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  #76  
Old 07-31-2017, 02:06 PM
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Jerry Kill returns to coaching at Rutgers
July 29, 2017


PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Jerry Kill has been seizure-free for almost a year and a half. He has lost 25 pounds by cutting way down on carbs and taking long walks. After years of sleeping two or three hours a night, he now regularly gets six or more.

The former Minnesota coach still needs medication to treat his epilepsy and control the seizures that forced him to leave coaching during the 2015 season, but lifestyle changes have been an important part of facing a condition he was once hesitant to even acknowledge.

Kill was feeling so good that he decided to return to coaching as offensive coordinator at Rutgers after more than a season away. Seven hectic months into being part of Chris Ash's program rebuild and all is still well, according to Kill and his wife, Rebecca.

The next phase of his comeback starts soon. The Scarlet Knights begin preseason camp this week and open against Washington on Sept. 1. Jerry Kill said the in-season routine should help him maintain good habits and Rebecca is confident, too. Still, after more than two decades of worrying about her husband's health, she expects anxious moments.

''I'm never going to get over that,'' Rebecca Kill said. ''I'm always going to have that in the back of my mind, but because he's doing what he loves - and he's absolutely loving coaching - I truly believe he's going to be OK.''

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that can lead to loss of consciousness and convulsions.

Jerry Kill, 55, had his first seizure in 2000 when he was coach at Emporia State and a sideline seizure in 2005 when he was head coach at Southern Illinois led doctors to discover he also had kidney cancer. Kill beat the cancer, though for years he would say he had seizure disorder, shying away from calling it epilepsy.

''The word epilepsy is different from saying seizure disorder to me,'' Kill said. Not only does he no longer shy away from calling his condition what it is, he wrote a book about his battle with epilepsy called ''Chasing Dreams,'' and started a fund by the same name with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.

Rebecca Kill said it wasn't until 2013, when seizures forced Jerry to miss a game at Michigan, that he truly began to commit to getting his epilepsy under control. Still, it was a struggle. Jerry Kill has tried various medications, but the side-effects can be brutal.

One drug made him short-tempered and wired. Another brought him down.

In 2015, the seizures became too much and he stepped down as Minnesota coach seven games into the season. Retired.

The Kills escaped to their vacation home in Siesta Key, Florida. Finally, after years of focusing so much time and energy on his programs and players, Jerry was able to concentrate on helping himself.

He began walking for exercise, often with Rebecca. Ten miles a day at his peak - though not necessarily all at once.

''I lost around 25 pounds,'' Kill said. One look at Kill now compared to him in the older pictures he had yet to hang on his office walls at Rutgers shows he is not exaggerating.

Kill has all but eliminated carbohydrates from his diet, and drinks water instead carbonated soft drinks.

''What's tough to give up? Pizza,'' Jerry Kill said. ''Every once in a while I reward myself with some cookies and things of that nature. I stay pretty true to it.''

The biggest change was sleep. He had been living dangerously deprived for years. Now there are nights he actually gets eight hours.

''And just being able to just kind of get that under control is a huge help,'' Rebecca Kill said.

Dr. Joseph Sirven, a professor of neurology and the editor-in-chief of Epilepsy.com, said lifestyle measures can be an important part of seizure treatment.

''For some, stress, sleep deprivation and poor eating can exacerbate seizures in people with uncontrolled seizures,'' he said. ''It stands to reason that addressing those lifestyle measures can lessen the likelihood of seizure recurrence and gives a chance for seizure medicines to work.

''However and sadly, lifestyle changes do not completely control seizures in many patients. That is why medications and other treatments are needed.''

Kill has found a medication that is effective, and since it doesn't burden him with harsh side effects, he has been better at sticking to the regiment.

Last season, Kill worked at Kansas State as a liaison between the football program and the athletic directors' office. It was a low-pressure way to get back in the game. But he missed coaching. When Ash inquired, Kill liked what the Rutgers' coach had to say - and so did Rebecca.

Ash said he and Jerry Kill have had candid conversations about worst-case scenarios.

''Right now he's great, but what happens when we get into the season? Time demands are different. Stress levels go up,'' Ash said. ''We thought about all of that stuff.''

There was a point at Minnesota when Rebecca Kill received NCAA permission to go on recruiting trips with Jerry because of the possibility he would have a seizure. That hasn't been the case at Rutgers and you can hear the joy in Rebecca Kill's voice when she talks about Jerry's trips to Georgia, Florida and California.

''For him to be able to travel across country and do all that without having any issues is just incredible,'' she said with a chuckle.

Jerry Kill acknowledges the walks have been harder to squeeze in and eating right not quite as easy since starting a new job. Rebecca tries to get to campus and walk with him during breaks. And she is constantly on him to get some rest.

''My wife drives me nuts and I tell her that from time to time,'' Jerry Kill said, with a smile. ''She'll always be that way. She's had to see it more than anybody else.''
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:07 PM
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Tennessee opens practice with quarterback battle underway
July 29, 2017


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Quinten Dormady has to go back to his middle school days in Texas to think of the last time the Tennessee junior played in a two-quarterback system.

He may encounter that scenario once again this season.

Dormady is competing for the starting job with redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, and the Tennessee coaches are open to rotating quarterbacks.

''We are just here to win a championship, so whatever that looks like, whatever we have to do to get there, I think as an overall team and offensive unit, I think that people are definitely willing to do that,'' Dormady said Saturday after Tennessee's first preseason practice. ''So whatever happens, we will go with it and do our best to try to get us back to the top.''

Tennessee opens the season on Sept. 4 against Georgia Tech at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as part of the Chick-fil-A-Kickoff.

For the first time since 2014, the Vols will have someone other than Joshua Dobbs, now a rookie with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, starting at quarterback.

No quarterback on Tennessee's roster has started in college, while Dormady is the only quarterback to play in a game, completing 24 of 39 passes for 357 yards in 10 games as Dobbs' backup.

During Tennessee's weather-shortened spring game, Dormady was 10 for 10 for 120 yards and two touchdowns while Guarantano finished 4 for 5 for 41 yards.

Although some give the 6-foot-4, 222-pound Dormady a slight edge to start, he doesn't consider himself the front-runner.

''I don't really look at it like that,'' said Dormady, who got engaged this summer. ''Obviously, it's an open competition. Everybody here knows that. We know that. Like I have said all spring, it's just going out and competing every day. Like I've said, working on the little details and fundamentals and just trying to improve my game.''

Both quarterbacks led the team through 7-on-7 sessions this summer to build chemistry with their teammates and demonstrate leadership.

Guarantano says that work has helped him process a bit quicker, figure out his footwork and work on his arm strength. Since signing with the Vols as a highly-ranked recruit out New Jersey, Guarantano has received a lot of hype for his potential.

He knows being a quarterback at Tennessee brings a massive spotlight.

''I am used to the pressure. Growing up my dad was always on me. Growing up I had a lot of cameras in my face, so I am kind of used to it,'' Guarantano told reporters. ''I know it's not nearly as much as this right here, but I think that I can handle it and I think that I am ready for the big stage.''

Tennessee coach Butch Jones was encouraged by the quarterbacks' first day with the Vols' new-look offense.

''You could tell they're progressing, they were quicker from spring. Their decision-making process was much better,'' Jones said. ''But again, we don't have pads on. When all of a sudden you got a live rush coming at you, some things change.''

The quarterbacks' leadership styles differ.

Dormady is ''a little more stoic, a little more poised,'' according to new quarterbacks coach Mike Canales with Guarantano more outgoing with a ''personality that glows.''

But Dormady isn't afraid to show a more fiery side only when needed.

''I am not just going to yell to yell at people,'' Dormady said..

Picking a starter may not happen until opening week. Until then, Dormady and Guarantano hope to bring out the best in each other to make the coaches' decision even harder.

''Everybody comes here to start. That's the goal,'' Dormady said.
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:08 PM
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Huskers look for more in Riley's 3rd year
July 30, 2017


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska opened preseason practice Sunday with a new quarterback, a new defensive system and a fan base hoping third-year coach Mike Riley is getting closer to ending a conference championship drought nearing two decades.

The Cornhuskers are picked third or fourth in the Big Ten West in most preseason polls after losing four of their last six games in 2016. Riley downplayed the notion this is a crucial year for his program.

''They all feel crucial when you're in the middle of them,'' he said with a laugh.

The Huskers, who tied for second in the West, are coming off a 9-4 season that ended with a 30-point loss to Iowa and 14-point bowl loss to Tennessee. Tulane transfer Tanner Lee, who succeeds four-year starter Tommy Armstrong Jr., more closely resembles the type of quarterback Riley likes in his pro-style offense. Bob Diaco is the new defensive coordinator and has changed the base alignment from the 4-3 to the 3-4.

Three of the top four receivers are being replaced, but there is experience at running back and the top five offensive linemen have combined for 53 career starts.

''In tough games we want the ball on our backs,'' left tackle Nick Gates said. ''We're going to move the rock this year.''

The onus is on the offensive line. Armstrong was so good at eluding pass-rushers that he was sacked just eight times in his 11 games. Lee is not nearly as mobile, and Gates acknowledged that it will be more difficult for the line to keep the QB upright. The run blocking also must improve. The Huskers ran for only 78 yards against Ohio State, 90 against Iowa and 61 against Tennessee.

''We're doing more things this summer to grind and be tough and not die in the fourth quarter how we've been,'' Gates said, adding that the linemen were required to do 100-yard bear crawls twice a week in the summer.

The secondary will be the focal point of the defense. Senior Chris Jones, the team's best cornerback, is out with a knee injury. That leaves young corners Lamar Jackson, Decaprio Bootle and Eric Lee Jr. competing for jobs with the No. 1 unit.

Nebraska started practice about a week earlier than usual because of the new NCAA rule that prohibits multiple practices with contact in a single day. The Huskers were in helmets and shorts on Sunday.

''Because of the enthusiasm the first day is at a high, high level, you have to pull them back on the physical part of it,'' Riley said. ''We don't have shoulder pads, so you don't want the big collisions. You have to practice appropriately when you're in the trenches, got to be careful down the field. I still think it's good to break in like this and get a little bit of a foundation before we put more gear on.''
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:09 PM
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Johnson opens as Kentucky's No. 1 QB
July 30, 2017


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Stephen Johnson recalls a smaller media contingent around him a year ago, as might be expected for a backup quarterback.

The group of reporters surrounding the Kentucky senior Sunday demonstrated how Johnson has surged from unheralded junior college transfer to being a focal point for a Wildcats squad looking to follow up their first bowl appearance since 2010. Thrown into action in last season's third game against New Mexico State following a back injury to Drew Barker, he won seven of Kentucky's final 11 games and backed that up with a solid spring.

Johnson began fall practice atop the depth chart, a status that has brought confidence to handle added responsibilities such as the gaggle of repetitive questions.

''It's definitely a lot more than last year,'' Johnson said about the media gathering, ''but I'm just excited and trying to enjoy it, this process and everything that's going on.

''I was just happy I got through the New Mexico State game and coming full circle to where I am now, I'm just excited to go forward.''

For the mobile 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, progress means being more mature while executing his multiple skills.

Johnson went 5-4 as a starter and helped Kentucky (7-6, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) win two other games in relief in its final 11 contests. The Rancho Cucamonga, California, player completed 145 of 265 passes for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns, adding 327 yards and three more TDs rushing.

His rise included its share of struggles, particularly holding the ball. Johnson lost six of 10 fumbles last season, mistakes he attributed to technique and lacking the strength to hold on properly.

''I would hold the ball out too far from my body and just give people the opportunity to strip it from me,'' said Johnson, adding that his arm is stronger.

''I used a little bit of instinct last year, but I've gotten a lot smarter since then. Working with (quarterbacks) coach (Darin) Hinshaw and (offensive coordinator Eddie) Gran, those guys are geniuses when it comes to football. Just sitting down with them really helped me out.''

Gran, whose QB depth is better with Barker recovered from the season-ending injury, expressed confidence that Johnson will correct his miscues. He's got no choice.

''I don't think there's any question he's going to get it fixed, because he won't be playing,'' the coordinator said. ''And he knows that.''

One asset Gran and the Wildcats already know about Johnson is his ability to throw the deep ball. He led a 41-38 upset at 11th-ranked rival Louisville and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson with three TD passes of at least 35 yards, including a 75-yarder to Garrett Johnson for Kentucky's first score.

Johnson aims to improve his touch on shorter throws and enable Kentucky to control the ball along with having big-play potential. Knowing he still has work to do has kept him humble despite his increased profile.

At the same time, Johnson's growth from adversity has Kentucky eager to see where the offense goes with him in control.

''Last year was just trying to figure it out, and we're still working on the timing,'' Garrett Johnson said. ''Stevie understands where he needs to grow, and he's definitely up for the challenge.''
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:10 PM
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It's 'Go Time' for the Oregon Ducks as fall camp opens.
July 30, 2017


EUGENE, Ore. (AP) There is much talk about a culture change at Oregon, and it seems as if the players are taking it to heart.

Quarterback Justin Herbert was thrown into the starter's role last season as a shy freshman. He's since put 15 pounds on his lanky 6-foot-6 frame and new coach Willie Taggart joked that he's been strutting around without a shirt on.

Then there's running back Royce Freeman, already a physical force, who Taggart said has changed both his attitude and his approach.

Taggart is about to embark on his first season as Oregon's head coach and he's pleased with the attitude shift he's seen in his players since his arrival. Fall camp opens on Monday and the work begins in earnest.

''It's go time. The honeymoon is over,'' Taggart exclaimed Sunday. ''We are ready to roll.''

Just two seasons after playing in the first College Football Playoff championship game, the Ducks' run of 11-straight winning seasons ended with a thud - a 34-24 loss to the rival Oregon State Beavers. Oregon finished 4-8 overall and at the bottom of the Pac-12 North standings at 2-7.

Three days after the season the Ducks dismissed Mark Helfrich.

Taggart's last two head coaching jobs have also been rebuilding projects. He was coach at South Florida for the past four seasons, guiding the team from a 2-10 record his first year to a 10-2 mark and a spot in the Birmingham Bowl last season.

''Anytime you come into a new program, changing the culture is probably the biggest thing and the hardest thing to do because they have been doing it a certain way for a while,'' he said.

The transition hasn't always been smooth.

Co-offensive coordinator David Reaves resigned in January after he was arrested on charges connected to driving under the influence. Wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, a passenger in Reaves' car, left in early February for UCLA.

Oregon's strength and conditioning coach was suspended in January when three players were hospitalized because of grueling workouts.

