After 120 years of existence, Texas Longhorns football has produced some of the best defensive players ever to grace a college field. Trimming them all down to 10 gets messy, but we can all agree on the greatest defender ever to don the burnt orange.
What defines a great defender? With offensive players that rack up the big numbers and get their face on the front page, it is relatively simple.
Defense is another story. Often the best corner on the field is invisible, along with the guy he is erasing from the stat sheet. The same goes for the mudder in the middle that is simply eating space like a black hole.
National awards and records certainly help, but even those are not foolproof. Leading and delivering in big moments is always a plus as well. However, dominance on the scale of that these 10 players displayed is hard to miss and is the determining factor when separating 10 from thousands.
Starting with safety Michael Huff and ending with the no-brainer at the top, here is the list of the 10 greatest defensive players in Texas history. Please feel free to state your case for the snubs, because there is definitely a case to be made for some.
In the spirit of Vinny Testaverde, the Miami Hurricanes' first Heisman Trophy winner, being elected into the College Football Hall of Fame, it is time to take a look at former 'Canes who also deserve a place in the Hall.
Testaverde is the 10th Hurricane to be inducted to the Hall of Fame and the sixth in eight years.
According to the National Football Foundation website, the criteria for eligible Hall of Fame inductees are rather stringent.
-1. FIRST AND FOREMOST, A PLAYER MUST HAVE RECEIVED FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA RECOGNITION BY A SELECTOR RECOGNIZED BY THE NCAA AND UTILIZED TO COMPRISE THEIR CONSENSUS ALL-AMERICA TEAMS.
-2. A player becomes eligible for consideration by the NFF's Honors Court ten years after his last year of intercollegiate football played.
-3. While each nominee's football achievements in college are of prime consideration, his post-football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community. Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether or not the candidate earned a college degree.
-4. In accordance to the 50-year rule*, players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years. For example, to be eligible for the 2013 ballot, the player must have played his last year in 1961 or thereafter. In addition, current professional players and / or coaches are not eligible until retirement.
Notice that the first rule is in all capital letters. The foundation really means it.
Each of the following players definitely meets the first, second and fourth criteria, and they have passed the eye test of the third rule in my mind.
Here are nine Hurricanes who deserve to be in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Did I miss someone? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Notes: The playing years listed for each player include January bowl games. All collegiate statistics, records and All-American years from UM media guide.
With the SEC and ESPN announcing a 20-year partnership earlier this month sealing the deal on the new SEC Network, it’s time to start thinking about ideas for programming.
While you have to figure the SEC Network will be oozing with live coverage of its 14 major sports, beyond that with 24 hours of air time in a day and seven days in a week the planning department will have to get creative especially during the summertime.
Taking this approach we’ve boldly come up with a list of 16 shows we want to see on the SEC Network when it takes flight in the very near future.
These are the programs that will complement Texas A&M squaring off with Alabama in women’s soccer and will flatter a lineup which will already include the SEC Track and Field Championships.
The Texas A&M Football team enters the 2013 season with one of the deepest backfields in the nation. The Aggie running backs could realistically be expected to rush for over 2,000 yards as a group.
The Texas A&M running game was led by quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2012. With the maturation of running backs on the roster, and the addition of two transfers, the Aggie backfield should be as talented and deep as it has been in recent memory.
In the Southeastern Conference you have to run the ball and stop the run if you want to win football games. The Aggies' depth should allow them to suffer through some injuries without seeing a noticeable drop in production on the field.
This is a look at realistic expectations for the Aggies' running backs in 2013.
No sport is steeped in tradition more so than college football. Every team and its respective fanbase understand the importance of the plays, games and stories, some often embellished, that have helped lay the foundation for some of the sport's most decorated programs.
At Notre Dame, college football's most notable brand name, its lore dates back over a century. Over the past 100 years, those indelible moments have been passed down to young, wide-eyed fans by their fathers or grandfathers.
These legends aren't all specific games, moments or figures, but simply stories that can't be omitted when discussing the history of Notre Dame football.
Urban Meyer and Ohio State could be one of the top BCS championship threats to the SEC in 2013, and if they are it will be largely thanks to the play of quarterback Braxton Miller. Meyer has already stated he believes Miller can be better Tim Tebow, one of his former players and a Heisman Trophy winner, so the comparisons between the two are fair game heading into the 2013 season.
But can we look at Tebow's time at Florida as a predictor for what is to come for Miller as a legitimate Heisman hopeful in 2013?
Before diving too deep into the comparisons, it should be worth noting that Meyer has a different offensive philosophy playing out right now at Ohio State than what he used at Florida.
With the Buckeyes, Meyer is forced to relay a bit more on a power offense, typical of Big Ten programs over the years. The recruiting done at Ohio State prior to his arrival left Meyer with, for him, less than an ideal talent pool to utilize, but he has found ways to adjust while he manages to build a roster conducive to his style.
At Florida Meyer had a wider assortment of dynamic players that forced defenses to defend the entire field. It was Meyer's use of speed players on special teams and offense that baffled Ohio State when the two programs colliding at the BCS Championship Game at the end of the 2006 season, and it is that style that Meyer intends to bring to Columbus and the Big Ten.
To put things in perspective, take a look at the sophomore seasons of Tebow and Miller, with each representing the first season in which the quarterbacks were a full-time starter under Meyer.
Tebow, not especially known for his passing skills, put together his best season throwing the football in 2007 by passing for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns. He completed 66.9 percent of his pass attempts during his Heisman Trophy season and threw just six interceptions. Considering he passed a career high 350 times that season, completing 234 of those attempts, that is impressive.
On top of all of the production Tebow accounted for in the passing game for Florida that 2007 season, he also added 895 rushing yards. In all, Tebow accounted for 70.34 percent of Florida's offense in 2007. As Florida fell out of the BCS title picture that year, the focus shifted in part to Tebow's Heisman campaign, but Meyer cannot be accused too much of padding Tebow's stats to make that Heisman push. Tebow's game-by-game numbers both in passing and rushing remained fairly consistent throughout 2007.
