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Arizona State adds 27 on signing day

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(Below is Arizona State’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State University has signed 27 student-athletes to national letters of intent Wednesday to study and participate in football, head coach Todd Graham announced.

Coach Graham’s second signing class at ASU provides the Sun Devils with excellent talent on offense, defense and special teams and includes players from multiple states across the country.

The class consists of 16 freshmen, five sophomores and six juniors. Four of the student-athletes are midyear transfers already on campus that will participate in spring practice.

ASU’S 2013 Signing Class Includes:

• Student-athletes from nine different home states (Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio,

Pennsylvania, Texas).

• Nine players rated in the top-40 at their position as high school recruits: Chans Cox, No. 1 Fullback, Scout.com; Christian Westerman, No. 2 Offensive Tackle, ESPN (2011); Viliami Latu, No. 13 Inside Linebacker, Rivals.com; Matt Haack, No. 15 Kicker, Rivals.com; Marcus Ball, No. 24 Athlete, Rivals.com; James Johnson, No. 24 Safety, ESPN; Corey Smith, No. 33 Weakside Defensive End, Rivals.com; Jayme Otomewo, No. 34 Safety, ESPN; William Earley, No. 37 Cornerback, Scout.com.

• Six transfers rated in the nation’s top-100 overall junior college prospects: DL Marcus Hardison (No. 5, ESPN), WR Jaelen Strong (No. 17, ESPN), LB Antonio Longino (No. 32, Rivals.com), WR Joseph Morris (No. 61, ESPN), TE De’Marieya Nelson (No. 78, ESPN), OL Nick Kelly (No. 95, Rivals.com).

• Four Arizona natives: Cox, DL Kisima Jagne, TE Grant Martinez, Westerman; including the most highly-rated offensive recruit from Arizona in over a decade (Westerman, Scout.com).

• Four junior college transfers with three years of playing eligibility: Kelly, Longino, DB Solomon Means, Strong.

• Sixteen defensive players, 10 offensive players and one specialist.

• Six defensive backs, five defensive linemen, five linebackers, five wide receivers, three offensive linemen, two tight ends and one punter.

• Four midyear transfers: Cox, Jagne, Kelly, Westerman.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 27 members of Arizona State’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Marcus Ball • S • Freshman • 6-3, 205 lb. • Westerville, Ohio • Westerville-South HS

One of the nation’s most versatile athletes…played quarterback and safety in high school and can also play linebacker or receiver/tight end…will start his Sun Devil career at safety…is a dangerous mismatch on offense and a rangy, fearless tackler on defense…earned All-Midwest Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated the No. 24 all-purpose athlete in the country by Rivals.com…listed as the No. 46 safety prospect in the nation by Scout.com…ranked by ESPN as the No. 67 all-purpose athlete prospect in the nation…an excellent basketball player in high school as well…scored a school-record 43 points the night before signing with ASU…his older brother, Ray, is an offensive lineman for Wisconsin…passed for 1,600 yards with 16 touchdowns, ran for 500 yards and intercepted seven passes as a junior in 2011…chose ASU over Wisconsin and added reported scholarship offers from Boston College, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kent State, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Tennessee, Toledo and West Virginia…coached by Rocky Pentello at Westerville-South High… “I really was impressed the most by the academic support,” Ball said after his visit to ASU. “[Senior Associate Athletic Director] Jean Boyd is an amazing guy with high character that is going to be there for many years. Everyone I met there, coaches, players, seems very genuine… Their graduation rate, especially with African-American student-athletes is very high.”…committed to ASU on Feb. 6, 2013, National Letter of Intent Signing Day.

Nick Begg • DE • Freshman • 6-5, 250 lb. • Santa Margarita, Calif. • Rancho Santa Margarita HS

Athletic lineman with tremendous upside…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated by Scout.com as the No. 95 defensive end prospect in the country…listed as the No. 96 defensive end recruit in the nation by ESPN…Rancho Santa Margarita High also produced Sun Devils Sil Ajawara, Evan Finkenberg and Sean O’Grady…chose ASU over a reported scholarship offer from San Diego State…verbally committed to ASU on July 23, 2012… “I just fell in love with the coaching staff and the entire program at ASU,” Begg said. “The whole visit left a big impact on not just me but my family as well. I like the program a lot and the direction things are going there and I fit in really well.”…coached by Harry Welch at Rancho Santa Margarita High…verbally committed to ASU on July 23, 2012.

Demetrius Cherry • DL • Junior • 6-6, 275 lb • Frostproof, Fla. • Contra Costa College

Versatile defensive lineman with the ability to add immediate value to the Sun Devil defense…is praised for having excellent speed, athleticism and quick feet for his size…uses his size, strength and explosiveness to create pressure…has the size and ability to play any defensive line position…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…originally signed with Washington State in 2011 before spending two years at the junior college level…totaled 26 tackles including 8.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks, one pass breakup and one blocked kick as a junior college freshman in 2011… played at Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military Academy in 2010…collected 92 tackles, 4.0 sacks and four forced fumbles in 10 games as a high school senior in 2009…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from California, Fresno State, Illinois, Iowa State, Maryland, North Carolina State, Purdue, San Diego State, San Jose State and Washington State…coached by Brad Metheny at Frostproof and by Alonzo Carter at Contra Costa…verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 17, 2012.

Chans Cox • LB • Freshman • 6-3, 230 lb • Lakeside, Ariz. • Blue Ridge HS

One of Arizona’s most versatile football players, he excelled at linebacker, running back and also punted in high school…Will play linebacker at ASU…Graduated early from Blue Ridge to enroll at ASU for the spring semester…Will participate in spring drills…Listed as a PrepStar All-American in 2012…One of the top overall prospects in the state of Arizona this year…Rated by Rivals.com as the nation’s 150 overall prospect, the No. 13 outside linebacker recruit and the No. 3 overall prospect in the state of Arizona…Evaluated by Scout.com as a fullback and was rated the top national recruit at the position as well as the No. 148 overall prospect…Regarded as a four-star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com…Included in the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune Western 100 List…Blue Ridge compiled a 40-2 during the 2010-12 seasons with three state championship game appearances and a state title in 2011…Helped lead Blue Ridge to a 14-1 record and a state championship game appearance in 2012… earned Honorable Mention All-Division IV All-State recognition by the Arizona Republic as a senior Was an All-State recipient as a junior in 2011 after posting 61 tackles while also rushing for 682 yards and 16 total touchdowns…Helped guide Blue Ridge to a 14-0 record and the state championship in 2011…Earned All-State and All-Region honors as a sophomore in 2010 after recording 86 tackles and 8.0 sacks…Blue Ridge posted a 12-1 record his sophomore season…Chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from schools including Arizona, Arkansas, Boise State, California, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon State, USC, Utah, Washington and Washington State…Verbally committed to ASU on June 13, 2012… “[ASU’s coaches] are really instilling discipline and character in the program and that is something that means a whole lot to me. I really love the coaching staff as well and they always impress me when I visit with them. I’m proud to be an in-state guy committing to ASU and I’m happy that I get to play close to my family and friends and have a great fan base that will always be behind me. It’s going to be a great journey and I’m excited to take part of it.”…Verbally committed to ASU on June 13, 2012…Coached by Paul Moro at Blue Ridge High. “Chans had an opportunity to go anywhere in the country and he came here,” coach Graham said. “I think that has a lot to do with what our program is about. He’s big, fast, strong and versatile, and he’s going to be a guy that will be impactful to our program in a hurry. We signed DJ (Foster) and Jaxon (Hood), who were two of the best players in the state last year, and then to add Chans, who is one of the top guys in Arizona this season, is something we’re very proud of. His size, his speed and his character are things that really separate him, but it is the leadership that we think he can provide that really gets us excited.”