And wide receiver Darren Carrington was dismissed from the team recently after he was also arrested to driving under the influence. Carrington, who had 15 TD catches for the Ducks, was expected to be one of team's top receivers this season. He transferred to Utah.

Despite the rocky start Taggart has clearly embraced his new job, becoming the Ducks' most visible cheerleader on social media. He's enthusiastically pursued recruits, evident Saturday night when Oregon hosted ''Saturday Night Live,'' a prospect camp at Autzen Stadium.

Herbert and Freeman will be key to his offense - which Herbert vowed will be even faster than Oregon's speedy ''blur'' offense that pushed the Ducks onto the national stage under coach Chip Kelly.

''We're going to try and go even faster this year,'' Herbert said at the conference media day this week. ''The emphasis is on going fast. We've got so many guys to make plays, and my job is to distribute the ball.''

Herbert threw for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns in eight games as a freshman last season, taking over when graduate transfer Dakota Prukop struggled.

''He's gained about 15 pounds since last year, and Justin's walking outside with his shirt off now. And if you all know Justin, that wasn't him before. But he's laughing. He's hanging out with his guys,'' Taggart said.

Freeman joked on Sunday: ''We're trying to beg him, `Just please put your shirt on.'''

Freeman was the Ducks' leading rusher last season with 945 yards in 11 games, but he was hampered by injury. He has rushed for 4,146 yards over three seasons with the Ducks, second only to LaMichael James (5,082 yards) on Oregon's career rushing list.

Freeman, who has already graduated, said he's feeling more comfortable this season.

''I told him to tell me when he doesn't want any more carries,'' Taggart said. ''I'll just keep giving them to him.''
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:11 PM
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UCLA QB Rosen turns down volume
July 30, 2017


LOS ANGELES (AP) Everything is new at UCLA.

The Bruins have new uniforms as part of a massive apparel deal. The practice field has a new artificial playing surface. And there's the new Wasserman Football Center that will house all aspects of the program from meetings to workouts.

But the biggest and boldest change at UCLA is the decidedly low-key persona quarterback Josh Rosen has taken on, a dramatic shift from the brashness that has been associated with him.

''I'm just kind of living my life,'' Rosen said Sunday. ''I didn't play as well last year so I guess less people kind of covering me, but I'm just working as hard as I can every day.''

Rosen's first two seasons in Westwood were defined as much by his proclivity for creating headlines away from the field as what he did throwing for 5,583 yards and 33 touchdowns. There was the viral photo showing a hot tub he brought into his dorm room, another disparaging then-presidential candidate Donald Trump while playing golf. When UCLA announced its 15-year, $280-million deal with Under Armour, Rosen used the big contract to mock the NCAA's nonprofit status on social media.

Ask Rosen about any topic, he would gladly share his thoughts.

After missing the final six games of last season with a shoulder injury and UCLA sinking to its first losing record under coach Jim Mora, however, that outspoken Rosen has seemingly been replaced with a more cautious and subdued version.

Rosen said it isn't a conscious change.

''You grow every day,'' Rosen said. ''Get older, you get bigger, get better, get smarter, and UCLA has treated me very well the last few years. And I definitely look forward to continuing that process.''

Referencing his lower profile on social media, Rosen said: ''It wasn't like a definitive `I'm going to do X, Y, Z.' I just kind of tuned out a little bit.''

Mora welcomed the new attitude, as the sixth-year coach had previously critiqued Rosen's unfiltered approach.

''I think that young men progress and mature throughout their time here,'' Mora said. ''Everybody comes here at a different stage of maturity mentally, emotionally, physically certainly, and I think we are all really happy with where Josh is right now and the offseason he has had and the attitude that he has taken, the approach that he has adopted. And I think that's a real credit to him. He has done a tremendous job of just self-reflecting and figuring out ways that he can become better.''

A season free of controversy could also be beneficial in solidifying Rosen's status as one of the top quarterbacks eligible for the 2018 NFL draft, alongside Sam Darnold of rival Southern California and Wyoming's Josh Allen, as some NFL scouts and executives have echoed Mora's past criticism.

Mora and Rosen both seem more interested in how the junior will perform on the field when UCLA opens training camp Wednesday. Rosen will be working with new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, preparing to execute his third different scheme in as many years.

Wide receiver Darren Andrews said Rosen led more player-run practices during the summer than ever before to make the transition as smooth as possible. That process seems to have been successful. Traces of the more-boisterous Rosen finally emerged when he was talking football.

''I think everyone is really excited to attack the year,'' Rosen said. ''We're supremely confident in our coaching staff. I can't speak as much to the defense, but offensively I would go to war with anyone of them. We have a really good crop of core leadership in the locker room. We have the same goals and process and ideas in mind. There is no miscommunication. We all know where we are going. We all know how we want to get there.''

Andrews and defensive back Jaleel Wadood believe Rosen's new attitude is a manifestation of how badly he wants to erase last season's 4-8 record. The old Rosen is still there, they believe, though perhaps not for public consumption.

''He seems the same to me. I mean, Josh is going to be Josh. He's our quarterback. We believe in him, he's our leader and we know he is going to make the plays,'' Andrews said.

''I think he is just ready to get back on the football field,'' said Wadood, a high school teammate of Rosen. ''He doesn't really have too much to say but just wants to play.''
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:12 PM
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Lovie optimistic into 2nd year at Illinois
July 30, 2017


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Lovie Smith knew he had a big job when he took over as Illinois' coach, and his first season went about as expected.

The Illini went 3-9, won two conference games and finished 0-6 against the Big Ten West.

They'll have a different look when they open their second camp under Smith on Monday. The former Chicago Bears coach is seeing his vision for a program that was in disarray following the Tim Beckman-era start to take shape, with his first recruiting class on campus.

''We're building and we're going to bring in a class and a lot of those guys will get a chance to play early,'' Smith said Sunday. ''They came here for that reason.''

Just about every position is open, though quarterback Chayce Crouch and running back Kendrick Foster have starting jobs locked in. Smith wants to keep both as fresh as possible in camp.

''Kendrick Foster will not be taking a whole lot of hits,'' Smith said. ''Chayce Crouch will not be hit in our preseason practices and if he is, if they are, there's an issue that I'm going to have with that guy.''

Wide receiver Ricky Smalling has been excused from camp for unspecified reasons, and Smith said defensive back Jaylen Dunlap might miss the first week of camp because of a minor lower leg injury.

Some key players are also returning from serious knee injuries.

Running back Dre Brown and receiver Mike Dudek are both coming back after tearing ACLs for the second time. While Dudek has made a full recovery, Brown is still rehabbing.

Dudek reinjured himself around this time last year.

''The first time I felt really good and it gave out on me again,'' Dudek said. ''There's definitely the mental hurdle of trusting it again and just trying to make little goals each day. When I'm out on the field (I'm) just trying not to think about it. I just got to go out there, have fun, let my mind be free and try to make plays.''

Injuries aside, Smith said his players are in better shape. He said last season only two players could squat over 500 pounds last season. Now, 20 can.
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:14 PM
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Rutgers opens camp with four-man QB competition
July 31, 2017


PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Two things remain the same as coach Chris Ash enters his second year at Rutgers. There will be an open quarterback competition conducted under a new offensive coordinator.

Last year's offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer left to join his mentor Tom Herman at Texas as the wide receivers coach. Rutgers upgraded with Jerry Kill, who returns to the sidelines after he was forced to leave his post as coach of Minnesota in 2015 due to epilepsy.

While the offense is moving from Mehringer's power spread to Kill's hybrid of a pro-style and spread offense, the signal callers look a lot different from last year. Mehringer's prot�g� Tylin Oden was dismissed. Hayden Rettig, a once highly touted recruit, transferred to Tennessee Tech. Last year's starter for the first seven games, Chris Laviano, transferred to San Diego State.

Laviano lost his job to Giovanni Rescigno, who will be embroiled in a four-man competition with Louisville graduate transfer Kyle Bolin, TCU transfer Zach Allen and highly touted freshman Johnathan Lewis out of St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City.

For now, Kill is splitting those reps evenly. The coaches haven't set a timeframe for the competition but they'd like to settle it sooner rather than later.

''We want to be fair to be everybody as much as we can with the reps and it separates itself out where you'll end up just repping three guys and it separates out,'' Kill said.

In the one hour portion of practice open to the media, Rescigno took first team reps, Bolin led the second team, Allen was with the third team and Lewis with the fourth.

''Gio's the first team quarterback. Gio earned that right through his play this spring,'' Ash said. ''Throughout the majority of the day Gio took most of the reps with the ones. Kyle got a few reps with the ones also.''

Which was a new experience for Rescigno, who was an afterthought in Rutgers' four-man quarterback competition last year.

''I've never been in the position where I get the first team reps out of training camp, so it's different,'' Rescigno said. ''But at the same time, I have to look at it as every rep that I take they're evaluating me, they're evaluating Kyle, and whoever else they are evaluating in terms of who's going to be the best quarterback or the job.''

While fans would like to see the local star Lewis start early, Rutgers faces No. 4 Washington. However, Ash and Kill don't seem to think he's too young to start.

''It's all about who we feel gives us the best opportunity to go out and perform to our best for the long term,'' Ash said.

What Ash is looking for in his quarterback for the opening week is fairly simple.

''Just to learn the offense to be honest with you,'' Ash said.

Kill and the quarterback will try and jumpstart what was porous offense.

Rescigno did his best to do that last season for Rutgers, starting the final five games. He ended the season completing 86-of-153 passes for 889 yards and rushed for 107 yards. However, he was hampered by a hamstring injury after his first start against Minnesota.

Now healthy, Rescigno looks to capitalize on his opportunity.

''When I get my reps I'm going to take advantage of my reps, whether I'm the first string quarterback or the fourth string quarterback,'' Rescigno said.
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Old 07-31-2017, 02:15 PM
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College football joins other sports in keeping eye on clock
July 31, 2017


Give us action, and make it fast. The lords of sports know how Americans like their games.

To keep fans engaged - in the stands or on TV or mobile devices - the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball have taken steps to shorten games. Now it's college football's turn.

Last week, the Pac-12 announced a trial in which some nonconference games on its network this season will feature shorter halftimes - from 20 to 15 minutes - and fewer commercials. The Mid-American Conference also is picking up the pace, and ESPN said it would place greater emphasis on getting in and out of commercials on time and adhering strictly to 20-minute halftimes on games it televises.

All this comes after the average game length in the Bowl Subdivision increased to a record 3 hours, 24 minutes in 2016.

Professional and college sports and their TV partners are wise to watch the clock, University of Nebraska-Omaha sociologist Dan Hawkins said.

''Outside of big cultural events like the latest `Game of Thrones' episode, we seem to have passed a tipping point where most people are satisfied consuming media on demand at their own convenience and in relative isolation,'' Hawkins said.

''But there is a strong social aspect to watching sport - interaction with fellow fans, the immediate and unpredictable nature of sport, the fear of spoilers from social media or other sources - that still make sporting events best consumed in the moment. Clearly, sports leagues are afraid of losing this advantage if the product becomes boring for enough fans, and they're now finally reacting to that.''

The NBA this month unanimously approved several changes, with the intent of speeding the final minutes of games. In college basketball, the NCAA experimented with a couple of time-saving measures in the NIT.

Professional baseball uses a 20-second pitch clock in the minor leagues, and Major League Baseball now allows intentional walks to be signaled without throwing pitches.

The NFL, with an average game length of about 3:09 last season, this year is reducing the number of commercial breaks per quarter and is changing the protocol for handling video reviews.

Longer college football games can be attributed to an increase in scoring, offenses that favor the pass over the run and the introduction of video review a decade ago.

Last year, average points-per-team hit 30 points for the first time. The game clock stops for point-after touchdown kicks and 2-point tries, and a TV commercial often comes before the ensuing kickoff.

Per-team pass attempts reached 30 for the first time in 1999 and have been under that mark only one season since. Incomplete passes stop the clock.

Four of the five teams with the longest games were in the Big 12, where huge offensive numbers are common. Texas Tech averaged an FBS-high 54.4 pass attempts, and the Red Raiders scored and allowed more than 43 points a game. No surprise, they played the longest games in the country at an average of 3:48.

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said his goal is to shorten his league's games from last year's average of 3:25 to 3:20. There is a directive for the second-half kickoff to happen right after the halftime clock strikes zero, and officials are being instructed to set the ball quicker after each play.

Some stadiums will experiment with TV timeout clocks so fans will know how much time remains until the ball is in play after a media break.

Nick Dawson, ESPN's vice president of programming and acquisitions, said game length probably is more of a concern to conference and school administrators than to TV people because the schools are worried about keeping stadiums full.

Reducing the number of ads run through a game is unlikely because of the giant rights fees the networks pay for the games, but Dawson said there are ways to tighten telecasts.

''Over the years you tend to get into sort of a rhythm of a commercial break being 2 + minutes, but you might ask for a little extra time on the back end to do a certain content piece or graphic or something like that,'' he said. ''In the moment it doesn't seem like much. You start to add that up 10, 11, 12 times a game at 30 seconds a pop, it starts to materialize into a real amount of time.''

Though networks reported unprecedented college football viewership in 2016, Dawson said he's willing to work with conference officials to address pace of play.

''What I don't want to do is look the other way based on the fact our viewership doesn't seem to be affected,'' he said, ''and then wake up five years from now and we have a real problem on our hands and it's too late to correct it.''
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ACC Report - Week 1
August 1, 2017


2016 ACC STANDINGS

Team SU Conference ATS Over/Under


Boston College 7-6 2-6 6-6-1 5-8

Clemson 14-1 7-1 8-7 8-7

Duke 4-8 1-7 7-5 4-8

Florida State 10-3 5-3 8-4 6-6

Georgia Tech 9-4 4-4 7-4-1 6-5-1

Louisville 9-4 7-1 5-7-1 8-5

Miami (Fla.) 9-4 5-3 9-4 6-7

North Carolina 8-5 5-3 8-5 4-9

North Carolina State 7-6 4-5 9-4 5-7-1

Pittsburgh 8-5 5-3 5-8 11-2

Syracuse 4-8 2-6 5-7 3-9

Virginia 2-10 1-7 4-7-1 4-7-1

Virginia Tech 10-4 6-3 8-6 8-6

Wake Forest 7-6 3-5 8-5 6-7


Boston College at Northern Illinois (Fri. - CBS Sports Network, 9:30 p.m. ET)
The Eagles hit the road for DeKalb, Ill. to meet the Huskies of NIU, a team looking to bounce back from a disappointing 5-7 record. It was the first losing season for Northern Illinois, normally a powerhouse in the MAC, since 2007. They also had their streak of eight streak seasons in a bowl game snapped, so they'll be champing at the bit looking to fire out of the gate against a Power 5 representative. Boston College looks to pick up where they left off last season, as they rebounded nicely in 2016 with two wins down the stretch to go bowling, eventually beating former ACC member Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl. redshirt freshman Anthony Brown might be the answer at quarterback, as the Eagles look for excitement. Jon Hilliman and Davon Jones will tote the mail more often than not, with true freshman A.J. Dillon a potential star-in-the-making. B.C. already has one win under its belt, as they beat out Michigan for Dillon's services just before National Signing Day. DE Harold Landry, and his nation-leading 16 1/2 sacks, will be back to terrorize the NIU backfield.

