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”.)

Minnesota losing CB Ken Handy-Holly to transfer

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Heading into spring practice, Minnesota will find its defensive secondary a bit thinner than it was when the curtain fell on the 2017 season.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ken Handy-Holly has been granted a release from his scholarship. 247Sports.com had previously reported that the safety was looking to transfer to be closer to family in Jackson, Ala.

A three-star member of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, Handy-Holly was rated as the No. 38 safety in the country and the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Only one signee in Minnesota’s class that year, offensive tackle Blaise Andries, was rated higher than Handy-Holly.

Because of injuries, Handy-Holly was pressed into action as a true freshman. He made his collegiate debut in a Sept. 30 loss to Maryland, and went on to play eight games total this past season.

In that action, Handy-Holly was credited with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley pleads guilty to DWI

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An off-field situation for one playing member of the Arkansas football program that began during the 2017 regular season has taken yet another step toward winding its way to a conclusion.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cole Kelley pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving while intoxicated.  While the quarterback was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 89 of those days were suspended while he was given credit for time served for the other.  Additionally, the Democrat-Gazette wrote, the 20-year-old Kelley “was also ordered to complete an alcohol safety class and pay $720 in fines and court costs.”

Kelley was arrested for DWI and reckless driving in November of last year. A day after the arrest, Kelley was indefinitely suspended by the football program and missed UA’s Week 12 game; he was subsequently reinstated after serving what amounted to a one-game suspension.

Austin Allen started the first five games of the 2017 season before going down with a shoulder injury. Kelley replaced him and started the next four, with a healthy Allen returning to his starting role for the remainder of the year.

On the season, Kelley completed almost 58 percent of his 151 passes for 1,038 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions.  The rising redshirt sophomore is expected to compete for the starting job in 2018 under new head coach Chad Morris.

Report: Steve Spurrier Jr. leaving WKU for job at Wazzu

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With coaching holes throughout his Washington State staff to fill thanks to significant offseason poaching, Mike Leach has added a very famous college football surname.  Reportedly.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Steve Spurrier Jr. is leaving Western Kentucky to take a job under Leach at Wazzu.  The son of College Football Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier just completed his first season as the Hilltoppers’ quarterbacks coach.  He also held the title of assistant head coach under Mike Sanford.

It’s unclear what specific title Spurrier Jr. will hold at Wazzu.

Prior to his one season at WKU, and one season as an off-field staffer at Oklahoma, Spurrier Jr. had been an assistant on his father’s South Carolina staff for 11 seasons.  During his time with the Gamecocks, he served at various points as wide receivers coach (2005-15), passing-game coordinator (2009-11) and co-offensive coordinator (2012-15).

Spurrier Jr., who played wide receiver at Duke, has also spent time during his coaching career as receivers coach at Oklahoma (1999-2001) and with the Washington Redskins (2002-03).

Ex-Texas All-Big 12 defensive tackle takes DL coaching job at Baylor

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Baylor’s latest coaching addition is a very familiar name in the state of Texas.

BU confirmed Wednesday evening that Frank Okam has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff.  Okam, who was a Freshman All-American and two-time All-Big 12 defensive tackle at Texas from 2004-07, will coach the Bears’ defensive line.

“Frank is a living embodiment of everything the young men in our program should want to accomplish,” the head coach said in a statement. “He’s a college graduate, an All-American, a Big 12 champion, a national champion, a NFL draft pick and then he continued life after football earning his master’s degree from Rice and is now one of the top young football coaches in the country.

“We are excited to have Coach Okam on staff and for him to mentor our defensive line group and help take them to the next level.”

The 32-year-old Okam, who went to high school in Dallas, spent the past four seasons at Rice, the last two as the Owls’ line coach.  This will mark Okam’s first coaching job at a Power Five program.