William Earley • CB • Freshman • 6-1, 200 lb • Mesquite, Texas • West Mesquite HS

Tall defensive back with great size…evaluators consider him to have quick feet, good hips and a physical style in addition to his excellent size…from the same hometown as ASU head coach Todd Graham…earned All-Midlands Region honors by SuperPrep in 2012…listed by Scout.com as the No. 37 cornerback prospect in the nation…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 55 cornerback prospect in the country and the No. 85 overall recruit in the state of Texas…totaled 26 tackles, six passes defended and two interceptions as a senior in 2012…posted 20 tackles, two passes defended and one fumble recovery as a junior in 2011…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Texas, SMU, TCU and UNLV…coached by Mike Overton at West Mesquite…verbally committed to ASU on Sept. 23, 2012.

Eriquel Florence • LB • Junior • 6-1, 235 lb • Valley, Ala. • Contra Costa College

Physical defender with the ability to play multiple linebacker positions…has great instincts, size and speed…runs a 4.6 40-yard dash…will have three years to play two starting in the fall…was a junior college teammate of fellow ASU signee Demetrius Cherry…his brother, Erique, completed his sophomore season playing at Auburn in 2012…was named the 2012 Bay Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year after posting 91 tackles and 6.0 sacks as a sophomore…totaled 30 tackles including 7.0 tackles-for-loss with 1.0 sack and one interception as a freshman in 2011…earned All-Bay Valley Conference honors…chose ASU over a reported scholarship offers from Houston and Western Kentucky…a 2011 graduate of Valley (Ala.) High School…” “I love the family atmosphere [at ASU],” said Florence. “They have a great campus and a great coaching staff that can help me take my game to the next level. I know that they can make me successful on and off the field.”…verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 24, 2012…coached by Mike Dean at Valley High School and by Alonzo Carter at Contra Costa College.

Matt Haack • P • Freshman 6-1, 185 lb. • West Des Moines, Iowa • Dowling HS

Special teams player expected to compete to replace All-Pac-12 punter Josh Hubner…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 15 kicker in the nation and the state of Iowa’s No. 10 overall prospect…runs a 4.6 40-yard dash…the first signee for ASU from the state of Iowa since 2001…also played running back in high school…chose ASU over a reported scholarship offer from Iowa State…coached by Tom Wilson at Dowling High…verbally committed to ASU on July 31, 2012.

Marcus Hardison • DL • Junior 6-5, 290 lb • Punta Gorda, Fla. • Dodge City CC

One of the most heavily recruited junior college prospects in the country…has three years to play two starting in 2013…has incredible versatility and can play multiple defensive line positions…figures to boost an already prominent Sun Devil defensive line guided by returning Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton and Freshman All-American Jaxon Hood…runs a 4.7 40-yard dash…ranked by ESPN as the No. 5 overall junior college prospect in the country…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 14 overall junior college prospect and the third-best junior college defensive end in the nation…rated as a four-star prospect by both ESPN and Rivals…posted 50 tackles and four sacks as a sophomore in 2012…recorded 46 tackles and three sacks as a freshman in 2011…earned Second-Team All-Jayhawk Conference honors as a sophomore…graduated from Punta Gorda (Fla.) Charlotte High School in 2011…played quarterback early in his high school career before moving to the defensive line…also played tight end…chose ASU over approximately two dozen reported scholarship offers from schools including Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Kansas State, Miami, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Washington and West Virginia…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 18, 2013… “All the coaches at Arizona State are straight up good guys,” said Hardison. “They told me that I can accomplish anything I want on and off the field over there (at ASU) if I’m willing to work hard at it. I don’t like when stuff is just given to me so that’s fine by me.”…coached by Binky Waldrop at Charlotte High and by Bob Majeski at Dodge City Community College.

Kisima Jagne • DL • Freshman 6-5, 265 lb • Chandler, Ariz. • Chandler HS

A 2012 graduate of Chandler (Ariz.) High School…Signed with Colorado in February 2012 but opted to delay his enrollment…Began classes at ASU in January and will participate in spring drills…Is eligible to play in 2013 and will have five years to play four…Has an excellent frame to compete for time in ASU’s defensive line rotation…As a senior in 2011 he was ranked one of the top players in Arizona by most of the recruiting sites, including No. 6 by ESPN.com, No. 9 by Rivals and No. 13 by SuperPrep…Rivals also had him as the No. 28 strong side defensive end nationally, while ESPN.com ranked him as the No. 52 defensive end and Scout.com at No. 54….A second-team All-Arizona Division I selection both his junior and senior years along with being named first-team All-Division I Section II both seasons…Averaged over 10 tackles per game as a senior and finished the season with 10 quarterback sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries (he also blocked two punts on special teams)…Top two prep games came against rival Hamilton, as he combined for 33 tackles and five sacks…as a junior, he finished the season with 71 tackles and 17 sacks to go along with two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries…Along with the punt and field goal block teams, he also played on the kickoff return team that season…Played his freshman and sophomore years at Chavez High School, earning two letters and starting as a sophomore…Also lettered in basketball, averaging 14.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game as a senior, when he had 74 blocked shots in 27 games; he shot 55.7 percent from the field and had a season-high 28 points against Casa Grande…Earned second-team All-Arizona honors as a junior at Chandler and was fourth-team All-Arizona as a sophomore at Chavez, where he helped his team to two regional championships as a freshman and sophomore; Chandler advanced to the conference playoffs his junior year….Born October 30, 1993 in Phoenix…His cousin, Kenny Wheaton, played football at Oregon and was a third round draft pick by Dallas in the 1997 NFL Draft and played three seasons with the Cowboys (he also played Arena Football and in the Canadian Football League, including a brief stint with the Colorado Crush in the AFL)…Another cousin, Derrek Wheaton, signed to play football at Oregon, but was killed in a drive-by shooting prior to attending the school; the Arizona Junior High Basketball Tournament MVP honors are named in his honor…Another cousin, Marquese Wheaton, recently finished his college career as a defensive back at Southern Mississippi while another cousin, Markus Wheaton, was a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection in 2012 as a senior for Oregon State…Name pronounced “Kiz-ma Jag-knee”…As a high school senior he also had reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State…Coached by Shaun Aguano at Chandler High School….”Kisima, who is another local product, is a guy that fits our hybrid system because, among other things, his great ability to rush the passer,” coach Graham said. “It’s all about getting the right fit and we think he has great promise. He’s played in a system that had him blitzing from inside and outside, and he’s big enough to play defensive end. Getting him in the spring is important and we think he can really develop into something special.”

