COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Mercer football begins spring practice in prepartion for inaugural game; UGA signs key DL from Kansas

Bobby Lamb, left, hit the field Monday for the Mercer football team's first spring practice. Lamb was hired to start the program, which will play its first game later this year.

Bobby Lamb, left, hit the field Monday for the Mercer football team's first spring practice. Lamb was hired to start the program, which will play its first game later this year.



MACON — The Mercer Bears’ opening football game is still seven months away, but the team got to work for the first time on the field Monday in preparation for the 2013 season.

The Bears held their first spring practice in the morning for about an hour and a half. They will have two more workouts this week, today and Friday.

“It is exciting,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. “You’re in the weight room for five weeks; you’re out doing mat drills at five in the morning, I think this is a great refresher for the kids because they get out and get to come together as a team.

“Even though we didn’t have pads on, as I’ve told them, they have to learn how to practice with no pads, they have to learn how to practice with shells, and then they have to learn how to practice with full gear. So it was a lot of fun for day one, and hopefully we can build off it.”

Former Tattnall Square standout Hank Avery was especially thrilled to be back on the field. Avery, a linebacker, transferred to the program from Air Force and officially joined the Bears on National Signing Day.

“The tempo was up, the enthusiasm was up; the team is looking really good,” Avery said. “We had some good hustle, and we have some things we need to work out, but we have plenty of time to do it.

“It’s like being part of history, so to speak, (to be on Mercer’s first team since the 1940s). I’m from here, and a lot of guys on the team are from the general area, too. To have the opportunity to get on the field is quite an honor.”

Lamb is looking for improvements through the rest of the spring, but he was pleased with the team’s first day of work.

“I thought it went well,” he said. “Our coaches did a good job of planning the practice. We had several meetings last week before we got to come out here. Everybody knew where they were going. The biggest thing on day one is to be organized, to try to understand what we’re trying to do and to try and play quick and fast, and I thought they did that on day one.”

Clowney’s mom: He’s going to play next season

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The mother of South Carolina defensive end and possible 2014 No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney told SI.com recently that she expects her son to play a third season, rather than skip the season to avoid injury.

“I talked to him this week, and he wants to play,” Josenna Clowney told the web site. “I don’t think he has it in him to sit out. He loves to play football. I know I want him to play.”

Clowney’s status has been uncertain since Charlotte Observer columnist Tom Sorensen suggested Feb. 10 that Clowney should think about sitting out his junior year to train for the pro draft. Per NFL rules, players can’t declare for the draft until three years post-graduation from high school.

Clowney graduated from South Pointe High (Rock Hill, S.C.) in 2011 and played two seasons for the Gamecocks.

Clowney, 20, is viewed as an imposing defensive presence. He said last month that he’s grown to 6-foot-6 1/2 and 273 pounds. He has told South Carolina that “as of right now,” he’ll return for his junior season.

------ Reuters News Service

Fla. Atlantic sells branding rights ... to a prison?

Florida Atlantic University announced a marketing deal Tuesday with the GEO Group, a private correctional facilities management corporation, according to a report from OwlAccess.com.

The deal would include the naming rights to the school’s on-campus stadium.

The report said that GEO Group’s CEO George Zoley is an FAU alum.

FAU had been seeking a corporate naming rights sponsor for years, and OwlAccess reported that the agreement was “believed to be valued at around $5 million.”

The deal comes with controversy, as GEO Group has paid out millions in fines and penalties as a result of numerous lawsuits. The company formerly operated Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, where a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into abuses concluded that “due to the unconstitutional operation of WGYCF, youth were sexually preyed upon by staff and all too frequently suffered grievous harm, including death.”

------ Reuters News Service