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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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Texas LB takes to Twitter to raise money for sick mom

Dalton Santos, Baker Mayfield AP

While one Texas linebacker was cramming both of his feet squarely in his mouth this weekend, another teammate at the same position was trying to raise attention to a cause very near and dear to his heart.

On his personal Twitter account late Sunday afternoon, UT’s Dalton Santos, a projected starter for the Longhorns’ defense, posted a plea for money to help his ailing mother, Vista, a nurse who is apparently in need of open heart surgery.

Here’s Santos’ post:

Following the link contained in the tweet, you get the following information — and the stellar “Vista’s Angry Aortic Aneurysm” headline:

Friends,

Vista has been diagnosed with an AORTIC ANEURYSM. This MUST be repaired SOON by means of OPEN HEART SURGERY. As we all know Vista is a very proud momma to 3 children. Dalton, Wyatt and Gracie. Vista will be unable to work for at least 10 weeks. She is a single mom. She is a nurse and spends her days caring for others. Now she needs to learn how to let others care for her, even if only for a short time.

We need to raise money to help her during this time. Even if you can only donate 5 dollars it will help ease the burden. The stress of finances should not be something our friend worries about during this time.

Please consider donating.

The goal initially was to raise $5,000; it looks as if word of the social media-fueled drive is spreading as that target has now been upped to $10,000. As of this posting, a total of $4,821 — with 25 days left — has been raised.  For those who can’t figure it out, the direct link to donate if you so desire is right HERE.

God bless and good luck to all involved.

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Bo knows two-sport success, imparts wisdom on Jameis

Bo Jackson

One of the few people on the planet who can truly understand the athlete portion of the Jameis Winston phenomenon is Bo Jackson.

Jackson was a two-sport star at Auburn before playing both football and baseball professionally.  Winston appears to be headed down that same path, splitting his time this spring between the reigning BCS champ Florida State football team and the top-ranked Seminole baseball team.

Add in the fact that both won Heismans and both were born in Bessemer, Ala., and it’s reasonable for people to connect the dots between the two.  In that vein, Jackson, who was in attendance at the Tigers’ spring game over the weekend, was asked what advice he would give the FSU quarterback regarding the two-sport challenge both have tackled.

“People tried to tell me ‘Well, he shouldn’t do this,’ and it wouldn’t be right for me to say what he should do or shouldn’t do,” Jackson said according to al.com‘s Brandon Marcello. “I think he should follow his heart. He should experience success or failure on his own. I think he’s man enough to do that and admit either way.

“I just wish him luck. He’s from my hometown, so he’s a homeboy. I wish him luck.”

Jackson does, though, offer a word of warning amidst the encouragement.

When Bo was doing his two-sport thing, he was a running back in football and an outfielder in the stick-and-ball game.  Winston, on the other hand, is a quarterback and, along with being  a designated hitter, a relief pitcher.  With so much reliance placed on his arm, Winston may have to look elsewhere position-wise if he wants to try both sports professionally.

“If he thinks he can do it, then so be it — on the college level,” Jackson said. “But trying to take it to the next level, it’s going to be a little difficult because the talent pool on both sides. Plus he’s going to make his living with his arm and I think if I was Jameis I would follow my heart because I did the same thing.”

For his part, Winston has openly acknowledged wanting to tackle both sports professionally.

That is my dream,” Winston said back in February when asked about twin futures in the NFL and MLB, “whether it’s me being a closer or me being a hitter. But I know I want to be an NFL quarterback.

“Obviously, it would be a tremendous honor to follow in the footsteps of the Bo Jacksons and the Deion Sanders to play both sports professionally. That’s just something that I have to worry about when it comes.”

Jackson says Winston should follow his heart; Winston, though, may want to follow his wallet to find the path of least resistance, at least on his body.

(Photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

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Max Wittek takes in Texas’ spring game

Colorado v USC Getty Images

For the better part of the eight weeks or so since Max Wittek announced his transfer out of USC. all — or at least most — of the signs have pointed to Texas being the frontrunner for the quarterback’s services.

