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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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UPDATE: John Chavis files suit against LSU, still in good standing with A&M

Louisiana Monroe v LSU AP

I can’t say with 100-percent certainty, but this might be the first time a college coach has filed a lawsuit against both his former and current employer over a contractual issue.

The parties involved are John Chavis, Texas A&M and LSU.  That’s one of the few things that are clear in this case.

In November of last year, it was reported that Chavis and LSU had reached an agreement on a one-year contract extension that would keep the defensive coordinator with the Tigers through the 2015 season.  A month and a half later, the first reports surfaced that Texas A&M had reached out to gauge Chavis’ interest in its coordinator vacancy; a week later, Chavis-to-TAMU was a done deal according to media reports.  Feb. 13, Chavis’ hiring by A&M was made official.

What happened between Chavis’ LSU contract extension and Chavis’ official A&M hiring is at the heart of a lawsuit filed Friday by the coordinator regarding a $400,000 buyout LSU is pursuing, KBTX-TV is reporting.  In  the lawsuit, Chavis claims he doesn’t owe the six-figure buyout… but if he does, A&M is responsible for paying it.

As for the particulars of the lawsuit, here’s what the television station has gleaned:

Chavis claims under his contract, he was given a right to terminate his employment agreement with LSU without cause with 30 days notice. If there were between zero and 11 months left on the deal, Chavis claimed he would owe nothing to LSU, but if between 11 and 23 months were left, he would owe $400,000 to the university.

On January 2, 2015, Chavis claims LSU Director of Athletics Joe Alleva demanded that Chavis pay the university $400,000. On January 5, Chavis says he turned in this 30-day notice to terminate the contract without cause, making his last day February 4.

“Based on Chavis’ notice of termination on January 5, 2015, the ‘termination date’ according to the Amendment was effective thirty days after the written notice served to LSU or (sic) February 4, 2015, which falls within the 11th month remaining and Chavis’ Employment Agreement,” reads the suit. According to Chavis, he does not owe LSU $400,000 as a result.

On the A&M side, Chavis’ suit states that his current employer is “currently obligated to satisfy or cause to be satisfied the liquidated damages, if any, associated with Chavis’ previous Employment Agreement with LSU.” The problem with that? A&M is “unwilling to tender the liquidated damages demanded by LSU because it does [not] believe that liquidated damages are called for under the Employment Agreement as mentioned above,” the suit claims.

I don’t know how this will play out on either side, but I’m going to make a double batch of popcorn, just in case.

UPDATE [9:00 p.m. ET]: John Chavis remains in good standing with his current employer.

Texas A&M University denied any claim that a suit has been filed against it by Chavis, nor does the institution agree that their new defensive coordinator owes the LSU Tigers anything.

Texas A&M released a short statement Friday night, via The Advocate:

UPDATE [10:55 p.m. ET]: Texas A&M University released a short statement early Friday evening. LSU responded in kind later that night.

LSU expects John Chavis‘ lawsuit to be dropped over matters of proper jurisdiction, while the university counter-sued its former defensive coordinator in order to claim the $400,000 buyout stipulated in his previous contract:

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Texas Tech’s DC David Gibbs plans to use Justis Nelson at CB

Jhajuan Seales, Justis Nelson

Defensive back Justis Nelson experienced a breakthrough season as a sophomore. Nelson was named an honorable mention to the All-Big 12 team and a First-Team Academic All-Big 12 performer. However, he didn’t find a permanent home in the Red Raiders secondary.

Nelson played both safety and cornerback last season. But where will new defensive coordinator David Gibbs use this fall?

“We’re going to start him at corner and teach him the corner techniques, because at least the first two days — maybe more than that — we’re just going to be in base defense with three linebackers and teach him to play corner,” Gibbs told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams.

Nelson, who came to Lubbock as a three-star athlete, began his career at safety before switching to cornerback. Due to depth issues, he returned to safety. While the Red Raiders staff expects him to be a starting cornerback, Nelson will likely play some safety during the upcoming season.

“There are going to be times when he’s going to have to play safety, which I’ve done it (with starting cornerbacks),” Gibbs said. “I’ve had my starting corner in base be a safety in nickel and be the nickel in nickel.

“If he has the ability to go play safety and he’s better than my third safety, then I’ll move him to safety and bring those other corners in the game and let them play.”

Nelson’s length at 6’2″ and 179 pounds makes him an ideal cornerback, and he’s already shown the ability to close on the ball to make a play. The Mesquite, Texas, native led the team with 16 pass breakups, which was the school’s highest total since 2002.

However, his new coach hopes Nelson can turn those broken up passes into interceptions during his junior campaign.

“Justis could have had eight freakin’ interceptions last year,” Gibbs said. “He (then-defensive coordinator Mike Smith) put him in the right position. He could have. He didn’t. He’s got to catch those balls. If he catches those balls, it’s a whole different game.”

Whether or not Nelson makes those catches or not, he is still one of the team’s best defenders. The flexibility he provides in the secondary gives Gibbs plenty of options as he instills a new scheme to improve upon last year’s 95th-ranked pass defense.

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Kansas State schedules two home-and-home series against SEC programs

Kansas State v Iowa State

The Kansas State Wildcats apparently learned a lesson after the Big 12 Conference was shut out of the first College Football Playoff. The program is now beefing up its future non-conference schedules.