Now take a look at the first season with the Miller and Meyer combo in operation in Columbus, a season that produced a 12-0 Ohio State team ineligible for postseason play.
While Tebow's passing numbers surpassed those of the Ohio State signal-caller, Miller has a debatable edge running the football. Miller rushed for 1,271 yards last season, adding 13 touchdowns on the ground in the process. In all, Miller accounted for 65.09 percent of the Ohio State offense in 2012, which is somewhat comparable to Tebow's percentage of Florida's 2007 offensive production.
Miller completed just 58.3 percent of his pass attempts and piled up 2,039 passing yards and 15 touchdowns for the Buckeyes. Out of 254 pass attempts, nearly 100 fewer than Tebow in 2007, Miller was picked off six times.
Tebow also has the edge in passing yards per attempt, 9.4 to 8.1. Tebow ended up on average throwing six more passes per game than did Miller (27 to 21), and Tebow averaged 83 more passing yards per game.
At this point, it should be stressed that Tebow had one of the top playmakers in recent memory lining up on the field with him, Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin averaged 14.5 yards per reception in 2007. Andre Caldwell (13.6), Louis Murphy (14.8) and Cornelius Ingram (14.9) also contributed to the success of the passing game.
Miller played the 2012 season with a couple of deep ball threats, with Devin Smith averaging over 20 yards per reception and Jake Stoneburner averaging 16.8 YPR. But Tebow may have enjoyed greater receiving depth, and having those reliable options made a difference.
So what lies ahead for Miller and Meyer in 2013, and can Meyer's previous work with Tebow be any indication of what will happen in Ohio State's offense? If we can rely on history for some foreshadowing, expect Miller's workload to be lightened with more players getting involved.
Tebow was accountable for 3,419 total yards of offense in 2008, or 54.87 percent of the offense. Meyer and Florida saw more production out of the running game by using Harvin and Chris Rainey more often out of the backfield, although Tebow ended the season leading the team in rushing with 13 more yards than Harvin.
Does Ohio State have the options in the ground game to help protect Miller more this fall? Carlos Hyde has 1,000-yard potential and Jordan Hall could be ready for a more important role this season as well.
One of the biggest differences in how Tebow and Miller have been used under Meyer is in the running game. Miller brings more speed and elusiveness to Ohio State's running attack, while at Florida Tebow's running was emphasized more in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Meyer is not hesitant to use Miller in those situations, but it is much more to his advantage to be able to have Miller moving around in the backfield looking for the right opportunity to break open a big run or find an open receiver. With Tebow, the confidence was there for the rock-solid quarterback to be able to muscle out a yard or two.
The difference is evident in the numbers. Miller carried the football 17 more times for Ohio State than Tebow did during the 2007 season. Miller rushed for nearly 400 more yards and a higher average but it was Tebow who recorded 10 more touchdowns. It all comes down to the situations in which each happened to be running the football.
Tebow offered many great memories for Florida during his 2007 Heisman season, and during the BCS championship run the following season. A big, strong arm was not one of Tebow's most prominent features, though. He could be accurate on short passes and hope for his receivers to use their speed after the catch.
Miller gives Meyer a strong arm to count on. While he works to improve his accuracy, Miller is a threat to launch a deep ball. Just ask Wisconsin, who was beta on a Miller throw as a freshman to decide the outcome of the game.
Make no mistake about it: Although Tebow's overall influence on the offensive numbers may have dipped after his Heisman Trophy season, he was still the key component of the Gators championship success the following year.
The same could happen in Columbus as Miller's passing skills continue to evolve and the supporting cast steps into larger roles as needed to make a championship push.
All stats courtesy College Football Reference.
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Nebraska football fans love their history and are blessed to follow a program with a rich tradition. The offseason is a perfect time to reflect on that history, and as I did I got to thinking about a different way to look at it.
What if we took all the great players in Nebraska history and had a fantasy draft? In other words, take all of the players who have donned the scarlet and cream throughout history and take turns picking from that pool to fill out a fantasy roster of all-time Husker greats.
We will do it in a two-team league (I know, not terribly competitive) to keep the project manageable. Called the Red Team and the White Team (the greatest Spring Game evah!), keeping the league to two teams will ensure that some difficult choices must be made.
Each team will have 24 players. In making the selections, we will always be assuming that we will be getting the player at the prime of his collegiate career. Here’s what the rosters will look like.
The fantasy draft will have 24 rounds and 48 total selections. I’m going to break them up into three-round chunks, so this will be an eight-part series overall. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions as to who should be picked next, or why a particular pick was good or bad. The commissioner is approaching the podium, and the Red Team is on the clock!
Fans of the Auburn Tigers that were hoping for sweeping changes at the top of Auburn's athletic department did not get the news they were hoping for on Monday. Auburn president Jay Gogue released the findings from the committee he appointed to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the Auburn athletic department. Statements from Gogue and committee member Mac Crawford showed support for Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs going forward.
On Tuesday, Jacobs went more in-depth with the committee's findings and his intentions to turn things around. One of the things he focused on in his speech was his commitment to enhance the game-day experience at Auburn and turn it into a weekend experience. Auburn has hired JMI Sports to review the department's processes. He based this off of feedback from alumni in a recent survey (via Brandon Marcello, al.com):
"When you look at the surveys, the things that you can control are the tailgating experience and the parking, and also the food, the quality of the food in the stadium," he said. "And then certainly the things that we've done around the game day have been very positive, but there's ways that we need to improve and we certainly look forward to those."
Excuse me, Mr. Jacobs, but the only game-day experience that Auburn fans are concerned with is winning. That is the common denominator for any Auburn fan's best game-day experience.
Winning cures all.
There are few atmospheres in college football that can match a weekend at Auburn when the Tigers are winning. Auburn fans with their RVs show up in droves from all over the South as early as Thursday, and there is a buzz around the campus that is almost palpable as tailgating tents pop up around campus on Friday morning.
In 2010, CNN ranked Auburn as the No. 2 tailgating spot in America. The Tigers won a few games that year, didn't they?