Saturday, there was yet another sign pointing in the general direction of Austin.

Late last night, ESPN.com reported that Wittek visited UT earlier in the day and was in attendance for the Longhorns’ spring game.  It was the third time since late January that the quarterback has visited the campus, leading some to believe that Wittek-to-UT is all but a done deal.

In addition to Texas, Wittek has visited Hawaii as well.  Louisville is also thought to be a potential destination.

As Wittek will graduate this spring, he will be eligible to play immediately at any FBS program and maintain two years of eligibility.  There’s no word yet on when Wittek will pull the trigger on a decision on his next collegiate destination, although that could happen as early as this coming week.

Wittek was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country.  Late last month, Wittek announced he would be transferring from USC in search of a better shot at playing time.

Should Wittek land at UT, he would immediately join a competition that includes the incumbent David Ash, who recently underwent surgery on an injured foot but is expected to be available for the start of summer camp, and Tyrone Swoopes, who struggled for the most part leading the first-team offense in the spring finale yesterday.

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Texas LB calls Baylor ‘trash,’ says ‘they still suck to me’

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Other than Tyrone Swoopes‘ struggles, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of news coming out of Charlie Strong’s first spring game at Texas.

Well, that and a Longhorn giving a conference rival some serious bulletin board material.

Following the spring game, Steve Edmond was one of several UT players to make an appearance in front of the media.  When asked about how Strong can improve the Longhorns’ fortunes from the last couple of years, the linebacker decided to go off on a tangent and aim some rather sharp words directly at the reigning Big 12 champs, Baylor.

“We could have won the conference. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play in the Baylor game, I really feel like we should have beat Baylor. I really don’t like Baylor. I still think they’re trash. …

“I’m mad as I can be. I knew we were a better team than they were. And then … Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It’s not like you never won a game.

“I’m like, ‘They won it, so what?’ They still suck to me.”

Thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset loss to Oklahoma earlier in the day, the Texas-Baylor game Dec. 7 turned into a de facto Big 12 championship game. After playing to a 3-3 tie through the first two quarters of play, the Bears outscored the Longhorns 27-7 the rest of the way to claim the conference title and its first-ever spot in a BCS bowl.

In fact, Baylor has come out on top of Texas in three of the last four meetings, with the only loss in that span coming by six points in Austin in 2012. Perhaps that’s why Edmonds, who missed last year’s loss due to a lacerated liver, reiterated his stance with an “I don’t like Baylor” to conclude his remarks.

Regardless, current and former members of the Baylor football program had a chuckle at Edmond’s bombast.

Oh, and for those wondering, Baylor and Texas will next meet again Oct. 4 in Austin.  Go ahead and grab yourselves some popcorn now as that one’s going to be some fun.

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Potential secondary starter for UK out up to four months with sports hernia

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

The good news is a potential starter for Kentucky on the defensive side of the ball will be laid up for quite a bit of time.  The good news?  It shouldn’t impact the player’s availability for the start of the upcoming season.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, cornerback Nate Willis will be sidelined for the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery in the near future for a sports hernia.  Such a timeline would have Willis out of action no longer than the middle of August, which means the defensive back could be sidelined for the beginning of the Wildcats’ second summer camp under head coach Mark Stoops.

“It’s always hard when you have an injury and you’ve got to be out, because you miss all those reps,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said according to the Herald-Leader. “That frustration sets in, but you’ve always got to look at things on a positive note. He knows that he’ll be back in time for the season, so he just has got to get the mental reps until then, and then when he comes back, he’s just got to be clicking on all cylinders.”

Willis, who transferred to UK from the JUCO ranks, started seven of the first nine games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.  Despite the missed playing time, Willis still led the team with five pass breakups.

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Tide tops in spring game attendance despite lowest turnout of Saban era

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

Only at football-mad Alabama could being tops at something nationally also, at the same time, result in a low-water mark for the current era.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon as a total of 73,506 fans took in their Crimson Tide’s annual A-Day spring game.  That total topped the previous 2014 high-water mark of just over 72,000 for Penn State’s first spring game under James Franklin last weekend.

