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VOL. 132 | NO. 88 | Wednesday, May 3, 2017

NFL Draft’s Favorite Flavor? SEC, Heavy on Alabama

By Don Wade

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Penn State won the Big Ten title in 2016, but the Nittany Lions didn’t score many recruiting points during the 2017 NFL Draft. They had just one player selected. And so did other traditionally stout football schools named Texas and Nebraska.

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard was taken by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the first round of the NFL Draft. He was one of four Crimson Tide players to go in the first round, and one of 10 drafted in 2017. The SEC led all conferences with 53 drafted players in 2017.

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Meanwhile, for the 11th straight year the SEC led the nation with 53 players drafted – 23 of them in the first four rounds. Bookending the draft were No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, the defensive end that went to the Cleveland Browns, and Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly – he was taken by Denver with the last pick in the draft, making him this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant.”

The Atlantic Coast Conference had 42 players chosen, but the Big 12 had just 14 taken; the Associated Press reported that was the league’s lowest total since 1996 when the old Big Eight and the Southwest Conference merged.

The American Athletic Conference had a record 15 players taken in the draft. Nine of the 12 teams had at least one player chosen and University of Memphis kicker Jake Elliott went in the fifth round of the seven-round draft to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Temple linebacker Haason Reddick went 13th overall to the Arizona Cardinals, the first AAC player taken and the highest-drafted player from the league since 2014 when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected UCF quarterback Blake Bortles third overall.

Alabama led the SEC with 10 players selected – four in the first round – but Michigan had the most players drafted with 11. Tennessee’s six draftees tied for eighth in the country.

Crimson Tide cornerback Marlon Humphrey went 16th overall to Baltimore, defensive end Jonathan Allen went 17th to Washington (a shoulder injury might have dropped him), tight end O.J. Howard went 19th to Tampa Bay, and linebacker Reuben Foster dropped to 31st, being taken by San Francisco. Foster’s stock plummeted in the wake of being sent home from the NFL Combine and having a “diluted” urine sample.

The Vols’ draftees: defensive end Derek Barnett, 14th overall to Philadelphia; running back Alvin Kamara, third round to New Orleans; defensive back Cam Sutton, third round to Pittsburgh; linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, fourth round to Detroit; receiver Josh Malone, fourth round to Cincinnati; and quarterback Joshua Dobbs, fourth round to Pittsburgh.

“These NFL teams have gained a lot of fans from Vols nation,” said coach Butch Jones.

The last UT team to have as many as six NFL draftees? The 2009 team coached by Lane Kiffin.

David Cutcliffe and a Decade at Duke

It doesn’t seem possible, does it? Former Ole Miss head coach and UT assistant David Cutcliffe is about to begin his 10th season as head coach of the Blue Devils and Duke just gave him a contract that runs through June of 2021.

At Duke, Cutcliffe has won two ACC Coach of the Year awards, taken the team to four bowl games and one ACC championship game, and notched 52 wins overall.

Nice work at what is, unquestionably, a basketball school.

“K” stands for Kroger

The University of Kentucky is partnering with Kroger, for 12 years and $1.85 million annually, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. The football program’s Commonwealth Stadium will be renamed Kroger Field, pending approval from UK’s board of trustees.

According to the report, Kroger will become the official fuel partner, and official nutrition and pharmacy and grocery store for the university and its athletic programs.

Can’t wait for Lexington Krogers to install new “one-and-done” checkout lines.

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