Ellis Jefferson • WR • Freshman 6-4, 200 lb • Denton, Texas • Guyer HS

Tall, physical wide receiver target…rated by Scout.com as the No. 82 wide receiver prospect in the nation…fearless route runner and tough receiver with the ability to gain yards after contact…earned All-Midlands Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…listed as the No. 136 wide receiver recruit in the country by ESPN…led Guyer to the Class 4A Division I state championship in 2012…starred in the state championship game, hauling in 176 receiving yards with two touchdowns…caught 38 passes for 676 yards with five touchdowns as a junior in 2011…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Colorado, Michigan State, Mississippi State, North Texas, Purdue, San Diego State, Tulsa, Utah State and Vanderbilt…coached by John Walsh at Guyer…”My mom and I loved the school,” said Jefferson. “She loved the education center and liked the way they played football.”…verbally committed to ASU on July 14, 2012…coached by John Walsh at Guyer High.

James Johnson • S • Freshman 6-2, 200 lb • Upland, Calif. • Upland HS

Excellent athlete with outstanding ball skills…played wide receiver and defensive back at Upland… earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…ranked by ESPN as the No. 24 safety prospect in the country…listed by Scout.com as the No. 60 safety recruit in the nation…listed by Scout.com as the No. 10 safety in the West region following the 2012 season…has the ability to play any of ASU’s safety positions…was a three-year varsity starter in the secondary for Upland…Upland High also produced Sun Devil cornerback Osahon Irabor…totaled 45 tackles, seven interceptions and one fumble recover in 2012…added 33 receptions for 599 yards (18.2 avg.) with one touchdown as a senior…also returned punts and kickoffs…totaled 62 tackles and two interceptions as a junior in 2011 and also saw time at wide receiver…helped lead Upland to a 12-1 record in 2011…registered 39 tackles, two forced fumbles and one interception as a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Colorado, Fresno State, Houston, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon State, San Jose State and Wyoming…coached by Tim Salter at Upland High…verbally committed to ASU on Oct. 6, 2012.

Nick Kelly • OL • Sophomore 6-3, 280 lb • Orangevale, Calif. • American River College

A 2012 graduate of American River College in Sacramento, Calif….Rated by Rivals.com as the No. 95 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 12 junior college offensive line recruit…Graduated from Orangevale (Calif.) Casa Roble High School…Brings a year of junior college playing experience to Tempe but maintains four years to play three for the Sun Devils…began classes at ASU in January and will participate in spring drills…Joins American River teammate Josh Tremblay among ASU’s Class of 2013 midyear signees …Adds a valuable presence at center which also allows ASU’s coaches to rotate other linemen throughout the interior line positions…Combines power, athleticism and versatility to give ASU a promising offensive line contributor…Chose ASU over offers from Nevada and Wyoming…Verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 16, 2012…”I loved my trip to Arizona State so it was an easy decision. The facilities really impressed me on the visit and I had a good time hanging out with the players there. They were great guys. The Arizona State coaches like my leadership and my athleticism. They also like how I can call the protection and call the keys. They feel that I can really help the team.”…Coached by Norman Ryan at Casa Roble and by Jerry Haflich at American River…. “Adding both Nick not only gives us more depth at offensive line, but it allows us to be more flexible and creative in how we utilize our guys up front,” coach Graham said. “Nick is a true center and is someone who understands the game very well and can come in right away and compete.”

Alani Latu • LB • Freshman 6’2, 230 lb • Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. • Rancho Cucamonga HS

Key figure in one of California’s better high school defenses…very physical player with great coverage skills for a linebacker…likely to compete for time at ASU’s “Spur” linebacker position… earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…included in the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune Western 100 List…rated by Scout.com as the No. 41 outside linebacker recruit in the nation…listed by Rivals.com as the No. 49 outside linebacker prospect in the country and the No. 78 overall recruit in the state of California…joins twin brother Viliami as members of ASU’s 2013 signing class… earned Third-Team Cal-Hi Sports All-State as a senior…also a standout basketball player for Rancho Cucamonga…listed by Scout.com as the No. 8 outside linebacker in the West region after the 2012 season…recorded 94 tackles, two fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble as a senior in 2012…posted a season-high 12 tackles on two occasions and recorded 10 total stops twice as well…totaled 70 tackles as a junior in 2011…had a season-high 10 tackles against Corona (Calif.) Centennial High School on Dec. 2, 2011…saw limited action on the varsity squad as a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Houston, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Oregon State, San Diego State, Utah State and Washington State… verbally committed to ASU on Oct. 5, 2012…coached by Nick Baiz at Rancho Cucamonga High.

Viliami Latu • LB • Freshman 6’2, 230 lb • Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. • Rancho Cucamonga HS

One of the most prominent linebackers in the state of California and generally regarded as one of the top-20 linebacker prospects in the nation…considered by recruiting evaluators to be the prototype inside linebacker…physical run-stuffing linebacker who is also talented at dropping into coverage…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…joins twin brother Alani as members of ASU’s 2013 signing class…selected to the CalState Game and West Coast Bowl…included in the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune Western 100 List…Regarded as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com…also rated by Rivals as the nation’s No. 13 inside linebacker recruit and the No. 37 overall prospect in the state of California…rated by Scout.com as the No. 18 middle linebacker recruit in the nation…earned First-Team Cal-Hi Sports All-State as a senior…listed by ESPN as the No. 27 inside linebacker prospect in the nation…registered 107 tackles with 4.0 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2012…exploded for a season-high 18 tackles against Anaheim (Calif.) Servite on Sept. 1, 2012…tallied 13 tackles against Upland (Calif.) High School on Oct. 5, 2012 and registered 12 tackles against Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos High on Oct. 26, 2012…recorded 70 tackles and two interceptions as a junior…earned all-state underclass honors as a junior in 2011…saw limited action on the varsity squad as a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State and Utah State…verbally committed to ASU on Oct. 5, 2012…coached by Nick Baiz at Rancho Cucamonga High.

