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  Chandler Wooten became a father in the fall, but when winter rolled around, he may have felt more like a grandpa. After opting out of last season due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wooten returned to the field with his teammates back in January to participate in Auburn's offseason workout program. Needless to say, after more than five months away from the team and the game he loves, Wooten needed time to get back into the swing of things. "There was a little rust in the first part of workouts," inside linebackers coach Jeff Schmedding said. "He was joking around that he felt a little bit old at that point - but the rust is off."

As Auburn is underway with the second half of spring practices, Wooten was a player who on Wednesday garnered some unprompted praise from Schmedding, who said the fifth-year senior is having a "heck of a spring" so far. It would be easy to forget about Wooten, or for the veteran to get lost in the mix after sitting out last season, especially given what Auburn brings back at the linebacker position this season. Most of the attention, understandably, is on junior Owen Pappoe, a former five-star prospect who has been a starter since Day 1 on the Plains, and senior Zakoby McClain, who led the nation in tackles a year ago. - Birmingham News

(DS#999 OLB) rSr/2022 OLB Chandler WootenAuburn
News Source: Birmingham News
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  04/10/21 - QB *Mac JonesrJr/2021, Alabama, 6-3, 217 (DS#4 QB) + More +

  There may be a shift in the way the quarterback position is played, but to call it an evolution in the position might be a stretch. On Wednesday, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin joined "The Pat McAfee Show" and was asked in a world of dual-threat quarterback preparing for the NFL draft is the pocket-passer dead? "I don't think it's dead. I would put (Alabama quarterback) Mac Jones in that category and they just won a national championship, basically blew out everybody they played," Kiffin, a former Alabama offensive coordinator, said. "I think it works, obviously. They set a lot of records there. No matter who your quarterback is, you need to have the right pieces around them. And so, if you have a pocket passer, you're going to need to stretch the field more, because you're not going to run the guy as much. And that's what they had at Alabama with the great receivers." Jones' name has been trending in NFL draft circles with some suggesting he could go as high as No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers. - Birmingham News

(DS#4 QB) rJr/2021 QB *Mac JonesAlabama
News Source: Birmingham News
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  04/10/21 - SS Devon MatthewsJr/2022, Indiana, 6-2, 202 (DS#61 SS) + More +

  Indiana junior safety Devon Matthews enjoyed a breakout 2020 season for the Hoosiers, one that ended with him earning third-team All-Big Ten honors. Now, IU safeties coach Jason Jones is challenging Matthews to take another step in his development next season in terms of being a more vocal leader on defense. "He now understands what is going on in the back end with the safeties, the husky and the two corners," Jones said. "Now let's take the next step and understand what the linebackers are doing and what is happening up front to see the entire picture. He is a smart young man and understands that we could put a lot on his plate and give him different options.

"We are putting more on his plate, and he has done a good job at embracing it. He is taking and running with it." The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Matthews, nicknamed "Monster," proved to be a playmaker in his first year starting at strong safety for IU, finishing with 40 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one interception, six pass breakups and one QB hurry. "I have definitely progressed very well going into last year," Matthews said. "I think I stepped up more last year and being more vocal. This year, I am even taking it up more of a notch. I am just talking more, communicating more." - Herald Bulletin

(DS#61 SS) Jr/2022 SS Devon MatthewsIndiana
News Source: Herald Bulletin
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  04/10/21 - DE Jordan JacksonrSr/2022, Air Force, 6-5, 275 (DS#58 DE) + More +

  Jordan Jackson thought he'd spend this past fall hauling down quarterbacks. Instead, he spent the time hauling meals around Jacksonville, Fla. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Air Force defensive end gave an in-house interview with FalconVision director Brian Jerman that was released by the academy Wednesday afternoon. It was the first public interview conducted with one of the three dozen or so Air Force players who took turnbacks and missed the 2020 season. Jackson discussed his time away from the academy that he spent rehabbing from an injury, spending time with family and delivering food as an Uber Eats driver.

"Everything happens for a reason, I feel like," Jackson said. "Of course it was kind of tough, going home, not expecting there to be a season, and there ended up being a season." The Mountain West had announced in August 2020 that it was moving the football season to the spring because of the coronavirus. About a month later it reversed that decision and forged ahead with a shortened season. During that interim period, around 40 Air Force football players decided to utilize an offer then-superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria offered to all cadets to utilize the turnback program because of the pandemic. Turnbacks allow cadets to separate for a period of time - in this case a semester - with the missed time tacked onto the end of their time at the academy. For those, like Jackson, who were initially scheduled to graduate next month, they will instead graduate in December 2021 and be able to play during the 2021 season. - Colorado Springs Gazette

(DS#58 DE) rSr/2022 DE Jordan JacksonAir Force
News Source: Colorado Springs Gazette
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  04/10/21 - SS Kaevon MerriweatherrSo/2023, Iowa, 6-0, 205 (DS#30 SS) + More +