It also bested Iron Bowl rival Auburn, coming off an appearance in the BCS title game, and its 70,465 fans this same day, although weather in that part of the state may have played a role in those numbers.

It’s highly (highly) (highly) likely the Tide’s total from this Saturday will finish out the spring campaign as the most at the FBS level in 2014; of the remaining spring games, only those at Michigan State and UCLA could even remotely hope to surpass that total — and even that’s simply wishful thinking on anyone’s part.

Despite adding a “Spring Game Attendance High” notch in the belt to go along with yet another recruiting title this year, the turnout for Saturday’s A-Day game was the lowest since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.  In fact, it was the lowest since the 78,200 showed up during Saban’s second spring.

Of course, there’s not really any reason (at all) to fret over spring attendance as the Tide has blown past the 90,000-mark three times –2011 (92,310), 2007 (92,138), 2010 (91,312) — and the 80,000-mark once — 2009 (84,050) — during Saban’s eight years heading the football program.

More to the point, the eight most-attended spring games in the school’s history have come under Saban; prior to Saban’s arrival, the record amount of fans who took in a spring game was 51,117 (1988), or more than 20,000 fewer than the low-tide attendance Saturday.

Yeah, again, no need to fret for those who were even remotely inclined.

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Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

It’s impossible for a player to win a Heisman based on his spring-game performance, just as, barring injury, it’s impossible for someone to lose it.  What a solid-to-spectacular performance — especially when it’s televised — can do is show the level of progress made from the previous year… and put that player on the minds of those with a stiff-armed lean during the dog days of the offseason.

Based on that assumption — howdy, Coach Saban! — you can very well expect rave reviews and upbeat predictions for the upcoming season to be rolling in for Nick Marshall.

During Auburn’s spring game Saturday, the Tigers quarterback led the first-team offense on seven possessions… and put points on the board at the end of every single one of them.  Included in that very efficient and proficient performance were four touchdown passes from Marshall to three different receivers.  Additionally, all of that scoring came in the first half as Marshall didn’t see the field for the last two quarters.

One of the few negatives to take out of Marshall’s day was the fact that he completed 59 percent of his passes; offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has set a standard of a 65-percent completion percentage for Marshall.  Other than that, though, Marshall’s head coach came out of the day pleased with the triggerman of his offense as he grows both as a quarterback and as a leader.

“He’s more of a leader by example,” Gus Malzahn said of the second-year starter. “He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, his teammates listen. …

“Our emphasis was obviously throwing the football. It was good to see our guys throwing and catching the ball in front of a crowd.”

For his part, Marshall had ominous words for what opposing defenses can expect from an offense that was run-centric in 2013 but could be adding a potent dimension for 2014.

We’re going to be a scary sight this year,” the quarterback said. “We can get real scary. We know we can run the ball. We’re just focusing on throwing the ball down the field. That’s the emphasis this year.”

In Marshall’s first year as a starter at this level of football, the Georgia transfer, by way of the JUCO ranks, played a significant role in leading the Tigers on a magical ride to the BCS title game following the 2013 season.  In two of AU’s biggest games of the season — the Kick-Six win over Alabama in the regular-season finale and the SEC championship game win over Missouri that propelled AU to its date with Florida State — Marshall completed just over 74 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.  Not only that, but Marshall rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores for good measure in those huge wins.

Of course, Marshall then proceeded to put up arguably his worst performance of the year against the best defense he faced, barely completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing a pick in what was still just a three-point loss to the Seminoles.

Coming off that inaugural starting campaign, AU coaches have done nothing but privately rave about the work Marshall has put in to improve himself this offseason.

Yes, it’s the spring and, yes, the spring game specifically is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage with fans in attendance.  Marshall has shown the desire to improve as a player, and those results showed themselves this afternoon.  How that all plays out when the real footballs start flying in a handful of months, though, remains to be seen.