Ronald Lewis • WR • Freshman 6’0, 185 lb • Harvey, La. • West Jefferson HS

Dynamic threat on offense and special teams…played wide receiver as a senior after spending time at quarterback during his junior season…unselfish athlete who switched positions during his high school career because of team needs…excels on kick and punt returns…earned All-Southeast Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 65 wide receiver prospect in the nation and the state of Louisiana’s No. 25 overall recruit…regarded by ESPN as the No. 127 wide receiver prospect in the nation…listed by Scout.com as the No. 171 wide receiver recruit in the nation…runs a 4.45 40-yard dash…caught 30 passes for 552 yards with three touchdowns and added four touchdowns on kick returns as only a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Baylor, Colorado, Florida International, Illinois, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska, TCU, Texas A&M and Tulane…coached by Marcus Scott at West Jefferson…verbally committed to ASU on Sept. 5, 2012.

Antonio Longino • LB • RS Sophomore

6-3, 225 lb • East Cleveland, Ohio • Shaw HS • Hutchinson Community College

Physically gifted linebacker who will add a valuable presence at linebacker…has instant-impact potential and likely will battle to replace Second-Team All-Pac-12 member Brandon Magee at linebacker…comes to ASU with three years to play three starting in the fall…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 32 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s third-best junior college linebacker recruit…appeared in seven games in 2012, registering 56 tackles including 6.0 for loss with 1.5 sacks…redshirted in 2011…made an immediate impact at the high school level, ranking second on the varsity squad with 99 tackles as a sophomore in 2008, adding 9.0 sacks…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Toledo and West Virginia…”I got along with all the coaches and players [at ASU],” Longino said after his official visit to Tempe. “Everybody I met was really cool. It felt like family and that was good being far from home. So I’m going to a school where I already know what the people are like. I was really surprised how beautiful the school was.”…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 12, 2013…coached by Rodney Brown at Shaw High and by Rion Rhoades at Hutchinson Community College.

Grant Martinez • TE • Freshman 6-5, 210 lb • Scottsdale, Ariz. • Notre Dame Prep

Unanimously regarded as the top senior tight end prospect in the state of Arizona…combines excellent height, athleticism and hands…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated by Scout.com as the No. 51 tight end prospect in the nation…earned First-Team Division II All-State honors by the Arizona Republic as a senior…played offense and defense in high school…key three-year varsity contributor…caught 43 passes for 561 yards with nine touchdowns in 2012…topped 100 receiving yards on two occasions…posted career-bests of 115 yards and eight receptions with a touchdown against Scottsdale Desert Mountain High on Sept. 21, 2012…hauled in seven receptions for 110 yards with a touchdown against Scottsdale Horizon High on Oct. 26, 2012…caught at least four passes in six games as a senior…totaled 36 receptions for 411 yards and six scores as a junior in 2011…had a season-best 76 receiving yards on five catches with a touchdown against Tempe McClintock on Oct. 21, 2011…posted five receptions for 59 yards with a touchdown against Rio Rancho (N.M) High School on Sept. 2, 2011…registered 23 receptions for 359 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore on varsity in 2010…helped lead Notre Dame to a state championship game appearance at the end of the 2010 season…also started at center for Notre Dame’s basketball team…ranked second on the team in blocked shots and rebounds and fourth in scoring as a junior in 2011-12…coached in basketball by Chris Stark…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Air Force, Army, California, Colorado State, Colorado State, Duke, Iowa State, Nevada, Oregon State, Rice, San Diego State and Utah…coached by the late Scot Bemis and also Gary Gregory at Notre Dame Prep….verbally committed to ASU on June 25, 2012.

Solomon Means • DB • RS Sophomore 6-1, 170 lb • Stockton, Calif. • Lincoln HS • Butte College

Tall defensive back with a year of college playing experience as well as three additional years of eligibility…has three to play three at ASU starting in the fall…very disruptive in pass coverage, he totaled double-digit pass deflections both as a high school senior and as a junior college redshirt freshman…played in 2012 at the same college that gave ASU recently departed senior receiver Rashad Ross…recorded 38 tackles, a team-high 12 passes defended including one interception…runs a 4.53 40-yard dash…initially signed with Weber State out of high school before attending Butte College…played wide receiver and defensive back in high school…caught 20 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown…finished second on the team in receptions behind eventual All-Pac-12 receiver Brandin Cooks…added 18 tackles, 12 passes defended, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries…chose ASU over reported offers from Houston and Idaho… “It was beautiful,” Means said of his visit to ASU. “It was really different for me being a California boy. I didn’t know want to expect with the Desert and the cactus trees but everything was really nice. I loved the college atmosphere and you can tell the whole college is into the team. Everywhere we went people recognized the players.”…committed to ASU on Feb. 6, 2013, National Letter of Intent Signing Day…coached by Brian Gray at Lincoln High and by Jeff Jordan at Butte College.

Joseph Morris • WR • Junior 6-4, 200 lb • West Palm Beach, Fla. • American Heritage HS • Pierce College

Big receiver with two years of junior college experience…the first junior college prospect of the 2013 class to provide a verbal commitment to ASU…joined fellow ASU signee Jaelen Strong as Pierce College’s two primary wide receiver targets in 2012…listed as ESPN’s No. 61 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 16 junior college wide receiver recruit…caught 29 passes for 529 yards with six touchdowns as a freshman in 2011…had a long reception of 80 yards and averaged 18.2 yards per reception…led Pierce in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Louisiana Tech, LSU and Middle Tennessee State…coached by Efrain Martinez at Pierce College…verbally committed to ASU on July 23, 2012.

De’Marieya Nelson • TE • RS Junior 6-3, 230 lb • Stockton, Calif. • Chavez Senior HS • San Joaquin Delta College

Excellent athlete with experience at multiple positions between his high school and junior college careers…a perfect fit for the three-back role in ASU’s offense, currently occupied by record-setting receiver Chris Coyle…rated by ESPN as the No. 78 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 7 junior college tight end recruit…caught 26 passes for 218 yards with two touchdowns in nine games in 2012…was named First-Team All-Valley Conference as a sophomore…earned All-State honors in 2011…helped lead Delta to a victory in the Silicon Valley Bowl…was regarded as the No. 19 overall prospect in central California by Scout.com as a senior in 2009…ranked by Scout.com as the No. 158 running back prospect in the nation as high school senior…carried 106 times for 824 yards with six touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 294 yards with three scores as a senior in 2008…added 16 tackles and two pass deflections…played running back and free safety…also played basketball in high school…rushed 88 times for 602 yards with seven touchdowns and added 24 tackles with 3.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2006 at Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln High, playing fullback and linebacker…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Fresno State, Memphis, Nevada, San Diego State, Texas Tech, Utah State and Western Michigan…coached by Eric Duncon at Chavez Senior HS and by Gary Barlow at San Joaquin Delta College…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 20, 2013.

Jayme Otomewo • S • Freshman • 6-2, 190 lb

One of the premier safeties in the West region…an incredible student-athlete, he reportedly carries a 4.0 GPA…participated in the Semper Fi All-American game after his senior season… earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated the No. 34 safety recruit in the country by ESPN…listed by Scout.com as the No. 45 safety prospect in the nation…listed by Scout.com as the No. 7 safety prospect in the West region after the 2012 season…regarded by Rivals.com as the No. 56 safety recruit in the nation and the No. 79 overall prospect in the state of California…also participated in track and field in high school…was a team captain as a senior…posted 67 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery as a junior in 2011…tallied a season-high 19 tackles against Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High on Nov. 3, 2011…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Colorado, Fresno State, Hawaii, Ohio and San Jose State…was also recruited by Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington…coached by Paul Knox at Dorsey High…verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 3, 2012.