Bill Snyder‘s squad decided to invade the SEC — that is, if Coach Snyder is still coaching the team in 2017 (and I wouldn’t bet against it).

Kansas State scheduled a pair of home-of-home series with SEC programs, according to ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy:

The Wildcats’ non-conference schedule prior to 2017 includes the South Dakota Coyotes, UTSA Roadrunners, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Missouri State Bears and Florida Atlantic Owls. Not one opponent from a power conference counted among the lot.

Not only is it important for the Wildcats to improve the team’s non-conference schedule, but games against SEC teams will improve the team’s recruiting presence in the Southeast.

Snyder’s staff showed more of an emphasis on recruiting traditional SEC states this year with six commitments from Alabama, Florida and Georgia in the 2015 class. The trend should continue with the team’s agreements to play four games against SEC opponents from 2017-20.

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Bret Bielema explains approach to recruit new coaches to his staff

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema doesn’t want to do things like everyone else. That applies to his coaching hires, too.

First, Bielema made the surprise move to poach a sitting head coach from the MAC by hiring Dan Enos as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

He rounded out his coaching staff Wednesday with the hire of Jemal Singleton as the team’s new running backs coach.

Neither of these hires went through a traditional hiring process, though.

“To get to where we are today was kind of a unique process,” Bielema said, via CoachingSearch.com.. “I had a list of names. I was talking to [Air Force head coach] Troy Calhoun at the rules committee meeting, and Coach Calhoun would come watch us when we were at Wisconsin. I’d asked him about another coach that had previously worked for him, and he looked at me and said, ‘You need a running backs coach?’ ‘Yeah, I do, I’m losing my guy to the Saints.’ He goes, ‘I’ve got the guy for you.’ He mentioned Jemal.

“I was impressed the first time I read his bio. He hurdled past everybody else. I had a list of probably 23 coaches at one point. To finally get a chance to sit down with him Monday and visit was an easy decision.

“Whether that’s a normal process or not, I met with him, Coach Enos met with him, he had individual meeting time with every one of our offensive coaches. It’s just how I do it. I also have my secretaries sit down with him. I have my DFO sit down and have breakfast with him. I’ll have my recruiting staff take him to lunch. It’s a team atmosphere. You cultivate that in the way you recruit people.”

It can’t be too difficult to recruit a position coach when Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins form the best running back duo in college football. Singleton will simply be the beneficiary of the talent on the roster after impressing everyone around the Razorbacks program.

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Spurrier ‘letting legal system play out’ on 2015 signee

Shameik Blackshear

Arrested earlier this month, 2015 signee Shameik Blackshear remains a part of the plans for the South Carolina football program in 2015 and beyond.  Whether that will remain the case moving forward remains to be seen.

In his first public comments since Blackshear was charged, head coach Steve Spurrier said he and the program are essentially in wait-and-see mode, and that they’ll make a decision once the criminal proceedings have run their course.

We’ll let the legal system play out,” Spurrier told The State newspaper earlier today. “He’s claiming his innocence, so we’ll see what happens.”

Blackshear is alleged to have taken a purse and safe from a Mill Creek (SC) home Feb. 7. The total value of the items contained in the purse and safe totaled nearly $1,400. He was arrested at his high school and charged with one count of petit larceny.

If Blackshear is able to get past his legal hurdles, he has the type of potential to contribute to the Gamecocks’ defense immediately.

A four-star member of USC’s 2015 recruiting class, Blackshear was a rated as the No. 18 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.  Only two other Gamecock defensive signees in a class that ranked 19th nationally were higher-rated than Blackshear.

Blackshear, the first commitment to USC’s 2015 class when he verballed back in May of 2013, earned those lofty recruiting marks despite missing most of the past two seasons due to injuries, one of which was an ACL tear incurred last September.  Entering the 2015 season and prior to the significant knee injury, the 6-4, 245-pound lineman was the top-rated player in the state and was a Rivals.com five-star.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Rumors swirling that Daxx Garman is transferring from Okla. St.

Daxx Garman

If it were to come to fruition, this would certainly qualify as at least a mild surprise.

Speculation surfaced late Friday morning that Daxx Garman had called into the Oklahoma State football offices and quit the team.  SBNation followed that up by writing “[s]ources say that Garman skipped yesterday’s practice, called in and stated his intentions” to transfer from the football program.

Should Garman opt to transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately at an FBS school as a graduate transfer as he’s set to receive his degree from OSU in May.

The only official word from OSU, though, is you’ll have to wait a week and a half for the official word on Garman’s status.

Garman replaced J.W. Walsh, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 2, and started the next eight games at quarterback before going down with a concussion in a Nov. 15 loss to Texas. Freshman Mason Rudolph replaced Walsh against Baylor and, in three starts, led the Cowboys to at least 28 points in going 2-1, including a 30-21 win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl that saw him pass for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Because of that three-game stretch — and because a Garman-led offense failed to score more than 27 points in five of eight starts — Rudolph is widely viewed as the overwhelming favorite for the starting job heading into spring practice.

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Reporter covering Jameis Winston accusations details threats

Maryland Florida St Football AP

The allegations of sexual assault surrounding Jameis Winston affected any number of lives, including, as it turns out, one of the individuals charged with covering it.

In an absolutely riveting piece posted online Friday, