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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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Report: ACL rehab sidelines Clemson safety for spring practices

Travis Blanks

Promising Clemson safety Travis Blanks will be forced to miss the spring practices this year after suffering a setback in his rehab for a torn ACL.

Blanks suffered a setback in his rehab process for his torn ACL during Clemson’s practices leading up to the bowl game, according to Aaron Brenner of Post & Courier (via Twitter).

Blanks was one of Clemson’s top freshmen in 2012 and was a starter for much of the 2013 season before having his year ended due to an injury. Blanks then suffered the knee injury in the spring of 2014, which kept him out of action last fall. Perhaps fortunately, Blanks had a redshirt year to spare in 2014, so he did not lose out on any eligibility at Clemson. He will still have two years to use starting this fall.

Keeping him out of the spring will hopefully allow him to be ready to go in the fall.

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Arkansas AD Jeff Long to continue in role as CFB Playoff Chairman

Jeff Long

The planning for year two of the College Football Playoff continues with a familiar face filling the role of chairman. Arkansas Athletics Director Jeff Long was elected to serve as the chairman of the College Football Playoff for a second straight season today.

“Jeff has been a terrific chair and I am delighted that the committee elected him to serve again,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said in a released statement. “Jeff is a thoughtful and dedicated leader who conducted the meetings skillfully. He also did a very good job answering questions about the rankings so fans could gain insight into the committee’s decisions. It’s clear that he has the full respect and confidence of the other committee members.”n the second half of the season on ESPN’s weekly

In the second half of the season Long made an appearance on ESPN’s weekly College Football Playoff selection committee rankings program to explain some of the logic used to form the latest committee rankings. It was a good idea in principle but struggled to provide clarity or show consistency in the ranking process. Whether that continues in year two has yet to be determined. Regardless, Long’s responsibility will continue to be to speak on behalf of the committee whenever possible. Year two of the system is not without its challenges, but Long is appreciative of the opportunity to continue to serve in this role.

“I appreciate the confidence that the committee members have shown in me,” said Long. “I am truly honored that they have chosen me to serve in this capacity this coming year. The real strength of this committee is the work that each member does to rank the teams each week and ultimately select the best four teams for the playoff. I am honored to represent them in the role of chair.”

ESPN is already reportedly putting pressure on the College Football Playoff to adjust its schedule for the 2015 playoff games, which are currently scheduled to be played on December 31. ESPN has concerns about scheduling the game on New Years’ Eve against traditional programming at the end of the year, as well as potential scheduling conflicts with the NFL and a possibly expanded playoff schedule by the pro football league.

Long will also be tasked with ensuring more consistency in the selection committee in the public’s eye. It is not necessarily his duty to ensure the committee is consistent, but it is his job to show the public there is an existing consistency with the playoff model.

Good luck Jeff.

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James Franklin scorns PSU player on Twitter for settling for a B on exam

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Boston College v Penn State

Some day college football players will learn not everything needs to be shared to the public. Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones found that out, as you may have heard by now, but things turned out OK for him. Maybe Penn State sophomore safety Bryant Harper will learn a lesson after being publicly scorned by his head coach on Twitter.

On Monday, Harper took to Twitter to boast about a B he received on a recent anatomy exam.

Penn State head coach James Franklin, known to be fluent with Twitter, saw the tweet from his player (or had somebody point it out to him), and responded…

Who knows just how serious Franklin was about the Twitter comment, but if nothing else a lesson should be learned by all college football players. What you put on Twitter (or Facebook or Instagram) will have someone watching, so be careful what you share! Harper was reminded of the Penn State philosophy of Success With Honor by way of some public humiliation from his head coach. Harper took this lesson in stride, and odds are he will not be bragging about any B‘s anytime soon.

