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2013 Pittsburgh football recruiting class

Paul Chryst AP

(Below are the bios released by Pittsburgh on the 27 members of its 2013 recruiting class.)

Carson Baker, OL, 6-5, 280, Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn
A three-year, two-way starter at tackle for Ohio Division I (largest classification) program…Southwest Ohio All-District…Dayton Daily News All-Area…first team All-Greater Western Ohio Conference (GWOC)…two-time first team All-GWOC South Division…selected to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Classic…named Fairborn’s Most Valuable Player, Power Award (top lineman) recipient and team captain…rated one of the top 90 prospects in Ohio by Scout…played under Coach Roy Thobe.

Chris Blewitt, PK, 5-9, 165, Alexandria, Va./West Potomac
Rated one of the nation’s top six placekickers by Scout…received his scholarship offer from Pitt after a standout performance at the Panthers’ specialist camp in June 2012…won the camp’s kickoff competition and a single-elimination field-goal contest, kicking a hurry-up 55-yarder…selected VirginiaPreps.com All-State Class AAA…first team All-Northern Region…first team All-Patriot District…kicked 18 field goals and 72 extra points over his final two seasons…his senior year, kicked eight field goals with a long of 51 yards and also averaged 43 yards on punts…rated one of the top 40 overall prospects in Virginia by Scout…played under Coach Jeremiah Davis.

Tyler Boyd, WR, 6-2, 185, Clairton, Pa./Clairton
One of the state’s most highly recruited players…finished his career ranking among the most productive performers in Western Pennsylvania history…set a WPIAL record with 117 career touchdowns…finished as the fifth-leading rusher in WPIAL annals with 5,755 yards…played diverse roles (running back, receiver, quarterback, defensive back and punt returner) for perennial power Clairton, which went 48-0 in his three years as a starter and 63-1 (.984) in his four varsity seasons under Coach Tom Nola…the Bears won four WPIAL and four PIAA Class A titles during his career…as a senior, rushed for 2,584 yards and 43 touchdowns, had 295 yards receiving on just 13 catches and led the WPIAL in scoring with 51 total TDs and 345 points…selected to play in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio’s Alamodome, where he announced his decision to attend Pitt during NBC’s live telecast…first team MaxPreps Small School All-American…two-time selection as the Class A Player of the Year by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…two-time Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class A…Pennsylvania Football News 2011 Class A Offensive Player of the Year…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 2012 Player of the Year…named to the Rivals 250 (No. 103) and ESPN 300 (No. 165) national prospect lists…rated the No. 6 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 8 by Scout…rated the nation’s No. 12 wide receiver by Rivals and the No. 12 safety by Scout…selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic (Pennsylvania vs. Maryland).

Zach Challingsworth, WR, 6-2, 185, McDonald, Pa./South Fayette
Was a standout for South Fayette in all three phases of the game…was a starting wide receiver and defensive back, while also serving as the team’s punter and top kick returner…selected All-State Class AA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class AA…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Fabulous 22”…Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Terrific 25”…rated one of the top 35 prospects in Pennsylvania by Scout…averaged 20.5 yards per catch as a senior, compiling 58 receptions for 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns…also averaged 7.0 yards per rush (147 yards on 21 carries) with two TDs as a Wildcat quarterback…on defense had 29 tackles and four interceptions…averaged 18.7 yards per INT return, taking two back for touchdowns…averaged 33.3 yards per kick return and 15.4 yards per punt return…compiled career receiving totals of 147 catches for 2,759 yards (18.8 avg.) and 38 touchdowns…led team to a three-year record of 33-6 (.846) and berths in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs each season…his sophomore year, South Fayette went 15-1, winning the WPIAL championship and finishing as the PIAA Class AA runner-up…played under Coach Joe Rossi.

Tra’Von Chapman, QB, 6-2, 200, Kent, Ohio/Theodore Roosevelt
Enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in January 2013 following his December graduation from Theodore Roosevelt…will participate in spring drills…rated the No. 2 quarterback and No. 15 overall prospect in Ohio by Rivals…rated the nation’s No. 12 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals and No. 20 overall QB by Scout…selected first team All-Ohio Division II by The Associated Press…Northeast Inland All-District…Portage Trail Conference Metro Division Offensive Player of the Year…threw for 5,736 yards and 62 touchdowns and rushed for 1,506 yards and 19 TDs over his junior and senior seasons…as a senior, set single-season school records for passing yards (2,901), touchdown passes (33) and total offense (3,650)…set school career records for passing yards (5,736) and total offense (7,246)…other records include single-game passing yards (454 vs. Hoban), passing touchdowns (seven vs. Springfield) and total offense (562 vs. Hoban)…led Theodore Roosevelt to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and consecutive trips to the Ohio Division II state playoffs…played under Coach John Nemec.

James Conner, RB, 6-2, 230, Erie, Pa./McDowell
Highly productive runner and pass rusher at McDowell, earning accolades for both roles…selected All-State Class AAAA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers as a senior running back…named Pennsylvania Football News All-Class AAAA at running back his senior year and as a defensive lineman his junior year…Erie Times-News All-District 10…led McDowell to the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs as a senior after rushing for 1,680 yards and 21 touchdowns on 155 carries, an impressive average of 10.8 yards per rush…set a McDowell single-season record with 164 points, including 26 touchdowns (tied for the most in school history), three 2-point conversions and a safety…also set school records for sacks in a season (12) and career (17)…selected to play in the Chesapeake Bowl, a senior all-star game featuring players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia…Conner averaged 7.1 yards per rush in the Chesapeake Bowl (71 yards on 10 carries) and scored a five-yard TD to help the North to a 38-13 win over the South…rated the No. 13 prospect in Pennsylvania and the nation’s No. 26 weakside defensive end by Rivals…rated one of the top 40 prospects in in Pennsylvania by Scout…played under Coach Mark Soboleski.

