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Arkansas announces 2013 signing class

University of Arkansas Introduces Bret Bielema Getty Images

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 22 members of Arkansas’ 2013 recruiting class.)

Austin Allen
QB, 6-2, 210, Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Allen led Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships and was named MVP of both championship games. After his senior season, he was selected as Arkansas’ 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year. He was the 17th-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country and No. 3 player in Arkansas by 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com also tabbed him as the No. 3 player in the state. He was an all-state player in his senior season, when he was 233-of-366 passing for 3,593 yards and 29 touchdowns and added 200 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing to lead Fayetteville to a 10-3 mark and the state title. Following his senior year, he was selected for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl and started for the East Team. As a junior, he completed 270-of-420 passes, a 64.3 percent completion rate, for 4,150 yards and 46 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions. Allen also rushed for 300 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Bulldogs to a 12-2 record and the state crown. He was an active member of FCA and in his local youth group and also worked with local Boys & Girls Clubs. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton. Austin’s brother, Brandon, is a quarterback at UA and his father, Bobby, is the Razorbacks’ director of high school relations. Allen had multiple scholarship offers before choosing Arkansas.

Tevin Beanum
DE, 6-3, 235, Forrest City, Ark. (Forrest City HS)
Beanum was ranked as the No. 8 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and the No. 9 player in the state by 247Sports.com. He finished his senior season with 76 tackles, 7.5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble while helping Forrest City advance to the 5A state playoffs and finish with a winning record for the first time since 2009. His first season of high school football was his junior year, and he recorded 50 tackles, including 5.0 sacks, and recovered three fumbles for the Mustangs. He volunteered at his local animal shelter while in high school. He was coached at Forrest City by Rich Trail.

Alex Brignoni
S, 6-1, 200, Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Brignoni helped lead Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships in his last two seasons. He was ranked as the No. 5 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com. As a senior, he was named to the all-state team after recording 89 tackles, six pass breakups and five interceptions on the way to the state title. Fayetteville’s defense allowed an average of 16.0 points per game over the final 11 games of 2012 after Brignoni returned from missing the first two games due to an injury. His junior year, he recorded 126 tackles and 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, as the Bulldogs finished 12-2 and won the state title. He helped Fayetteville advance to the state championship game as a sophomore. He was a member of FCA while in high school. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton and selected Arkansas over multiple offers, including Illinois.

De’Andre Coley
S, 6-1, 178, Miami, Fla. (Northwestern HS)
Coley was ranked as the No. 52 safety in the country by ESPN. As a senior, he helped Northwestern advance to the second round of the 6A state playoffs where the Bulls fell to the eventual state champions and ended their season with a 9-3 record. He recorded 68 tackles, including six sacks, one interception and 12 pass breakups as the defense held opponents to an average of 12.3 points per game and allowed seven points or less in seven games, including two shutouts. In his junior season, Northwestern’s defense allowed 20 points per game in an 8-2 campaign. He also ran track, where he was a member of the state runner-up team in 2012 boasting a 10.6 100-meter dash time and took the baton for the second leg of the 4×100 relay. He was coached at Northwestern by Stephen Field. Coley selected the Razorbacks over TCU.

D.J. Dean
CB, 5-10, 180, Newton, Texas (Newton HS)
Dean was an impact player on both sides of the ball at Newton, playing cornerback and quarterback. As a senior, he was named district MVP after leading the Eagles to the semifinal round of the state playoffs and a 13-1 final record. He recorded 34 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble and also passed for 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 1,014 yards and 20 touchdowns. In his junior season, he made 46 tackles and five interceptions while passing for 1,280 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing for 672 yards and eight touchdowns. He was coached at Newton by W.T. Johnston. Dean received several offers and chose Arkansas over Baylor and Utah.

Brooks Ellis
LB, 6-2, 215, Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Ellis helped lead Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships in his last two years and was named the state’s Defensive Player of the Year in each. He was ranked as the No. 4 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, and was rated 24th in the country at his position by 247Sports and 42nd by Rivals. As a senior, he was named to the all-state team despite missing the first two games after he registered 114 tackles, 16.0 for loss with 4.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery on the way to the state title. Following his junior season, he was also named the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s 7A Player of the Year. He recorded 86 tackles, 22.5 for loss with 13.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups at linebacker as the Bulldogs finished 12-2 and won the state title. As a sophomore, he started at safety and recorded 87 tackles, five for loss, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He was named the 2010 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sophomore Defensive Player of the Year and helped Fayetteville advance to the state championship game after recording 130 tackles, five pass breakups and three forced fumbles. He served as student body treasurer at Fayetteville and also was a member of FCA and the National Honor Society. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton and chose Arkansas over multiple other offers.

