BILLS’ VON MILLER TO MISS FIRST 4 GAMES ON PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST, AP SOURCE SAYS
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills top pass-rusher Von Miller will open the season on the physically unable to perform list in allowing him to continue recovering from a torn right knee ligament, a person with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the team has not yet announced the move coming on the day NFL teams have to cut their rosters to 53 players. ESPN.com first reported the decision.
Miller will be required to miss at least the first four games of the season.
Though Miller hoped to be ready for the start of the season, the move was expected after the 12th-year player has yet to be cleared for practice.
Miller was hurt in a 28-25 win at the Detroit Lions on Nov. 24 and had surgery a few weeks later.
PANTHERS ACQUIRE WR IHMIR SMITH-MARSETTE FROM THE CHIEFS AFTER SPATE OF INJURIES AT WIDE RECEIVER
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) With injuries impacting their depth at wide receiver, the Carolina Panthers made a move to acquire wide receiver/returner Ihmir Smith-Marsette from the Kansas City Chiefs in a deal involving a swap of conditional 2025 seventh-round draft picks.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Smith-Marsette is coming off a strong preseason where he was second in the league with 195 yards receiving on nine receptions.
The 2021 fifth-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings averaged 21.7 yards per catch in three games, including two 40-plus yard receptions from Chiefs backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
With the NFL regular season fast approaching, the Panthers are dealing with injuries to three of their top five receivers. DJ Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. all sat out the preseason finale and their status for Week 1 remains uncertain.
Smith-Marsette spent time with Minnesota and the Chicago Bears the past two seasons, catching five passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns in 2021. He had one catch for 15 yards last season.
He has returned five kickoffs for 100 yards.
The Panthers also announced 22 roster moves on Tuesday to get closer to the league’s 53-player limit.
The most notable cut was linebacker Deion Jones, a 2016 Pro Bowl linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons who was signed earlier this offseason to a one-year deal.
A second-round pick by the Falcons in 2016, Jones has started 88 games and played in 96 in his career with 12 interceptions and 11 sacks.
The Panthers also parted ways with five draft picks from the era of former coach Matt Rhule, including wide receiver Shi Smith, cornerbacks Keith Taylor and Stantley Thomas-Oliver, linebacker Brandon Smith and offensive lineman Deonte Brown.
The team also cut wide receivers Javon Wims and Josh Vann; running back Spencer Brown, offensive linemen Justin McCray, Michael Jordan, Sam Tecklenburg and JD Direnzo; defensive lineman Raequan Williams; outside linebackers Kobe Jones, Eku Leota, and Jordan Thomas; inside linebacker Ace Eley; safety Eric Rowe; and cornerbacks Herb Miller, Mac McCain, and Mark Milton.
Right guard Austin Corbett was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list as he continues to recover from a torn ACL he sustained in last year’s regular-season finale. That means Corbett will miss at least the first four games of the season.
Defensive end Henry Anderson was also placed on injured reserve.
BRONCOS ACQUIRING KICKER WIL LUTZ FROM SAINTS, REUNITING HIM WITH SEAN PAYTON, AP SOURCE SAYS
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos are acquiring Wil Lutz from the New Orleans Saints, reuniting the veteran kicker with coach Sean Payton, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the teams didn’t immediately announce the deal in which the Saints will receive a 2024 seventh-round draft pick from Denver.
This means New Orleans will go with undrafted rookie Blake Grupe from Notre Dame. He was 5-for-6 in the preseason with his only miss from 60 yards.
The Broncos released veteran Brandon McManus in the spring and brought in veterans Elliott Fry and Brett Maher for a camp competition. Fry was waived with an injury designation after the preseason opener where he missed a field goal.
Maher, who was jettisoned by the Dallas Cowboys in the offseason following his extra point meltdown in the playoffs, missed two field goals in the first preseason game before bouncing back to make all four of his attempts and all seven extra points in the last two exhibitions.
Payton had made it clear that Maher hadn’t won the job when Fry was released and was actually competing with kickers across the league.
That included Lutz, 29, who signed with New Orleans after the Baltimore Ravens cut him in 2016.
Lutz has made 84.6% of his field goal attempts in his seven-year NFL career. He made 74.2% of his tries last year after missing 2021 with an injury.
Lutz will see plenty of familiar faces in Denver besides Payton’s.
