After weekend Tide visit, five-star RB decommits from UGA

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The recruiting cyborg that is Nick Saban is at apparently it again.

Rumors have abounded in recent weeks that five-star — or four-star, depending on the service — recruit Derrick Henry was wavering on his longtime verbal commitment to Georgia. This past weekend, Henry took an unofficial visit to Alabama, which has been described as making a “steady and unrelenting pursuit” of the Florida running back.

Wednesday, Henry released a statement announcing that he has decommitted from Georgia and has reopened his recruitment. While no specific schools were mentioned, it’s believed that his most recent visit to the Tide was the tipping in his decision.

Here’s a portion of the statement:

“This has been a great experience getting to know so many great coaches and visiting some of the best college football programs in the country. Even though I’ve worked really hard to put myself in this situation, I know I’m blessed to have this opportunity I’m very thankful for that.”

“For me personally, this is one of the biggest decisions I’ll make in my life and probably the most important to this point. I want to be 100 percent sure I am making the best choice on where I go to college and to play football. I’m going to open up my recruitment and take some more visits, get as much information as I can, and then decide from there. I was probably a little too quick in making my initial decision and got caught up in the moment so I apologize for that. I’m still considering Georgia and I have nothing but great things to say about their program, but I want to be honest with everyone in the fact that I am going to go over all my options and do what is best for me and my athletic and academic career.”

Henry added in the statement that he wants to focus on his senior season of high school football and that any future questions should be referred to his head coach.

As the first verbal of UGA’s 2013 class, Henry has been committed to the Bulldogs since July of last year. The player himself stated that “I’m not sure when I’ll make a final announcement, but when I have no doubts at all about where I’m going, I’ll let everyone know.”

In addition to Georgia and Alabama, Tennessee and Florida, among others, are believed to be high on the list for the 6-3, 241-pounder, who is listed as the No. 1 “athlete” in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com.

(Photo credit: Yulee (Fla.) High School)

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.