Denzell Evans
RB, 6-0, 205, Houston, Texas (Bellaire HS)
Evans was a three-year starter at Bellaire, rushing for 2,350 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career. He was named first-team all-district after his senior season when he rushed for 1,147 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead Bellaire into the 5A Division I state playoffs. As a junior, he averaged 7.4 yards per carry, totaling 997 yards on 135 rushes and scored 11 touchdowns while the Cardinals won seven games and qualified for the state playoffs. He gained 711 yards and scored eight touchdowns as a sophomore, when Bellaire played in the first round of the state playoffs. He was coached at Bellaire by Trey Hermann and Trey Sissom. Evans selected Arkansas over offers from Arizona State, Kansas State, Michigan State and Houston, among others.

Melvinson Hartfield
WR, 5-11, 183, Dallas, Texas (South Oak Cliff HS)
Hartfield played both sides of the ball for South Oak Cliff. In his senior year, he led a defense that allowed an average of 10.4 points per game while helping the Bears to nine wins and a spot in the 4A Division 2 state playoffs. On offense, he added 12 receptions for 324 yards and four touchdowns. As a junior, he recorded 46 tackles and one interception as the defense held opponents to 13.9 points per game and South Oak Cliff put together an undefeated regular season and advanced to the state playoffs. He was active in his local church and was coached at South Oak Cliff by Emmett Jones. Hartfield selected Arkansas over Kansas State and Texas Tech.

Hunter Henry
TE, 6-5, 238, Little Rock, Ark. (Pulaski Academy)
Henry was rated as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the nation by Tom Lemming. He was named to the PARADE All-America Team, named a first-team All-American by 247Sports.com and a second-team All-American by Max Preps. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 2 tight end in the country, and 247Sports and Scout.com tabbed him as the nation’s No. 4 tight end. ESPN ranked him as the No. 1 player in Arkansas, and Rivals and 247Sports had him as the No. 2 player in the state. As a senior, he caught 107 passes for 1,449 yards and 15 touchdowns while helping lead Pulaski Academy to the semifinal round of the 5A state playoffs. Following his senior year, he was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game, where he was voted a team captain and started for the White Team. He caught 64 passes for 1,093 yards and 16 touchdowns in his junior season as the Bruins claimed the 4A state championship and finished 14-0. He played on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, hauling in 45 passes for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns and registering 30 tackles, three for loss, and one fumble recovery while P.A. advanced to the state title game and finished 13-2. He was involved in his church’s youth group and an FCA leader at P.A., where he helped lead a food drive for the homeless. He was coached at Pulaski Academy by Kevin Kelley. Henry chose Arkansas over Alabama after receiving numerous offers.

Sam Irwin-Hill
P, 6-3, 215, Bendingo, Australia (City College of San Francisco)
Irwin-Hill is an ambidextrous punter, possessing the ability to punt with either leg, and ranked as the No. 1 junior college punter in America by 247Sports.com. He was named a first-team All-American as a sophomore after punting 44 times for an average of 41.7 yards per punt, including a long of 77 yards, and also dropped 15 punts inside the 20-yard line while helping City College advance to the California Community College Athletic Association championship game and finish the season 10-2. In his freshman year, he averaged 40.6 yards per punt with a long of 62 as the Rams won the CCCAA state title and ended the season with a perfect 12-0 mark. He was coached at City College by George Rush. Irwin-Hill selected Arkansas over Miami.