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Oakland Raiders target Louisville DC Todd Grantham for Del Rio’s staff

Todd Grantham

The head coaching carousel around the NFL may have come to a close, but assistants are still ripe for the picking. That means some college football assistants are going to get some looks to fill some vacancies in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders have an eye on Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

The Raiders hired Jack Del Rio to be the team’s new head coach recently. The two coaches have never coached together, but there are some good reasons why Grantham would be considered for the job in Oakland. First, Grantham has some NFL coaching experience. The current defensive coordinator for Louisville has coached defensive line for the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys in addition to serving as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns for three seasons. Grantham last coached in the NFL in 2009 as a defensive line coach for Dallas. He then coached four years as the defensive coordinator at Georgia before moving to Louisville last season. In his one year at Louisville, Grantham coached the second-best total defense in the ACC and held opponents to just 308.5 yards per game.

If Grantham does leave Louisville after one season to return to the NFL, the Cardinals should be able to find a suitable replacement. The timing may be unfortunate for Louisville, with National Signing Day coming up next week, but it is a reality of the profession. Louisville should have the resources to keep things afloat on the coaching staff as well.

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No Justice for Michigan; RB Hayes to transfer

Justice Hayes, Jonathan Truman

Looking for an opportunity for more playing time in his fifth and final year of eligibility, running back Justice Hayes has decided to transfer out of the Michigan program. Hayes announced on his Instagram page —  because this is what college kids do these days — he is leaving Michigan on good terms and will be graduating from the university this spring.The fact that I will be graduating from the University of Michigan in April will be meritorious. I have earned team captain on numerous occasions, won respect

“The fact that I will be graduating from the University of Michigan in April will be meritorious,” Hayes said. “I have earned team captain on numerous occasions, won respect from coaches and players, and most importantly played my heart out every Saturday. I truly appreciate the offer from [Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh] to allow me to return for my 5th year, but I have decided that I will choose another college to play football as a graduate student.”

Hayes appeared in all 12 games Michigan played in 2014. He carried the football 48 times for a total of 213 yards in a crowded backfield. That depth at the running back position likely meant little playing time would be expected for Hayes in 2015. Because he will be graduating from Michigan, he will be eligible to play at any FBS program that welcomes him to their program this fall.

Hayes also had a note for any potential critics of his decision. There will likely be somebody out there that reads a little too much into it, but the point is a solid one. Players need to have the freedom to make the best possible decision for their own path, and not be hounded by fans who say otherwise.

“There will be people out there that disagree with this tough decision I made, but they won’t be the ones that cut me checks in the future.”

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UCF adding a little (fake) beach-front property to Bright House Networks Stadium

UCF club section

With the game day atmosphere becoming more and more of an issue some schools are struggling to address, UCF is looking to bring a more casual, beach-like setting to fans on game day. Well, at least for club members.

UCF calls it the East Side Club, a newly renovated section of Bright House Network Stadium will take on the look and feel of a beach club, complete with a walk-out section to enjoy a beverage while watching the Knights take on their opponents or be able to socialize in a preferred area hooked up with more than 15 flat-screen TVs (do they even make non-flat TVs anymore?) and enhanced WiFi, because everybody needs more WiFi. The new area will also have private bathrooms and a preferred VIP entrance.

The open area will have a view of the field between the 30-yard lines, which should make for an excellent overview of the game being played that day. The walkout area will also have a sand-colored finish to attempt to mimic the idea of walking on the beach and watching football as best as possible. Keep in mind Orlando is not exactly all that close to the beaches in Florida, so UCF is trying to bring that scenery as close to home as possible. Plus, this is much less messy than actual sand.

UCF states the renovations should be completed in time for UCF’s 2015 season opener against Florida International on September 5, 2015. You can read more about the plans for the new club area and check out the specs and more artist renderings on UCF’s official website.

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Pros and cons of conference foes scheduling non-conference games

Duke v Wake Forest

North Carolina and Wake Forest announced an unprecedented scheduling agreement earlier on Monday. The two ACC schools announced they will play a pair of non-conference games in 2019 and 2021. It is the first such scheduling agreement between power conference schools within the same conference, and it has been received to mixed reviews.

