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Ex-Auburn QB, ‘Last Chance U’ star John Franklin III confident about switching to defense in NFL

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John Franklin III had a wild college career, spending time at four institutions while he worked to be a quarterback at the highest level of college football.

He gave up on that path awhile ago — Franklin spent his senior season as a receiver at FAU — but now he’s moving on from the offensive side of the ball altogether. The Chicago Bears signed him as an undrafted free agent to play defensive back and on special teams this year.

While he sounds confident about the switch, he does concede that he never played on that side of the ball before participating in rookie mini camp this offseason.

“That was the first time I ever played defense in my life,” Franklin told the Chicago Sun Times’ Mark Potash. “But it prepared me to come here in minicamp and do extremely well. So I’m thankful that I got the chance to do that before I came here.”

So why the confidence? Franklin says his experience as a quarterback let’s him know what to look for across the line of scrimmage to gain an edge.

“The defense I pick up real fast because I know what it looks like as a quarterback. I know what I’m facing. I know how to stop it,” Franklin said. “I’m just learning physically to train my body how to stop it. So mentally, I feel like I’m ahead of somebody that just moved over [to defense].

“I learned everything from the eyes of the person looking across the field. That’s one of my biggest advantages, and I’m using that.”

Franklin is somewhat of a long shot to make the 53-man roster. With such tight constraints, it’s hard for undrafted free agents to make the cut — especially when they’re playing an unfamiliar position.

But his athleticism can’t be doubted — perhaps the Bears can be the organization to unlock all of his potential.

The post Ex-Auburn QB, ‘Last Chance U’ star John Franklin III confident about switching to defense in NFL appeared first on SEC Country.

Jeremy Pruitt, Phillip Fulmer have differing opinions on neutral-site games

Tennessee-Jeremy Pruitt-Phillip Fulmer-neutral-site games

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and athletic director Phillip Fulmer seem to have differing opinions on neutral-site games, according to GoVols247’s Patrick Brown.

The Vols will kick off their season against West Virginia in Charlotte, N.C., which will be their third neutral-site season opener in the last four years.

However, Tennessee’s future Power 5 nonconference schedule only includes home-and-home matchups against BYU, Oklahoma and Pitt.

Related:  Phillip Fulmer weighs in on Nick Saban-Jeremy Pruitt SEC transfer debate

Pruitt told Brown that he believes scheduling more neutral-site games in “a place that you’re going to recruit” is worth considering.

“The home-and-home is definitely great, but also if there’s a place that you’re going to recruit, it’s good to play a game there,” Pruitt said via Brown. “And I think when you’re going to play a neutral-site game, you’ve got to have that thought in mind.”

Pruitt, who previously worked as an assistant at Alabama and Georgia, has coached in several notable regular-season neutral-site games, including the Bulldogs’ annual matchup against Florida in Jacksonville, as well as the Tide’s last two season openers against USC at AT&amp;T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Florida State in Atlanta.

Fulmer, on the other hand, would prefer that the Vols schedule more games at Neyland Stadium.

“In most cases, I think our home games need to be played at home in Knoxville,” Fulmer said via Brown. “We have a great place, great setting. So much of our economy centers around it, but I don’t think you ever say never.”

Tennessee will face West Virginia on Sept. 1.

The post Jeremy Pruitt, Phillip Fulmer have differing opinions on neutral-site games appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida softball rolls on to NCAA Regional finals with late offensive surge

Florida softball-Florida Gators-Florida-Oklahoma-NCAA Regional-score-box score

The Florida softball team has shown so far through just two games of this NCAA Regional that it can win in different ways, that its strengths are deep and befitting of a national contender.

In the opener Friday night, Florida pitchers Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio combined for a no-hitter and 14 strikeouts against Bethune-Cookman. On Saturday against Ohio State, the No. 2-seeded Gators needed their bats, and the lineup delivered with 10 runs over the final two innings.

