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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.

Alabama reportedly fills defensive assistant vacancy with Derrick Ansley

Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) is mobbed by teammates after intercepting a pass in the end zone during the first half against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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When Alabama lost defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to a head coaching position at Georgia, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban stressed his program always manages to find good coaches to fill spots left by coaches going to accept other positions. Needing to fill out its staff following the latest changes in the coaching carousel, Alabama looks to have filled a defensive assistant role with the addition of Derrick Ansley.

According to a report Sunday morning from TideSports.com (a Rivals affiliate covering Alabama), Ansley will join the coaching staff at Alabama after serving as a co-defensive coordinator for Kentucky. While in Lexington, Ansley coached the secondary for the Wildcats. It is reported he is expected to fill the same role with Alabama under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Ansley previously coached under Saban as a graduate assistant in 2010 and 2011 before moving to Tennessee for one season. He joined the Kentucky staff in 2013. At Alabama, Ansley will fill the vacancy left by Mel Tucker, who moved to Georgia with Smart. Tucker was Alabama’s secondary coach as well.

Cam Newton is first Heisman Trophy winner to win NFL MVP since Barry Sanders

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton walks onto the Auburn football field before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
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On the eve of the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was named the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League. He is the first Heisman Trophy winner to win the NFL’s MVP award since Detroit Lions running back and former Oklahoma State star Barry Sanders was named the best player in the NFL in 1997. Sanders shared the MVP honors that season with Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, which means Newton is the first Heisman Trophy winner to be the outright winner of the NFL’s MVP award since 1985, when Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen won the award (Allen was a Heisman Trophy running back for USC in 1981.

Newton becomes the first quarterback to win the top honor at the college and NFL level and joins a short list by becoming the sixth player to receive both awards. Newton was a Heisman Trophy quarterback for Auburn during the 2010 season, in which he fueled a BCS Championship Run. Newton now can become the first player in football history to win the Heisman Trophy, a college national championship, NFL MVP and a Super Bowl. To do that, Newton will have to lead the Panthers past the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, who is perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time but was passed over for a Heisman Trophy by Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 (Manning finished second in the voting that season).

It is somewhat amazing to think that grand slam of football has never been achieved once since the NFL MVP award was first awarded by the Associated Press in 1957, but it also goes to show that sometimes the best players in college and the NFL do not always achieve the top-level of championship success.

Players to win Heisman Trophy and NFL MVP

  • RB Paul Hornung
  • RB O.J. Simpson
  • RB Earl Campbell
  • RB Marcus Allen
  • RB Barry Sanders
  • QB Cam Newton

Temple adds recent NFL assistant, long-time college coach

MIAMI - 2009:  George DeLeone of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
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With the Cleveland Browns (again) changing regimes, George DeLeone found himself on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  A couple of weeks later, DeLeone is back on the inside, and in a familiar locale at that.

While the school has yet to officially confirm it, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that DeLeone has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff at Temple.  Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com subsequently confirmed the report.

According to both outlets, DeLeone will serve as the Owls’ running-game coordinator.

The past two seasons, DeLeone worked as an assistant line coach with the Browns.  Prior to that, however, the vast majority of his 46-year coaching career had been spent at the collegiate level.  And a sizable chunk of that time was spent in the Northeast.

DeLeone’s first FBS job came at Rutgers from 1980-83.  Two different stints at Syracuse (1985-96, 1998-2004) were sandwiched between his the job at the NFL level with the Miami Dolphins (1997).  Temple was his home from 2006-07, and then UConn from 2011-13 before the Browns called.

Demoted by BC, Todd Fitch takes over as LaTech’s OC

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Skip Holtz of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs objects to a call during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 19, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A promotion in 2015 was quickly followed by a demotion a year later for Todd Fitch.  Not long after the latter went down, Fitch left town for a fresh start to his coaching career.

Friday, Skip Holtz announced that Fitch has been hired as his offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.  Additionally, Fitch will serve as the wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs.

Fitch had spent the past three seasons at Boston College, first as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator in 2013-14 before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015.  However, BC head coach Steve Addazio announced in mid-January that he had hired Scott Loeffler as his coordinator, effectively demoting Fitch back to receivers coach.

Three weeks later, Fitch headed south.

“I am excited to be joining a staff that is part of growing something special,” Fitch said. “This coaching staff has laid the groundwork for a program that has already done some great things and is building a foundation for future success. I am excited for the opportunity to be on a staff with Skip Holtz again and to keep growing this program.”

In addition to BC, Fitch had also been a coordinator at East Carolina and USF. Holtz was the head coach at both of those stops.