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.

Jim McElwain hints at playing three quarterbacks vs. Michigan

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Considering his opponent won’t so much as release a simple roster, there’s no reason whatsoever for Florida head coach Jim McElwain to say anything of consequence.

Still, it sounds as if No. 17 Florida may play all three of its quarterbacks next Saturday against No. 11 Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

“You’re going to see a bunch of them in there playing. The three guys have done a really good job. Not naming a starter right now,” McElwain said. “I think that there’s some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now the key to us is putting them in those positions that play to their strengths.

“Will all of them play? I don’t know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don’t know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position. This is not — don’t read into this that we’re not happy where they’re at. It’s really more so the competition has really brought out some good things. It’s going to be … ultimately the guy the team moves with the best, the guys that create positive plays on third down and get the ball in the end zone [that we go with].”

The three of them, by the way, are graduate transfer Malik Zaire, junior Luke Del Rio and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks. In a world governed by the truism of “If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any,” it’s not exactly a good sign that none of Zaire, Del Rio or Franks have separated themselves from the others.

Zaire showed flashes but was eventually benched at Notre Dame and just arrived on campus this summer. Del Rio, a 2-time transfer before arriving at Florida, was the Gators’ starter coming out of training camp last season but fought through injuries throughout the season. And Franks is a 6-foot-5 former 5-star recruit that many thought would have grabbed the job by the horns by now.

While every team turns over from one season to the next, Florida finished 105th nationally in yards per play last season while Michigan’s defense placed second. With top playmaker Antonio Callaway serving a suspension, Florida will look to put the ball in the hands of whomever can move it, even if three of them happen to play quarterback.

Tracy Claeys discusses protests that led to his firing from Minnesota

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Chances are you haven’t heard Tracy Claeys‘s name mentioned in a while. The former Minnesota interim-turned-full time head coach was let go in January and has not been picked up by a new staff in the months since.

But Minnesota released an outside report last week that defended the school’s decision to suspend 10 players amid a sexual assault investigation and pinned the subsequent team-wide threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl on “weak leadership” of the coaching staff. The Gophers played and won that Holiday Bowl, but it wasn’t enough to save Claeys’s job.

On Wednesday, Claeys penned an essay in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that both defended his tenure as the Golden Gophers’ head coach and admitted mistakes in a saga that would have swallowed many a head coach’s career.

Last September, I suspended five players for a reported sexual assault. When law enforcement authorities the following month declined to file any charges, the university reinstated those players. At the time, I was congratulated by our athletic director for my handling of this issue and promised that I would remain the head football coach in 2017.

But university officials soon conducted their own inquiry and in December resuspended the five players and suspended five more — again, even though prosecutors had determined there was no basis for formal charges.

Members of our Football Leadership Group and others on the team felt strongly that administration officials had overstepped their authority and that the accused players were treated unfairly and denied protection under due process. To amplify their argument and shine light on what players felt was a flawed and unjust process by the university, the team voted to boycott the Holiday Bowl.

It was a decision that moved us directly into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, some misunderstood or misinterpreted the players’ decision to boycott the Holiday Bowl. They felt that our team and coaches were condoning or downplaying sexual misconduct or assault. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In light of this new report, are there things I would have done differently? Certainly. First and foremost, I would have remained on campus with my team and coaches rather than attend a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego. I’m confident that my presence would have better directed the conversation with our players and that I could have steered them toward something other than a decision to boycott the game.

 I also would have refrained from using social media to state my support of the team’s decision. This was too complex and important an issue to address in a 140-character message. It generated more questions than it answered and likely created more problems than it solved.
Claeys was 11-8 in his one and a half seasons as Minnesota’s head coach, his first head coaching job. Assuming he does not get hired in the next week and a half, the 2017 season will be Claeys’s first out of the game since launching his career as a student trainer at Kansas in the early ’90’s.

Kirk Ferentz and wife donate $1 million to Iowa children’s hospital

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Kirk Ferentz may be the but of a bunch of contract-related jokes, but no one jokes about the man’s character.

And for good reason.

The University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday that Kirk and his wife Mary have donated $1 million to create the Savvy Ferentz Program in Neonatal Research, which will aim to improve the survival rate for premature babies. The Ferentzes made the donation in honor of their granddaughter Savvy, who was born in 2014 at 22 weeks gestation.

“We knew Savvy was born too early,” Mary said in a statement. “We also knew they do extraordinary things at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that would give her a fighting chance. We were thankful we had that.”

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital claims higher survival rates for infants born at 24- and 25-weeks than the average U.S. hospital, and the Ferentzes hope their donation will further increase those rates.

“The University of Iowa has long been a leader in neonatal research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” Iowa pediatrics professor Dr. Jeffrey L. Segar said. “This gift from the Ferentzes will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of many Iowa children and their families, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”

Kirk Ferentz will begin his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach next Saturday against Wyoming (noon ET, BTN).

Texas TE Andrew Beck now out for entire 2017 season

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As it turns out, it’s much worse than originally thought for one playing member of the Texas football program.

Nearly a week ago, Andrew Beck went down during practice with what was later diagnosed to be a broken foot.  At the time, it was thought that the tight end would miss anywhere from 6-8 weeks, which would’ve put him back, at the latest, early October.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, however, and the Longhorns announced that Beck will be sidelined for the entire 2017 season because of the injury.  The senior will undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage.  He’s already undergone two previous foot surgeries and sat out the spring because of issues in that area.

The good news is that Beck has yet to use his redshirt season, which means he could return in 2018 as a fifth-year senior.

Beck started 13 games the past two seasons, including three in 2016.  Last season, he caught four passes for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Entering summer camp, he had been expected to be the Longhorns’ starter.

With Beck out, that onus will likely fall on Kendall Moore, a graduate transfer from Syracuse.