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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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Wisconsin assistants must reapply to keep jobs in Madison

New Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst says he is willing to talk with any current Badgers assistant coach interested in returning to the coaching staff in 2015, but any coach who has a desire to continue coaching in Madison will have to reapply for the job.

Due to university policies regarding the hiring of employees, Chryst is prevented from making any offers to assistant coaching candidates until those looking for the job submit a formal job application. Applications are due by December 29, so you still have some time to apply for a job on Chryst’s staff.

Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez has confirmed offensive line coach T.J. Woods and defensive counterpart Chad Kauha’aha’a will leave Wisconsin to join Gary Andersen at Oregon State. Both assistant coaches will coach for Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. Alvarez will be the interim head coach for the Badgers in the Outback Bowl against Auburn.

Wisconsin is not expected to make a formal announcement about the new coaching staff until after the Outback Bowl.

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Pitt and Colorado State interviewed MSU’s Pat Narduzzi

Pat Narduzzi

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has been mentioned as a potential candidate for various head coaching opportunities over the last couple of years now after establishing one of the top defensive programs in the country in East Lansing. It now appears Narduzzi is flirting with the opportunity to take on the role of head coach more seriously than ever before.

Narduzzi has interviewed for the head coaching openings at Colorado State and Pittsburgh, according to a report by MLive.com. Narduzzi reportedly interviewed with Colorado State earlier in the week and with Pittsburgh on Friday. Both coaches lost head coaches to other power-conference programs this offseason. Colorado State’s Jim McElwain took a job offer at Florida and Pittsburgh most recently lost Paul Chryst to Wisconsin.

It seems as though Michigan State has already been preparing Narduzzi for the chance to be a head coach, as well as a plan to replace their defensive coordinator if and when the time comes. Narduzzi has been given extra responsibilities to prepare him for being a head coach, which has benefits for Michigan State as well, and MLive.com says Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio is supportive of his assistant and ready to

“When that point in time happens, we’ve had this happen enough for us that we’ll be prepared,” Dantonio said previously. “Up until that time it’s status quo. It’s a good situation.”

Narduzzi checking out his options is nothing new. Just a year ago Narduzzi interviewed with UConn and he had been connected as a candidate to a few other jobs as well.

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Stagg Bowl XLII: Wisconsin-Whitewater claims sixth DIII title in eight years

Lance Leipold

The Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks are champions once again.

Since Lance Leipold took over the the program in 2007, the Warhawks have done nothing but win football games.

The team’s sixth championship — all under Leipold’s watch — came Friday in Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl XLII when the Warhawks once again beat the Mount Union Purple Raiders 42-34 to claim the program’s second straight Division III national championship.

Leipold will leave the program in style.

As the fastest coach ever at any level of college football to reach 100 wins, Leipold was tabbed as the next head coach of the Buffalo Bulls. It’s a big jump in competition for a Division III head coach, but Leipold just must be the exception if his early success as a head coach is any indication.

The two teams combined for 1,168 total yards and seven turnovers.

Mount Union shot itself in the foot with five turnovers. Quarterback Kevin Burke — the only two-time winner of the Gagliardi Trophy as the top player at the Division III level — threw four interceptions. He only threw five the entire season before Friday’s effort.

Wisconsin-Whitewater quarterback Matt Behrendt, meanwhile, received plenty of help as he completed 26 of 38 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

Warhawks wide receiver Jake Kumerow was the best player on the field. The 6-5 target was nearly unstoppable throughout the contest and finished the game with eight receptions for 130 yards. Dennis Moore added 108 yards only on two catches. Finally, running back Jordan Ratliffe proved to be a workhorse with 24 carries for 116 yards.

Wisconsin-Whitewater’s offensive production along with Mount Union’s turnovers were the recipe for yet another Warhawks championship.

After meeting each other in the Stagg Bowl nine out of the last 10 years, Wisconsin-Whitewater has now gotten the best of Mount Union six out of the last seven times.