The Broncos stocked their roster with several former Saints who played for Payton in New Orleans, including tight end Adam Trautman, fullback Michael Burton and wide receivers Marquez Callaway and Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
CHIEFS GET DT NEIL FARRELL JR FROM DIVISION-RIVAL RAIDERS FOR DRAFT PICK, AP SOURCE SAYS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs acquired defensive tackle Neil Farrell Jr. from the Las Vegas Raiders for a sixth-round pick in a rare trade among division rivals, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The person, speaking just hours before the deadline for teams to reach the 53-man roster limit, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Farrell still must pass a physical. That is not expected to be a problem after the Raiders’ fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft appeared in all of their preseason games.
The trade for help along the defensive line could be a sign that the Chiefs do not expect All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones to report in the near future. Jones has been holding out in the hopes of earning a lucrative long-term contract, racking up millions in fines for missing the Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp, their entire training camp and three preseason games.
In a back-and-forth with fans on social media, Jones indicated he would be willing to hold out until Week 8. That would be the deadline for making sure he would accrue a full season and fulfill the terms of his four-year, $80 million contract.
Even in that case, the Chiefs could use the franchise tag on him next offseason.
Farrell, who at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds plugs a mammoth hole in the middle of the defensive line, only had 12 tackles and two quarterback hits in nine games last season. But the acquisition of the 25-year-old tackle follows a trend of Chiefs general manager Brett Veach acquiring relatively high draft picks and giving them a fresh start in Kansas City.
The Chiefs were relatively thin along the defensive line with Jones holding out. Turk Wharton missed a big chunk of training camp with a knee injury, though he should be ready to go for their Sept. 7 opener against the Detroit Lions, while defensive end Charles Omenihu will begin serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.
RB DALVIN COOK PARTICIPATES IN FIRST PRACTICE WITH JETS
New York Jets running back Dalvin Cook practiced for the first time this summer on Tuesday.
The four-time Pro Bowler signed a one-year deal with the Jets on Aug. 14 that is worth up to $8.6 million.
Cook, 28, was released by the Minnesota Vikings on June 9 after his fourth straight 1,000-yard season.
He recently became a first-time father and has been spending time with his son, Dalvin Jr., per ESPN.
Coach Robert Saleh confirmed Cook’s participation in Tuesday’s practice as the Jets prepare for their Sept. 11 opener against the Buffalo Bills. Cook’s younger brother, James, is a running back for the Bills.
Dalvin Cook is returning from shoulder surgery in February.
He posted 5,993 rushing yards, 47 rushing touchdowns, 221 receptions, 1,794 receiving yards and five TD catches in 73 games (72 starts) with the Vikings, who drafted him in the second round in 2017.
Cook joins a Jets backfield that features Breece Hall, who averaged 5.8 yards per attempt across seven games as a rookie in 2022 before tearing his ACL. Saleh also announced that Hall, 22, would practice on Tuesday.
REPORT: TITANS ACQUIRE K NICK FOLK FROM PATRIOTS
The Tennessee Titans acquired kicker Nick Folk from the New England Patriots in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2025 NFL Draft, NFL Network reported Tuesday.
The reported move comes one week after the Titans acquired Michael Badgley and released fellow kickers Caleb Shudak and Trey Wolff.
Folk, 38, made 32 of 37 field-goal attempts and 32 of 35 extra-point tries in 17 games last season for the Patriots.
He has drilled 353 of 426 field-goal attempts and 458 of 473 extra-point tries in 211 career games with the Dallas Cowboys (2007-09), New York Jets (2010-16), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017) and Patriots (2019-22).
JAGS CB CHRIS CLAYBROOKS ON EXEMPT LIST AFTER TWO ARRESTS
The NFL placed Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks on the commissioner’s exempt list on Tuesday.
Claybrooks, arrested twice this offseason on domestic violence charges, may not practice or attend games while on the list.
He was arrested in Duval County on July 21 on charges of misdemeanor domestic battery and false imprisonment, a third-degree felony. He was released the next day on a $25,000 bond.
Claybrooks pleaded not guilty to those charges on Aug. 14 and his next scheduled court date is Sept. 11, according to the Florida Times-Union.
In April, Claybrooks was arrested in Nashville on misdemeanor charges of domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism. Those charges were dropped in May after a settlement was reached.
Claybrooks, 26, was a seventh-round pick by the Jaguars in 2020. He has recorded 81 tackles and one forced fumble in 46 games (six starts).
REPORTS: BEARS ACQUIRE G DAN FEENEY FROM DOLPHINS
The Chicago Bears are acquiring veteran guard Dan Feeney from the Miami Dolphins for a 2024 sixth-round pick, according to multiple reports.
Feeney, 29, signed a one-year deal with Miami in March after spending the last two seasons with the New York Jets.
A Chicago-area native, Feeney was a third-round pick by the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017 and has played in 96 games (64 starts) with the Chargers (2017-20) and Jets.
Feeney has experience at left and right guard and at center and adds depth in Chicago, where offensive lineman Teven Jenkins is out indefinitely with a leg injury.
FIRST NFL COACH FIRED? MIKE MCCARTHY, JOSH MCDANIELS AMONG CO-FAVORITES
The Dallas Cowboys are nipping at the heels of the Philadelphia Eagles and are considered a potential threat to win the NFC Championship by many oddsmakers.
That’s also the reason Mike McCarthy will open the 2023 season on one of the hottest coaching seats in the NFL.
McCarthy has posted a 30-20 regular-season record through his first three seasons in Dallas. During that time, the Cowboys are also 1-2 in the postseason.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been notoriously patient with his coaches — Jason Garrett’s 10-year run on Dallas’ sideline ahead of McCarthy’s arrival being the prime example. However, former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is a ready-made replacement should the Cowboys stumble out of the gate and Jones decides to make a move.
McCarthy has been installed as one of the three “favorites” to be the first NFL coach fired this season. He is being offered at +600 by SportsBetting.ag along with Las Vegas’ Josh McDaniels and Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles.
FIRST NFL COACH FIRED ODDS
Mike McCarthy, Cowboys (+600)
Josh McDaniels, Raiders (+600)
Todd Bowles, Buccaneers (+600)
Ron Rivera, Commanders (+700)
Dennis Allen, Saints (+900)
Kevin Stefanski, Browns (+900)
Matt Eberflus, Bears (+1400)
Mike Vrabel, Titans (+1400)
Arthur Smith, Falcons (+1600)
Brandon Staley, Chargers (+1600)
Matt LaFleur, Packers (+1600)
Sean McVay, Rams (+1600)
Kevin O’Connell, Vikings (+2200)
Dan Campbell, Lions (+2500)
John Harbaugh, Ravens (+2800)
Mike Tomlin, Steelers (+3300)
Robert Saleh, Jets (+3300)
Jonathan Gannon, Cardinals (+4000)
Mike McDaniel, Dolphins (+5000)
Pete Carroll, Seahawks (+5000)
Doug Pederson, Jaguars (+6600)
Frank Reich, Panthers (+6600)
Sean McDermott, Bills (+6600)
Shane Steichen, Colts (+6600)
DeMeco Ryans, Texans (+7500)
Bill Belichick, Patriots (+10000)
Brian Daboll, Giants (+10000)
Kyle Shanahan, 49ers (+10000)
Nick Sirianni, Eagles (+10000)
Sean Payton, Broncos (+10000)
Zac Taylor, Bengals (+10000)
Andy Reid, Chiefs (+25000)
McDaniels is entering just his second season in Las Vegas, but the pressure has already mounted following a disappointing 6-11 record in 2022. The Raiders moved on from quarterback Derek Carr, and McDaniels has put his eggs into the basket of oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo, with whom he worked in New England from 2014-26.
Bowles also finds himself at the mercy of a murky quarterback situation. After Tom Brady’s retirement, the Bucs signed former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield, who won a training camp battle over Kyle Trask.
Tampa Bay plays in a lackluster division that includes New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina — three more teams that will begin the season with new starting quarterbacks. But the Bucs are expected to finish last in the NFC South by most books.
Another coach who could be on a short leash is Washington’s Ron Rivera, who has two years remaining on his current contract. The Commanders are coming off a solid 8-8-1 season but are in a very deep division and the team’s new ownership could choose to go in a different direction if the Commanders start poorly under first-year starting quarterback Sam Howell.
Rivera brought in a new offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy, and said a contract extension is part of talks he has had with new owner Josh Harris.
“They’ve gone well and they stand in a good situation,” Rivera said recently of his conversations with Harris. “Those are all things that are all part of our discussion. And again, these are things that we talk about, we’re working into.
“There’s a lot to do and to assume anything’s going to happen immediately is unfair because they are still learning and understanding us, and we’re still talking with them and trying to get things lined up and in order.”
REPORT: GIANTS ACQUIRE DE BOOGIE BASHAM FROM BILLS
The New York Giants agreed to acquire defensive end Boogie Basham from the Buffalo Bills, ESPN reported Tuesday.
The trade report did not include the compensation for the Bills.
Basham, 25, was a second-round pick in 2021 and registered 4.5 sacks in 23 career games (no starts) with Buffalo.
Giants general manager Joe Schoen was working for the Bills when they drafted Basham out of Wake Forest.
He will join a defensive end rotation in New York that features veterans Leonard Williams and A’Shawn Robinson.
Also Tuesday, the Giants activated wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson off the physically unable to perform list.
A second-round draft pick in 2022, Robinson had 23 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown in six games last season before tearing his right ACL in Week 11.
PANTHERS CUT LB DEION JONES, ACQUIRE WR FROM CHIEFS
The Carolina Panthers released veteran linebacker Deion Jones on Tuesday and acquired wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.
They were part of a series of moves as the Panthers reduced their roster to the 53-man limit.
Jones, 28, was a second-round pick in 2016 and a Pro Bowl selection in 2017 with the Atlanta Falcons. He has posted 696 tackles, 11 sacks and 12 interceptions — five returned for touchdowns — in 96 games (88 starts) with the Falcons (2016-21) and Cleveland Browns (2022).
Smith-Marsette came over from the Chiefs in a trade Monday night, a deal that included a swap of conditional 2025 seventh-round picks. He had nine catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.
Smith-Marsette, who turned 24 on Tuesday, was a fifth-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2021. He has gained 230 all-purpose yards in 16 games (one start) with the Vikings (2021), Chicago Bears (2022) and Chiefs (2022). He caught two touchdown passes as a rookie with Minnesota.
Carolina placed right guard Austin Corbett (ACL) on the reserve/physically unable to perform list and he will miss at least the first four games.
Defensive end Henry Anderson was placed on injured reserve.
The Panthers also released the following players: running back Spencer Brown; wide receivers Shi Smith, Javon Wims and Josh Vann; offensive linemen Justin McCray, Michael Jordan, Deonte Brown, Sam Tecklenburg and JD Direnzo; defensive lineman Raequan Williams; outside linebackers Kobe Jones, Eku Leota and Jordan Thomas; inside linebackers Brandon Smith, and Ace Eley; safety Eric Rowe; and cornerbacks Keith Taylor, Stantley Thomas-Oliver, Herb Miller, Mac McCain and Mark Milton.
AFC SOUTH PREVIEW
*Jacksonville’s roster is very stable. The key loss was offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, who signed with Kansas City. That’s not a loss to be dismissed, but no team has perfect stability in this day and age. Moreover, Jacksonville addressed this hole in the draft by picking Anton Harrison. And they added a new target in wide receiver Calvin Ridley. There’s no reason to expect the Jags’ upward trajectory to be interrupted.
*It ultimately comes down to Lawrence’s continued progression. Last year he improved his TD/INT ratio from 12/17 as a rookie to 25/8. The ability to clean up the mistakes was part of natural career growth. When you look at this kid’s history, you have to think the sky’s the limit. He not only has the talent, but he’s a proven big-game winner from his days at Clemson, and now with a historic playoff comeback under his belt in the NFL. He’s got a Super Bowl-winning coach at his side. If Jacksonville were in the NFC, they would easily be the 2-seed. As it is, they have to settle for being the best of the AFC South, and then chasing Kansas City, Buffalo, and Cincinnati (among others) in January.
*Tennessee collapsed hard last year. While the loss of veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill was undoubtedly a big reason, Tannehill is also overrated and completely dependent on having a potent running game to carry him. To that end, the retooling of a traditionally good offensive line will be critical to this year’s success. Tennessee used their first-round draft pick on tackle Peter Skoronski. It won’t take much to pave the way for Derrick Henry. I like the decision to draft Tulane’s versatile back Tyjae Spears as a change-of-pace and possible pass-catcher out of the backfield. Spears, along with excellent tight end Chigoziem Okwonkwo can give Tannehill some targets in the short passing game.
*If this were 1970s-style football, I’d be a happier fan, and the Titans would have a better defense. They were the best in the league last year against the run. But unfortunately for me and Tennessee fans, this is 2023 and the Titan pass defense was the worst in the league last year. Clearly, you aren’t going anywhere in today’s game unless that changes dramatically.
*After an interim fling with Jeff Saturday as their head coach for the second half of last season proved disastrous, Indy has brought in Shane Steichen, the offensive coordinator who did such a great job with Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. Steichen will have a healthy Shaquille Leonard at linebacker.
*What’s above is about all I can see that’s positive in the Colts right now. The decision to draft Anthony Richardson out of Florida with the fourth overall pick is going to prove disastrous. The decision to fire a good head coach in Frank Reich last year simply because the team was 3-5-1 was terrible. The status of Jonathan Taylor’s health and whether or not he’ll be traded is a question mark. Indianapolis has been in a free fall since blowing a game in Jacksonville in the 2021 finale that cost them a playoff spot. And I see no reason to think that collapse is going to be interrupted this season.
