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Weekly Update

As the Smoke Clears

by Mark Lindquist
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

College Football News

 

  • Happiness! Here is some happiness. After 12 sessions, Pitt redshirt junior RB James Conner has completed chemotherapy. He was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma after tearing his MCL in Week 1. Assuming there are no setbacks on either health front, the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder should be ready to suit up for the opener against Villanova on September 3. Prior to the medical concerns this past year, he rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry as a redshirt sophomore. 

     

  • I know, I know, you are probably already past the whole Laremy Tunsil taking money thing. I am, too. Tunsil is an NFL player making millions of dollars, now. That he texted assistant AD John Miller for monetary assistance at Ole Miss feels beyond inconsequential. This could have major implications for the Reb football program, though. On Thursday, Outside the Lines and ESPN reported that the program had confirmed that the texts that appeared on Tunsil’s Instagram were genuine. They’re rooting around to see if they had been altered in any way.

  • At the same time, Ole Miss HC Hugh Freeze -- or his lawyers, anyway -- have petitioned that any testimony he gives in the lawsuit of Lindsey Miller against stepson Tunsil be sealed pending a court order, with questions for the deposition to be in written form. Oh, and the NCAA charges of rule violations continue to hang over the program’s head like a piano on a very thin piece of string. There probably aren’t many teams eager to face the Florida State Seminoles this year, but Freeze must be staring hard at his calendar right now. September 5 is a ways away and it could be a long, long summer down in Oxford.

  • Let us move elsewhere, toward sunnier, less smoke-filled pastures. It looks like Texas freshman QB Shane Buechele will not be taking a redshirt in 2016. Rejoice, Austin, for your chances of having to watch Tyrone Swoopes be all Tyrone Swoops-ian have just dropped dramatically. Buechele is not guaranteed the starting job by any means, but played well in the team’s spring game (299 yards, two touchdowns). This picture should come into focus in August.

  • When Dakota Prukop transferred from Montana State to Oregon as a graduate, many assumed that he would simply waltz in and start in 2016. He might start, but there will be no waltzing or tangoing or general ballroom twirling in his quest to helm the Ducks. Prukop simply hasn’t won the job yet. Redshirt freshman QB Travis Jonsen performed well this spring and at the very least, the competition should drag into August.

  • Tragically, UAB redshirt junior RB Greg Bryant passed away after being shot in his car on Saturday morning. His vehicle was found on the side of the Interstate. Bryant fought for hours in critical condition before being declared brain dead. Formerly of Notre Dame, he transferred to UAB after spending the 2015 season playing JUCO ball.

  • Everybody and everybody is showing the Big 12 love, with Cincinnati, Colorado State, Memphis, Houston and Central Florida all getting in touch with the conference about possibly taking a seat at the table. Oklahoma president David Boren indicated that as many as 25 teams have inquired about joining the conference.

  • Alabama dismissed ESPN’s No. 1 2016 JUCO transfer, junior T Charles Baldwin. The only reason given by HC Nick Saban, the ominous “violation of team rules.” Baldwin figured to battle for a starting spot at right tackle in 2016.

  • LSU junior RB Leonard Fournette’s knees are made of gold. He told CBS Sports that he has two insurance policies, each worth $10 million. The first protects him if he has a career-ending injury, while the second protects him if he slides in the draft. May he never have to cash in either one.

  • Syracuse AD Mark Coyle will be Minnesota AD Mark Coyle in a few weeks. He expects to start up around Memorial Day. Orange HC Dino Babers truly won the day, though, crushing ESPN’s Brett McMurphy when the latter approached him for his reaction to Coyle’s decision to leave Syracuse. “Are you serious? No comment.”

  • Trouble down in Florida for the Seminoles again, this time in the form of redshirt senior RB Mario Pender, who was “permanently dismissed” after he was arrested and charged with domestic battery by strangulation and resisting an officer without violence on Saturday. According to the police report, Pender would not cooperate with the arresting officer until HC Jimbo Fisher arrived on scene.

  • Sticking with trouble a-brewin’, Texas Tech dismissed redshirt sophomore LB Dakota Allen. Per the university, for “failure to uphold student-athlete expectations.” That failure must have been relatively significant, as the Red Raider defense can ill-afford to lose pieces. Last season, Allen led the unit with 87 tackles.

  • Auburn junior QB James Franklin III worked out with Michael Vick. Like Vick, Franklin is a streak of lightning on the move. Jeremy Johnson and Sean White make for unappealing quarterback options and legitimately could open the door for Franklin to push for the starting role this August.  