Kent State at Clemson (ESPN, 12:00 p.m. ET)
The defending national champion Tigers welcome Kent State to the upstate, and this could be ugly early out of the gates. Many have the Golden Flashes predicted to finish last in the MAC East, as head coach Paul Haynes' seat is getting awfully toasty. Clemson opened as 40-point favorites, bet down slightly. That number should fluctuate even more before the opening kick. The Tigers were 3-4 ATS last season as a 20-plus-point favorite last season, although they did cover a 53 1/2-point number against South Carolina State. However, their first home game (second overall) was a sluggish 30-24 win against Troy, so might be see another stumble out of the gate before

California at North Carolina (ACC Network, 12:20 p.m. ET)
The Tar Heels open as 12 1/2-point favorite against the visiting Bears. California hasn't had a lot of luck, failing to cover over their past four road games. However, Cal has had some luck in their past non-conference tilts, covering five of the past seven. The Golden Bears have to replace QB Davis Webb, and that will be their biggest question mark. Will either Ross Bowers or Chase Forrest be ready, especially after a cross-country flight, playing on the road in hostile territory in their first-ever start? New O.C. Beau Baldwin, formerly head coach of high-flying FCS program Eastern Washington, will make this offense fun, but it might take time. UNC also must replace QB Mitch Trubisky, a big hole, as well as stud TBs Elijah Hood, T.J. Logan, WRs Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer, as well as three offensive linemen. The defense will be fine with six starters back, but there are a ton of question marks on offense.

North Carolina State vs. South Carolina from Charlotte, NC (ESPN, 3:00 p.m.)
The Wolfpack and Gamecocks will do battle at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. BOA was a nice place to start in 2015, as the 'Cocks topped UNC 17-13 before their season unraveled. With a short jaunt up Interstate 77 from Columbia, you can expect a pro-South Carolina crowd despite the game being played behind enemy lines. South Carolina has covered four straight neutral-site games, while N.C. State is equally impressive with a 7-3-1 ATS mark over their past 11 such situations. And the Wolfpack has posted a glamorous 11-2 ATS mark over their past 13 non-conference tilts, although this is a step up from the Old Dominions, Presbyterians and South Alabamas of the world. Ryan Finley is back to lead the offense, and the dynamic Jaylen Samuels has the chance to be one of the best players in the league.

Louisville vs. Purdue from Indianapolis, IN (FOX, 7:30 p.m.)
The Cardinals return Heisman Trophy QB Lamar Jackson, and that already makes them a team to watch. However, they'll have their hands full trying to supplant Clemson, and perhaps even Florida State, at the top of the ACC, although the Cards certainly handled the 'Noles easily last season. The Cardinals ripped off 42.5 points per game (PPG) last season, but they'll be missing key cogs with RB Brandon Radcliff, WRs James Quick and Jamari Staples, as well as TE Cole Hikutini, all having moved on. Jaylen Smith could be the player ready to step up and be the next offensive star, and a quick start against a Purdue squad picked to finish at or near the bottom of the West Division in the Big Ten. Louisville opened as 24 1/2-point favorites and that number has been on the rise. Purdue doesn't really seem to have the guns to get into a track meet at Lucas Oil Stadium with what should be a much speedier Cardinals offense, even with some new parts.

Florida State vs. Alabama from Atlanta, GA (ABC, 8:00 p.m.)
The Crimson Tide and Seminoles will be the gem of the opening weekend, doing battle in the brand spanking news Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Tide are favored by a touchdown to roll on the Seminoles, who are looking to bounce back from a subpar season by their standards, if you can call 10 wins subpar. FSU finished strong, winning five straight and covering four in a row, but they were a dismal 5-3 SU through eight games with a blowout loss in Louisville (63-20), as well as setbacks on their home turf to Clemson and UNC. The 'Noles would like a signature win against a high-profile Tide team, boosting their stock immediately. However, FSU will need to find a workhorse to replace Dalvin Cook, and that will not be easy. QB Jalen Hurts is back for the Tide, and he should be even better after a big season, although he occasionally would look like a freshman, too. The mistakes should be even fewer, and that's not good for the rest of the nation. The 'over' might be the way to go, as it is 20-6-1 in Alabama's past 27 neutral-site games and 4-0-1 in their past five vs. ACC foes. The over has hit in six straight neutral-site battles for FSU, while going4-1 in their past five non-conference affairs.

West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech from Landover, MD (Sun. - ABC, 7:30 p.m.)
Unless you're alumni, or from the Appalachia region, this game doesn't have as much meaning. But, ahh, you'll watch because it's football, and, well, it's football. The Mountaineers of the Big 12 head to suburban D.C. looking to shine their star a bit. They haven't fared well against the number in big games in recent times, going 6-15 ATS in their past 21 against ACC foes, 1-4 ATS in their past five non-conference battles and 0-4 ATS in their past four on a neutral field. On the flip side, Virginia Tech is tabbed to contend for the Coastal Division in the ACC, and another 10-win season could easily be within reach. The 'over' has hit in four of the past five for West Virginia on a neutral field, whilegoing 5-1-1 in Virginia Tech's past seven in such situations. Therefore an offensive feast might be on tap. Virginia Tech has hit the over in 13 of their past 16 outside of the ACC, too.

Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech from Atlanta, GA (Mon. - ESPN, 8:00 p.m.)
The Volunteers will head down Interstate 75 and into enemy territory to face the Yellow Jackets. While technically not a home game, the game is in Atlanta and will be a pro-Ramblin' Wreck crowd, although plenty of burnt orange will be on hand, too. The Vols are favored, even so slightly, in a game with a line bouncing between 3 1/2 and 6. The Vols have been great in their recent neutral-site contests, going a perfect 6-0 ATS in the past six tries. Ga. Tech has been very good, too, going 3-0-1 ATS in their past four on a neutral field, while hitting a perfect 4-for-4 in their past four outside of the conference. Tennessee will be christening a new quarterback, and Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano should both see some snaps. They will find a rather inexperienced, yet potential explosive wideout corps facing down against a decent Yellow Jackets secondary. With inexperience on the offensive side of the ball, and a strong Georgia Tech run game and questionable QB play on their end, too, a low-scoring game might be in the offing.

Other Games

Presbyterian at Wake Forest (Thu. - 6:30 p.m., ACC Network)
Central Conn. at Syracuse (Fri. - 7:00 p.m., ACC Network)
Bethune-Cook. at Miami, FL (ACC Network, 12:30 p.m.)
Youngstown St. at Pittsburgh (ACC Network, 1:00 p.m.)
William & Mary at Virginia (ACC Network, 3:30 p.m.)
North Carolina Central at Duke (ACC Network, 6:00 p.m.)
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College football notebook: Florida's McElwain says QB competition even
August 2, 2017


The Florida Gators open camp Thursday with much of the focus on their quarterback competition.

"It's even," coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday.

The most intriguing candidate is Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire, but McElwain certainly doesn't want to give away the starting job right now to a player who hasn't taken a practice snap with the team.

Before Zaire's arrival this summer, the favorite was redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who showed off in the spring while Luke Del Rio, who went 5-1 as a starter last season, was rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

"It'll be interesting to see where he's at off his injuries," McElwain said. "We'll see where he's at physically, but he's definitely in the plans."

Redshirt freshman Kyle Trask can't be counted out of the competition, and the Gators have enough athletes to dabble with a specialized wildcat package on offense, too. Florida has a lot of flavors from which to choose.

"You know, I like having options," McElwain said. "It's when you don't have options that sometimes you beat your head against the wall. I think in this case it's a real positive."

McElwain said he doesn't want to put a timetable on naming a starting quarterback, adding that he doesn't think Zaire's newness to the program will be a detriment in the race.

"All indications, he is a great teammate," McElwain said. "He's done a great job of getting along with and introducing himself and bringing a certain energy and understanding what it takes. He's obviously on a mission, and he's here to help us win a game and win a bunch of games."

--Former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian died at the age of 94. He passed away after falling ill from hip surgery complications.

"Notre Dame mourns the loss of a legendary football coach, a beloved member of the Notre Dame family and good man -- Ara Parseghian," university president Father John Jenkins said in a statement. "Among his many accomplishments, we will remember him above all as a teacher, leader and mentor who brought out the very best in his players, on and off the field."

Parseghian was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980. He led the Irish to a 95-17-4 record in 11 seasons in South Bend, winning national championships in 1966 and 1973.

Parseghian had five operations and was treated earlier this month for an infection at a facility in South Bend, Ind.

Prior to coaching at Notre Dame, he was head coach at Northwestern and Miami (Ohio) and later became a college football television analyst.

--Two potential starters for Ole Miss -- cornerback Ken Webster and linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes -- were both arrested on a shoplifting charge Tuesday night, according to multiple reports.

Webster started every game in 2015 but suffered a knee injury on the opening defensive series of last season and was granted a medical redshirt.

Bing-Dukes was listed a starter following a strong spring. He made 41 tackles and started three games last season.

Interim head coach Matt Luke said Wednesday that both players will be suspended for the season opener against South Alabama.

--LSU offensive lineman Maea Teuhema has been indefinitely suspended from the team due to a violation of team rules, the school announced.

Teuhema, who has started a total of 21 games at guard and tackle, was expected to hold down the right guard spot for the Tigers on a line that was ranked No. 4 nationally by Lindy's College Football Annuals.

--Ohio State's offense struggled at times last season -- including being shut out by Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal -- and has to replace all-purpose threat Curtis Samuel, as well as Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson.

The Buckeyes will need a newcomer, or two, to support juniors Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin in the receiving corps. Coach Urban Meyer recently singled out true freshman Jaylen Harris, a four-star recruit from Cleveland.

Meyer cautioned that Harris is "still a very immature player," but went on to add "he's shown that he's got the skill-set to play here, no doubt."

--Oregon State coach Gary Andersen has picked Jake Luton, a transfer from Ventura Community College, to be his starting quarterback. Luton came out of spring in a three-way race with Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson but ended the competition early in fall camp.

Luton (6-7, 234) spent two seasons at Idaho before throwing for 3,551 yards and 40 touchdowns last season in junior college. Anderson hopes Luton is the spark for a passing game that ranked 110th nationally last season, averaging 173.8 yards per game.

--Indiana defensive end Nike Sykes will miss the season with an undisclosed injury, coach Tom Allen said. Sykes made 18 tackles last season, including seven for loss and five sacks. "It was a tough blow to us," Allen said.
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BYU's Takitaki back and 'wreaking havoc'
August 2, 2017


PROVO, Utah (AP) Sione Takitaki swears he's matured in the last year.

The BYU defensive lineman hasn't played in a game since October 2015 due to off-field issues, but the junior is back with the Cougars and eager to make up for lost time. He married his wife Alyssa in June 2016 and has a new appreciation for the game.

''Going through that time was kind of rough,'' Takitaki said. ''I always kept my spirit up. I always knew this was just another bump in the road. I was always going to find a way. Coming in as a freshman to now, it's night and day. You take a lot of stuff for granted.''

Then-coach Bronco Mendenhall suspended Takitaki on Oct. 22, 2015, for a violation of team rules after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft as part of a plea deal stemming from an incident in which he was accused of stealing athletic wear from the women's soccer and track teams. Then he was held out all of 2016, taking a redshirt.

Takitaki declines to get into the details, but credits his wife, coach Kalani Sitake and his BYU teammates for supporting him and keeping him focused on his eventual return.

''Coach Sitake, I love that guy, I'll run through a wall for that guy any day,'' Takitaki said. ''It was never like I left. I was always around (the guys). And they were always there for me.

''My wife is everything to me. That lady has been here for me. ... It changed me in so many ways. Can't be a little kid any more. Have to be able to see the future and say I want to be in a better place. I've got to provide for my future family. Not just worried about yourself.''

Now that things are in order off the field, Takitaki has been running wild on it through the first fall practices. The combination of speed and strength in his 6-foot-2, 245-pound frame has given offensive linemen fits.

He had 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss in six 2015 games before leaving the team.

''He hasn't lost a step, if anything, he's gained one,'' senior linebacker Fred Warner said. ''He's destroying every tackle that he goes against right now. He's always in the backfield. What's unique about him is he just has that `it' factor as a rusher. He's fast. He has the quick twitch to him. Physical. And he just has a high motor.''

Teammates raved about the energy he's brought to the field and said it has been contagious. That extra juice is much appreciated as teams fight through a month of fall camp in August temperatures in the mid-90s.

Takitaki finds himself in the offensive backfield plenty, but the Cougars want more sacks as a group and they believe his presence will command more individual attention that opens up opportunities for blitz schemes and the linebackers behind him.

''Good pass rusher, that's a given,'' Sitake said. ''He's really smart. He understands the game and loves it. I think the absence has made it even stronger. ... Once he realizes how strong he is and utilizes all his skill, he'll be a better player.''

That physicality is one of the things Takitaki is focused on, instead of just using his speed. Coaches are asking him to take on blocks more and to use his hands better.

The goals are simple, yet aggressive - double-digit sacks and tackles for loss in 2017.

''He's a beast,'' quarterback Tanner Mangum said. ''He's excited to be back, so he's kind of taken full advantage of this opportunity to play. You watch the film and every single play he's in there causing trouble, wreaking havoc.

''He's got a really quick first step and makes it tough on our O-line. It's exciting to have a playmaker like that who's excited, who's got that motor.''
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Florida QB Zaire welcomes new team
August 2, 2017


GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida quarterback Malik Zaire strolled into the conference room and started looking for his seat.

It was relatively easy to find. After all, it was the only one surrounded by television cameras and reporters.

Zaire was the main attraction at the team's annual media day Wednesday, talking publicly for the first time since transferring from Notre Dame to Florida and becoming the trendy pick to be coach Jim McElwain's fifth starting quarterback in three seasons.

Zaire spent an hour fielding questions about his past, present and future. He was poised, energetic, entertaining and ultra-confident - traits the Gators surely could use at the QB position and on the field.

