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

Melbourne Cup Day

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

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

Below are the three distinguished finalists for each award:

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

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

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

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

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

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Amari Cooper likely to become Alabama’s first Biletnikoff winner

Amari Cooper

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

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

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

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

Les Miles

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

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

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

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

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

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Ohio State’s Spence declared permanently ineligible by Big Ten

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

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

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

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

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

Spence took to Twitter to express his feelings as well.

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

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

Oklahoma State v Florida State Getty Images

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

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

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

The Top Four

1. Alabama

2. Oregon

3. Florida State

4. Mississippi State

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

Who Is On Deck?

5. TCU

6. Ohio State

7. Baylor

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

The Full Ranking

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 7.39.15 PM

Some Quick Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Dak Prescott

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

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

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

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

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Doak Walker Award finalists filled by Big Ten trio

Melvin Gordon, Desmond King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FSU’s Aguayo highlights 2014 Lou Groza Award finalists

Roberto Aguayo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Auburn loses sacks leader for season before Iron Bowl

Auburn v Mississippi State Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boise State v Georgia Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugh Freeze

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

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

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

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

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

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Texas’ Espinosa won’t seek sixth year

Mississippi v Texas

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Murphy, Ty Montgomery AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gophers’ David Cobb ‘very questionable’ for B1G play-in game

Minnesota v Nebraska Getty Images

The winner of Saturday’s Minnesota-Wisconsin game will move on to face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game the following weekend.  Unfortunately for one of the participants, they could very well be missing a very key piece of its running game.

Tuesday afternoon, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill was asked about running back David Cobb‘s status for the play-in game. “Very questionable,” Kill responded.

Cobb sustained a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the Week 13 win over Nebraska in Lincoln.

Especially when it comes to a game with such high stakes, losing Cobb would be a significant blow for the Gophers.

Cobb has rushed for 1,430 yards this season, over 1,000 yards more than the team’s No. 2 rusher, quarterback Mitch Leidner (407).  The top back besides Cobb?  Berkley Edwards and his 140 yards.

While Cobb is ninth nationally in rushing, his Gopher teammates on the defensive side of the ball will be tasked with stopping the nation’s leading rusher (2,109 yards) and scorer of rushing touchdowns (25) in Melvin Gordon.

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Christian Hackenberg’s dad ‘won’t even touch’ transfer talk

Christian Hackenberg, Adolphus Washington

To say that Christian Hackenberg‘s second season in Happy Valley has been underwhelming would be an understatement.

As a true freshman, Hackenberg completed 59 percent of his passes and tossed 20 touchdowns vs. 10 interceptions in Bill O’Brien‘s final year at Penn State.  In James Franklin‘s first season with the Nittany Lions, Hackenberg has thrown just eight touchdowns against 14 interceptions in completing just over 55 percent of his passes.  In 2013, he threw for 2,955 yards on 392 attempts; in 389 passes this season, he’s totaled 2,411 yards.

Certainly not all of the struggles are on Hackenberg — the offensive line has allowed 39 sacks and even more quarterback hits — but those struggles, alongside public squabbling with teammates and just overall frustration, has led some to speculate that the Freshman All-American could be looking to transfer from the  Nittany Lions at season’s end.  In a telephone interview with Lancaster Online, Hackenberg’s father, a former college quarterback himself, didn’t exactly refute the speculation, although he did allow that leaving is not a talking point for the family.  Well, at least for now it’s not.

I won’t even touch that,” Erick Hackenberg told the paper when asked about the rumors. “That’s everyone else’s $64,000 question. The $64,000 question in the Lasch Building (PSU’s football facility) and in this household is how can we get better every week and at the end of the year be in a better place than now — or three weeks from now, or a month from now, at a bowl game, be at a better place than we are now. Everything else will handle itself.

“I don’t really have a comment on that at all. I think that’s a lot of conjecture. … It’s the outside, looking in. Out of respect to Coach (James) Franklin and the team, out of respect to Christian and everybody else, that’s not fair to a lot of people, so I’m not going to touch that. That’s something that doesn’t even need to be talked about at this point. He loves being at Penn State.”

It seems highly unlikely that Hackenberg, a five-star recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013 coming out of high school in Virginia, would leave the Nittany Lions after this season.  Stranger things have happened, though so it at least bears monitoring.

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