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

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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.

ESPN analyst: Jimbo Fisher called Texas A&M soft, vowed to change the program

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If there was one thing that really seemed to put Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat during his time at Texas A&M, it was the Aggies seemingly annual collapse in the second half of the season and inability to finish games they had the potential to win. That explains some of the reason why the school ponied up to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State in a $75 million hire late last year.

While most of the outside focus on Fisher’s move to College Station has been centered on that humongous contract, there’s little question that hiring a national title-winning coach was a coup for the team. That subject was brought up again on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show Friday evening and ESPN college football analyst Booger McFarland relayed a rather interesting conversation he had with the coach earlier this year in which Fisher said something you typically don’t hear made public. You can head to the 8:18 mark (or there abouts) for the interview.

“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta. I told Jimbo point-blank — the same thing I told you guys about Texas A&M the last several years — A&M is a soft program,” McFarland said. “Jimbo looked me in the eye and was like, ‘You know what, you’re damn right. We are soft, but I’m going to change that.’”

Something says that Fisher and the Aggies strength coaches are going to use the comments as a bit of a challenge in the weight room and during spring practice over the coming months as they lay the groundwork for the 2018 season. Even the most ardent maroon and white supporters would probably agree with the sentiment that the team went a little soft toward the end of Sumlin’s tenure but it’s not everyday you see a coach call out his new program quite like that.

Maybe it’s something in the water down there in College Station though, judging by some other comments by the school’s athletic director, but one thing is for certain — things are going to be very different at Texas A&M going forward.

Scott Frost wants Nebraska football roster to grow to 150 players or more in 2018

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In the days before you were limited to 85 scholarship players, it was not totally uncommon to see teams stock their rosters full of players and wind up in the triple-digits with close to 200 players on a team. Even after the NCAA mandated a limit of 85 scholarships, roster sizes were still not that much smaller when you factored in walk-ons and others on a squad.

It appears Scott Frost wants to get back to those sort of days in Lincoln and is apparently pushing the school to help him expand the Cornhuskers roster right into the 150 range.

“I’d like to accommodate (Frost’s) desire” to expand the roster, athletic director Bill Moos said this week in an interview with Rivals’ HuskerOnline. “But we do have that issue with Title IX” along with locker room facilities challenges, organized practice schedules, and other daily management nuts and bolts to sort through.

“Nebraska has been known for having a lot of players on the team…a lot of walk-ons. I’d like to get back to that,” Frost had said on Signing Day earlier in the month. “The best thing Coach (Tom) Osborne did was have everybody practice… and part of that is what led to the development of players and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster and get on the field and help the team. I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster.”

HuskerOnline details some of the compliance and budgetary challenges that going to 150 would entail but it certainly sounds like the school is making the effort to beef the numbers up. The Cornhuskers are well known in college football history for their walk-on program and roughly 10-15 walk-ons per class would apparently help them land right around Frost’s ideal roster size after factoring in the 85 full-scholarship players he would recruit.

Interestingly, going to 150 would allow the program to pass Michigan for the Big Ten’s biggest roster. The Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh are reportedly sitting at around 135 players after the 2017 season while most of the other conference’s schools are mostly around the 120 mark with a few exceptions. Title IX is not surprisingly the biggest obstacle for teams but it seems like some can manage things with no issue.

Frost was hired this offseason to help take Nebraska back to their perch atop college football and it seems like he is certainly attempting to do that in more ways than one when it comes to Big Red.

Purdue hires Utah State’s Mark Tommerdahl as special teams and tight ends coach

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Jeff Brohm is bringing in longtime coaching veteran Mark Tommerdahl to fill out his staff and serve as Purdue’s special teams and tight ends coach.

The Boilermakers announced the move on Saturday afternoon as Tommerdahl heads to West Lafayette after spending just a season at Utah State where he also coached running backs and ran the Aggies’ special teams. While his stay in Logan was brief, Tommerdahl has been all over the country in 34 years as a coach and is highly regarded for his work in the kicking game.

Tommerdahl has plenty of prior Power Five coaching experience and spent four seasons with Sonny Dykes at Cal where he coached three different position groups and served as assistant head coach. Prior to that he also had stops at Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU and several other schools.

The move to bring in Tommerdahl fills the spot on the Boilermakers’ staff that was left when former Houston coach Tony Levine left after one season with the school to pursue opportunities outside of the coaching profession. Brohm’s 10th assistant Kevin Wolthausen was also given special teams responsibilities when he was elevated to a full-time role so it’s possible the team is really beefing up their emphasis on the third phases of the game with the two new coaches splitting duties when it comes to special teams.

Either way, after a surprising 2017 season that ended with a bowl game victory it’s pretty clear that Brohm is not just sitting back when it comes to his coaching staff and is bringing in some veteran names to help the team take the next step in 2018.

Iowa State OC Tom Manning reportedly leaving Ames for Indianapolis Colts staff

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After one of the most successful seasons in recent memory at Iowa State, it appears head coach Matt Campbell will not be able to keep the band together for another run.

Campbell confirmed to The Des Moines Register on Saturday morning that offensive coordinator Tom Manning was leaving Ames and will be taking a job in the NFL. The paper later was able to confirm that the team in question will be the Indianapolis Colts for a spot on Frank Reich’s new staff. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg says Manning will be the team’s tight ends coach.

“I’m really happy and proud of him,” Campbell told the Register.

Manning has been with Campbell for years and the two actually played (and coached) together at famed D-III power Mount Union in the early 2000’s. Both were on the same staff at Toledo and Manning served as offensive line coach both there and at Iowa State. As offensive coordinator in 2017 he guided the Cyclones to a bit of an offensive renaissance despite relying on backup quarterback Kyle Kempt for most of the season, helping the team produce the third most points per game in school history while ranking in the top five in both total yards and passing.

ISU memorably upset Oklahoma in Norman and capped off an eight-win campaign in the Liberty Bowl with a victory over a ranked Memphis team.

The move leaves two openings on Campbell’s staff for 2018 but the Register notes that graduate assistant Jeff Myers is a possibility for the offensive line job and special teams analyst Joe Houston could be the team’s potential 10th assistant coach.