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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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TCU with good news, no news on skill-player front

B.J. Catalon, Orion Stewart

TCU’s skill-position players are getting healthier. Whether they are getting really healthy as the push toward a potential spot in the College Football Playoff remains to be seen.

Gary Patterson confirmed Tuesday that wide receiver Deante’ Gray will play in the Thanksgiving Day game against Texas. Gray has missed the past two games with a foot injury.

Despite being sidelined for a pair of games, Gray is still tied for the lead in touchdown receptions with seven, while he’s third in receiving yards (486) and fourth in receptions (29).

On the not-so-good injury front is B.J. Catalon.

The running back sustained what’s only been described as an upper-torso injury — the speculation is that it’s a concussion — in the Nov. 1 win over West Virginia. Catalon did not play in the last two games, wins over Kansas State and Kansas, because of the injury. Whether it’s a third straight sidelining is unclear, although it’s not sounding promising.

I don’t know whether B.J. will be with us or not,” the head coach said when asked about Catalon’s availability for the holiday road trip to Austin.

This season, Catalon has accounted for 910 all-purpose yards — 493 rushing, 163 receiving, 254 on returns. That versatility led the junior to be named as one of the five finalists for the Hornung Award.

Despite those two missed games, he still leads the Horned Frogs with 10 rushing touchdowns. He’s returned a punt for a touchdown this year as well.

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Wazzu to induct Steve Gleason into its Hall of Fame

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints

If you’re looking for a morning pick-me-up, we have you covered.

During Saturday’s Apple Cup game with Washington, Washington State will induct its Class of 2014 into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. That class will consist of one person: Steve Gleason.

Gleason played both football and baseball for the Cougars from 1995-99. On the gridiron, he was a two-time captain; he was a captain on the baseball team his senior year as well. Three times he earned All-Pac-10 honors in football, and four times he was a Pac-10 All-Academic selection.

In 2011, a handful of years after a seven-year NFL career came to an end, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since then, Gleason established “Team Gleason,” a foundation that looks to raise money and awareness for ALS.

Gleason raising awareness will serve as his lasting and most impactful legacy; his collegiate athletic prowess, though, will now have an official legacy as well.

“Steve is a tremendous Cougar and his induction Saturday night into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame is well deserved,” said athletic director Bill Moos in a statement. “With a sold-out Martin Stadium for the Apple Cup, I can think of no better setting to highlight Steve’s accomplishments than in front of a fan base that has admired him for so many years.”

Gleason’s induction will take place between the first and second quarters of the rivalry game. It will mark the first time in the school’s history that just one former student-athlete has been inducted in that year’s class.

Based on how Gleason lived his life before and after his diagnosis, the honor is well-deserved.

 

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Guy, Mackey, O’Brien, Outland, Thorpe awards announce finalists

Melbourne Cup Day

It was a busy Tuesday night for major awards announcing its finalists, as evidenced by the fact that CFT is now just getting to the other half of them.

The finalists for the Maxwell (most outstanding player at any position), Nagurski (defensive player), Biletnikoff (wide receiver), Groza (kicker) and Walker (running back) awards we’ve already covered; now we’ll get to the other five. In announcements Tuesday night, the Guy (punter), Mackey (tight end), O’Brien (quarterback), Outland (interior lineman) and Thorpe (defensive back) finalists were revealed.

Below are the three distinguished finalists for each award:

RAY GUY AWARD
Tom Hackett, Utah (Jr.)
JK Scott, Alabama (Fr.)
Austin Rehkow, Idaho (Soph.)

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
Trevone Boykin, TCU (Jr.)
Marcus Mariota, Oregon (RS Jr.)
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (Jr.)

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
Nick O’Leary, Florida State (Sr.)
Clive Walford, Miami (Sr.)
Maxx Williams, Minnesota (RS Soph.)

OUTLAND TROPHY
Malcom Brown, Texas (Jr.)
Reese Dismukes, Auburn (Sr.)
Brandon Scherff, Iowa (Sr.)

JIM THORPE AWARD
Landon Collins, Alabama (Jr.)
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (Sr.)
Gerod Holliman, Louisville (RS So.)

