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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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Sun Belt confirms Coastal Carolina’s addition in 2017

CCU SBC

Yesterday’s report has officially become today’s come-to-fruition news.

In a press release, the Sun Belt announced that Coastal Carolina has accepted an invitation to join the conference.  The Chanticleers will join the league for football in 2017, while they move all of their other varsity sports in a year earlier for the 2016-17 season.

Currently playing at the FCS level, CCU will begin a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision with its first year of full FBS status coming in 2018. While they will be eligible to compete for an SBC title in 2017, they won’t be eligible for a bowl game until 2018.

“On behalf of all of us at Coastal Carolina University, I’m honored to accept the invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference,” CCU president David A. DeCenzo said in a statement. “I am grateful to Sun Belt Commissioner, Mr. Karl Benson, for his steadfast support of CCU, and to the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors, who honored CCU by selecting their 12th member school.”

The official addition of CCU will give the SBC 12 members beginning in 2017, triggering a conference championship game. The conference will be split geographically into two divisions.

Further, the addition makes for a natural geographic split between East and West to allow for certain sports to compete in a divisional format. The six members that are located in the eastern half of the Sun Belt are: Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, South Alabama, and Troy. The six members in the western half are: Arkansas State, Little Rock, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, UT Arlington, and Texas State. Idaho and New Mexico State compete in the Sun Belt Conference as football only members. CCU’s location makes for a natural geographical fit to the Sun Belt as it borders both North Carolina, home of Appalachian State, and Georgia, home to both Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University join our membership,” the commissioner said in his statement. “The Sun Belt is a growing conference with a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and has all the tools necessary to move forward at the highest level of collegiate athletics. Under the leadership of President David A. DeCenzo and Athletics Director Matt Hogue, I expect the Chanticleers to be competitive in all Sun Belt sports and to represent the conference in a first-class manner on and off the field.”

(Graphic credit: Sun Belt Conference)

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Harbaugh has named UM”s starting QB — just not publicly

Zach Gentry, Shane Morris, Jake Rudock AP

Michigan released its depth chart Monday and declined to publicly name a starting quarterback, instead putting an “OR” between the two combatants for the job, Iowa transfer Jake Rudock (pictured, right) and junior “incumbent” Shane Morris (pictured, middle).  That, though, doesn’t mean Jim Harbaugh hasn’t done so privately.

On the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday, Harbaugh acknowledged that both Rudock and Morris know who will start the opener against Utah Thursday night. And, according to the coach, keeping the upcoming opponent in the dark about the identity of the starter is merely icing on the cake.

“I feel like I want both of them to prepare that they’re going to be the starter, I want both of them going into this game with the mindset that they’re one play away or starting, that’s the mindset I always want our quarterback and backup quarterback [to have],” said Harbaugh. “They know [who will start vs. the Utes]…

“We know who’s going to start, we know who’s going to go in second or who is going to go in next. We want them both to prepare like they’re going to be the starter. I don’t know how to make it any more clear than that.

“If [keeping Utah guessing] is another positive or byproduct of it, then we’ll take that as well.”

Most observers believe that Rudock has the inside track to the job based on his experience — he was a two-year starter with the Hawkeyes — although Morris has reportedly had a strong camp.

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Auburn’s spring game offensive MVP abruptly leaves Tigers

Myron Burton Jr., Stephen Roberts AP

To say the least this is interesting timing on Myron Burton Jr.‘s part.

Just four days before the start of the 2015 season, Auburn confirmed that Burton has decided to take his leave of Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers football program.  No reason was given for what was as a “mutual” divorce between the player and the team.

Burton was a three-star member of AU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

His main claim to fame during his brief time on The Plains was being name as the offensive MVP of the annual A-Day spring game a few months back.  In that game, Burton portended a potential role this coming season by catching seven passes for 124 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

From al.com:

Malzahn said the Tigers will move receivers among the three main spots to compensate for the departure.

“We’ve got three or four guys who can play both,” he said. “We’ll move people around probably more than we have in the past. We do have some depth at receiver we feel good about.”

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Report: George O’Leary wants to step down as HC at season’s end, assume full-time AD role

Tulsa v Central Florida AP

If George O’Leary gets his way, UCF will, in a few months, be searching for its first new head coach in over a decade.

In June of this year, O’Leary added the title of interim athletic director to his full-time job as head coach of the Knights.  O’Leary has since hinted that he would like to assume the AD job full-time whenever his coaching career is done, which, as it turns out, may be sooner rather than later.

