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Bill O’Brien announces 2013 Penn State signees

Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien addresses a news conference before his first spring practice as Penn State's head football coach, in Pennsylvania Reuters

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

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; February 6, 2013 – Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien announced the Nittany Lions’ 2013 recruiting class on Wednesday. In all, the Nittany Lions welcome 17 new student-athletes who signed National Letters of Intent to join the football program.

“Recruiting is about a fit and relationships,” O’Brien said. “We started working early on this class and they visited us multiple times. This is a group of high character kids who are tough, go to class and do things the right way. Our coaches deserve a lot of credit. They worked hard to develop relationships with the families and the prospects and it turned out well for us.”

Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class features nine defensive signees and eight offensive signees from seven different states and one from the District of Columbia. Breaking down the class by position, the signees include four defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, two linebackers, two quarterbacks, one running back, one tight end and one wide receiver.

The list includes four high school players who graduated early to enroll at Penn State, and one junior-college signee, who began classes in January and are participating in winter conditioning with the team.

O’Brien led Penn State to an 8-4 record (6-2 Big Ten) during his first season as the Nittany Lions’ head coach and was selected the 2012 Bear Bryant, Maxwell Football Club and ESPN Coach of the Year and the Big Ten-Dave McClain Coach of the Year. The Nittany Lions begin spring practice March 18 and the Blue-White Game is April 20 in Beaver Stadium.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 17 members of Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Richy Anderson
RB | Frederick, Md. | Governor Thomas Johnson High School | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 171
The son of former Nittany Lion great and NFL running back Richie Anderson, Richy Anderson is a 5-11, 171-pound versatile all-purpose back. The Frederick, Md., native produced more than 1,700 yards of offense and 15 touchdowns as a junior at Governor Thomas Johnson High School. Rated a three-star prospect on Scout.com, Rivals.com, ESPN.com and 247Sports, Anderson helped lead Thomas Johnson High School to the Class 3A state title game in 2011. Anderson’s father lettered at Penn State from 1991-92, rushing for 1,756 yards and 31 touchdowns before embarking on a 12-year NFL career with the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys. Anderson is one of five signees already enrolled in classes and participating in winter workouts.

Brandon Bell
LB | Mays Landing, N.J. | Oakcrest High School | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 222
Brandon Bell will bring depth to the Nittany Lion linebacker corps and could help contribute very early on special teams. Bell is a 6-2, 215-pound linebacker, who was also very productive at running back at Oakcrest High School in New Jersey. Bell was tabbed a three-star recruit and is ranked among the top 20 linebackers in the 2013 class nationally. The Mays Landing, N.J. native recorded 124 total tackles during his senior season, along with one sack, three forced fumbles, and one interception. Bell was a First Team Cape Atlantic League Linebacker, First Team All-Atlantic City Press Linebacker, and Second Team All-South Jersey Linebacker. Bell along with three other Penn State commits played in the Chesapeake Bowl. During his junior year, Bell had 117 tackles and six sacks. Bell recorded 22 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries while also rushing for 429 yards and five touchdowns on offense.

Adam Breneman
TE | Camp Hill, Pa. | Cedar Cliff High School | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 230
Rated among the nation’s top tight ends, Camp Hill, Pa., native Adam Breneman brings a versatile skill set to the Nittany Lion program. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Breneman possesses great speed and quickness for a player his size. A crisp route runner with good hands, the Cedar Cliff High School standout has the tools to line up in a variety of locations on offense. Breneman’s traits will fit nicely into the Bill O’Brien tight end-friendly offensive scheme. Rated a five-star prospect by Rivals, Breneman caught 72 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. As a sophomore, Breneman made 60 receptions for 863 yards and eight touchdowns. Off the field, Breneman played an instrumental role in a fundraising effort, “Catch the Cure”, which helped raise more than $80,000 for Project A.L.S. Breneman is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes. He was elected an officer of Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes chapter last month.