  Iowa seniors Matt Hankins and Kaevon Merriweather were not afraid to speak their mind last year after allegations of racism from former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle surfaced. Hankins shared a personal anecdote last year about the disparity of treatment he received from Doyle in comparison to his white teammates following weigh-ins after the Outback Bowl. Merriweather delivered an honest statement to fans, saying, "I would rather play in front of 1,000 fans who care about us as people outside of football and what we are standing for than 70,000 fans who only care about us when we are in uniform and on the field entertaining them." At this year's opening spring football news conference for players Tuesday, both were asked what has changed within the program. "I think we have a little bit more voice," Merriweather said on Tuesday. "And if we see anything that's going on, or any changes, we're more confident to go to coaches, and actually talk to them about those issues and see the changes within." - The Gazette

(DS#30 SS) rSo/2023 SS Kaevon MerriweatherIowa
News Source: The Gazette
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  TCU football isn't going to have a quarterback controversy this offseason. As far as who's starting at least. We've already written at-length about the Chandler Morris situation with Oklahoma and its coach Lincoln Riley. But Max Duggan is QB1 for TCU. He's the unquestioned leader as coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday. "He's fantastic," Patterson said. "He is the leader over there. He and the offensive line have a great relationship and that's another key ingredient you look at with how they get along. They have a great relationship. He lives with a couple of them and that always helps with everything." What remains unknown is the strides Duggan has taken in the passing game.

Accuracy issues were apparent throughout his true freshman season in 2019 when he completed just 53.4% of his passes. Duggan improved in 2020, completing 60.8% of his passes, but was limited much of the spring and fall due to a previously unknown heart condition discovered through advanced COVID-19 tests. Duggan finished the season completing 146 of 240 passes for 1,795 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also had 526 yards rushing and 10 TDs. Patterson said he felt Duggan threw the "deep ball" well in the fall, but reiterated his longtime stance that quarterbacks are judged on Saturdays. "It depends on the day, like any quarterback," Patterson said. "At the end of the day, you only get evaluated by the success of it." - Fort Worth Star

(DS#13 QB) So/2023 QB Max DugganTexas Christian
News Source: Fort Worth Star
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  Call them what you want: Bucks, Edges, pass rushers. All Kingsley Enagbare knows is this - his position group for South Carolina football has some dogs. For a defensive unit undergoing major changes at linebacker and defensive back, the Gamecocks return a lot of talent along the defensive line. And on the ends in particular, they have a plethora of playmakers. Enagbare, who finished last year tops on the team and tied for fifth in the SEC in sacks, is back for his senior season. Fifth-year senior Aaron Sterling returns after struggling with injury last season, looking to regain the form that made him the team's co-sack leader in 2019 with Javon Kinlaw. And behind them are the Jordans - sophomore and former five-star recruit Jordan Burch is hoping to build off a freshman season in which he flashed major potential, and transfer Jordan Strachan is coming in from Georgia State, where he was nation's co-leader in sacks last season.

"We definitely see ourselves as the strength of this team...We have several dogs in our room," Enagbare said. "And, yeah, we definitely came to break records and do all that and just shock the world and show what we're about." Enagbare and Sterling have combined for 20 career sacks at South Carolina, while Strachan had 10.5 in last season alone. Burch has yet to get his first collegiate sack, but with his enormous ability, it's only a matter of time. So will there be a little friendly competition in the edge room to see who can take down the QB the most this spring or fall? "I'm always inviting competition, but it's really not competition," Enagbare said. "We're all just going at it, trying to make plays and produce...I'm expecting a lot of production from all of us." - Rock Hill Herald

(DS#4 DE) Jr/2022 DE Kingsley EnagbareSouth Carolina
News Source: Rock Hill Herald
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  04/10/21 - QB Charlie BrewerSr/2022, Utah, 6-1, 210 (DS#13 QB) + More +

  Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer continues to solidify himself as Utah's No. 1 quarterback as the Utes work through the fourth week of spring practices. Coach Kyle Whittingham was asked Tuesday if any QB has separated himself from the rest of the group. "Charlie Brewer, hands down. He's been everything we've hoped he'd be to this point. He's a proven vet," he said. "He's got a lot of experience under his belt at the Power Five level. He's thrown for a ton of yards and he's won a ton of games. That's what we expected. So far, he's been exactly what we've expected." During spring camp, Brewer, a senior, has been competing with a group of freshmen - Peter Costelli, Ja'Quinden Jackson, Cooper Justice and Bryson Barnes. Fans will be able to catch Brewer's first public performance as a Ute during the spring game on April 17 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "Charlie Brewer, hands down. He's been everything we've hoped he'd be to this point. He's a proven vet. He's got a lot of experience under his belt at the Power Five level. He's thrown for a ton of yards and he's won a ton of games. That's what we expected." - Utah coach Kyle Whittingham on Charlie Brewer separating himself from the pack of QBs. - Deseret News

