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Art Briles announces 2013 Baylor signing class

Art Briles AP

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

WACO, Texas — Baylor head coach Art Briles announced Wednesday the signing of 23 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to play football at the school. The 23 2013 signees are comprised of 21 high school standouts and two junior college transfers.

“We’re very pleased with this recruiting class,” Briles said. “This should be the highest rated class we’ve ever had, without question.”

Baylor’s 2013 signing class is stacked with defensive players, as nearly two-thirds of the newcomers are likely to play on the defensive side of the ball under third-year D-coordinator Phil Bennett.

“We needed to be a little heavier defensively, because we lost some guys, and we’re trying to make sure our numbers match out,” Briles said. “So we were a little lighter on the offensive side of the ball than defensively, but that’s the emphasis that we are making. We are doing everything we can to help both sides of the ball.”

The class includes three All-Americans: wide receiver Robbie Rhodes of Southwest High School in Fort Worth, linebacker Taylor Young of DeSoto (Texas) High School and original 2012 signee Brian Nance of Trinity High School in Euless, Texas; as well as four additional national top-200 prospects: freshmen linemen Andrew Billings (DL) of Waco (Texas) High School and Maurice Porter (OL) of Marshall High School in Missouri City, Texas, early enrollee quarterback Chris Johnson of Bryan (Texas) High School and original 2012 signee wide receiver Kiante’ Griffin of Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas.
“I want to say thank you to our commits for staying committed to us,” Briles said, “for a bunch of these guys it was a tremendous amount of time, as far back as last February. For them to stay that committed to us for that amount of time says a lot about them, and also says a lot about the direction of Baylor football and Baylor University. We’ll have a great four-to-five year journey together.

“The thing that’s inspiring not only to the people at Baylor now, but the people that are watching Baylor, is how proactive this University is being from an academic standpoint and an athletic and educational facility standpoint. People see the construction, people see the proactiveness, people want to be a part of it. That is something that everyone is certainly taking note of.”

Baylor’s 2013 class is made up predominantly of Texas recruits (22 of 23 from in-state schools) and includes four student-athletes currently enrolled in Baylor’s spring semester who will participate in 2013 spring drills (scheduled to begin March 1): Griffin, Johnson, Nance and mid-year junior college signee Gus Penning, a tight end from Riverside Community College.

2013 BAYLOR FOOTBALL SIGNING CLASS BREAKDOWN

By State:
Texas (22)
Michigan (1)

By Position:
Offense (8 – 3 receivers, 2 linemen, 1 running back, 1 quarterback, 1 tight end)
Defense (15 – 5 linemen, 5 linebackers, 5 backs)
Athlete (0)
Specialist (0)

By Class:
Freshmen (21)
Sophomores (1)
Juniors (1)

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 23 members of Baylor’s 2013 recruiting class.)

ANDREW BILLINGS
DL – 6-0, 305 – Waco, Texas (Waco HS)
National top 200 local recruit from nearby Waco (Texas) High School… All-state defensive lineman played for head coaches Marty Herbst and Danny Ramsey at WHS… No. 158 overall national prospect on 247Sports.com’s Top247 listing and No. 168 nationally on Rivals250 list… National position rankings among defensive tackles: No. 12 by Rivals.com, No. 12 by Scout.com, No. 12 by 247Sports.com, No. 13 (OG) by ESPN.com… Overall rank among Texas recruits: No. 18 by 247Sports.com, No. 18 by Austin American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55, No. 23 by Rivals.com, No. 35 by ESPN.com and Waco Tribune-Herald (top 50)… Ranked fifth among in-state defensive tackles by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football (first-team “All-Texas”) and seventh by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay State Top 100… Led Waco to 9-4 record and 2012 DII regional quarterfinals as senior… Named first-team 2012 4A All-State and first-team 2012 All-District 8-4A lineman… Totaled 132 pancakes as senior… Also named first-team 2012 All-Super Centex by Waco Tribune-Herald… Helped Waco to 7-4 mark and 2011 DII bi-district finals as junior… Earned 2011 4A All-State honorable mention and first-team 2011 All-District 8-4A honors… Credited with 134 pancakes as junior… Named first-team 2011 All-Super Centex.
BRILES ON BILLINGS
“When you think D-lineman, when you think great person, great leader, passionate player, strongest guy in the state of Texas–maybe in the United States of America–you think Andrew Billings. I mean, you talk Robert Griffin III, you talk Ahmad Dixon, you talk Andrew Billings – these are big-name, big-time, stud players from Central Texas, who are staying in Central Texas, and making Baylor University a university that other high school students wish to be at.”

TRAVON BLANCHARD
LB – 6-1, 185 – Orange, Texas (West Orange-Stark HS)
Two-time all-state honoree from West Orange-Stark High School in Orange, Texas… Three-year starter at linebacker and defensive back under head coach Cornel Thompson at WO-S… National position rankings among linebackers: No. 37 by Scout.com, No. 37 by ESPN.com, No. 44 by Rivals.com… Rated No. 9 linebacker prospect in state of Texas and No. 82 overall recruit by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay… Ranked 53rd-best recruit in Texas by ESPN.com… Also listed on Texas top 100 listings by SuperPrep (No. 57), Rivals/Yahoo! Lonestar (No. 73) and Waco Tribune-Herald… Earned first-team 2012 3A All-State honors at DB after totaling 88 tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed and one fumble recovery as senior… Led West Orange-Stark to 13-1 record and state quarterfinals in 2012… Earned 2012 first-team All-District 21-3A and first-team All-Orange Leader honors as safety… Named 2011 second-team Class 3A All-State as junior… Helped WO-SHS to 10-4 record and regional finals in 2011… Credited with 62 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and three and a half sacks in 2011… Earned first-team 2011 All-District 21-3A honors at linebacker… Starter on West Orange-Stark 2010 team that reached DII bi-district finals and finished 8-3.
BRILES ON BLANCHARD
“A good player at a variety of different positions, for us possibly our “Bear” position. He’s an athletic, all-around athlete; a great basketball player and high jumper. He’s from an excellent football team down there at West Orange-Stark in the Golden Triangle.”

BYRON BONDS
DL – 6-1, 280 – Allen, Texas (Allen HS)
Defensive lineman from state champion Allen (Texas) High School… Played under head coach Tom Westerberg at AHS… Ranked 55th on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100, the 13th D-Lineman listed… National position rankings among defensive tackles: No. 57 by 247Sports.com, No. 86 by Scout.com and No. 98 by ESPN.com… Earned honorable mention 2012 Class 5A All-State recognition after leading Allen to 5A DI state championship, capping 15-1 season…Made 61 tackles, nine tackles-for-loss, six sacks, six QB hurries and two fumble recoveries as senior in 2012… Named 2012 first-team All-Area by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay and 2012 District 10-5A Defensive Player of Year… 2012 first-team All-District 10-5A nose guard… Second-team All-District 8-5A honoree as DT in 2011 as junior on AHS 11-1 DI area finalist squad… Father Byron and uncle Brandon played football at SMU.
BRILES ON BONDS
“Byron has a great upside – he’s a quick-twitch guy that can really make some noise in the middle from one of the more historic programs in America right now in Allen High School. We’re extremely excited about getting him on campus.”