Curtis Cothran
DE | Newtown, Pa. | Council Rock High School North | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 235
Curtis Conthran, a 6-5, 230-pound defensive end brings great size and upside to the defensive line of the Nittany Lions. The Newtown, Pa. native made 35 tackles and eight sacks as a senior at Council Rock North High School. Cothran, who was rated a three-star recruit according to Scout.com, Rivals.com, and 247sports.com, was rated AP Class AAAA First Team All-State, Pennsylvania Football News First Team All-State and First Team All-Bucks County Courier Times ALL Golden
Team. Cothran is one of four Penn State signees who played in the Chesapeake Bowl.

Parker Cothren
DT | Hazel Green, Ala. | Hazel Green High School | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 265
Parker Cothren will look to add depth to the interior of the defensive line following the departures of seniors Jordan Hill and James Terry. Hailing from Hazel Green, Ala., Cothren has good size at 6-5, 265-pounds to evolve into a contributor for defensive line coach Larry Johnson. A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com and Scout.com, Cothren is a skilled athlete with the tools to add depth to the Nittany Lion offensive line. During his senior season, Cothren recorded 22 tackles with six and a half tackles for loss. Cothren was also a very versatile player, playing defensive end, defensive tackle and offensive tackle for Hazel Green High School.

Tyler Ferguson
QB | Bakersfield, Calif. | College of the Sequoias | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 199
A standout quarterback at The College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., quarterback Tyler Ferguson enters the spring semester with three years of eligibility at Penn State. Ferguson, who threw for 2,614 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games during 2012, is a 6-3, 199-pound signal-caller. He completed better than 55 percent of his passes and was the second-leading passer in the CCCAA’s Central Valley Conference. The Bakersfield, Calif., product threw for 1,275 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Ridgeview High School. He fueled a 6-0 start during his senior season in 2011 before suffering a broken collarbone. Ferguson is an accurate passer with good pocket awareness and the ability to tuck the ball and run when he needs to. Ferguson is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes.

Kasey Gaines
DB | Loganville, Ga. | Grayson High School | Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 160
Loganville, Ga. native Kasey Gaines will look to add some depth to the secondary and special teams unit when he arrives on campus. During his junior year at Grayson High School, Gaines had 93 tackles along with five interceptions during a season where he helped lead Grayson to the Georgia 5A state title. The defensive back earned First Team All-State honors during the 2011 campaign. Gaines was also named 2011 All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year. Gaines brings a high football IQ and good ball skills to the Nittany Lion program.

Christian Hackenberg
QB | Palmyra, Va. | Fork Union Military Academy | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 215
Rated among the nation’s top incoming quarterbacks, Christian Hackenberg brings outstanding size and a superb skill set to the Bill O’Brien-led offense. A 2013 Under Armour All-American Game selection, Hackenberg has superb arm strength and mobility to play an instrumental role in leading the Penn State offense. A standout at Fork Union Military Academy, Hackenberg led his prep school to a state title as a sophomore. The Division 1 first-team VISAA All-State quarterback, threw for 2,144 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2012. Additionally, Hackenberg rushed for 436 yards and three scores on the ground. He was invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus. Additionally, Hackenberg was a 2012 Elite 11 Finalist. The Virginia native is a skilled athlete with a high football IQ. Hackenberg has a quick release and all the tools necessary to be a prototypical passing quarterback for the Nittany Lions.

DaeSean Hamilton
WR | Fredericksburg, Va. | Mountain View High | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 182
Receiver DaeSean Hamilton will add depth to the talented Nittany Lion receiver corps. The 6-foot-1, 182 pound Hamilton is known for his quickness and consistent hands. As a senior at Mountain View High, Hamilton caught 64 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a junior, he caught 73 passes for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. The versatile Hamilton also contributed as a safety in high school. Hamilton was rated a three-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals.