Devon Edwards, TE, 6-4, 255, Reynoldsburg, Ohio/Eastmoor Academy
Columbus City League product who was a three-year starter at tight end and defensive end for Eastmoor Academy…first team All-Central District…Special Mention All-Ohio Division III…The Columbus Dispatch All-Metro Team…helped Eastmoor to three Ohio Division III playoff berths in his four varsity seasons…rated one of the top 90 prospects in Ohio by Scout…played under Coach Jim Miranda…also a three-year starter in basketball.

Matt Galambos, LB, 6-2, 215, Collingdale, Pa./The Haverford School
One of the top defensive prospects in the Philadelphia area…selected All-State Class AAA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…Pennsylvania Football News All-Class AAA….named the No. 1 linebacker in Southeastern Pennsylvania by the Philadelphia Inquirer…Philadelphia Daily News All-City…a two-way first-team All-Inter-Academic League selection at running back and linebacker…first team All-Delaware County…first team All-Mainline…compiled 104 tackles and five sacks his senior year…also rushed for 818 yards and six touchdowns on 156 carries (5.2 avg.) and had 11 receptions for 152 yards (13.8 avg.)…moved from tight end to running back early in his senior season due to injuries and made his backfield debut with a 206-yard rushing effort on just 19 carries (10.8 avg.) in a victory over The Lawrenceville School…led team to a 7-4 record and runner-up finish in the Inter-Ac League…first player in Haverford School history to be selected for the Big 33 Football Classic…rated the No. 18 prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 29 by Scout…rated the nation’s No. 34 middle linebacker by Scout…played under Coach Mike Murphy.

Reggie Green, ATH, 6-2, 200, Cranford, N.J./Cranford
Considered one of the top “athletes” in New Jersey after starring at quarterback and defensive back for Cranford…first team New Jersey All-Group 3…first team All-Union County…rushed for 3,185 yards over his final two seasons…averaged 171.2 rushing yards per game as a senior, compiling 1,712 yards and 19 touchdowns on 234 attempts (7.3 yards per carry)…also threw for 681 yards and four TDs…had 22 tackles and three interceptions at defensive back…as a junior, rushed for 1,473 yards and passed for 804 in leading his team to a 10-1 record and the North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 championship, the first postseason title in school history…led Cranford to a 17-4 (.810) record his final two years…rated the No. 32 prospect in New Jersey by Scout…played under Coach Erik Rosenmeier.

Tony Harper, TE, 6-4, 200, Toledo, Ohio/St. John’s Jesuit
Two-year starter for St. John’s Jesuit, playing tight end and safety for the Ohio Division I (largest classification) program…Northwest All-District…All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC)… limited to only six games as a senior due to injury but still had 15 receptions for more than 200 yards…primarily a defensive player his junior year and compiled 64 tackles, four tackles for loss and two interceptions…a three-year letterman who helped St. John’s to a 22-11 record (.667) during his varsity career…played under Coach Doug Pearson.

Titus Howard, DB, 6-1, 180, Clairton, Pa./Clairton
A shutdown corner and big-play receiver for perennial Pennsylvania power Clairton…named the Class A Defensive Player of the Year by Pennsylvania Football News…All-State Class A by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Fabulous 22”…Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Terrific 25”…averaged 25.5 yards per catch with 20 receptions for 510 yards…member of a Clairton senior class that helped the Bears to a state-record 63 consecutive victories in addition to four WPIAL and four PIAA Class A titles…selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic (Pennsylvania vs. Maryland)…also played in the Chesapeake Bowl, a senior all-star game featuring players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia…rated the No. 23 prospect in Pennsylvania by Scout…played under Coach Tom Nola.

Rachid Ibrahim (rah-sheed e-brah-heem), DB, 6-1, 185, Rockville, Md./Avalon
First-team Maryland Small School All-State performer…three-time Capital Area Football Conference (CAFC) Offensive Player of the Year…averaged 9.1 yards per carry for his three-year varsity career en route to a school-record 4,835 rushing yards…had seven career games with more than 200 rushing yards, including a school-record 370-yard effort his senior year against Riverdale Baptist…broke the Maryland single-game scoring record with 50 points (eight touchdowns and one 2-point conversion) in a 64-55 victory over Model…his eight TDs in the game tied the state mark as he rushed for 298 yards on just 29 carries (10.3 avg.)…led Avalon to three consecutive CAFC championships with a combined record of 25-8 (.758)…rated the No. 22 overall prospect in Maryland by Scout…selected to play in the Maryland Crab Bowl, a senior all-star game showcasing top players from Baltimore and Washington D.C.…speaks fluent French…played under Coach Tad Shields.