Citing two school officials with direct knowledge of the situation, Dan Wolken of USA Today reports that “O’Leary… has expressed a strong desire to assume the [AD] position full-time and step down as football coach at the end of this season.” A national search for a permanent AD is reportedly on hold as university leaders mull over the O’Leary option.

Should O’Leary land the full-time job — it appears that’s far from a guarantee as, even as he has the support of the president, others are opposed — he intends to promote offensive coordinator Brent Key to head coach. Key is set to enter his 11th season on O’Leary’s Knights coaching staff.

As noted, though, there are those who are against the idea of O’Leary running the athletic department on a full-time basis, especially as the “e” word continues to bubble just below the surface of the national landscape. From Wolken’s report:

However, there is significant concern among others at UCF about whether the 69-year old O’Leary, who has no prior experience in athletic administration and has been coaching in either college or the NFL since 1980, is up to the job, particularly with [former AD Todd] Stansbury and a handful of other senior-level staff members departing in recent weeks, leaving the department short-handed and somewhat in disarray.

“No one (on ground level is) tracking with the president on this,” one person said.

This would potentially be a bad time for UCF to have its athletic department in chaos, particularly if the Big 12 decides to expand. Because of its location and large alumni base, UCF is part of a group of teams that constantly comes up in conference realignment speculation.

O’Leary’s first head-coaching job at the collegiate level came at Georgia Tech from 1995-2001. After the infamous Notre Dame résumé flap, O’Leary spent a couple of years as an NFL assistant before taking over the Knights in 2004.

After an 0-11 first season, O’Leary has guided UCF to an 81-49 mark the last 10 years. The Knights have won four conference titles in that span — two in Conference USA, back-to-back AAC championships in 2013 and 2014 — and appeared in the football program’s first-ever BCS game following the 2013 season, a 52-42 win over Baylor.

Prior to O’Leary’s arrival, the Knights hadn’t played in a bowl game since their ascension to the FBS level in 1996; during O’Leary’s 11 years, the Knights have played in seven bowl games.

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Pat Haden: action taken on Sarkisian was ‘in best interest of USC’

Steve Sarkisian, Pat Haden AP

In the wake of his embarrassingly inebriated incident earlier this month, some thought Steve Sarkisian should be suspended while still others thought a dismissal was in order. Pat Haden did neither, and Monday night he explained why.

During the course of and appearance on the “Trojans Live” radio show, the USC athletic director was asked about his handling of his head coach’s self-admitted inappropriate behavior and language at a school-sponsored function earlier this month.  Haden decided that a public admonition was sufficient for Sarkisian, who is seeking treatment to determine if he has an alcohol problem.

While he understands people will take issue with his tack, he said what he did was in the best interests the university, his coach and the Trojan football players.  From the Los Angeles Daily News:

“These kinds of decisions and particularly this one was given a lot of thought, a lot of careful thought,” Haden said. “Before the decision was made, I talked to and had conversations with medical professionals, trusted members of my staff, people I’ve known for a long time.

“We developed a confidential plan going forward. Steve has discussed the counseling part of it, which he’s started. I think it’s started off well, at least what he’s told me. Importantly, he’s approached it with an open mind.

“A lot of people are going to disagree with my decision. It happens all the time. But I believe the course of action we chose is in the best interest of USC and Steve Sarkisian. And maybe just as importantly, or more importantly, to our players and their best interest.”

While apologizing for his actions, Sarkisian stated that his behavior was caused by a mixture of alcohol and prescription medication.  A short time later, Sarkisian announced that he was handing over the vast majority of his play-calling duties to coordinator Clay Helton.

In the same radio interview, Haden claimed that he had no influence or input on that decision.

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Vols’ Andrew Butcher arrested on alcohol-related charges

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A college-age human being wrapped up in alcohol-related tumult?  Well I never.

The latest to encounter such an off-field entanglement is Tennessee defensive lineman Andrew Butcher (pictured, No. 52), with the Knoxville News Sentinel reporting that was arrested on multiple charges very early Sunday morning.  Those charges include public intoxication, underage possession of alcohol and violating a controlled access roadway.

As for what led to the arrest…

Records state an officer responding to a complaint of someone exhibiting drunken behavior on I-40 found Butcher “running around on 40 East near James White Parkway.”

