College Football News

Heisman Trophy finalists brace for historic handoff

Heisman Trophy finalists brace for historic handoff

Jayden Daniels played three seasons at Arizona State and nobody anywhere was viewing him as a potential Heisman Trophy finalist.

But he transferred to LSU following the 2021 season and a sudden transformation took place. The highly athletic Daniels became a dual-threat force. The exclamation point was Daniels' huge 2023 performance, which pushed him into the favorite's role to win the Heisman.

The Heisman Trophy winner will be revealed for the 89th time Saturday night in New York and Daniels is one of three transfer quarterbacks who are among the four finalists.

Washington's Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon's Bo Nix are the other two quarterbacks in the running. Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is the other finalist.

Penix began his career at Indiana before playing two seasons with the Huskies. Nix played for Auburn before moving on to Oregon for two seasons.

The transfer path worked well for 2022 winner Caleb Williams of Southern California -- he departed Oklahoma -- and is definitely in play again this season.

Daniels threw 10 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in his third and final season at Arizona State but indicated he is thankful for his route to the Heisman stage.

"Everything I've been through, it's a surreal moment as it winds down and comes to an end," Daniels said during Heisman media festivities on Friday. "Seeing how much I've grown in those years, everything I overcame in my life. ... It's what helped me get to this point."

At LSU, Daniels is enjoying a monster 2023 season. He leads the nation in total offense (4,946) and accounted for 50 touchdowns. He has passed for 3,812 yards, 40 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 1,134 yards and 10 scores.

His signature game was in a 52-35 win over Florida on Nov. 11 when he accounted for 606 yards (372 passing, 234 rushing) and became the first player in FBS history to pass for 350 and rush for 200 in the same game.

Daniels is looking to become the third Tigers' player to win the Heisman, following running back Billy Cannon in 1959 and quarterback Joe Burrow in 2019.

Penix leads the nation with 4,218 passing yards to go with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He guided the Huskies to 13 straight wins and a spot in the College Football Playoff field.

"That Pac-12 championship is big-time and something I've been chasing since I got to University of Washington," Penix said Friday. "For us to be able to achieve that is definitely something special."

Penix was the leading candidate early in the season when he threw 16 scoring passes over the first four games. But he cooled off with 17 over the next nine.

Penix is aiming to become Washington's first Heisman winner.

Nix has completed a stellar 77.2 percent of his passes, just off the NCAA record of 77.4 set by Alabama's Mac Jones in 2020.

He also has 40 touchdown passes -- tied with Daniels for the FBS lead -- and 4,145 yards against just three interceptions. He has tacked on six rushing touchdowns.

"It's been crazy. It's been the trip of a lifetime," Nix said Friday. "At the end of the day, I just want to enjoy every part of it. Regardless of what happens at the end, this has been a dream of mine for a long time."

Marcus Mariota (2014) is Oregon's lone Heisman winner.

Harrison would become the second receiver in four seasons to win the Heisman, following a drought of more than three decades for the position after Notre Dame's Tim Brown won in 1987 until Alabama's DeVonta Smith was the 2020 winner.

The son of legendary NFL receiver Marvin Harrison had eight 100-yard outings for Ohio State this season while catching 67 passes for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Harrison said he may bypass the NFL draft and return to the Buckeyes next season. Ohio State has uncertainty at quarterback but Harrison isn't concerned.

"It don't matter who the quarterback is," Harrison said Friday. "As one of the best receivers in the country, the best receiver, I look at myself as someone who can make it work with anybody."

If Harrison wins the award, he'd be the first Ohio State winner since quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Seven Buckeyes have won the honor.

Transfer roundup: TE Joe Royer 14th Buckeye to enter portal

Transfer roundup: TE Joe Royer 14th Buckeye to enter portal

Tight end Joe Royer is the latest Ohio State player to enter the transfer portal, multiple outlets reported.

That brings the number of Buckeyes to 14, including starting quarterback Kyle McCord.

From nearby Cincinnati Elder High School, Royer was the No. 8 tight end in the Class of 2020, per 247Sports. He was little-used with the Buckeyes, catching four passes for 24 yards in 14 games.

Because of the NCAA-granted extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic, Royer has two years of eligibility remaining.

--Oklahoma State wide receiver Blaine Green entered the portal and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining with a new program. He is one of five Cowboys to enter the portal since it opened on Monday.

Green appeared in 10 games as a freshman in 2021, then missed the following season because of injury. He returned in 2023 to appear in 10 more games and caught 13 passes for 102 yards.

In his Oklahoma State career, Green totaled 34 catches for 416 yards with one touchdown reception.

--Texas wide receiver Isaiah Neyor is in the portal and won't play for the Longhorns in the College Football Playoff semifinals vs. No. 2 Washington, On3 reported.

Neyor played at Wyoming before transferring to Texas prior to the 2022 season. He missed most of that season with a torn ACL and caught one pass for 14 yards for the Longhorns in 2023.

He joins fellow wide receiver Casey Cain in the transfer portal for Texas.

Report: Tulane coaching search targets Troy's Jon Sumrall

Report: Tulane coaching search targets Troy's Jon Sumrall

Tulane is targeting Troy's Jon Sumrall to be its next head coach, The Athletic reported Friday.

Sumrall was an assistant coach for the Green Wave from 2012-14 and has guided Troy to a 23-4 record in his first two seasons.

Tulane is replacing Willie Fritz, now the head coach at Houston after going 54-47 in eight seasons -- including 11-2 in 2023.

Sumrall was the Sun Belt Coach of the Year in 2022 and won his second straight conference championship this season. The Trojans (11-2) will play Duke in the Dec. 23 Birmingham Bowl.

