Making the morning rounds.
• We hardly knew ye. On the same day it bid a premature sayonara to All-American cornerback Morris Claiborne and underachieving wide receiver Russell Shepard — who was, to be fair, named All-Russell Shepard's Head — LSU lost two other junior starters to the lure of the next level. On offense, the 2012 Tigers will be without the resident deep threat, Rueben Randle, who finally made good on his five-star recruiting hype with 917 yards and eight touchdowns on 53 catches in 2011, good for a first-team all-conference nod from league coaches. On defense, they'll be missing defensive lineman Michael Brockers, who's giving up his final two years of eligibility (he redshirted as a true freshman in 2009) after taking home second-team All-SEC honors from the media as a key member of the deepest defensive line rotation in the nation.
The front four is still loaded enough that Brockers' exit probably won't affect LSU's standing as the consensus frontrunner atop the preseason polls, but Randle's departure is a real blow for the offense: With a brand new quarterback and three of the top four receivers on their way out, the only familiar face in the passing game will be rising sophomore Odell Beckham Jr. [Baton Rouge Advocate]
• Born to run. An SEC star who won't be making tracks for the NFL: Florida tailback Jeff Demps, who's bypassing the draft to finish his prolific track career at UF and train for the U.S. Olympic team as a sprinter. "Once I got done with the Gator Bowl, I kind of already had my mind made up, it was just when was I going to tell everyone," said Demps, a two-time defending NCAA champion in the 60 meters who was probably looking at a late-round grade in the draft. "I enjoy track and it's something I love to do. When I'm out here, I'm enjoying myself and having fun with the guys. I wanted to come back and run. It's somewhat of an individual sport, but it's also a team sport. You win championships as a team." [GatorZone.com]
• Still down with that. NCAA president Mark Emmert reiterated his support for a four-team playoff Thursday — if the conference commissioners are down with it, and as long as it doesn't expand beyond four teams. "The notion of having a Final Four approach is probably a sound one," Emmert said after his annual "State of the Association" speech in Indianapolis. "Moving toward a 16-team playoff is highly problematic because I think that's too much to ask a young man's body to do." Well, as long as that young man isn't playing in the FCS, Division II or Division III, in which case go right ahead. [Associated Press]
• Rabble! Former Penn State fullback turned Pro Football Hall-of-Famer turned ubiquitous Pennsylvania businessman Franco Harris continued his outspoken support for his old coach Thursday night, telling about 300 PSU alumni to be "relentless" in their efforts to hold the university and the board of trustees accountable for it's decision to fire Joe Paterno. "I can't understand why it happened," Harris told said in the same suburban Philadelphia hotel where president Rodney Erickson was hosting the second of three town hall-style meetings with alumni in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal. "A lot of the answers that we want from the university aren't coming forward. When they do say something, even today, what I most recently heard, they think we're dumb. They want us to believe it was in the best interest of the school to fire Joe Paterno. No way was that in the best interest of the school."
Earlier in the night, the Penn State Board of Trustees responded to heat coming from the first town hall event on Wednesday by releasing a statement explaining its decision to fire Paterno, which prompted a response of its own from Paterno's son, Scott: "It is helpful to have on the record the Board's position (about) my father's status with the University. As has become apparent, the termination on November 9, with no notice or hearing, was not handled well." [Harrisburg Patriot-News, Associated Press]
• All roads lead to Qualcomm. The hot winter haven for Pac-12 refugees: San Diego State, which has picked up three transfers in as many days from Oregon State (former starting quarterbackRyan Katz) and USC (once-hyped recruits Brice Butler and Dillon Baxter). Both Katz and Butler are expected to be immediately eligible in the fall as graduate students. [USCFootball.com, AztecSportsReport.com, North County Times]
Quickly… A starting defensive end opts for the draft over a fifth year at Boston College. … Auburn flips an offensive line commit from LSU. … Urban Meyer keeps up the "maniacal effort" in recruiting. … And I would love to hear how this conversation plays out in the head of the average Alabama fan.
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