Tanner Hartman
G | Lynchburg, Va. | Lynchburg Christian Academy | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 255
Guard Tanner Hartman brings good size and tenacity to the Nittany Lion offensive line. The 6-foot- 5, 255-pound Hartman played on both sides of the line at Liberty Christian Academy, but will look to contribute and provide depth on the Bill O’Brien-led offense. Hartman, who participated in the Chesapeake Bowl, played prep ball for former Penn State quarterback Frank Rocco. He earned first- team All-State (VISAA) honors as an offensive lineman during his senior season. Hartman is the son of Tom Hartman, a standout lineman at Virginia Tech. The Lynchburg, Va., native played against fellow signee Christian Hackenberg in a game during his senior season.

Zayd Issah
LB | Harrisburg, Pa. | Central Dauphin Senior High School | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 215
Linebacker Zayd Issah will provide depth to the linebacking corps and will likely have an opportunity to contribute on special teams. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Issah is a versatile player, who contributed at multiple positions across the offense at Central Dauphin. Issah is a three-time all-state selection, and he earned Pennsylvania Class AAAA Co-Player of the Year as a junior. He registered 123 tackles and 14 sacks as a junior. Issah also had a big impact on the offensive end, rushing for 1,345 yards and 21 touchdowns while also catching 29 passes for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns. Issah also rushed for 1,653 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore. A talented athlete with good size and speed, Issah will make an impact on the Penn State defense.

Brendan Mahon
G | Randolph, N.J. | Randolph High School | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 315
Offensive guard Brendan Mahon will provide immediate depth to the offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman brings terrific size to the Nittany Lion offense and is regarded for his sound technique. Mahon joined Garrett Sickels as one of two future Nittany Lions that participated in the U.S. Army All-American game, and he was a captain on the East squad. The Randolph, N.J. native was named second team all-state as a lineman. Mahon was rated a four-star prospect and the third- best guard in the nation by Rivals. The New Jersey Star-Ledger tabbed Mahon as the top offensive lineman in New Jersey.

Andrew Nelson
OT | Hershey, Pa. | Hershey High School | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 295
A true offensive tackle, Andrew Nelson is highly regarded for his aggressiveness and quickness on the offensive line. The 6-foot-5, 263 pound lineman from Hershey High School will have an opportunity to add depth on a Nittany Lion offensive line that graduated two senior starters. Nelson competed in the Chesapeake Bowl and earned an invitation to the Big 33 Classic. The Hershey native was also named a third-team all-state selection for his efforts during his senior season. Nelson was rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.

Neiko Robinson
DB | Flomaton, Ala. | Northview High School | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 170
Defensive back Neiko Robinson will look to have an impact in the Penn State secondary and on special teams when camp opens in the fall. The Flomaton, Ala. native is a smart and aggressive player. He is also versatile in the secondary, being able to play both cornerback and safety. As a junior at Flomaton High School, he was a first-team all-state selection. He transferred to Northview High School in Florida for his senior year. He finished his senior campaign with 95 tackles and seven interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. Robinson was named first-team all-state after leading Northview to its first state championship in school history (Class A Florida state title). The three-star prospect is one of two signees in the class from Alabama, joining defensive tackle Parker Cothren.

Garrett Sickels
DE | Little Silver, N.J. | Red Bank Regional High School | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 238
Defensive end Garrett Sickels has the tools to potential join a long list of successful Penn State defensive ends. The U.S. Army All-American comes to Penn State from Little Silver, N.J. Standing at 6-foot-4, 238-pounds, Sickels racked up 25 career sacks at Red Bank Regional High School. With Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro graduating, Sickels will look to provide some needed depth at the end position. Rated a four-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals, Sickels picked up nine sacks in his senior season. As a junior, Sickels recorded 76 tackles, nine hits for loss, 10 sacks, and forced three fumbles. Sickels is a talented player who will bring speed and power to the defensive line.

