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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.

Local Auburn man arrested after setting Toomer’s Corner oak tree on fire

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Police have identified and arrested a 29-year-old Auburn, Ala. man after he allegedly set fire to one of the oak trees at the famous Toomer’s Corner.

Fans traditionally celebrate a Tigers victory by “rolling” the trees with toilet paper and did so once again on Saturday night following an 18-13 victory over LSU. However, video surveillance showed a suspect lighting some of the paper on fire, setting the tree ablaze as he walked away.

The Auburn city police department, in a release obtained by USA Today, stated that “witnesses at Toomer’s Corner identified a suspect, who was immediately detained and taken into custody by police on an unrelated charge of public intoxication.” Several reports identified the suspect as Jochen Wiest.

Firefighters quickly responded to the fire and extinguished the burning tree but university officials are still evaluating the damage to the oaks.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” Professor of Horticulture Gary Keever said in a statement released by the school. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

The incident is all the more emotional for Auburn fans given that the tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks. Hopefully the area around Toomer’s Corner can recover in time for the Tigers’ next win, which might be as soon as Saturday when they host Louisiana-Monroe.

Notre Dame officially parts ways with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

FILE - In an Aug. 29, 2014 file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, right, talks with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder during practice during media day for a NCAA football team in South Bend, Ind. It was announced Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a 1-3 start. The school tweeted a new release saying VanGorder is being replaced by defensive analyst Greg Hudson.(AP Photo/Joe Raymond, File)
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Notre Dame has officially parted ways with embattled defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

“This is a difficult decision,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”

Notre Dame has allowed 134 points through their first four games and are just 1-3 after extremely high preseason expectations. This was VanGorder’s third season in South Bend but the Irish have regressed significantly and ranked 101st in FBS scoring defense after Saturday’s home loss to Duke.

Defensive analyst Greg Hudson, a former Notre Dame linebacker who has served as defensive coordinator at Purdue, East Carolina and Minnesota, was elevated to fill VanGorder’s role.

“It’s never easy to make a change on your staff, but I’m confident in Greg’s ability to lead our defense,” Kelly added. “As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he’ll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms.”

The move to make staff changes on the defensive side of the ball isn’t exactly surprising to Irish fans who have seen the team play this year but the timing is notable. Kelly remarked that the coaching was not the problem on defense after the loss to the Blue Devils but still opted to make a change on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if a very young defense will respond, and perhaps even rally, now that a big message has been sent.

Notre Dame plays Syracuse on Saturday at noon ET.

Florida International fires head coach Ron Turner after 10-30 run

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Ron Turner of the FIU Golden Panthers looks on during the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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The firing season in college football is getting started earlier and earlier. Just ask Ron Turner.

The Florida International head coach was fired early Sunday in a move that was hardly surprising aside from its timing.

“I want to thank Coach Turner for his contributions to the FIU football program, most importantly his commitment to academics and community service,” athletic director Pete Garcia said in a short statement. “At this time Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Ron Cooper has been named interim head coach.”

Turner went 10-30 over four years at the school but was 0-4 to begin the season after a 53-14 loss to Central Florida last week. While he is far from the first coach fired in 2016, Turner did become the first head coach to be fired after the season got underway.

Cooper had a 45–55 record in nine seasons as a head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M. He was elevated to FIU’s defensive coordinator prior to the season and notably served as LSU’s defensive backs coach when Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu starred in Baton Rouge.

The Panthers are set to play local rival Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

LSU head coach Les Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fired

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers looks on during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Mad Hatter is looking for a new gig.

LSU has fired head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the school announced on Sunday. The news was first reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.

“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”

The move comes just hours after the Tigers lost to Auburn in the final seconds to drop to 2-2 after beginning the year as a trendy national championship pick and top five team in the polls.

Miles has been in Baton Rouge since 2005 and posted a 114–34 record at the school, including a national title in 2007 and a pair of SEC championships. He was nearly let go after the 2015 season but was retained following a huge wave of public support and potential implications with a large buyout.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season. Former LSU quarterback and current tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is slated to become the new offensive coordinator, according to Fox Sports.