McNamara will share the spotlight at Michigan spring game

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After leading Michigan to its first Big Ten championship in 16 years, Cade McNamara could be excused for expecting to be the quarterback getting the most attention at Saturday’s spring game.

He’ll be lucky to get third.

That’s nothing new – any quarterback at Michigan is going to be in the shadow of head coach Jim Harbaugh. Not only was Harbaugh successful as the Wolverines quarterback in his day, but he has also now gone from the coach who can’t win the big one to the man who delivered a victory over Ohio State and a Big Ten championship.

He also went to Minneapolis to look at the Vikings job, but that didn’t work out and he’s back at the Big House.

There will also be another big-name passer in Ann Arbor on Saturday – honorary captain Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will also put on a passing showcase at halftime as he tries to make it back to the NFL; he last played in the NFL in 2016, the same year he started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

Once that’s done, though, McNamara will get his chance to run the offense without the pressure of the past. He beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten title and advanced to the College Football Playoff, all with J.J. McCarthy looking over his shoulder. On Saturday, McCarthy will be sidelined by a sore shoulder, so that battle will have to wait for fall camp.

McNamara will have plenty of weapons coming back to help. Running back Hassan Haskins (1,327 yards, 20 touchdowns) is gone, but Blake Corum had 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Donovan Edwards already looks like the next breakout back.

The receiving corps is deep, led by senior Cornelius Johnson, and the offensive line has several key members back from last year’s winners of the Joe Moore Award for the nation’s best.

Replacing center Andrew Vastardis, who finished his career with six seasons of knowledge of Michigan’s blocking assignments, will be tough. However, the Wolverines grabbed Virginia’s Olusegun Oluwatimi out of the transfer portal. He started 32 straight games, and while he’ll take a while to learn Michigan’s system, he gives them a solid option right off the bat.

The question, of course, will be on defense. Few teams had a pair of pass rushers as good as Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who combined for 25 sacks last season, but both are off to the NFL.

No one on this year’s roster had more than Taylor Upshaw‘s 2.5 sacks. Now a fifth-year senior, Upshaw will need to take a big step forward to help fill the two massive holes on the defensive line. Redshirt junior Mike Morris will also get a long look as an edge rusher.

The secondary also has some holes to fill, but D.J. Turner and Gemon Green give Michigan a pair of experienced cornerbacks and R.J. Moten and Rod Moore should be able to step into the safety spots.

Michigan has the talent to compete for just as much success as it had a year ago.

They just have to find a way to replace Haskins, Hutchinson and Ojabo.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”