Anthony Smith
DB | Randolph, N.J. | Valley Forge Military Academy | Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 184
Defensive back Anthony Smith will likely have an opportunity to make an early impact during spring drills in the Penn State secondary and on special teams. A 6-foot, 184-pound defensive back hailing from Randolph, N.J., Smith spent last season at Valley Forge Military Academy. In addition to playing in the defensive backfield, Smith spent time at quarterback and was the long snapper for Valley Forge in 2012. He earned second-team All-West Jersey honors during his final season at Pope John XXIII High School (Sussex County, N.J.) in 2011. Smith is an aggressive player with the size and speed to add depth in the Penn State secondary and special teams unit when spring drills begin in March. Smith is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes.

Jordan Smith
DB | Washington, D.C. | H.D. Woodson High School | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 178
Penn State has had a long line of talented players from suburban Washington, D.C., and 5-foot- 11, 178-pound defensive back Jordan Smith will look to join that list for the Nittany Lions. Smith is an aggressive athlete with the skill set to play in a number of different spots in the secondary. Like Anthony Smith, Jordan Smith will likely have an opportunity to add depth and make an early impact in the secondary and on special teams during spring drills. Smith tallied two-straight 60-plus tackle seasons at Archbishop Carroll High School before moving to H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, D.C. Smith has known former Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris since they were young children. Smith’s older brother, Stephen, played high school football with former Nittany Lion great Derrick Williams at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland. Smith is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes.

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Indiana’s Wilson fires misguided shot at Big 12 and Notre Dame

Kevin Wilson

There was a time the Big Ten had what seemed to be a competitive advantage in the BCS bowl picture by not playing a conference championship game when the ACC, Big 12 and SEC were. Now the tables have been turned and folks around the Big Ten are starting to fire shots at the Big 12, a conference without a championship game.

One of the big questions yet to be answered entering the new era of college football is what the impact of playing a conference championship game or not playing one will hold on the College Football Playoff selection committee’s line of thinking when it comes to choosing the four best teams in the country. Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson may not be ready to have a program worthy of sniffing that conversation any time soon, but he certainly feels the Big 12 and Notre Dame are getting an easier path to the postseason mix.

Wilson, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, suggested the Big 12 is avoiding a challenge that is embraced by the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC with a conference championship game. Not playing the game gives the Big 12 a competitive advantage. To drive his point home, Wilson made a golf reference that suggests Big 12 schools and Notre Dame are playing the equivalent of 17 holes while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC are playing the entire back nine.

That is probably an unfair statement, of course, especially in the case of the Big 12. Unlike in the Big Ten, every Big 12 school plays the entire conference using a nine-game schedule for the 10-team conference. Wilson’s Hoosiers will not have to play Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern or Minnesota this season. A true champion can be crowned in the Big 12 by having every member play the entire conference. Wilson’s point, though, is the added challenge of playing a conference championship game has the advantage of padding a school’s strength of schedule, but also provides a giant risk by potentially missing out on a playoff spot or perhaps a spot in another lucrative bowl game with a loss. Of course, this argument is nothing new.

Notre Dame is a slightly different situation, as a football independent, but the Irish have established a track record of organizing competitive schedules. This season the Irish play Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Florida State, Arizona State and USC. All but Michigan appear in the preseason coaches poll. Indiana faces just two teams ranked in the same preseason poll this fall (Ohio State and Michigan State). Notre Dame has no started a new relationship with the ACC, guaranteeing multiple games each season against ACC competition, in addition to annual rivalry games against USC, Stanford an Navy. Notre Dame also takes their show on the road in the Shamrock Series against other power conference opponents on neutral sites.

Is Wilson out of line, or does he have a point worth discussing further? Feel free to share your opinions down in the comment section.

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Who replaces Bortles? UCF not rushing to find out

George O'Leary

It is that time of the year again when head coaches with vacancies at quarterback refuse to show their cards on making a final call on who will lead the offense on the field. This often happens at schools looking to replace established quarterbacks from the previous season, whether it be because the coach honestly is not sure which way to go with it or because he does not want to give the season opening opponent a hint of whom to prepare for in week one. Where UCF head coach George O’Leary falls on this subject is probably anyone’s guess, but he is not making any decisions on a starting quarterback to replace Blake Bortles anytime soon.

