), receiving yards (889) and receiving touchdowns (nine). Watkins’ nine scores accounted for nearly half of the team’s 19 touchdowns through the air.