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RB Deantre Lewis abruptly leaves Arizona State Sun Devils

Colorado v Arizona State

Senior running back Deantre Lewis will not finish his career as a member of the Arizona State Sun Devils.

After finishing the regular season with 298 total yards as both a running back and a wide receiver, Lewis will not play in the Sun Bowl against the Duke Blue Devils.

No reason was given for Lewis departure, but Arizona State head coach Todd Graham confirmed he is no longer part of the program.

Lewis career never blossomed after a promising freshman campaign. During his first year on campus, Lewis produced three straight 100-yard games against the Wisconsin Badgers, Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers. He never ran for more than 64 yards in any single game during the rest of his career.

The running back was a victim of a random shooting in 2012. Upon his return, he was stuck on the depth chart behind Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Lewis was then shifted to the defensive side of the football for a short period. He suffered an MCL injury in 2014. He was even called out publicly by his coach.

After an average senior season, it appears Lewis finally had enough.

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Gus Malzahn uncertain of D’haquille Williams’ status for Outback Bowl

D'haquille Williams

Auburn wide receiver D’haquille Williams continues to be bothered by lingering injuries and illness.

The Outback Bowl is 13 days away, but Auburn’s leading receiver isn’t currently on track to play in the game.

When asked about whether Williams would definitely play against the Wisconsin Badgers, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn wasn’t willing to commit one way or another.

“Not at this point,” Malzahn told Al.com’s Joel A. Erickson.

Williams missed two of Auburn’s final three games due to a sprained MCL and a bruised knee that he suffered Nov. 8 against the Texas A&M Aggies. The JUCO transfer returned for the Iron Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide and caught seven passes for 121 yards.

However, the talented wide receiver hasn’t been feeling well.

“He has not practiced,” Malzahn said. “He was sick and he’s got some treatment things to do from the last game.”

Despite missing those two games, Williams still leads the Tigers with 45 receptions for 730 yards. The 6-2, 216-pound receiver has proven to be the security blanket for quarterback Nick Marshall.

If Williams can’t play, the Badgers will roll coverage toward Auburn’s deep threat, Sammie Coates. The junior will be playing his last game as a member of the Tigers before he’s NFL bound.

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Former four-star TE transfers from Vanderbilt to Colorado State

team headshots(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

The Colorado State Rams don’t have a head coach yet, but they’ve already landed a big commitment.

Tight end Mitchell Parsons was one of the crown jewels in the Vanderbilt Commodores’ 2013 recruiting class. The former four-star recruit was considered the nation’s seventh-best tight end prospect, according to Rivals.com.

After a redshirt season and no playing time this year, the native of Parker, Colorado, decided he wanted to play closer to home.

Parsons’ transfer shouldn’t come as a surprise. He originally committed to head coach James Franklin, who left to take the job at Penn State less than a year later. Vanderbilt’s offense will again transition this offseason after new head coach Derek Mason fired offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell.

The tight end might not know who he’ll be playing for at Colorado State, but at least his family will only be an hour or so down the road.

Parsons will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Once he is eligible to play, he’ll have an opportunity to replace Steven Walker, who will be a senior in 2015, as the team’s starting tight end.

(Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt athletic department)

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Missouri will be without its second-leading receiver for Citrus Bowl

Jimmie Hunt ,Jabriel Washington

The Missouri Tigers will be without their second-leading receiver, Jimmie Hunt, for the Citrus Bowl against the Minnesota Gophers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter reported Hunt underwent shoulder surgery Wednesday.

Hunt was second on the team in receptions (40), yardage (698) and receiving touchdowns (7) this season. The senior is also coming off the best game of his career against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game. Hunt amassed an impressive 169 yards after beating the Alabama secondary deep multiple times.

Without Hunt in the lineup, the Tigers’ spread offense will feature a new slot receiver.

The two receivers Missouri’s head coach mentioned have caught a total of five passes this season. Otte, a senior, is the experienced option, but Brown presents a matchup problem at 6-3 and 205 pounds. Both may be required to step up in Hunt’s absence.