Tyrique Jarrett, DL, 6-3, 320, Pittsburgh, Pa./Taylor Allderdice/Milford Academy (N.Y.)
Enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in January 2013 and will participate in spring drills…prepped during the 2012 season at Milford Academy and helped the Falcons to a 7-4 record against a schedule comprised largely of collegiate competition…totaled 26 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one interception (returned for a touchdown) and one blocked field goal under Milford coach Bill Chaplick…rated one of the country’s top 20 prep school prospects by Rivals…prior to Milford, earned status as the Pittsburgh City League’s top lineman in 2011 at Taylor Allderdice…was a two-way standout who led the Dragons to the City League title game as a senior…Pennsylvania Football News All-Class AAAA…Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Terrific 25”…two-time first team All-City League…selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic…rated Pennsylvania’s No. 16 overall prospect and top defensive tackle by Scout as a senior…played under Allderdice coach Jerry Haslett.

Dorian Johnson, OL, 6-5, 290, Belle Vernon, Pa./Belle Vernon Area
Widely considered one of the nation’s top offensive linemen…rated a 5-star prospect and the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle by Rivals….named to the Rivals 100 (No. 31) and ESPN 150 (No. 29) national prospect lists…greatly impressed at the Under Armour All-America Game, which showcased 90 of the top high school senior players at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla….first team MaxPreps Medium School All-American…selected All-State Class AAA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class AAA…rated the No. 2 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 7 by Scout…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Fabulous 22”…Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Terrific 25”…two-time first team All-Big Nine Conference…had 74 pancake blocks as a senior…had 25 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks on defense…was a four-year varsity player at Belle Vernon and three-year starter under Coach Aaron Krepps…helped BVA to four WPIAL Class AAA playoff berths…selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic (Pennsylvania vs. Maryland).

Jaryd Jones-Smith, OL, 6-7, 295, Voorhees, N.J./West Catholic (Pa.)
Massive offensive line prospect who was selected All-State Class AA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class AA…All-Southeastern Pennsylvania…All-Catholic League…Philadelphia Daily News All-City…two-way lineman who led West Catholic to a 7-4 record, the Catholic League Class AA championship and the PIAA playoffs as a senior…played under Coach Brian Fluck…rated the No. 27 prospect in Pennsylvania by Scout…selected to play in the Chesapeake Bowl, a senior all-star game featuring players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia…also selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic (Pennsylvania vs. Maryland).

Luke Maclean, DL, 6-3, 235, Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc
Rated the top defensive end prospect in the state of Michigan by Rivals…collected nearly 190 tackles over his final two seasons at Grand Blanc…two-time Flint Journal “Dream Team”…two-time first-team All-Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) selection…had 79 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery as a senior…his junior year, compiled a team-best 107 tackles, six TFLs, five sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception…a three-year starter, Grand Blanc advanced to the district playoffs three times, won one KLAA championship and compiled a 22-12 record (.647) during his varsity career…rated the No. 14 overall prospect in Michigan by Rivals and No. 17 by Scout…rated the nation’s No. 27 weakside defensive end by Rivals…played under Coach Joe Delaney…also a standout discus thrower and set the school record with a throw of 163 feet, 8 inches.

Justin Moody, DL, 6-3, 265, Philadelphia, Pa./George Washington
Starred for Philadelphia Public League power George Washington on both sides of the ball…rated the No. 1 defensive end in Southeastern Pennsylvania by the Philadelphia Inquirer…selected to play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, which showcased 100 of the nation’s premier players at The Home Depot Center in Los Angeles…first team All-Southeastern Pennsylvania…two-time Philadelphia All-Public League…Philadelphia Daily News All-City…in addition to defensive end, was a starter at offensive guard…compiled 65 tackles, 20.5 TFLs, 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries as a senior…led George Washington to two Public League championships…rated the No. 20 prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 30 by Scout…rated the No. 34 strongside defensive end by Rivals…played under Coach Ron Cohen.

Alex Officer, OL, 6-4, 290, Rochester, N.Y./Eastridge
The top-rated offensive line prospect in New York according to Scout…was a force on both sides of the ball at Eastridge, collecting 40 tackles on the defensive line while paving the way for two 1,000-yard rushers on offense…New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSWA) first team Class A All-State as an offensive lineman…his junior year, was an NYSSWA All-State pick on the defensive line…three-time All-Monroe County…two-time All-Greater Rochester…led Eastridge to a 17-2 record (.895) his final two seasons, including a 10-1 mark and the Section V Class A championship his senior year…rated the No. 6 overall prospect in New York by Rivals and Scout…played under Coach Chad Green.

Scott Orndoff, TE, 6-5, 245, Waynesburg, Pa./Seton-LaSalle
Considered one of the nation’s top 20 tight end prospects by Rivals and Scout…enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in January 2013 following his December graduation from Seton-LaSalle…will participate in spring drills…two-time All-State Class AA selection by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…two-time Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class AA…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette South “Fabulous 22”…averaged 17.9 yards per catch (35 receptions for 625 yards) over his junior and senior seasons…led Seton-LaSalle to a combined 20-3 record (.870) his final two years, including a pair of berths in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs…rated the No. 12 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 17 by Scout…played under Coach Greg Perry.

Jaymar Parrish, FB, 6-2, 230, Monroeville, Pa./Gateway
Rated one of the top four fullback prospects in the country by Scout…starred at tight end and linebacker for Gateway…team’s leading tackler as a senior with 83 stops…added nine TFLs, five sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown…averaged 19.2 yards per catch at tight end with 17 receptions for 326 yards and a TD…Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class AAAA…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette East “Fabulous 22”…first team All-Foothills Conference…led Gateway to a 9-2 overall record, the Foothills Conference title with an 8-0 league mark and the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs as a senior…the Gators went 18-5 (.783) his final two seasons…selected to play in the Chesapeake Bowl, a senior all-star game featuring players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia…rated the No. 25 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 33 by Scout…played under Coach Terry Smith.

