January 17, 2011
Making the morning rounds.
• We hardly knew ye. As expected, Georgia linebacker Justin Houston is shunning his senior season to take his act to the NFL draft after leading the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss and earning some All-America notice as a junior. Houston can play off the ball as an outside linebacker or put his hand down as a defensive end – he played a DeMarcus Ware-like hybrid role in 2010 under former Dallas Cowboys assistant Todd Grantham – but is likely to fall toward the bottom of the first round in a class loaded with quality pass rushers. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
• Welcome back, Brantley, et al. Meanwhile, beleaguered Florida slinger John Brantley is enrolled in classes and will return for his senior season in the fall, quieting weeks of transfer rumors in the wake of a mostly disastrous debut as the Gators' first starting quarterback A.T. (After Tebow). Brantley's father, a former Florida player himself, said last week his son is "excited" to play for incoming offensive Charlie Weis, whose system actually has some use for a traditional pocket passer. [The Palm Beach Post, the Orlando Sentinel]
Elsewhere in quarterback futures, Michigan QB Denard Robinson confirmed his new coach's assurances that he'll be back in Ann Arbor in the fall, and N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson – widely presumed to be on track for a pro baseball career – is still mulling a return for his senior season in Raleigh. [Detroit Free Press, ESPN]
• Adam Robinson didn't mean to hurt you, Hawkeye babies. Running back Adam Robinson is still not scheduled to return to Iowa for his junior season after being dismissed from the team for a series of academic and legal infractions, but he wants to come back if the Hawkeyes will have him. Robinson is still enrolled in school and summoned several local media outlets Sunday to plead his case: "I've always wanted to be a Hawkeye," Robinson said. “I have no wishes or desires to leave the Hawkeye team. So I just have to work hard this semester. Prove myself … and we'll see where I'm at at the end of the semester." [Des Moines Register]
• Meet the Okie Bill Stewart. Tulsa has promoted assistant Bill Blankenship to replace Pitt-bound Todd Graham as head coach, an open appeal to the homegrown/family faction in every program: Blankenship played quarterback at Tulsa in the '70s, spent 22 years as a head coach in the Oklahoma high school ranks – including a 14-year stint at Tulsa's Union High, where he won three championships in the state's largest classification in seven trips to the title game – and has served the last four years as an assistant under Graham. At least the alumni like him. [Tulsa World]
• Justice for Jasper Howard. A Connecticut man pleaded no contest to first-degree manslaughter Friday in the 2009 stabbing death of UConn cornerback Jasper Howard, for which he'd initially been charged with murder. John Lomax III will be sentenced on March 25, and faces up to 20 years in prison. [Associated Press]
The area the Barkleys visited, Jos, has been devastated by religious violence. Their party brought along 21 large black duffel bags containing roughly 1,300 pounds of supplies, including toys, hygiene kits and soccer balls, and once in-country visited orphanages, sponsored Christmas parties and organized a soccer game at a prison. [Orange Country Register, Vimeo]
Quickly... All-SEC safety Mark Barron will be back for his senior year at Alabama. ... Florida adds former Notre Dame star Bryant Young as its new defensive line coach. ... Ole Miss reports secondary violations. ... Michigan's woeful kicking game takes another hit, this time on the recruiting trail. ... Ohio State begins the search for senior leadership when most of the obvious candidates are missing a substantial chunk of the season. ... TCU celebrates a banner season. ... And the BCS championship trophy returns to Walmart.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.