TERELL BROOKS
DL – 6-4, 305 – Duncanville, Texas (Duncanville HS / Navarro College)
Imposing junior college defensive lineman transfer from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas… Rated No. 20 among junior college defensive tackle prospects by 247Sports.com (No. 153 overall)… Played for head coach Nick Bobeck at Navarro… Honorable mention 2012 NJCAA All-America selection as sophomore… Led Navarro to 10-2 record and No. 4 ranking in final 2012 NJCAA national poll… Totaled 46 tackles, 11 for loss, and three breakups in 10 games at Navarro… Transferred to Navarro from North Texas, where played one game in 2011… Recorded safety in UNT season-opener vs. FIU with tackle in endzone… Prepped at Duncanville (Texas) High School, played for head coach Jeff Dicus… Two-time first-team All-District 5-5A honoree as senior (2010) and junior (2009)… Led DHS to 8-4 record and 2010 DI area finals as senior… Totaled 72 tackles and 11 sacks in 2010.
BRILES ON BROOKS
“We like that Terell is still a young kid, he’s only 19 years old. He’s a big, strong body who can play inside on the defensive front and we really feel that he has a great upside and a great future at Baylor. We’re very excited about him joining this program.”

RAAQUAN DAVIS
LB – 6-1, 205 – Rockwall, Texas (Heath HS)
Linebacker from Heath High School in Rockwall, Texas… Three-year starter under head coach Mickey Moss at HHS… National position rankings among linebackers: No. 28 by ESPN.com, No. 37 by Rivals.com, No. 38 by 247Sports.com, No. 56 by Scout.com… Ranked 28th on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100 listing, fourth linebacker listed… Rated No. 38 prospect in state on Rivals/Yahoo! Lonestar Top 100… Also listed on Texas top 100 listings by ESPN.com (No. 47), Rivals.com (No. 52), 247Sports.com (No. 68) and Waco Tribune-Herald (top 50)… Totaled 114 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery as senior in 2012 on 6-5 Heath team… Named 2012 first-team All-District 12-5A at inside linebacker… Earned 2011 honorable mention Class 4A All-State recognition after leading HHS to 11-2 record and region semifinals as junior… Made 111 tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery as junior… Named 2011 first-team All-District 10-4A linebacker… Starter as sophomore in 2010, tallied 62 tackles in 10 games en route to being named second-team All-District 10-4A at inside linebacker.
BRILES ON DAVIS
“A great kid; he’s an inside-outside player from the linebacker position. We’re probably looking at him at outside. He’s a quick-twitch guy, very athletic – another great student-athlete that we’re extremely proud and happy to get on campus. He’s a guy that’s very highly rated, and we’re pumped about getting him.”

KYLE FULKS
DB – 5-8, 160 – Katy, Texas (Katy HS)
Speedy, two-way standout as wide receiver/defensive back at state champion Katy (Texas) High School… Played under head coach Gary Joseph at KHS… National position rankings among cornerbacks: No. 44 by 247Sports.com, No. 66 by Scout.com, No. 75 by Rivals.com… Rated No. 49 prospect in state on Austin American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 listing… Also 49th overall recruit in state according to 247Sports.com ranking… Listed among Houston Top 100 by VYPE/Rivals publication… Led Katy to perfect 16-0 season and 2012 5A DII state championship as senior… Named first-team All-District 19-5A wide receiver after totaling 385 yards and five touchdowns on 16 receptions… Defensively made 26 tackles, two interceptions and one pass breakup… Also ran for 103 yards on eight carries and threw 61-yard pass… Helped Katy to 12-1 record and 2011 DII regional semis as junior… Finished with 24 receptions for 408 yards and eight TDs… Named 2011 All-District 19-5A as both receiver and all-purpose player… Member of Katy’s 13-1 regional finalist squad in 2010… Also excelled in track and field at KHS, placed second in 100-meter dash (10.3) and fourth in 200 meters at 2012 5A state meet as junior… Ran anchor on AAU record-breaking 4×100 relay team from Houston Youth Track Club that ran 40.00.
BRILES ON FULKS
“What can you say? The fastest guy in America. He’ll win the state 100 and 200 meters this spring, if there’s no injuries. He’ll be the fastest person in the United States this year. He’s got a great upside, and we’re certainly excited to get him here at the cornerback position, and we’re excited about his future.”

WESLEY HARRIS
DB – 6-0, 175 – Fort Worth, Texas (Southwest HS)
Athletic playmaker from Southwest High School in Fort Worth, Texas… Played for head coach Lanny Trammell at SHS… Played quarterback, running back, receiver and cornerback… The fifth-ranked “athlete” on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100 recruit listing, also No. 72 overall prospect… National position rankings among “athletes”: No. 115 by 247Sports.com and No. 144 by ESPN.com… Starting quarterback as senior, missed much of latter portion of 2012 season due to injury… Southwest finished 9-3 and 2012 4A DII area finalist… Threw for 1,133 yards (54-for-96 passing) and 17 TDs, ran for 296 yards and one TD in 38 attempts as senior… Breakout season as junior, named 2011 District 6-4A Offensive Player of Year after leading Southwest to 11-2 finish and DI bi-district finals… Threw for 2,859 yards (140-for-254) and 37 TDs and ran for 500 yards and seven TDs on 91 attempts… Made national headlines in October 2011 by throwing state-record nine TD passes (eight to teammate and fellow Baylor signee Robbie Rhodes) in 66-21 win over Arlington Heights (one shy of national record)… Finished 20-for-30 for 562 yards… 21 of 37 passing TDs in 2011 were to Rhodes, his teammate since middle school (Wedgwood MS)… Helped SHS to 8-4 record and 2010 DII area finals as sophomore… Named 2010 District 6-4A Offensive Player of Year after throwing for 1,570 yards (92-for-179) and 25 TDs and rushing for 1,133 yards and 13 TDs (153 attempts)… Basketball letterman at Southwest, averaged 7.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.1 steals and 4.1 assists as junior in 2011-12… Also standout in track and field at SHS, won gold medal in 4×100 relay (40.899) and silver medal in 4×200 (1:25.45) at 2012 Class 4A state meet.
BRILES ON HARRIS
“Wesley was the quarterback of his football team and he’s going to play defensive back here. He’s a great basketball player, a great track athlete, he ran on their gold medalist 4×100 and 4×200 relays last year at the state meet. He tore his ACL this fall, but rehab is going well, and we’re certainly excited about his future. He brings a lot of confidence and ability to the DB position.”