“Upon contact with the defendant he had a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath, bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet,” the police report read according to The Tennessean.

A four-star member of UT’s 2015 recruiting class, Butcher was rated as the No. 7 weakside defensive end; the No. 16 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 178 player overall according to Rivals.com. The 18-year-old lineman was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, but subsequent knee surgery has sidelined him for summer camp.

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

Mark Helfrich, Rich Rodriguez

As the 2015 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC) and HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 13-2, lost to Ohio State in College Football Playoff national championship game)

First thing’s first, replacing Marcus Mariota is not exactly easy for Mark Helfrich. The Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago leaves big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Oregon added one of the top quarterbacks in the nation to transfer schools this offseason with Vernon Adams leaving FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington to join the Ducks (he is now listed as the starter). The transition will go well enough for Oregon’s offense to continue making big things happen, especially with Royce Freeman looking to join the young crop of running backs expected to have a big season. The good news is Adams has a pretty solid offensive line back with starting experience, but road trips to Michigan State and Arizona State will be tough to return home with wins. Oregon finishes the season with two wins, which puts last year’s national runner-up on the fringe of the playoff conversation at the end of the season.

2. Stanford (Last year: 8-5, beat Maryland in Foster Farms Bowl)

Stanford will once again be Oregon’s biggest threat in the Pac-12 North this season, while Washington takes some time to rebound and Cal’s defense a major work in progress. Defense will be the consistent key to the Cardinal this season even though it returns just a small handful of starters from last season. The biggest concern for Stanford last season was a slow-starting offense. The offense finally started to click at the end of the year and must get off to a better start this year. Kevin Hogan has nearly his entire starting offensive line back this fall, and Stanford should have a decent running game to work with. Stanford gets Oregon at home and an early road trip to USC could be a toss-up.

3. Washington (Last year: 8-6, lost to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl)

I still believe good things are coming to Washington under Chris Petersen. I just think this is a step back before the Huskies start stepping forward. There are just too many holes on the roster right now after losing a load of talent to the NFL. Give Petersen some time though and Washington should be an improved team in 2016. This season could get off to a rough start on the road against Boise State and a home game against Utah State. Good for the Mountain West Conference. Not so good for the Pac-12. Washington also gets USC, Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks in the middle of the year. Ouch.

4. California (Last year: 5-7)

No win total will justify how fun this team will be to watch this season. The offense is there with Jared Goff leading the offense. The defense is a different story, as it will struggle to slow down anybody. Cal suffered some close calls last season. Getting to six wins is not impossible if the Bears can get off to a fast start. I’m just not sure if they will do that. A 1-3 record before hosting Washington State is what I’m seeing in the cards, and that cannot happen if Cal is to go bowling this season.

5. Oregon State (Last year: 5-7)

Mike Riley left for Nebraska, and he may have taken the good vibes with him this season. In steps Gary Andersen, fresh off a 59-0 beatdown at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game last year. Andersen is a good enough coach to make Oregon State do some good things, but his defense returns just two starters and he inherits an unstable quarterback situation lacking in experience. They may be up and down in the first half of the season but they run into a wall starting with, believe it or not, Colorado.

6. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)

The Mike Leach experiment at Washington State may come to a close soon if things do not show promise and progress this season in Pullman. After winning just three games last season, the Cougars added some junior college experience to the roster this season. If Leach can channel his inner Bill Snyder (whom Leach once called a sorcerer), maybe the Cougars can scratch together enough wins to reach the postseason. I’m not sure I see enough of those wins though, especially in Pac-12 play.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. Arizona State (Last year: 10-3, beat Duke in Sun Bowl)

The Sun Devils do few things extraordinarily well, and getting out of the Pac-12 South unscathed will be difficult for every team in the division. So it must be the schedule, right? You may actually like Arizona State’s chances in the opener against Texas A&M in Houston, and they get USC at home a few weeks later. Tough road tests at UCLA and Utah before the bye week are not automatic losses, although those games could spell trouble. Fortunately for Arizona State,they score an upset at home on a Thursday night after a bye week against Oregon (setting up an eventual rematch in the Pac-12 championship game) and they will not lose again in the regular season. Quarterback Mike Bercovici finds a comfort level with receiver D.J. Foster as the Sun Devils put a streak together at the perfect time. While all that is happening, cannibalism within the division will help place Arizona State on top of the pile.

