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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.

Reportedly transferring from Vols, Ray Raulerson confirms he’s ‘exploring options’

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Thursday, reports surfaced that two Tennessee offensive linemen would be leaving the Volunteers football program and possibly transferring to the FCS level.  Friday, one of those two confirmed he’s looking into it.

Speaking to The Knoxville News Sentinel, Ray Raulerson acknowledged that he’s “exploring options right now,” although he stopped short of confirming a transfer.  However, the redshirt sophomore center talked of his time in Knoxville in the past tense, an indication that he is prepared to move on.

“I’m exploring options right now,” Raulerson told the News Sentinel. “…I really loved it at Tennessee, but I’m going to go to a place where I have a better chance to play.”

Raulerson was a three-star member of UT’s 2014 recruiting class.  After redshirting as a true freshman, he played in five games in 2015.

It has yet to be confirmed that the other lineman, fifth-year senior tackle Dontavius Blair, is indeed transferring.  Raulerson, though, told the newspaper that his teammate is leaving as well.

Clemson tables proposal that would’ve had students paying for some football tickets

CLEMSON, SC - AUGUST 31: Clemson Tigers fans celebrate at the start of the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Students at Clemson can rest easy; your football fix will still be free of charge this year.

In 2015, tickets for the student sections in both the lower bowl and upper bowl of Memorial Stadium came at no cost to those enrolled in classes at the university.  In April, however, athletic director Dan Radakovich proposed levying what was described as a “$225 student donation” for those wishing to sit in the lower bowl on season tickets, while the upper bowl seats would remain free.

Late this past week, tigernet.com reported, Radakovich’s proposal was tabled as the university will “continue to have good conversations with student leaders about the entire ticketing process.”

So, for the 2016 football season, tickets in both bowls will come at no cost to students.  As was the case last year, all of those tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

It wasn’t all good news financially for Clemson students — or their parents — as The State news paper writes that “[t]he university’s board of trustees voted almost unanimously via teleconference Thursday to raise tuition rates for the 2016-17 year for in-state and out-of-state students.”

Separation of UCLA coach Jim Mora, wife of 30-plus years announced in a statement

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins greets players after a third quarter UCLA touchdown against the BYU Cougars at the Rose Bowl on September 19, 2015 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 24-23.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, the private life of a major college football coach has once again become laid bare for public consumption.

In a statement released Friday, the agent for UCLA head coach Jim Mora, Jimmy Sexton, released a statement confirming that his client and his wife, Shannon, have decided to separate.  The couple have been married for more than 30 years, and have four children — one daughter and three sons.

“After much thought and careful consideration, Jim and Shannon Mora have decided to separate,” the statement from Sexton began. “This was a very difficult decision and they appreciate the respect for their family’s privacy at this time.”

The 54-year-old Mora will be entering his fifth season as the head coach of the Bruins.  Earlier this month, UCLA announced that Mora, 37-16 in his first four seasons with the Bruins, had reached an agreement on a two-year contract extension with the university.

There was no specific word on whether any type of raise was involved in the new agreement, which keeps Mora signed through the 2021 season.

Entire Penn State staff on receiving end of new two-year contracts

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 27:  Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions hugs a police officer after defeating the Boston College Eagles in the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 27, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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Earlier this year, James Franklin saw a pair of key assistant coaches leave his Penn State staff for other jobs.  Fast-forward a few months, and the head coach’s athletic department is looking to provide the program a little more staff stability.

Speaking to area reporters earlier this week, Franklin revealed that every member of his nine-man coaching staff received new two-year contracts this offseason.  Not only that, but other members of the football staff received new deals as well.

“Our entire staff just this summer got (two)-year contracts,” Franklin said Thursday according to the Times Leader. “All of the assistants, their first contracts just ran out. And they all just signed multiple-year, guaranteed contracts. All the strength coaches did. All the administrators. Everybody.”

Arguably the best part, though, at least from Franklin’s point of view?  The new deals also addressed the buyout aspect of contracts, presumably making it harder for a Nittany Lion assistant to jump ship without some type of significant financial penalty.

“That’s really good from a stability standpoint. It’s helpful,” said the coach o the contracts, adding, “and what we did is, it’s both ways. They have the stability and protections, but we have buyouts as well.”

In January, Franklin watched as defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and offensive line coach Herb Hand leave for jobs at Tennessee and Auburn, respectively. And it’s not like the assistants left for promotions; rather, each of the moves involved was, at least in title, lateral ones.

The pay involved in those moves, however, is another matter entirely, something that, along with the buyouts, was likely addressed in the new deals. The financial particulars, though, have yet to be released, although that’s expected at some point in the next month or two.