JOHNNY JEFFERSON
RB – 5-9, 195 – Killeen, Texas (Shoemaker HS)
All-purpose runner from Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas… Played under head coaches Channon Hall and Ken Gray at SHS… Ranked the nation’s seventh-best “all-purpose” back by Rivals.com… National position rankings among running backs: No. 31 by 247Sports.com, No. 39 by ESPN.com and No. 48 by Scout.com… Ranked No. 6 running back prospect on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s State Top 100 listing, 69th-best overall recruit… Other Texas top 100 listings: No. 54 by SuperPrep, No. 61 by Rivals/Yahoo! Lonestar Top 100, No. 67 by ESPN.com, No. 69 by Rivals.com, No. 69 by 247Sports.com and listed on Waco Tribune-Herald Texas Top 100… Earned 2012 honorable mention 5A All-State recognition after rushing for 1,597 yards and 18 TDs and catching 28 passes for 255 yards and three TDs as senior… Had single-game total of 303 yards and four TDs on 26 carries in win over Universidad Nuevo Leaon… Named 2012 first-team All-District 8-5A as utility back… Ran for 812 yards and nine TDs in 164 attempts as junior in 2011… Named first-team 2011 All-District 12-5A running back… Totaled 430 yards and two scores as sophomore… Named second-team 2010 All-District 12-5A running back… Also runs track, has recorded 22.08 time in 200 meters and 10.6 in 100 meters.
BRILES ON JEFFERSON
“A big-time guy, big-time player and running back. Johnny will contribute for us because of his explosive nature, his mentality, and his physical ability. Johnny’s a guy that’s powerful and fast. We’re certainly excited about his future.”

QUAN JONES
WR – 6-4, 200 – Wylie, Texas (East HS)
Talented receiver from East High School in Wylie, Texas… Topped 100 career receptions at EHS under head coach Joe Lepsis… National position rankings among wide receivers: No. 50 by 247Sports.com, No. 67 by Rivals.com… Ranked 33rd overall prospect on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100 listing, the seventh receiver listed… Listed 63rd by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay State Top 100, 14th among wide receivers… Other Texas top 100 listings: No. 58 by 247Sports.com, No. 62 by SuperPrep, No. 63 by Rivals.com, No. 76 by Rivals/Yahoo! Lonestar and on Waco Tribune-Herald Texas Top 100… Attended U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio in January 2012, named honorable mention All-Combine… Helped East to 9-4 record and 2012 4A DII region finals as senior… Named first-team 2012 All-District 13-4A… Totaled 50 receptions for 934 yards (18.7 average) and 12 TDs as senior… Part of EHS’s 8-3 squad in 2011 that made DII bi-district finals as junior… Named 2011 second-team All-District 10-4A… Had 41 catches for 420 yards (10.2 average) and four TDs as junior… As sophomore in 2010 made 12 receptions for 252 yards (21.0 average) and one touchdown… Also lettered in basketball at East, named second-team 2010 All-District 10-4A on hardcourt.
BRILES ON JONES
“We’ve gotten some good players out of Dallas Wylie East the last few years, and Quan is another one. He’s one of the two guys that committed to us last spring along with Robbie Rhodes, we certainly feel like we got the two best outside receivers in America. He’s a big guy, he’s every bit of 6-4 and a solid 200 pounds. He’ll run the core of the 4×400 relay this spring, he’s extremely fast. We’re really anxious for his journey here at Baylor University and to continue our great receiver tradition.”

AUSTIN JUPE
DB – 6-0, 180 – San Antonio, Texas (East Central HS)
Defensive back from East Central High School in San Antonio, Texas… Three-year starter for head coach Robert Walker at ECHS… Rated nation’s No. 25 safety by Scout.com and 81st by 247Sports.com… Listed state’s No. 9 cornerback prospect by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football… Texas top 100 listings: No. 74 by Rivals.com and Lonestar, No. 80 by SuperPrep… Led East Central to 8-4 record and 2012 5A DI area finals as senior… 2012 APSE Class 5A All-State honorable mention and 2012 first-team All-District 28-5A honoree… Totaled 56 tackles, 13 breakups and one interception as senior… Helped ECHS to 8-4 mark and 2011 DI area finals as junior… Earned 2011 honorable mention 5A All-State recognition as junior… Named 2011 first-team All-District 28-5A and to 2011 San Antonio Express-News All-Area team… Made 56 tackles and four interceptions as junior… Started at cornerback on 2010 ECHS squad that finished 7-4 and made DI bi-district finals… Earned 2010 All-District 28-5A honorable mention honors as sophomore… Also excelled in track and field at East Central, ran 4×100 and 4×200 relays, 110-meter hurdles and high jump… Won 2010 110-meter hurdles district title as freshman.
BRILES ON JUPE
“A great track athlete and a great hurdler, with a good sized frame. He’s a great leader. He’s very fluid, with great movement, and can change directions. He does a great job of covering the field from a defensive standpoint, another guy we’re extremely excited about.”

DARIUS MOORE
OL – 6-2, 275 – Missouri City, Texas (Marshall HS)
Offensive lineman from Marshall High School in Missouri City, Texas… Played under head coach James Williams at MHS… Rated nation’s 43rd offensive guard prospect by 247Sports.com and 59th by Scout.com… Listed among VYPE/Rivals publication’s Houston Top 100 recruits… Rated No. 134 overall recruit in Texas by 247Sports.com… Led Marshall to 13-1 record and 2012 4A DII quarterfinals as senior… Named first-team 2012 All-District 22-4A as senior…. Teammate and fellow lineman at Marshall of Baylor signee Maurice Porter.
BRILES ON MOORE
“D-Mo is very engaging, very athletic and just a tough guy on the football field – that’s what we loved about him. We think he can come in here and just continue our great line of O-linemen that certainly has been developed over the last few years. We’re pumped about D-Mo, and we’re excited to get him in that shiny gold helmet.”

XAVIER PHILLIPS
LB/DE – 6-1, 220 – Fort Worth, Texas (All Saints Episcopal School)
Three-sport star at All Saints Episcopal School in Fort Worth, Texas… Four-year varsity football starter under head coach Aaron Beck at All Saints… National position rankings among outside linebackers: No 61 by ESPN.com, No. 69 by Scout.com, No. 83 by 247Sports.com… Ranked 58th on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100 recruiting listing, seventh among linebackers… Rated 88th overall prospect in state of Texas and 108th regionally by ESPN.com… Led All Saints to perfect 11-0 season and 2012 SPC state championship as senior… Named first-team 2012 SPC All-State… Made 70 tackles, 11 for loss, six sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and 15 QB hurries in 2012… Led All Saints to 2011 SPC state runner-up finish and 9-2 record as junior… Totaled 96 tackles (62 solo), 24 for loss, 12 sacks and three fumble recoveries in 2011… Received recruiting interest from multiple Ivy League schools… Also lettered in basketball and track at All Saints, competed in 100 and 200 meters as well as 4×100 relay.
BRILES ON PHILLIPS
“X-man is a very intelligent kid, with great upside and a great motor. We’re really excited to have him, another multiple-offer guy who fought off people all the way to stay true to Baylor. Once again we’re excited to get him on our defense.”