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Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon takes home third straight A-Day MVP

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

Back in the day, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner derisively referred to his high-priced slugger, Dave Winfield, as “Mr. May.”  With no Steinbrenner-like derisiveness intended, T.J. Yeldon has taken the “Mr. April” mantle and literally run away with it.

As Alabama concluded Spring Practice 2014 Saturday with its annual A-Day spring game, Yeldon was named as the game’s MVP despite his Crimson team falling to the White squad 17-13.  Remarkably, it’s the third time in the running back’s three years with the Tide that he’s claimed those spring honors.

The true junior led all Tide backs with 95 yards on just 11 carries.  Yeldon had one of the three touchdowns the Tide offense was able to muster on the day as well, the other being touchdown passes from Blake Sims, the frontrunner (for now) to replace AJ McCarron, and Cooper Bateman.

Speaking of the quarterback situation, nothing was decided on that front — that battle will continue in earnest when Florida State transfer Jacob Coker gets to town — although there could’ve been a bit of concern this afternoon for a coach as averse to turnovers as Nick Saban.  All told, five Tide quarterbacks combined to toss four interceptions on the day.

Despite the turnovers and all-around lack of scoring in what was the first real public debut of new coordinator Lane Kiffin‘s offense, Saban, as expected, didn’t seem the least bit concerned.  Well, kind of.

After beginning his postgame remarks by stating that, from a coach’s perspective, “[n]obody ever has a bad spring game,” Saban did allow that the offense wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said in quotes distributed by the team. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

Seeing as the Tide is transitioning not only from a three-year starter at the quarterback position to a new coordinator, it’s not surprising that the consistency isn’t where Saban would like it.  Getting that consistency will be tested even further when Coker, who some or even most observers expect to be under center when the Tide opens the 2014 season, enters the fray when summer camp opens in early August and further dilutes the reps.

Regardless of how it ultimately turns out, it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to watch how the Tide gets to Saban’s optimum level of consistency at the position and moves on post-McCarron.

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Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

A week ahead of its spring game, the Iowa football program has taken a rather significant hit on the recruiting front.

The Hawkeyes announced in a press release Saturday that assistant coach Eric Johnson has decided to leave Kirk Ferentz‘s coaching staff.  The state reason is that Johnson wants to pursue an unnamed career opportunity outside of football.

Johnson was a part of Ferentz’s first Iowa staff as a grad assistant.

“I know Eric and his family have given this decision great attention and thought, and we all wish them the best as they move forward,” said Ferentz in a statement.  “Eric has been a valued staff member since he joined our original staff in 1999 and has made many contributions to our program and team as a coach, recruiter and mentor.  I am very appreciative of Eric’s efforts and his commitment to Iowa and wish him all the best in the future.”

Johnson has served as assistant defensive line coach (2012-13), tight ends coach (2010-11; 2003-07) and assistant linebackers coach (2008-2009) during his decade-plus career with the Hawkeyes, but it was on the recruiting trail where Johnson made his biggest mark and where his departure will hit the program the hardest.  From the release on Johnson, who had spent the past 10 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator:

Johnson has been heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting efforts since joining the Hawkeye staff. Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class was ranked extremely high by all the recruiting experts. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was ranked among the top 10 in the nation by all of the top recruiting services, while Iowa’s classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009 were all ranked in the nation’s top 25. Sporting News ranked Iowa’s 2011 recruiting class second best among Big Ten programs and the 2012 class was ranked third among league programs.

Johnson ranked as one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 2001 and was named one of the Top Ten Recruiters in the Big Ten Conference by Rivals.com in 2007.

“My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa,” said Johnson. “It has been a great time in our lives. From a family standpoint, we had a chance to raise our children in a tremendous community. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way. I have also been mentored by three great coordinators in Norm Parker, Phil Parker and Ken O’Keefe, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best people anyone can ask for in Reese Morgan.”