PRO: It creates a game fans will look forward to

North Carolina and Wake Forest each have a duty to satisfy their alums, students and fans. By scheduling a game against an in-state rival they rarely get to see, North Carolina and Wake Forest are each giving their fans something to look forward to. In a world where conference expansion has taken away some annual or near-annual rivalry games, North Carolina and Wake Forest have found a way to resume playing more often instead of waiting for the ACC schedule to pair them up on a rotating basis.

CON: It sets a somewhat sketchy precedent for the sport

With power conferences creating a larger divide between the haves and have-nots in college football, power conferences scheduling games against opponents from inside their own conference ultimately takes away not one, but potentially two opportunities for schools from the Group of Five to schedule at least a marginally attractive game on their respective schedules.

PRO: It can have a positive effect on each school’s overall body of work

Not that anyone is honestly ready to suggest North Carolina or Wake Forest will be competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff in four to six years, but in a hypothetical world both schools have added a power conference opponent to the schedule. In theory, this should result in a positive effect on the strength of schedule for either UNC or Wake Forets (or both).

CON: It neutralizes the conference’s overall strength of schedule

Rather than going out and competing against the SEC, Pac-12 Big Ten or Big 12, what North Carolina and Wake Forest are doing is dropping an anchor on the ACC’s overall strength of schedule. The College Football Playoff selection committee, however it is formed by 2019 or 2021 rolls around, may be unlikely to acknowledge the ACC if ACC schools are scheduling non-conference games against each other. The committee will be more impressed with victories over other power conferences, because they will be able to evaluate the strength of each conference better with true out-of-conference match-ups on the schedule.

PRO: In-state rivalries are a good thing

It is always good to see in-state rivalries thrive when possible, and North Carolina and Wake Forest managed to ensure there will be one more to pay attention to in the state. Because of this, it may not be a shock to eventually see Duke and N.C. State explore a similar arrangement, which would add more to the whole concept of a state championship in the state of North Carolina.

Sorry East Carolina.

If you have more pros or cons about this type of scheduling arrangement, feel free to add on in the comment section.

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Former Wake OL Cory Helms lands at South Carolina

Wake Forest v Vanderbilt

South Carolina head coach still has to wait until next week to see how his Class of 2015 comes together, but the Gamecocks added a talented offensive lineman to the roster a little early. Cory Helms, a two-year starter at Wake Forest, has decided to join the South Carolina program after weighing a few options.

Helms, a Freshman All-American center in 2013, will have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, although Helms told GoGamecocks.com the Uuniversity will file an appeal to have him eligible immediately in the fall. Helms is moving closer to home to be near his sick grandmother, which will be the basis for the argument to allow him to avoid having to sit out a season. If approved, Helms will be able to slide right into the South Carolina offensive line mix and add some versatility after playing center and guard at Wake Forest. South Carolina lost two seniors on one side of the line to graduation, so there should be a spot waiting for Helms if eligible to play in 2015.

Helms ended up choosing South Carolina over offers from Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Penn State.

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UNC and Wake Forest schedule non-conference home-and-home

Miami of Ohio v UNC Getty Images

The evolution of college football scheduling reached a new low Monday, potentially. North Carolina and Wake Forest have agreed to a home-and-home series as non-conference opponents. UNC and Wake Forest are both ACC members, but play in opposite divisions. This is the first time two conference members have scheduled a home-and-home series for non-conference competition*, and it may not be the last.

Wake Forest will host North Carolina on September 19, 2019. UNC will host the second part of the home-and-home series on September 25, 2021. Because these are non-conference match-ups, neither game will count in the ACC standings.

“This is a unique opportunity to play a regional rival in years that fall outside the normal conference rotation,” said UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham.  “We have a long history with Wake Forest that has historical value and will generate interest within our fans.”

The ACC requires schools in the conference to schedule at least one power conference opponent each season. Yes, this scheduling arrangement will satisfy that non-conference scheduling requirement. The idea of the scheduling requirement was designed to increase the overall conference strength of schedule, but this move essentially drags it down by guaranteeing one extra loss for the conference, against power conference opposition no less.

