CFB News of the Week: 5/21/2021

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Former USC RB Stephen Carr heads to Indiana

Many moons ago, Stephen Carr was a big name from the recruiting community and earned a boatload of hype early in his USC career. The hype was pretty warranted, too. On just 65 carries as a true freshman in 2017, Carr ripped off 363 yards (5.6 per carry) and three touchdowns, while tacking on 17 catches for 188 yards.

Health never really permitted Carr to build on that season, though. One thing after another kept him off the field for his entire career at USC. A torn plantar fascia as a freshman and a herniated disc in his back as a sophomore highlight the list of injuries.

Carr plays with an upright rushing style at 6-foot and 215-pounds. He is more of a one-cut back than someone who is going to dance at the second level, but he has shown enough balance and willingness to run through people to make that playstyle work, at times. The explosiveness that once tied everything together has not quite been there of late, but perhaps something can be reignited at Indiana.

Indiana’s lead back last season, Stevie Scott, averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, so it’s not like Carr is facing stiff competition here. A watered-down version of his peak self is probably still enough to be the workhorse for the Hoosiers.

Sam Houston State win first-ever FCS Championship

The spring FCS season will go down in the history books for a few reasons. Not only does it have the novelty of being played in the spring rather than the fall, but a new champion was crowned. The FCS has long been dominated by North Dakota State, but for just the second time since 2011, someone other than the Bisons took home the trophy.

Sam Houston State brought home their first-ever FCS title with a narrow win over South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits (SDSU) nearly sealed the game with an explosive touchdown run with around six minutes left in the game, but Sam Houston State fought back tooth and nail with their final drive, ultimately scoring the game-winning touchdown with less than 20 seconds left on the clock.

Quarterback Eric Schmid delivered a hell of a ball to finish things off, too. His play had come in waves throughout the game, but he showed up when he needed to. Sam Houston State had the ball on SDSU’s 10-yard line in a third-and-goal situation on the winning play. For whatever reason, South Dakota State insisted on a spot-drop zone for the do-or-die situation. Schmid recognized it and delivered an absolute laser between three defenders over the middle of the field, right past the goal line.

As mentioned, this is Sam Houston’s first title in the FCS. It was also just their third appearance in the championship match, following their back-to-back appearances in 2012 and 2013.

Arizona LB Tre Hayward no longer with the program

Tre Hayward was one of the MAC’s best defenders. Previously with Western Michigan, Hayward won MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. He earned a stunning 142 total tackles, good for third in the country that season. Hayward also picked up five sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a pass defended. Few players in the Group of Five had the presence Hayward did down in the box.

Hayward took a slight step back in 2020, but nothing too concerning. He did not rack up any sacks like in 2019, but he still managed to earn third-team MAC honors. Rather than stick it out for another year at Western Michigan, Hayward opted to transfer to bigger and better places: Arizona.

Arizona had a disastrous defense in 2020, so it’s possible Hayward felt he could make a shift there. Alas, Hayward was recently removed from the team for unspecified reasons. The wording is such that Hayward and the school “parted ways” with each other, but that the school initiated that parting of ways, which suggests there was no mutual nature to the move.

Hayward’s next move from here is unclear. It’s not entirely clear if any of what got him kicked from Arizona will hold weight with regards to him playing elsewhere. Hayward will presumably try to play elsewhere, though, so we can probably expect him to find a new school within the coming months.

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The Athletic names Oklahoma RB Eric Gray the best transfer pick-up of 2021

A handful of Tennessee’s best players left the program during or after the turbulent ending to Jeremy Pruitt’s stint as head coach. Gray, a highly productive RB, was among that group and earned The Athletic's praise as the best transfer of the 2021 cycle.

Gray produced well for two seasons at Tennessee. A former four-star recruit, Gray earned playing time right away in 2019, taking 101 carries for 539 yards and four touchdowns. His workload increased to 157 carries for 772 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. That increased workload was not because a veteran presence left, either. Gray played second-fiddle to Ty Chandler in 2019, but surpassed him in carries by 2020.

Lucky for Gray, the path to carries at Oklahoma is fairly clear, too. Gray only really has to battle with T.J. Pledger, who is a 5-foot-9, 193-pound transfer from Utah who played second-string behind Rhamondre Stevenson at OU last season. Gray should be able to take over Stevenson’s No.1 role over Pledger.

Gray is also a pass-catcher, for what it’s worth. Gray earned a total of 43 receptions over his two seasons, including 30 in 2020. Stevenson and Pledger only caught 27 passes combined last season, so Gray certainly brings a new element in that regard.