Improved signage around the stadium, locker room tours and dining on the 50-yard line of Jordan-Hare Stadium on a Friday night before a game were among 30 additions that Auburn added for the 2012 game-day experience.
Sure, that is really cool, but no Auburn fan cared about those things when they were walking out of Jordan-Hare Stadium at halftime of the Texas A&M and Georgia beat downs.
For Auburn fans, nothing can top the excitement of when the tunnel video comes on before the Tigers take the field with a chance to get a big victory. Watching Spirit or Nova fly majestically over Jordan-Hare Stadium is one of the best traditions in all of college football. The experience of walking out of Jordan-Hare Stadium on the way to Toomer's Corner with the rest of the Auburn family after a win over LSU, Georgia, Alabama or any other team never gets old.
It is those types of experiences that make the Auburn atmosphere so great for fans. But without winning, those things either don't happen or aren't nearly as exciting. You will be hard-pressed to find an Auburn fan that has much to complain about the game-day experience during the 2010 season.
The game-day experience will take care of itself when Auburn starts to win again. That isn't happening enough on the Plains right now.
Jacobs' three main programs (football, basketball and baseball) have combined for a 14-27 record in SEC play in the 2012-2013 academic year. He knows that winning is the ultimate measuring stick. "Winning means everything to me. I'm not going to do it at any cost, I'm not going to compromise my integrity, but I've heard it. Sometimes I hear it when I go home" (via Joel Erickson, al.com).
The noise around his job security this year will sound muted if Auburn sports show no improvement in 2013.
With a new lease on his stay as Auburn's athletic director, Jacobs' plan for enhancing the game-day experience at Auburn begins with making sure there is a winning product on the field.
"His (Gogue) expectations are high – and I intend to meet them," Jacobs said. "What comes next sits squarely on my shoulders."
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The wave of attrition is a bit alarming, to an extent, but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise for those who follow Michigan Wolverines football.
During the past couple of months, a handful of players have fled Ann Arbor for greener pastures, leaving some to ask the obvious question of “Why”?
For starters, it’s not because there is “something negative going on” within the program, at least from what we can tell now. No, the reduction of personnel is a direct result of coach Brady Hoke’s recruiting.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
When analyzing who left, the situation becomes clear: They’re players who wouldn’t have much of an impact on the field, and they’re also players who are being replaced by younger, stronger, faster and, simply put, better stock.
Without ever playing a down for Michigan, freshman linebacker Kaleb Ringer departed Hoke’s program for Ferris State. The formerly 3-star-ranked prep was talented, sure. But the Wolverines are bringing in the likes of Michael Ferns, a 4-star linebacker (2014), who will most certainly contribute to giving guys like Ringer time on the bench.
Reserve linebacker Mike Jones, a senior, saw action on special teams during his time with the Wolverines. However, the seasoned collegiate veteran would have a hard time cracking the starting rotation this fall, even with stud Jake Ryan out with an ACL injury.
Youngsters like Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan are making sure that there is a healthy competition for the starting roles—and that’s just what defensive coordinator Greg Mattison wants. There is no room for anything but that now that Michigan is shelving 4- and 5-star recruits at a breakneck pace.
Senior defensive back Marvin Robinson won’t be around for 2013, either. Although he left Lake Region High (Eagle Lake, Fla.) as a 4-star sensation and top-20 player at his position of the 2010 class, he hasn’t impressed Michigan’s coaching staff enough to gain favor over other members of the secondary, like Blake Countess, Courtney Avery, Raymon Taylor, Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson.
Out With the Old, in With the New
The departures directly coincide with incoming talent.
Ben Gedeon, a 4-star prep from Hudson High (Hudson, Ohio) is on his way to Michigan this fall. At 6’3” and 220 pounds, Gedeon has the frame of a should-be successful Big Ten linebacker.
Had Jones stayed, he would have struggled to leapfrog Gedeon on the depth chart. As a senior, that’s a difficult pill to swallow. Leaving Michigan was a perfectly understandable decision for Jones to make. The same goes for Ringer.
Competing with Taylor, Avery and Countess and the rest is a difficult task, but throw in Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill and Ross Douglas—each of whom are 4-star defensive backs—and Robinson was staring at an upward climb.
And don’t forget about Dymonte Thomas, who could end up starting this fall. The 4-star safety out of Marlington High (Alliance, Ohio) was the No. 80-rated player of the 2013 class, according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings.
How Attrition Impacts Wolverines Moving Forward
Athletes who fail to improve are typically passed by—that’s the nature of the business. With the way Michigan is recruiting, it wouldn’t be a stretch to expect others to jump ship in the future, either.
Michigan’s 2013 class was ranked No. 5 in the nation, according to 247Sports.com—that spree, alone, brought in 27 new faces for coach Hoke to supervise and develop. Competition won’t be light, so the chances of each of those 27 staying all four years are slim.
Look at the 2014 class, already packed with talent at wide receiver with 4-star playmaker Drake Harris joining the fold.
Sophomore Jerald Robinson left Michigan prior to the Wolverines’ Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. As an upperclassman, Robinson would have been foolish to think that his job was safe—not only due to Harris, but also because of the arrival of 2013 talents JaRon Dukes, Da’Mario Jones and Csont’e York—each 6-foot-plus, 190-something-pounders that better fit offensive coordinator Al Borges’ needs in terms of size at position.
Robinson entered Michigan with similar credentials as the aforementioned; he was a 3-star prospect and had good size at 6’2” and 175 pounds. But programs like Michigan are always on the hunt for the next best thing, so considering Dukes, Jones and York safe and sound, at least at this juncture, wouldn’t be the wisest choice.
They’ll encounter hurdles, too. That’s how the game goes.
No Need to Panic
Racing to a knee-jerk reaction would be a mistake. Just because departures have been common since the conclusion of the 2012 regular season doesn’t mean that Michigan’s coaching staff is doing something wrong—it means it’s doing something right.
And by “doing something right,” that means Hoke’s associates are doing their jobs—and they’re doing them well.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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But why is O’Brien so confident?
The NCAA sanctions placed on Penn State still allow players to transfer to another FBS school without sitting out the year.