Zach Poker, LB, 6-4, 220, Oconomowoc, Wis./Oconomowoc
Rated the No. 6 overall prospect in Wisconsin by Scout…caught 50 passes for 753 yards (15.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns as a senior tight end…over his final two seasons had 80 receptions for 1,106 yards (13.8 avg.) and 10 TDs…compiled 22 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery at outside linebacker…also contributed as a punter, kicker and return man…first team Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) All-State…two-time All-Wisconsin Little Ten selection…two-time WFCA All-South Central Region and all-district…named the top tight end at the National Underclassmen Combine in Chicago…played under Coach Ryan McMillen.

Aaron Reese, OL, 6-5, 300, Fayetteville, Pa./Chambersburg Area
One of the top offensive line prospects in Pennsylvania…three-year starter at offensive tackle for Chambersburg Area…also started at defensive tackle his final two seasons…Pennsylvania Football News All-Class AAAA…All-Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division…Chambersburg Public Opinion All-Star…helped lead Chambersburg to the District 3 playoffs as a junior and senior…rated the No. 5 offensive lineman and 22 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by Scout…played under Coach Mark Saunders.

Shakir Soto, DL, 6-3, 230, Wilkes-Barre, Pa./G.A.R. Memorial
Decorated defensive lineman who compiled an astonishing 52 sacks during his career at G.A.R. Memorial…enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in January 2013 following his December graduation and will participate in spring drills…two-time All-State Class AA selection by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…two-time Pennsylvania Football News All-Class AA…Wyoming Valley Conference Football Coaches Association Small School Defensive Player of the Year (Class AA-Class A)…compiled 109 tackles, 13.5 sacks and six fumble recoveries as a senior…had 114 tackles and nine sacks as a junior…led team to an 18-6 record (.750), two district playoff berths and one PIAA Class AA playoff berth over his final two seasons…selected to play in the Chesapeake Bowl, a senior all-star game featuring players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia…rated the No. 24 prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals and No. 28 by Scout…played under Coach Paul Wiedlich.

Jeremiah Taleni, DL, 6-2, 300, Kaneohe, Hawaii/Kailua
The first Pitt football scholarship signee out of Hawaii in memory…recruitment originated with defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield’s relationship with the staff at Kailua High School, located on the island‘s east coast…a two-way standout who was selected O’ahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) All-Red East Division on both sides of the ball (defensive tackle and offensive guard)…also an All-Hawaii defensive selection…played under Coach Gary Rosolowich.

Jester Weah, WR, 6-3, 190, Madison, Wis./Madison Memorial
Rated the No. 2 wide receiver in Wisconsin by Rivals and Scout after averaging 20 yards per catch over his final two seasons at Madison Memorial…compiled 71 receptions for 1,436 yards (20.2 avg.) and 13 touchdowns over his junior and senior years…enjoyed a prolific and decorated prep career despite not playing organized football until his sophomore season…selected all-state by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) and Associated Press as a senior after catching 38 passes for 799 yards (21.0 avg.) and eight TDs…first team All-Big Eight Conference…also a standout in basketball and track…helped basketball team to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 (largest classification) state title his sophomore year…rated the No. 13 overall prospect in Wisconsin by Rivals and Scout…played under Coach Mike Galindo.

Terrish Webb, DB, 5-11, 170, Clairton, Pa./Clairton
As a cornerback and wide receiver, Webb was instrumental in Pennsylvania power Clairton’s run to a fourth consecutive state championship…averaged an impressive 21.4 yards per catch as a senior, totaling 45 receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns…was equally impactful in the secondary with eight interceptions…had a 102-yard interception return against Bishop Canevin…selected All-State Class A by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers…Pennsylvania Football News first team All-Class A…Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “Terrific 25”…Pittsburgh Post-Gazette South “Fabulous 22”…member of a Clairton senior class that helped the Bears to a state-record 63 consecutive victories in addition to four WPIAL and four PIAA Class A titles…rated the No. 19 prospect in Pennsylvania by Scout…played under Coach Tom Nola.

Ryan Winslow, P, 6-5, 205, Ambler, Pa./La Salle College H.S.
Rated one of the country’s top four punters by Scout…first team All-EasternPAFootball.com Big School Team (Class AAAA-Class AAA)…Philadelphia Daily News All-City…All-Catholic League…in addition to his punting duties, also served as a placekicker and kickoff specialist for La Salle…averaged 40 yards per punt as a senior…also converted 15 of 16 placements (2-of-2 on field goals and 13-of-14 on PATs)…helped the Explorers to consecutive 12-2 seasons and a pair of trips to PIAA Class AAAA semifinals as a junior and senior…selected to play in the Big 33 Football Classic (Pennsylvania vs. Maryland)…also was invited to play in the Chesapeake Bowl all-star game but declined the offer as the game overlapped with basketball season…rated one of the top 40 overall prospects in Pennsylvania by Scout…played under Coach Drew Gordon…father, George Winslow, was the first scholarship punter at Wisconsin…George finished his collegiate career at Villanova and went on to punt in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns (1987) and New Orleans Saints (1989)…George and Ryan were both named to the Philadelphia Daily News 35-Year All-City Team (George was the first-team punter, while Ryan was a third-team pick).