Minnesota is yet another big and physical team in Missouri’s way. The Tigers’ spread offense needs to be firing on all cylinders to score quickly once the Gophers try to control the clock with their running game and sound defense.

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Big 12 would look ‘East not West’ if league decides to expand

Bob Bowlsby

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby provided the first hint of possible expansion during an interview on 740 AM the Game with the Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi.

Expansion could be vital for the league as it moves forward after being left out of the first College Football Playoff.

Once the Baylor Bears and TCU Horned Frogs weren’t included as one of the nation’s top four teams, the Big 12 Conference became the only Power Five league without representation in the inaugural playoff system.

Two reasons became evident why the Big 12 was left out of the mix.

First, the Big 12 only has 10 teams. The NCAA prevents a league from hosting a championship game if it has less than 12 teams. As a result, the champions of the Big 12 played one less game than those teams that won their championship game.

In an attempt to make both the Baylor and TCU enticing candidates — because the Horned Frogs were rated higher even though they lost to the Bears — the conference decided its “One True Champion” would include both teams and the College Playoff Committee could decide which team should be more highly ranked.

Instead, the league’s decision backfired since neither team was seen as a true champion of their conference.

The most likely solution to the Big 12’s problem is to acquire a waiver from the NCAA to hold a championship game. After all, the Big 12 places a higher value on monetary gain than true competitive balance.

“We divide the money 10 ways,” Bowlsby told Bianchi, via UCFSports.com. “Right now, we’re distributing the largest amount of money to each of our members in any league in college athletics. I don’t know that our members are prepared to take a reduction in that distributable revenue. It’s certainly about TV sets. It’s certainly about recruiting. It’s certainly about the possibility of competitive implications in all of our sports, but particularly our high-profile sports. At the present time we have no strategy. We haven’t had any discussions around expansion. Our CEOs have said they like 10. I expect that we’ll be at 10 for a while. Could that change down the road? Sure it could… I don’t think we’re going to take a kneejerk reaction and think immediately about expansion just because on this occasion we got left out of the playoff.”

While Bowlsby expects an answer for the league’s appeal within six months, expansion might quickly develop into a legitimate option if the NCAA doesn’t approve the waiver.

The commissioner provided an initial hint of what the league might do once league expansion is back on the table.

“We have one member in West Virginia that’s on the East Coast,” Bowlsby said. “We have to be mindful of their situation. If we took somebody in that was on the far West Coast it would certainly do a disservice to our member in West Virginia. As I mentioned earlier, it may be a different set of criteria to some of our members than it is to other members. As the commissioner, I certainly have to take all 10 institutions and their sensitivities into play.”

The two obvious candidates would be the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights. Cincinnati would provide a travel partner and a rival for West Virginia. UCF, meanwhile, is an burgeoning program that would allow the Big 12 to get into the talent-rich state of Florida for recruiting purposes.

Bowlsby’s inclination to look at teams in the eastern half of the United State would exclude the BYU Cougars and Boise State Broncos, both of which would be strong candidates as football programs.

“We don’t have any schools on our radar at the present time,” Bowlsby said. “As you know, the Grant of Rights was noted earlier in the previous question. Our institutions all have granted their rights to the Big 12. Several other conferences have Grants of Rights. There are some institutions that are essentially off the table. We don’t have any expansion initiative. We don’t have any list of prospects. We don’t have any plans to expand. As our athletic directors, our CEOs, talk about what the model looks like, talk about the challenges of the future and talk about the immediate past experience we had with the playoff, you know, those are things that are going to get discussed. But we don’t have any list. We don’t have any initiative. I would say that the status quo is by far the most attractive status to most of our members.”

While the Big 12 doesn’t have any current plans to expand, Bowlby’s stance has slightly softened in the past 11 days.

The league’s future expansion now hinges on the NCAA’s decision to allow the Big 12 to hold a championship game with on 10 members. If the appeal is denied, the expansion conversation will intensify.

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 20 Viewer’s Guide

Mark Hudspeth AP

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 20 bowl menu, which on “opening weekend” features five bowl games as the 2014 postseason kicks off.