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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Ark. St.’s ‘Coach for a Day’ claims spring game win

Nick Bhardwaj

How much does a win at the FBS level cost?  For Nick Bhardwaj, it was $11,700 of well-spent funds.

Earlier this month, Arkansas State and head coach Blake Anderson announced that it was auctioning off the opportunity for a fan to coach one of the Red Wolves’ squads in the annual spring game.  The winning bid went to Bhardwaj, who is the 25-year-old CEO of a California-based tech company.

Friday, Bhardwaj put his football mettle to the test… and came out on the winning side as his Black team dropped a 48-17 decision on the Red squad.  Bhardwaj, a release from the school stated, “gave the team’s pregame and halftime speeches and communicated with the coaching staff on headset throughout the entire game while making play-calling and fourth-down decisions.”  That decision-making came after an extensive film session with offensive coordinator Walt Bell.

Also as part of the promotion, Bhardwaj received a Powerade bath (pictured)following the lopsided win.

The truth was I was just a fan of the sport, a fan of the game, and just happy to be a part of this opportunity,” Bhardwaj, who had never been to the state of Arkansas prior to the spring game, said during a press conference. Even a day after the game, Bhardwaj was still basking in the glow of the unique experience while Anderson was praising the man with the unblemished coaching mark.

In addition to Bhardwaj, ASU had another surprise up its spring sleeves as beloved former Red Wolves head coach Larry Lacewell was on the Red team sidelines as coach.  Lacewell stills holds the school record for career wins.

“[Athletic director] Terry [Mohajir] kept this a big secret that I was going to coach because he didn’t want the crowd to get so big, or he was scared that when everybody finds out I’m going to coach again that nobody’s coming,” Lacewell said.

Well done and very classy on all fronts by Anderson and the football program.

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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VIDEO: Navy football takes near-annual trip to White House

Navy White House 1

Navy’s trips to the White House in celebration of its gridiron success are becoming such a yearly tradition that we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Midshipmen had their own monogrammed towels in one of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s myriad bathrooms.

Friday afternoon, Navy players and coaches were honored yet again by President Barack Obama at the White House for claiming the 2013 edition of the Commander-In-Chief trophy.  It’s the ninth time in the past 11 years the Midshipmen have staked its claim to the prestigious trophy.

Navy defeated both Air Force (28-10, after it looked like the game wouldn’t be played) and bitter rival (sometimes) Army (34-7) to earn its 14th CIC honor since the trophy was first handed out in 1972.  Despite the recent run of football success, the Midshipmen still trail the Falcons’ 18 trophies.  The Black Knights, the inaugural winner of the award, are well behind both service academies with six, with the last coming in 1996.

The trophy has been shared on four different occasions: 1974, 1976, 1980 and 1986.

Navy White House 2“When you sign up to play at Annapolis, you know you’re in for a different experience,” the President said. “So, yes, it’s about learning to be a good football player, but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man. And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

The President also acknowledged the tragedy with which the program has been forced to deal.  Last month, running back Will McKamey passed away after falling unconscious and into a coma during a spring practice session.

“I understand your motto for this season is ‘I Will’ in memory of him. And that’s what camaraderie is all about: Honor. Courage. Commitment. That’s what makes the Midshipmen so strong,” the POTUS said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to serve as your commander-in-chief. Not primarily because of what you’ve done on the football field, but because of your dedication to each other and your service to America.”

 

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Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In the course of a post yesterday on Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase having their brains picked on the no-huddle offense by Nick Saban during a recent visit to Tuscaloosa, we mentioned in passing, as noted by our redheaded stepmothers over at PFT, that the confab may have been in violation of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For its part, the NFL is looking into whether or not Manning and Gase violated the portion of the CBA which prohibits coaches from meeting with players prior to the start of their team’s offseason workouts (the Broncos began their offseason program Monday, after the visits took place).  For his part, Saban is stunned that an NFL issue may have arisen out of what’s sounding like an impromptu get-together, ensuring that he stressed that Manning and his coach were never in the same room discussing football during their overlapping time in Tuscaloosa.

