Five-stars? Two-stars? NFL pays it no mind

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Every February there’s a frenzy of hype as a fresh new recruiting class for every college football program is announced, with hope springing eternal From Fan Base X that this group of incoming freshman will push Team X over the top.  Or keep them there.

Nearly three months later, the drill is repeated at the NFL, with the draft signaling a new day has dawned for woebegone franchises as fans cling to any sliver of hope that this is the draft that will turn things around.  (In Cleveland, this is commonly referred to as “our Super Bowl”.)

Does one in any way, shape or form relate to the other, though?  Not particularly, but the numbers are nonetheless (mildly) intriguing.

Counting last night’s opening segment, there have been 128 players selected during the first round of the NFL draft the past four years.  Interestingly, there have been nearly as many two-star-or-lower players* selected in the first round between 2009 and 2012 (20) as there have been five-star prospects (23).  The latter’s numbers are somewhat skewed, however, as there were just 120 recruits given four-star ratings between 2006-09.  For comparison, there were more than 900 recruits — may be more than 1,000; I didn’t go beyond the Rivals250 — who received a four-star rating during the same time frame.

Continuing down that same path, where the NFL really finds the bulk of its players, however, is in the other two ratings slots.

In those four years, nearly 40 percent of the first-round selections (51) came into the collegiate ranks as four-star recruits.  Three-star recruits have a significant impact as well, with 33 of those players over the four years taken in the first round.  All told, nearly 66 percent of the players taken in the first round since 2009 have been three- or four-star recruits.

If you’re looking to become the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, however, the brighter the hue of the blue-chip player coming into college, the better the odds are that recruit will hear his name called first by the commissioner.  Of the eight No. 1 overall picks since 2005, six have either been four-star — Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, 2012; Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long, 2008; LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, 2007; North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, 2006 — or five-star — Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, 2011; Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, 2009 — prospects in their respective recruiting classes.

The only No. 1 overall pick who fell outside that rarefied star air?  Utah quarterback Alex Smith, who parlayed a two-star entry into college football into being the first pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL draft.

(Writer’s note: Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford was a three-star prospect and the top pick of the 2010 draft)

Below is a year-by-year breakdown of  the first round of the NFL draft:

2012
5-star — 4
4-star — 13
3-star — 10
2-star — 4

2011
5-star — 7
4-star — 11
3-star — 11
2-star — 3

2010
5-star — 6
4-star — 15
3-star — 6
2-star — 5

2009
5-star — 6
4-star — 12
3-star — 6
2-star — 7

(*Brandon Weeden, selected by the Cleveland Browns at No. 22 overall, was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2002 and played professional baseball through 2006.  He enrolled at Oklahoma State in 2007 as a “no-star recruit”.)

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.

A&M, UCLA both add New Mexico to future schedules

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Texas A&M and UCLA announced Wednesday that their 2017 opener had been moved from Saturday to Sunday.  As it turns out, that wasn’t the only scheduling news connecting the two football programs.

As part of a release announcing seven games being added to its future schedules, New Mexico confirmed that two of those contests will include A&M and UCLA.  Both of those games, obviously, will be on the road, with the Lobos traveling to College Station Sept. 18, 2021, and to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sept. 13, 2025.

In its release, the school wrote that “[t]he game in College Station has a guarantee of $1,100,000 and 450 complementary tickets,” while “[t]he game in Pasadena has a guarantee of $1,200,000 plus 2,000 complementary tickets that UNM can sell for extra revenue.”

The last and only time New Mexico and UCLA squared off was in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 win for the Bruins.  UNM and A&M actually completed a home-and-home series relatively recently, with the Aggies winning both games played in the 2008 (28-22) and 2009 (41-6) seasons.

In addition to the future Power Five games, a continuation of the long-running rivalry with UTEP will be extended.  UNM will play in El Paso in 2021, then host UTEP in 2022.  Those two games will mark the 79th and 80th contests in the regional rivalry.

Michigan State, Washington round out future schedules with Utah State

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Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.

Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).

The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.

Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).

Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.

Old Dominion hopes to “hit the ground running” on new stadium project

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Some fans of the Old Dominion football program may be getting a little impatient with the progress (or lack of) in the development of the football stadium, but Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig says things are coming along nicely and progress will start to be seen soon enough.

“Once we get the architects engaged, we’ll figure out what $55 million will buy in 2019 dollars,” Selig said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Then we’ll have an idea for how much additional money needs to be raised to support the project.”

Old Dominion is planning on tearing down Foreman Field at the end of the 2018 season and rebuild it with modern seating and amenities. The $55 million project remained on the books in the Virginia budget in February, allowing the university to move ahead with their plans. The first step is finding an architect to take on the job.

Because Old Dominion’s football stadium is among the smallest in the nation and will remain so even after the rebuild and renovations, the entire project is expected to move fairly swiftly once the work actually begins. Old Dominion isn’t building a grand football palace, so any concerns over the lack of updates on the stadium should be calmed.

If nothing else, the concerns raised about the lack of updates on the stadium renovations may just mean Old Dominion has some eager fans excited about the future of the program.