''Of course I want to be out there for the first play and be out there for the season, but who doesn't?'' Zaire said. ''But it all comes down to the work that we put in.''

The Gators open fall practice Thursday, and although McElwain insists Zaire, journeyman junior Luke Del Rio and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will compete for the starting job, several teammates made it sound like they've already seen enough from Zaire to hand him the job.

''He never shuts up, but he's a cool dude,'' receiver Brandon Powell said. ''He's loud. It can be 5 in the morning and he's hyped up. That's what I like about him. He brings energy to the team. You want somebody that's going to be vocal and all that. That's a good trait for him.''

Added guard Fred Johnson: ''He's very poised in the pocket when he's making calls, how he controls the huddle. He seems like he's done this before and he's very confident in how he plays. It's the new nature, and I like it.''

Zaire missed most of the 2015 season because of a broken ankle and lost his starting job to DeShone Kizer in the 2016 season opener. Zaire threw for 816 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons in South Bend, Indiana.

So it's not like the Gators got a polished passer.

But given Florida's lackluster offense since Tim Tebow graduated in 2009, Zaire could be an upgrade.

The Gators have started 10 different quarterbacks since Tebow's departure, and none of them has proven to be a long-term solution for the team's long-standing problem. Florida took another step back in 2016, dropping from 112th to 116th in the nation in yards and 100th to 107th in scoring. The Gators ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in total offense.

''It certainly is one of the things, as we all know, that I was brought here to do,'' McElwain said. ''And it hasn't been done yet.''

McElwain quickly pointed out that he also was hired to win games, and the Gators have won the SEC's Eastern Division in each of McElwain's two years. He became the first coach in SEC history to do that in his first two seasons, but both came thanks mostly to a dominant defense.

''Whatever hand you're given, you figure out how to play that hand,'' McElwain said. ''Sometimes you've got to bluff now, right? But at the same time, you've got to get a win at the end of the day. I think our guys have done a pretty decent job of that.''

With the defense in rebuilding mode, it could be up to Zaire to get the Gators back to Atlanta.

He said McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier plan to use his running skills in Florida's scheme.

''Being able to have that multiple scheme that we run here just similar as I did at Notre Dame, just kind of fits me,'' Zaire said. ''I think being around playmakers, it's kind of hard not to fit. ... The talent here is so good, so deep, so my job doesn't have to be to do everything. My job is just to be able to manage the offense and lead and put the team in great positions to score points.''

Zaire said Florida reached out to him to gauge his interest in coming to Gainesville. He jumped at the opportunity, picking Florida over Texas and Harvard (after the SEC eased restrictions on graduate transfers).

''I've always seen potential,'' he said. ''Florida was the school during the time of me growing up, getting through high school. ... I kind of sold myself. I bought into the program. I bought into the guys around me. I believe in what Coach Mac wants to do. I believe in this team and I mean this is an attractive to be. I think this is the best place in the country to be, and I'm glad that I'm able to be a part of the team.''
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Alabama DL Hand reportedly asleep in car
August 2, 2017


Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand reportedly was asleep in his parked car and not driving at the time of his DUI arrest over the weekend.

Hand was arrested early Saturday morning in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for driving under the influence and held on a $1,000 bond. A pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 18 in Tuscaloosa Municipal Court.

Hand was in a near-campus parking lot, sitting in the driver's seat with the headlights on and car cranked, but the car was in park and he was asleep, the Tuscaloosa News reported. The arresting officer found Hand at 4:30 a.m.

Hand was deemed to be in "constructive possession" of the vehicle, according to Alabama state law. The keys being in the parked car triggered the arrest.

Alabama coach Nick Saban expressed disappointment in his senior.

"This type of behavior is not acceptable and we are disappointed in Da'Shawn's actions," Saban said in a statement Saturday. "We are still gathering information and will evaluate what we need to do in terms of appropriate discipline as we move forward, so better choices and decisions can be made in the future."

The 6-foot-4, 288-pound Hand, a preseason All-SEC first-team selection, registered 21 tackles and two sacks in 15 games as a reserve last season. He has seven career sacks and is expected to step into the Crimson Tide's starting lineup at defensive end.

Alabama begins preseason practice on Thursday. The Tide open the season on Sept. 2 against Florida State in Atlanta.

*********************

LSU suspends starting OL Maea Tuehema
August 2, 2017


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU coach Ed Orgeron says offensive lineman Maea Teuhema has been granted his release from the Tigers' football program and will transfer to another school.

The end of Teuhema's LSU career comes hours after Orgeron initially announced on Wednesday that the two-year starter at guard was suspended for ''a violation of team rules.''

Earlier this week, Orgeron said Teuhema wasn't practicing when fall camp opened because of academic reasons.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Teuhema was the projected starter at right guard this season.

Orgeron has named 6-foot-4, 343-pound sophomore Donavaughn Campbell and 6-foot-4, 315-pound sophomore Lloyd Cushenberry as possible replacements.
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Two Ole Miss football players arrested for shoplifting
August 2, 2017


OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi football players Ken Webster and Detric Bing-Dukes are suspended for the season opener against South Alabama after being arrested and charged with shoplifting.

Ole Miss coach Matt Luke made the announcement on Wednesday during the team's preseason media day. He said the players would also do community service.

Lafayette County Detention Center jail records show Webster and Bing-Dukes were arrested just before 7 p.m. on Tuesday. They posted bail about an hour later.

Both players are expected to be big contributors for the Ole Miss defense this season. Webster, a cornerback, missed almost all of last season after suffering a knee injury in the first game against Florida State. Bing-Dukes, a linebacker, played in 11 games last season with three starts. He made 41 tackles, including three for a loss.

*********************

After tumultuous offseason, Ole Miss returns to the field
August 2, 2017


OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi's disastrous offseason has mercifully come to an end.

Preseason camp began on Wednesday and actual football games are on the horizon. Now the Rebels are trying to shake a steady cascade of bad news and produce a decent season.

Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson doesn't mind acknowledging that there were times during the offseason - especially in the days following the stunning resignation of coach Hugh Freeze last month - that it was easy to wallow in self-pity.

But the time for that has passed.

''You can't be a baby about it, you've got to grow up,'' Patterson said. ''You still do your job. This is a job and it affects people's lives. I think everyone has a mindset of working hard.''

Ole Miss does have some reasons for optimism now that preseason camp has started. Patterson - now a sophomore - had a promising debut during his three-game cameo as a freshman. The offensive line has several veterans and a talented group of receivers, including A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf, could be among the best in the Southeastern Conference.

The defense is a little less settled after having a rough season in 2016. But veterans like defensive linemen Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks, along with linebacker DeMarquis Gates, provide a solid foundation.

For now, the focus is back on the field.

But the potential for distractions remain everywhere:

- Freeze's shocking resignation last month continues to fester. The school found a ''pattern of personal misconduct'' after phone records revealed that the coach had made at least one call to an escort service in 2016. The school hasn't released Freeze's full phone records, but is expected to in the future.

- Ole Miss is still dealing with an NCAA investigation into rules violations that has lasted nearly five years. It's likely that the final ruling in the case will happen sometime during the season. The Rebels have already self-imposed scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions and a one-year postseason ban for this season. More punishment could be coming.

- Then there was fresh problem on Wednesday: Cornerback Ken Webster and linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes were arrested and charged with shoplifting on Tuesday. Interim head coach Matt Luke suspended the pair for the season opener against South Alabama.

''Nobody's perfect, we all makes mistakes,'' Luke said. ''But when we do cross a line, there's accountability. There's a price you have to pay.''

Luke's straightforward approach to the discipline could be a window in how he'll run the team this season. Patterson said Luke's leadership has come naturally because he was already so involved in the day-to-day preparation. He was a co-offensive coordinator before being elevated to head coach after Freeze's resignation.

''We were already used to following him,'' Patterson said. ''He was already a leader on this team before he became the head coach.

''That's what we're excited about - he's someone we know we can go follow into the storm. We know he's going to go lead us and give us his all, so we're going to give our all to him.''

Brown - who caught 29 passes for 412 yards and two touchdowns last season - said people outside the program might be surprised at how little the tumultuous offseason has affected the team.

''We're here to play football,'' Brown said. ''All the other stuff, we don't care about it.''
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Top 25 loaded with familiar names

As if you needed another reason to get excited about the Alabama-Florida Stateopener, the Power Rankings oblige.

In news that surely will stun the college football world, the Tide and Seminoles top ESPN's preseason Power Rankings. The 1-2 matchup on Sept. 2 adds even more spice to a contest featuring mentor and protg (Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, respectively), two dynamic young quarterbacks (FSU's Deondre Francois and Alabama's Jalen Hurts) and the two best defensive backs in the country (Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick and Florida State's Derwin James).

Familiar teams are chasing the Tide and Seminoles, including defending national champion Clemson at No. 5, Ohio State at No. 3 and USC, which is back in the national conversation at No. 4.

Check out the rest of the preseason forecast below, compiled by the following ESPN voters: Andrea Adelson, Edward Aschoff, Anthony Becht, Rece Davis, Heather Dinich, Dusty Dvoracek, Brad Edwards, Chris Fallica, Mike Golic Jr., Brock Huard, Chris Low, Tom Luginbill, Ivan Maisel, Ryan McGee, Adam Rittenberg, Mark Schlabach and Seth Walder.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide: There are questions with this roster, but it's still hard to move Alabama off of the top line. The run game is loaded with Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and others, and if Hurts blossoms as a passer under new coordinator Brian Daboll, Alabama will pile up points. The defensive front seven is worth monitoring after several significant departures, but Alabama still returns arguably the nation's best defender, Fitzpatrick.

2. Florida State Seminoles: After an encouraging finish to a turbulent 2016 season, Florida State is poised for a College Football Playoff push. The defense's late-season emergence in 2016 bodes well, as multiple starters return at all three levels, along with the best player, James, returning from injury. FSU will lean more on sophomore Francois, whose poise under pressure wowed Fisher. The Seminoles can make a major statement in the opener against Alabama.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes: The talent and coaching are there, but Ohio State's forecast is understandably murky. The last time we saw the Buckeyes, their offense failed to score as Urban Meyer suffered the first big-stage embarrassment of his coaching career. Meyer brought in Kevin Wilson to boost the offense, which has more experience one the line and at wide receiver. Ohio State also has the nation's deepest defensive line. A Week 2 showdown with Oklahoma will reveal plenty, especially about the offense.

4. USC Trojans: Clay Helton and his players are embracing the national title talk after a blistering finish to the 2016 season. Picked to win the Pac-12, the Trojans have the ingredients to reach their first playoff. Heisman Trophy front-runner Sam Darnold leads an offense that should electrify despite new faces at receiver. The defense looked great for most of Pac-12 play and returns a strong core at linebacker, highlighted by Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin.

5. Clemson Tigers: Dabo Swinney's roster is reinforced with enough top-shelf talent to limit any major backslides, but losing the greatest player in team history -- quarterback Deshaun Watson -- will test the defending national champions. All eyes will be on Kelly Bryant and his challengers this preseason, but whoever plays quarterback inherits a solid line and another deep crop of receivers. Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence lead one of the nation's best defensive fronts.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions: There should be zero surprise if Penn State follows last year's Big Ten championship with another league title push, and perhaps more. Fourth-year coach James Franklin has recruited most of the roster, including one of the nation's best backfield tandems, Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. Penn State still must improve along the line of scrimmage. If the Lions defend Beaver Stadium, the Big Ten again might come down to the Penn State-Ohio State game.

7. Oklahoma Sooners: It's rare when a Hall of Fame coach steps down in June and his team's promising outlook barely changes. Bob Stoops wanted Lincoln Riley set up to succeed, and Riley inherits the Big 12's best roster, led by record-setting quarterback Baker Mayfield and an offensive line that returns intact. There are concerns, such as defensive line and running back, and Oklahoma will be tested away from home against Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas.

8. Washington Huskies: The Huskies surprisingly got a taste of the playoff in 2016. "Now we want the full meal," linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. The talent is there, especially on an offense led by junior quarterback Jake Browning. Washington needs Bierria, Azeem Victor, Vita Veaand others to help offset some key losses on defense. Picked to win the Pac-12 North, few would be surprised if the Huskies repeat as league champions.

9. Wisconsin Badgers: After winning 21 games in Paul Chryst's first two seasons as coach, the Badgers are in familiar territory -- a very good team with a chance to be great. No Ohio State and Penn State -- and playing Michigan at home -- means Wisconsin could be favored in every regular-season game. Former Wisconsin All-American Jim Leonhard oversees another talented defense. The run game is worth watching, as the Badgers lack a clear featured back.

10. Oklahoma State Cowboys: Who was the last mullet-wearing coach to raise the national championship trophy? Mike Gundy turns 50 on Aug. 12, and he's having more fun than ever as he brings back what could be his best Pokes team. Quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington lead a dynamic passing attack, and Justice Hillprovides balance in the run game. Oklahoma State hosts Bedlam and faces a more manageable non-league slate than Oklahoma or Texas.

11. Auburn Tigers: If Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham gives the Tigers the quarterback boost they've lacked the past two years, Auburn could become Alabama's primary challenger in the SEC West. If not, coach Gus Malzahn could be looking for work soon. Auburn has the run game and the makeup on defense, especially up front and at cornerback, to hold its own in every game. Stidham draws top reviews from coaches but must deliver against elite defenses, beginning with Clemson in Week 2.

12. LSU Tigers: Ed Orgeron has told everyone to geaux away this preseason, perhaps to give a new offense as much of a surprise element as possible. No SEC program has more top-end talent to compete with Alabama, but the Tigers' offense can't simply be Derrius Guicecarrying the ball. Matt Canada has reshaped offenses at several programs, and if he can give LSU a schematic edge it lacked, look out in the Bayou.

13. Michigan Wolverines: Remove the team name and the head coach. Then review the depth chart. You can see why Michigan isn't higher in our preseason rankings. Nine wins is reasonable, 10 wins superb. But Michigan expects more under Jim Harbaugh, especially as the program's two major droughts (Big Ten title and beating Ohio State) linger. Harbaugh has recruited well enough to fill many of the gaps, but the Wolverines face a difficult schedule away from Ann Arbor.

14. Florida Gators: The quarterback competition will be fascinating the next few weeks as Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire pushes presumed front-runner Feleipe Franks. Quarterback is clearly the missing piece for a team with good depth at the skill spots. The defense turns over quite a bit, and an offseason injury to safety Marcell Harris creates another void. Florida hasn't gained much respect despite consecutive SEC East titles. It can earn some by beating Michigan in the opener.