With that, host Florida secured a come-from-behind 10-2 win over the Buckeyes and advanced to the finals of the NCAA Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Stadium.

The Gators (52-8) will play Sunday at noon, but they first must await the rest of the action Saturday to determine their opponent. South Florida and Bethune-Cookman are playing an elimination game, and the winner will then face Ohio State later in the evening. The winner of that game will play Florida, needing two wins in the double-elimination bracket while the Gators need just one more victory to move on to the NCAA Super Regionals.

Barnhill (28-1) got the start again Saturday, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 2 walks with 9 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. Ocasio got the final 2 outs for her second save of the season.

Again, though, the story of this win was the offense.

Ohio State (35-15) led 2-0 entering the bottom of the fifth inning before Florida patiently took control.

The Buckeyes would issue 15 walks in the game, including 8 over the final two innings.

Jordan Matthews and Ocasio drew walks sandwiched around the first out in the bottom of the fifth and Jordan Roberts reached on an error to load the bases.

Jaimie Hoover then singled up the middle to plate the Gators’ first run and two batters later SEC Player of the Year Amanda Lorenz delivered a 2-out, 2-run single through the left side to put the hosts ahead for the first time.

In the sixth, Ohio State starter Shelby McCombs walked Matthews on four pitches to lead off the frame and was pulled from the game. Morgan Ray took over on the mound and promptly walked Janell Wheaton on six pitches and gave up a bunt single to Ocasio to load the bases.

Sophia Reynoso and Hoover then drew back-to-back to plate 2 more runs, Ocasio scored on a wild pitch, Hannah Adams followed with an RBI groundout, Lorenz knocked an RBI single up the middle, Matthews later singled in another run, Wheaton drew a walk from fresh reliever Kat Duvall to load the bases yet again and Ocasio ended the game with an RBI single through the right side to make it 10-2, securing the 8-run mercy rule.

Lorenz finished 2 for 3 with 2 walks and 3 RBI, Ocasio was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run and Hoover was 1 for 1 with 3 walks, 2 RBI and 2 runs.

Florida has now won nine straight games and 18 of its past 19.

The post Florida softball rolls on to NCAA Regional finals with late offensive surge appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida softball rolls on to NCAA Regional finals with late offensive surge

Florida softball-Florida Gators-Florida-Oklahoma-NCAA Regional-score-box score

The Florida softball team has shown so far through just two games of this NCAA Regional that it can win in different ways, that its strengths are deep and befitting of a national contender.

In the opener Friday night, Florida pitchers Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio combined for a no-hitter and 14 strikeouts against Bethune-Cookman. On Saturday against Ohio State, the No. 2-seeded Gators needed their bats, and the lineup delivered with 10 runs over the final two innings.

With that, host Florida secured a come-from-behind 10-2 win over the Buckeyes and advanced to the finals of the NCAA Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Stadium.

The Gators (52-8) will play Sunday at noon, but they first must await the rest of the action Saturday to determine their opponent. South Florida and Bethune-Cookman are playing an elimination game, and the winner will then face Ohio State later in the evening. The winner of that game will play Florida, needing two wins in the double-elimination bracket while the Gators need just one more victory to move on to the NCAA Super Regionals.

Barnhill (28-1) got the start again Saturday, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 2 walks with 9 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. Ocasio got the final 2 outs for her second save of the season.

Again, though, the story of this win was the offense.

Ohio State (35-15) led 2-0 entering the bottom of the fifth inning before Florida patiently took control.

The Buckeyes would issue 15 walks in the game, including 8 over the final two innings.

Jordan Matthews and Ocasio drew walks sandwiched around the first out in the bottom of the fifth and Jordan Roberts reached on an error to load the bases.

Jaimie Hoover then singled up the middle to plate the Gators’ first run and two batters later SEC Player of the Year Amanda Lorenz delivered a 2-out, 2-run single through the left side to put the hosts ahead for the first time.