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Amari Cooper likely to become Alabama’s first Biletnikoff winner

Amari Cooper

And then there were three. The competition for the Biletnikoff Award is down to three of the nation’s top wide receivers. Alabama’s Amari Cooper is the lone player from a College Football Playoff contender in the running, although that should not diminish the accomplishments of two others up for the award.

Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins and West Virginia’s Kevin White are also finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top wide receiver in college football. No player from any of these three schools has ever won the award, which was first awarded in 1994.

Last year’s award went to Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. This year’s award will be presented on December 11 during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

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Les Miles will worry about LSU’s QB future, in the future

Les Miles

LSU has one more game to play in the 2014 regular season before going to a bowl game. Some are already wondering what head coach Les Miles is going to do with the quarterback position in the future, but Miles is not ready to make any long-term decisions. He still has a game at Texas A&M to prepare for after all. But he will make those decisions at the appropriate time. When he does, freshman Brandon Harris appears to be getting a chance to make his case for the starting job.

“We’ve chosen not to make the decision on our future quarterback until down the road,” Miles said during his weekly radio show Tuesday night, according to The Advocate. “That’s why he’s getting 50 percent of the reps.”

Harris has appeared in eight games this season. In those games, Harris has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 452 yards and six touchdowns. He has been intercepted twice. Harris has not been seen much since an early October game against Auburn.

“We like Brandon Harris, and he’s coming. We’re not going to put parameters on that,” Miles added. “What we’re trying to get accomplished is put him in a position where he can go on the field and give us some explosive plays and not necessarily encumber him with the full offense, the whole thing. If we can do that, we might be able to get him on the field.”

Anthony Jennings, a sophomore, is the other quarterback in the mix, of course. Jennings has completed 47.9 percent of his passes in 11 games for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns. He has been picked off six times this season.

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Ohio State’s Spence declared permanently ineligible by Big Ten

Ohio State Buckeyes v Michigan State Spartans 12-7-2013

We will not see defensive end Noah Spence wearing an Ohio State football uniform this season, and we may not see him in any Big Ten uniform anytime soon. The Big Ten has declared Spence permanently ineligible from all intercollegiate athletics competition. Ohio State released a statement with that decision Tuesday night.

Spence was suspended by Ohio State earlier this season following a failed drug test. It was not the first time Spence failed a drug test at Ohio State, which led to an automatic suspension by the program and the threat of the NCAA wiping out the remaining two years of his eligibility.

Spence was guided through an appeals process by Ohio State, which is customary when filing appeals to the NCAA. That appeals process played out today, and it did not go well for Spence.

“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we are pleased that Noah has come a long way and we are very proud of the progress he has made with regard to his health,” Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith said in the released statement. “The Department of Athletics will continue to assist Noah through his pursuits and provide the academic resources necessary to help him complete his degree program.

Spence took to Twitter to express his feelings as well.

What is next for Spence is unknown at this point. Hopefully the troubles are behind him and he can find a way to thrive on and off the football field.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: No change in top four, but hello Boise State and Marshall!

Oklahoma State v Florida State Getty Images

The top of the latest College Football Playoff rankings look the same as they did a week ago, but this week’s rankings saw a significant development toward the bottom of the order.

Alabama remains on top of the playoff ranking, followed by Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State in that order. This is the same top four from last week. TCU remains sitting in fifth place, waiting for a shot to creep into the top four, just as it did last week.

Boise State and Marshall made their respective debuts in the playoff ranking this week, and this is notable. The highest-ranked conference champion from a non-power conference will be given a spot in an access bowl. If Boise State wins the Mountain West Conference, it will be difficult for Marshall to make up enough ground to pass the Broncos despite trailing Boise State by one in the rankings.

The Top Four

1. Alabama

2. Oregon

3. Florida State

4. Mississippi State

No change here, perhaps as expected. The question was whether or not the committee would drop Florida State after another close loss during a week that saw Mississippi State blow away Vanderbilt. This was not the case, although that precedent had already been set. The big question the next two weeks will be whether or not Mississippi State without a conference championship can stay ahead of a one-loss Big 12 and/or Big Ten champion.