MAURICE PORTER
OL – 6-6, 290 – Missouri City, Texas (Marshall HS)
National top 200 recruit from Marshall High School in Missouri City, Texas… Offensive lineman played for head coach James Williams at MHS… Has only played three seasons of football in lifetime… 198th overall national prospect on 247Sports.com’s Top247 listing… National position rankings: No. 17 (OT) by 247Sports.com, No. 24 (OG) by Scout.com, No. 35 (OT) by Rivals.com, No. 55 (OT) by ESPN.com… State rankings among Texas recruits: No. 26 by 247Sports.com, No. 26 on Austin American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55, No. 50 by SuperPrep, No. 55 by Rivals.com, Waco Tribune-Herald Texas Top 100… Fourth-best offensive line prospect in state according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football… No. 7 offensive lineman recruit on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s State Top 100 listing… Listed on VYPE/Rivals publication’s Houston Top 100… Led Marshall to 13-1 record and 2012 4A DII quarterfinals as senior… Participated in 2012 Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Houston following senior season… Named first-team 2011 All-District 23-5A honoree as junior in second season playing sport… Also named 2011 second-team All-Sun by Sugar Land Sun… Teammate and fellow lineman at Marshall of Baylor signee Darius Moore.
BRILES ON PORTER
“Just a dominant figure; I mean the guy is 17-years-old, he’s 6-6, 290, and he’s got a great upside. He could come in here and continue our great success of offensive lineman that have done great collegiately and gone on to the league. He’s a guy that we have a tremendous amount of faith and confidence in and he will develop and become a dominant player not only in this league but nationally.”

ALFRED PULLOM
S – 6-1, 185 – Cypress, Texas (Cypress Woods HS)
Dual-sport football/baseball athlete for Cypress Woods High School in Cypress, Texas… Played defensive back under head football coaches Trent Faith and David Jones at CWHS… National position rankings among safeties: No. 34 by Rivals.com, No. 67 by ESPN.com, No. 72 by 247Sports.com… No. 7 defensive back listed on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s State Top 100, No. 70 overall recruit… Other Texas top 100 listings: No. 66 by Rivals/Yahoo! Lonestar, No. 70 by Rivals.com, Waco Tribune-Herald Texas Top 100… Listed on Houston Top 100 by VYPE/Rivals publication… Named second-team 2012 All-District 17-5A as senior… Also punted and returned punts for Cy-Woods as senior… Led Cy-Woods to 9-3 record and 2011 DII area finals as junior… Named second-team 2011 All-District 17-5A as junior… Totaled 80 tackles and three interceptions in 2011… Baseball letterman at Cy-Woods.
BRILES ON PULLOM
“He’s going to end up being a great cover guy for us, a great safety, great roamer, and very physical football player. Alfred is a big, tall, lean safety, who is very physical. In the Cypress ISD area, those coaches all just think he’s ‘the guy’ because he’s earned that reputation around that whole district, and the two or three district areas around which include about 30 schools. He’s a great leader and a tough physical player.”

ROBBIE RHODES
WR – 6-0, 185 – Fort Worth, Texas (Southwest HS)
Blue chip recruit and top 75 national prospect from Southwest High School in Fort Worth, Texas… All-American wide receiver rated nation’s 18th-best recruit by Scout.com… Named Under Armour All-American and played in 2013 prep all-star game in St. Petersburg, Fla… Ranked 21st overall national prospect on 247Sports.com’s Top247, 35th on ESPN150 and 69th on Rivals100… National position rating among wide receivers: No 2 by Scout.com, No. 2 on 247Sports.com, No. 3 by ESPN.com, No. 8 by Rivals.com… Played under head coach Lanny Trammell at SHS… Listed No. 1 overall recruit in state of Texas by 247Sports.com and on Austin American Statesman Fabulous 55… Other Texas top 100 listings: No. 4 by ESPN.com, No. 4 by Rivals/Yahoo! Lonestar, No. 8 by Rivals.com, No. 39 by SuperPrep and Waco Tribune-Herald (top 30)… Listed No. 2 receiver in Texas by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s State Top 100 and No. 3 by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football… Top receiver and No. 4 overall recruit in DFW by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100… Led Southwest to 9-3 finish and 2012 4A DII area finals as senior… Named 2012 District 7-4A Co-MVP after totaling 945 yards and 16 TDs on 32 receptions and rushing for 296 yards and six TDs on 32 carries… Also threw for 379 yards and three TDs on 18-of-34 passing… Breakout season as junior in 2011 when led SHS to 11-2 finish and DI bi-district finals… Amassed 1,319 yards and 21 TDs on 47 receptions (28.1 average) as well as 208 yards and six TDs on 20 rushing attempts… Earned 2011 honorable mention 4A All-State and District 6-4A MVP honors as junior… Made national headlines in October 2011 with eight touchdown receptions (from QB and fellow Baylor signee Wesley Harris), tying national record and breaking Texas state mark, in 66-21 win over Arlington Heights (finished with 10 receptions for 394 yards – yardage another Texas record and sixth-highest total nationally)… Harris and Rhodes have been teammates since Wedgwood Middle School… Helped SHS to 8-4 record and 2010 DII area finals as sophomore… Had 17 receptions for 268 yards and six TDs, as well as 30 rushes for 751 yards and 16 TDs as sophomore… Basketball letterman at SHS, named 2012 District 6-4A Co-Offensive Player of Year after averaging 12.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists as junior… Also starred in track, won two gold medals in 200-meter dash (21.06) and 4×100 relay (40.899) as well as silver in 4×200 (1:25.45) in 2012 4A state meet as junior.
BRILES ON RHODES
“What can you say, he’s the No. 1-rated receiver in America. A guy that’s been loyal and faithful to us all the way through, whose going to have an outstanding future at Baylor University to help us continue our long line of success at the wide receiver position. He will win the state track meet in the open 200 again; he’ll run a 20-point something. He anchored both the 4×100 and 4×200 to gold medals last year as a junior. When he looks up in the sky, those clouds are open, there is no ceiling.”

TAION SELLS
S – 5-9, 180 – Irving, Texas (MacArthur HS)
Defensive back at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas… Played under head coach Brian Basil at MHS… National position rankings among safeties: No. 46 by ESPN.com, No. 55 by 247Sports.com, No. 94 by Scout.com… Rated 41st overall recruit in state by Rivals.com… Other Texas top 100 listings: No. 54 by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay, No. 89 by SuperPrep… Rated seventh safety in state by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football… Sixth among defensive back prospects on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100… Led MacArthur to 7-4 record and 5A DI bi-district finals as senior… Totaled 75 tackles, four for loss, nine breakups and five forced fumbles as senior… Named first-team 2012 All-District 6-5A safety… Totaled 45 tackles as well as 124 yards rushing as junior in 2011… Named first-team 2011 All-District 6-5A safety as junior… Earned 2010 District 6-5A Defensive Sophomore of Year honors.
BRILES ON SELLS
“Taion is a tough guy, a physical player with great change-of-direction ability. He’s a great leader, very engaging, and another great addition to the defensive side of the ball. He’s a great player who is going to help make a tremendous difference for us on the football field over the next few years.”