Jack Powers • OL • Freshman 6-6, 260 lb • Salinas, Calif. • Palma HS

Tall, athletically gifted lineman…listed by Scout.com as the No. 61 offensive tackle prospect in the nation…was also evaluated by recruiting services as a defensive lineman…regarded by Scout.com as the No. 10 defensive end in the West region prior to the 2012 season…earned Third-Team Cal-Hi Sports All-State as a senior…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Air Force, Fresno State, Utah, Utah State and Washington State…was also recruited by Nebraska, Notre Dame and UCLA…“On my visit I really liked the coaches, all the players and just everything that is going on with the program,” said Powers. “They have so much discipline and that can’t help but be successful and I really like that.”…coached by Jeff Carnazzo at Palma High…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 16, 2013.

Damarious Randall • DB • RS Junior 6-0, 185 lb • Pensacola, Fla. • Pensacola HS • Mesa (Ariz.) CC

One of the premier junior college defensive backs in the nation…enjoyed a sensational sophomore season at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College as both a ball-hawking defensive back and game-breaking return specialist…can play either cornerback or safety and is very dangerous on returns…has two years to play two at ASU starting in the fall…following his stellar sophomore season in 2012, he was named an NJCAA First-Team All-American, the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) Defensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-Conference member at cornerback and on returns and a First-Team All-Western States Football League (WSFL) pick at both cornerback and on returns…is the second straight ACCAC Defensive Player of the Year to sign with ASU, following Chris Young from last year…totaled 69 tackles (50 solo) with nine interceptions and averaged 18.4 yards on punt returns with five total touchdowns (two receiving, two punt returns, one interception return) in 2012…averaged 28.2 yards on 19 kickoff returns…added 17 total passes defended (nine interceptions, eight pass breakups), 3.0 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery…led MCC with 1,078 all-purpose yards, averaging 98.0 per game…also played wide receiver at MCC, catching eight passes for 152 yards with two touchdowns…averaged a team-high 19.0 yards per reception…helped turn MCC from a 1-10 team in 2011 to a 6-5 record in 2012 and an appearance in the Valley of the Sun Bowl…redshirted in 2011…played baseball at Butler Community College during the 2010-11 school year…a 2010 graduate of Pensacola (Fla.) High School…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Akron, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kansas, Louisiana, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, San Diego State, South Alabama, South Florida, Southern Miss, TCU, Washington State and Western Michigan…coached by Ryan Felker at Mesa Community College…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 25, 2013.

Cameron Smith • WR • Freshman • 6-0, 185 lb • Coppell, Texas • Coppell HS

Speedy athlete with great receiving skills…runs a 4.4 40-yard dash…enjoyed a stellar senior season after being limited due to injury as a junior…rated the No. 123 wide receiver prospect in the nation by Scout.com…caught 59 passes for 1,071 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior…helped lead Coppell to a 11-1 record…caught seven passes for 131 yards on a state playoff game played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas…played in only five games due to injury as a junior in 2011…coached by Joe McBride at Coppell High… “He’s a tremendous player who’s extremely fast,” McBride said of Smith. “He’s a smart kid with great character who is a great route runner and has great hands. He’s a very humble and quiet kid off the field, but on the field he is a fierce competitor and always plays hard.”…chose ASU over Iowa….also earned reported scholarship offers from Houston, Illinois, North Texas and Wisconsin…was also heavily recruited by Nebraska, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech… “Cameron really likes the new coaching staff at Arizona State,” McBride remarked. “He also likes the explosive vertical offense that uses multiple wide receivers. He like the warm and beautiful climate and all that had something to with it. I think he made a great decision. He’s going to a very exciting place to be at.”…verbally committed to ASU on Feb. 1, 2013.

Corey Smith • DL • Freshman 6-7, 260 lb • New Orleans, La. • O.Perry Walker School

Brings outstanding size and physical potential to ASU…starred on defense at O.Perry Walker School…uses his hands well and has the frame to be a prominent lineman at ASU…played multiple defensive line positions in high school…listed by Rivals.com as the No. 33 weak side defensive end recruit in the country…rated by Scout.com as the No. 109 defensive end prospect in the nation…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida International, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Purdue, SMU, Southern Miss and Tulane…committed to ASU on Feb. 6, 2013, National Letter of Intent Signing Day…coached by Emanuel Powell at O.Perry Walker School.

Jaelen Strong • WR • RS Sophomore 6-4, 205 lb • Philadelphia, Pa. • West Philadelphia Catholic HS • Pierce College

One of the nation’s most productive junior college wide receivers…regarded as a four-star prospect by ESPN…rated by ESPN as the No. 15 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 5 junior college wide receiver recruit…listed by Rivals.com as the No. 49 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 8 wide receiver recruit…caught 67 passes for 1,263 yards with 15 touchdowns in 10 games in 2012…joins junior college teammate Joseph Morris as members of ASU’s 2013 class…sat out in 2011 and will have four years to play three at ASU starting in 2013…graduated from West Philadelphia (Pa.) Catholic High School in 2011 and had scholarship offers from Eastern Michigan, Villanova and VMI before opting to attend Pierce College…had team highs of 17 receptions for 318 yards and four touchdowns as a senior…had a season-high 109 yards on three receptions with two touchdowns against Philadelphia (Pa.) Archbishop Ryan on Oct. 2, 2010…caught 24 passes for 385 yards with four touchdowns as a junior in 2009…posted season-bests of five receptions for 92 yards with a touchdown against Wyndmoor (Pa.) La Salle College High School on Sept. 18, 2009…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kansas, Miami, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Oregon State, Purdue, South Carolina and Texas Tech….coached by Brian Fluck at West Catholic and by Efrain Martinez at Pierce College…verbally committed to ASU on Christmas Day 2012.