15. Stanford Cardinal: It's dangerous to make assumptions in the Pac-12, and Stanford could blow up the one already advancing Washington and USC into the league title game. The Cardinal faces both and, until last year in Seattle, had given both opponents problems. Christian McCaffrey is gone, but speedy successor Bryce Love will operate behind an improved line. Stanford is solid on defense, especially the back seven, but needs much more from the quarterback spot.

16. Miami Hurricanes: The first step toward regaining national relevancy is winning the ACC Coastal Division, which has inexplicably eluded Miami until now. The Hurricanes have the division's most exciting roster, featuring sophomores such as Shaquille Quarterman, Ahmmon Richards, Michael Pinckney and Joe Jackson. Quarterback is the big question mark, but freshman N'Kosi Perry might be the answer. We'll learn a lot about Miami during a tricky early stretch (at Arkansas State, at Florida State, Toledo).

17. Georgia Bulldogs: The Bulldogs and preseason hype usually don't mix, which is why they're here in the rankings. Still, Kirby Smart deserves a chance to meet expectations, which he embraces in his second year. Georgia has the best combination of experience and talent in the SEC East, and quarterback Jacob Eason should blossom as a second-year starter. If the Bulldogs improve their play in crunch time, they could be making the short trip to Atlanta on Dec. 1.

18. Louisville Cardinals: It's hard to remember a preseason in which an incumbent Heisman Trophy winner received less buzz than Lamar Jackson has in recent weeks. Let's not forget what Jackson can do when given room to operate. Louisville's offensive line was a mess late last season, but if new position coach Mike Summers develops the group, the Cardinals will factor in the ACC race. Cornerback Jaire Alexander gives new defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon a dynamic playmaker.

19. Kansas State Wildcats: There's the sentimental storyline of Kansas State balling out for coach Bill Snyder, the 77-year-old icon recovering from throat cancer. There's also the practical narrative: A deep and dynamic offense gives Kansas State the chance to make a strong push in the Big 12. The Wildcats lose Jordan Willis, Dante Barnett and others from a defense that finished 2016 well, but there's enough to rebound and contend in every game.

20. Texas Longhorns: Tom Herman can win right away in Austin, especially if his quarterbacks stay healthy and the defense makes moderate strides. While Shane Buechele might not seamlessly fit Herman's scheme, the offense has enough talent to score. New coordinator Todd Orlando will lean on players such as Poona Ford and P.J. Locke to get the defense going. A Week 3 trip to USC will show something. A taxing October stretch -- Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State -- will show even more.

21. South Florida Bulls: Charlie Strong inherits the turnkey team at USF that he never had at Texas. The Bulls boast one of the nation's most explosive players, dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers. Strong needs to upgrade the defense, but he has plenty of veteran players, such as playmaking cornerback Deatrick Nichols and tackling machine Auggie Sanchez. A manageable non-league schedule and no Memphis during the regular season make 11 or 12 wins realistic for USF.

22. Virginia Tech Hokies: A return to Beamer Ball is possible in Justin Fuente's second season, as the Hokies will lean on defense and special teams while the offense goes through a personnel overhaul. An excellent linebackers group and secondary should keep Virginia Tech in every game, but Fuente will have to work wonders on offense with few assurances other than receiver Cam Phillips. A tough schedule features West Virginia, an ACC crossover with Clemson and Miami on the road.

23. TCU Horned Frogs: Greater consistency is the goal, and TCU should expect more on defense, as Travin Howardheadlines an experienced back seven. Quarterback Kenny Hill is a wild card after throwing 13 interceptions last season, but he has help with versatile running back Kyle Hicks and a seasoned line. A road schedule featuring Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Arkansas looks daunting, but TCU has a solid roster that should produce better results in close games.

24. Washington State Cougars: It's tough to scrub Washington State's feeble finish to 2016 from memory, but the Cougars are another team to watch in the loaded Pac-12 North. Mike Leach finally has some experience, and not just with Luke Falk, who has seemingly quarterbacked on the Palouse for decades. There's excellent pass-run balance on offense, and if Peyton Pelluer, Hercules Mata'afa and others maintain the trajectory on defense, Washington State will be tough to beat.

25. West Virginia Mountaineers: Once upon a time, Will Grierwas the best young quarterback in the SEC, primed to lead Florida for many seasons. Now he's trying to redeem himself at West Virginia. If Grier stays healthy, the Mountaineers have enough talent around him to challenge defenses every week. West Virginia's own defense, meanwhile, faces great uncertainty, especially with linebacker David Long sidelined through at least September. If coordinator Tony Gibson works his magic, WVU should challenge the Oklahoma schools.
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All eyes on QB as GT opens practice
August 3, 2017


ATLANTA (AP) Georgia Tech is no different than most teams.

It all comes down to the quarterback.

As the Yellow Jackets reported Thursday for the start of fall practice, they faced one big question: Who will replace three-year starter Justin Thomas?

Matthew Jordan believes he is up to the task.

''Hey, you've got to be confident,'' he said with a knowing smile.

Jordan certainly has the inside track. He's a third-year junior who backed up Thomas the last two seasons and has a very impressive win on his resume, leading Georgia Tech to a 30-20 upset at Virginia Tech in the lone start of his career.

''I've been waiting for this moment for a long time,'' Jordan said.

The only thing that has prevented him from claiming the job outright is the presence of some very talented challengers. TaQuon Marshall, redshirt freshmen Lucas Johnson, Jay Jones and incoming freshman Tobias Oliver will also get a crack at the No. 1 spot in the early days of camp.

The depth at quarterback prompted coach Paul Johnson to shrug off any concerns about the most vital position in his triple-option offense.

''We've got some talented guys at that position,'' Johnson said. ''There are other positions I'm worried about a lot more than quarterback.''

Jordan had a bit of setback in spring practice, sustaining a foot injury that knocked him for the final two weeks. But, after undergoing surgery, he recovered quicker than expected and has been fully cleared to participate in all drills and workouts.

While anyone directing Georgia Tech's offense must have the ability to run, Johnson is also looking for a quarterback who can hit enough passes to keep defenses honest.

Jordan insisted that won't be a problem for him, even though he was known more as a short-yardage specialist while backing up Thomas.

''I've got full confidence in my arm,'' he said.

Marshall played the A-back position last season and could wind up returning there if he doesn't win the quarterback job.

But he's not thinking about a backup plan.

''I'm not too worried about the race,'' Marshall said. ''I know there's a competition in the back of my mind. At the same time, I'm just going to come in, compete, have fun and do my best to get out there and be consistent every day.''

Georgia Tech is looking to build on a strong ending to last season, which included an upset of rival Georgia and a bowl victory over Kentucky. The Yellow Jackets finished 9-4, bouncing back emphatically from a 3-9 mark in 2015.

''The older guys have been on the best and the worst teams,'' senior defensive end KeShun Freeman said. ''We take a little bit from each season to show where we didn't focus enough or maybe where we focused too much. We just piece it all together. We take a little bit from each season to motivate us when we're going into camp and the season.''

The Yellow Jackets open Sept. 4 with a primetime game against Tennessee at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new $1.6 billion facility in downtown Atlanta.

''That's cool,'' defensive back Lance Austin. ''It's going to be a great game, a great atmosphere, on a Monday night. I'm ready for it.''
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Louisville's Jackson focused on improving
August 3, 2017


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) For 10 games, Lamar Jackson's arm and feet offered regular examples of why the Louisville quarterback won last year's Heisman Trophy.

Then came three straight losses in the midst of collecting all those trophies, a frustrating slide that featured sacks, turnovers and signs the Cardinals junior still had work to do.

Jackson spent the offseason addressing those flaws and has returned bigger, stronger and wiser, all necessary things as he finds new targets to throw to.

''I feel like I've matured,'' Jackson said Thursday. ''I feel like I'm growing on a collegiate level, and hopefully I'll keep going.''

That's a scary prospect, considering the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Jackson broke multiple records and compiled a boatload of highlights while amassing 5,114 offensive yards and 51 touchdowns in 2016.

Louisville quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino said Jackson has shown his maturity while learning to work under center this season. While the shotgun remains an obvious option to use his talents, the goal is broadening his game from a different perspective.

''There was never a problem with him taking snaps. He was always able to do that,'' said Petrino, the son of Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino. ''It was more the footwork, the timing, all the little techniques and aspects of it. Now, he's really good at it and we can do anything we want under center.''

One emphasis is improved ball security, which hurt Jackson down the stretch. The Pompano Beach, Florida, native fumbled once in each of the final three games, a stretch in which he was also sacked 22 times.

Petrino is stressing the importance of tucking the ball when Jackson runs, something the added strength could help.

Jackson's mission this month is bonding with a bunch of targets.

The Cardinals lost their top three receivers in James Quick, tight end Cole Hikutini and Jamari Staples. Sophomore Jaylen Smith (599 yards, six touchdowns) is Louisville's top returning pass-catcher. Redshirt freshman Dez Fitzpatrick, Seth Dawkins and tight end Charles Standberry are seeking increased roles.

Co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway believes catching passes from college football's top player should provide plenty of motivation.

''There are some guys that have shown through the weight room, spring ball and summer workouts that it's time for them to grow up and go,'' Galloway said last week.

Eagerly helping that process is Jackson, who has a chance to become only the second repeat Heisman winner and first since Ohio State's Archie Griffin (1974, `75).

Like last year, Jackson is determined to take the next step and help Louisville win an Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Better decision-making and mechanics will help, along with blending with players he hopes will allow him to spread the wealth again.

''They know their plays, they run their routes very good, they've got great hands,'' Jackson said. ''It hasn't been hard at all.''
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SEC East Predictions
August 4, 2017


1-Florida Gators:
Best Players: OT Martez Ivey, WR Antonio Callaway, CB Duke Dawson, DE CeCe Jefferson, CB Chauncey Gardner & PK Eddy Pineiro.
Toughest Games: vs. Michigan (Arlington, TX.), vs. LSU, vs. Georgia (Jacksonville) and vs. FSU.
Danger Spots: at Missouri on Nov. 4 & at South Carolina on Nov. 11.


UF will be looking for its third consecutive trip to Atlanta on Jim McElwain’s watch. McElwain is the first coach in SEC history to win division titles in the first two seasons of his tenure at a school. The Gators probably won’t be quite as salty on defense in 2017, especially after last season’s leading tackler, senior safety Marcell Harris, went down with a torn Achilles in late July. However, the Gators finally appear poised to field an offense that can score.

In McElwain’s first two seasons, UF averaged 23.2 and 23.9 points per game. But the offensive woes at Florida date all the way back to Tim Tebow’s exit in 2009. Since then, the Gators have averaged more than 30.0 PPG just once (30.3 PPG in 2015). Furthermore, every QB that has made a start was either a player that eventually transferred out or transferred in. Those QBs include Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris and Will Grier. Two others – Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby – came to UF from other schools, and now Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire is wearing orange and blue.

The reason for optimism on offense extends well beyond the QB position, but even the most talented unit can’t function well without adequate QB play. The thinking in Gainesville is that the arrival of Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire and the presence of four-star redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will cure an illness that’s engulfed the program for seven seasons. Whoever earns the starting job will have weapons galore at his disposal. Callaway, the true junior WR and special-teams ace, is the only player in school history to score five different ways – passing, rushing, receiving, kick return and punt return. He had 54 receptions for 721 yards and three touchdowns in 2016, but his status for the opener against Michigan was in question after his arrest in June for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Now it seems he’ll play, however, after McElwain addressed the media on Aug. 2. When asked if there will be in any Week 1 suspensions, he said “not at this time as long as some obligations are met.” Senior WR Brandon Powell is a three-year starter who’s joined by Tyrie Cleveland, the true sophomore who has NFL size and speed and made the huge play (a 99-yard TD reception) to trigger last year’s division-clinching victory at LSU.

The defense returns just four starters, but that’s a misleading number. When LBs Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone went down with injuries at Arkansas in ’16, true freshmen David Reese and Kylan Johnson were inserted into the starting lineup. Both played well, earned starting experience and will be better for it as full-time starters this year. Also, Jefferson and Jordan Sherit weren’t considered starters, but both took snaps galore and made many big plays in ’15 and ’16. The Harris injury is costly, especially with less depth in the secondary this year. With that said, though, CBs Gardner (MVP of Outback Bowl) and Dawson are All-SEC candidates.

Gambling Numbers: 8/1 odds to win the SEC, 50/1 odds to win nat’l title & a season win total of 8.5 (‘over’ -115).

Prediction: With every prediction I make in August, you go by the presumption that most key players stay healthy. The reality of college football (or pigskin at any level) is that teams will indeed lose key players to injuries or even suspensions in some case. So with that said pertaining to this prediction and the rest of them below, I’m confident in seven wins for UF and then there are five crucial swing games – vs. Michigan, vs. LSU, vs UGA, at South Carolina and vs. FSU. You notice how only one of those five are on the road? (Thanks, Joe Alleva!) In fact, the Gators play only three true road games all year and are likely to be favored in each – at Kentucky, at Missouri and at USC. If things fall into place, this could be a monster season for UF. Then again, the depth on defense isn’t what it has been and if injuries are anywhere near the level of last season (UF won at LSU with seven defensive starters back in Gainesville), things could go south in a hurry. And, as always, until a Florida QB has a big year, that position remains a question mark. Regardless though, I think the Gators are a given to win eight games. I feel it’s more likely they go 9-3 or 10-2. I’ll call for UF to win the SEC East but lose again to Alabama in Atlanta.

Bets: Florida pick ‘em vs. Georgia in Games of the Year (three units). Why? UF’s defensive line eats UGA’s o-line for breakfast, lunch and dinner annually.

2-Georgia Bulldogs:
Best Players: RB Nick Chubb, QB Jacob Eason, RB Sony Michel, DT Trenton Thompson & LB Roquan Smith.
Toughest Games: at Notre Dame, at Tennessee, vs. UF, at Auburn & at Ga. Tech.
Danger Spots: vs. Appalachian St. in Week 1 & at Vanderbilt on Oct. 7.

Georgia went 8-5 straight up and 6-7 against the spread in the first season of the Kirby Smart Era. In fairness, the Bulldogs lost three games by five combined points and one of those defeats came on a Hail Mary on the game’s final play. But they also stole one at Missouri on a fourth-and-10 TD pass in the final minute of a 28-27 triumph. Also, UGA’s 13-7 win over Auburn came when Gus Malzahn’s team had its two best offensive players (QB Sean White and RB Kamryn Pettway) injured, and a victory at South Carolina came before Jake Bentley was inserted into USC’s starting lineup.