WHO: Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)
WHAT: The 14th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Unless you were on Bourbon Street the night before, what better way to cap off your Saturday morning, and start the 2014 bowl season, than with a little Mountain West vs. Sun Belt action?  After never making a bowl in the first 38 years of the football program’s existence, Louisiana-Lafayette has now qualified for four straight under Mark Hudspeth.  Not only that, but they’ve won their first three appearances — all of which came in this very bowl.  Nevada, meanwhile, has lost its last two bowl games and six of its last eight.  The Ragin’ Cajuns are also playing very well as they head into the postseason, closing out the regular season with a 7-1 burst.  That burst came after a 1-3 start to the season that featured losses to nationally-ranked Ole Miss and Boise State as well as Conference USA runner-up Louisiana Tech. UL-L will prove to be a significant challenge to Nevada, one that Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack may not be able to overcome.
THE LINE: Louisiana-Lafayette, +1
THE PREDICTION: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Nevada 27

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WHO: Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5)
WHAT: The 9th Gildan New Mexico Bowl
WHERE: University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM
WHEN: 2:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: If you’re a fan of old school football that features copious amounts of defense and pounding yards out on the ground, this game is for you.  Utah State is very stingy defensively, giving up just 20.8 points per game (21st nationally).  USU is also very good against the run (26th, giving up 129.2 ypg); that also happens to be UTEP’s strength offensively (35th, 213.8 ypg).  The Aggies, though, are coming off their worst performance of the season, giving up 50 points and nearly 500 yards in the regular-season finale against Boise State.  Something tells me that it’ll be the Miners who will end up paying the price for that debacle.
THE LINE: UTEP, +10½
THE PREDICTION: Utah State 48, UTEP 17

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WHO: Utah (8-4) vs. Colorado State (10-2)
WHAT: The 23rd Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
WHERE: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
WHEN: 3:30 ET on ABC
THE SKINNY: The first day of bowl action has landed what could be one of the best and most intriguing matchups of the postseason.  Colorado State is coming off its best regular season in over a decade, but will also be without its head coach as Jim McElwain took the Florida job and won’t coach in the bowl game.  Utah, the only Power Five team in action today, began the 2014 season 6-1, but stumbled to a 2-3 finish that eliminated it from contention for a significantly more important bowl berth.  The teams do have one 2014 opponent in common in Colorado, with CSU winning at home 31-17 in Week 1 and the U of U winning 38-34 in Week 14 on the road.  A significant focus for Utah’s defense, one of the best in the country, will be shutting down All-American wide receiver Rashard Higgins.  If the Utes can accomplish that feat — it won’t be easy as Higgins has at least 143 yards receiving in each of the last seven games — it would go a long way in securing their first bowl win since after the 2011 season.
THE LINE: Colorado State, +3½
THE PREDICTION: Utah 27, Colorado State 20

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WHO: Western Michigan (8-4) vs. Air Force (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Id.
WHEN: 5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This game very easily could’ve been called the Turnaround Bowl.  The fact that either team, let alone both, are playing in the postseason somewhat constitutes a minor miracle as Air Force won a mere two games in 2013 while Western Michigan trumped even that with just a single win last season.  This game is also your classic immovable object vs. irresistible force matchup: WMU is 37th in the country in rushing yards given up per game (142.7) while AF, as service academies ofttimes are, is seventh in rushing offense at 272.2 yards per game.  Throw in how the Falcons gain those yards on the ground, and it could be a long day for the Broncos.
THE LINE: Western Michigan, +1
THE PREDICTION: Air Force 37, Western Michigan 24

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WHO: South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6)
WHAT: The Inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: It’s appropriate that South Alabama is appearing in the first-ever Camellia Bowl as the Jaguars, who moved to the FBS level three years ago, are making their first-ever bowl appearance.  Their opponents, meanwhile, are playing in their seventh bowl game the past 12 years.  The Jaguars have struggled to score points all year long, with their 20.2 points per game ranking 113th out of 128 FBS teams.  The Falcons, meanwhile, have struggled to stop the opposition from scoring all season, as its 33.9 ppg (109th nationally) attests.  Whichever trend continues will play a significant role in determining the outcome.
THE LINE: Bowling Green, +3
THE PREDICTION: Bowling Green 38, South Alabama 24

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Danny Hope officially added to Willie Taggart’s USF staff

Danny Hope

After a two-season absence, Hope — and one of the best mustaches — has returned to college football.