2. USC (Last year: 9-4, beat Nebraska in Holiday Bowl)

The Trojans were tabbed the media preseason favorite at Pac-12 media days. Sure, USC looks attractive, but don’t we need to see some more consistency out of Cody Kessler and to see Steve Sarkisian win a big game before buying into the hype? Throw in the fact this is a tough division, is anybody sure USC gets out of it without a couple of losses along the way? That said, they are in the running for the Pac-12 South crown, but I do not see them getting by Arizona State on the road the week after hosting Stanford. I have USC splitting those two games, but it could just as well end up being an 0-2 setback heading into the bye week (sure, I suppose it could also be 2-0). I also think USC comes back from South Bend with a loss to Notre Dame and a road game at Oregon is a probable loss as well.

3. Utah (Last year: 9-4, beat Colorado State in Las Vegas Bowl)

Utah is my wild card team in the Pac-12 South this season because they play what may be the best defense in the division, if not the conference. Utah will be extremely difficult to beat at home, but three tough road games ultimately hold Utah back from reaching the Pac-12 championship game (Oregon, USC, Arizona). I do think things get off to a good start at home against Michigan, spoiling Jim Harbaugh‘s debut as head coach of the Wolverines, and the next week against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State. They even get a chance to knock off Arizona State at home in the middle of the season. Potential is there, but the offense needs to keep its foot on the gas to make any run.

4. Arizona (Last year: 10-4, lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl)

After coming up small against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last season, the Wildcats still look to be moving forward. Anu Solomon is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and should be ready for a big season with Caleb Jones back as his go-to receiver. The offensive and defensive lines have some holes to plug, but the Wildcats have linebacker Scooby Wright III at linebacker to pick up the slack in the middle of the defense. What I do not like about Arizona is the schedule. Arizona plays 12 straight games without a bye week. It will be a grind, but Arizona is capable of being in the hunt in this crazy division and may be welcoming that bye week at the end of the season if things fall into place again this fall. I think the final four games could be hitting a wall for Arizona though, as I have them losing three of the final four games (three of the final four on the road).

5. UCLA (Last year: 10-3, beat Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl)

The Bruins were the trendy pick last summer. Now it seems we are taking a much more scaled-back stance on UCLA. But why? UCLA returns a ton of starters from a year ago and has added a new defensive coordinator in Tom Bradley that should help. The talent is there with just one key position to address; quarterback. If Josh Rosen can step right in and have an impact, UCLA will be a contender in this competitive division. But freshmen, even the great ones, can make mistakes. Rosen has the hype, and there is a good chance to get comfortable early on with home games against Virginia and BYU and a road game at UNLV. UCLA can play itself into controlling the fate of the Pac-12 South coming down the stretch, but back-to-back road games at Utah and USC to end the season is not an easy draw.

6. Colorado (Last year: 2-10)

Colorado is not going to return to its 1990s powerhouse form in 2015, but we should see some signs of continued progress with the program under Mike MacIntyre. Colorado has a chance to enter October with a winning record, which would be a promising start. The Buffs return nine starters on defense and six on offense, so the hope is experience helps develop some talent to continue being competitive. Colorado lost some close calls last season. If they can turn a couple of those close games the other way, Colorado and a bowl trip is not out of the mix. Seriously.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Oregon over Arizona State

Oregon remains my team to beat, and they could be hitting a stride just at the right time by the time the conference championship game comes around. Oregon would be playing in the title game for the third time in five seasons while Arizona State would be in the game for the second time in three years. Oregon’s offense once again leads the way, but Arizona State gives them a run.

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Ex-‘Bama QB (again) named as Toledo’s starter

Phillip Ely AP

An injury derailed Phillip Ely‘s first season in Toledo. Fortunately, he’s going to get another go at it.

The Rockets confirmed Monday that Ely will start the program’s opener this Thursday against Stony Brook. The move comes a handful of days after Ely was named as one of four UT captains for the 2015 season.  Ely beat out Logan Woodside, who went 8-2 as a starter for the Rockets last season.

Woodside took over as the starter because of the injury to Ely, a torn ACL sustained in the second game of the season. Ely had been named as the starter ahead of Woodside a couple of weeks prior to the start of the 2014 season.

He passed for 337 yards in his first UT start, then threw for 204 yards against Missouri the following week before to sustaining the knee injury in the third quarter.