Christian Westerman • OL • RS Sophomore 6-4, 303 lb. • Chandler, Ariz. Hamilton HS • Auburn

Enrolled at ASU for the spring semester and will participate in spring football drills…Originally signed with Auburn out of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton High School in 2011…Redshirted in 2011…Was limited due to an injury in 2012 but appeared in two games with one start at left guard…Has the ability to play either guard or tackle…Can bench press over 500 pounds…One of the most sought after high school football recruits in Arizona history…widely regarded as a five-star prospect as a high school senior and is one of the most highly rated recruits ever to join the Sun Devil football program…Was the top recruit in the state of Arizona his senior year …Named the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle and the No. 6 player nationally by ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc….Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard and the No. 17 player in the nation by Scout.com…Remains the top rated offensive high school prospect from Arizona since Scout.com began its ratings in 2002…Rated as the No. 3 offensive tackle in the nation, the No. 1 recruit from Arizona and the No. 26 player overall nationally by 247Sports…Listed as the nation’s No. 3 offensive tackle, the No. 1 player in the state of Arizona and the No. 27 player in the nation overall by Rivals.com.. Ranked as the nation’s No. 5 offensive tackle and the No. 16 overall prospect in the MaxPreps Top 100…Named to the PrepStar Dream Team as the No. 8-ranked player in the nation … Named an All-American, the nation’s No. 2 offensive lineman and the No. 2 recruit from Arizona by SuperPrep, and the No. 21 overall player nationally in the SuperPrep Elite 50…Selected to play in the 2011 Under Armour All-American game following his senior season…Named to USA Today’s All-USA first team offense…Listed on Associated Press’ Top 25 best players in the West Helped lead his team to back to back undefeated junior and senior year seasons with an overall record of 29-0… Earned All-Arizona honors by the Arizona Republic in 2009 and 2010…Was a teammate of Sun Devils Jaxon Hood and Anthony Jones at Hamilton High…Was a starter on three consecutive state champion teams for the Huskies …had a multitude of scholarship offers as a senior at Hamilton High including ones from schools such as Alabama, California, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, UCLA and USC in addition to ASU and Auburn…born Feb. 23, 1993…Son of Christian Westerman, Sr. and Jodie Westerman…”We’re excited to be back home and be part of the Sun Devil nation,” Westerman’s father said. “The momentum of this program is unbelievable. I like everything that [Coach Graham is] about which is hard work and accountability, stuff that Christian is used to.”…Coached by Steve Belles at Hamilton High School…”We’re excited to add Christian, who is one of the best players to have come out of this state in a while,” coach Graham said. “When it comes to recruiting, the one thing that you cannot replace is family and what it means. What our program stands for now – character and class – you can stay right here at home and do everything you want to do. That’s compete for a Pac-12 championship, as well as nationally, and also be proud of the team you’re apart of. I think Christian said that he’s gotten more love in the past two days than he got two years somewhere else. That right there tells you a lot about the importance of the community our student-athletes compete in. We’re thrilled to bring one of the best in the state back home.”

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Tide tops in spring game attendance despite lowest turnout of Saban era

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

Only at football-mad Alabama could being tops at something nationally also, at the same time, result in a low-water mark for the current era.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon as a total of 73,506 fans took in their Crimson Tide’s annual A-Day spring game.  That total topped the previous 2014 high-water mark of just over 72,000 for Penn State’s first spring game under James Franklin last weekend.

It also bested Iron Bowl rival Auburn, coming off an appearance in the BCS title game, and its 70,465 fans this same day, although weather in that part of the state may have played a role in those numbers.

It’s highly (highly) (highly) likely the Tide’s total from this Saturday will finish out the spring campaign as the most at the FBS level in 2014; of the remaining spring games, only those at Michigan State and UCLA could even remotely hope to surpass that total — and even that’s simply wishful thinking on anyone’s part.

Despite adding a “Spring Game Attendance High” notch in the belt to go along with yet another recruiting title this year, the turnout for Saturday’s A-Day game was the lowest since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.  In fact, it was the lowest since the 78,200 showed up during Saban’s second spring.

Of course, there’s not really any reason (at all) to fret over spring attendance as the Tide has blown past the 90,000-mark three times –2011 (92,310), 2007 (92,138), 2010 (91,312) — and the 80,000-mark once — 2009 (84,050) — during Saban’s eight years heading the football program.

More to the point, the eight most-attended spring games in the school’s history have come under Saban; prior to Saban’s arrival, the record amount of fans who took in a spring game was 51,117 (1988), or more than 20,000 fewer than the low-tide attendance Saturday.

Yeah, again, no need to fret for those who were even remotely inclined.

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Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

It’s impossible for a player to win a Heisman based on his spring-game performance, just as, barring injury, it’s impossible for someone to lose it.  What a solid-to-spectacular performance — especially when it’s televised — can do is show the level of progress made from the previous year… and put that player on the minds of those with a stiff-armed lean during the dog days of the offseason.

Based on that assumption — howdy, Coach Saban! — you can very well expect rave reviews and upbeat predictions for the upcoming season to be rolling in for Nick Marshall.

During Auburn’s spring game Saturday, the Tigers quarterback led the first-team offense on seven possessions… and put points on the board at the end of every single one of them.  Included in that very efficient and proficient performance were four touchdown passes from Marshall to three different receivers.  Additionally, all of that scoring came in the first half as Marshall didn’t see the field for the last two quarters.

One of the few negatives to take out of Marshall’s day was the fact that he completed 59 percent of his passes; offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has set a standard of a 65-percent completion percentage for Marshall.  Other than that, though, Marshall’s head coach came out of the day pleased with the triggerman of his offense as he grows both as a quarterback and as a leader.

“He’s more of a leader by example,” Gus Malzahn said of the second-year starter. “He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, his teammates listen. …

“Our emphasis was obviously throwing the football. It was good to see our guys throwing and catching the ball in front of a crowd.”

For his part, Marshall had ominous words for what opposing defenses can expect from an offense that was run-centric in 2013 but could be adding a potent dimension for 2014.

We’re going to be a scary sight this year,” the quarterback said. “We can get real scary. We know we can run the ball. We’re just focusing on throwing the ball down the field. That’s the emphasis this year.”

In Marshall’s first year as a starter at this level of football, the Georgia transfer, by way of the JUCO ranks, played a significant role in leading the Tigers on a magical ride to the BCS title game following the 2013 season.  In two of AU’s biggest games of the season — the Kick-Six win over Alabama in the regular-season finale and the SEC championship game win over Missouri that propelled AU to its date with Florida State — Marshall completed just over 74 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.  Not only that, but Marshall rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores for good measure in those huge wins.

Of course, Marshall then proceeded to put up arguably his worst performance of the year against the best defense he faced, barely completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing a pick in what was still just a three-point loss to the Seminoles.

Coming off that inaugural starting campaign, AU coaches have done nothing but privately rave about the work Marshall has put in to improve himself this offseason.

Yes, it’s the spring and, yes, the spring game specifically is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage with fans in attendance.  Marshall has shown the desire to improve as a player, and those results showed themselves this afternoon.  How that all plays out when the real footballs start flying in a handful of months, though, remains to be seen.

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Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon takes home third straight A-Day MVP

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

Back in the day, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner derisively referred to his high-priced slugger, Dave Winfield, as “Mr. May.”  With no Steinbrenner-like derisiveness intended, T.J. Yeldon has taken the “Mr. April” mantle and literally run away with it.

As Alabama concluded Spring Practice 2014 Saturday with its annual A-Day spring game, Yeldon was named as the game’s MVP despite his Crimson team falling to the White squad 17-13.  Remarkably, it’s the third time in the running back’s three years with the Tide that he’s claimed those spring honors.