”I’ll let you know when I’m going to name one, it’s not a big secret,” O’Leary said, according to the Associated Press. ”I’ll let you know when I feel comfortable about somebody.

With Bortles now in training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, the competition is now wide open in Orlando. Sophomore Justin Holman is the lone option with any previous playing experience, but redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo, freshman and Boise State transfer Tyler Harris and redshirt sophomore Nick Patti are all going to be given a chance to win the job.

Reporters covering the Knights, defending American Athletic Conference champions, are not the only ones hounding O’Leary for an answer as camp opened up Thursday. “Everybody’s trying to get a jump on it,” O’Leary said. “My wife’s going to be the first one to know. And she’s out of the state, so good luck.”

It may be best to allow the competition play out with so much unknown about the new options, but there is a benefit to narrowing the decision down as quickly as possible. Knowing who will lead the offense during the season will give everybody on the offense a chance to develop an identity and comfort level with the quarterback. With a somewhat challenging schedule facing the Knights, getting as much taken care of early on could be a benefit in the long run.

UCF will open up the 2014 season in Ireland against Penn State in week one. The Knights topped the Nittany Lions in State College last fall, kickstarting their run to the Fiesta Bowl.

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Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming

Kirk Ferentz

Every change in college football over the last few years has been about expanding and growth. That philosophy could be shifting to the length of a conference schedule. Forget about the debates over eight-game conference schedules or nine-game conference schedules. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz says 10-game conference schedules are coming, at least in the Big Ten.

While making his way through the ESPN car wash on Thursday, Ferentz was asked about conference scheduling when he dropped that thought for all to ponder. Via Brett McMurphy’s Twitter feed;

The Big Ten will be using a nine-game conference schedule, similar to the Pac-12 and Big 12. The ACC and SEC are sticking with eight-game conference schedules but adding a non-conference scheduling requirement for all members to add one game against another power conference opponent each season. The hypothetical 10-game conference schedule format would seem to solve a number of scheduling concerns for any conference with more than 12 teams, such as the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. With a two division format, six games are reserved for division games, leaving just two (ACC, SEC) or three (Big Ten) spots for cross division games. If a conference has locked crossover games (the SEC has paired crossover match-ups, the Big Ten scrapped them with its new division alignment), that reduces the number of opportunities to schedule other teams from the other division while rotating through the conference. The cross division scheduling may not be a major concern in the Big Ten, but it has been a topic of concern in the ACC and SEC.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at this week’s Big Ten media day the Big Ten will stop playing FCS teams while discussing future plans to increase the strength of schedule for the entire conference. Moving to a 10-game schedule would likely have a positive effect on overall conference strength of schedule, but it also makes it more difficult for top contenders to get out of the regular season without a scratch. That could be something that comes back to haunt a Big Ten champion in the College Football Playoff era as well.

Are 10-game conference schedules a realistic possibility? Yes, although the question may be if that leads to the extension of the regular season from 12 games to 13 or 14. More games means more TV money, which means it is very much a realistic possibility.

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Oklahoma to return to Houston after 14 years, in 2016

Big 12 Football Media Days

Oklahoma will open the 2016 season in one NFL stadium, and if all goes well it could end in another. The Sooners and Houston have agreed to open the 2016 season in NRG Stadium in Houston, home to the NFL’s Houston Texans as well as the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff. The 2016 season will conclude with the College Football Playoff championship game in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Houston Chronicle was the first to report the possibility of a 2016 opener between the Sooners and Cougars, and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com later confirmed the report to be a done deal via Twitter. The Texas Kickoff is one of the newest neutral site game sin college football, joining Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff and the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas. The first game in the series was played last season between Oklahoma State and Mississippi State and continues this season with LSU and Wisconsin. Texas A&M and Arizona are scheduled to appear in the game in 2015.

This season’s game between LSU and Wisconsin is expected to top last year’s attendance of 35,874 fans, and next year’s game with Texas A&M involved should see a nice turnout as well at the gate. Oklahoma and Houston should make for a good crowd at the game as well, especially if Houston can continue to build its program between now and then and emerge as a top power from the “Group of Five” (I really hate that term) conferences.

Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Houston, 2-0. The most recent of those two meeting came in 2004, with the Sooners winning by a blowout score of 63-14. As noted by The Dallas Morning News, Oklahoma’s last trip to the city of Houston went well. The last time the Sooners were in town they left with the Big 12 championship after topping Colorado in the 2002 Big 12 Championship Game in the same stadium.

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Former Penn football player dies in lobster diving accident

Miami v South Florida Getty Images

A former Ivy League football player who was heading to the Miami Hurricanes this fall was the victim of a diving accident in South Florida. Joseph Grosso, a starting linebacker for the Pennsylvania Quakers, died in a scuba diving accident in Pompano Beach, Florida on Wednesday. According to multiple reports, Grosso was diving alone while lobster diving.

“The entire Penn football family is saddened by the tragic news of Joe’s passing,” Penn football coach Al Bagnoli said in a statement shared by The Daily Pennsylvanian. “Joe was a terrific young man, an accomplished student and an outstanding player. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family during this very difficult period.”

Grosso was added to the football roster for the Miami Hurricanes on Tuesday, according to The Miami Herald. Grosso was to be a walk-on for Al Golden’s program this fall after graduating from Penn. He was intending to continue with law school at Miami and play one mroe year of college football with the Hurricanes.

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Ohio State’s Sprinkle pleads no contest

Tracy Sprinkle

A dismissed Ohio State defensive lineman pleaded guilty to his role in a massive altercation outside an Ohio bar earlier this month. Tracy Sprinkle will now wait to see if he will be allowed to return to the Buckeyes roster in time for the fall season after pleading no contest for a reduced charge for failure to comply, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Sprinkle had his charges reduced after drug tests using various samples returned negative results just days after the arrest. Sprinkle had been facing a cocaine possession charge. Police admitted the drugs may have come from another person apprehended in the vehicle, according to Eleven Warriors. Because the drug test came back negative, Sprinkle was fortunate to be able to negotiate a lesser charge. He was fined $500 and placed on two years of probation. He will also be required to do some community service.

Sprinkle was arrested over the weekend of July 4 for his role in a bar brawl. He was later dismissed by head coach Urban Meyer, but an Ohio State spokesperson suggested a potential return to the team would not be eliminated from the discussion of his future.

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Florida State (over)loading up on QB recruits in 2015

Jameis Winston

It is amazing what a national championship can do to a program’s recruiting production. Just take a look at Florida State, now with three quarterback recruits verbally committed for the Class of 2015. For now.

As of today, Florida State has three four-star quarterbacks lined up in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. That includes in-state prospects Deondre Francois and De’Andre Johnson and Maryland recruit Kai Locksley, the son of Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley who surprised some Thursday afternoon by committing to the Seminoles. Locksley’s verbal came slightly before that of Francois, which makes the recruiting plan a bit interesting for Florida State moving forward. In case you forgot, Florida State is already in a pretty solid position under center with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, returning for just his sophomore season. Florida State also added four-star quarterback J.J. Cosentino in the most recent recruiting class. Simply put, life is good for head coach Jimbo Fisher as far as quarterbacks are concerned. Francois, Johnson and Locksley are all classified as dual-threat options, while Cosentino is scouted more as a typical pro-style quarterback. Winston, of course, is labeled a dual-threat quarterback as well, so that may give a sense for which direction Fisher would like to go on offense. Hey, it worked last season, but what do you do with all of that talent under center?

The first question to address is the future of Winston in Tallahassee. Winston has stated he intends to play two more seasons for Florida State before deciding on his pro future, which echoed comments made by his father earlier in the offseason. If Winston does stay on campus through the end of the 2015 season, the next question is what goes through the minds of four four-star quarterbacks hoping to be the next starter for Florida State? What are the odds Francois, Johnson, Locksley and Cosentino are all still in Tallahassee? They may not be all that great.