This offer was obviously very enticing to some players last year, including Silas Redd and Justin Brown most notably.
So what makes this year different, and more specifically what are the best reasons why players should stay?
Here’s a list that starts with the present then leads to how staying in Happy Valley can affect a player’s future.
Robert Anae has revamped a formerly hindered offense and turned it into a high-tempo unit. The offense should show much improvement, but it is not possible to have a successful team without good players.
BYU boasts some very talented athletes on the offensive side of the ball this year and could turn their talents into something special. They may not be Heisman candidates or potential top-5 picks, but they will have a big impact on the Cougar team, and here are a few of them.
New head coach Gus Malzahn will quickly turn the Auburn Tigers around for the better in 2013.
For starters, it can't get much worse coming off a 3-9 campaign last fall, including zero SEC victories.
After such a frustrating season in 2012, getting a strong recruiting class is quite impressive. Plus, Auburn was the only team ranked inside the top 15 that finished below .500.
Factor in Malzahn leading the Arkansas State Red Wolves to a record of 9-3 and a Sun Belt conference title. His team also went on to take the GoDaddy.com Bowl over Kent State 17-13 after he had joined Auburn.
Retreat further back to February of 2011 and ESPN.com's Chris Low had Malzahn listed as one of the SEC's best recruiters. Unsurprisingly, that trend held true with his current class.
Malzahn also made a great coaching move by reeling in defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson shortly after he was hired. Johnson enters with plenty of previous SEC experience and believes Auburn's current defense has great potential.
As written by James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser, Johnson has set expectations:
Johnson was pleased with his squad after the conclusion of spring practice and believes the group he is inheriting is better than those he had in his first years at Mississippi State (2004) and South Carolina (2008).
“We made it clear to them it's going to be a new standard, and I think the reception has been good, the attitude has been good, the work habits have been good. We made a lot of progress,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing, I think, (is) there are more really good, solid SEC players on this defensive unit than were at either one of those two places I was at, especially the first year.
Now Auburn's 2013 schedule is quite brutal.
With the obvious tough matchups against LSU (away), Texas A&M (away), Georgia and Alabama, the Tigers' route to bowl season is in jeopardy. Other sound SEC contests versus Mississippi State and Ole Miss simply enhance the schedule's difficulty.
Fortunately, there is running back Tre Mason to rely on as he collected 1,002 rushing yards last fall and scored eight times. He also averaged 5.9 yards per carry, which maintaining that effectiveness will help set up the play-action pass.
Defensively, Auburn must get more production from Dee Ford up front. He recorded six sacks in 2012 but only 34 total tackles. The better Johnson's front line wins the immediate point of attack, the more Auburn wins on first and second down.
That then increases turnover opportunities for those in coverage regardless of the game situation.
In short, getting off the field on third down and minimizing turnovers offensively will have Auburn competing this fall. Combine that with a solid recruiting class and the Tigers are headed in the correct direction.
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Notre Dame's scheduling agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference—a byproduct of the university's decision to join the conference in all sports aside from football and hockey—has miffed Michigan head coach Brady Hoke for one particular reason (h/t ESPN.com).
During a speaking engagement in Grand Rapids, Mich., Hoke voiced his displeasure with the discontinuation of the rivalry between his Wolverines and the Fighting Irish.
"We have unbelievable rivalry games at Michigan. The Notre Dame, that rivalry, which they're chickening out of ... they're still going to play Michigan State, they'll play Purdue; they don't want to play Michigan."
Hoke, entering his third season as head coach at Michigan, is referencing Notre Dame's decision to cancel contests between the two schools in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Yes, the cancellation of those games was solely Notre Dame's decision, which is a fact that needs to be laid out on the table before further discussion.
Hoke's apparent frustration with the arrangement isn't off-base; the rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan, while not as tenured as the Irish's rivalries with Michigan State and Purdue, has rapidly increased in value and popularity, as this season's matchup will be the third consecutive broadcast in prime time.
It's a contest with deep regional ties, and one fans have circled on the calendar on an annual basis.
With Notre Dame making the jump to the ACC, the Irish, while still being an independent in football, will play five games per season against ACC teams. And with only 12 regular-season slots available, Notre Dame will be limited to seven games to fulfill its ideal of having a true "national schedule."
Additionally, the Irish have already stated their desire to maintain traditional rivalries with USC, Stanford and Navy, meaning that, in a perfect world, they would have four available slots remaining.
Let's take a look at Notre Dame's 2015 schedule to gain clarity on the issue at hand.
The Irish will face five ACC opponents: Boston College and Georgia Tech at home, and Clemson, Virginia and Pittsburgh on the road.
The so-called "non-conference" portion of the schedule includes Texas, Purdue, Massachusetts, Navy, USC and Stanford.
That leaves the Irish with just one remaining slot, which Michigan fans may argue should belong to the Wolverines. And this is where the discussion will lead to heated exchanges between fans of both schools.
As the schedule is currently mapped out, the one available slot would be used for the Irish's annual Shamrock Series game, which takes place at a neutral site in an attractive TV market against a non-regional opponent.
Michigan doesn't fit that bill, leading to the consensus belief that a brand-name team outside the Midwest would finalize the 2015 schedule.
The undeniable fact is that mutuality is non-existent between the schools; Notre Dame does not need Michigan, whereas Michigan needs Notre Dame.
The Big Ten Conference as a whole is in a period of decline; the conference's last national championship arrived in 2002, and concerns existed as to whether Ohio State's schedule would have been strong enough to qualify the Buckeyes for last season's title game had they been eligible.
Because of the conference's lack of quality teams, members such as Michigan and Ohio State—both marquee programs—are in desperate need of non-conference dates with powerhouse programs, making Notre Dame's cancellation of its series with the Wolverines a direct blow to the Michigan program.
The scenario also sheds light on Hoke's derisive comments. The sentiment surrounding the banter is comparable to a breakup in which one person leaves the other knowing his or her options are abounding.
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Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is coming off the best season of his career, while Michigan's Devin Gardner is still somewhat of a question mark at the position.