Denver Kirkland
OG, 6-5, 320, Miami, Fla. (Booker T. Washington HS)
Kirkland is a versatile lineman who was ranked as the No. 5 offensive guard in the country by Scout.com and 13th at the position by 247Sports.com, while ESPN tabbed him as the No. 12 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 overall prospect in Florida and Rivals.com pegged him 13th in the country at tackle and 19th overall in the state. His senior season, he was named first-team all-state after anchoring an offensive line that allowed Booker T. Washington to average 53.5 points and 431.2 yards of total offense per game and win the 4A state championship with a 13-1 final record. He was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game following the state championship. As a junior, he was named first-team all-state after the Tornadoes won 13 games and advanced to the state championship game behind an offense that averaged 41.7 points and 404.9 total yards per game. He was coached at Booker T. Washington by Tim Harris. Kirkland chose Arkansas over Ole Miss, Miami, Florida State and South Florida.

Reeve Koehler
OG, 6-3, 325, Honolulu, Hawai’i (Saint Louis School)
Koehler was ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in Hawai’i by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, with Rivals tabbing him as the No. 8 offensive guard in the country and 247Sports ranking him 14th at his position. Following a senior season in which he blocked for an offense that averaged 32.5 points per game, he was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. In his junior year, the Crusaders topped 30 points in five of 10 games and averaged 31.8 points per game. Saint Louis won the Division I state title his sophomore season, when the offense averaged 40.8 points per game, including 39.0 points per game in the playoffs. He was actively involved in community service, including coaching youth league basketball and contributing to Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels, MDA and beach cleanup. He was coached at Saint Louis by John Hao and Matt Wright. Koehler received numerous offers and selected Arkansas over Tennessee, Oregon, Cal and Kansas.

Ke’Tyrus Marks
DT, 6-1, 288, West Palm Beach, Fla. (Suncoast HS)
Marks was a three-year contributor at Suncoast who was selected to play in the Florida-Georgia All-Star Game and the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast All-Star Game following his senior season. He was an all-district honoree after breaking Suncoast’s single-season sacks record with 19 as a senior as part of a 60-tackle season. In his junior year, he made 38 tackles, recovered two fumbles and forced one fumble for the Chargers. His sophomore season, he made 47 tackles, including seven sacks, and forced three fumbles. He has been involved in several community service outreach projects for the less fortunate, including cooking for the elderly and helping his church provide the homeless a place to shower. He was coached at Suncoast by Jim Clark. Marks chose Arkansas over multiple offers, including Wake Forest.

Korliss Marshall
S, 6-0, 200, Osceola, Ark. (Osceola HS)
Marshall started at running back for Osceola for three seasons and rushed for more than 4,100 yards and nearly 60 touchdowns. He was rated as the No. 6 overall prospect in Arkansas by Rivals.com and as the state’s 10th-best prospect by 247Sports.com. His senior season, he rushed for 1,711 yards and scored 24 touchdowns to earn all-state recognition and help lead Osceola to the second round of the 3A state playoffs. As a junior, he accumulated 1,421 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground as the Seminoles advanced to the second round of the 4A state playoff bracket. His sophomore season, he gained 973 yards and scored 12 touchdowns rushing. He was an active member of FCA and was coached at Osceola by Russell Leggett. Marshall selected Arkansas after receiving multiple offers.

Damon Mitchell
QB, 6-2, 200, Egg Harbor City, N.J. (Cedar Creek HS)
Mitchell was ranked as the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the No. 12 overall prospect in New Jersey by 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com pegged him 15th in the nation at his position and 20th in New Jersey. In his senior season, he passed for 2,025 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 1,027 yards and 21 touchdowns to lead Cedar Creek to 11 wins and an appearance in the NJSIAA South Group 2 championship game. As a junior, he played quarterback and safety, passing for 859 yards and nine touchdowns and rushing for 937 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 43 tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups on defense. He was coached at Cedar Creek by Tim Watson. Mitchell selected Arkansas over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.

Drew Morgan
WR, 6-0, 190, Greenwood, Ark. (Greenwood HS)
Morgan helped lead Greenwood to two undefeated seasons, two state championships in different classifications, and was named MVP of both championship games. He was ranked as the No. 7 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and as the No. 13 prospect in the state by 247Sports.com. He won the Landers Award as the state’s best high school player following his senior season in which he contributed on offense and defense to Greenwood’s 6A state championship and 15-0 record. He also was named the state’s Offensive Player of the Year after making 83 receptions for 1,122 yards and 14 touchdowns and 82 rushes for 764 yards and 19 touchdowns. He recorded 73 tackles, 20.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups on defense in 2012. As a junior, he caught 85 passes for 1,400 yards and 25 touchdowns while adding 89 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns for the 14-0 5A state champions. He was involved in FCA, assisted with Special Olympics and was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. He was coached at Greenwood by Rick Jones. Morgan selected Arkansas over multiple offers, including Auburn.

