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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Midseason All-America team - NCAA closes Auburn investigation

NCAA closes Auburn investigation
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The NCAA said it found no major violations committed by Auburn regarding Cam Newton or other pay-for-play allegations and has concluded multiple investigations of the football program.
The NCAA released a statement Wednesday saying it has closed its 13-month investigation into Auburn's recruitment of the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, whose father shopped his services to another school for up to $180,000.
The investigation hovered over the program during the Tigers' national championship run.
The NCAA also cleared Auburn in allegations by four former players that they received payments during their recruitment or careers.
The NCAA notified Auburn of the decision Tuesday in a letter from associate director of enforcement Jackie A. Thurnes. Auburn released it Wednesday.
"As I've said many times, I feel very confident about the way we run this program," Tigers coach Gene Chizik said Wednesday night. "I've said many times that we haven't done anything wrong, so quite frankly I moved on a long time ago."
He said he spoke briefly to Newton - now with the NFL's Carolina Panthers after a season at Auburn, after practice Wednesday, "but we did not talk about that at all. I just told him I'm proud of him and he's going to watch the (Florida) game on Saturday and he's excited about it."
Chizik said he didn't address the NCAA's notification with his team, but appreciated that the governing body made the decision public.
Thurnes said NCAA enforcement staff and the university conducted more than 50 interviews into whether Newton was paid to sign with Auburn and examined documents including bank records, tax filings and phone and email records.
"The NCAA enforcement staff is committed to a fair and thorough investigative process," the NCAA said in a statement. "As such, any allegations of major rules violations must meet a burden of proof, which is a higher standard than rampant public speculation online and in the media. The allegations must be based on credible and persuasive information and includes a good-faith belief that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding.
"As with any case, should the enforcement staff become aware of additional credible information, it will review the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted."
The NCAA agreed with Auburn's self-report from Nov. 30, 2010, that Cecil Newton and the owner of a scouting service, Kenny Rogers, shopped Cam Newton's services to Mississippi State out of junior college, but that there was no evidence the player or Auburn knew about it.
Newton led the Tigers to a national title and was the No. 1 NFL draft pick by Carolina, which made him an instant starter. The final months of his spectacular season were clouded by the allegations, though.
Auburn declared Newton ineligible four days before the SEC championship game, and the NCAA reinstated him the following day saying there was not "sufficient evidence" that Cam Newton or Auburn knew of the attempts to cash in on his talent.
More allegations surfaced in March when the four former Auburn players raised additional claims of wrongdoing in the program.
Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick told HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" that they received thousands of dollars while being recruited by or playing for the Tigers.
They said the cash was delivered in book bags, envelopes and even handshakes. Ramsey played at Auburn most recently, in the 2007 season.
Thurnes said the NCAA interviewed Gray and his family members and friends and that his claims were not substantiated "and in some instances were disputed by others."
The other three players interviewed by HBO declined to speak with the NCAA, which said "their lack of cooperation and lack of any other information" left insufficient reason to conclude that any violations occurred.
Chizik, who was defensive coordinator during the careers of Reddick and McClover, had dismissed the report as "pure garbage." Auburn hired outside counsel to investigate the claims.
"We appreciate the NCAA and thank them for their professionalism and thoroughness during this exhaustive investigation," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said. "We are pleased to put this matter behind us."
Auburn spent $183,667 in attorney's fees on the Newton case and $82,463 for the other investigation through August, the university said Wednesday in response to an August 18 opens records request from The Associated Press.

Midseason All-America team
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
Wilson, an NC State transfer, has the Badgers smelling roses -- or even more. He leads FBS players in passing efficiency with a 216.9 rating, completing 74.8 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and one interception in No. 4 Wisconsin's 5-0 start.

Running back
Trent Richardson, Alabama
Richardson, a junior from Pensacola, Fla., is carrying the load without 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in the backfield, running for 729 yards with 11 touchdowns in the No. 2 Crimson Tide's 6-0 start. He has five straight 100-yard games, the second-longest streak in Alabama history.

Running back
LaMichael James, Oregon
LSU's defense and a dislocated elbow might be the only things that slow James this season. After gaining only 54 yards in a 40-27 loss to the Tigers in the opener, James has produced three consecutive 200-yard performances for the No. 9 Ducks, including 288 yards on 23 carries in a 56-31 rout of Arizona on Sept. 24.

Wide receiver
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden picked up where they left off last season for the No. 6 Cowboys, even without departed offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who is now West Virginia's coach. Blackmon has 46 catches for 534 yards with six touchdowns for the country's highest-scoring offense.

Wide receiver
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Despite playing in the No. 3 Sooners' deep receiver corps, Broyles has 47 catches for 598 yards with seven touchdowns and has had 100 receiving yards or more in 15 of his past 20 games. Broyles is four catches shy of breaking former Purdue receiver Taylor Stubblefield's NCAA career record of 316 receptions.

Tight end
Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Who said a tight end can't play in a spread offense? Allen has been one of Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd's favorite targets, catching 22 passes for 340 yards with four touchdowns. Allen caught a touchdown pass in each of the No. 8 Tigers' victories over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech.

Barrett Jones, Alabama
Jones, who started at right guard the previous two seasons, has been forced to wear many hats for the No. 2 Crimson Tide this year. Jones, a junior from Memphis, Tenn., has started all six games at left tackle but also has lined up at left guard, right tackle and center. He's the anchor of a line paving the way for the SEC's No. 1 rushing offense.

David DeCastro, Stanford
DeCastro, a senior from Bellevue, Wash., and left tackle Jonathan Martin have been the stalwarts of No. 7 Stanford's rebuilt offensive line. The Cardinal have allowed only two sacks on 155 pass attempts, tied for the fewest in the country. Protecting quarterback Andrew Luck is a big reason for Stanford's 13-game winning streak, the longest in the country.