Following up on a couple of days worth of speculation, USF announced Friday afternoon that Danny Hope has been added to Willie Taggart‘s coaching staff at USF.  The long-time college assistant will serve as the Bulls’ co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

The co-coordinator title is mildly surprising as all of the rumors had centered around Hope being the line coach. Instead, Hope will share coordinating duties with David Reaves, who was, the release stated, “promoted to co-offensive coordinator with oversight of the Bulls’ passing attack.”

Hope has spent the past two seasons on the coaching sidelines after his dismissal as Purdue’s head coach in November of 2012. Interestingly, this is the first time in a collegiate career that spans nearly three decades that Hope’s had the coordinator title in his job description. Previously, he had either been the assistant head coach (Louisville) or the offensive line coach (Oklahoma, Louisville, Wyoming) or both (Purdue).

“Danny is one of the best offensive line coaches in college football and a Florida native with strong ties to the Bay Area,” Taggart said in a statement. “He is a leader and a great recruiter who has helped to build and orchestrate some very successful offenses at several stops in major college football. I’m excited to welcome Danny and his family back to Florida and get to work.”

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Leukemia fighter, frosh DB to serve as captain in Chips’ bowl game

Derrick Nash

If you recall, last May we made mention of a heartwarming story coming out of Central Michigan.  Shortly after signing with CMU in February of 2013, Derrick Nash was diagnosed with leukemia and was told that he’d be forced to sit out that season.  Nash vowed to return to the playing field, while the university vowed to honor his scholarship.

The running back did return, playing in the spring game earlier this year.  Unfortunately, the leukemia returned as well, forcing the player to miss a second straight season as he underwent additional chemotherapy.  As the Chips prepare to play Western Kentucky in the Popeyes Bahama Bowl Christmas Eve, though, Nash will be a part of the team in the postseason.

According to the school, Nash will serve as the honorary captain for the Chips in their postseason game.  Head coach Dan Enos said in a statement that the NCAA, as well as his doctors, signed of recently on allowing Nash to perform the ceremonial duties.

And, it should be noted, get that free trip to the Bahamas he’s earned.

“We had to file a waiver with the NCAA to clear him just to invite him on the trip,” Enos said. “When we got the waiver that we could bring him that was a real blessing. Then we didn’t know if he was going to be able to go and to have his doctors clear him to go was another blessing.

“Our team loves him, he’s part of our family. He’s been through a lot obviously and I think our team loves to have one of our own as a captain, but a guy like Derrick who we draw so much strength from just watching how courageous he is every day and what an inspiration he is to our entire program.”

Both the player and the football program are hopeful he can return to the playing field in 2015 in something other than an honorary role.

(Photo credit: Central Michigan athletics)

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Report: Harbaugh’s family, friends encouraging him to take UM job

Jim Harbaugh AP

The will-he-or-won’t-he spinning of the Wheel of Harbaugh has taken yet another turn, perhaps the most interesting and dramatic one in this whole extended soap opera.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, and citing sources close to the situation, the family and friends of San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh “have been encouraging him to take the Michigan [head coaching] job, but he is torn because his heart is in the NFL.” Perhaps most importantly, and especially if the coach’s household hierarchy is anything like mine, “Harbaugh’s wife also is said to be open and on board to him going back to Ann Arbor if that’s what he wants.”

It’s previously been reported/speculated that Harbaugh’s wife would be against a move from California to Ann Arbor; if Schefter’s report is accurate, that would remove one potential obstacle.