From an interview Saban did with the Denver Post after the situation blew up:

“I’m like shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong on their part,” Saban said by phone Friday night. “I never met with Adam. When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.”

Asked specifically if Manning and Gase were in a meeting at the same time, Saban said, “Only to say hello and b.s. with each other. Adam came Monday and talked to the offensive coaches and some of the defensive coaches. I know he talked with Kirby (Smart, the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator). He and I just visited casually. We didn’t talk football. Adam was with me through two different college programs (at Michigan State and LSU).”

Saban firmly stated that Manning and Gase did not arrive together; in fact, the coach had been then there “for a couple days” prior to the player’s arrival.

Because of Manning’s proficiency in operating the no-huddle offense, the Alabama head coach and Denver Broncos quarterbacks spent a couple of hours one day — without Gase present — going over what defenses are problematic for that type of offense.

“And Peyton,” Saban said, “we were just talking ball. We talked about particular defenses that give us trouble with the no-huddle. Things like that.”

Given how the situation exploded, Saban took the opportunity to intimate an “ass out of you and me” joke when explaining the cause of the explosion.

“I was asked about their visit at my coach’s clinic press conference but I never said we sat down together. Because we didn’t. That’s what happens when people assume.”

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Hoke: Shane Morris narrowed gap on Devin Gardner after ‘good spring’

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

While Devin Gardner said “it was amazing how much better (the quarterback competition this spring) made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation — exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.

How tenuous Gardner’s hold on the job was further demonstrated by head coach Brady Hoke, who stated Friday “he might” when asked if Gardner would be his starter when the 2014 regular season commenced.  Gardner and Shane Morris have been engaged in what appeared to be a  neck-and-neck battle to lead the Wolverines offense throughout the spring.

When asked about Morris, Hoke was damn-near effusive, relative to his tepid comments Morris’ competition, in his praise.

“I thought Shane had a good spring,” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “Was it flawless? No. But I think he learned more about the urgency that he has to have to be the quarterback at Michigan.

“I thought he had a good spring.”

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

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UGA expects Keith Marshall, pair of WRs back for summer workouts

Tennessee v Georgia

A high-profile running back and a pair of experienced and productive wide receivers missed all or part of Georgia’s spring practice due to injury and/or rehabilitation from injury, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Bulldogs takes its next big step in preparing for the upcoming season.

According to head coach Mark Richt, running back Keith Marshall (pictured) and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are expected to be healthy enough to participate in the football program’s “voluntary” summer workouts.  Those structured workouts will commence in June.

All three of the players are coming off of torn ACLs suffered last season that forced them to miss various amounts of games.  Marshall and Scott-Wesley both incurred their knee injuries during the Tennessee game last October, while Mitchell’s knee was injured in late August.

Mitchell had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

In addition to those three, Richt said he expects tight end Jay Rome, who suffered a foot injury last year and underwent surgery in the offseason, to be at full speed for the workouts as well.

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Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

Another day, another FBS program has itself some new football duds.  Hooray?

This time around, it’s the Washington football players who will wear new uniform combinations for the 2014 season.  From the release:

The new stadium and athletic facilities are filled with Husky references, echoing the team’s ethos that “no dog runs alone.” A graphic symbol and unique coded sequence embroidered into the back inside neckline of the jerseys reinforces this mantra. Representing the quickest/most agile sled dog formation, the focal point of this special graphic is the area representing the “team dogs,” who are the heart and soul of the squad. The symbol is formed by lines that, when turned sideways, make an 11 to honor the 11 players on the field. Like a sled team, the Husky football team competes as a pack through innovative formations on field.

Our players can’t wait to take the field in these new uniforms. The design tells the story of our program and provides modern innovations in materials and design while embracing the rich tradition that has made Husky football so special,” said first-year UW head coach Chris Petersen in a statement.

Below are the three uniform combinations the Huskies will wear this season as well as a video tied to the release:

Washington Uniforms

 

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