(DS#13 QB) Sr/2022 QB Charlie BrewerUtah
News Source: Deseret News
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  A USC defensive backfield already dealing with depth issues has been dealt another blow. Max Williams, a redshirt sophomore nickel back, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Tuesday during spring practice, presumably ending his 2021 season before it begins. His father, Maxzell Williams Sr., confirmed the diagnosis on Twitter. "As a parent, one of the worse feelings in the world is when your child is hurting," Williams Sr. tweeted. "We've been down this road b4 and back to the road to recovery." Williams suffered a season-ending ACL injury as a senior at Gardena Serra High. The injury lingered into the start of his USC career, but once it healed, Williams quickly emerged as an option in the Trojans' secondary rotation. Williams' injury marks another setback for a USC secondary that was already running thin. Greg Johnson, who started at nickel back last season, is still dealing with a knee injury that will keep him out of spring. Starting cornerback Chris Steele hasn't been available through the first week of spring for undisclosed reasons. - Los Angeles Times

(DS#23 CB) rFr/2024 CB Max WilliamsSouthern California
News Source: Los Angeles Times
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  04/10/21 - DE Laiatu LatuSo/2023, Washington, 6-4, 265 (DS#999 DE) + More +

  Laiatu Latu's football career is over. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound junior outside linebacker has been forced to medically retire because of a neck injury sustained last fall, UW head coach Jimmy Lake announced Wednesday. Latu will remain with the program as a student assistant. "We consulted I believe about five of the best specialists in the country, guys that work with different NFL clubs where different players have had the same injury," Lake said following the Huskies' first practice of the spring. "Of course with our medical personnel, we exhausted every professional we could think of to make sure this was the proper decision. So this decision came in the last couple months, after consultation with all the medical professionals. "It was a tough decision to make for sure, but it's for the safety of our players first and foremost. We never want to put anybody in danger of possibly not being able to use his extremities the rest of his life. We'd never want that to happen to anybody." A Sacramento, Calif., native, Latu did not play in the 2020 season with the previously unspecified injury. As a true freshman in 2019, he produced 16 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks in 12 games. - Seattle Times

(DS#999 DE) So/2023 DE Laiatu LatuWashington
News Source: Seattle Times
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  04/10/21 - K John HoylandFr/2024, Wyoming, 5-09, 183 (DS#18 K) + More +

  Turns out John Hoyland's All-America season earned him more than just postseason accolades. Wyoming's freshman kicker has been placed on scholarship, UW coach Craig Bohl announced Tuesday night following the Cowboys' first spring practice. Hoyland joined the Cowboys' program as a walk-on last year after playing his prep ball at Legacy High in Bloomfield, Colorado. "John did a great job for us, and he's been placed on scholarship," Bohl said in a statement. Join us each week for the Pokescast, a podcast about University of Wyoming athletics brought to you by the Star-Tribune. Hoyland looked like anything but a non-scholarship player in his inaugural season with the Cowboys after being thrust into the starting role at placekicker following an injury to Luke Glassock, who entered the Cowboys' pandemic-shortened season at the top of the depth chart there. Hoyland went 4-for-4 on field goals in his first collegiate game against Nevada, including a career-long 42-yarder that sent the game to overtime. That performance helped the 5-foot-10, 184-pounder go from a temporary fill-in to the heir apparent to Cooper Rothe, who finished his UW career in 2019 as the program's all-time leading scorer. - Casper Star-Tribune

(DS#18 K) Fr/2024 K John HoylandWyoming
News Source: Casper Star-Tribune
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  04/10/21 - DE DeMarvin LealSo/2023, Texas AM, 6-3, 290 (DS#15 DE) + More +

  Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal is not motivated because he didn't win any postseason honors. His focus is on playing for a defense that turns heads. "Beyond the sky," is the ceiling Leal puts on the potential for A&M's defense in 2021. The unit returns nine starters after allowing only 317.3 yards per game to rank ninth in the country. Leal was a big reason A&M improved 20 spots in the national rankings last season. He had 37 tackles to lead the team's linemen. He had seven tackles for loss and eight quarterback pressures, twice as many as anyone else on the team. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder is a tough matchup because he can play tackle or end. "I feel very comfortable at playing both positions," Leal said Tuesday on a Zoom conference. "We have our packages, and certain packages require me to be in the inside. We've been working on every single thing honestly, so it's been good, and I've loved it, since I first started playing in and out."

