SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson knows a good cornerback when he sees one — no matter if the school's three letters are ULM or TCU.
So when he heard that the Horned Frogs were looking to add Louisiana-Monroe transfer Josh Newton, the first-team AP All-America cornerback immediately wanted to see if the new guy could make the jump from the Sun Belt Conference to the Big 12.
After a few minutes watching clips on TV, he was sold.
“I could see it on film — great cover corner,” Hodges-Tomlinson said. “He has a great competitive nature. He wants to win, he wants to win routes, he wants to win whenever the ball comes. I knew once he got the defense down and I saw how he was as a person, he'd have success in the conference.”
Newton became TCU's other starting cornerback and now the No. 3 Horned Frogs (12-1, No. 3 CFP) are having a dream season, facing No. 2 Michigan (13-0, No. 2 CFP) on Saturday in the College Football Playoff semifinals at the Fiesta Bowl.
Newton and Hodges-Tomlinson are two examples of TCU's success in the transfer portal during the offseason. While Newton was a great addition, Hodges-Tomlinson was a great holdover, sticking with the program through its transition to first-year coach Sonny Dykes.
Hodges-Tomlinson said it helped that his uncle — former TCU and NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson — gave Dykes a thumbs-up.
“It kind of goes across your head (to transfer) when you've got a whole new staff coming in,” Hodges-Tomlinson said. “You don't know what to expect. But once I saw that Dykes was coming in, my uncle gave me some intel, and I saw the staff he was bringing, so I knew I wanted to stay at TCU.”
Newton has had three interceptions this season for the Horned Frogs. He said there was a sizable jump from the Sun Belt to the Big 12, but he learned a lot during his three years with the Warhawks.
“I'll never talk down on Monroe — it made me who I am,” Newton said. “I went through the storm there, now I'm able to see some light. If it wasn't for ULM, there would be no TCU Josh Newton.”
GEORGIA WAS STROUD’S RUNNER-UP
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was very close to being a Bulldog, with Georgia finishing second in his recruitment.
Stroud and Georgia coach Kirby Smart have talked this week about their warm relationship, which continued even after Stroud signed with Ohio State.
No. 4 Ohio State faces top-seeded Georgia in the CFP semifinals on Saturday at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
“I loved his mom, man,” Smart said Monday. “What a tremendous woman. She’s awesome. Went all the way across the country and got to sit in his home and visit with him. He has a really good disposition about him. He’s not real high, not real low, not real emotional. He keeps a really level head, which to me at quarterback is one of the number one qualities you can find."
Stroud confirmed Tuesday the Bulldogs “were like second in my recruitment, but I feel l made the right decision coming to Ohio State.”
Stroud said he visited with Smart when the Georgia coach accompanied quarterback Stetson Bennett to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
“I have respect for them, and I think they have respect for me,” Stroud said. “I got to see them up at the Heisman with Stetson. Got to talk to coach Smart a good bit. He’s a good dude, definitely a good coach.
"It was close, but I’m glad where I went, and I’ll ride with that till I die.”
BELL'S BIG RETURN
Michigan receiver Ronnie Bell played in just one game last year, tearing the ACL in his right knee during the team's season-opening win against Western Michigan.
More than a year later, the fifth-year player said the long rehab process was worth it.
Bell leads the Wolverines with 756 yards receiving and three touchdowns this season heading into his team's CFP semifinal game against TCU.
“The way I've talked about it is being on the other side of a tunnel,” Bell said. "When I first got hurt, I'm looking at the future, thinking about what's going to happen with this rehab process, how this season is about to go, how much further I have to go.
“Just to be on the other side, I'm very thankful.”
Bell said he's been pleased with how the team has prepared for the Fiesta Bowl. Even though he was hurt, he traveled with the Wolverines for last year's trip to the CFP, which ended in a 34-11 loss to Georgia at the Orange Bowl.
“The people running the bowl at our hotel were telling us about places to go out down the street,” Bell said. “Last year, people went out in Miami. This year, whenever they brought it up, guys were like: ‘Nah, nobody’s really going out. That's not what we're doing.
RB DEPTH KEY FOR BUCKEYES
Ohio State’s depth at running back could be a key in the Peach Bowl.
TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State’s second-leading rusher, will miss the playoffs following foot surgery. Leading rusher Miyan Williams has been slowed by a leg injury, making Chip Trayanum a key backup. Trayanum was given a look at linebacker at Ohio State following his transfer from Arizona State before his return to offense.
Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Williams “had a really good go” in Monday’s practice, but Trayanum could still be a factor.
Trayanum has run for 92 yards this season — including a season-high 83 yards against Michigan on Nov. 26 — averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
“And as we build through this week, I think we’ll see those guys playing and playing well, but I think you need more than one back,” Wilson said. “You need two, sometimes three to play through the season.”
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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