  • More Auburn quarterback news. Redshirt freshman Tyler Queen underwent shoulder surgery on Tuesday courtesy of Dr. James Andrews, better known as “That guy who always gives the Tommy John surgery.” This was not Tommy John, though, just a run-of-the-mill repair of the right shoulder’s AC joint. HC Gus Malzahn didn’t seem particularly concerned, saying, “"I expect him to recover fully and hopefully be back by fall camp.” The aforementioned Johnson, White and Franklin are all firmly entrenched ahead of Queen on the depth chart.

  • Duke HC David Cutcliffe expressed hope that redshirt senior QB Thomas Sirk will be ready for the team’s season-opening tilt with NC Central on September 3. Sirk is currently rehabbing from a ruptured left Achilles tendon that he suffered in a February practice. Said Cutcliffe, “"He's a great athlete. He heals a lot faster than I do.”

  • Arkansas HC Bret Bielema said that he would like undrafted free agents who declared early to be able to return to college. Bielema is assembling an Avenger-esque team (I have yet to see Civil War, not sure if Avengers actually still exist?) of coaches to support his platform. Said Bielema, “Those coaches, I'm reaching out to them and trying to put together some collective thoughts on how to approach it.” Ohio State HC Urban Meyer, Auburn HC Gus Malzahn and Mississippi State HC Dan Mullen are among those he is trying to talk to. An Avengers movie consisting of Mullen, Malzahn, Meyer and Bielema. I might watch that. Has anybody ever seen Bruce Banner and Urban Meyer in the room at the same time? Me neither.

  • Over in Utah, the Utes are looking for a fresh starting quarterback, as Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson have both graduated and flown free from the nest. HC Kyle Whittingham has taken a shining to junior QB Troy Williams and called him the “most impressive” of their gunslingers this spring. Williams was felled by an arm injury in early April, but should be able to begin throwing at the end of May. Whittingham referred to the JUCO transfer as “very polished.”

  • Clemson sophomore WR Deon Cain is in slightly less of a doghouse, now. HC Dabo Swinney said that he had “served his time” and will be reinstated from suspension in August. The initial reason for the suspension? Cain failed a drug test right before the Tigers’ Orange Bowl showdown with Oklahoma in the Playoff semifinal. He figures to be a key component in what should be a rocket-fueled offense in 2016.

  • Both Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban are in favor of having a college football commissioner. Don’t hold your breath on that one. Seriously. You’ll pass out.

  • It might be a bit much to call either Washington sophomore QB Jake Browning and Tennessee senior QB Josh Dobbs legitimate Heisman contenders at this point, but Sports Illustrated’s Zac Ellis floated them as players who helped their Heisman stock this spring. Putting weight into Heisman spring hype is a dangerous game to play.

  • Oh, speaking of hype, San Diego State OC Jeff Horton thinks senior RB Donnel Pumphrey could be as good as Stanford junior RB Christian McCaffrey. “Look at how much he carries the ball. He’s our leading receiver. The ball’s in his hands all the time. He can be as good as McCaffrey, I think,” Horton said. Last season, Pumphrey totaled 2,067 yards (1,653 rushing, 414 receiving) with 20 combined touchdowns.

Recruiting Corner


  • Four-star LB Tandarian Moultry committed to Auburn. He stands as Rivals’ No. 16 linebacker recruit for the 2017 cycle.

  • Four-star QB Ryan Kelley committed to Arizona State. Rivals tabs him as their No. 5 pro-style quarterback and their No. 134 overall recruit. Nobody would blame Duck fans for feeling a bit rejected. Kelley had been committed to them since November.

  • Urban Meyer generally wins in all things recruiting, but he whiffed with four-star ATH Bruce Judson (who had been committed to the Buckeyes) for a peculiar reason. Recently, he was on campus with fellow four-star recruit, S Richard LaCounte, when Meyer spoke with the pair. At one point, he asked “Who are you?” to Judson, which led to the athlete’s decision to decommit. LaCounte indicated that Meyer might just have been joking. Regardless, commitment now lost.

  • One more failure of recruiting, this one involving Texas A&M. Following the decommitment of QB Tate Martell, Aggies WR coach Aaron Moorehead went on a Twitter rant about loyalty which led to yet another decommitment, with four-star WR Mannie Netherly himself backing out due to Moorehead’s behavior. Moorehead has been disciplined internally, for whatever that is worth.  

Weird Thing of the Week

  • While both the Meyer and Moorehead recruiting stories are weird, this week's weirdest weird thing of the week sees college football dancing with the political bear. Presumed Republican nominee for President of the United States Donald Trump earned an endorsement from Washington State HC Mike Leach at a Spokane rally last weekend (Leach went so far as to use the words “make America great again,” earning him an automatic demerit), with Trump returning the endorsement (so much as that is possible) by tweeting that Leach is an “offensive genius.” Washington State predictably released a boilerplate statement about how while their employees are free to share their political opinions, the university does not necessarily share said opinions. May is off to a nice start.

Mark Lindquist
Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.