KEVIN “K.J.” SMITH
DE – 6-1, 240 – Frisco, Texas (Centennial HS)
Defensive lineman from Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas… Played for head coach Mark Howard at CHS… National position rankings among defensive linemen: No. 32 by 247Sports.com, No. 35 by Rivals.com, No. 37 by Scout.com, No. 68 by ESPN.com… Third-best defensive end prospect in state by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football… Rated 89th prospect in Texas by 247Sports.com and among Waco Tribune-Herald’s Texas Top 100… Rated No. 40 on Dallas Morning News/SportsDay’s Area Top 100, eighth defensive lineman listed… Led Centennial to 12-2 record and 2012 4A DII region II finals as senior… Totaled 102 tackles (73 solo), 21 sacks, 22 hurries, six forced fumbles and one safety as senior… Named honorable mention 2012 4A All-State and 2012 District 9-4A Defensive MVP… Earned second-team 2012 All-Area honors from Dallas Morning News/SportsDay… Led CHS to 12-1 finish and 2011 DII regional semis as junior… Made 89 tackles and 13 sacks as junior in 2011… Earned 2011 4A All-State honorable mention and first-team 2011 All-District 9-4A recognition as junior… Helped Centennial to 6-5 mark and 2010 bi-district finals as sophomore… Named 2010 District 9-4A Sophomore Defensive MVP.
BRILES ON SMITH
“An extremely quick-twitch player, a great kid with a great motor and great instincts. A guy that we’re really excited about, he’ll add more mobility, more depth to the defensive side of the ball.”

TANNER THRIFT
DL – 6-5, 260 – Hutto, Texas (Hutto HS)
Defensive lineman at Hutto (Texas) High School… Three-year varsity starter under head coach Steve Hale at HHS… Rated No. 69 among nation’s defensive ends by 247Sports.com… Named first-team 2012 All-District 17-4A defensive end as senior… Totaled 48 tackles, five for loss, one sack, four QB hurries and three forced fumbles in 2012… Led Hutto to 9-2 record and 2011 DII bi-district finals as junior… Had 53 tackles and six sacks as junior… Starter as sophomore on HHS’s 9-2 2010 squad that won first district title since 1970s and reached DII bi-district finals… Named 2010 District 16-4A Defensive Newcomer of Year.
BRILES ON THRIFT
“A kid that we think has a tremendous upside. He’s a hard worker and a physical, tough guy. He overcame a knee injury as a junior, and he’s a guy that when he’s said-and-done out of here could be 6-6, 305 pounds, and could be a very dominant player and force for us – which is what we expect.”

TAYLOR YOUNG
LB – 5-9, 215 – DeSoto, Texas (DeSoto HS)
All-American and all-state linebacker from DeSoto (Texas) High School… Three-year starter under head coach Claude Mathis at DHS… Named second-team 2012 MaxPreps All-America as senior… Selected as Texas 2012 Class 5A Defensive Player of Year following senior season… National position rankings: No. 80 by 247Sports.com, No. 88 Scout.com… Led DeSoto to 14-1 record and 5A state semis… Recorded 130 tackles, three sacks, four interceptions and three forced fumbles in memorable senior season… Named first-team 2012 5A All-State and 2012 District 7-5A Defensive MVP… Named first-team 2012 Dallas Area by Dallas Morning News/SportsDay… Led DHS to 10-2 finish and 2011 DI area finals as junior… Totaled 116 tackles and 3 sacks in 2011… Starter as sophomore on DeSoto’s 2010 squad that finished 11-3 and advanced to DI regional finals.
BRILES ON YOUNG
“The defensive leader of a very storied football program that includes a lot of talented players. He’s a tough guy and a downhill player. He’s somebody that Coach Bennett and the defensive side of the staff were really drawn to because they knew that what he brought to the table was every intangible that’s possible, plus the ability to play.”

SPRING ENROLLEES:

KIANTE’ GRIFFIN
WR – 6-0, 200 – Carrollton, Texas (Hebron HS)
2012 Baylor signee and former two-way standout at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas, starred at receiver and defensive back… Played under head coach Brian Brazil at HHS… Rated No. 192 overall prospect nationally by 247Sports.com in 2012… Listed as top-50 recruit in Texas by Austin American Statesman’s 2012 Texas Fabulous 55 (No. 22), 247Sports.com (No. 24), SuperPrep’s Texas 121 (No. 48) and Waco Tribune-Herald Top 100 (top 50)… National 2012 position ranking among receivers: No. 25 by 247Sports.com, No. 41 by Scout.com, No. 49 by ESPN.com, No. 55 by Rivals.com… Rated fourth-best wide receiver in Texas by Lone Star Recruiting… Additional 2012 overall-prospect in-state rankings: 53rd by Rivals.com Texas Postseason Top 100, 57th by Lone Star Recruiting Top 100, 69th by ESPN.com, Houston Chronicle Top 100, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Top 100… Rated 26th overall recruit by Dallas Morning News SportsDay’s 2012 Dallas-Area Top 100, third among receivers… Ranked 92nd on Scout.com’s Midlands Top 150… Played primarily at defensive back as senior in 2011, totaled 41 tackles, two interceptions and two PBUs… At receiver caught 12 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns and returned four kickoffs for 148 yards as senior on 6-5 Hebron squad… Named first-team All-District 8-5A cornerback in 2011… As junior in 2010 made 19 receptions for 291 yards and one TD… Had breakout sophomore season at receiver, totaled 33 catches for 770 yards (23.3 average) and 11 TDs… Earned 2009 District 6-5A Offensive Newcomer of Year honors.

CHRIS JOHNSON
QB – 6-4, 195 – Bryan, Texas (Bryan HS)
National top 200 recruit from Bryan (Texas) High School, standout dual-threat quarterback… Early high school graduate enrolled at Baylor in January 2013, will participate in 2013 spring drills… Played under head coaches Ross Rogers and Bob Bellard at BHS… 180th overall national prospect on ESPN300 listing… National position rankings among dual-threat quarterbacks: No. 5 by ESPN.com, No. 17 by 247Sports.com, No. 24 by Rivals.com, No. 29 (standard QB) by Scout.com… Rated 24th overall prospect in Texas by ESPN.com and No. 74 by 247Sports.com… Listed among Waco Tribune-Herald’s Texas Top 100… Threw for 1,724 yards and 10 TDs (112-of-235 passing), ran for 165 yards and two TDs on 59 carries as senior… Earned second-team 2012 All-District 14-5A honors as quarterback… Limited to five games as junior in 2011 due to injury, split time at quarterback… Totaled 473 yards and seven TDs passing (34-of-62) and 431 yards and six TDs rushing (86 attempts) as junior… Helped lead Bryan to 6-5 record and 2010 DI bi-district finals as sophomore receiver, safety and returner… Named third-team 2010 5A All-State as kick returner… Also earned second-team 2010 All-District 12-5A honors as kick returner… Also lettered in basketball at BHS, earned All-District 12-5A honors as sophomore (second-team, 2010) and freshman (honorable mention, 2009)… Second-team 2011 Academic All-State honoree.

