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.

Will Arden Key play in LSU’s opener vs. BYU? ‘I don’t think so’ says Ed Orgeron

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In late July, Ed Orgeron was non-committal when it came to the availability of one of the most talented pass rushers in the nation for the opener. Thursday, the head coach was a little more committed, but not in a positive way for Arden Key‘s availability for LSU’s lid-lifter against BYU.

“I don’t think so,” Orgeron said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune when asked if Key will play vs. the Cougars. “I’m not sure but I don’t think so. I’m not expecting it. But nothing that dude does surprises me. He’s going to go to his doctor next week and we should know pretty soon when he’s going to play.”

In mid-February, LSU announced that Key had “decided to take some time away from football… for personal reasons.” Four months later, the football program announced the defensive end had rejoined the team; at the same time, it was announced that Key had recently undergone shoulder surgery.

It’s the shoulder issue that will very likely sideline Key for the Sept. 2 opener in Houston.  Especially if the issue extends beyond that opener, this would be a huge loss for the Tigers.

A four-star 2015 signee, Key was a consensus Freshman All-American his first season with the Tigers after starting nine games. Last season as a true sophomore, he led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. The latter total set a school record.

Following that breakout campaign, he was named second-team All-SEC.

CFT 2017 Season Previews: Heisman Watch List

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While every college football player dreams of being on the last team standing at the end of a season and winning a national title, just about all of them have struck the stiff arm pose and imagined holding up the Heisman Trophy as well. It may be a team sport when all is said and done, but the most prestigious individual award around is the entry ticket to one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet.

Adding to the normal intrigue surrounding the race to be the most outstanding college football player, the 2017 campaign for the Heisman is shaping up to be the most exciting — and wide open — in a long time. To start with, there’s a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson who won the award last December and could be even better after an offseason developing as a passer. Add in veterans with plenty of name recognition like Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett, to go along with an eye-popping group of tailbacks, and the amount of players who have the potential to be holding up the bronze statue is both lengthy and impressive.

Who are the favorites? Here’s CFTalk’s look at all things Heisman and which players will be in the running for the most famous award in all of college football.

SAM DARNOLD, QB, USC
2016 Stats: 3,086 yards passing, 31 TD, 9 INT, 250 yards rushing, 2 TD
The golden boy of Troy is the prohibitive favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy this year and it’s hard not to figure out why. Playing the marquee position on the field for a powerhouse like USC helps but make no mistake, Darnold showed everybody what he could do in reeling off nine straight wins with the Trojans and capping it off with a thrilling five-score performance in the Rose Bowl. He’ll put up plenty of numbers through the air and on the ground and should be in thick of the race even if the Trojans take a loss.

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
2016 Stats: 3,965 yards, 40 TD, 8 INT, 177 yards rushing, 6 TD
Mayfield has finished in the top five of voting for the Heisman… twice. Could the third time be the charm in 2017? Based only on the numbers, you would think so as the Sooners signal-caller is as efficient as he is insanely productive. The return of the Big 12 title game presents one additional opportunity for Oklahoma’s quarterback to leave a lasting impression on voters and that might just be enough for one of the best in the game to finally be recognized as such.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
2016 Stats: 3,543 yards passing, 30 TD, 9 INT, 1,571 yards rushing, 21 TD
Could Archie Griffin have company? Jackson has a shot to repeat and win the Heisman again but the road will not be easy if history is any indication. That said, few possess  the kind of talent that the Cardinals’ QB does as a true dual threat who can find the end zone on any play. He’s expected to be even sharper throwing the ball going into his junior year and if he can stave off the losing streak like the one at the end of last year, he’ll be right back in New York again.

J.T. BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
2016 Stats: 2,555 yards passing, 24 TD, 7 INT, 845 yards rushing, 9 TD
Barrett became a household name when he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national title but the old man of this year’s Heisman frontrunners is hoping to go out with a bang by returning to that form he showed early on. While the OSU passing game hasn’t quite been explosive the past two years, the addition of offensive innovator Kevin Wilson as the new coordinator should provide a huge boost in terms of playcalling and developing Barrett as a passer. Playing for a marquee team that will once again be in playoff contention is a plus already and all the QB needs to do is follow through and deliver.