Smart’s second squad has seven starters back on offense and 10 on defense. Eason was predictably inconsistent as a true freshman, displaying his NFL arm on plays like the game-winning pass at Missouri and especially on his ridiculous go-ahead TD throw against Tennessee with 10 ticks left. He completed only 55.1 percent of his passes, throwing 16 TD passes compared to eight interceptions. Five of his top six pass catchers return, but his top target Isaiah McKenzie has departed. Chubb and Michel provide UGA with the best 1-2 punch of RBs in the country, but will the offensive line show improvement? This unit, which is ranked just 46th nationally by Phil Steele in his preseason magazine, was dominated by the defensive fronts for Missouri (2.7 yards per carry), Vanderbilt (2.1 YPC), Florida (1.1 YPC) and Auburn (3.1 YPC).

Fourteen of UGA’s top 15 tacklers are back from a defense that gave up 24.0 PPG. This unit is filled with veterans. In fact, only juniors and seniors were listed as starters coming out of spring practice. Thompson, Smith, FS Dominick Sanders and Lorenzo Carter are the leaders on this side of the ball. Smart, who cut his teeth as an excellent defensive coordinator for nearly a decade at Alabama under Nick Saban, should have this side of the ball playing at a elite level in 2017.

Gambling Numbers: UGA has 6/1 odds to win the SEC and 25/1 odds to win the College Football Playoff at Sportsbook.ag. Depending on if you like the ‘over’ or ‘under,’ you probably need to shop around. I’ve seen the Bulldogs’ win total at 8.5 with the juice as high as -135 (Sportsbook.ag as of 8/2), but they can also be found at nine with a price in the -140 neighborhood.

Prediction: The first two games are crucial and it would be ignorant for anyone to think Appalachian St. doesn’t have a chance between the hedges. UGA is currently favored by 14 over the Mountaineers, while most shops with Games of the Year have it installed as a short underdog (I’ve seen it from +1 to +3) for the trip to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish. If Smart’s club wins at UT on Sept. 30, that will make the ensuing trip to Nashville even more challenging. I see Georgia finishing second in the East. I have the Dawgs going 8-4 or 9-3, depending on how their trip to The Flats for the regular-season finale works out.

Bets: I have nothing here.

3-Tennessee Volunteers:
Best Players: WR Jauan Jennings, SS Todd Kelly, LB Darrin Kirkland, KR Evan Berry & TE Ethan Wolf.
Toughest Games: vs. Ga Tech in Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Dome, not Bobby Dodd Stadium), at Florida, vs. Georgia, at Alabama & vs. LSU.
Danger Spots: at Kentucky on Oct. 28 & at Missouri (11/11).

Tennessee finished 9-4 SU and 5-7-1 ATS in 2016. The Volunteers went 2-2 in four one-possession games, beating Appalachian St. in overtime and winning at Georgia on a Hail Mary pass on the game’s final play. They lost in double overtime at Texas A&M and dropped a 24-21 decision at South Carolina.


Jones enters his fifth season with a 30-21 record at UT, guiding his team to a 3-0 record in bowl games since limping to a 5-7 record in his first season in Knoxville. He is only 2-2 against Vanderbilt and remains winless against Will Muschamp’s teams in three head-to-head meetings. Many in the media seem to think Jones is on steady footing in terms of job security, but those members of the press have absolutely zero clue.

Jones is a relentless excuse maker who constantly ruffles the feathers of his fan base with asinine remarks like last year’s senior class being “champions of life” (rather than SEC East champs in a division UT was favored to win and was in the driver’s seat of after rallying from 21 points down to beat Florida and stealing its game in Athens). Jones lacked the stones to own his kindergarten-level mistake of note going for two at UF two years ago after his team took a 12-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. In short, he’s a clown who is on the hot seat and will remain there until he takes this program back to Atlanta (in early December).

Gambling Numbers: UT has 20/1 odds to win the SEC and 85/1 odds to win the CFP. The Vols have a win total of 7.5 with the juice toward the ‘over’ in the -130 range. They are +7 at UF, pick ‘em vs. UGA, +24.5 at ‘Bama, -1 at UK, +7.5 vs. LSU & -8.5 vs. Vandy.

Prediction: UT has seven starters back on each side of the ball, but offensive playmakers like Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and Josh Malone are gone. On the flip side, the Vols have their top five and eight of their top nine tacklers returning. With that said, Derek Barnett and key secondary players like Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman have moved on. The QB position is a question mark, making it difficult for pundits to peg this squad in August. I look at the schedule and see a likely 5-2 record with five games I’m uncertain about. Those contests are vs. Ga. Tech, vs. UGA, vs. South Carolina, at Missouri and vs. LSU. The Vols have two weeks to prep for the Gamecocks and will be in revenge mode, but arch-rival Alabama will be on deck to potentially provide a look-ahead scenario. If UT gets quality QB play, I think it can finish 8-4. If the QB play is poor, 6-6 is a possibility. I’ll hedge and say 7-5.

Bets: I want to say fade UT as a seven-point ‘dog at The Swamp. However, I’d like to see who gets both starting jobs at QB (and then see how they play in Weeks 1 and 2) for those division rivals before committing to that wager. I’ll pass on the win total.


4-South Carolina
Best Players: TE Hayden Hurst, WR Deebo Samuel, LB Skai Moore, LB Bryson Allen-Williams & QB Jake Bentley.
Toughest Games: vs. N.C. St. in Charlotte, at UT, at UGA, vs. UF & vs. Clemson.
Danger Spots: vs. La. Tech on Sept. 23 & vs. Arkansas on Oct. 7.

I went in-depth on my take on the ’17 Gamecocks and why I love their win total ‘over’ 5.5 victories. They have 85/1 odds to win the SEC.

5-Vanderbilt Commodores: Best Players: RB Ralph Webb, LB Oren Burks, NG Nifae Lealao, SS Ryan White & WR Trent Sherfield.
Toughest Games: vs. Kansas St., vs. Alabama, at UT, vs. UGA, at South Carolina & at Tennessee.
Danger Spots: at Middle Tennessee in Week 1 & vs. Western Ky. on Nov. 4.


Derek Mason’s fourth team should be his best but, according to Phil Steele, it has the fourth-toughest schedule in the SEC and the 15th-toughest in the nation. After 2.5 years of inept QB play on Mason’s watch, Kyle Shurmur caught fire in November and led the Commodores to consecutive home wins over Ole Miss (38-17 as 9.5-point ‘dogs) and Tennessee (45-34 as 7.5-point ‘dogs) to close the regular season and become bowl eligible. Vandy also won at Georgia and at Western Ky., which won Conference USA and finished with an 11-3 record, in addition to a 47-24 blowout victory over Middle Tennessee when Brent Stockstill was healthy. The Commodores, who finished 6-7 SU and 7-6 ATS in ’16, return nine starters on offense and seven on defense. Ralph Webb is already the school’s all-time leading rusher and appears poised for a banner senior campaign. The Gainesville, Fla., product ran for 1,283 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 5.1 YPC last year. Khari Blasingame had a strong ’16 as well in a reserve role, rushing for 449 yards and 10 TDs with a 4.6 YPC average. The top eight pass catchers are back, including Sherfield and C.J. Duncan.

After struggling on defense in Mason’s first season (33.3 PPG), he fired his defensive coordinator to take over that position himself. The results have been great and can’t even really be told in the stats. Vandy gave up just 21.0 PPG in ’15, but that was with an abysmal offense that averaged only 15.2 PPG. Then last season, the Commodores allowed 24.0 PPG while slightly improving on offense with a 23.0 PPG average.

Thirteen of 22 starters, including eight on defense, will be seniors for Vandy. The ‘Dores only lost 19 lettermen, but they lost their best player in LB Zach Cunningham, who went pro a year early after recording 125 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, three passes broken up, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one QB Hurry and one blocked field goal. He should’ve had another forced fumble and fumble recovery at Auburn, but his strip and recovery of the ball on Kamryn Pettway early in third quarter was inexplicably reversed on replay (that clearly didn’t have any evidence to overturn the call on the field).

Gambling Numbers: Vandy has 225/1 odds to win the SEC. The win total varies from six (‘under’ -170 at Sportsbook) to five (‘over’ -135 at South Point).

Prediction: The only victory that’s a given is a Week 2 home game vs. Alabama A&M and the only guaranteed defeat is a Week 4 home game vs. the Crimson Tide. Every other game on the schedule can be won or lost. Vandy lost four of six one-possession games last season. If the veteran-laden ‘Dores can flip that stat, they’ll be bowling again for a second straight year. I’m taking the optimistic view on this team that I thought really turned the corner in November of last year. With 18 career starts now under his belt, I think Shurmur will look closer to the signal caller we saw in November rather than the first two months of ’16. If that’s the case, I see five wins (at Middle Tennessee and at home vs. Alabama A&M, Western Ky., UK and Missouri) and three losses (vs. ‘Bama, at UF & at UT). That leaves four swing games vs. Kansas St., vs. UGA, at Ole Miss and at South Carolina. I’m thinking Vandy goes 2-2 or 1-3 in those four contests, leaving it with a 6-6 or 7-5 mark.

Bets: I lean slightly to the ‘over,’ but I’d keep it at just one unit and wouldn’t play ‘over’ five wins if the price is north of -135.

6-Kentucky Wildcats
Best Players: RB Benny Snell, LB Jordan Jones, SS Mike Edwards, WR Garrett Johnson, DE Denzil Ware & PK Austin MacGinnis.
Toughest Games: at USC, vs. UF, vs. UT, at UGA & vs. Louisville.
Danger Spots: at Southern Miss in Week 1 & at Vandy on Nov. 11.


Mark Stoops was on the hot seat early in his fourth year at the helm, especially after blowing a 25-point lead at home in the opener vs. So. Miss before getting blasted at UF the following week by a 45-7 count. From there, however, the ‘Cats won five of their next six games with the only loss coming at Alabama. They would finish 7-6 both SU and ATS, losing 33-18 to Ga. Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl. But UK went to the postseason for the first time since 2010 and broke a series-high five-game losing streak to its bitter in-state rival Louisville.

Kentucky returns eight starters on offense and nine on defense. The leading rusher (‘Boom’ Williams) and leader in receiving yards (Jeff Badet, grad transfer to Oklahoma) are gone, but the best players on defense are back. Junior LB Jordan Jones is an All-American candidate who had 109 tackles, four sacks, 11.5 TFL’s, four PBU and nine QB hurries in ’16.

Gambling Numbers: UK has 120/1 odds to win the SEC and 1,000/1 odds to win the CFP. The Wildcats’ win tally is 6.5 (-110 either way at South Point).

Prediction: Stephen Johnson did an adequate job at QB (13/6 TD-INT) after Drew Barker was injured in September. This duo will battle throughout August for the starting gig. The offense averaged 30.0 PPG with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. Williams is gone, but Freshman All-American Snell is back for his sophomore campaign. Snell rushed for 1,091 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 5.9 YPC as a freshman. I initially marked UK with a 4-6 record with two swing games: vs. Ole Miss and vs. Louisville. I now think the ‘Cats will beat the Rebels, but I’m undecided on the U of L game in Lexington. I think it’s 5-7 or 6-6 for UK depending on the regular-season finale.

-I’ll pass.

7-Missouri TigersBest Players- QB Drew Lock, DT Terry Beckner, WR J’Mon Moore, RB Damarea Crockett & DE Marcell Frazier.Toughest Games- vs. Auburn, at UGA, vs. UF, vs. UT & at Arkansas.Danger Spots- vs. South Carolina & at Vandy-


Missouri limped to a 4-8 SU record and a 5-7 ATS mark in Barry Odom’s first season as head coach. The offense was vastly improved, going from an anemic 13.6 PPG average in ’15 to scoring at a 31.4 PPG clip last year. The opposite was true on the other side of the ball. The Tigers had one of the nation’s top defenses in ’15, allowing only 16.2 PPG despite having one of the worst offenses in the country. But in ’16, this unit lost Beckner to a season-ending injury last summer and gave up 31.5 PPG.

The offense improved because Lock settled in as a true sophomore, throwing for 3,399 yards with a 23/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Moore enjoyed a breakout campaign, catching 62 balls for 1,012 yards and eight TDs. Lock has his top four pass catchers back in the mix and a pair of excellent RBs in Crockett and Ish Witter (750 yards LY).

The offense returns 10 starters, while five starters are back on defense (really six, though, with Beckner’s return). The non-conference games should be a breeze and Missouri could steal a couple of home games out of four vs USC, Auburn, UF and UT.

Gambling Numbers: Missouri has 225/1 odds to win the SEC and its win total is 6.5 (‘under’ -145) at Sportsbook. Some spots in Vegas have the number at six with similarly expensive odds for the ‘over.’

Prediction: I have the Tigers going 5-7 or 6-6, so I have no bets on the win total. Many of their games could go either way, especially the ones at home vs. USC and UT, in addition to a road game at Vandy.
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College football notebook: Iowa loaded at running back
August 6, 2017


Only one college football team in the country has two running backs who each ran for 1,000 yards last season. That would be Iowa.

The Hawkeyes bring back senior Akrum Wadley (1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns) and added Nevada graduate transfer James Butler (1,336 yards, 12 touchdowns) over the summer. Butler ran for 3,313 yards, averaging 5.5 per carry, while playing in the Wolf Pack's run-tilted Pistol offense.

With new Nevada coach Jay Norvell installing the Air Raid offense, Butler looked for other options after spring ball, landing at Iowa, known for its physical, ground-based attack.

"Everything about it since we got the release has been very impressive," coach Kirk Ferentz said of Butler at the team's media day Saturday.

"He did a tremendous job academically at Nevada. His statistics in football are impressive. But certainly to have him here on campus and have an opportunity to work with him, I think all of us are enjoying that, really pleased. Anytime you can add a good player, a good person, a high-caliber guy to your roster, that's a positive."

Butler is the 1,000-yard replacement for graduated Leshun Daniels Jr., who ran for 1,058 yards and 10 scores last season for the Hawkeyes, who went 8-5. Wadley, at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, isn't built like a workhorse, so there will be ample opportunities for him and Butler, running behind a typically stout Iowa offensive line and helping ease the transition to a new starting quarterback.

"Akrum is one of our best football players. We've seen him, we've witnessed him ... boy, he's right on task right now," Ferentz said. "But like last year, we were better when we had two guys that could help us there. If we have three, that would be great too."

--Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMaryion, who lost out on the team's starting quarterback job last week, will transfer and be immediately eligible as a graduate, the school announced Sunday. McMaryion has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Coach Gary Andersen picked junior college transfer Jake Luton as his starter early in camp over McMaryion and Darell Garretson. McMaryion started six games last season as an injury replacement, completing 101 of 170 passes for 1,286 yards, with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.

--Offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers, who joined North Carolina this summer as a graduate transfer from USC, announced on social media that he is retiring from football. Rodgers started nine career games on the offensive line for the Trojans, but none last season, when he played sparingly after being moved to the defensive line. The Tar Heels were trying to use him at offensive guard.
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College football notebook: Penn State's Barkley to see expanded role
August 5, 2017


One of the lasting images of the 2016 college football season was Penn State's Saquon Barkley carving through the USC defense, slipping past six would-be tacklers, on his way to a 79-yard touchdown run in the Rose Bowl.

The junior is in line for even bigger things in 2017.

Barkley, who already has rushed for 2,572 yards and 30 touchdowns with the Nittany Lions, said at Penn State media day on Saturday that he has added several pounds -- up to 230 on his 5-foot-11 frame -- and has even more zip in his step.

"I feel faster," he said. "I ran a faster 40 than I did last year. That is something I really wanted to add to my game because I feel what we do in the weight room translates to the football field."

In the spring, the school hand-timed Barkley running the 40 in 4.33 seconds.

That combination of size, speed and make-you-miss ability is why Barkley is generally considered the best running back in college football. NFLDraftScout.com rates him as the third-best prospect for 2018 -- behind USC quarterback Sam Darnold and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.

Wrote NFLDraftScout.com: "It is unfair to compare current college players to NFL legends, but it is tough not to see flashes of LaDainian Tomlinson when watching Barkley."

Barkley carried 272 times for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, also catching 28 passes for 402 yards and four scores. Coach James Franklin said he wants to make Barkley an even more frequent target for standout quarterback Trace McSorley.

"We're going to use Saquon in every way we possibly can to give our team the best chance to be successful," Franklin said. "And that's obviously running the ball. That's getting him more involved in the passing game because everyone is going to be focused on not allowing Saquon Barkley to beat them as a runner."

As for leaving for the NFL following this season, Barkley easily sidestepped that question Saturday.

"I have not made a decision yet," he said. "I'm really just focused on this season."

--Oklahoma wide receiver Nick Basquine suffered an Achilles injury in practice earlier this week and will miss the season, coach Lincoln Riley said Saturday. Basquine, a junior, caught 20 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns last season.

"Terrible injury for Nick and one that will affect us a team, no question about it," Riley said. "He was a great leader for us in the inside receiver room, a guy who was a really clutch player for us last year that we felt was ready to go on to a bigger role."

--Tennessee junior right tackle Chance Hall will miss the season because of a knee injury that will require surgery, coach Butch Jones said Friday night. Hall has started 13 of the 16 games in which he has played in the past two seasons. Hall can use 2017 as a redshirt year.

--Chuck Cecil went from walk-on safety at Arizona in the mid-1980s to the College Football Hall of Fame. He has rejoined the Wildcats in a non-coaching position, with the titles of defensive analyst and director of player personnel. Cecil has spent 15 seasons as an NFL assistant under head coach Jeff Fisher with the Tennessee Titans and Rams.

Cecil intercepted a school-record 22 passes at Arizona and gained further notoriety when a 1993 Sports Illustrated cover asked, "Is Chuck Cecil Too Vicious for the NFL?"

"My time in Tucson was a Cinderella story," Cecil said Friday night. "I'm going to try and give back for all the wonderful things when I was here."
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SEC East Predictions
August 4, 2017


1-Florida Gators:
Best Players: OT Martez Ivey, WR Antonio Callaway, CB Duke Dawson, DE CeCe Jefferson, CB Chauncey Gardner & PK Eddy Pineiro.
Toughest Games: vs. Michigan (Arlington, TX.), vs. LSU, vs. Georgia (Jacksonville) and vs. FSU.
Danger Spots: at Missouri on Nov. 4 & at South Carolina on Nov. 11.


UF will be looking for its third consecutive trip to Atlanta on Jim McElwain’s watch. McElwain is the first coach in SEC history to win division titles in the first two seasons of his tenure at a school. The Gators probably won’t be quite as salty on defense in 2017, especially after last season’s leading tackler, senior safety Marcell Harris, went down with a torn Achilles in late July. However, the Gators finally appear poised to field an offense that can score.

In McElwain’s first two seasons, UF averaged 23.2 and 23.9 points per game. But the offensive woes at Florida date all the way back to Tim Tebow’s exit in 2009. Since then, the Gators have averaged more than 30.0 PPG just once (30.3 PPG in 2015). Furthermore, every QB that has made a start was either a player that eventually transferred out or transferred in. Those QBs include Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris and Will Grier. Two others – Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby – came to UF from other schools, and now Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire is wearing orange and blue.

The reason for optimism on offense extends well beyond the QB position, but even the most talented unit can’t function well without adequate QB play. The thinking in Gainesville is that the arrival of Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire and the presence of four-star redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will cure an illness that’s engulfed the program for seven seasons. Whoever earns the starting job will have weapons galore at his disposal. Callaway, the true junior WR and special-teams ace, is the only player in school history to score five different ways – passing, rushing, receiving, kick return and punt return. He had 54 receptions for 721 yards and three touchdowns in 2016, but his status for the opener against Michigan was in question after his arrest in June for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Now it seems he’ll play, however, after McElwain addressed the media on Aug. 2. When asked if there will be in any Week 1 suspensions, he said “not at this time as long as some obligations are met.” Senior WR Brandon Powell is a three-year starter who’s joined by Tyrie Cleveland, the true sophomore who has NFL size and speed and made the huge play (a 99-yard TD reception) to trigger last year’s division-clinching victory at LSU.

The defense returns just four starters, but that’s a misleading number. When LBs Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone went down with injuries at Arkansas in ’16, true freshmen David Reese and Kylan Johnson were inserted into the starting lineup. Both played well, earned starting experience and will be better for it as full-time starters this year. Also, Jefferson and Jordan Sherit weren’t considered starters, but both took snaps galore and made many big plays in ’15 and ’16. The Harris injury is costly, especially with less depth in the secondary this year. With that said, though, CBs Gardner (MVP of Outback Bowl) and Dawson are All-SEC candidates.

Gambling Numbers: 8/1 odds to win the SEC, 50/1 odds to win nat’l title & a season win total of 8.5 (‘over’ -115).

Prediction: With every prediction I make in August, you go by the presumption that most key players stay healthy. The reality of college football (or pigskin at any level) is that teams will indeed lose key players to injuries or even suspensions in some case. So with that said pertaining to this prediction and the rest of them below, I’m confident in seven wins for UF and then there are five crucial swing games – vs. Michigan, vs. LSU, vs UGA, at South Carolina and vs. FSU. You notice how only one of those five are on the road? (Thanks, Joe Alleva!) In fact, the Gators play only three true road games all year and are likely to be favored in each – at Kentucky, at Missouri and at USC. If things fall into place, this could be a monster season for UF. Then again, the depth on defense isn’t what it has been and if injuries are anywhere near the level of last season (UF won at LSU with seven defensive starters back in Gainesville), things could go south in a hurry. And, as always, until a Florida QB has a big year, that position remains a question mark. Regardless though, I think the Gators are a given to win eight games. I feel it’s more likely they go 9-3 or 10-2. I’ll call for UF to win the SEC East but lose again to Alabama in Atlanta.

Bets: Florida pick ‘em vs. Georgia in Games of the Year (three units). Why? UF’s defensive line eats UGA’s o-line for breakfast, lunch and dinner annually.

2-Georgia Bulldogs:
Best Players: RB Nick Chubb, QB Jacob Eason, RB Sony Michel, DT Trenton Thompson & LB Roquan Smith.
Toughest Games: at Notre Dame, at Tennessee, vs. UF, at Auburn & at Ga. Tech.
Danger Spots: vs. Appalachian St. in Week 1 & at Vanderbilt on Oct. 7.

Georgia went 8-5 straight up and 6-7 against the spread in the first season of the Kirby Smart Era. In fairness, the Bulldogs lost three games by five combined points and one of those defeats came on a Hail Mary on the game’s final play. But they also stole one at Missouri on a fourth-and-10 TD pass in the final minute of a 28-27 triumph. Also, UGA’s 13-7 win over Auburn came when Gus Malzahn’s team had its two best offensive players (QB Sean White and RB Kamryn Pettway) injured, and a victory at South Carolina came before Jake Bentley was inserted into USC’s starting lineup.

Smart’s second squad has seven starters back on offense and 10 on defense. Eason was predictably inconsistent as a true freshman, displaying his NFL arm on plays like the game-winning pass at Missouri and especially on his ridiculous go-ahead TD throw against Tennessee with 10 ticks left. He completed only 55.1 percent of his passes, throwing 16 TD passes compared to eight interceptions. Five of his top six pass catchers return, but his top target Isaiah McKenzie has departed. Chubb and Michel provide UGA with the best 1-2 punch of RBs in the country, but will the offensive line show improvement? This unit, which is ranked just 46th nationally by Phil Steele in his preseason magazine, was dominated by the defensive fronts for Missouri (2.7 yards per carry), Vanderbilt (2.1 YPC), Florida (1.1 YPC) and Auburn (3.1 YPC).

Fourteen of UGA’s top 15 tacklers are back from a defense that gave up 24.0 PPG. This unit is filled with veterans. In fact, only juniors and seniors were listed as starters coming out of spring practice. Thompson, Smith, FS Dominick Sanders and Lorenzo Carter are the leaders on this side of the ball. Smart, who cut his teeth as an excellent defensive coordinator for nearly a decade at Alabama under Nick Saban, should have this side of the ball playing at a elite level in 2017.

Gambling Numbers: UGA has 6/1 odds to win the SEC and 25/1 odds to win the College Football Playoff at Sportsbook.ag. Depending on if you like the ‘over’ or ‘under,’ you probably need to shop around. I’ve seen the Bulldogs’ win total at 8.5 with the juice as high as -135 (Sportsbook.ag as of 8/2), but they can also be found at nine with a price in the -140 neighborhood.

Prediction: The first two games are crucial and it would be ignorant for anyone to think Appalachian St. doesn’t have a chance between the hedges. UGA is currently favored by 14 over the Mountaineers, while most shops with Games of the Year have it installed as a short underdog (I’ve seen it from +1 to +3) for the trip to South Bend to face the Fighting Irish. If Smart’s club wins at UT on Sept. 30, that will make the ensuing trip to Nashville even more challenging. I see Georgia finishing second in the East. I have the Dawgs going 8-4 or 9-3, depending on how their trip to The Flats for the regular-season finale works out.

Bets: I have nothing here.

3-Tennessee Volunteers:
Best Players: WR Jauan Jennings, SS Todd Kelly, LB Darrin Kirkland, KR Evan Berry & TE Ethan Wolf.
Toughest Games: vs. Ga Tech in Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Dome, not Bobby Dodd Stadium), at Florida, vs. Georgia, at Alabama & vs. LSU.
Danger Spots: at Kentucky on Oct. 28 & at Missouri (11/11).

Tennessee finished 9-4 SU and 5-7-1 ATS in 2016. The Volunteers went 2-2 in four one-possession games, beating Appalachian St. in overtime and winning at Georgia on a Hail Mary pass on the game’s final play. They lost in double overtime at Texas A&M and dropped a 24-21 decision at South Carolina.


Jones enters his fifth season with a 30-21 record at UT, guiding his team to a 3-0 record in bowl games since limping to a 5-7 record in his first season in Knoxville. He is only 2-2 against Vanderbilt and remains winless against Will Muschamp’s teams in three head-to-head meetings. Many in the media seem to think Jones is on steady footing in terms of job security, but those members of the press have absolutely zero clue.

Jones is a relentless excuse maker who constantly ruffles the feathers of his fan base with asinine remarks like last year’s senior class being “champions of life” (rather than SEC East champs in a division UT was favored to win and was in the driver’s seat of after rallying from 21 points down to beat Florida and stealing its game in Athens). Jones lacked the stones to own his kindergarten-level mistake of note going for two at UF two years ago after his team took a 12-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. In short, he’s a clown who is on the hot seat and will remain there until he takes this program back to Atlanta (in early December).

Gambling Numbers: UT has 20/1 odds to win the SEC and 85/1 odds to win the CFP. The Vols have a win total of 7.5 with the juice toward the ‘over’ in the -130 range. They are +7 at UF, pick ‘em vs. UGA, +24.5 at ‘Bama, -1 at UK, +7.5 vs. LSU & -8.5 vs. Vandy.

Prediction: UT has seven starters back on each side of the ball, but offensive playmakers like Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and Josh Malone are gone. On the flip side, the Vols have their top five and eight of their top nine tacklers returning. With that said, Derek Barnett and key secondary players like Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman have moved on. The QB position is a question mark, making it difficult for pundits to peg this squad in August. I look at the schedule and see a likely 5-2 record with five games I’m uncertain about. Those contests are vs. Ga. Tech, vs. UGA, vs. South Carolina, at Missouri and vs. LSU. The Vols have two weeks to prep for the Gamecocks and will be in revenge mode, but arch-rival Alabama will be on deck to potentially provide a look-ahead scenario. If UT gets quality QB play, I think it can finish 8-4. If the QB play is poor, 6-6 is a possibility. I’ll hedge and say 7-5.

Bets: I want to say fade UT as a seven-point ‘dog at The Swamp. However, I’d like to see who gets both starting jobs at QB (and then see how they play in Weeks 1 and 2) for those division rivals before committing to that wager. I’ll pass on the win total.


4-South Carolina
Best Players: TE Hayden Hurst, WR Deebo Samuel, LB Skai Moore, LB Bryson Allen-Williams & QB Jake Bentley.
Toughest Games: vs. N.C. St. in Charlotte, at UT, at UGA, vs. UF & vs. Clemson.
Danger Spots: vs. La. Tech on Sept. 23 & vs. Arkansas on Oct. 7.

I went in-depth on my take on the ’17 Gamecocks and why I love their win total ‘over’ 5.5 victories. They have 85/1 odds to win the SEC.

5-Vanderbilt Commodores: Best Players: RB Ralph Webb, LB Oren Burks, NG Nifae Lealao, SS Ryan White & WR Trent Sherfield.
Toughest Games: vs. Kansas St., vs. Alabama, at UT, vs. UGA, at South Carolina & at Tennessee.
Danger Spots: at Middle Tennessee in Week 1 & vs. Western Ky. on Nov. 4.