BRIAN NANCE
LB – 6-2, 210 – Euless, Texas (Hargrave Military Academy/Trinity HS)
2012 Baylor signee and All-American linebacker played fall 2012 season at Hargrave Military Academy… Top 100 national prospect originally from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas… Mid-year enrollee at Baylor in January 2013 with four years eligibility, will participate in 2013 spring drills… Rated No. 84 overall recruit nationally in 2012 by 247Sports.com on Top247… Named 2011 SuperPrep All-American and U.S. Army All-American… Played under head coach Steve Lineweaver at THS… National position rankings among outside linebackers: No. 6 by 247Sports.com, No. 18 by ESPN.com, No. 27 by Rivals.com, No. 31 by Scout.com… Ranked a top-30 recruit in Texas by 247Sports.com (No. 8), Austin American-Stateman’s Texas Fabulous 55 (No. 10), SuperPrep’s Texas 121 (No. 15), Lone Star Recruiting (No. 19), ESPN.com (No. 30) and Waco Tribune-Herald Top 100 (among top 30)… Rated No. 2 linebacker in state by 2011 Postseason Dave Campbell’s Texas Football… Ranked 14th-best LB nationally on SuperPrep’s All-America 290… Rated No. 14 overall prospect in Dallas Morning News SportsDay’s Dallas-Area Top 100, third linebacker listed…Also listed top-100 Texas prospect by Rivals.com Texas Postseason Top 100 (No. 34), Houston Chronicle Texas Top 100, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Fab-44 Top 100… Listed on Fort Worth Star-Telegram Area Top 40… Rated No. 72 on Scout.com’s Midlands Top 150… Played in U.S. Army All-American Bowl following senior season… Totaled 67 tackles, two interceptions and five sacks in eight-game 2011 senior season limited due to injury… Named 2011 first-team All-District 6-5A after helping Trinity to 12-1 record and regional semifinals… Named 2010 first-team Class 5A All-State following standout junior season… Totaled 160 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss, six interceptions and 13 sacks and led THS to 15-1 record and DI state finals… Named 2010 District 6-5A Defensive Player of Year.

GUS PENNING
TE – 6-5, 245 – Jenison, Mich. (Jenison HS / Grand Rapids CC / Riverside CC)
Transfer tight end from Riverside (Calif.) Community College… Mid-year signee enrolled at Baylor in January 2013, will participate in 2013 spring drills…Ranked 25th overall juco recruit on ESPN Junior College 100, No. 3 tight end listed… Totaled 31 receptions for 425 yards (13.7 average) and three touchdowns in 10 games played as redshirt freshman in 2012, only season at Riverside… Transferred from Grand Rapids Community College, spent 2011 season as redshirt before program shut down… Prepped at Jenison (Mich.) High School… Played two varsity seasons, primarily at linebacker and tight end.

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SEC fills your calendar with dates for spring practices, spring games and NFL pro days

Alabama Spring Game

Vanderbilt is already midway through its spring football schedule, but the rest of the SEC is just getting ready for spring football. On Monday, as Texas A&M opened up spring camp and a day before Ole Miss gets underway, the SEC released the notable dates for your spring football fix in the southeast.

Each team in the SEC currently has a spring game scheduled, except for Kentucky and Texas A&M. Stadium renovations at Kyle Field will prevent Texas A&M from hosting a spring game for a second straight season. Many of the spring games throughout the SEC will draw large crowds, and the conference should once again lead the way in spring game attendance.

Here are your spring practice start dates, along with dates for spring games and pro days for those looking forward to the NFL Draft. Plan accordingly.

SEC Spring Football

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LSU being used as guinea pig by NCAA and SEC, says recruiting reporter

Les Miles

Last week LSU’s football program was hit with some strong recruiting sanctions by the NCAA. Those who follow the recruiting game seem to think LSU is being punished unreasonably, with one recruiting analyst going so far as to say LSU is being used as a guinea pig by the NCAA and SEC.

“I think the SEC and NCAA are using LSU as a guinea pig,” said Michael Carvell, a recruiting reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a report published by The Advocate. “Somebody had to be first. Unfortunately for LSU, it’s them.”

LSU has been banned from signing early enrollee recruits for the next two recruiting cycles and will lose 21 of 210 days on the recruiting calendar to evaluate potential recruits. The sanctions stem from one LSU recruit signing a financial aid agreement with LSU in August with the intent to enroll at LSU in January. That recruit, Matt Womack, ended up committing to Alabama. Football programs that fail to have the player under the agreement to enroll early face penalties. It is believed LSU is the first school to be extended such a punishment, which makes this punishment historical in a sense.

How much this ultimately hurts LSU remains to be seen. Many seem to think LSU will see minimal impact on the recruiting trail, which would make sense. LSU tends to recruit very well, plays in one of the top conferences and is nearby loads of talent. LSU should still manage to recruit effectively, even with the sanctions imposed.

If nothing else, what has happened at LSU will grab the attention of coaches and recruiters around the country as they look to ensure they do not swing and miss on early enrollees.

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Steve Spurrier is now on Twitter

Steve Spurrier

Twitter can be fun, especially when college football coaches get involved and connected. LSU head coach Les Miles is on board. So is Penn State head coach James Franklin. UCLA’s Jim Mora has been known to dabble in the social networking platform, and has gotten in trouble for it along the way. New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also decided to start tweeting.

Well, brace yourselves because one more big name head coach never at a loss for words is hopping on board to share his thoughts 140 characters at a time; Steve Spurrier.

Give him a follow.

And if there was any doubt…

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Oregon QB commit scores game-winning basket for wrong team

Seth Green

Minnesota native Seth Green is a four-star dual-threat quarterback on his way to Oregon in the Class of 2016. He also happens to be a pretty decent high school basketball player, as his 24-point performance over the weekend would suggest. But as can all too often be the unfortunate case for any talented athlete, it can be a mistake that ends up being the most notable moment for all the wrong reasons.

In a tight regional playoff semifinal game and 20 seconds to play between Green’s East Ridge High School and Cretin-Derham Hall, Green took an inbound pass and made his way down court for an uncontested lay-up. Normally that is a good play, but Green’s lay-up went into his team’s own basket, awarded two free points to Cretin-Derham Hall. The basket turned a one-point lead into a one-point deficit. Oops. Cretin-Derham Hall went on to win by a final score of 70-65.

“That will not define who Seth Green is,” Cretin-Derham Hall head coach Jerry Kline said after the game according to Star Tribune. “He’s a great player, a good kid, and I feel bad for him. He was going so hard and just feel for him at this time.”

The good news for Green is he has plenty of opportunities ahead of him. Perhaps one day, if he has not already, Green will get to start laughing about this unfortunate sequence of events.

Green is the 10th ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the top prospect in the state of Minnesota according to Rivals.

Photo credit: Rivals

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Connor Cook sings praises of new crop of Michigan State receivers

Connor Cook

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook may be losing a few key targets from last season, but the veteran starting quarterback is getting a jump on speaking highly of his new go-to receivers in 2015.

Cook enters this spring looking to build chemistry with some new starting wide receivers. Michigan State loses its top two receivers from 2014, Tony Lippett (1,198 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns) and Keith Mumphery (495 yards, 3 touchdowns). This is the nature of the college game, of course, with players only able to stick around for so long before moving on in one capacity or another. Cook, preparing for his third season as the starting quarterback for the Spartans, knows there will be others ready to compete for an opportunity to start and play a key role in the Michigan State offense in 2015.

“Obviously losing [Tony Lippett] and [Keith Mumphery] are big losses, but we have some other (rising) senior leaders who are stepping up in Macgarrett Kings, Aaron Burbridge and AJ Troup, and then younger guys like R.J. Shelton, Matt Macksood and Tres Barksdale,” Cook said, as transcribed by MLive.com.

Kings is Michigan State’s top returning receiver with 404 yards and a touchdown last season. Burbridge caught 29 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown. Troup added 113 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Shelton had 173 yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore season.Barksdale appeared in seven games and contributed two catches for 16 yards. Macksood, awarded a scholarship last spring. He appeared in seven games for Michigan State last season but not record any stats.