This could be a trend that continues as power conferences flex more muscle over the rest of the college football landscape with new powers granted through autonomy. Keeping the money within the conference, and between power conferences, will lead to more scheduling developments like this. It may not be all bad though, as 14-team conferences have limits to how often some schools face each other on a rotating basis. Perhaps this could be something that solves those concerns and makes for marketable games on our schedule.

Mixed reviews are already coming in about this scheduling announcement now that the precedent has been set.

* California and Colorado played a 2011 game as non-conference opponents despite Colorado just joining the Pac-12. That game had been scheduled back in 2004, before Colorado had joined the conference, but both teams kept the game on the books to fill out the schedule.

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Report: ESPN pushing CFB Playoff to move semifinal games to Jan. 2

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Getty Images

Fresh off shattering ratings expectations and records for the first College Football Playoff, 2015’s semifinals are scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve. That plan, upon seeing the interest in Oregon-FSU and Ohio State-Alabama, was met with plenty of head-scratching from fans and analysts.

Apparently, ESPN isn’t too happy about it either.

The Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand and Michael Smith reported Monday ESPN is pushing the College Football Playoff to move 2015’s semifinals off New Year’s Eve and to Jan. 2, 2016, a Saturday. From the story:

Sources say that senior network executives as high up as ESPN President John Skipper are pushing for the change as a way to get better television ratings, but the CFP is unwilling to make such a move because it is committed to the original plan to hold tripleheader bowl games, including the semifinals, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“We’ve started a new tradition and we don’t want to back away from it now,” said Bill Hancock, the CFP’s executive director.

On one hand, this is the deal ESPN and the College Football Playoff agreed upon with the knowledge games would be scheduled on New Year’s Eve, going up against partiers and those who want to watch a Ryan Seacrest Type count down to midnight. Even if there’s a game as good as Alabama-Ohio State this year, if it kicks off during the evening of New Year’s Eve, it won’t come close to the ratings that game saw on New Year’s Day.

It’s hard to imagine many outside the College Football Playoff staff aren’t in favor of moving these games off New Year’s Eve. It was a curious-at-best decision to begin with, to expect casual sports fans — the ones who make or break ratings — to tune in to two major events on New Year’s Eve.

If the games do stay on Dec. 31 this year and the ratings inevitably drop, expect this topic to be raised again in a year. And the 2016 semifinals? Yeah, those are on New Year’s Eve, too.

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Louisville ‘in the lead’ to land ex-TCU DE Devonte Fields

Devonte Fields, Wes Lunt AP

TCU nearly made the College Football Playoff without arguably its best defensive player — and that player is now set to make his move back to the FBS level.

Defensive end Devonte Fields, who was booted from TCU last summer after allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend, will visit Louisville this weekend and according to ESPN’s Max Olson, the Cardinals are in the lead to land him.

Fields spent last fall at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, but intended to move back to the FBS level before entering the NFL Draft. TCU blocked Fields’ attempt to transfer to FCS side Stephen F. Austin.

Fields racked up 10 sacks and won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2012, but appeared in only three games in 2013 due to an injury. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Fort Worth native should be a difference-maker wherever he transfers to, provided he can stay out of legal trouble.

Louisville hasn’t shied away from recruiting players with a history of domestic violence — the Cardinals went after former Georgia defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor last year despite him being arrested and charged with aggravated assault and family violence. The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Jeff Greer has Bobby Petrino’s explanation of that here.

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Mizzou’s D-line guru could be headed for coordinator position at Illinois

South Dakota State v Missouri Getty Images

Craig Kuligowski has worked with Gary Pinkel for the last 23 seasons, heading up the longtime Mizzou coach’s defensive line for the last 19 seasons dating back to their days at Toledo. But it appears the successful partnership may be coming to an end.

FootballScoop.com reported Sunday night that Illinois has offered Kuligowski a co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach position, and that he’s expected to take the position under Tim Beckman. Nothing is finalized, but Rivals’ Gabe DeArmond seconded the notion that Kuligowski could be on his way to Champaign.