Ely began his collegiate career at Alabama in 2011 as a three-star recruit. After redshirting as a true freshman, Ely played in six games in 2012, completing three-of-four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in very limited duty. Ely was listed as the No. 2 QB the first three weeks of the 2012 season, but after that was listed as the co-backup to AJ McCarron along with redshirt sophomore Blake Sims.

In January of 2013 it was reported Ely was looking to transfer from the Tide. The summer of that year he transferred into the Rockets football program.  He sat out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Ely’s official return to the starting spot came the same day it was announced that two Rockets had been suspended for the first two games of the season, including 2014 MAC rushing leader Kareem Hunt.

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UCLA’s Ishmael Adams arrested for robbing Uber driver of cell phone

Ishmael Adams AP

Now we know a little bit more of the rest of the story. And, in the process, have what’s likely a first here at CFT.

While very few details were available at the time, it was reported late Monday afternoon that star UCLA cornerback Ishmael Adams had been arrested on a robbery charge and was sitting in jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond. Subsequently it was reported that Adams allegedly “used force” to take the cell phone of an Uber driver early Sunday morning, triggering what is right now a felony charge.

Adams was taken into custody a short time after the alleged incident, and has an initial court appearance scheduled for later this morning.

“We are aware of the situation and continuing to gather information,” a UCLA spokesperson said in a statement. “As this is a pending legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time.”

Adams has started all 26 games at cornerback the past two seasons, and last year he returned a school-record two interceptions for touchdowns. Speaking of returns, he’s one of the top return men in the country and conference: last year, he returned 21 punts for a 9.2 average (26th in the nation) and returned 26 kickoffs for a 22.7-yard average (ninth in Pac-12).

This offseason, he was named to the preseason watch lists for both the Thorpe Award and Hornung Award.

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Reports: Coastal Carolina to join Sun Belt in 2017

The Great Wheel of Conference Realignment may have just taken its last spin. For now.

According to a report from ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, Coastal Carolina is set to join the Sun Belt as the league’s 12th and final member. The Chanticleers were finalists alongside Eastern Kentucky for the conference’s last remaining spot.

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Eastern Kentucky is said to be further along than Coastal Carolina in terms of department-wide infrastructure, but the Myrtle Beach, S.C., school has two things the Colonels do not that are paramount in this particular game of thrones: recent football success and access to large sums of money, and not necessarily in that order. Coastal has both of those things thanks to Joe Moglia, the billionaire former banking executive that is now the Chanticleers’ head football coach; Moglia is 32-10 in three seasons as Coastal Carolina’s head coach, leading the club to the FCS quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons.

Coastal Carolina’s addition would allow the Sun Belt to split into two divisions and stage a football championship game. (Nevermind the fact that the NCAA will likely deregulate championship games before Coastal’s arrival.) Coastal Carolina would figure to fit into an East division alongside Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Troy and South Alabama. Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State, Texas State, New Mexico State and Idaho figure to form a West division.

A formal announcement is expected Tuesday, where the school could stadium upgrades necessary for FBS admittance. Brooks Stadium holds 9,214; FBS teams are required to average at least 15,000 paid attendance over a rolling two-year period.

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Former Trojans DE Morgan Breslin suing USC over insurance claim

Morgan Breslin

Let’s put it this way: Pat Haden has had better fortnights.

With Steve Sarkisian‘s issues now in the rear-view mirror, there’s another issue popping up for the USC football program. Former defensive end Morgan Breslin has brought a lawsuit against his former school, claiming the school led him astray in choosing disability insurance.

A second team All-Pac-12 performer as a junior in 2012, Breslin’s senior season ended after undergoing surgery to fix a nagging hip injury in November of 2013. He had a cup of coffee with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014, but in effect his playing career ended with that surgery.

Before his senior season, however, Breslin worked with USC on purchasing a disability insurance program through AmTrust at Lloyd’s, a process in which he says was led by a university-appointed insurance broker.

With his career now over, Breslin went to collect on his policy, only AmTrust has denied the claim and has filed paperwork in an effort to declare his policy void. So now Breslin is suing USC for what he says was inadequate coverage.

“USC controls all communications between insurers offering athletic insurance policies and the student athlete who will buy the policy,” the suit states, via the Los Angeles Daily News. “This is done through USC’s Compliance Department and the training and medical staff.”

Breslin is in search of “unspecified damages.”