Who Is On Deck?

5. TCU

6. Ohio State

7. Baylor

Ohio State remains one spot behind TCU, which means it looks like the Buckeyes could need a little help to move up two spots. The good news for Ohio State is the Buckeyes could have a Big Ten championship game match-up with a rising Wisconsin team to help push them up in the final rankings if things go Ohio State’s way. We also need to know when the committee might feel the time is right to move Baylor ahead of TCU with a head-to-head result in favor of the Bears.

The Full Ranking

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 7.39.15 PM

Some Quick Thoughts

We finally got a glimpse of the non-power conference representation in this week’s ranking, yet it does not come without some potential controversy. Boise State, if it wins out, would have a more impressive overall body of work compared to a potentially undefeated Marshall, but what about Colorado State? If Boise State slips, Marshall is set up to stay ahead of a one-loss Colorado State team at a late point in the season. The committee will have to hope Boise State runs the table, because Colorado State with one loss has an even stronger case than a two-loss Boise State does against an undefeated Marshall. Colorado State has two victories against power conferences away from home compared to zero for Marshall, and the Rams only lost one game, at Boise State.

At what point does the committee remember that Baylor beat TCU? It has to happen at some point, right? Although TCU’s non-conference drubbing of Minnesota clearly looks better now, and may be a key win to hold over Ohio State as well. TCU defeated Minnesota by a wider margin of victory compared to the Buckeyes.

Minnesota avoided being dropped from the committee’s top 25 last week despite losing, and a win against Nebraska helped move them up seven spots this week. This is great news for TCU and Ohio State.

Take a look at UCLA. The Bruins continue to wiggle up the rankings, and could still be within reach of making the top four with a little help. If UCLA wins this weekend against Stanford, the Bruins will play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. UCLA has struggled to get over the hump to be an elite team in the Pac-12, but they seem to be surging at a very good time. It may be a lot of ground to make up in two weeks, but it is far from impossible.

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Maxwell Football Club award finalists include Mariota, Prescott, Gordon and Beasley

Dak Prescott

The Maxwell Football Club has announced the three finalists for each of its individual awards, the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon have been named finalists for the Maxwell Award. Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III have been named finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award.

the Maxwell Award is presented to the top player in college football as determined by the Maxwell Football Club and voting panel. The award does not always go to the player that wins the Heisman Trophy. Last year, for example, the Maxwell Award went to Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Mariota, Gordon and Prescott may be likely names to be heading to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation at the end of the season, but the odds may be good the Maxwell Award goes to another player. No Oregon or Mississippi State player has ever won the Maxwell Award, but Wisconsin has one. The last running back to iwn the award was Penn State’s Larry Johnson in 2002.

The Chuck Bednarik Award is in its 20th season and goes to the top defensive player as determined by the Maxwell Football Club and its voters. Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald won the award last season. Whichever player wins the award this year will be doing so for the first time in school history.

this year’s winners for each award will be announced on December 11 during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN. The awards will be formally presented in Atlantic City, New Jersey in March as part of the Maxwell Football Club’s Awards Gala.

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Doak Walker Award finalists filled by Big Ten trio

Melvin Gordon, Desmond King

The Big Ten has a handful of really good running backs, and it shows with the naming of the finalists for the Doak Walker Award. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman were each named finalists for the top running back award, filling all three finalist spots.

Gordon held the single-game rushing record for just one week, but his production this season has been steady. Gordon leads the nation in rushing with 2,109 rushing yards with one more regular season game to play and possibly two more if Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten Championship Game and Gordon plays in Wisconsin’s bowl game.

Abdullah is also one of the top running backs in the country, but he has been slowed by injuries at times. Abdullah is still on track for a possible 2,000-yard season with 20 rushing touchdowns with one regular season game left and a bowl game.

Indiana’s offense may have been a disappointment this season, but this does not apply for Coleman. Coleman is the nation’s second-leading rusher behind Gordon with 1,906 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Coleman has carried the Hoosiers offense for much of the season, and he has handled it well.