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Clemson responds to group’s ‘too religious’ complaint

Dabo Swinney AP

It was reported earlier this week that a group of individuals with too much time on its hands and not nearly enough of a life had filed a formal complaint to Clemson alleging that Dabo Swinney‘s football program blurs the line between the separation of church and state as mandated in the U.S. Constitution.

An attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation stated that “the football coaching staff is doing a number of things to promote Christianity to their student-athletes” such as conducting Bible studies with their players.  A school spokesperson subsequently fired back that “one is required to participate in any religious activities related to the football program” and that any participation is strictly voluntary.

Thursday, the university released a lengthier rebuttal to the group’s accusations, stating that “the FFRF is mistaken in its assessment” of the religious atmosphere in and around the Tigers football program.  Below is the school’s statement, in its entirety:

“We believe the practices of the football staff regarding religion are compliant with the Constitution and appropriately accommodate differing religious views. Participation in religious activities is purely voluntary, and there are no repercussions for students who decline to do so. We are not aware of any complaints from current or former student-athletes about feeling pressured or forced to participate in religious activities.

“Clemson takes very seriously its obligation to provide a comprehensive program for the development and welfare of our student-athletes ¬ which encompasses academic, athletic and personal support, including support for their spiritual needs.

“We will evaluate the complaints raised in the letter and will respond directly to the organization, but we believe FFRF is mistaken in its assessment. The Supreme Court has expressly upheld the right of public bodies to employ chaplains and has noted that the use of prayer is not in conflict with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom.”

(Tip O’ the Cap: OrangeAndWhite.com)

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Attorney wants halted FSU probe in Jameis Winston case to continue

Florida State Spring Game Getty Images

A story that both Jameis Winston and Florida State would prefer to quickly fade away simply won’t.

The attorney for the alleged victim who claimed she was raped by the Florida State quarterback in December of 2012 told USA Today that the university has halted its Title IX investigation into the case.  The reason the probe is allegedly at a standstill?  The attorney, Blaine Kerr, says it’s because Winston refuses to cooperate with the university.

The university took the position that since he refused to respond to questions, they could not make any Title IX findings,” Kerr said according to the paper. “We have objected to that as impermissible reason to delay or terminate a Title IX sexual assault investigation because that would permit any charged party to thwart an investigation simply by refusing to answer questions.”

The paper went on to write that Kerr “wrote a letter to FSU earlier this month stating his objections to their investigation and calling for Winston to be charged under the school’s code of conduct policy.”

One law expert was baffled that the university would drop what’s a federally-mandated investigation simply because the accused refused to cooperate.

“The law is not supposed to operate in a way to reward people who don’t cooperate with either criminal or civil investigations,” said Erin Buzuvis, a professor of law at Western New England University and a Title IX expert. “It’s just bizarre to think that would result in, ‘Oh, I guess we just can’t do anything.’ Who would ever cooperate with anything?”

In early December of last year, following a three-week investigation, the Florida State’s Attorney office announced that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between Winston and the alleged victim was not consensual, and that no charges would be filed against the player.  The state’s attorney in charge of that investigation, William Meggs, was highly critical of the Tallahassee Police Department’s investigation into the alleged rape in a New York Times report earlier this week, a report in which the university subsequently expressed its disappointment.

Earlier this month it was reported that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case.

While Winston will not face criminal charges in connection to the incident, the alleged victim is expected to pursue civil action against him as well as, potentially, FSU and the TPD.

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Sooners’ leading tackler won’t face charges, but OU future ‘in limbo’

Oklahoma v Notre Dame Getty Images

At least from a legal perspective, a prominent member of Oklahoma’s defense has dodged a serious bullet.  Whether he remaisn part of the program, however, remains to be seen.

The office of the Cleveland County (Ok.) District Attorney confirmed to both the Daily Oklahoman and the Norman Transcript that  it has decided to not pursue charges against OU linebacker Frank Shannon related to an alleged incident of sexual assault Jan. 20.  The decision to decline prosecution, DA Greg Mashburn told the Oklahoman, was made weeks ago.

It was reported Thursday that Nelson’s was named in a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation report filed with the university in which it was alleged he sexually assaulted a female student in his apartment.  Conflicting statements from the two involved prompted the DA’s office to drop the matter and the Norman Police Department to drop its investigation.

In the report, a woman alleges that early on the morning of Jan. 20 after a party, Shannon offered her a ride home but stopped by his off-campus apartment. The two went into Shannon’s bedroom, where the woman claims he pulled her pants down and tried to forcibly have sex with her.

The woman and Shannon both say they knew each other before the incident. Shannon denied the allegations in the report, saying that the woman laid on top of him, kissed him and removed her own clothes, but that after an argument over whether or not she was menstruating, he went to the bathroom and she left the apartment.

The Oklahoman does write that “Shannon’s future at the University of Oklahoma, however, remains very much in limbo while an independent OU investigation runs its course, a legal requirement under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”  OU’s student conduct office could impose sanctions on Shannon, up to and including a dismissal from the university.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, Shannon started all 13 games and led the Sooners in tackles with 92. He neither practiced last Thursday nor played in Saturday’s spring game due to what head coach Bob Stoops described as personal reasons.

