Max Browne, Austin Owen, Cody Eldridge

USC it is: top ’13 QB tabs Trojans over Sooners, Tide, Huskies

40 Comments

And the quarterback rich get richer, at least on recruiting service paper.

At a press conference held at his Sammamish, Wash., high school Wednesday night, Max Browne, the consensus top quarterback in the Class of 2013, announced that he has given his (non-binding) verbal commitment to USC and will play football for the Trojans beginning next year. Browne had whittled his list down to a final four of the Trojans, Oklahoma, Alabama and home-state Washington in recent weeks, although it was widely reported in the days leading up to the announcement that it was actually a two-horse race between USC and OU.

In the end, Browne said, it was the ability to fulfill a lifelong dream that led to his commitment to USC.

“USC came into the picture several months ago and, ever since then, they really went after me hard,” Browne said according to the Seattle Times. “As a quarterback growing up on the West Coast, at least for me personally, there was always the dream of growing up and being the quarterback for the Trojans.”

Browne took two visits to USC this year, including one this past weekend in which he actually sat in on QB meetings, that appears to have sealed the deal for the Trojans.  He also visited the Sooners in March.

The Skyline High School product is rated as a five-star player by 24/7Sport.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com, and is the top QB — pro-style or dual-threat — according to all three services.  247Sports has him rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the country, while Rivals has him at No. 8.  He’s the first QB to commit to USC’s Class of 2013 and the third verbal overall.

The past two seasons, Browne, who took over as Skyline’s starter following the graduation of former BYU and current Kansas QB Jake Heaps, has thrown for more than 8,200 yards and 95 touchdowns against just 20 interceptions in 840 pass attempts.

If Browne’s verbal holds firm and he signs with the Trojans in February of 2013 — or, as seems likely, Browne follows through with his plans to graduate early from high school and enrolls at USC in January — at least one of USC’s stable of touted QBs will likely transfer out even as starter Matt Barkley will be departing after this season, presumably leaving the job wide open entering next spring. As Max Wittek (No. 3 QB in the country, Class of 2011) and Cody Kessler (No. 2 QB, Class of 2011) are currently engaged in a back-and-forth battle for the backup job behind Barkley this spring, Jesse Scroggins (No. 5 QB, Class of 2010) and his battles with academic issues would’ve been the most likely attrition candidate even before Browne’s official verbal commitment.

Prior to Browne making his decision public, Wittek said he would welcome the competition a prospect like Browne would bring to the position.

I think it’s great,” Wittek said after practice Tuesday. “It’s USC. They’re not going to stop recruiting or looking for the best guys.”

“I’m going to go to USC to compete, try to mix things up,” Browne said at his announcement. “I’ve been to their quarterback meetings and practices and seen firsthand Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Jesse Scroggins. They’re great quarterbacks. There’s a reason they’re at USC.

While Browne’s likely addition adds to the embarrassing riches Lane Kiffin & Company have procured at the position, it’s reasonable to assume that the Huskies took the biggest hit with Browne’s decision.  Yes, UW has itself accumulated an impressive stable of signal callers under Steve Sarkisian, but to lose an in-state talent like Browne to a Pac-12 rival like USC is a significant one-two punch to UW’s recruiting gut.

The school that was likely “least” impacted by Browne’s decision?  The Tide.  Sure, it would’ve been nice to add a five-star talent under center, but Nick Saban has already proven with Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron that he can win a BcS title or two with a player at the most critical position in football a few doors down — or, in the former’s case, a block or two down — from the No. 1 spot in the recruiting rankings.

Greg Ward Jr., to Heisman voters: ‘Psssttt, I’m still here, don’t forget’

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs past Connecticut defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, left, en route to a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.

Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.

In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.

On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.

The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.

While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well.  In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.

Report: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel undergoes surgery, out as long as a month

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers, Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers, T.J. Edwards #53 of the Wisconsin Badgers react to a interception during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans in the National University Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.

Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.

“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”

No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.

Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.

If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

SAN MARCOS, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Duke Catalon #2 of the Houston Cougars runs against Brandon McDowell #6 of the Texas State Bobcats at Bobcat Stadium on September 24, 2016 in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.