For Fisher, that is a problem he will have to begin sorting through now, although the additions of Francois, Johnson and Locksley will not become official until the next signing day, if they all choose to stay committed to Florida State. By then Fisher will have a better idea of whether or not Winston really will be back in 2015 or if he ends up heading into the NFL. The planning for the position all hinges on Winston’s decision, and Winston’s decision could be an influential one to the future decisions of the Class of 2015 quarterbacks. If Winston does come back, might one of these Class of 2015 quarterbacks re-open his recruiting process? It certainly would not be out of the question, nor would it be against the norm in college football recruiting. Florida State is even in a position where it would not be worth sweating over if one of the quarterbacks did start looking again.

Florida State’s recruiting “problem” is one that every program would love to have. There is never anything wrong with having too much talent in a recruiting class, just ask Alabama.

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Potential DL starter one of three no longer with Tar Heels

Shawn Underwood

North Carolina’s depth and talent on the defensive side of the  ball, especially along the line, has taken a hit ahead of the start of summer camp.

A UNC spokesperson confirmed to the Raleigh News & Observer that three players — defensive tackles Shawn Underwood and Greg Webb as well as linebacker Clint Heaven — are no longer on the UNC football team. The two defensive linemen left for personal reasons, while the latter has already transferred to Northern Iowa.

By the far the biggest loss is that of Underwood.

Underwood played in 20 games the past two seasons, starting five of those contests. He would’ve entered summer camp as a favorite to land a starting job.

Webb, a touted four-star member of UNC’s 2013 recruiting class, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season, while Heaven played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

In addition to that trio, the status of offensive lineman J.J. Patterson is up in the air. Patterson played defensive tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2013 before moving to guard this past spring.

(Photo credit: North Carolina athletics)

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Four-star 2008 signee-turned-MLBer returns to Bulldogs

Rashun Dixon

Apparently you can, in a sports sense, come home again.

In 2008, Rashun Dixon was a four-star member of Mississippi State’s recruiting class, the last of Sylvester Croom‘s tenure.  Dixon never suited up for the Bulldogs, however, as he was drafted in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics and embarked on a career in professional baseball.

A handful of years later, however, he’s back.

According to InsideMSUSports.com, the 23-year-old Dixon has decided to return to the Bulldogs as a walk-on player.   Because he’s never played a down of college football, he maintains all four years of eligibility and could ultimately earn a scholarship.

At least in his past sporting life, the talent was certainly there.

Rivals.com rated Davis as a four-star recruit in 2008 and as the No. 19 safety in the country that year.  What specific position he will play in his second football go-around is to be determined, although the website wrote that “his No. 85 suggests he will be utilized on the offensive side of the ball,” which could mean either tight end or wide receiver for a player listed at 6-2 and 210 pounds.

After six years in Oakland’s farm system — he batted under .250 for his career — and following his release last fall, Dixon opted to give football another shot.  Dixon is the younger brother of Anthony Dixon, who led MSU in rushing every year from 2007-09.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Former Boise St. RB Aaron Baltazar now leaving Wazzu

Deon'tae Florence AP

Well that was abrupt.

Back in April it was announced that Aaron Baltazar had followed Chris Petersen to the state of Washington, transferring from Boise State into the Washington State football program.  Less than four months later?  Never mind.

A Wazzu spokesperson confirmed to the Idaho Statesman that the running back is no longer a member of the team.  No reason was given for the abrupt and unexpected departure.

In the short-term it’s no loss for Mike Leach and the Cougars as Baltazar would’ve been forced to sit out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Wherever he lands next, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

As a true freshman last season, Baltazar was second on the Broncos in rushing before suffering a torn ACL the fifth game of the year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the year.

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Wake suspends leading returning rusher

Wake Forest v Miami Getty Images

One of the most important pieces of Wake Forest’s running game will apparently not be available for the foreseeable future.

A Wake spokesperson has confirmed to the Associated Press that Dominique Gibson has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.  Other than an undisclosed violation of team rules, no reason was given for the punitive measure.