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Matt Joeckel tweets he’s transferring to TCU

Vanderbilt v Texas A&M Getty Images

Well that certainly didn’t take long.

Just two days after confirming he was transferring out of the Texas A&M football program, Matt Joeckel confirmed that he would be transferring into TCU’s.  And, in making his announcement, the quarterback did it the way all the cool kids are doing it these days: via Twitter.

It should be noted that the Horned Frogs have yet to announce Joeckel’s addition to the roster, although such an announcement is expected in short order.

Joeckel, the brother of former A&M All-American and 2013 No.2 overall NFL draft pick Luke Joeckel, served as Johnny Manziel’s primary backup with the Aggies in 2013 and entered spring practice with a significant edge in experience over his two competitors.  A three-star member of the Aggies’ 2010 recruiting class, Joeckel was the No. 29 pro-style quarterback in that class coming out of high school in Arlington, Tex.

Coincidentally or not, Tyler Matthews tweeted on the same day of Joeckel’s departure from A&M that he was transferring from TCU.  Matthews had been competing for the Horned Frogs starting job; now Joeckel, who as a graduate transfer will be eligible to play immediately, will join the TCU QB fray.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl adds history, prestige to its name

Peach_Bowl_2

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl will return to its roots and become the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl beginning with this year’s game.

The Atlanta-based bowl was known as the Peach Bowl from its inception in 1968 through 1997, when it became the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. In 2006, the game dropped “Peach” from its name and became just the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Per the Journal-Constitution’s report, the name change had to do with the bowl becoming part of the College Football Playoff’s rotation. The other five bowls in the rotation all have traditional names plus corporate sponsors: The Allstate Sugar Bowl, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

A press conference is expected Monday to officially announce the name change.

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Maty Mauk, Mizzou adapting to life without DGB

Dorial Green-Beckham, Maty Mauk AP

The shock of Dorial Green-Beckham’s dismissal from the team probably hasn’t completely worn off at Mizzou just yet, even if quarterback Maty Mauk insisted “it’s behind us and we can’t do anything about it.” (via ESPN.com)

Mizzou’s spring game on Saturday, then, serves as an early look at who Mauk and the Tigers turn to in the absence of the team’s best returning receiver. It doesn’t help that Mizzou lost the 167 combined catches L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas had in last season’s run to the SEC Championship, either.

The good news is that Mizzou’s receivers still have good size and athleticism. Mauk, in the ESPN story, raved about 6-foot-3 Texas transfer Darius White, who only has 13 career catches to his name. Bud Sasser, who’s listed at 6-foot-2, caught 26 passes for Mizzou last year (and also threw a 40-yard touchdown to Washington at Georgia). Veteran Jimmie Hunt (22 catches in 2013) will also see an increased role in the Tigers’ offense.

Mauk lays out a few other players he’s been encouraged by in spring practice, and noted that Mizzou is being picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC East (not exactly an unfair assessment — in addition to the receivers, Mizzou lost QB James Franklin, RB Henry Josey, OL Justin Britt, OL Max Copeland, DE Michael Sam, LB Andrew Wilson and CB E.J. Gaines, among others).

But Mauk is somewhere between being diplomatic and confident in the guys around him with DGB no longer on the team. There’s still talent in Mizzou’s receiving unit; though we won’t find out if it’s good enough to compete in the SEC until the fall.

 

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Mark Emmert made some not-so-smart comments this morning

NFL Enlists GE, Under Armour in $60 Million Brain-Injury Study Getty Images

You’re the president of an organization under siege for a multitude of reasons. Maybe it wouldn’t be best to make some flippant comments on a popular national radio show.

But NCAA President Mark Emmert, on ESPN’s Mike & Mike Friday morning:

There are real, significant problems with the NCAA model that need to be fixed, and I’m sure current college athletes don’t appreciate the head of their organization saying stuff like this. To illustrate how deeply unpopular Emmert is, just look at the #AskEmmert hashtag on Twitter. An example, via our own John Taylor, sums things up:

It’s not exactly a been a great day for Emmert, and it’s not even 10 a.m. on the East Coast yet.

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Study says football players need more time between seasons to recover from head impacts

Penn State football spring practice number 11

Football players need more than six months of no-contact to properly recover from various forms of head trauma, a study by PLOS-ONE recently determined. At a time when we are learning more and more about the long-lasting effects of head trauma in football, could this one day change the approach at the college level when it comes to spring practices?

The Verge describes the procedure for conducting the study on head trauma and football players, which determine six out of 10 players showed signs of needing more time to recover from head trauma;

To study the effect of non-concussive, repetitive head impacts, researchers put accelerometers in the helmets of 10 University of Rochester football players. The scientists used these sensors to monitor the quantity and severity of the blows that the players suffered over the course of the 2011 season. They found that each player received between 431 and 1,850 impacts to the head during the regular season. And although none of these blows resulted in a concussion, they still caused mild brain injury. Moreover, six out of the 10 players continued to exhibit these signs at the end of a six month-long resting period.

Spring football games have gone into retirement at some schools, in part because of the fear of injuries and because of the added value placed on one more practice session. This study may not lead to the removal of spring football just yet, but it could help open the door for a conversation about potentially pushing spring practices back or to restructure how some are organized. The NCAA and schools tend to take head injury precautions seriously and there are already rules in place to reduce the risks associated with contact drills, but this study may be used as a reason for future changes to spring football.