*I like what Houston has going here. They start with the game’s best offensive tackle in Laremy Tunsil. Combined with Tytus Howard, this is as good a tackle combo as there is in the NFL. I love the addition of Shaq Mason at guard. As a Patriots fan, I don’t believe our offensive line recovered from losing Mason last season. I really like the signing of Devin Singletary at running back. Every time I watch Singletary, his aggression and attacking style of carrying the ball always jumps out. I love that they drafted Alabama defensive end Will Anderson. All of that sets up the signature draft pick, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, to have success.
*As much as I might like this foundation, there’s still a lot of work to do. New head coach Demeco Ryan has a defensive pedigree, overseeing that solid San Francisco 49ers’ D as a coordinator. Ryan will play an aggressive style. That’s going to serve this team well in the future, but in the present, I’m not sure the overall talent level is high enough to avoid being exposed. Houston’s heading in the right direction, but it’s more likely that 2024 will be their year to compete for a playoff spot.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS
KYLE MCCORD GETS THE NOD AS STARTING QB FOR NO. 3 OHIO STATE AFTER 2 YEARS AS C.J. STROUD’S BACKUP
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Kyle McCord will be the starting quarterback when No. 3 Ohio State opens the season Saturday at Indiana.
Buckeyes coach Ryan Day delivered the long-awaited decision on Tuesday, adding that both McCord and Devin Brown probably would play in the opener.
“I think that Kyle has done a great job over the last two weeks showing consistency,” Day said. “He’s played very well in practice. But Devin, throughout the body of the preseason, has shown that he deserves to play. So expect both of them to play. We have confidence in both of them.”
The competition started in spring practice. Day ultimately decided to go with McCord, the more-experienced third-year player, over Brown, who is beginning his second season in the program. As recently as last week, Day said the competition was too close to call.
A right-handed, pro-style passer, the 20-year-old McCord backed up two-time Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud for two seasons, completing 58 passes for 606 yards and three touchdowns. He started a game in 2021 when Ohio State rested the banged-up Stroud.
Brown got limited mop-up duty last year and has yet to throw a pass in a college game.
“(McCord) has been in the program here for a few years – he’s seen the good and the bad and the ugly, really,” Day said. “And a big part of life is knowing what to expect, and so he’s been around, so he’s at least seen it. Now he’s got to go do it. It’s a whole different thing when you’re actually physically doing it (rather) than watching somebody else go through it.”
Day acknowledged that he would have preferred one of the candidates to emerge earlier as the clear starter.
“This is something that’s a little uncharted territory for me, but you just go on what you see every day in practice,” he said. “And I think that Kyle’s consistency in the last couple of weeks has allowed him to be the starter. And he deserves that.”
McCord will be surrounded by an outstanding collection of offensive weapons. That begins with All-American receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and wideouts Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming. Tight end Cade Stover returns for a fifth year after catching 36 passes for 406 yards, fourth-best on the team last season.
Explosive running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams both struggled with injuries last season but are healthy and are expected to share carries. Henderson rushed for more than 1,200 yards in 2021.
The Buckeyes finished 11-2 last year, losing to rival Michigan in the final regular-season game. They backed into a playoff spot, losing to eventual national champion Georgia in a wild one, 42-41.
ARIK GILBERT, TIGHT END AWAITING ELIGIBILITY RULING AT NEBRASKA, IS ARRESTED IN SUSPECTED BURGLARY
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska tight end Arik Gilbert, who transferred from Georgia and was awaiting a ruling on his eligibility from the NCAA, was arrested on suspicion of burglary early Tuesday after police received a report of a store break-in.
Officers dispatched to SJ’s Liquor and Vape Shop shortly before 2 a.m. found a glass door shattered with large cement chunks from the parking lot, police said, and they saw Gilbert walking toward the exit carrying a bag.
The bag contained stolen vape products, Delta 8, cigars and lighters with a total value of $1,672.07, and damage to the business was estimated at $650, police said.
Lancaster County court records did not indicate if Gilbert has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
Gilbert, a sophomore from Marietta, Georgia, was a five-star recruit who was the top-ranked tight end prospect and 2019 Gatorade National Player of the Year.
He initially played at LSU, where he started eight games in 2020 and was named to the All-SEC freshman team after catching 35 passes for 368 yards. He transferred to Georgia and sat out the 2021 season. He played in three games for the Bulldogs last season, catching two passes for 16 yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska coach Matt Rhule, without elaborating, said Gilbert has been working through some life issues.