Ohio State continues to be the team to beat in the Big Ten, but Michigan State is not likely to be out of the running even after losing defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to a head coaching job at Pittsburgh. With Cook in command of the offense, he will have solid protection from the offensive line. If the Spartans are to thrive and challenge Ohio State, Cook will have to get on track with his receivers and avoid shaky play as he experienced at times last season.

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What if college football had a College Football NIT?

Manhattan v Syracuse

The college football world went years and decades until finally making way for a four-team playoff format to crown major college football’s national champion. The College Football Playoff is the new crown jewel of the traditional bowl system. But what if there was a second mini-tournament embedded into the college football postseason? What about a third? Maybe expanding the College Football Playoff is not going to happen, but nobody has ever said anything about possibly adding a second tournament to the equation.

The idea popped up in my head today as Chelsea upended Tottenham Hotspur to lay claim to the League Cup. I may be a novice when it comes to soccer, but my understanding is the League Cup is a middle-tier level of competition, and is certainly below the more high-end championships soccer teams in Europe compete for. For those not familiar with soccer, there are multiple tournaments teams can participate in, even during the course of the team’s regular season. It is kind of neat, but the idea would not quite translate to college football with regular seasons already as packed as they are.

But what about the bowl season?

One of the biggest complaints about the college football postseason is the idea there are too many bowl games that nobody particularly cares about. What if those so-called meaningless bowl games were given a purpose? What if, for example, the winners of the New Mexico Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl were given a chance later in the bowl season to compete in a third bowl game, whether in an existing bowl or in a brand new game in the lead-up to the College Football Playoff national championship game? Basketball does it with the NIT. Think of this as college football’s NIT.

I personally think the bowl system is fine the way it is, but if you are looking for a way to spice things up a little bit, and perhaps drive up television ratings for some of the lower-tier bowl games, why not give it a little more meaning? The College Football Playoff recorded monster television ratings. Implementing this sort of idea may not come close to rivaling that kind of viewership, but it could give the casual fan a little more interest in the GoDaddy Bowl or Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (Yes, these are real bowl games).

I know I would watch, but I already do. Would you watch with a little more interest in a second College Football Playoff-type postseason tournament?

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Penn State’s $60 million fine about to be put to good use

Penn State Community Reacts As Trustees Fire Coach Joe Paterno Getty Images

The fine money paid by Penn State is ready to start being put to good use. It is just a matter of figuring out which organization gets what amount of money. With $60 million to distribute, there are plenty f worthy causes to help support.

“There’s certainly a tremendous need,” said Linda Rosenberg, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in an Associated Press report. “In the area of child sexual abuse, I don’t know if there’s ever enough money to help support the need.”

As it stands now, Rosenberg’s agency is handling $48 million from Penn State’s fine money. Penn State is retaining $12 million. Penn State agreed to pay off a $60 million fine as dictated by sanctions levied against the program in 2012. The sanctions were the result of the findings from the Freeh Report following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Although since then the consent decree has been vacated, Penn State committed to paying off the remainder of the fine assessed against it.

After the NCAA initially fined Penn State, state representative Jake Corman helped to push through the Higher Education Monetary Penalty Endowment Act in order to keep Penn State’s fine money within the state of Pennsylvania. The NCAA wanted the money to be spread nationally, sparking one of many legal battles that eventually went against the NCAA’s wishes.

According to the AP, Rosenberg says about half of the $48 million controlled by her agency is expected to be handed out in the form of grants over the next five years. A commission will be formed with the task to identify areas of need and solicit applications for grant support later this year. By October, grants may start to be issued.

There are a number of worthy foundations that can take advantage of this money that will be available, many connected to raising awareness and combatting child abuse, sexual abuse and more.

Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for abusing 10 boys he met over 15 years through his charity for troubled children.

 

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Pete Carroll to get honorary degree from USC

USC v Stanford Getty Images

Last summer USC announced former head coach Pete Carroll will be inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame. He will be going in with an honorary degree in hand.

Last week it was announced by USC the former head coach of the Trojans from 2001 through 2009, and current head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, will be given an honorary degree on May 15.  Carroll coached USC to national prominence before turning the Seahawks into a Super Bowl champion.Carroll will be honored for his achievements at USC and his efforts to improve the community. Carroll founded A Better LA, an organization committed to a gang-free Los Angeles. He founded a similar program in Seattle as well.

Carroll will be inducted to USC’s athletics hall of fame the following day, on May 16.

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Duquesne football player (former Florida Gator) found dead

Chris Johnson

Some sad news to report on this Sunday. Duquesne’s Chris Johnson was found dead Friday morning. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Johnson apparently died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a medical examiner. Johnson, 22 years old, previously played football at Florida before transferring to FCS Duquesne.

“Everyone associated with the Duquesne football program is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Chris,” Duquesne football coach Jerry Schmitt said in a statement. “Chris was a passionate football player who was also a great teammate, who was loved by many. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris’ family at this difficult time.”

Johnson transferred to Duquesne in 2013. He completed his senior season in 2014. He played a role on special teams at Florida but took on a more significant role at Duquesne. He recorded 104 tackles and two interceptions in two seasons with the FCS program in western Pennsylvania.

Photo credit: Duquesne Athletics

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Pat Narduzzi thinks Pitt has what it takes to build its own Steel Curtain

Pat Narduzzi

There is no mistaking the identity new Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi is ready to mold is one based on stingy defense. Narduzzi’s defenses at Michigan State were among the best in the Big Ten and the country, and he hopes to duplicate that formula in the Steel City. What better place to do so than the home to one of the more iconic defenses in football history? Narduzzi believes the Pittsburgh area is a perfect place to implement his defensive system.

Each of the previous four season Narduzzi has been in charge of a top ten defense at Michigan State. The Spartans routinely played a physical style of defense that helped lead the program to a pair of Big Ten championship game appearances and win one Big Ten title and Rose Bowl. Narduzzi became one of the top assistants in the college football world and had chances to accept a head coaching offer before finally taking the plunge with Pittsburgh. To Narduzzi, Pittsburgh had the right ingredients to build the kind of football program he believes can succeed.

“That’s what we’ve been about at Michigan State,” Narduzzi said in an interview with USA Today. “It’s not been pretty, it’s just tough. That’s why I came here. That’s part of it. Besides all the players in the area and the surrounding areas, it’s the toughness. That’s how you build a football team, with toughness. That was one of the keys to coming here.”

Pittsburgh’s defenses was ranked 34th in the nation in total defense in 2014, and 33rd the previous season with Aaron Donald gobbling up defensive award after defensive award. Donald serves as a positive reinforcement that Pittsburgh can develop top defensive players, and that is something Narduzzi will certainly be mindful of. Narduzzi hopes to develop his program in the weight room to make Pittsburgh stronger on the field, especially on defense.

“I’d seen what [Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio] had done for all those years,” Narduzzi said. “What other blueprint do you use? What we do will be what we did there.”

If it was good enough for Michigan State, then it is good enough for Pittsburgh.

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Is Oregon a likable team?

This was an interesting question that popped up on Reddit on Sunday. Without Marcus Mariota, is Oregon a likable team?