Schefter’s report comes two days after a report surfaced that Michigan was prepared to over Harbaugh a contract in the neighborhood of $8 million annually over six years. Thursday, Harbaugh declined to answer when asked directly if his alma mater had offered him a contract.

Harbaugh’s father could also be a family member who’s nudging his son in the direction of the Wolverines.

There is an undisputed emotional connection for Harbaugh, who played at Michigan, is an iconic figure there, and has been hearing from family and friends about returning as the prodigal son. Harbaugh’s father, Jack, is influential with his son and he has made it known that he likes and admires Michigan’s interim athletic director, Jim Hackett, whom he got to know in the mid 1970s, when he was coaching the defensive backs at Michigan while Hackett was playing center at the school.

Harbaugh would like to make his decision after the NFL season ends, after what Schefter describes as “the players’ getaway day on Monday, Dec. 29.” Certainly if UM knew, with absolute certainty, Harbaugh will take the job, they would be more than willing to wait. Should there be any doubt — and apparently there is in the mind of the man who’s reportedly their top candidate — can the university really afford to put its search on hold awaiting an answer?

That’s the $8 million question… or $8 million-plus if you’re of the mindset that Harbaugh and/or his agent are merely using UM to drive up his NFL price.

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Report: starting DE among four Fresno St. players suspended for bowl

Ikaika Woolsey, Maurice Poyadue

Fresno State will head into the postseason with depleted strength at a couple of positions thanks to off-field issues.  Reportedly.

Citing sources within the program, the Sacramento Bee is reporting that defensive end Maurice Poyadue, wide receiver Myles Carr and linebackers Xavier Ulutu and Michael Lazarus have been suspended for the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl against Rice. The suspensions stemmed from the catch-all “violation of athletic department policy.”

The most notable of the suspensions is that of Poyadue as he has started the past seven games of the 2014 season.  He’s played in all 13 games this season as well after playing in 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

Likewise, Ulutu has played in every game this season, although those appearances came as the No. 2 inside linebacker.  Lazarus, listed behind Ulutu on the depth chart, has played in seven games.

Carr, a redshirt sophomore, has not caught a pass this season after playing in five games in 2013.

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Kentucky makes hiring of WVU OC Shannon Dawson official

Photo credit: West Virginia Athletics

Two days after it was initially reported, and a day after Dana Holgorsen confirmed it, Kentucky has made it official.

In a press release, UK announced that Mark Stoops has hired Shannon Dawson as his new offensive coordinator.  In addition to coordinator, Dawson will serve as the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach.

Dawson will replace Neal Brown, who was named as Troy’s head coach late last month.

“I’m very excited to bring Shannon Dawson to the University of Kentucky,” Stoops said. “He has done a great job in helping build programs to success on every level. I’ve been impressed with the balance of West Virginia’s offense and how difficult they are to defend. I love the continuity he will bring to what we’ve been doing as we build on the progress we’ve made so far.

“In learning more about Shannon, I’ve found out what a strong leader he is and heard nothing but good things about him throughout our profession.”

As he will with the Wildcats, Dawson served as the Mountaineers’ coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. He was named WVU’s coordinator in 2012, his second season in Morgantown. Unlike at WVU, however, Dawson will have play-calling responsibilities at UK.

WVU, incidentally, was Dawson’s first full-time job at the FBS level.

(Photo credit: West Virginia athletics)

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Ex-Wake QB Travis Smith transfers to EMU

Travis Smith

With John Wolford, a true freshman, seemingly entrenched as Wake Forest’s starting quarterback, Travis Smith took his leave of the football program in mid-September.  Three months later, the quarterback officially has a new home.

Friday afternoon, Eastern Michigan announced that Smith is one of eight players, mostly from the JUCO ranks, who have been added to the football program.  Smith is already enrolled in classes at EMU for the winter semester.

The rising sophomore will participate in spring practice and, because of when he left Wake, will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Smith, who didn’t see the field during his very brief stint with the Demon Deacons, was a three-star member of Wake’s 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 24 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  Following his senior season in high school, he was named the Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year.

(Photo credit: Wake Forest athletics)

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