“Had been really proud of the job he had done in the spring and summer but, to be honest, during camp he’s had some struggles and he’s been working to overcome them,” Rhule said. “We have a great group of people here trying to help him, and obviously last night happened. Disapointed for him and his family and disappointed obviously for the business owner, and we’ll have to work through it as we move forward.”
DEION SANDERS, REBUILT COLORADO DRAW NO. 17 TCU FOR OPENING ACT
No. 17 TCU played in last season’s College Football Playoff title contest, but Colorado is the program creating the overwhelming buzz leading into Saturday’s season opener at Fort Worth, Texas.
Deion Sanders, inducted into both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame as a player, is the new coach of the Buffaloes and attempting to turn the downtrodden program into a winner.
Colorado went 1-11 last season and Sanders — who refers to himself as “Coach Prime” — emptied the roster in a manner never seen before in college football history.
Only 10 of last season’s 84 scholarship players are still with the program — seven on offense, three on defense. According to BuffZone, there are 114 players in the program, including walk-ons, and 86 of them are in their first season at Colorado.
“I know it was a huge overhaul, but it had to be done,” Sanders told the publication.
Sanders was hired after going 27-6 in three seasons at Jackson State. He brought his two sons — quarterback Shedeur and safety Shilo — as well as highly regarded cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter from the Tigers.
He heavily worked the transfer portal but many prognosticators don’t expect such a philosophy to create an immediate turnaround.
“We’ve got a lot of doubters — I don’t know why,” Shilo Sanders said. “But we don’t have an underdog mindset. That’s how we’re coming. I’m not thinking we need to prove a lot. We just need to go out there and do what we do.”
The Buffaloes need to improve on defense. The unit ranked last in the nation in scoring defense (44.5) last season. Safety Trevor Woods (84 tackles) is the unit’s top returning player.
Shedeur Sanders is expected to pump up the offense. He started for two seasons at Jackson State and passed for 6,983 yards, 70 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also rushed for nine scores.
The Horned Frogs (13-2 in 2022) routed Colorado 38-13 in last season’s opener in the first meeting between the schools.
But TCU coach Sonny Dykes said he won’t be watching that game film due to the roster shakeup.
“Obviously, that tape is not going to be worth anything,” Dykes said Monday. “I haven’t even watched it because there is no reason to.”
TCU is operating in a bigger spotlight this season after putting together a surprise campaign for the ages. The Horned Frogs crashed the four-team playoff and beat Michigan in the semifinals before being steamrolled 65-7 by Georgia in the national championship game.
Dykes allows the final game was ugly but doesn’t think reaching the title contest was a one-time occurrence.
“Anybody can have a good year every now and then,” Dykes said. “We want to be a program that’s consistently in the Top 25. We want to be a program that consistently plays for conference championships, that’s in a conference race in late November. We do those things, we’re going to be in the college football playoff conversation.”
Max Duggan had a magical season and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up but few people remember he wasn’t the opening-game quarterback.
Chandler Morris won the job but sustained a left knee injury in Game 1 that opened the door for Duggan.
Morris said he has a chip on his shoulder “because you go out and you win the job in camp and you get hurt in the third quarter like 27 plays into the game and you’re done.”
QB QUESTION IN PLAY AS NO. 4 ALABAMA HOSTS MIDDLE TENNESSEE
No. 4 Alabama opens the season with a visit from Middle Tennessee on Saturday at Tuscaloosa, Ala., which is when the Crimson Tide might reveal for the first time the identity of the team’s starting quarterback.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is keeping the wraps on who will be the starter after the departure of standout Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.
Jalen Milroe is the perceived favorite after throwing five touchdown passes in 53 attempts last season for the Crimson Tide (11-2 in 2022). Ty Simpson and Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner also have been competing for the starting gig.
“I don’t have any expectations for that right now,” Saban said Monday of the quarterback situation. “We’re going one day at a time and we’re repping the players.”
Saban reiterated earlier comments this month that the quarterback competition doesn’t end just because somebody starts Game 1.
Most observers feel Milroe will be first behind center against Middle Tennessee (8-5 last season).
Milroe started against Texas A&M last season when Young was injured and passed for three touchdowns in a 24-20 victory.
Saban said that Milroe has made strides during fall camp.
“I think Jalen has made a significant amount of improvement,” Saban said. “I think he’s more comfortable in the pocket. I think that he has more confidence in the way he executes and the way he plays.”