Sumrall, 41, was a linebacker at Kentucky from 2002-04 before working as an assistant coach at San Diego, Tulane, Troy, Ole Miss and his alma mater. He was Kentucky's co-defensive coordinator in 2021 before taking the job at Troy.

Penn State TE Theo Johnson to enter draft, won't skip Peach Bowl

Penn State TE Theo Johnson to enter draft, won't skip Peach Bowl

Penn State tight end Theo Johnson said Friday that he plans to enter the 2024 NFL Draft but will not skip the Nittany Lions' upcoming bowl game.

"Thank you ... for making my time at Penn State an unforgettable experience," Johnson posted on social media, mentioning the coaching staff, players, staff members and fans. "After a lot of thought and prayer, I will be declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft. I cannot wait to be with my Penn State Football family one last time when we compete at the Peach Bowl."

He was the second-leading receiver for No. 10 Penn State this season with 32 catches for 325 yards and six touchdowns.

Johnson joined Penn State in 2020 and had another year of eligibility because of the NCAA's allowance for the COVID-impacted season.

The Nittany Lions will face No. 11 Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 30.

Also, offensive tackle Blake Fisher said he will sit out the Sun Bowl game for No. 16 Notre Dame against No. 19 Oregon State and enter the draft.

Fisher was listed as a five-star recruit by Rivals in the 2020 class. Many thought he'd return for his final season to gain more experience at the NFL-coveted left tackle spot.

Fisher played 27 games, all starts, for the Fighting Irish. He started as a freshman but played only two games because of a knee injury.

Duke names Manny Diaz as head coach

Duke names Manny Diaz as head coach

Manny Diaz will be introduced Saturday as Duke's new head football coach, the 23rd in school history.

Diaz replaces Mike Elko, who departed to become the head coach at Texas A&M after guiding Duke to a 16-9 record in two seasons in Durham, N.C.

"We are grateful and humbled for this opportunity and could not be more excited to be the head football coach at Duke University," Diaz said, praising campus leaders for their "true commitment to this program."

"Duke University is an elite institution in every facet, and we are excited to be a part of it. I'm beyond excited to get to work," he said.

Diaz, 49, compiled a 21-15 record as head coach of Miami from 2019-21 but was fired following the 2021 season. He joined James Franklin's staff at Penn State as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2022, and the Nittany Lions rank tips in the nation in total defense (223.2 yards per game) and third in scoring defense this season (11.4 points per game).

Diaz was the defensive coordinator at Miami (2016-18), Mississippi State (2010, 2015), Louisiana Tech (2014), Texas (2011-13) and Middle Tennessee (2006-09).

"He is an experienced coach with a strong track record of success, deep knowledge of the ACC, and an exciting vision for the future of our program," Duke president Vincent E. Price said. "I am confident our student-athletes will continue to achieve tremendous success on the field and in the classroom under his leadership."

The Blue Devils (7-5, 4-4 ACC) are scheduled to face Troy (11-2) of the Sun Belt Conference in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 23. Associate head coach and running backs coach Trooper Taylor is serving as the interim coach.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco announces retirement

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco announces retirement

Mike Aresco, the only commissioner in the 11-year history of the American Athletic Conference, announced Thursday he will retire at the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

Aresco was originally named the commissioner of the Big East Conference in 2012 and helped to oversee the creation of the AAC during a conference realignment.

"It has been the supreme privilege of my long career in sports to have had the opportunity to lead this great conference from its reinvention in 2013, and to represent its outstanding student-athletes, coaches and administrators," Aresco said in a statement. "There have also been some disappointments and difficulties along the way, most notably, the P5-G5 (Power 5-Group of 5) divide, realignment, College Football Playoff access for our deserving teams and some competitive heartbreak in big games.

"But these have not affected in any way my enthusiasm in leading this terrific and resilient conference or my optimism for its long-term future."

Under his watch, the league produced four NCAA championship teams, a College Football Playoff semifinalist, four New Year's Six bowl champions, two NCAA Men's Final Four teams and six Women's Final Four teams.

Aresco's tenure will officially end on May 31.

Army, Navy expect competitive fight in Foxborough

Army, Navy expect competitive fight in Foxborough

Saturday marks the 124th clash between Army and Navy and a preview of a budding conference rivalry.

Army is slated to join Navy in the American Athletic Conference next season, shedding its independent status.

"I just thought it was the right move for Army football at this time," Black Knights coach Jeff Monken said. "Navy has proven a service academy can be competitive in the AAC."

The Black Knights and Midshipmen will meet at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., a first-time venue for a series that began in 1890. Identical 5-6 records and recent history suggests it will be a competitive contest.

Army earned a 20-17 victory in double overtime in last season's game to trim Navy's all-time edge in the series to 62-54-7. Seven of the past nine meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer.

The Black Knights carry a three-game winning streak into the game but have been idle since a 28-21 home win against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 18.

Army, which tweaked its style of option football before the season, rushed for 365 yards on 62 carries against the Chanticleers while attempting only two passes -- one for an interception. Tyson Riley (12 carries, 112 yards), Bryson Daily and Ay'Jaun Marshall all ran for scores.

Navy last played on Nov. 25, when it fell 59-14 at SMU for its third loss in the past five games. The Midshipmen trailed 52-14 at halftime and were outgained 452-139 in the first two quarters.

Navy, which also is working through a new offense this season, was led by quarterback Braxton Woodson, who rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown and passed for 71 yards.

Navy coach Brian Newberry, the program's former defensive coordinator, is eager for his first game as head coach in the series.

"It's a lot of fun preparing for this game and game-planning," Newberry said. "You want to make sure you do everything that you can to make sure your players are prepared."

Army can capture its first Commander-in-Chief's trophy since 2020 with a victory. A Midshipmen win would give them a share of the trophy with Air Force.

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