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VT announces recruiting class

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BLACKSBURG – Seven prep All-Americans highlight a football recruiting class composed of 28 student-athletes, as announced by Virginia Tech on Wednesday. The class of 28 is the largest since signing 31 in 2008 and the seven All-Americans are the most since inking seven A-As in 2007.

“I am tremendously excited about this recruiting class,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “I think every year you have a good group, but I think this one is special. It’ll help us continue to move toward our stated goals. I’m particularly happy with the caliber of player, both from an athletic standpoint and from a character standpoint, that we recruited from Virginia. Plus, we were able to go outside of the state and recruit some high quality kids. We’re happy with our tailback position. We thought that was a real need this year. Another thing I feel great about is the quality of walk-ons we were able to attract. We have several kids who had scholarship offers to other places who have decided to come to Virginia Tech. I can’t name these players, but going over our history with the John Engelbergers, Cody Grimms and Jarrett Fergusons, I think this is a very positive sign for Virginia Tech.”

Tech announced 28 players total Wednesday, including 26 who signed NLIs. Seventeen of those 28 players are from Virginia and all of them are ranked among the top 36 in the state according to The Roanoke Times. Highlighting this year’s in-state group are four talented players – Dan River High and Parade All-America running back/outside linebacker Trey Edmunds (No. 8 by The Roanoke Times), Clover Hill High receiver Joel Caleb (No. 2 The Roanoke Times), Centreville High defensive end Ken Ekanem (No. 4 The Roanoke Times) and Oscar Smith High running back J.C. Coleman (No. 6 by The Roanoke Times) – who all earned SuperPrep All-America honors, along with Pennsylvania running back Drew Harris. Caleb, Ekanem, Coleman, Edmunds and Harris all made the PrepStar All-America squad, along with L.C. Bird High linebacker Deon Clarke and Lithonia, Ga., defensive end Jarontay Jones.

Caleb is ranked as the No. 53 overall player in the country and the No. 5 “athlete” in the country by PrepStar and played six different positions as a senior, while Ekanem is ranked as the No. 17 outside linebacker in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation. Coleman is ranked as the No. 3 all-purpose back in the country and the No. 5 prospect in Virginia by Rivals after rushing for 1,488 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior despite missing three games with an ankle injury. Edmunds is listed as the No. 16 outside linebacker and the No. 9 prospect in Virginia by Rivals. He rushed for 2,596 yards and 33 touchdowns on 283 carries and recorded 143 tackles, including two sacks as a senior.

Four of the state’s top nine players according to ESPN Recruiting Nation are now Hokies, including Caleb, who is the site’s top player in the Commonwealth. Ekanem (No. 6), South County High linebacker Devin Vandyke (No. 7) and Coleman (No. 9) are all in the top 10, as well.

Eleven players from seven different states also joined the Hokies. A pair of Downingtown East High products – Harris and offensive lineman Jack Willenbrock – will make the trek from Pennsylvania. Harris is listed as the No. 20 running back in the country and the No. 11 prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals, while Willenbrock is ranked as the No. 59 offensive guard in the country and the No. 32 player in the state by ESPN Recruiting Nation.

Cornerback Donaldven Manning hails from Miami, Fla., and played at Miami Central High. He is listed as the No. 23 cornerback in the country and the No. 27 player in Florida by Rivals. With Manning joining the program, it marks the 22nd time in the past 25 years (1988-2012) that Tech has brought in at least one player from Florida.

Virginia Tech welcomes three players from the Peach State in Lithonia, Ga., wide receiver Joshua Stanford, Fairburn, Ga., defensive back Davion Tookes and Jones. Jones is listed as the No. 23 weakside defensive end in the country by Rivals while Tookes is ranked as the No. 25 cornerback in the country by the same outlet. Stanford is rated as the No. 52 wide receiver in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation.

Also joining the program from out of the state are North Carolina products Chris Mangus and Dahman McKinnon, Tennessee native Woody Baron, South Carolina receiver Mark Irick and Maryland resident Donovan Riley. Mangus hails from Raleigh and is ranked the No. 25 wingback in the country by Tom Lemming on MaxPreps while McKinnon is a linebacker from Hope Mills who is listed as the No. 38 safety in the country by Scout. Baron is a defensive end from Nashville who is listed as the No. 19 player in his state by Rivals. Irick is a wide receiver from St. Matthews who is ranked as the No. 23 player in the state of South Carolina by SuperPrep, while Riley is a defensive back from Reistertown who is rated as the No. 22 prospect in Maryland by Rivals.

Thirteen other players from the state of Virginia are ranked in the top 36 in the state by The Roanoke Times. They are: Benedictine High defensive lineman Nigel Williams (No. 11), Vandyke (No. 13), Christiansburg High quarterback Brenden Motley (No. 16), Clarke (No. 14), Thomas Dale High defensive back Desmond Frye (No. 18), Northside High tight end Dakota Jackson (No. 22), Lafayette High wide receiver Thomas Smith (No. 24), Woodrow Wilson High receiver Der’Woun Greene (No. 25), Cox High defensive lineman Alston Smith (No. 26), Glenvar defensive end Seth Dooley (No. 28), Riverbend High offensive lineman Adam Taraschke (No. 35) and Blessed Sacrament Huguenot offensive lineman Augie Conte (No. 36). Highland Spring High running back Jerome Wright was named the publication’s “Sleeper of the Year”.

The Hokies continued their recent success in signing players whose fathers played in the NFL. Alston Smith is the son of NFL Hall of Famer and former Hokie defensive lineman Bruce Smith while Edmunds is the son of NFL Pro Bowl tight end Ferrell Edmunds.