Simpson completed 4 of 5 passes last season as the third-stringer. Buchner passed for 949 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions for the Fighting Irish. He started three games for Notre Dame last season.
On the defensive side, standout linebacker Will Anderson is gone — he was selected No. 3 overall by the Houston Texans — so it is Dallas Turner’s time to be the unit’s leader. Turner has 12 1/2 sacks in two seasons.
Middle Tennessee faces a huge task but it did post a 45-31 upset at No. 25 Miami last season. That was a milestone victory for the Blue Raiders, as it was their first in 22 games against ranked foes since becoming an FBS program in 1999.
Beating the Crimson Tide will be a tough task in the eyes of Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill.
“We’ve got a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity this week with Alabama, one of the best teams in the country,” Stockstill said on Monday. “They lose two games last year by a total of four points and everybody thinks that, you know, the sky is falling down there. It’s a really, really talented team.”
The Blue Raiders won their final four games last season and were victorious in a bowl game for the second straight season.
Nicholas Vattiato is the quarterback after making six starts over the previous two seasons. He has passed for 1,340 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight career games.
“Even with a great opponent like Alabama, we have a great opportunity to go out there and show what we’ve been building,” Vattiato said. “I believe in my guys more than anyone to be able to go out there against some competition and show what we have.
“Not to prove to ourselves, because we all believe in ourselves, but maybe just to prove to other people that we’re here and we’re here to play.”
Alabama has won the previous three meetings. The most recent was a 37-10 victory in 2015.
UPSET-MINDED NAU TRIES TO SPOIL ANOTHER ARIZONA SEASON AT THE START
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch begins his third season with the Wildcats on Saturday night with an expected prolific offense, hope for improvement on defense and payback on his mind.
Arizona opens at home in Tucson, Ariz., against FCS Northern Arizona, which pulled off a stunning 21-19 upset on Sept. 18, 2021, ending a 14-game losing streak to the Wildcats that dated to 1932.
Fisch, who inherited a 12-game skid from former coach Kevin Sumlin, went on to a 1-11 record in 2021 but improved to 5-7 last season.
“I think our team is a little different than it was a couple of years ago,” Fisch said. “I know their team is different. It seems as if there’s been a lot of transfers that have come and gone on both programs.”
One of those is Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura, a second-year transfer from Washington State who leads an offense that returns the bulk of its players from a unit that averaged 30.8 points per game last season.
Also back are all-purpose running back Michael Wiley (771 yards rushing, 349 receiving), quick slot receiver Jacob Cowing (85 catches, 1,034 yards, seven TDs), big-play receiver Tetairoa McMillan (39 catches, 702 yards, eight TDs) and potential first-round left tackle Jordan Morgan. He has been cleared to start after recovering from a torn ACL in November.
The defense is the potential issue, trying to rebuild quickly up front via the transfer portal after allowing 36.5 points per game in 2022.
NAU went 3-8 last season but is buoyed by a 15-member freshman class that fifth-year coach Chris Ball called the most talented class he’s had. And the Lumberjacks added 36 transfers for this season.
“I’m having more fun coaching this year than I have in 38 years of coaching football,” Ball said. “This is a great group of young men.”
NAU has a hole to fill at quarterback but returns talented receivers in second-team All-Big Sky Coleman Owen and senior Hendrix Johnson, who has 169 career receptions, 33 away from becoming the school’s career leader.
The star on defense is senior lineman Eloi Kwete, who enters with 26.5 career tackles for loss, including 16 sacks.
The programs have met regularly since 2022, settling now into an every-other-year pattern.
PRIZED QBS FRONT AND CENTER IN BATTLE OF CAROLINAS
Two of the top quarterbacks in the country share the spotlight as No. 21 North Carolina and South Carolina kick off their seasons in the Duke’s Mayo Classic on Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Drake Maye returns for the Tar Heels after passing for 4,321 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions as the ACC Player of the Year in 2022, his first season as the starter.
Spencer Rattler tallied 3,026 yards passing with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with the Gamecocks last season after transferring from Oklahoma, where he also had a 3,000-yard season in 2020.
South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said he understands why many are projecting Maye as a top-five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Maye was also UNC’s leading rusher with 698 yards last season, adding seven touchdowns.
“He is a really talented player, not just a thrower, but as an athlete, being able to run as well,” Beamer said of preparing for Maye. “So we’ve got to do a great job of corralling him, and that also means offensively, we’ve got to be able to stay on the field and score points, because you’re facing a team with a really good quarterback.”