The true junior led all Tide backs with 95 yards on just 11 carries.  Yeldon had one of the three touchdowns the Tide offense was able to muster on the day as well, the other being touchdown passes from Blake Sims, the frontrunner (for now) to replace AJ McCarron, and Cooper Bateman.

Speaking of the quarterback situation, nothing was decided on that front — that battle will continue in earnest when Florida State transfer Jacob Coker gets to town — although there could’ve been a bit of concern this afternoon for a coach as averse to turnovers as Nick Saban.  All told, five Tide quarterbacks combined to toss four interceptions on the day.

Despite the turnovers and all-around lack of scoring in what was the first real public debut of new coordinator Lane Kiffin‘s offense, Saban, as expected, didn’t seem the least bit concerned.  Well, kind of.

After beginning his postgame remarks by stating that, from a coach’s perspective, “[n]obody ever has a bad spring game,” Saban did allow that the offense wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said in quotes distributed by the team. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

Seeing as the Tide is transitioning not only from a three-year starter at the quarterback position to a new coordinator, it’s not surprising that the consistency isn’t where Saban would like it.  Getting that consistency will be tested even further when Coker, who some or even most observers expect to be under center when the Tide opens the 2014 season, enters the fray when summer camp opens in early August and further dilutes the reps.

Regardless of how it ultimately turns out, it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to watch how the Tide gets to Saban’s optimum level of consistency at the position and moves on post-McCarron.

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Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

A week ahead of its spring game, the Iowa football program has taken a rather significant hit on the recruiting front.

The Hawkeyes announced in a press release Saturday that assistant coach Eric Johnson has decided to leave Kirk Ferentz‘s coaching staff.  The state reason is that Johnson wants to pursue an unnamed career opportunity outside of football.

Johnson was a part of Ferentz’s first Iowa staff as a grad assistant.

“I know Eric and his family have given this decision great attention and thought, and we all wish them the best as they move forward,” said Ferentz in a statement.  “Eric has been a valued staff member since he joined our original staff in 1999 and has made many contributions to our program and team as a coach, recruiter and mentor.  I am very appreciative of Eric’s efforts and his commitment to Iowa and wish him all the best in the future.”

Johnson has served as assistant defensive line coach (2012-13), tight ends coach (2010-11; 2003-07) and assistant linebackers coach (2008-2009) during his decade-plus career with the Hawkeyes, but it was on the recruiting trail where Johnson made his biggest mark and where his departure will hit the program the hardest.  From the release on Johnson, who had spent the past 10 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator:

Johnson has been heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting efforts since joining the Hawkeye staff. Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class was ranked extremely high by all the recruiting experts. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was ranked among the top 10 in the nation by all of the top recruiting services, while Iowa’s classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009 were all ranked in the nation’s top 25. Sporting News ranked Iowa’s 2011 recruiting class second best among Big Ten programs and the 2012 class was ranked third among league programs.

Johnson ranked as one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 2001 and was named one of the Top Ten Recruiters in the Big Ten Conference by Rivals.com in 2007.

“My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa,” said Johnson. “It has been a great time in our lives. From a family standpoint, we had a chance to raise our children in a tremendous community. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way. I have also been mentored by three great coordinators in Norm Parker, Phil Parker and Ken O’Keefe, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best people anyone can ask for in Reese Morgan.”

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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Ark. St.’s ‘Coach for a Day’ claims spring game win

Nick Bhardwaj

How much does a win at the FBS level cost?  For Nick Bhardwaj, it was $11,700 of well-spent funds.

Earlier this month, Arkansas State and head coach Blake Anderson announced that it was auctioning off the opportunity for a fan to coach one of the Red Wolves’ squads in the annual spring game.  The winning bid went to Bhardwaj, who is the 25-year-old CEO of a California-based tech company.

Friday, Bhardwaj put his football mettle to the test… and came out on the winning side as his Black team dropped a 48-17 decision on the Red squad.  Bhardwaj, a release from the school stated, “gave the team’s pregame and halftime speeches and communicated with the coaching staff on headset throughout the entire game while making play-calling and fourth-down decisions.”  That decision-making came after an extensive film session with offensive coordinator Walt Bell.

Also as part of the promotion, Bhardwaj received a Powerade bath (pictured)following the lopsided win.

The truth was I was just a fan of the sport, a fan of the game, and just happy to be a part of this opportunity,” Bhardwaj, who had never been to the state of Arkansas prior to the spring game, said during a press conference. Even a day after the game, Bhardwaj was still basking in the glow of the unique experience while Anderson was praising the man with the unblemished coaching mark.

In addition to Bhardwaj, ASU had another surprise up its spring sleeves as beloved former Red Wolves head coach Larry Lacewell was on the Red team sidelines as coach.  Lacewell stills holds the school record for career wins.

“[Athletic director] Terry [Mohajir] kept this a big secret that I was going to coach because he didn’t want the crowd to get so big, or he was scared that when everybody finds out I’m going to coach again that nobody’s coming,” Lacewell said.

Well done and very classy on all fronts by Anderson and the football program.

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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VIDEO: Navy football takes near-annual trip to White House

Navy White House 1

Navy’s trips to the White House in celebration of its gridiron success are becoming such a yearly tradition that we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Midshipmen had their own monogrammed towels in one of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s myriad bathrooms.

Friday afternoon, Navy players and coaches were honored yet again by President Barack Obama at the White House for claiming the 2013 edition of the Commander-In-Chief trophy.  It’s the ninth time in the past 11 years the Midshipmen have staked its claim to the prestigious trophy.

Navy defeated both Air Force (28-10, after it looked like the game wouldn’t be played) and bitter rival (sometimes) Army (34-7) to earn its 14th CIC honor since the trophy was first handed out in 1972.  Despite the recent run of football success, the Midshipmen still trail the Falcons’ 18 trophies.  The Black Knights, the inaugural winner of the award, are well behind both service academies with six, with the last coming in 1996.

The trophy has been shared on four different occasions: 1974, 1976, 1980 and 1986.

Navy White House 2“When you sign up to play at Annapolis, you know you’re in for a different experience,” the President said. “So, yes, it’s about learning to be a good football player, but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man. And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

The President also acknowledged the tragedy with which the program has been forced to deal.  Last month, running back Will McKamey passed away after falling unconscious and into a coma during a spring practice session.

“I understand your motto for this season is ‘I Will’ in memory of him. And that’s what camaraderie is all about: Honor. Courage. Commitment. That’s what makes the Midshipmen so strong,” the POTUS said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to serve as your commander-in-chief. Not primarily because of what you’ve done on the football field, but because of your dedication to each other and your service to America.”