In the sixth, Ohio State starter Shelby McCombs walked Matthews on four pitches to lead off the frame and was pulled from the game. Morgan Ray took over on the mound and promptly walked Janell Wheaton on six pitches and gave up a bunt single to Ocasio to load the bases.

Sophia Reynoso and Hoover then drew back-to-back to plate 2 more runs, Ocasio scored on a wild pitch, Hannah Adams followed with an RBI groundout, Lorenz knocked an RBI single up the middle, Matthews later singled in another run, Wheaton drew a walk from fresh reliever Kat Duvall to load the bases yet again and Ocasio ended the game with an RBI single through the right side to make it 10-2, securing the 8-run mercy rule.

Lorenz finished 2 for 3 with 2 walks and 3 RBI, Ocasio was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run and Hoover was 1 for 1 with 3 walks, 2 RBI and 2 runs.

Florida has now won nine straight games and 18 of its past 19.

The post Florida softball rolls on to NCAA Regional finals with late offensive surge appeared first on SEC Country.

Arkansas QB signee Connor Noland pitches team to state championship

Arkansas-Arkansas Razorbacks-football-baseball-Connor Noland

Arkansas 2018 quarterback signee Connor Noland is likely to have some impressive pitching performances at the Razorbacks’ Baum Stadium in his future. Whenever that happens, though, it won’t be the first time the righty has dominated with high stakes on the Baum mound. Not after what he did Saturday.

Noland threw a complete-game shutout in the Arkansas Class 6A title game, leading Greenwood to a 4-0 victory over Benton in Fayetteville. He struck out 12 and allowed just 2 hits. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Hitting cleanup for the Bulldogs, Noland reached base twice with a walk and single. He was named MVP of the game.

Later this month, Noland will officially enroll at Arkansas. His plan to participate in both sports for the Hogs. The football coaching staff hasn’t ruled out the possibility he’ll seriously compete for the starting job next fall.

Noland recently informed every Major League Baseball organization he would not forgo college to sign a professional contract if he’s selected in the MLB draft this June. He instead will enroll at Arkansas in late May to begin his time as a two-sport athlete playing quarterback and pitching for the Razorbacks.

“I would like to thank all the Major League Baseball organizations and scouts that have dedicated their time and assets in order to evaluate my baseball abilities,” Noland said. “I want to do everything I can for the State of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas and last but not least the Razorback fans. My commitment to Coach [Chad] Morris and the Razorback football staff, as well as Coach [Dave] Van Horn and the Razorback baseball staff, couldn’t be any stronger.”

Noland also  led Greenwood to a football state title during his senior year. He finished the 2017 season with 2,798 passing yards and 35 touchdowns with a 69.6 completion percentage in 13 games.

The post Arkansas QB signee Connor Noland pitches team to state championship appeared first on SEC Country.

Report: Eli Manning won’t face NFL discipline for memorabilia fraud controversy

Ole Miss-Eli Manning-New York Giants-NFL ruling

Former Ole Miss and current New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning reportedly won’t face discipline from the NFL following the settlement of a lawsuit accusing him of selling fraudulent “game-worn” memorabilia to collectors, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.

“We monitored the situation and are satisfied that it is a civil matter that was resolved,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to Florio via email. “Not a [Personal Conduct Policy] issue.”

Violations of the Personal Conduct Policy include “[c]rimes of dishonesty such as blackmail, extortion, fraud, money laundering, or racketeering,” according to league rules.

The NFL has apparently considered the incident involving Manning to be a “civil matter,” which means it’s not considered a crime of fraud without a prosecution, according to Florio.

Manning’s trial was scheduled to undergo jury selection this week, but the death of an attorney’s family member was going to delay that process to next week, prior to Smith’s report.

However, the former Super Bowl champion and the plaintiffs reportedly agreed to settle instead, as initially reported by Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.

Manning and Giants co-owner John Mara were mentioned on the list of potential witnesses for the trial prior to the settlement.

Manning had previously denied involvement in the incident and accused lead plaintiff Eric Inselberg of being a scam artist who had a history of selling fake memorabilia himself for several years.