North Carolina finished 9-5 last season after dropping its final four games. Maye had four TD passes and four picks during that slide as the Tar Heels fell to Georgia Tech and NC State at home before losing to Clemson in the ACC title game and Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.
South Carolina, by contrast, finished 8-5 after notching big wins against then-No. 5 Tennessee and No. 7 Clemson in November. Rattler threw for a combined 798 yards and eight TDs against the Volunteers and Tigers, then added 246 yards and two TDs in a 45-38 loss to Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.
“I think the biggest challenge is stopping [Rattler], because like Drake, when he gets hot he can run up and down the field,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said on his radio show Monday. “That’s why they were so good at the end of the year. They beat a Tennessee team that was hot. They beat a Clemson team that won our league and beat us and then came down to the end of the game with Notre Dame. They really finished the season strong.”
To start this week, North Carolina remained in limbo regarding one of Maye’s biggest weapons, wide receiver Tez Walker. The NCAA denied his immediate eligibility request because this is his second transfer, and UNC filed an appeal. He caught 58 passes for 921 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Golden Flashes last season.
The Tar Heels were counting on Walker to replace Josh Downs, the two-time 1,000-yard receiver who was picked in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
Rattler’s receiving corps includes five-star true freshman Nyck Harbor and 2022 All-SEC selection Antwane Wells Jr., who caught 68 passes for 928 yards and six scores last season.
The border rivals are meeting for the 60th time, with North Carolina holding a 35-20-4 lead in the all-time series, including a 3-2 edge in games played at a neutral site. South Carolina won the most recent contest, 38-21, at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Dec. 30, 2021.
NO. 2 MICHIGAN, SANS JIM HARBAUGH, CASTS FOCUS ON EAST CAROLINA
Second-ranked Michigan is without suspended head coach Jim Harbaugh when it opens the 2023 season against East Carolina on Saturday at Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Wolverines (13-1 in 2022) don’t figure to miss Harbaugh, who serves the first of a school-imposed three-game punishment for his role in NCAA violations involving recruiting and coaching time. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will run the Wolverines against the Pirates, who posted an 8-5 record last season.
“I’ve heard people comment that it’s a slap on the wrist,” Harbaugh said Monday of the suspension. “It’s more like a baseball bat to the kneecaps or to the shoulder.”
Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore is also serving a suspension Saturday due to the NCAA issues. Quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell will call the plays.
Campbell figures to often get the ball to returning first-team All-American running back Blake Corum against the Pirates.
Corum finished seventh in Heisman Trophy balloting last season when he rushed for 1,463 yards, the eighth highest single-season total in Wolverines’ history. He rushed for 18 touchdowns before effectively missing the final 3 1/2 games due to a serious knee injury.
Corum tore the meniscus, sprained the MCL and sustained a bone bruise in the second quarter against Illinois on Nov. 19. He attempted to play against Ohio State the following week but left after two carries and missed the rest of the season.
The injury prevented Corum from leaving for the NFL. He now sees the good side of the adversity.
“It took me a while to realize that this is just something small,” Corum said. “There’s a lot of people out there doing way worse than I was. A lot of people are quick to get down when something small happens, when there’s people out there really struggling.
“This is something I can come back from, and I got it repaired. Some people can’t repair a lot of things.”
J.J. McCarthy is again the quarterback. He passed for 22 touchdowns and rushed for five while guiding Michigan to the College Football Playoffs. The Wolverines lost 51-45 to TCU in the semifinals.
East Carolina is in reloading mode after losing four key offensive performers from a team that routed Coastal Carolina 53-29 in the Birmingham Bowl. It was the program’s first bowl victory since 2013.
Quarterback Holton Ahlers (3,708 yards, 28 touchdowns), running back Keaton Mitchell (1,452 yards, 14 TDs on the ground) and wideouts Isaiah Winstead (1,085 yards) and C.J. Johnson (1,016) all need to be replaced.
Mason Garcia (38 passing attempts over three seasons) and Alex Flinn (zero career attempts) are competing for the quarterback job. Coach Mike Houston has yet to announce a starter.
“You just go out there and compete your butt off,” Garcia told reporters. “Do what you got to do for the team. Everybody wants this team to be good.”
Whoever gets the call will be facing long odds as few people expect East Carolina to give Michigan a close battle in the first all-time matchup between the programs.
“The big thing with situations like that is that they can’t pay any attention to the outside world and what their opinion is,” Houston said. “They’ve got to focus on themselves.
“… It’s going to be the largest stadium any of them have ever played in so you must be able to handle that. You have to settle down and go play ball.”