Of the 28 players in the class, 13 are projected to play on the defensive side of the ball (six on the line, three linebackers, four defensive backs). Of the 14 players slated for offense, 10 are coming in as skill players (quarterback/running back/receiver), while four are coming in as offensive linemen or as tight ends.  One player (Edmunds) is listed as either a running back or linebacker.

Coleman and Manning both graduated high school early and enrolled at Tech in January, and thus did not sign an NLI on Wednesday. The two are already participating in offseason workouts. Dewayne Alford, Jr., who signed with tech in 2011 and deferred his enrollment, also enrolled in January. Twenty-six players signed with Virginia Tech on Signing Day.

Forza Blu? Michigan reportedly planning spring practice in Italy

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines directs a drill during warm ups prior to playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Undeterred by recent NCAA legislation, Jim Harbaugh is reportedly going international.

As noted by the Detroit Free Press, a post on Rivals affiliate TheWolverine.com reports that Michigan is planning to spend the final week of football spring practice in Rome, Italy. The team would not only practice several times on Italian soil, but would allow the team to visit the sights in the area and even leave players in Europe to study abroad for a semester.

The move would no doubt ruffle even more feathers in the football and NCAA communities after Harbaugh famously took the Wolverines to the IMG Academy down in Florida for spring practice last March. That prompted recent legislation that was passed at the NCAA convention in Nashville this week — a Harbaugh Rule if you will — that prohibited off-campus practice during a vacation period outside of a playing season.

While it would seem that would rule out trips away from Ann Arbor for spring football practices, it appears the Michigan athletic department is going to push forward by exploiting a slight loophole in the language of the rule. While vacation periods may be off limits like spring break, it appears the Wolverines would be looking to leave town at the end of April, which would be after the semester ends  and does not fall into any scheduled vacation time.

We’ll see if anything becomes of this report and if Michigan indeed announces such an unprecedented trip. While foreign tours are common in sports like basketball at the NCAA levels, it really hasn’t happened in football aside from occasional games overseas so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend, or is just another case of Harbaugh being Harbaugh.

Wisconsin extends head coach Paul Chryst’s contract through 2022

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Corey Clement #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers points toward head coach Paul Chryst  as the two celebrate following the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin defeated Western Michigan 24-16. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
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Winning a New Year’s Six bowl and outperforming nearly every preseason expectation typically results in a nice boost to a head coach’s bank account and that is the case at Wisconsin this year.

The Badgers announced on Friday that the school’s athletic board had extended head football coach Paul Chryst another year, running through January 31, 2022. Additional contract terms such as a potential raise or incentives were not announced, meaning this was likely just tacking another year onto the former Wisconsin quarterback’s original deal in Madison.

The move isn’t new for the program, which pulled the same extension almost to the day a year ago after Chryst led the Badgers to a 10-3 year in 2015 that was capped off with a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. The coach one-upped that performance in 2016, winning the Big Ten West title and getting selected for the Cotton Bowl, which the team won over previously undefeated Western Michigan.

Chryst’s original contract he signed two years ago was for a term of five seasons through 2020. He originally made around $2.3 million a year but should be hitting the $2.5 million mark heading into 2017 with various increases incorporated.

Vol legend Peyton Manning reportedly advising alma mater Tennessee on AD search

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning walks across the field prior to the start of their game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on October 8, 2016 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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New College Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is staying busy with various ventures now that he’s retired from the NFL and apparently the Vol legend doesn’t mind returning to Tennessee to add another thing to his plate.

According to a report from the Knoxville News Sentinel, Manning will be part of a search committee for the school’s chancellor as she attempts to find a new athletic director following the retirement of Dave Hart at the end of June. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is also expected to be part of the six-person strong committee, which will assist recently hired search firm Turnkey Sports and Entertainment in finding the right candidate to lead the department.

Hart’s retirement has known for some time and the fact that Alabama surprisingly hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without as much as a sniff from the Vols have made many in the fan base a little anxious about the state of the on-going  (and lengthy) search. Manning’s former head coach Phillip Fulmer has reportedly been mentioned as a candidate for the gig but the hire of a search firm and advisory committee suggests that a hire may be a few weeks or months away.

There are few folks connected to Tennessee football more fondly remembered around Knoxville than Manning and you can’t help but wonder if Vols fans longing for some stability and a big name in the AD chair wouldn’t mind pushing the quarterback’s name for the position. If so, perhaps joining the search committee is the first step toward that path and a move that would certainly make a lot more sense than bringing somebody like Fulmer back into the fold.

All Oregon football players released from hospital after offseason workouts

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 29: defensive back Tyree Robinson #2 of the Oregon Ducks dives into the crowd before the game against the Arizona State Sun Devilsat Autzen Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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All three Oregon football players hospitalized this week as the result of grueling offseason workouts have been released.

The news, first reported by The Oregonian,  concludes a dramatic week for the program and their new coaching staff after revelations surfaced on Monday that the three were sent to a nearby Springfield, Oregon hospital with symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. The condition primarily affects soft tissue and is triggered by overwork and can eventually lead to damage of the kidneys.

Senior offensive linemen Doug Brenner was actually released on Tuesday per the report, but it took until Friday morning for redshirt freshmen tight end Cam McCormick and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi to be sent home from the PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center.

As a result of the workouts, Oregon suspended new strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde for one month without pay and changed the structure on the staff so that Oderinde, who came over from South Florida with Willie Taggart, no longer reports to the Ducks’ coach but the school’s director of performance and sport science.

While you never want to hear about football players going to the hospital, it’s great to hear that the three players who were injured as a result of the workouts have been cleared and sent home.