With both leading teams that hope to compete for a Big Ten title this year, the performance of each signal-caller will play a big part in how things turn out.
This being the case, Wolverines fans would be excited to know that their leader will step up in a big way. Although Martinez is the senior and has the household name, Gardner has the upside and will have the stronger performance this season.
Martinez has been under center for three years now and you get the feeling that what you have seen is what you will continue to get. He is an athlete first and can truly be considered a quarterback second.
His completion percentage has always been below average and he has struggled throughout his career with accuracy issues.
Last season was his best, as he completed 62 percent of his passes and threw for 2,871 yards and 23 touchdowns. This was good enough to wake up the neighbors, but then Martinez reminded you that he was the same quarterback when he threw four interceptions in the final two games.
The Nebraska signal-caller is a runner first and passer second, which would explain the 2,858 career rushing yards.
Even though Gardner only played quarterback in the final five games last year, he still displayed tremendous ability. Showing off terrific arm strength, being able to put the ball right on the money and knowing when to run, Gardner was a key reason why Michigan won three of its final five games. He also nearly led his team to victories over Ohio State and South Carolina.
In a small sample size of playing time, Gardner passed for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 101 yards and seven scores.
His completion percentage of 59.5 percent could certainly improve, but remember that this was somebody who spent much of his career as a running back and wide receiver. Imagine how he will perform with a full offseason and training with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. under his belt.
While both quarterbacks have shown their athleticism and ability to make plays with their feet, it is what is done throwing the ball that will put one of these guys over the top.
Gardner was able to pick up 39 percent of the passing first downs Martinez produced in a full season. As for big plays throwing the ball, the Michigan quarterback had nearly 45 percent of Martinez's passing plays of more than 25 yards.
Remember, this was just in five games compared to a full season.
As for the returning offenses, Michigan has one of the deepest backfields in the Big Ten with Fitzgerald Toussaint, Drake Johnson and Derrick Green. The Wolverines also have two of the best offensive tackles protecting Gardner in Mike Schofield and Taylor Lewan.
Nebraska, on the other hand, returns a line that allowed 35 sacks last year and has a backfield that lost Rex Burkhead and Braylon Heard.
Gardner has the players around him and the upside to become even better than he was last year in limited playing time. Unfortunately, we have seen the best from Martinez, which will likely not be good enough.
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When a recruit is offered a scholarship to play college sports, coaches usually have to worry about other schools, family, girlfriends, playing time and location being potential pitfalls to signing a kid that could help the program.
Add a career in music to that list.
2013 Michigan State recruit Jay Harris, ranked by 247Sports as a 3-star wide receiver, has decided to forgo a college football career and instead focus on a music one in the hip hop industry.
Truly one of the oddest decisions we've ever seen with respect to the high school-to-college jump. But, if you listen to the young man explain his decision to Matt Breen of Philly.com, it's something that has really been weighing on his heart for quite some time:
I’ve been thinking about doing this for a couple of years now...I try to take advantage of every opportunity I get and for him to like my music and reach it to me, I really appreciated that. I’ve always had this in the back of my head, but never had the courage to tell my parents that this is what I want to do.
According to the article, Harris' mixtape is set to drop in June and he'll be working with a professional recording artist this summer, instead of heading to East Lansing in preparation for Mark D'Antonio's upcoming football season.
Harris originally committed to the Spartans on National Signing Day (Feb. 6), but called his original commitment to the program "halfhearted", per Breen's piece.
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We all know Wayne Woodrow "Woody" Hayes as the most legendary coach in the history of the Ohio State football program. Hayes was a winner on the Ohio Stadium field (205-61-10) and off the field.
But when Hayes' name is mentioned, it's rarely about his service as a World War II Navy lieutenant commander. It's not about staking his claim to five national titles and 13 Big Ten titles. Or about inspiring so many young men to excel not just on the football field, but in life.
Rather, Hayes is best known for a bad decision he made at the 1978 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. On December 29, 1978, the most legendary coaching career for one of the nation's most legendary programs came to an end with one right hook.
An Eerie Feeling
"I'm not trying to win a popularity poll. I'm trying to win football games. I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." - Woody Hayes
Jack Park, commentator for 97.1 The Fan, stated, "Had Ohio State won (the 1976 Rose Bowl against UCLA), some people have voiced their opinion that Hayes was ready to retire. But since he didn’t win, he wanted to come back and win one more (national title)."
The Bruins defeated the Buckeyes in Archie Griffin's final game. The loss denied Hayes and the Buckeyes a national championship and started a downward spiral for Hayes.
The Buckeyes went 9-2-1 and 9-3 in the next two seasons and won the Big Ten title in each season. However, Hayes dropped back-to-back games to his former assistant Bo Schembechler and "that team up north" and never again competed for a national title under Hayes.
Prior to the 1978 season, Hayes' assistants and those close to the program felt something was coming, but they didn't know what it was.
"Those closer to the program at that time, one of them was a longtime sportscaster by the name of Jimmy Crum, told me that the assistant coaches had told him that they felt (leading up to the 1978 season) something was going to happen," Park said.
"Hayes was just different," he said. "He had trouble with some things and just blew his top a lot more. They were not completely surprised when something bad happened."
Park strongly believes Hayes' health had a lot to do with what happened in Hayes' fateful, final game.
"He was a diabetic, I don't think most people know," Park explained. "I think (age, stress and lack of success on the field) plus health contributed to what happened (at the Gator Bowl)."
The 1978 Gator Bowl
"Football is, after all, a wonderful way to get rid of your aggressions without going to jail for it." - Woody Hayes
The score was 17-15. Clemson was leading Ohio State. With under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Hayes had to abandon his beloved running game and rely on freshman quarterback Art Schlichter.
Schlichter dropped back and tried to get the ball to a receiver crossing over the middle. But Charlie Bauman cut in front of the pass and intercepted it. Bauman was tackled in front of the Ohio State sideline, and in the ruckus that ensued, Hayes threw a punch into Bauman's throat.
Those watching from the stands and those watching on TV were not privy to what actually happened in the scrum on the Ohio State sideline.