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Mark Dantonio wants more than 300 spartan fans at spring game

Mark Dantonio

Michigan State is coming off one of the most successful football seasons in quite some time, and head coach Mark Dantonio wants to see that enthusiasm continue with the upcoming spring game. Danotnio has said before he wants to see a big crowd for the Spartans’ spring game next week, and he has high hopes for a big turnout.

“I want to see 50,000 at the Green and White game,” Dantonio said according to MLive.com. “I think that’s where this program needs to go.”

Of course, weather can always be an issue. Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis is hoping for a good turnout as well, but as with most spring games the weather can always be a concern.

“I know the enthusiasm’s there, I think that was reflected out in Pasadena,” Hollis said. “But if it’s pouring rain, I don’t think we’ll have 50,000, but we might. If it’s sunny, I think we have the potential to exceed a number like that.”

Getting 50,000 fans would be a very respectable crowd, and would more than double the crowd that turned out for last year’s spring game in East Lansing and the Michigan spring game earlier this month. If Dantonio gets the crowd he desires, Michigan State would have one of the larger spring crowds this season and would very likely finish the spring with at least the fourth largest spring crowd in the Big Ten.

Penn State currently leads the nation in spring game attendance with an estimated 72,000 last weekend. Nebraska recorded a crowd of 61,772 and Ohio State was just behind the Huskers with 61,058. The only other school to record at least 50,000 for the spring game has been Tennessee (68,500). That is expected to change once Alabama and Auburn hold their spring games this weekend. Both SEC West schools tend to draw very well for the spring game.

This is a relatively up-to-date record of spring game attendance this year. Some schools have not provided spring attendance numbers so there are some missing figures, but it is mostly accurate.

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Alabama 2014 defense fueled by dismal Sugar Bowl performance

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Oklahoma v Alabama

Don’t make Alabama angry. You might not like them when they are angry.

To say Alabama’s end of the 2013 did not go well is a bit of an understatement. After one of the biggest surprises in college football history knocked Alabama out of the SEC Championship Game and BCS Championship Game picture, the Crimson Tide we left for dust by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama allowed 35 points to be scored off of five turnovers in the game, and that defensive performance has not been sitting well since January.

“It wasn’t the way we play,” linebacker Trey DePriest said to ESPN.com. “We don’t get that many points put up on us. That’s way more than what our goal is — 13 points or less. It didn’t seem like us. We were ready, we just didn’t go out and leave it on the field like it was our last game. It’s definitely been a driving force.”

The holes in Alabama’s defense were visible long before the Sugar Bowl though. Texas A&M racked up big yards and plenty of points against the two-time defending BCS champions last September in College Station as Johnny Manziel once again went wild on Alabama (although he did have a couple of turnovers as well). Alabama’s defense was able to get through most of the season on their overall talent alone last fall, but the holes were there all along. Oklahoma capitalized on it, giving Nick Saban and his program plenty to work on and fix this offseason.

Have opposing offenses found  formula that can overcome Alabama, or will the Tide rise again as they make adjustments to slow down quick-tempo offenses designed to wear down physical defenses?

Alabama will very likely be one of the top teams in the country next fall, and fine tuning on defense will be key.

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Kansas names starting QB with plenty of room to improve

Montell Cozart

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis has named his starting quarterback for the Jayhawks in 2014. That task will belong to sophomore Montell Cozart, who will look to turn around the production at the quarterback position.

Cozart is coming off an admirable spring game performance, completing six of 10 pass attempts for 58 yards, and rushing for 70 more yards and a pair of touchdowns while leading his spring team to victory. He beat out Jake Heaps and T.J. Millweard for the job. Cozart may have been the most likely starter for 2014 because he replaced Heaps under center last season.

How high is the bar of success for Kansas? Each of the past two seasons have ended with the top two quarterbacks on the roster completing fewer than 50 percent of their passes and combining for 25 interceptions to just 15 touchdowns. It may be safe to say the bar is quite low, or perhaps there is plenty of room for improvement.

Weis initially wanted to keep the quarterback competition open leading up closer to the fall, but it seems he has seen enough. This could come in handy, as now Weis and his offensive assistants can start planning to build an offense Cozart will be best suited to lead, which should give players more time to be ready for whatever the coaches put together.

Hey, why not take an optimistic spin where you can?

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Do you have any quarterbacks? Texas Tech says “Go fish!”

Texas Tech v Oklahoma

Texas Tech is down to just one quarterback on the roster as the spring comes to a close. Davis Webb was named the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders last week, but who will be there to back him up? The Dallas Morning News reports walk-on quarterbacks Tanner Tausch and Mike Richardson are both leaving the program, leaving Webb as the only quarterback left on the roster heading into the summer.

Tausch is not leaving Texas Tech, but he is leaving the football team to focus on academics. Richardson is looking for a chance to compete for more playing time that is not likely to be available at Texas Tech. In all, Texas Tech has lost five quarterbacks over the past six months. Fortuneately for Texas Tech, the future is still bright under center.

Texas Tech will be adding a quarterback through the most recent recruiting class with Patrick Mahomes, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, and a handful of walk-ons are expected to join the team in the coming months as well, including the son of former Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, Vincent Testaverde. The Class of 2015 already has one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation lined up as well with four-star recruit Jarrett Stidham already committed.

All head coach Kliff Kingsbury needs to do is get through the 2014 season without any quarterback injuries before he can really get to work with the future leader of his offense.

