Both Notre Dame and Ohio State announced medical scholarships for players with nerve injuries Saturday, overshadowing the usual depth chart activity late in August practice. Elsewhere, Auburn dismissed its top tackler for a drug bust and managed to name a starting quarterback. Purdue held its breath over another ACL injury, while Iowa and Wisconsin are going to play it coy.
Fighting Irish linebacker Danny Spond brought his career to a close Saturday, as a result of a "medical issue." Spond, who fought migraine headaches in 2012, felt the left side of his body go numb during a practice earlier this month. Head coach Brian Kelly declined to discuss the medical issue, saying Spond's family will release details at another time. He also praised his former linebacker and talked about his future role with the team:
"He loves his teammates, but I think what's most important is he did what was in his best interest for his future," Kelly added. "He's got a bright future. And his immediate [future] is he wants to be with the team, and our teammates were excited to hear he'll be with us every day. He'll travel with us. He'll help coach."
Spond was Notre Dame's starting outside linebacker through most of 2012 and was expected to resume that role in 2013. He recorded 38 tackles and one TFL. Sophomore Ben Councell is expected to assume that role in Spond's absence.
Ohio State also had a player's career cut short due to a nerve injury Saturday. Buckeyes tight end Blake Thomas has suffered a nerve injury that will end his football career, according to Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Thomas suffered a stinger last week, and an MRI following the injury showed a chronic nerve condition that could be extremely dangerous.
"If he took a large hit, he could risk paralysis," Thomas's father told reporters.
Thomas, a true sophomore who was part of Urban Meyer's first recruiting class at Ohio State, was low on the OSU depth chart at tight end -- he was competing for TE #3, according to Land Grant Holy Land -- but would likely contribute on special teams this season.
Nick Marshall is officially the Tigers' starting quarterback, according to a statement from head coach Gus Malzahn:
I've named Nick Marshall our starting QB. He's earned that opportunity. Auburn family let's get behind him and the team. #WarEagle— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) August 17, 2013
Marshall spent last season at Garden City (KS) Community College, where he threw for over 3,000 yards. Malzahn had recruited him while at Arkansas State, and quickly extended Marshall a scholarship offer once he had arrived at Auburn. The primary knock on Marshall: He was not on campus until August, but College & Magnolia writes that might be a good sign:
The fact that Marshall, a JUCO transfer who wasn't on campus for spring practice, was tabbed as the starter with a couple of weeks to spare before the season likely bodes well. On Monday, Malzahn announced Marshall and Jeremy Johnson as the front-runners, Wallace as No. 3 and that Kiehl Frazier will make the transition to safety. With Saturday's news, it shows that Marshall (6'1, 210 pounds) really is ahead of the rest of Auburn's QBs, and that the only thing holding him back was learning the playbook. He's a natural for Malzahn's offensive system, and as long as he can keep his wits about him on the field, there's no reason he can't excel.
Marshall beat out Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace, who both started last season, and true freshman Jeremy Johnson. Indications are that Johnson will be No. 2 on the depth chart, Wallace will act as a holder on placekicks, and Frazier will move to safety.
Also, Malzahn dismissed senior safety Demetruce McNeal from the team after a marijuana arrest earlier this week. Brandon Marcello of AL.com has Malzahn's statement:
"After visiting with Demetruce, I made the decision to dismiss him from our team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement Saturday afternoon. "We have high expectations both on and off the field for our players."
McNeal was the Tigers' returning tackler and a presumed starter at safety. McNeal did not practice until Monday as he recovered from a staph infection
Boilermakers wide receiver Danny Anthrop suffered a "significant knee injury" during a scrimmage Saturday in West Lafayette. The sophomore wideout was hit in the left knee and crumpled to the ground in pain. No word yet on the result of any tests, but Purdue fans are already bracing for the worst:
I fear we're now going to hear the three dreaded letters we have learned to loathe as Purdue fans. The curse may have struck again.
The Boilermakers are already short at wide receiver, as Dan Moteroso broke his collarbone earlier in camp. Anthrop was expected to contribute, and potentially start, this season. As a true freshman, Anthrop played everywhere: He finished the season with 58 yards rushing on five carries, 25 yards receiving on one reception, two touchdowns, and 13 tackles on special teams.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz faces a conundrum: His team is trying to recover from a 4-8 record last season and replace former quarterback James Vandenberg, but the program's three potential replacements -- JUCO transfer Cody Sokol, sophomore Jake Rudock, and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard -- have never taken a snap at the Division I level. Ferentz has declined to name a leader through August, but if Saturday's open scrimmage was any indication, Rudock has won the job. As the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Marc Morehouse writes:
Rudock started with an advantage because he was in the system a little longer than the other two, and he's a pre-med student. He's really, really smart. Thinking is a big part of this, and if that's Rudock's advantage, it appears the other two haven't thrown up enough fireworks to knock him out of the box.
Ferentz threw in the "it's not quite over over," but it'd be a shock if Rudock wasn't named starter.
Iowa opens at home Aug. 31 against defending MAC champion Northern Illinois.
Newly-minted Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen is taking a page out of Ferentz's book and playing his quarterback choice close to the vest. Andersen told reporters Saturday that he would not issue his decision on a starting quarterback until Wisconsin jogged onto the field for their opener against UMass on Aug. 31. As the Associated Press reports, Andersen conceded that the on-field performance might give away his choice before he formally announces it.
Andersen is choosing from senior Curt Phillips, sophomore Joel Stave, and JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy. Stave held the starting job for part of last season before suffering a broken collarbone and reportedly held the lead after spring practice, but Phillips has been more effective in practice this August.