Harry Blaine was at the game and recounted what he saw after Schlichter's pass was intercepted.
"(I was) on the opposite side of the field from Ohio State's bench, so all I could see was that something was going on," Blaine recalled. "We saw the Clemson player run up to Woody, then a real ruckus with players and coaches milling around. Then calm was restored and the game went on."
Park had a similar experience watching on TV.
"On television, it was hard to understand what had really happened," Park recounted. "The announcers Keith Jackson and Ara Parseghian didn’t know what had happened. They knew that there was a disturbance and shoving, but they didn’t know that Woody Hayes had hit a player."
After the interception, Clemson was able to run out the clock and win the game. But shortly after, the talk changed from Clemson beating Ohio State to what Hayes had done on the sideline.
"I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there. I just despise to lose, and that has taken a man of mediocre ability and made a pretty good coach out of him." - Woody Hayes
"Pretty soon after the game, news came through (that Hayes had punched Bauman)," Park said. "I think all around the country, the leadoff story that night was that Woody Hayes had hit a player."
Ohio State's athletic director Hugh Hindman held an impromptu press conference the morning after the game. While the team was on the plane at the Jacksonville airport, Hindman announced Hayes would no longer be the coach.
Park said the team was not aware their coach had been fired until they arrived back in Columbus.
"It was time for Hayes to go, but the way the Ohio State University handled (the firing) was extremely poor," Park asserted. "I think the right thing to do was to wait a little bit (to let tempers cool). Then ask Hayes if he would consider retiring, and if he wouldn't, maybe then you force him to retire."
Blaine, an alumnus of Ohio State and a faculty member of the athletic council during the late '70s, was told that is what happened. But Hindman didn't allow any time for emotions to settle.
"(Hindman) later told me that he had asked Hayes to retire," Blaine explained. "Woody replied 'I'm not doing your damned job for you. If you don't want me here, fire me."
Blaine maintains that had the decision been under the purview of the athletic council, which is a policy board not involved in the day-to-day running of the athletic department, he would've opposed Hayes firing.
"I do believe that Woody would not have been fired if he still had been a supremely successful coach," Blaine declared.
The Lasting Legacy of the Legend
"Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it." - Woody Hayes
Despite the firing of Hayes, which Park said took him nearly a week to comprehend, Hayes never lost popularity.
"He was almost held in higher esteem after he wasn’t coaching because he did so much for the university afterwards," Park said. "What Hayes did didn't damage the program; it gave it a little bit of a black eye. But the biggest damage was probably the embarrassment Hayes brought to himself and Mrs. Hayes."
For Buckeye fans that grew up during the Hayes era, the punch will remain as one blemish to an otherwise outstanding man and coach.
"Monetary wealth and possessions really didn’t mean a lot to him," Park explained. "But, yet if you could measure in some way what he did for other people throughout his lifetime, he was probably one of the richest people in this world."
Ironically, 32 years after Hayes was fired, another Buckeye coaching legend resigned as a result of a scandal. Jim Tressel, who ended Ohio State's national title drought in 2003, coached with a similar style and also had a good standing in the Buckeye community.
But it wasn't just the winning of those two coaches that made them so influential in Ohio State's future. Interestingly enough, the firing of Hayes and the resignation of Tressel both played a role in bringing Urban Meyer to Ohio State.
When Hayes was fired, Ohio State hired Earle Bruce. In 1986, Bruce hired Meyer as a graduate assistant, a two-year stint that may have played a role in increasing Meyer's love for the Buckeyes program, a program that Meyer joined as head coach just 11 months after he retired and seven months after Tressel resigned.
"To me, Urban Meyer coming to Ohio State like he did is a tremendous coincidence," Park said happily. "I don’t think (Ohio State) could have found a better coach if it had taken 100 years."
In Ohio State lore, Hayes was more than just his 205 wins and his championships. He was a legendary man that took a sleeping giant and made it into one of the greatest programs in the country. Not only were his successes great, but his greatest failure also didn't sink him or his beloved program.
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Which teams will make it to the BCS title game this January?
Please, people. One of them will be Alabama. Picking a Nick Saban team to contend for a BCS championship is like testing pasta to see if it's done. Throw a noodle at a wall—if it is ready, it sticks.
Throw the Crimson Tide into the Rose Bowl this January. They will be al dente.
But before we crown the Tide champions again, there is one team that no one should be overlooking.
I know, your jaw dropped. You're having laughing fits. Cue the S-E-C chants.
Ohio State has faced SEC teams twice in BCS title games and those forays didn't end well—the Buckeyes went 0-2 against Florida and LSU.
But that was when the Buckeyes were coached by Jim Tressel.
After serving out their one-year NCAA-sanctioned postseason ban, the Buckeyes are now eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship and beyond. And they'll be doing that under head coach Urban Meyer.
Meyer took a Buckeye team that had nothing to play for last season and still marched them to an undefeated record. Yet Ohio State didn't get a lot of respect.
Despite some big surprises, 2012 wasn't a particularly strong season for the Big Ten. The Leaders Division's two best teams, Ohio State and Penn State, were both ineligible for postseason play. But going 12-0 in any conference is a strong statement, especially for a team learning a new offense under a new head coach.
That Meyer took a team that had no bowling opportunities and inspired it to play like a champion is testament to his influence on student athletes. This year he'll have to perform a minor miracle with the defense, as only four starters return. The biggest concern is the defensive line due to the departure of all four starters.
But didn't Saban win the 2012 BCS Championship with only four returning starters? It's never a good idea to compare coaches, but if there is one coach who comes close to Saban's winning mentality, it's Meyer. Like Saban, Meyer has also recruited well. Alabama had the No. 1 class of 2013 followed closely by No. 2 Ohio State.
Urban Meyer could be the head coach who stops the SEC's title streak. This season the SEC won't have home-field advantage. Alabama's last two BCS title game appearances were played in the SEC-friendly confines of New Orleans, La. and Miami Gardens, Fla. The 2013 BCS Championship will be held in Pasadena, Calif. on January 6.
