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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

Bednarik Award watch list led by Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, and USC

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There are plenty of new faces gracing the 2018 Bednarik Award watch list form the Maxwell Football Club. After three 2017 finalists for the award all moved on to the NFL, there will be some new names to keep a close eye on for the top defensive player award in college football from the Maxwell Football Club.

Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, and USC all landed three players on the watch list for the award. Alabama has also had a player win the Bednarik Award each of the past two seasons, becoming the first school with two consecutive Bednarik Award winners since LSU had back-to-back winners in 2010 and 2011 (Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, respectively). Jonathan Allen won the Bednarik Award in 2016 and Minkah Fitzpatrick took home the award last fall for the Crimson Tide.

Some key names to note on this year’s Bednarik Award watch list include Houston’s Ed Oliver, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, Duke’s Joe Giles-Harris, Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons, and NIU’s Sutton Smith. All were semifinalists for the award a year ago.

Here is this year’s Bednarik Award watch list:

LB Curtis Akins, Memphis
LB Dakota Allen, Texas Tech
LB Josh Allen, Kentucky
DE Zach Allen, Boston College
LB Jeffrey Allison, Fresno State
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
DE Bradlee Anae, Utah
LB Joe Bachie, Michigan State
LB Markus Bailey, Purdue
CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
DE Ben Banogu, TCU
LB Thomas Barber, Minnesota
DT Terry Beckner, Missouri
CB Julian Blackmon, Utah
DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
DE Brian Burns, Florida State
LB Devin Bush, Michigan
LB Te’von Coney, Notre Dame
DE Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan
CB Javaris Davis, Auburn
DE Raekwon Davis, Alabama
S Lukas Denis, Boston College
LB Joe Dineen, Kansas
S D’Cota Dixon, Wisconsin
LB Tyrel Dodson, Texas A&M
LB Troy Dye, Oregon
S Mike Edwards, Kentucky
LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
LB Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
DT Greg Gaines, Washington
DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
DE Joe Gaziano, Northwestern
CB Mark Gilbert, Duke
LB Ulysees Gilbert, Akron
LB Joe Giles-Harris, Duke
DE Carl Granderson, Wyoming
LB Porter Gustin, USC
LB Breckyn Hager, Texas
LB De’Jon Harris, Arkansas
DT Trysten Hill, UCF
LB Khalil Hodge, Buffalo
CB Alijah Holder, Stanford
CB Tyler Horton, Boise State
DE Jalen Jelks, Oregon
LB Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
LB Gary Johnson, Texas
S Jaquan Johnson, Miami
DT Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
LB David Long, West Virginia
DE Shareef Miller, Penn State
DE Anthony Nelson, Iowa
LB Bobby Okereke, Stanford
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
CB Brian Peavy, Iowa State
LB Justin Phillips, Oklahoma State
LB Shaquille Quarterman, Miami
S Delvon Randall, Temple
S Taylor Rapp, Washington
LB Malik Reed, Nevada
LB David Reese, Florida
DT Dontavius Russell, Auburn
NG Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
LB Cameron Smith, USC
DE Sutton Smith, NIU
LB Ty Summers, TCU
LB Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
S Marvell Tell, USC
S Jalen Thompson, Washington State
S Juan Thornhill, Virginia
NG Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
DT Ricky Walker, Virginia Tech
S Nigel Warrior, Tennessee
LB Devin White, LSU
DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
CB Greedy Williams, LSU
LB Mack Wilson, Alabama
S Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
DE Chase Winovich, Michigan
DT Daniel Wise, Kansas
DE D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina
LB Charles Wright, Vanderbilt
DE Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion

Texas’ second-leading receiver transferring from Longhorns

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On a day of comings, there was one noteworthy going from the Lone Star State.

In the midst of National Signing Day, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps took to Twitter to announce that he has decided to transfer out of the Texas football program. “Thank you,” the wide receiver wrote in a very brief missive, adding, “Texas will always be in my heart.”

The announcement comes a couple of weeks after a report had surfaced that the redshirt freshman was seeking a transfer.

Hemphill-Mapps was a three-star member of the Longhorns’ 2016 recruiting class.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Hemphill-Mapps finished tied for second on the team in receptions with 37.  His 402 receiving yards were good for third on the ‘Horns.  He also added eight carries for 31 yards for good measure.

In the season-opening loss to Maryland, Hemphill-Mapps returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown.  He ended up averaging just under 11 yards per punt return, a number that was second in the Big 12 and 16th nationally.

It’s expected the Texas native will have to sit out the 2018 season if he ends up at another FBS program.  That would then leave him with two more seasons of eligibility at his disposal beginning with the 2019 season.

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

Longhorns get contributions all over to top old Big 12 rival Missouri in the Texas Bowl

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Michael Dickson may not be in the same conversation as Vince Young when it comes to heroic performances in the annals of Texas football but he certainly was — no joke — operating at the same level on Wednesday night. The NFL-bound punter and Ray Guy Award winner put on a special teams masterclass to help the Longhorns (7-6) beat old Big 12 rival Missouri (7-6) in the Texas Bowl 33-16 and cap off the first season of the Tom Herman era with a victory.

Hard as it is to believe, Dickson was a well deserved MVP even if the other two phases of the game also played a big role in delivering Texas their first winning season since 2013. He punted 11 times in the game for nearly 500 yards but most impressively nailed 10 of those punts inside the Missouri 20 yard line.

That backed the Tigers up on a consistent basis and played a huge role in the team’s average starting field position being their own 16 yard line.

Of course it didn’t help that they couldn’t get much going offensively as quarterback Drew Lock came back down to Earth after a hot second half of the season and threw for only 269 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Some of his performance could be attributed to offensive coordinator Josh Heupel departing early in bowl preparations to take the UCF job but it was still a pretty rough outing after the team entered the game as one of the most high-powered attacks in the SEC.

The Longhorns offense wasn’t a world-beater themselves but they had their moments after an inconsistent 2017 campaign. Freshman Sam Ehllinger had a nice game to send him into the offseason with momentum by going 11-of-15 for 112 yards in the air with a touchdown and 17 yards rushing. Fellow signal-caller Shane Buechele was also part of the rotation behind center and threw a touchdown to kick off scoring in the first quarter.

Freshman tailback Daniel Young was the star of the show however and took full advantage of transfers, injuries and suspensions at the position to post a breakout performance. He led the team with 48 yards rushing and led the Horns in receiving as well, hauling in three passes for 64 yards and a wide-open touchdown.

Not to be out done, Todd Orlando’s defense also showed why they were one of the better units in the country this season and proved to be more than capable of replacing a few stars with star defensive back DeShon Elliott off to the NFL and linebacker Malik Jefferson unable to play due to injury. Anthony Wheeler scored Texas’ eighth non-offensive touchdown of the year (most in the FBS) when he recovered a fumble and rumbled 38 yards to the house to help break things open in the second quarter. Corner Davante Davis didn’t wind up in the end zone but may have been more productive with six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.

While the loss isn’t what Missouri was looking for against their old conference rival, it was still a heck of a turnaround for the Tigers to even play in the game after the start they had, much less to capture seven wins. A lot of eyes will be on Barry Odom over the next few weeks though as he has some big decisions ahead when it comes to his coaching staff and particularly with a pair of new coordinators.

As far as the Longhorns go it was a nice way to close out the beginning of the Herman era on the 40 Acres even if the year overall is a bit of a disappointment given the expectations in Austin. A bowl victory, a winning season, a top three recruiting class and the bulk of the team returning for 2018 is a nice way to transition into Year 2 however and could just what Texas needs to get back on track after a few years in the college football desert.