Derek Mason’s fourth team should be his best but, according to Phil Steele, it has the fourth-toughest schedule in the SEC and the 15th-toughest in the nation. After 2.5 years of inept QB play on Mason’s watch, Kyle Shurmur caught fire in November and led the Commodores to consecutive home wins over Ole Miss (38-17 as 9.5-point ‘dogs) and Tennessee (45-34 as 7.5-point ‘dogs) to close the regular season and become bowl eligible. Vandy also won at Georgia and at Western Ky., which won Conference USA and finished with an 11-3 record, in addition to a 47-24 blowout victory over Middle Tennessee when Brent Stockstill was healthy. The Commodores, who finished 6-7 SU and 7-6 ATS in ’16, return nine starters on offense and seven on defense. Ralph Webb is already the school’s all-time leading rusher and appears poised for a banner senior campaign. The Gainesville, Fla., product ran for 1,283 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 5.1 YPC last year. Khari Blasingame had a strong ’16 as well in a reserve role, rushing for 449 yards and 10 TDs with a 4.6 YPC average. The top eight pass catchers are back, including Sherfield and C.J. Duncan.

After struggling on defense in Mason’s first season (33.3 PPG), he fired his defensive coordinator to take over that position himself. The results have been great and can’t even really be told in the stats. Vandy gave up just 21.0 PPG in ’15, but that was with an abysmal offense that averaged only 15.2 PPG. Then last season, the Commodores allowed 24.0 PPG while slightly improving on offense with a 23.0 PPG average.

Thirteen of 22 starters, including eight on defense, will be seniors for Vandy. The ‘Dores only lost 19 lettermen, but they lost their best player in LB Zach Cunningham, who went pro a year early after recording 125 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, three passes broken up, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one QB Hurry and one blocked field goal. He should’ve had another forced fumble and fumble recovery at Auburn, but his strip and recovery of the ball on Kamryn Pettway early in third quarter was inexplicably reversed on replay (that clearly didn’t have any evidence to overturn the call on the field).

Gambling Numbers: Vandy has 225/1 odds to win the SEC. The win total varies from six (‘under’ -170 at Sportsbook) to five (‘over’ -135 at South Point).

Prediction: The only victory that’s a given is a Week 2 home game vs. Alabama A&M and the only guaranteed defeat is a Week 4 home game vs. the Crimson Tide. Every other game on the schedule can be won or lost. Vandy lost four of six one-possession games last season. If the veteran-laden ‘Dores can flip that stat, they’ll be bowling again for a second straight year. I’m taking the optimistic view on this team that I thought really turned the corner in November of last year. With 18 career starts now under his belt, I think Shurmur will look closer to the signal caller we saw in November rather than the first two months of ’16. If that’s the case, I see five wins (at Middle Tennessee and at home vs. Alabama A&M, Western Ky., UK and Missouri) and three losses (vs. ‘Bama, at UF & at UT). That leaves four swing games vs. Kansas St., vs. UGA, at Ole Miss and at South Carolina. I’m thinking Vandy goes 2-2 or 1-3 in those four contests, leaving it with a 6-6 or 7-5 mark.

Bets: I lean slightly to the ‘over,’ but I’d keep it at just one unit and wouldn’t play ‘over’ five wins if the price is north of -135.

6-Kentucky Wildcats
Best Players: RB Benny Snell, LB Jordan Jones, SS Mike Edwards, WR Garrett Johnson, DE Denzil Ware & PK Austin MacGinnis.
Toughest Games: at USC, vs. UF, vs. UT, at UGA & vs. Louisville.
Danger Spots: at Southern Miss in Week 1 & at Vandy on Nov. 11.


Mark Stoops was on the hot seat early in his fourth year at the helm, especially after blowing a 25-point lead at home in the opener vs. So. Miss before getting blasted at UF the following week by a 45-7 count. From there, however, the ‘Cats won five of their next six games with the only loss coming at Alabama. They would finish 7-6 both SU and ATS, losing 33-18 to Ga. Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl. But UK went to the postseason for the first time since 2010 and broke a series-high five-game losing streak to its bitter in-state rival Louisville.

Kentucky returns eight starters on offense and nine on defense. The leading rusher (‘Boom’ Williams) and leader in receiving yards (Jeff Badet, grad transfer to Oklahoma) are gone, but the best players on defense are back. Junior LB Jordan Jones is an All-American candidate who had 109 tackles, four sacks, 11.5 TFL’s, four PBU and nine QB hurries in ’16.

Gambling Numbers: UK has 120/1 odds to win the SEC and 1,000/1 odds to win the CFP. The Wildcats’ win tally is 6.5 (-110 either way at South Point).

Prediction: Stephen Johnson did an adequate job at QB (13/6 TD-INT) after Drew Barker was injured in September. This duo will battle throughout August for the starting gig. The offense averaged 30.0 PPG with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. Williams is gone, but Freshman All-American Snell is back for his sophomore campaign. Snell rushed for 1,091 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 5.9 YPC as a freshman. I initially marked UK with a 4-6 record with two swing games: vs. Ole Miss and vs. Louisville. I now think the ‘Cats will beat the Rebels, but I’m undecided on the U of L game in Lexington. I think it’s 5-7 or 6-6 for UK depending on the regular-season finale.

-I’ll pass.

7-Missouri TigersBest Players- QB Drew Lock, DT Terry Beckner, WR J’Mon Moore, RB Damarea Crockett & DE Marcell Frazier.Toughest Games- vs. Auburn, at UGA, vs. UF, vs. UT & at Arkansas.Danger Spots- vs. South Carolina & at Vandy-


Missouri limped to a 4-8 SU record and a 5-7 ATS mark in Barry Odom’s first season as head coach. The offense was vastly improved, going from an anemic 13.6 PPG average in ’15 to scoring at a 31.4 PPG clip last year. The opposite was true on the other side of the ball. The Tigers had one of the nation’s top defenses in ’15, allowing only 16.2 PPG despite having one of the worst offenses in the country. But in ’16, this unit lost Beckner to a season-ending injury last summer and gave up 31.5 PPG.

The offense improved because Lock settled in as a true sophomore, throwing for 3,399 yards with a 23/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Moore enjoyed a breakout campaign, catching 62 balls for 1,012 yards and eight TDs. Lock has his top four pass catchers back in the mix and a pair of excellent RBs in Crockett and Ish Witter (750 yards LY).

The offense returns 10 starters, while five starters are back on defense (really six, though, with Beckner’s return). The non-conference games should be a breeze and Missouri could steal a couple of home games out of four vs USC, Auburn, UF and UT.

Gambling Numbers: Missouri has 225/1 odds to win the SEC and its win total is 6.5 (‘under’ -145) at Sportsbook. Some spots in Vegas have the number at six with similarly expensive odds for the ‘over.’

Prediction: I have the Tigers going 5-7 or 6-6, so I have no bets on the win total. Many of their games could go either way, especially the ones at home vs. USC and UT, in addition to a road game at Vandy.
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Wolfpack's defensive front ready for 2017
August 6, 2017


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Kentavius Street knows what awaits for North Carolina State's defensive line.

Stacked with experience and headlined by an NFL first-round prospect in Bradley Chubb, the Wolfpack's front four could be the best symbol of the program's steady maturation under fifth-year coach Dave Doeren. And so much of the defense's success in 2017 will depend on how well that unit stuffs the run and hits quarterbacks in the backfield.

''I don't think it's so much a pressure,'' Street said Sunday during the team's preseason media day. ''I would just say it's we're accepting our role now, because we're not little pups anymore. We're the big dogs on the team.

''We're growing into that role, and with that role comes responsibility.''

N.C. State returns four senior starters on the line with Chubb and Street on the outside, and B.J. Hill and Justin Jones on the interior. It's a group that has climbed the depth charts together in a program where Doeren emphasizes developing prospects over time into proven veterans.

The quartet probably captures that philosophy better than any part of the projected staring lineup. They've played a lot of games together, know how to play off one another and have a good idea exactly how their linemates will react in a pressure situation - starting Sept. 2 against South Carolina in Charlotte.

''It's definitely a huge advantage,'' Chubb said. ''We've got that camaraderie with each other, and we know what makes each other go. We know when somebody's not feeling it how to snap them back into that zone.''

The four started 12 of the Wolfpack's 13 games together last season, serving as the front line of a run defense that finished eighth nationally at 108.6 yards per game. N.C. State tied a school record by holding five opponents to fewer than 70 yards rushing last season.

Chubb grabbed most of the attention, ranking tied for fourth in FBS with 22 tackles for loss and tied for 19th with 10.5 sacks. Street had 5.5 sacks, Jones had three sacks in his first year as a fulltime starter, and the 315-pound Hill has the most career starts (31) of anyone on the defense.

Perhaps more importantly, there's some experienced depth, too. Junior end Darian Roseboro was second on the team with seven sacks as a top reserve, while junior tackle Eurndraus Bryant has played in 25 games through two seasons.

Doeren said the focus during preseason camp has been sorting through the depth chart with the top spots already settled.

''You can't have four good players that are NFL quality guys and then nothing behind them,'' Doeren said. ''I don't think we have nothing, but we've got to get those guys ready. . To know who six of them are right now, that's a great place to be. We've just got to keep them healthy and keep developing their weaknesses.''
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U Network: Richt reaches out to Miami alumni needing help
August 6, 2017


CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) The first week of training camp at Miami had just ended, and Hurricanes coach Mark Richt made his way after practice into a luncheon to do some recruiting.

He wasn't seeking new players.

His aim was to assist past ones.

Richt calls it ''The U Network,'' a program he's been plotting ever since he returned to his alma mater to coach 20 months ago. It is now off the ground with a simple mission: to help any former Miami player, especially those seeking a job. Richt, along with several members of his staff and other university personnel, set up what became a networking event and job fair - the first of what will be many, Richt hopes.

''The U Network is a 365-days-a-year adventure, so to speak,'' Richt said. ''We just want to help our guys connect with each other in a reunion-type thing, help friendships that already exist and make new friends within the football alumni. But also, if anybody feels forgotten or anybody feels like nobody cares, we do care. And we want everybody to know that we're here to find work if they need work, or a good connection, or just know that you've got friends.''

For the inaugural event, Miami had representatives from numerous sides of the business world - the plumbers' union, the Coral Gables Police Department, builders, roofers, a flooring company, the hospitality industry and others come out to talk to job-seeking `Canes.

Dozens of former players from different generations and their families showed up - and at least one got a job on the spot. Others said they left with more meetings scheduled, or at least a better idea of what might be out there in the marketplace.

''I've been in business for over 30 years and it's hard for me to ask for help,'' said former Miami player John Fenton, who was a Richt teammate with the Hurricanes and now is a CEO coach in Atlanta. ''I've come to the realization that I can't do it all myself. None of us have all the answers. So this is a great way to connect, build relationships and get the help we need.''

Tolbert Bain has no problem asking for help.

He's been sufficiently humbled by what he's gone through.

Bain was a starting defensive back for Miami's national championship team in 1987. He went to prison in a heroin conspiracy case and served about three years, getting out in 2013. He went to the first U Network event in a suit, hoping someone will give him a chance.

''Coach is straight up, a great guy. We have the right guy back in place to take the program back to its glory days,'' Bain said. ''When I heard about this, I knew it was a great idea. Brotherhood here at the University of Miami, it's for real. It's not just for TV. It's for real. This place, everybody truly supports one another.''

Richt said he wants anyone who played for Miami involved. To illustrate that, placards were set up around the event naming all former Hurricanes who Richt's staff hasn't been able to reach. Those in attendance were asked to fill in the gaps with a phone number or an email address of anyone they knew who was on that list.

The way he sees it, investing in Miami's past will also help the present and the future.

''We want our current players to know that when it's all over, whether it's after a pro career or whatever it is, that when they need help they'll have a place to go,'' Richt said. ''If they know that coach will care about them then, I think that helps them play even harder for each other now.''

Richt originally hoped to start the program months ago, but planning took longer than first envisioned. It's training camp right now, and Miami goes into 2017 with the annual set of high expectations that all Hurricane teams carry.

Still, Richt and his coaching staff found the time to be at the network's debut event. Richt had practice film waiting for him when the event started; he didn't get to it for hours.

''Mark Richt is asking players to commit three, four or five years, the most important years of their lives to him and this program,'' said Don Bailey Jr., a former Richt teammate, the team's radio broadcast analyst and one of the business owners talking to players. ''In turn, he's committing to them to make sure their life is secure after football. I think it's the ultimate payback.''
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Gundy believes defense can lift Cowboys
August 5, 2017


STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy believes his defense has the goods to support the team's well-known offensive firepower.

The Cowboys return the key offensive players from last year's 10-3 squad that won the Alamo Bowl. Quarterback Mason Rudolph and receivers James Washington and Jalen McCleskey are national honors candidates, and running back Justice Hill was the conference Newcomer of the Year last season.

The defense hopes to make some noise this season, too, and possibly propel the Cowboys to the Big 12 title and a slot in the College Football Playoff. Gundy said the unit has held its own in practice so far and has embraced facing some of the nation's best talent each day.

''It's human nature for an offense or a defense to feel like they want to do their part, but I also think that they (the defensive players) use that to their advantage because I see them at practice, and when one of the corners or safeties will cover James Washington or Jalen McCleskey, they like it,'' Gundy said. ''Their body language is saying `I'm doing my part,'''

The defense had some strong performances late last season, offering hope that the unit won't put too much pressure on the offense. Oklahoma State held TCU to 343 yards in a 31-6 win to get in position to compete for the Big 12 title. After slipping against Oklahoma, the Cowboys bounced back and held Colorado to 318 yards in a 38-8 victory in the Alamo Bowl.

Some of the talent that produced those results is gone. Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and safety Jordan Sterns - both AP All-Big 12 first-team picks - have moved on. Still, the Cowboys have solid players coming back. Safety Tre Flowers is a preseason all-Big 12 pick. Cornerback Ramon Richards has moved to safety after starting 23 games at cornerback. Linebacker Chad Whitener was a second-team All-Big 12 pick by the coaches last season. In all, five starters and 21 lettermen return on that side of the ball.

''We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of minutes against some high-potent offenses, and we have a high-potent offense as well,'' Whitener said. ''Going against these guys and doing what we do all the time just gets us ready to take on everything. We're ready to go.''

Adrian Baker, a transfer from Clemson, should help the Cowboys deal with Richards' position switch and the loss of cornerback Ashton Lampkin. Defensive linemen Cole Walterscheid and Jarrell Owens should be anchors.

''I see hungry players trying to make a name for themselves, competing every day, and they are getting better every day,'' Flowers said.

Richards said the talent is there, and the players just need to buy into defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer's plans and stay focused.

''If everyone takes personal ownership, then we should be great,'' Richards said.
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