Still, Alabama has left its imprint at the Rose Bowl, beating Texas 37-21 in the 2010 BCS Championship. Ohio State has also fared well there—the Buckeyes beat the Oregon Ducks 26-17 in the 2010 Rose Bowl game, but that also was the old Ohio State.
No more plodding offense. No more holding the punting game in highest esteem.
And, wait for it...no fear of the SEC. More from Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel:
Ryan Shazier grew up in Plantation, Fla., and committed to play at Florida before its coach left. The star linebacker wound up playing for Urban Meyer a bit farther north, but he's reminded constantly of the region he left.
"I hear about it all the time from my cousin -- SEC this, SEC that," said Shazier. "There's one reason I came to Ohio State -- to beat up on the SEC."
Bradley Roby hails from Suwanee, Ga. The All-America cornerback would love to face Alabama so he could talk trash with close friend and Tide linebacker Adrian Hubbard -- and also because it would likely mean Roby's Buckeyes are playing on the final night of the college football season.
"The SEC has won, what, seven [BCS titles] in a row?" said Roby. "What better than for Ohio State to be the team that ends it? That's what we're looking to do this year."
Meyer knows how to beat a Saban-coached team. And nothing would give Meyer greater pleasure than to not only stop Alabama's roll—pun intended—but do it while coaching a Big Ten team.
It would be one for the ages. The ridicule aimed at the Big Ten would cease.
And Urban Meyer, if his Buckeyes play for the title and beat an SEC team, will have completed a trifecta.
End the SEC's seven-year streak. End the S-E-C chants. And begin, perhaps, a new conference domination. No one would like to bet against Nick Saban.
But how many are willing bet against Urban Meyer?
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After an undefeated season in 2012, head coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are among the top contenders in the nation to play for the national championship.
In order to get to that point, however, Ohio State will almost certainly have to win the competitive Big Ten Conference.
The Buckeyes would have won the conference title last year, but sanctions prevented them from playing any postseason games. It's also possible that Ohio State would have faced Notre Dame rather than Alabama in the national championship game, but all of that is water under the bridge at this point.
All that matters to Ohio State now is the 2013 season.
Here are three star players who must step up during the upcoming season in order for the Buckeyes to realize that potential, win the Big Ten and possibly compete for a national championship.
Success in football usually starts and ends with the quarterback, and it will be no different for Ohio State this season. Miller made major strides in his second season as a starter last year, but he will have to continue to improve in order to take Ohio State to the next level.
Miller has proven that he is a dual-threat quarterback who can beat opposing defenses in many ways. However, his passing must get better.
He led the Buckeyes in rushing last year with 1,524 yards and 13 touchdowns, so he doesn't have much to work on in that regard. He also posted 15 passing touchdowns as opposed to just six interceptions, but accuracy was an issue.
Miller completed just over 58 percent of his passes and there is no question that Meyer would like to see that number much closer to 65 percent in 2013.
In addition to improving his accuracy, Miller must be a bit more aware in the pocket. Despite his mobility, Miller was sacked 28 times last season. That was actually a big improvement after being dropped 39 times in 2011, but he was still hit far too often.
As a running quarterback, Miller is bound to get hit, so he needs to ensure that less contact occurs within the pocket.
If Miller can do all of those things, he'll be good enough to lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title this year.
If Miller is the unquestioned leader of the offense, then linebacker Ryan Shazier is the same on the defensive side of the ball.
Shazier was extremely impressive with inconsistent playing time as a freshman in 2011, but he became one of the premier linebackers in the nation last year. He led the Buckeyes in a number of key statistical categories including tackles (115), tackles for loss (17) and forced fumbles (three).
In addition, Shazier was second on the team behind John Simon with five sacks. Shazier is a jack of all trades on defense, as he is capable of playing the run, defending the pass, rushing the quarterback and doing pretty much anything Meyer asks of him.
The Big Ten is a rough-and-tumble league and defense is often the deciding factor in games. With that in mind, Shazier will be a huge factor for Ohio State this year.
While it wouldn't be fair to compare him to a college football legend like Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, it was proven last season that defense can lead a team to the promised land. That isn't to say that Shazier will be a Heisman Trophy candidate like Te'o was, but he is capable of taking games over.
Shazier is actually far more athletic and explosive than Te'o, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him become the best linebacker in college football this season.
The Buckeyes are currently a team without a go-to receiver, but look for speedster Devin Smith to possibly fill that role in 2013.
After catching just 14 passes as a freshman in 2011, he upped that total to 30 in 2012 while maintaining his insane yards-per-catch number. Despite reeling in just 30 passes last year, he totaled 618 yards for a 20.6-yard average. He also caught six touchdowns, including a huge one against the rival Michigan State Spartans.
Smith isn't the type of receiver who is going to run across the middle and move the chains, but he is a true home-run threat. In order to keep defenses honest this season, Miller must take some shots down the field and Smith will be his target on most occasions.
Miller actually throws an underrated deep ball and is capable of finding open men for big plays, so Smith should have a huge year if he is able to find space.
Like many players on the Ohio State roster, Smith was significantly better in his first season under the tutelage of Meyer. Now that Meyer has a year under his belt in terms of instituting the offense, bringing in his own recruits and instilling his culture on the team, the improvement should be even greater in 2013.
Smith is one of a handful of guys with a chance to become a star this season and his performance may go hand in hand with Miller's.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter
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All of the way-too-early previews of the Big Ten have Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa Hawkeyes at or near the bottom of the conference.
The vast majority put Iowa in the bottom three, along with Purdue and Illinois.
There are no previews that have Iowa outside of the bottom five, which includes Purdue and Illinois, along with resurgent Indiana and Minnesota.
Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network recently wrote a preview of the historically inept Indiana Hoosiers, in which he wrote, "missing a slumping Hawkeyes team that IU beat last season hurts." Yes, missing Iowa now weakens a perennial cellar-dweller's schedule.
Some argue that this year, along with last year, are transitional years, both in terms of concerned schemes—in 2012, the Hawkeyes broke in new coordinators on both sides of the ball—and talent.