David Molk, Michigan
Molk, a senior from Lemont, Ill., is the anchor of No. 11 Michigan's offensive line, which has allowed only two sacks in 125 pass attempts, tied for the fewest in the country. Molk has started 35 games at center for the Wolverines, who lead the Big Ten in rushing and rank No. 2 in total offense and scoring during their surprising 6-0 start.

Joe Looney, Wake Forest
The school with the smallest enrollment among FBS schools has one of the sport's biggest offensive lines. The Demon Deacons' five offensive linemen weigh an average of 314 pounds, and Looney is one of the biggest at 320. He was the team's highest-rated lineman in each of the first five games and leads in knockdown blocks during a 4-1 start.

Nate Potter, Boise State
Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore's quick release makes it nearly impossible for opponents to pressure him, but he also gets really good protection. Potter, a homegrown product from Boise, Idaho, is nearly impossible to move, which is a big reason that Moore has been sacked only twice in his past 253 pass attempts dating back to last season.


Defensive end
Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Ingram, a senior from Hamlet, N.C., has provided plenty of defense and even some points for the No. 15 Gamecocks this season. Ingram leads the SEC with 5½ sacks and is fourth with 7½ tackles for loss. He scored touchdowns on a 68-yard run on a fake punt and 5-yard fumble return against Georgia and a fumble recovery in the end zone against Vanderbilt.

Defensive tackle
Devon Still, Penn State
Still, a senior from Wilmington, Del., has anchored one of the country's best defenses. He has 30 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two sacks for the Nittany Lions, who rank in the top five nationally in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and pass-efficiency defense.

Defensive tackle
Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
Worthy, a 310-pound junior, wore No. 95 against Notre Dame to honor Michigan State great Bubba Smith, who died this past summer. Worthy is still playing inspired football for the country's No. 1 overall defense, totaling 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery during the No. 23 Spartans' 4-1 start.

Defensive end
Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
Merciless is the perfect word for the star of Illinois' aggressive defense, which has helped the No. 16 Illini reach 6-0 for the first time since 1951. Mercilus, a junior from Akron, Ohio, leads the Big Ten with 8½ sacks, 10½ tackles for loss and four forced fumbles.

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Upshaw leads what is arguably the country's best linebacker corps, which is a big reason that the No. 2 Crimson Tide lead FBS teams in run defense and scoring defense and rank in the top four nationally in total defense and pass defense. Upshaw has 18 tackles and leads the SEC with 8½ tackles for loss.

Chase Thomas, Stanford
Thomas has been a steady force throughout his college career and has played even better after No. 7 Stanford lost linebacker Shayne Skov to a season-ending knee injury in the third game. Thomas leads Pac-12 players with five sacks and is second in the league with seven tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Don't blame Kuechly for the Eagles' dreadful 1-5 start. He is on pace to lead the country in tackles for the second season in a row with 99 stops in six games. He also leads FBS players with 58 solo tackles and is second in the ACC with 7½ tackles for loss. Kuechly had 23 tackles in a 20-19 loss to Duke on Sept. 17.

DeQuan Menzie, Alabama
Opponents take a sizable risk throwing to either side of the field against the Crimson Tide's secondary, but there might be more hazard in throwing to Menzie's side this season. Menzie, a junior college transfer who was hurt much of last season, has 19 tackles, six pass breakups, one interception and a fumble recovery.

Tyrann Mathieu
What hasn't the No. 1 Tigers' "Honey Badger" done this season? Mathieu, a 5-foot-9 sophomore from New Orleans, leads the SEC with four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He also has 41 tackles, five tackles for loss, 1½ sacks, six pass breakups and two interceptions.

Mark Barron, Alabama
Barron has recovered from a torn pectoral muscle sustained last season to re-establish himself as the country's top safety. He has 30 tackles, 1½ tackles for loss, four pass breakups, one interception and a fumble recovery for the Crimson Tide.

Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
Jefferson, a sophomore from Chula Vista, Calif., has intercepted four passes in the past two games. Named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2010, Jefferson is fourth on the team with 28 tackles to go with four tackles for loss and two sacks. He intercepted three passes in a rout of Ball State and had an interception and a sack in a rout of Texas.

Special teams

Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
Sharp, a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award last year, is doing a lot more than punting this season. He has averaged 49.2 yards on 15 punts, which would lead the country if he'd punted enough times. Sharp, a junior from Mansfield, Texas, also leads FBS players with 27 touchbacks on kickoffs and is 9-for-10 on field goal attempts.

Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson
Catanzaro, a sophomore from Greenville, S.C., has made 10 of 12 field goal attempts, and he's 5-for-6 on attempts of 40 yards or longer. For his career, his accuracy on attempts from longer than 40 yards (73.3 percent) is better than his percentage from inside the 40 (68.4 percent). Catanzaro went 5-for-5 on field goals in last week's 36-14 victory over Boston College.

Kick returner
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Abdullah, a freshman from Homewood, Ala., has been explosive nearly every time he's touched the ball for the Cornhuskers this season. He ranks No. 2 nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 31.9 yards per return, and is one of only three players to rank in the top 25 nationally in kickoff and punt returns. He had a school-record 211 yards on five kickoff returns in a rout of FCS foe Chattanooga.

Crosby did not meet with specialist Tuesday
Contrary to what Penguins general manager Ray Shero expected, Sidney Crosby did not meet with a concussion specialist today.
There was an expectation that Crosby would meet with his concussion specialist today, but it was a meeting the player indicated was never scheduled. As far as his day on the ice, it was another non-contact practice with no change in his status. "It's the same as usual -- I feel good. It went good today and I'm excited to be home." The Penguins have their home opener against Florida tonight.

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