Wisconsin’s Montee Ball was the last Big Ten running back to win the Doak Walker Award, two seasons ago. As good of a running program Nebraska has been through the years, the Cornhuskers have never had a Doak Walker Award winner. Indiana is also looking for its first Doak Walker Award winner. Gordon looks to be the favorite in this pack though.

If Gordon wins the award, he will become the third Wisconsin running back to win the award. That total would also tie Texas for the most Doak Walker Award winners.

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FSU’s Aguayo highlights 2014 Lou Groza Award finalists

Roberto Aguayo

Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo has been named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. This should come as little surprise after the Seminoles kicker won the award in 2013 and has put together another dependable season kicking field goals and extra points for the defending national champions.

Maryland kicker Brad Craddock and West Virginia’s Josh Lambert join Aguayo as finalists for this year’s award for best kicker.

Aguayo is looking to become the second repeat winner of the Lou Groza Award. He would join another former Florida State kicker sharing that honor if he wins the award again. Sebastian Janikowski won the Lou Groza Award in 1998 and 1999. No other player has ever won the award multiple times.

Craddock is the only kicker in the country who has been perfect on all of his field goal attempts, and he has kicked a bunch of them. Craddock is a perfect 17-for-17 this season and the Australien kicker has shown great range at times as well.

No kicker in the country has kicked more field goals than Lambert though. The West Virginia kicker has kicked 24 of 32 kicks for the Mountaineers this season, and his 24 field goals made this season already surpasses the regular season high for kickers in the 2013 regular season.

All three finalists will be honored at a banquet on Tuesday, December 9 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The winner will be revealed during The Home DepotCollege Football Awards Show on Thursday, December 11 in Disney World.

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Auburn loses sacks leader for season before Iron Bowl

Auburn v Mississippi State Getty Images

If Auburn was hoping to find ways to bring down Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, the Tigers may have to look for someone else on the defensive line to step up. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday defensive end DaVonte Lambert will miss the Iron Bowl and Auburn’s bowl game after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left knee on Monday.

“That’s a big blow for us,” Malzahn said, per The Montgomery Advertiser. “We’re going to need some guys to step up.”

Lambert led the defense with 3.5 sacks this season. Montravius Adams and Angelo Blackson each have three sacks. Adams is also second on the team in tackles for loss, so he may be the most likely name to watch try and fill the void left by Lambert.

Lambert had been listed as the starting defensive end for Auburn on this week’s depth chart for the Alabama game. Sophomore Elijah Daniel (3.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks) is listed as his back-up.

“He’s a factor,” Malzahn said. “But we need some other guys to step up. Football’s a team game and when you’re playing against your rival, it’s got the ability to have guys step up and play better than they have all year, and that’s what we need.”

Getting sacks against Alabama is tough enough. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 10.0 sacks all season. Auburn has just 19.0 sacks this season as well. Losing one of their better sack specialists could be tough to overcome.

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Alabama and Florida State in mix for 2017 Atlanta game? Yes please

Boise State v Georgia Getty Images

Florida State and Alabama have met just four times dating back to 1965, although we could be heading to a postseason head-to-head clash between the Seminoles and Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff. We could also be on the verge of seeing the two southern powers collide in Atlanta to open the 2017 season, and that would be awesome.

The Palm Beach Post reports Alabama and Florida State are discussing a potential 2017 season opener in Atlanta, which would likely be a part of the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff. The game typically features a team from the SEC and the ACC often fills the other spot for the high-profile game. Alabama has been a frequent visitor to Atlanta for these games as well, so hearing about the possibility of the Tide once again playing in Atlanta to open the season is no shock.

According to the report, Alabama had also been in discussions about playing a game in 2017 with Penn State and USC, although the extent of those talks is unconfirmed. Penn State’s 2017 non-conference schedule is already filled, and USC has one spot to fill. The Trojans are also set to open the 2016 season against Alabama in Arlington.

By 2017, both the ACC and SEC will have a non-conference scheduling requirement in place that requires all conference members to schedule at least one game against another power conference opponent. Florida State has this requirement fulfilled by playing Florida each season. A game with Florida State would fulfill the requirement for Alabama in 2017.