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Once more, with feeling: LSU tabs Brandon Harris as starting QB

Brandon Harris

As Decision Day (or Indecision Day, in the cases of Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama) comes to a close, we’ve got one more school making a decision on a starting quarterback, and it may be one of the biggest choices of the entire season.

LSU head coach Les Miles announced Monday evening sophomore Brandon Harris had beaten junior Anthony Jennings out for the Tigers’ starting quarterback job.

Harris posted a quarterback rating nearly 60 points higher than Jennings in 2014, albeit in a much smaller sample size. Harris completed 25-of-42 passes 452 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in eight appearances; Jennings connected on 111-of-227 throws for 1,611 yards with 11 scores against seven picks. Harris also averaged 6.1 yards a carry with three touchdowns on 26 carries, compared to Jennings’ 2.7 yards per pop and no scores on 108 attempts.

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Of course, the LSU quarterback’s job is not to be a Heisman Trophy contender. In fact, his job is to limit turnovers and get out of the way so that Leonard Fournette can batter his way into Heisman contention.

It’s not a stretch to say quarterback play could be the difference between an SEC (or national) championship and a last-place finish. LSU signal callers posted a collective 128.26 passer rating in 2014, worst in the SEC West. A similar performance likely results in a seventh-place finish in 2015.

LSU opens the season against McNeese State at 7:30 ET Saturday on SEC Network.

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Michigan declines to name starting QB in initial depth chart

Shane Morris

Like his colleagues in Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee and ColumbusJim Harbaugh is going to take as long as possible to declare a starting quarterback.

The Wolverines released their initial depth chart Monday in advance of their Thursday night opener at Utah, and senior Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris share the first team spot. True freshman Alex Malzone and redshirt freshman Wilton Speight are still in a dead heat for the third spot.

Rudock, a transfer from Iowa, completed 213-of-345 passes (61.7 percent) for 2,436 yards (7.1 per attempt) with 16 touchdowns against five interceptions last year for the Hawkeyes. In limited action, Morris connected on 14-of-40 passes (35 percent) for 128 yards with no touchdowns and three picks.

Additionally, De’Veon Smith will start at running back, and Amara Darboh or Drake Harris will start at one receiver spot while Jehu Chesson or Grant Perry will share the other spot.

Michigan faces the Utes at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The network is pulling out all the stops for Harbaugh’s debut.

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UGA names UVa transfer Greyson Lambert starting quarterback

Greyson Lambert, John Huff

You get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback! And you get a starting quarterback!

Following announcements at Texas, Florida State, Army and Ole Miss, Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced Monday Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert will start for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“There may be other or others who get in the game. But right now the thing that I know that he’ll start the game,” Richt said of Lambert, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Very, very close competition. Still being contested in my mind. But at this point we felt it would be wise to name a starter and get him ready to play in this ballgame. …  We’ll start playing ball that way and see how it goes.”

Richt said he and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were “pretty sure” on Saturday, but gave themselves a couple of nights to let the decision marinate. Lambert and fellow signal callers Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta were informed before Monday’s practice session. Richt, however, did not rule out letting either of the runners-up see action on Saturday. “So it was very close, but coach Schottenheimer and I have decided that it would be wise to decide on who it is right now so we could kind of get it over with, so to speak, and maybe within a day or two everybody can kind of settle down and play football, think about winning,” Richt said.

Lambert tossed 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore at Virginia last season. In what could be the best “go to class, son” message ever, Lambert moved from Virginia’s backup quarterback to Georgia’s starter over the course of one offseason.

“We didn’t invite (Lambert) blindly,” Richt said. “We watched his film and felt like he could function and do the things that we’re going to ask the quarterback to do here at Georgia. But we didn’t say: ‘He’s gonna come in and be our starter’ by any means. We told him he would compete for that job and legitimately have a shot to compete for that job.”

Georgia hosts Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in a noon kickoff on SEC Network.

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Jimbo Fisher names Everett Golson ‘Noles starting QB

Everett Golson

In news that we all expected upon his May announcement to transfer to Florida State, though we may not have expected to actually happen today given this afternoon’s piece of news, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed Monday evening that Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson will be the Seminoles’ starting quarterback in 2015.

“Everett’s going to be our starter,” Fisher said after Florida State’s Monday practice. “It’s a tougher decision because of how  well (Golson and Sean Maguire) were playing, not things they weren’t doing.”

Golson threw for 3,445 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Fighting Irish to the 2013 BCS National Championship game.

Florida State hosts Texas State at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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