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
2016 Stats: 1,496 yards rushing, 18 TD, 402 yards receiving, 4 TD
Quarterbacks always have a leg up when it comes to the Heisman but it was just two years ago that running backs were the talk of the town when it came time to vote. That could be the case once again with freaky athletes like Barkley around. He was terrific in helping the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title and has a chance to rack up even more numbers in the team’s explosive offense.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 15 TD, 106 yards receiving, 1 TD
Leonard Fournette received all the Heisman hype for the Tigers but his former backup may prove to be the one who can actually bring home the award to the bayou. Even splitting carries last year he managed to rack up over 1,300 yards and average nearly seven yards a touch. If LSU can threaten to win the SEC West behind Guice, he certainly could run all the way to the Big Apple to capture the trophy.

Chasing the Pack:

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama — Heisman buzz started late in the year after he led the Tide to the national title so it stands to reason the dual-threat QB on one of the top teams in the country will be in the mix as a sophomore.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama — Tide tailbacks have fared well when it comes to the Heisman the past few years and Scarbrough looks to be next in line based on the way he finished 2016 up.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State — He’ll have a big time opportunity to state his case by knocking off Alabama in the opener and put up numbers the rest of the way in ACC play.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State — Defenders are almost an afterthought for the trophy but Jabrill Peppers was a finalist last year and James is just as versatile — and perhaps more dangerous.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn — Gus Malzahn has already turned one transfer QB into a Heisman winner and one-year wonder, what’s another?

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Cowboys signal-caller has the best receiving corps in the country and will be able to pile up numbers every week against Big 12 defenses.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA — He drew plenty of attention this offseason for his mouth, now he’ll try to wow voters with his arm by sparking a turnaround in Los Angeles.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF — Group of Five candidates have a steep hill to climb but if anybody can emulate Lamar Jackson and overwhelm through the air and on the ground, it’s a dynamic player like Flowers.

Twice-arrested Nate Howard dismissed by Mizzou

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Not surprisingly, Nate Howard‘s time at Missouri has come to an unceremonious end.

Thursday evening, Howard (pictured, No. 88) tweeted a missive that, along with some emojis, read “Once a Tiger Always a Tiger! farewell Mizzou Nation!” Not long after, the football program confirmed that Howard has been dismissed from Barry Odom‘s team.

Per the school, Odom will actively help the former Tiger find a new college football home.

In June, the defensive lineman was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and no vehicle registration. The controlled substance charge is a felony. For that, he was indefinitely suspended.

While still on suspension, Howard was arrested on an out-of-county warrant related to his failure to appear on a speeding ticket this week. That proved to be the final straw for Odom.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2015 recruiting class, Howard was rated as the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Missouri. He played in 11 games as a true freshman, recording 12 tackles and two tackles for loss.

While his playing time dipped to four games last year, he exited spring practice this year in line to claim a starting job this season.

For ‘personal reasons,’ starting BYU LB Francis Bernard will redshirt the 2017 season

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BYU’s linebacking corps has taken a significant and somewhat unexpected hit on the brink of the start of a new season.

The football program announced Thursday that Francis Bernard (pictured, No. 13) will miss the 2017 season because of what were described as unspecified “personal reasons.” The linebacker, at least for now, is scheduled to return as a playing member of the Cougars as a fourth-year junior in 2018.

Despite not playing in games, the school stated in its release that “the 6-foot-1, 240-pound outside linebacker will continue to participate in all team practices, meetings and activities during the upcoming season.”

“The fact that he is still around means we will still have his presence here,” senior captain Fred Warner said according to the Daily Herald. “We lift each other up. Anytime we face any adversity, we are all there for each other. We’re a tight-knit group.”

Bernard started 12 games for the Cougars last season. His 80 tackles in 2016 were third on the team.