The question was posed with a reference to how some perceived the College Football Playoff semifinal Rose Bowl match-up between Oregon and Florida State to be a battle of good and evil. Florida State had developed a bit of a negative reputation based on the off-field headlines involving Jameis Winston. The Seminoles were also the undefeated defending national champions, and some felt they had skated by all too often in 2014 to deserve a shot to compete in the playoff. On the other hand, Mariota was seen as the anti-Winston in terms of his behavior and likability in the eyes of the casual college football fan. There was a certain level of satisfaction when Oregon ousted Florida State by Florida State haters. But does that mean Oregon was a likable program? Or was Oregon simply doing the dirty work?

Outside of the Pac-12, I would guess, many college football fans seem to have a certain level of respect for the Oregon football program. The flashy uniforms certainly make them one of the more interesting and eye-popping programs, as well as the innovative offensive flair. As far as entertainment is concerned, Oregon has been the full package in recent seasons. Quick offense, new uniforms every week, lots of points and one of the better mascots around the country.

Others view Oregon as a symbol of the corporate influence in college football with its relationship with Nike. Oregon is the program that started the trend of multiple uniform combinations that many have tried to repeat in their own programs. Some believe Oregon is a sham program running a gimmicky offense that will dazzle on the scoreboard for 12 weeks of the season but ultimately prove to be inadequate against a legitimate opponent on the big stage (Auburn and Ohio State for example).

So I relay the question to you, the readers of College Football Talk. Do you find Oregon to be likable or not? What other programs do you think are likable, and which simply are not?

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DUI for Illinois football staff member leads to two-year probation

Wisconsin v Illinois

One member of the Illinois football staff will have to be on his best behavior for the next years. Ryan Cubit, director of student athlete development and son of Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, was sentenced to two years of court supervision on Friday after pleading guilty to drunk driving charge from October. Essentially, this is a two-year probation.

For the next three months, Cubit will be forced to wear an alcohol-monitoring device. Cubit mus also serve 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine. Cubit pleaded guilty to the October driving under the influence charge in January.

Cubit had previously been cited for driving under the influence back in 2003, which a judge took into consideration before letting Cubit off with a probation punishment. Cubit had no other incidents on record between 2003 and 2014, which led the judge to let Cubit off with a lesser sentence and a stern warning that the next time Cubit is in court it will not go as smoothly.

Nobody was hurt when police initially cited Cubit for DWI in October. Cubit was stopped at a roadside safety check and police reported a BAC of 0.12.

Cubit remains a member of the Illinois football staff and there is no indication that will change as a result of this latest news.

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Report says UNC took advantage of grad school to extend eligibility of players

FSU v UNC X

Academic issues at the University of North Carolina continue to be dug up. This time it revolves around allegedly cutting corners to enroll players as graduate players in order to get them on the football field.

In the latest report compiled by The News & Observer, UNC kept several players eligible to play by placing them in graduate school by retroactively admitting some players and getting around other regulations for others between 2002 and 2010. The exact number of players supposedly kept eligible by this method is unconfirmed, although the report details the story of one football player and another basketball player at UNC. The information was shared to the North Carolina newspaper by a former graduate school admissions director, Cheryl Thomas, who also handed the documentation to support the claims over to the NCAA for review.

In one reported case, former UNC cornerback Michael Waddell (pictured) allegedly was placed in graduate school despite a low GPA, a lack of entrance exam score and being months past the deadline to be enrolled. Senior associate athletic director John Blanchard made a request to have Waddell admitted in the fall of 2003 before he was set to be ruled ineligible for a game against Syracuse. The request was made one day before UNC was scheduled to play Syracuse. Wadell had played in the 2003 season opener against Florida State the previous week. Blanchard’s request was reportedly submitted by UNC provost Robert Shelton, who passed on the request to graduate school dean Linda Dykstra.

Waddell went on to play his fourth year of eligibility at UNC before entering the NFL Draft. The News & Observer reports Waddell skipped classes and exams and failed out of UNC’s graduate school. But he was heading to the NFL anyway.

Thomas reportedly came forward with this information following the release of an investigative report on UNC’s affairs by Kenneth Wainstein last fall. Thomas claims to have submitted documentation to Wainstein, the NCAA and the commission that provides accreditation to UNC but three months have now passed and there has been no follow-up despite acknowledgment the documents have been received.

This latest story regarding UNC’s culture suggests UNC took advantage of graduate classes in order to extend a player’s eligibility, which supports to the idea UNC was putting athletics ahead of academics. For a university that is perceived to have gotten off lightly for past transgressions from the NCAA, this story will not sit well.

The NCAA continues to be investigating the issue of fake classes at UNC. How this relatively newer information will come into play is unknown at this point, although the NCAA did confirm to Thomas her information and documentation had been received.

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Oregon schedules three-game series with Hawaii

Marcus Mariota AP

While it’ll be too late for the reigning Heisman winner to enjoy, the flagship school in Marcus Mariota‘s home state and his former team will square off in a future series.

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens confirmed to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that UO and Hawaii have reached an agreement on three future games.  The first two games will be played in Eugene in 2020 and 2023, while the finale will be played in Honolulu in 2024.

“With so many players on our roster coming from Hawaii, it makes a lot of sense for us,” Mullens told the Star-Advertiser.

The paper noted that, including Mariota, the Ducks had six players born in Hawaii on its 2014 roster.

Since Hawaii moved to the FBS/Div. 1-A level in 1974, they have faced Oregon three times, with the Ducks winning all three matchups.  Including the Rainbow Warriors’ days as an FCS/Div. 1-AA program, the Ducks lead the all-time series 4-3.

The last meeting between the schools came in 1994.

(Tip O’ the Cap: FBSchedules.com)

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QB Caleb Rowe, RB Wes Brown to sit for Terps this spring

Caleb Rowe, Wes Brown AP

Two important pieces of Maryland’s offensive puzzle will be sidelined as the Terrapins begin preparations for the 2015 season in earnest.

Friday, head coach Randy Edsall confirmed that both quarterback Caleb Rowe (pictured, right) and running back Wes Brown (pictured, left) will be non-participants in spring practice.  Both players are still in the process of rehabbing injuries.

The absence of Rowe is not at all surprising as he tore the ACL in his left knee during a practice this past October, the same knee he suffered the same injury in the same month back in 2012.  Rowe, who will enter summer camp as the favorite to win the starting job, is seeking another season of eligibility that would allow him to play again in 2016.

Brown, who overcame off-field missteps that cost him the entire 2013 season, underwent surgery for a torn labrum sustained in the Terps’ bowl game.  Last season, Brown was second in rushing touchdowns (six) and third in rushing yards (356).  He’s also a threat coming out of the backfield, catching 21 passes in his bounce-back season.

Rowe and Brown are just a portion of a lengthy list of Terrapin players who will be sidelined this spring.  From the Washington Post:

Also out is long snapper Christian Carpenter (back), defensive lineman Ruben Franco (labrum), safety Elvis Dennah (labrum), defensive back Alvin Hill (knee), as well as wide receiver Taivon Jacobs (knee) and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson (knee). Hill, Jacobs and Jefferson could potentially participate in non-contact drills this spring, Edsall said.

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