Teams started to pay extra attention to Leal last season, a trend he's hopeful continues. "Of course, I would love it," he said. "Being that person that [opponents say], 'Oh, watch out for him. You gotta make sure you're on. You're working every single play'...because I promise you, I'm going to bring it every single play." Leal had a career-high seven tackles in three different games last season, including the 41-27 victory over North Carolina in the Orange Bowl. "The guy's talented," A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said late last season. "Inside, outside, pass-rush, play the run...he is a talented, talented young football player, and he's only getting better and better." - Bryan/College Station Eagle

(DS#15 DE) So/2023 DE DeMarvin LealTexas AM
News Source: Bryan/College Station Eagle
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  04/10/21 - TE Brant KuitheJr/2022, Utah, 6-2, 230 (DS#21 TE) + More +

  Whoever winds up as the starting quarterback at the University of Utah, whether it be Charlie Brewer, Cameron Rising, or Ja'Quinden Jackson, there is some question right now as to who that person will throw to this fall. The Utes are thin at wide receiver, a problem coach Kyle Whittingham has addressed numerous times in the last two months in the wake of Bryan Thompson and Samson Nacua transferring. Whittingham has made clear he will hit the NCAA Transfer Portal in the time between spring practice ending and fall camp beginning, so for now, wide receiver is a significant question mark for the program. As far as pass-catching options go, that's the bad news. The good news, though, is two-folded. One, Utah likes to utilize the tight end position. Two, there are no questions at Utah about tight ends like there are about wide receivers.

Two-time All-Pac-12 tight end Brant Kuithe is back as a junior. Another veteran pass-catching option returns in junior Cole Fotheringham, and still, there is a third legitimate option in junior Dalton Kincaid, an FCS All-American as a sophomore in 2019 at the University of San Diego. "We have playmakers," Kuithe said this week a Zoom call with reporters. "Dalton is doing well this spring and I think next year, it's going to be a different story. He wasn't involved much last year, and only getting five games, the play was a little erratic. Getting a full slate of games, I think the tight end group is going to be really solid." - Salt Lake Tribune

(DS#21 TE) Jr/2022 TE Brant KuitheUtah
News Source: Salt Lake Tribune
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  04/10/21 - QB Graham MertzrFr/2024, Wisconsin, 6-2, 215 (DS#4 QB) + More +

  Once it was over, Graham Mertz took time to reflect after his first college football season as a starter. It hadn't gone how he wanted - after a record-setting starting debut in which he threw five touchdown passes, challenges started to pile up for the sophomore. He contracted COVID-19, testing positive the day after the Illinois game as part of an outbreak that derailed the University of Wisconsin's season for nearly three weeks. He struggled as his timing and accuracy were sporadic over the final six games of the year and UW finished 4-3. Mertz said as he evaluated the season, he looked inward first, asking himself how he needed to get better in each aspect of his game. He also took stock of how he needed to improve his approach off the field. "I took a couple of days just to kind of take that approach. 'How can I be the best Graham during the season?'" Mertz said Friday. When Mertz did begin studying tape, he broke his play down into particular elements and spent days watching each snap with an eye on that component. From his drop-backs to his understanding of scheme and recognition of defenses, Mertz took note of the strides he needed to make. He didn't specify when it happened, but Mertz also sustained a shoulder injury and had to get a cortisone shot one week. He rejected the idea that it was an explanation for his struggles. "I'm not one to sit here and make excuses for how I played, and having a little banged up shoulder doesn't justify losing three games (in a row) and playing like that," he said. "So I'm not going to sit here and make that an excuse, because it's not." - Wisconsin State Journal

(DS#4 QB) rFr/2024 QB Graham MertzWisconsin
News Source: Wisconsin State Journal
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  04/10/21 - WR Joshua MoorerSo/2023, Texas, 6-1, 170 (DS#12 WR) + More +

  The only senior at the wideout position is Yoakum product Joshua Moore, who's coming off his best season in burnt orange. While his numbers don't jump off the page (30 receptions, 472 yards, 9 touchdowns), his performance against Colorado left most Texas fans encouraged. Moore caught two touchdowns to go along with five receptions and 85 yards in what was arguably his best game all-season since starting the year by accumulated four touchdowns and 200 yards in the first two games against UTEP and Texas Tech. But outside of an eight-reception effort against Oklahoma - a career-high - Moore largely disappeared from the Texas offense. In the final five regular-season games, Moore only caught six passes. But the good news for Texas fans is the answer for Moore's lack of production can be blamed for the offense he was playing in, rather than on him. Tom Herman's offense was rigid and lacked the imagination that can be found in Steve Sarkisian's offense. Another reason to be excited? Like Smith, expect Moore to play the X wide receiver position, but Sarkisian doesn't like to limit receivers to just one position and will move them around on the field constantly. - Austin American Statesman

(DS#12 WR) rSo/2023 WR Joshua MooreTexas
News Source: Austin American Statesman
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