Headlinin’: Stafon Johnson, on the comeback

Out of the woods. Doctors said the neck and throat injury USC running back Stafon Johnson sustained while lifting weights Monday would have killed a normal person without Johnson’s marbled neck, but he was alert Tuesday after a marathon seven-hour surgery, communicating nonverbally with visitors and attempting not to laugh at Pete Carroll. And, assuming his recovery goes as expected, they think Johnson will be able to resume his career in the long run:

"We definitely are working very hard to get him better, for him and for the rest of his fans," said Dr. Gudata Hinika, trauma director at California Hospital Medical Center. "So we expect him to be on the football field at some time."

The question is whether that’s at USC or in the NFL — university compliance officials said Johnson could successfully apply for a medical hardship that would grant him a fifth year with the Trojans in 2010, but an NFL scout told the L.A. Times the league has enough film and would only need to get a clean bill on Johnson’s recovery. Observers around the program think he’s a goner if he recuperates in time to go through pre-draft workouts.

What’s in the pot, Terp fans? Mmmm, head coach. The slow, almost imperceptible simmer under Ralph Friedgen’s seat at Maryland the last two years is in full blaze after a 1-3 start that includes a futile blowout at California, a near-miss in overtime over I-AA James Madison, a second consecutive loss to Middle Tennessee State, a turnover-filled debacle at home against equally reeling Rutgers, and now an open inquiry into Friedgen’s contract situation by the Washington Post:

But what is Maryland — and more specifically [athletic director Debbie] Yow — to do? Friedgen is owed about $4.5 million for the two remaining years on his contract. Regardless of how this season unfolds, buying Friedgen out of his remaining two years is considered unlikely, particularly given economic conditions.

When asked Tuesday if Friedgen would return as coach next season, Yow said: "I will evaluate the status of the program after we play the entire season, not now, with eight games remaining. My focus is on supporting the team and our coaching staff. That focus will continue [until] season’s end."

"… at which point we break out the guillotine." Actually, Maryland is an unusual "hot seat" situation because of the clear succession plan from Friedgen to offensive coordinator James Franklin, who could move up somewhat seamlessly with a passing of the torch in place of a messy denouement. But never underestimate Friedgen’s ability to pull his feet from the fire: The vultures were out last September, too, and the Terps recovered to win eight and were a touchdown against Boston College away from the championship game in the wide-open ACC. Who else you got in the Atlantic Division?

Oklahoma! Where the coach plays coy with quarterback plans. Sam Bradford "looked good" again in his second day back at Oklahoma practice Tuesday, according to coach Bob Stoops, who still wouldn’t give any indication about the Sooners’ plans at quarterback Saturday night at Miami. Bradford has reportedly been splitting first-team snaps with Landry Jones, and Stoops indicated it might come down to a game-time decision against the ‘Canes.

Stoops also tentatively suggested during his Tuesday press conference that the obscure NCAA rule keeping OU linebacker Mike Balogun off the field for his senior season "needs to be revisited," but played politician on the question ("It’s your question, you’re bringing it up, not me, and since you brought it up …") rather than open up on a bogus clause with barrels blazing.

The Pinstripe Bowl? Per a press release keep an eye out today for a "MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT" about the rumored bowl game at Yankee Stadium, reportedly featuring teams from the Big East and Big 12. The as-yet-untitled game (at last check, they were going with "Yankee Bowl") is gunning for 40,000 visitors beginning in 2010; a press conference with NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and various Yankee bigwigs is scheduled for later this morning.

Quickly … Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond, a four-year starter, is out for the season with ACL, MCL and PCL tears in his right knee, ending his college career. … Two Texas players, receiver Brandon Collins and safety Christian Scott, are academically ineligible for the rest of the season, but will continue in practice and should be back next year. … Iowa State defensive end Rashawn Parker, a starter, is out for the season with an ACL tear. … Iowa’s All-Big Ten tackle, Bryan Bulaga, will be back on the line Saturday against Arkansas State after missing three games with a thyroid condition. … With other high-profile quarterbacks going down all around him, Colt McCoy ain’t afraid of no injuries. … New Mexico’s HR department is taking a closer look at Mike Locksley’s pugilistic encounter with an assistant coach. … Division II is moving away from Division I and toward Division III by cutting season lengths and practice times in a number of sports, including football. … A business is Kansas was ordered to pay more than $600,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs for selling bootleg Jayhawk gear. … The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s story on Texas Tech’s suspension of lineman/captain Brandon Carter drew 10 times the usual page views and comments. … Video of the "hit" that got Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman suspended for next week’s game with Indiana is up. … And Joe Paterno is not interested in your local angles, Illinois reporters.

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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