Entering summer camp, he was being viewed as a likely starter, or at the very least one of the two heads in a two-headed rushing attack.

Gibson’s 138 yards last year made him the Demon Deacons’ leading returning rusher.  He had a pair of touchdowns in 2013, one each rushing  and receiving.

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Auburn remembers Lutzenkirchen with number on practice field

Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Joey Gautney

Auburn continues to find ways to pay tribute to one of its own. Following death of former tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen, killed in an auto accident in June, fans took to rolling Toomer’s Corner and there was a video tribute following a memorial service that was very touching. With Auburn now set to open up camp ahead of the 2014 season, the defending SEC champions will continue to remember Lutzenkirchen with his old uniform number (No. 43) painted on the practice field.

The number is painted in each end zone, and a look at the final touch can be seen through this tweet from Auburn’s Twitter account;

Auburn opens camp Friday afternoon.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

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Hoke: ‘if we opened the season today,” Gardner would be starter

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Throughout this offseason, Brady Hoke has declined to definitively tap the incumbent, Devin Gardner, or his challenger, Shane Morris, as Michigan’s starting quarterback.  Instead, the UM head coach demurred and insisted he’d wait until early on in summer camp to declare a starter.

Thursday, Hoke deviated from that tack slightly.

Taking his turn in the Big Ten coaches ESPN car wash, Hoke was, of course, asked about the Wolverines’ quarterback situation.  The coach, compared to how he’s been since spring practice, was surprisingly candid.

“Going in (to camp, there will be a competition),” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “We’ve got great competition. (But) if we opened the season today, Devin would start for the Wolverines.”

Of course, “if we open the season today” is a tremendous qualifier.

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.

While Gardner was at one time quoted as saying that “it was amazing how much better [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.  That thought was buttressed as, at the end of spring practice in mid-April, Hoke acknowledged that Morris had narrowed the gap on Gardner.

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Ball State officially adds ex-Cincinnati DE

Joshua Posley

Earlier this summer there was speculation that a member of the Cincinnati Bearcats would be on the move to the MAC.  Thursday, that came to fruition.

Ball State announced in a release that Joshua Posley has transferred into the football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the defensive end will have to sit out the 2014 season.

He will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2015.

“We are pleased to welcome Joshua to the football program and the University community,” Pete Lembo said in a statement. “We have known him since his high school days at Warren Central and have built a strong relationship with the coaching staff there. Joshua is an outgoing guy and a strong student. … We hope he transitions well to a new environment this fall and is ready to compete for playing time once spring practice arrives.”

A pair of high school teammates, Darnell Smith and Anthony Winbush, are already with the Cardinals, which likely played some role in the transfer decision.

Posley, an Indianapolis native, played in four games during his two years with the Bearcats.

(Photo credit: Cincinnati athletics)

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Miami QB Ryan Williams becomes a first-time father

Wake Forest v Miami

As he continues rehabbing a serious knee injury, Ryan Williams will have a much, much, much more important job to perform in the coming months.  And years.

The Miami quarterback announced via Twitter that he and his wife, Deanna, are now the proud parents of a bouncing — and rather large — baby boy.  Roman Louis Williams, the first child for both mom and dad, was born July 29 and weighed in at a healthy nine pounds even.

The couple had announced back in March that Deanna was expecting.

Here’s a picture of the newest member of the Williams clan, courtesy of the newly-minted father’s Instagram account:

Ryan Williams' Son

Sincere congratulations to the new parents from all of us.

Williams suffered a torn ACL in early April and underwent surgery shortly thereafter, meaning the prohibitive favorite to replace Stephen Morris as the starter entering spring practice won’t hit the practice field through at least September.  The earliest Williams is expected to begin participating in practice is at some point in October, if then.

With Williams sidelined for the foreseeable future, Jake Heaps, the Kansas transfer, and Kevin Olsen are expected to be the two main combatants for the starting job, at least early on.  For his part, Heaps has been quoted as saying he didn’t come to The U “to be the backup.”

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