The first contention is accurate, though the roughest part of the transition should be well behind Iowa in 2013. At the very least, Ferentz won't have any excuses if it isn't.
However, the other part of that transition—lack of talent—while true in 2012, doesn't apply to 2013.
Firstly, it's impossible to measure talent in the college ranks.
All the recruiting stars in the world don't guarantee success at the next level. Meanwhile, success at the college level doesn't guarantee success at the professional level.
Nonetheless, Ferentz's greatest accomplishment as the Hawkeyes head coach has not been what he has done on the field, but the athletes—often lightly recruited—he has sent to the NFL. Those athletes are a direct reflection of how much talent has passed through Iowa City over the past 14 years.
According to Dienhart, between 2003-2012, Iowa had the second-most players drafted in the Big Ten. That means the NFL coveted Iowa players more than players from every program in the conference outside of Ohio State. More than Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska.
The Hawkeyes also tied for the third-most first rounders, and they developed the most offensive linemen.
The 2012 class sent only Micah Hyde into the NFL Draft, a considerable letdown from three years of six draftees each.
But the 2013 class should bounce back, which, once again, is a testament to the amount of talent in the program.
One can never assume how the seniors will perform. After all, Hawkeyes receiver Keenan Davis was a strong bet to get drafted before 2012's offensive breakdown.
Still, consider the early returns of this year's seniors and potential draftees.
CBS Sports.com has linebacker Anthony Hitchens as the No. 12 outside linebacker (probably a generous ranking), while fellow linebacker James Morris is the No. 14 inside linebacker.
Walterfootball.com (which is the more accurate of the two sites) ranks Morris as the No. 8 outside linebacker—outside linebacker is his more natural position, though he played middle linebacker for the majority of his collegiate career—and has him going in the second-third round.
Neither site ranks fellow seniors Brett Van Sloten (offensive tackle) or B.J. Lowery (cornerback), but history is on both Van Sloten's and Lowery's side.
Every starting Iowa cornerback going back to 2008 has been drafted, and according to Kirk Ferentz (via Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette), "the offense threw away from B.J. Lowery this spring."
As for Van Sloten, every Kirk Ferentz-coached, multi-year-starting Iowa tackle has been drafted. The one exception was Markus Zusevics, who started 2010-11, but he would likely have been drafted if not for a torn pectoral muscle suffered during the combine.
After 2013, Van Sloten will have been a two-year starter.
On top of that, junior left tackle Brandon Scherff could push himself into the draft if he has a good year.
CBSSports.com also has Tanner Miller as the No. 13 free safety, but most Iowa fans would agree that Miller will not get drafted unless he takes major steps forward this season.
That makes six Hawkeyes who will have a reasonable shot of getting chosen in the 2014 NFL Draft, with two locks to get drafted.
This is not a team that has a severe talent deficiency, especially when compared with the potential draftees in other mid-tier (i.e. not Ohio State and Michigan or arguably Nebraska and Penn State) Big Ten programs.
According to Walterfootball.com, Wisconsin has five potential draftees, while Michigan State has three. No other program has more than two.
CBSSports.com—the more liberal of the two sites—has six Badgers and four Spartans, as well as three each from Nebraska and Penn State.
Obviously, the websites could be missing prospects, as I believe they are with Van Sloten and Lowery.
However, unlike with Van Sloten and Lowery, history supports minimal-no draftees coming from the likes of Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota, as the second-linked Dienhart article suggests.
It also supports the probability that more or just as many Hawkeyes will go in the draft as will Spartans, Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions, though there will be definitively more Badgers drafted.
With all this in mind: Yes, football is a team sport, and six quality players do not a team make.
Nevertheless, the idea that Iowa is talent-poor at this point—at least when compared to other mid-tier or even lower-tier Big Ten programs—is inaccurate.
Most are predicting a weak year for the Hawkeyes, because a certain reality has set in after the last three disappointing seasons.
That reality is that Kirk Ferentz's reputation—of doing more with less—doesn't reflect his program. Rather, he has worked with a surplus of talent. By NFL Draft standards, he has presided over the second-most talented program in the conference between 2003-2012.
The issue is he has proven himself to be a great developer of talent, but he does not put that talent in a position to succeed when it comes time to play football.
After years of entering the year with inflated expectations—2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012 all serve as examples—the prognosticators have caught up with reality.
Kirk Ferentz has been a top-notch developer of talent, but has not been a great coach.
The predictions that place Iowa at the bottom of the conference reflect that.
There is enough talent in Iowa City to win football games, but nobody will give the Hawkeyes credit for that talent until Ferentz shows that he can put that talent in a position to win,
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Matthew Thomas will not have his wish granted from Florida State. If he hopes to play football elsewhere, he will have to take the route of the NCAA.
A week ago, Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald reported that the former 5-star recruit made a mistake and only signed his letter of intent with Florida State because of pressure. Thomas wanted to play for Georgia or USC, but he instead picked the Seminoles because he wanted to make his mother happy.
Now, Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman told Tallahassee.com that the school has no plans on releasing him.
“You’d get into a situation where if you release him, then people would be doing that every year,” Spetman said.
If Thomas was allowed a pass because he gave into pressure, every other player in the country could come up with the same excuse. The school would then be backed into a corner because if Thomas was let go, the next said player would likely receive the same treatment. What is good for one is good for the other, and that is a road Florida State prefers not to travel down.
Spetman later goes on to say that if there was a valid reason for why he wants out, the school would consider making it happen.
"We would be more than happy to release someone if there is a compelling reason," Spetman said.
The only reason Thomas has is that he wanted to make his mother happy, and then he quickly realized that the decision should have been made for himself. A really sad situation, peer pressure is something these recruits constantly deal with. Friends tell you one thing, family tell you another—it's surprising this kind of stuff doesn't happen more often.
So what can Thomas do to remove himself from this situation?
"The feeling is we wouldn't release him," Spetman said. "He can appeal to the NCAA, and they can decide if there's a compelling reason."
Good luck with that. According to the report, head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff are still hopeful they can convince the star linebacker to change his tune. Hopefully, the outcome to this story is a happy one.
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