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Breaking Bad: Brady Hoke likes Michigan’s chemistry

Brady Hoke

Michigan has not been bad since Brady Hoke took over as head coach, but the Wolverines have been traveling on a downward trend as far as wins are concerned. Will the 2014 season see things turn around in Ann Arbor? Hoke seems to like his chances, suggesting the chemistry cooking this spring was something he has not seen in years.

“This team has a chemistry that I think we haven’t had in a while,” Hoke said Wednesday during an interview on SiriusXM Radio, according to MLive.com. “When you look at the different groups and the leadership, we have really a team that’s back-loaded on the freshman and sophomore class. But we’ve got some really good guys in that senior class. Jake Ryan and Frank Clark. Devin Gardner. Desmond Morgan. We’ve got some really good leadership there.”

This is a pretty important year for Hoke. As MLive.com makes note of and as I have said before, this is finally Hoke’s team. Every player who signed with Michigan did so knowing Hoke would be the head coach of the Wolverines. Now it is time to show Hoke can develop that talent — Michigan has signed top three classes in the Big Ten according to Rivals.com in three of the last four years — he has brought in and make Michigan a contender in the Big Ten. Up until now he has fallen short of the high bar he set in his debut season when he took what was left from the Rich Rodriguez all the way to a Sugar Bowl victory. Since then, the Wolverines have stumbled to a mediocre 7-6 season capped with a loss in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

“We’re better mentally, and that’s a big part of it,” Hoke said earlier this week, according to MLive.com. “We’re not exactly where we want to be yet, but I like the way our team has reacted (to last season) and how we’ve gone about our business.”

If Hoke is right, Michigan could be in the winning business. It’s basic chemistry, yo.

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Northwestern alums say players being pushed to vote against union

Kain Colter

A meeting of former Northwestern football players Wednesday night brought attention to concerns that current players were being pressured to vote no on an upcoming vote to determine if Northwestern football players will form a union. Some Northwestern alums suggested current players on the football team have been receiving phone calls from alumni pushing them to vote no on the union next week.

The biggest problem right now is a state of confusion over the impact of players at Northwestern forming a union could potentially mean. The NCAA and the university will lead you to think it could be the beginning of the dismantling of many other sports at the division one level, but that could just be an extreme worst-case scenario. The biggest push right now by this players union movement is to have a seat at the table with Northwestern leaders and have their voices heard.

“We want the facts to be the facts,” said Kevin Brown, a former Northwestern football player from the 1980s. Brown did not take stance for or against the union vote, at least not in front of the media attending the meeting Wednesday night, but his message seemed pretty clear. Get out as much information as possible so the players can make an informed decision when they cast their ballot.

Some alumni believe the players should voice their concerns directly to the head coach, Pat Fitzgerald.

“They could have taken these issues straight to Coach Fitz and Northwestern,” former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa said. “It’s frustrating to see your coach and your school come under fire like this.”

Fitzgerald has been on record speaking against the union idea and he has said he wants his players to think long and hard before voting on unionization. If it were up to Fitzgerald, Northwestern players would vote no. There is no indication Fitzgerald is applying pressure on players to vote no, but he will not shy away from voicing his concerns for the best interest of his players.

“We want to make sure that they have all the information, so that’s a process we’re starting to work through right now,” Fitzgerald said earlier this month. “I’m honored to have that opportunity with our guys and we’ll work through it day by day.”

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board empowered players to hold such a vote, recognizing the football players as employees of Northwestern University. The players are set to vote on forming a union next week, although there are mixed emotions when it comes to whether or not it is a good idea. Now former quarterback Kain Colter has become the face of the union movement at Northwestern but earlier this month it was his replacement under center, Trevor Siemian who voiced his concerns about the formation of a union. Northwestern is prepared to contest the ruling all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary, which has been expected from the start.

When it comes time to vote on forming a union, will there be enough votes to take the next step?

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Report: Sooners’ leading tackler facing sexual assault accusations

.J. Yeldon, Frank Shannon AP

While no charges have been filed as of yet, an Oklahoma football player is the target of some very serious accusations, the Daily Oklahoman is reporting.

According to the paper, linebacker Frank Shannon has been accused of sexually assaulting a female student at his off-campus apartment Jan. 20.  The accusation comes in the form of a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation report obtained from the university.

From the paper, relating to that report:

…the woman alleges that after a party, she intended to walk home. Shannon offered her a ride, but said he first needed to drop off friends near his apartment.

Shannon allegedly took the woman into his bedroom. According to the complaint, he came up behind her, pulled down her pants and attempted to have sex with her.

The complainant said Shannon became frustrated when she wouldn’t cooperate.

Shannon allegedly asked if she was menstruating, and when she said yes, he went to the bathroom. At that time, she left and met a friend in the parking lot, whom the woman had texted to come get her. The friend called the police.

For those unaware, Title IX is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities. Under Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education website states, “discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.” All incidents of alleged sexual misconduct involving students must be reported when the university becomes aware of such an allegation.

The Norman Police Department is currently investigating the accusations, but, again, no charges have been filed. It should be noted, however, that the matter is not completely out of the university’s hands as, according to Title IX guidelines, “[a] criminal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment or sexual violence does not relieve the school of its duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably.”

As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, Shannon started all 13 games and led the Sooners in tackles with 92. He neither practiced last Thursday nor played in Saturday’s spring game due to what head coach Bob Stoops described as personal reasons.

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