His attorneys described the lawsuit as “inflammatory and baseless,” while also claiming that the Inselberg’s attorneys had used underhanded tactics to create negative press for Manning, according to ABC.com via the Associated Press’ David Porter.

Inselberg originally filed the lawsuit against Manning in 2014, claiming that two helmets that he and two other plaintiffs purchased — including one that was believed to be used by the quarterback during the Giants’ 2007-08 Super Bowl run — weren’t actually game worn.

According to the lawsuit, Manning had texted a team equipment manager that the helmets in question could “pass as game used.”

However, the SEC legend and former Super Bowl champion can now focus on his 15th NFL season now that a settlement has been reached.

The post Report: Eli Manning won’t face NFL discipline for memorabilia fraud controversy appeared first on SEC Country.

Arkansas fails to win an SEC road series all year after loss to Georgia

arkansas-arkansas baseball-isaiah campbell

Dave Van Horn is one of the best baseball coaches in the country. The Arkansas head man has earned the right to do what he chooses, make decisions he wants, on the baseball field. What he did Saturday, in the regular-season finale against Georgia, however, is going to draw some criticism.

Arkansas’ final game of the season was a determinant. If the Razorbacks won, they would be solo SEC West winners and the 2-seed in the SEC Tournament next week. If they lost, Ole Miss would have to lose, too, for Arkansas to avoid a 4-seed in the tournament. A series loss in Athens also would mean the Diamond Hogs didn’t win a single road set during league play, something that could haunt them come NCAA Tournament selection time.

With all that at stake, Van Horn started freshman Kole Ramage instead of usual third-game starter Isaiah Campbell. Arkansas lost, 3-2. The strength of the connection between those two statements varies on the perspective.

Arkansas had a chance in the ninth. Heston Kjerstad started the inning with a double and then took third on a wild pitch. Problem was Carson Shaddy struck out behind him. So, with one out, Georgia walked Grant Koch, who was then replaced by Jax Biggers on the base paths. Created a situation in which a double-play would end it.

And it did.

Dominic Fletcher sent a fly ball to left field and when it was caught Kjerstad took off from third to the plate.

Out. Ball game. Hogs lose.

A gut-punch of a way to end the regular-season.

Ramage was solid. He struck out five in his 4 2/3 innings, while allowing two runs. The game was tied upon his exit. Those 4 2/3 innings were almost as many innings as he had pitched all season in the SEC. Entering the game, he’d thrown 6 2/3 total.

He was lifted for left-hander Evan Lee. Opponents had batted .412 against Lee in SEC play. Subsequently, he gave up a solo home run to Michael Curry and Georgia took a one-run lead in the fifth.

Only then was Campbell seen. And he was excellent. He retired the first five batters he faced plus the one that was on base, put there by Lee, when he entered. Ultimately he went three innings, striking out three and giving up a single.

Van Horn’s decision may not be the reason for the defeat, though, considering his lineup didn’t help much. Grant Koch’s RBI single in the second and RBI double in the fourth were the only runs. In fact, those two hits accounted for 40 percent of the Razorbacks knocks on the whole day.

Can’t blame pitching if the offense wouldn’t have won it, anyway. Now the Razorbacks will watch Ole Miss and hope the worst team in the SEC, Alabama, can pull another upset.

Grading Arkansas

Pitching: B

Wasn’t bad, all things considered. The usage was curious.

Hitting: D+

The bats went silent. Arkansas managed just six hits. Bad timing considering the rest of the weekend they had no troubles.

The Big Stick + The Arm

Arm: Campbell

Problem was it was too late.

Stick: Grant Koch

He’s apparently completely healed from the ankle injury of last weekend. Koch went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a double and a walk.

What’s next?

The SEC Tournament starts next week. Arkansas will play Wednesday against an opponent to be determined.

The post Arkansas fails to win an SEC road series all year after loss to Georgia appeared first on SEC Country.

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