Dan Skipper
OT, 6-10, 295, Arvada, Colo. (Ralston Valley HS)
Skipper was rated as the No. 32 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com, the No. 4 prospect in Colorado and the No. 46 offensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com, and the state’s No. 5 prospect and the country’s 47th offensive tackle by 247Sports.com. He earned 5A all-state recognition as a senior, helping Ralston Valley average 35.8 points per game while advancing to the semifinal round of the state playoffs, and after the season was selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. His junior season, the Mustangs put together a 10-2 record and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. He was a member of student government all four years in high school, where he contributed more than 100 hours of community service and served his senior year as student body president. He also was a member of the National Honor Society and volunteered for a program to mentor incoming freshmen. His coach at Ralston Valley was Matt Loyd. Skipper received numerous scholarship offers and chose Arkansas over Ole Miss, Tennessee, Ohio State and Michigan.

Tiquention Coleman
S, 5-10, 195, Mauldin, S.C. (Georgia Military College /Mauldin HS)
Coleman comes to Arkansas ranked as the No. 10 junior college safety in the country by 247Sports.com after starting every game in his two seasons at Georgia Military College. In 2012, he recorded 44 tackles, four interceptions, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble to help the Bulldogs advance to the Heart of Texas Bowl. As a freshman, he made 30 tackles and forced two fumbles as Georgia Military earned six wins with four shutouts. In his senior season at Mauldin, he helped lead the Mavericks to a berth the 4A state playoffs and as a junior he led a defense that held six opponents to 14 points or less on the way to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. He was coached at Georgia Military by Bert Williams and at Mauldin by Doug Shaw. Coleman selected Arkansas over Wisconsin and Arizona.

Johnathan McClure
OL, 6-4, 310, Wichita, Kan. (Butler CC/Wichita Heights HS)
McClure was an All-American in both of his seasons at Butler, earning first-team honors in 2012 and second-team recognition as a freshman. He was ranked as the No. 5 junior college offense guard in the country by 247Sports.com. He started all 12 games in his sophomore season, helping lead the Grizzlies to a No. 2 national ranking and the NJCCA Football Championship Game with an offense that averaged 45.2 points and 487.8 yards of total offense per game. In 2011, he anchored a line that allowed the offense to average 48.6 points and 499.3 yards of total offense per game as Butler finished the year 11-1 with a victory in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl. As a senior at Wichita Heights, he was named a first-team all-state performer by the Kansas Football Coaches Association after helping lead the Falcons to the 6A state championship game. He was coached at Butler by Troy Morrell and at Wichita Heights by Rick Wheeler.

Martrell Spaight
LB, 6-0, 220, North Little Rock, Ark. (Coffeyville [Kan.] CC/North Little Rock HS)
Spaight was a two-time junior college All-American at Coffeyville Community College. He was ranked as the No. 8 junior college outside linebacker in the nation by 247Sports.com and was 82nd in ESPN’s Junior College 100 ranking. He was a first-team NJCAA All-American and the Jayhawk Community College Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 after collecting more than 100 tackles for the second consecutive season. As a sophomore, he recorded 130 tackles, 13.5 for loss with 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. His tackles total was fourth on Coffeyville’s single-season list. In his freshman year, he earned NJCAA All-America honors after making 101 tackles, 9.0 for loss with 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. As a senior at North Little Rock, he was a 7A Central all-state selection. He was coached at Coffeyville by Aaron Flores and at North Little Rock by Brad Bolding. Spaight selected Arkansas over Kansas State.