Losing Kuligowski nine days before signing day would be a major blow for Mizzou, which has branded itself “#DLineZou” for the number of successful defensive linemen it’s produced over the last decade and a half. Perhaps no position coach has been more important to Mizzou’s successful transition to the SEC, with the Tigers’ defensive line annually one of the meanest, most disruptive groups in the powerhouse conference.

The list of players Kuligowski’s developed is impressive, headlined by former first-round picks Ziggy Hood, Sheldon Richardson and Aldon Smith — and 2014 All-American Shane Ray is expected to become the fourth. 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam was another Kuligowski protege, while Markus Golden and Kony Ealy recently put together strong careers in Columbia as well.

When Dave Steckel left to take the head coaching gig at Missouri State, Kuligowski was the top internal option to replace him as defensive coordinator. Mizzou, though, hired Memphis defensive coordinator (and former Tigers player and safety coach) Barry Odom on Dec. 23.

While it’d be a promotion at Illinois, taking a job there does carry plenty of risk. Kuligowski would take over a group that hasn’t had much success in three years under Beckman, ranking 71st, 100th and 88th in defensive F/+ from 2012-2014. Despite reaching a bowl game last season, Beckman isn’t on firm ground yet in Champaign and a step backward could lead to a coaching change less than a year from now.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter suggests, Kuligowski could be using Illinois’ offer as leverage to get a raise from his $299,500 salary. But with signing day fast approaching, expect a concrete resolution on this relatively soon.

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Coastal Carolina going with teal for new artificial turf

CCU Elon football

In the ranks of the Football Championship Subdivision, Coastal Carolina has been a program on the rise. Coming off a wildly successful, yet unfulfilling season on the field, the Chanticleers will have a new field to play on in 2015.

Yes, it will be teal.

“When the decision to install an artificial turf field was made, it only made sense that the turf be teal,” said Coastal Carolina interim director of athletics Matt Hogue in a released statement. “In addition to our winning tradition, we are known nationally for our distinctive color scheme. And it’s not just the color our teams wear, but a campus-wide identity. We felt this would be a great opportunity to further build that brand.”

To install this teal turf, Coastal Carolina likely had to get approval from Boise State to move forward with the installation of the teal-colored artificial turf. Boise State owns a trademark on non-green football fields, which means they control the licenses for any school wishing to install a non-traditionally colored football field. Boise State typically does not stand in the way of an alternate colored field, but will say no to any school looking to install a blue field.

Coastal Carolina’s official school colors include teal, which is far enough on the color spectrum from Boise State’s signature blue.

Coastal Carolina will be the seventh school to have a non-green playing field in 2015, unless any other school is installing a new playing surface this offseason. Other schools with a colored field are Boise State, Eastern Michigan, Central Arkansas, Eastern Washington, New Haven and Lindenwood.

Still waiting for Hawaii to go with this or Syracuse with an all-orange field.

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SEC schools still leading the way on the recruiting trail

Nick Saban

The SEC may have been served a little dose of reality this past college football bowl season with some bad losses in spotlight bowl games and Alabama being topped by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, but the demise of the SEC has greatly been exaggerated. In college football, recruiting is the lifeblood of a program, and schools in the SEC are doing just fine in this department with National Signing Day looming.

This goes much deeper than the annually impressive haul Alabama is piecing together. SEC schools are scattered throughout the recruiting rankings, a suggestion the conference is managing to lure plenty of good, quality talent as this recruiting cycle comes to a close.

According to the latest Rivals team recruiting rankings, 10 of the top 25 schools hail from the Southeastern Conference. That number includes all seven from the SEC West, with Alabama leading the way as the top-ranked team in the Rivals rankings. At No. 28, Missouri is a tad shy of the top 25. Kentucky (No. 33) is even ranked higher than programs like Michigan State (No. 35) and Arizona (No. 36) and Nebraska (No. 42).

One program from the SEC that has a much lower ranking than you might expect is Florida. At No. 100, the Gators have a long way to go to climb back atop the recruiting rankings, although odds are that can change in a hurry with Jim McElwain hoping to revive the Gators as a football power. While Florida is struggling, in-state rivals are not.