Alabama leads the all-time series 2-1-1. The last time the teams played was in 2007 in another neutral site game in Jacksonville. Florida State won the September game, 21-14. Alabama has hosted the other three meeting in the series, winning two, between 1965 and 1974.

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Hugh Freeze to Florida? Rumor mill is turning out unlikely scenarios

Hugh Freeze

There is no question the Florida coaching vacancy that will soon officially become available will be one of the top landing spots for some coach in this season’s edition of the coaching carousel, and the rumor mill should be working at high speed in the coming weeks as Florida looks to find a replacement for outgoing Will Muschamp. One name that has been thrown out there in the coaching rumor mill already is Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.

On the surface, it would seem to make sense Freeze would be on the list of potential targets for Florida, and why not? Freeze has shown signs of solid recruiting and development with the Ole Miss program in his short time in Oxford, and the Rebels looked to be one of the top teams in the country until the last few weeks. Despite a couple of losses in recent weeks, Ole Miss still looks to be in a better position than Florida right now, and that alone should be enough to keep Freeze in Ole Miss.

This time of the year always seems to turn out rumor after rumor, and sometimes those rumors may be leaked by agents representing coaches ready to either make a move or make a power move to get a brand new contract signed. Ole Miss is already working to put an end to any potential coaching rumors tied to Freeze. The school is already in the process of working on a new contract for Freeze, which both sides previously were reported to be in agreement to finalize after the regular season. The job security for Freeze at Ole Miss also appears to be very good, as he has already had his contract extended twice before.

Freeze leaving Ole Miss may not necessarily be out of the question, but leaving a job at one SEC school with as much job security as Ole Miss has provided for a bit of a rebuilding project at Florida does not appear to be the likely scenario to bank on. Coaches rarely make a move from one school to another within the same conference too. It is even more rare to see a coach at a strong program leave to rebuild another in the same conference.

Florida announced last week Muschamp will be removed as head coach at the conclusion of the regular season. It was Muschamp’s decision, apparently, to not coach the Gators in any potential bowl game the program will be invited to play. This makes sense, as it gives him plenty of time to focus on his next job, whatever and wherever that may be. It also gives the entire program a chance to move in a new direction and the players a chance to play without the distractions that could come with the Muschamp sideshow.

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Texas’ Espinosa won’t seek sixth year

Mississippi v Texas

As it turns out, an injury occurred early on in the season has played a significant role in one of the most experienced Texas offensive linemen calling it a career.

Starting center Dominic Espinosa sustained what turned out to be a very significant ankle injury in UT’s season-opening win over North Texas.  Because a health issue kept him off the field as a true freshman in 2010, it was thought that the offensive lineman would apply for a sixth season of eligibility and return to the Longhorns in 2015.

That won’t be the case, however, as Espinosa himself confirmed, via a very heartfelt letter penned to the fans of the football program and posted on social media, that he is retiring from the game of football.

Prior to the injury in the opener, Espinosa had started 40 straight games at center for the Longhorns.

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Stanford won’t have Ty Montgomery for game vs. UCLA

Ryan Murphy, Ty Montgomery AP

Stanford’s offense has been bad enough with Ty Montgomery on the field.  Without him?  That’s far from optimal, yet that’s the position the Cardinal will find itself this weekend.

Tuesday afternoon, David Shaw confirmed that the all-purpose wide receiver will not play in Friday’s regular-season finale against UCLA.  Montgomery sustained an injury to his right shoulder very early on in last weekend’s win over Cal.

It’s the same shoulder that nearly kept him out of the opener after undergoing surgery earlier in the offseason.  Shaw did say there’s a “distinct possibility” he’ll be healthy enough to play in a bowl game.

Montgomery leads the Cardinal in receptions (61) and receiving yards (604), and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (three).  Montgomery’s absence will also hurt the Cardinal on special teams as he’s their leading kickoff (25.2 yards per return) and punt returner (19.8 ypr).  He’s returned two punts for touchdowns this season.

The Hornung Award finalist being unavailable could also impact the Pac-12 South race.

If UCLA wins Saturday, they claim the division title and the spot opposite Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.  If UCLA loses, the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game earns the berth.

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