Myke Tavarres
LB, 6-2, 215, Lake Oswego, Ore. (College of the Siskiyous/Lakeridge HS)
Tavarres comes to Arkansas as a two-time all-conference selection at College of the Siskiyous in California. He was ranked as the No. 7 junior college outside linebacker in the country by 247Sports.com and 63rd in ESPN’s Junior College 100 ranking. He recorded 85 tackles, 12.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 2012, helping lead the Eagles to a 10-1 record, the most wins in school history, and the CCCAA Central Division championship. As a freshman, he made 51 tackles, 12.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks, one interception and four pass breakups. As a senior at Lakeridge, he collected 135 tackles, including 20 in one game and 17 the next week, and 5.0 sacks with one interception, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He was coached at Siskiyous by Charlie Roche and at Lakeridge by Tom Smythe. Tavarres chose the Razorbacks over offers from Boise State and Arizona, among others.

Carroll Washington
CB, 6-0, 175, Baltimore, Md. (Hartnell [Calif.] CC/Edmondson-Westside HS)
Washington was ranked as the No. 1 junior college cornerback and the No. 10 overall junior college player in the nation by 247Sports.com. He was an all-conference performer and collected 25 tackles as a sophomore in 2012 while adding three interceptions, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In his freshman season for Hartnell, he recorded 27 tackles, four interceptions, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while earning all-conference recognition and helping the Panthers to Coast Conference and Southern Division titles. He played on both sides of the ball in high school and made 38 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and one forced fumble on defense while catching 35 passes for 653 yards and one touchdown and rushing 21 times for 204 yards and two scores as a senior. In his junior season, he quarterbacked the Red Storm into the second round of the state playoffs, finishing the year 60-of-110 passing for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing 53 times for 437 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, he collected 11 tackles, two pass breakups and one forced fumble. He has volunteered at the Baltimore Boys & Girls Club, assisting with after-school programs. He was coached at Hartnell by Matt Collins and at Edmondson-Westside by Dante Jones. Washington chose Arkansas over Mississippi State, among others.

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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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Tennessee recruit pokes a stick at his new SEC rivals

Butch Jones

Tennessee football is looking to be improving with another year of Butch Jones at the helm. It has been a while since the Vols had the opportunity to do some smack talk in the SEC, or even just the SEC East. The pride in the program has been undergoing a restoration project brick by brick, as Jones likes to say, and it seems to be catching on. Even incoming Vols are buying into the mindset, and some are not afraid to start talking the talk before getting a chance to walk the walk.

Kahlil McKenzie is a big recruit for Jones at Tennessee, both literally and figuratively. The five-star defensive tackle from California measures in at 6’4″, 320 pounds and he could slide right into a starting job in Knoxville this fall. He also talks a big game on Twitter. This weekend he took to Twitter to lay down some zingers aimed at Tennessee rivals, like Vanderbilt and Alabama…

McKenzie has a point here. Dixieland Delight may be a classic, but many of us have had our fill of the song Alabama fans love. Of course, tweets like this make for some good bulletin board material, if nothing else. MCKenzie made sure to let everyone know he is just having some fun.

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LSU adds Leonard Fournette’s brother to latest recruiting class

If you thought LSU might be tough with one Fournette on the field, imagine what it could do with two. Lanard Fournette, the younger brother of LSU’s rising running back star Leonard Fournette (pictured) announced this weekend he is joining his brother at LSU.

Lanard Fournette is a two-star athlete according to Rivals, which is a much lower rating than his older brother, Leonard. He does, however, have a three-star composite rating according to the composite ratings compiled by 247 Sports. Leonard was a blue-chip five-star talent out of high school. Lanard seems to be a bit more of a work-in-progress with a smaller frame than his brother. LSU appeared to make some moves in recruiting the younger Fournette shortly after locking up his older brother. LSU has long been the favorite to land Lanard’s commitment, and his brother playing for the Tigers and Les Miles may be a big reason why. Despite offers from schools like Alabama and Miami, Lanard Fournette has long been on track to go to LSU after attending a pair of LSU football camps, attending LSU’s junior day in 2015 and making an official visit over the last year without visiting any other program.

Leonard Fournette will be one of the top running backs in what should be a very strong year across the country for running backs. Fournette was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and could be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy in the fall.

LSU has the No. 12 recruiting class for 2015 according to the most recent team rankings shared by Rivals, but the Tigers have the fourth-ranked class among SEC West schools. Alabama — on track for another recruiting national championship — has the top class in the nation. Texas A&M (No. 9) and Auburn (No. 10) are also in front of LSU among SEC West schools. Tennessee (No. 5) and Georgia (No. 6) are also representing the SEC among the top ten.

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