Florida State has consistently been one of the top destinations for high school talent, and this season is no exception to that rule. The Seminoles are ranked fourth in the Rivals rankings, just one spot behind another ACC program, Clemson. USC, from the Pac-12, is currently sitting in second place and likely to make a late surge over the next week and a half. Miami, the other power conference school in the state of Florida, has a top 25 class being put together by Al Golden as well (No. 22).

The reigning national champions from Ohio State should have a tremendous amount of depth next season. The Buckeyes did not see one underclassman declare early for the NFL Draft and Braxton Miller has now hinted at a possible return to Columbus. Throw that on top of what Rivals ranks the No. 7 recruiting class and Urban Meyer looks to have the Buckeyes situated in a very good position in the Big Ten for years to come. Only one other Big Ten program ranks in the top 25, according to Rivals.

Penn State, at No. 10, is now working with a full set of scholarships and is moving forward with a slightly more focus on quantity over quality. Penn State is without five-star talent but James Franklin is filling many roster spots with four and three-star talent that can have potential. No other Big Ten program cracks the top 25, although Wisconsin (No. 26) is right there and recently added a couple of solid players to the mix for 2015. Michigan has some work to do and will likely be a more solid threat in 2016, but Jim Harbaugh has managed to flip a four-star quarterback from Texas to Michigan, and there is plenty of hype surrounding the Wolverines moving forward.

You might be wondering about the Pac-12, especially given the rise of the conference as a whole on the playing field the last few seasons. Yes, the Pac-12 is doing just fine. USC has been a traditional force among Pac-12 schools and continues to bring in plenty of talent. But right now the Trojans are playing on a different playing field compared to the rest of the Pac-12. Oregon is the next highest-ranked team in the Rivals recruiting rankings, at No. 17. UCLA follows at No. 18, and Arizona State (No. 24) and Washington (No. 25) round out the top 25.

Everybody has a different philosophy when it comes to evaluating recruiting. Whether you believe in star rankings or not, the bottom line is coaches that tap the full potential of their players will be the ones that are successful and winning games. You do not necessarily need five-star players to win big. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. Neither team playing in next week’s Super Bowl has a player that was rated five stars coming out of high school, according to this study from SB Nation.

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Senior Bowl was a Twitter winner ahead of UFC and college hoops

Reese's Senior Bowl

The week between the NFL’s conference championship Sunday and the Super Bowl tends to be a rough one for sports on TV. But even when things look bleak, football finds a way to come out a winner.

Saturday’s Senior Bowl was the number one sports program being tweeted about yesterday, according to the overnight numbers from Nielsen. The Senior Bowl, which aired on NFL Network, saw a larger unique audience on Twitter than UFC Fight Night on FOX and a men’s college basketball game between Michigan and Wisconsin airing on ESPN.

Per Nielsen’s numbers, over 2 million Twitter users keeping tabs on the Senior Bowl, which was won by the North. The college football all-star event stayed just ahead of the UFC fight, which had 1.976 million paying attention on Twitter. The UFC event did have more unique authors (31,000 different unique authors) than the Senior Bowl (19,000 unique authors on Twitter).

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings: Unique Audience (1/24/2015)

1. Senior Bowl, NFL Network – 2,003,000

2. UFC Fight Night, FOX – 1,976,000

3. College Basketball (Michigan vs. Wisconsin), ESPN – 1,804,000

4. Spanish Primera Division Soccer (Cordoba CF vs. Real Madrid CF), beIN Sports – 1,775,000

5. NBA Basketball (Detroit vs. Milwaukee), NBA TV – 1,758,000

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings: Unique Authors (1/24/2015)

1. UFC Fight Night, FOX – 31,000

2. Spanish Primera Division Soccer (Cordoba CF vs. Real Madrid CF), beIN Sports – 26,000

3. Senior Bowl, NFL Network – 19,000

4. NBA Basketball (Detroit vs. Milwaukee), NBA TV – 14,000

5. College Basketball (Michigan vs. Wisconsin), ESPN – 13,000

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