 

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Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In the course of a post yesterday on Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase having their brains picked on the no-huddle offense by Nick Saban during a recent visit to Tuscaloosa, we mentioned in passing, as noted by our redheaded stepmothers over at PFT, that the confab may have been in violation of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For its part, the NFL is looking into whether or not Manning and Gase violated the portion of the CBA which prohibits coaches from meeting with players prior to the start of their team’s offseason workouts (the Broncos began their offseason program Monday, after the visits took place).  For his part, Saban is stunned that an NFL issue may have arisen out of what’s sounding like an impromptu get-together, ensuring that he stressed that Manning and his coach were never in the same room discussing football during their overlapping time in Tuscaloosa.

From an interview Saban did with the Denver Post after the situation blew up:

“I’m like shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong on their part,” Saban said by phone Friday night. “I never met with Adam. When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.”

Asked specifically if Manning and Gase were in a meeting at the same time, Saban said, “Only to say hello and b.s. with each other. Adam came Monday and talked to the offensive coaches and some of the defensive coaches. I know he talked with Kirby (Smart, the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator). He and I just visited casually. We didn’t talk football. Adam was with me through two different college programs (at Michigan State and LSU).”

Saban firmly stated that Manning and Gase did not arrive together; in fact, the coach had been then there “for a couple days” prior to the player’s arrival.

Because of Manning’s proficiency in operating the no-huddle offense, the Alabama head coach and Denver Broncos quarterbacks spent a couple of hours one day — without Gase present — going over what defenses are problematic for that type of offense.

“And Peyton,” Saban said, “we were just talking ball. We talked about particular defenses that give us trouble with the no-huddle. Things like that.”

Given how the situation exploded, Saban took the opportunity to intimate an “ass out of you and me” joke when explaining the cause of the explosion.

“I was asked about their visit at my coach’s clinic press conference but I never said we sat down together. Because we didn’t. That’s what happens when people assume.”

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Hoke: Shane Morris narrowed gap on Devin Gardner after ‘good spring’

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

While Devin Gardner said “it was amazing how much better (the quarterback competition this spring) made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation — exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.

How tenuous Gardner’s hold on the job was further demonstrated by head coach Brady Hoke, who stated Friday “he might” when asked if Gardner would be his starter when the 2014 regular season commenced.  Gardner and Shane Morris have been engaged in what appeared to be a  neck-and-neck battle to lead the Wolverines offense throughout the spring.

When asked about Morris, Hoke was damn-near effusive, relative to his tepid comments Morris’ competition, in his praise.

“I thought Shane had a good spring,” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “Was it flawless? No. But I think he learned more about the urgency that he has to have to be the quarterback at Michigan.

“I thought he had a good spring.”

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

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UGA expects Keith Marshall, pair of WRs back for summer workouts

Tennessee v Georgia

A high-profile running back and a pair of experienced and productive wide receivers missed all or part of Georgia’s spring practice due to injury and/or rehabilitation from injury, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Bulldogs takes its next big step in preparing for the upcoming season.

According to head coach Mark Richt, running back Keith Marshall (pictured) and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are expected to be healthy enough to participate in the football program’s “voluntary” summer workouts.  Those structured workouts will commence in June.

All three of the players are coming off of torn ACLs suffered last season that forced them to miss various amounts of games.  Marshall and Scott-Wesley both incurred their knee injuries during the Tennessee game last October, while Mitchell’s knee was injured in late August.

Mitchell had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

In addition to those three, Richt said he expects tight end Jay Rome, who suffered a foot injury last year and underwent surgery in the offseason, to be at full speed for the workouts as well.

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Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

Another day, another FBS program has itself some new football duds.  Hooray?

This time around, it’s the Washington football players who will wear new uniform combinations for the 2014 season.  From the release:

The new stadium and athletic facilities are filled with Husky references, echoing the team’s ethos that “no dog runs alone.” A graphic symbol and unique coded sequence embroidered into the back inside neckline of the jerseys reinforces this mantra. Representing the quickest/most agile sled dog formation, the focal point of this special graphic is the area representing the “team dogs,” who are the heart and soul of the squad. The symbol is formed by lines that, when turned sideways, make an 11 to honor the 11 players on the field. Like a sled team, the Husky football team competes as a pack through innovative formations on field.

Our players can’t wait to take the field in these new uniforms. The design tells the story of our program and provides modern innovations in materials and design while embracing the rich tradition that has made Husky football so special,” said first-year UW head coach Chris Petersen in a statement.

Below are the three uniform combinations the Huskies will wear this season as well as a video tied to the release:

Washington Uniforms

 

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BYU lands Nebraska DB transfer Harvey Jackson

Monte Ball Harvey Jackson AP

The BYU Cougars are on the receiving end of some B1G transfer help in the secondary for the 2014 season.

The football program announced in a release Thursday that defensive back Harvey Jackson has signed with the football program and will continue his playing career with the Cougars.  As Jackson has already received his degree from NU, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.

“Harvey is an experienced player and a mature individual with excellent character,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement. “He will join our program after graduating in construction management with a business minor. He is a great fit for BYU on and off the field.”

Jackson played in 35 games the past three years, starting four of those contests.  He started the first three games of the 2013 season before losing that job.

In 2011, Jackson, a three-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2010 recruiting class, was an Academic All-Big Ten selection

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Saban picks Peyton Manning’s no-huddle brain during visit

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In mid-December last year, Lane Kiffin was brought to Alabama by head coach Nick Saban to help evaluate the Tide’s offense ahead of its BCS bowl matchup with Oklahoma.  Less than a month later, the former USC head coach was hired as Saban’s offensive coordinator.

While another hire likely won’t come out of another high-profile visit, Saban has again decided to pick the brain of some offensive-centric football types in his never-ending quest to improve his football program.

Saban confirmed to the media that current Denver Broncos and former Tennessee Vols quarterback Peyton Manning, along with Manning’s coordinator Adam Gase, visited Tuscaloosa for two days last week for a meeting that may have violated the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Saban said Manning has “been a friend and very well-respected for a long time,” and the visit came about as the player and coach were taking a football tour to select cities across the country.

Given the proliferation of no-huddle, spread offenses in the college game — and the Tide’s notorious struggles in stopping them — and Manning’s expertise in running such a system, Saban jumped at the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

“Since they’re a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that give them problems,” Saban said. “That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”

Saban’s attempts to decipher the no-huddle riddle from a defensive standpoint has become almost legendary; earlier this month, a football clinic hosted by Saban featured, among others, the head coach of the fast-paced, high-octane Baylor Bears, Art Briles.

“The goals that you have for next year are basically the things that you struggled with last year,” Saban said in explaining the proliferation of high-profile visitors of late. “You make a list of those things through your quality control, and then you go out and look for people who might be able to help you develop a little more expertise, a better way to teach, a better way to coach some situation.

“Sometimes we bring somebody in here to visit with us. Sometimes we have people call us and ask us if they can come and visit us and try to learn from us, which we share with quite a few people. I think we usually learn from them as well when that happens.”

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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 “no 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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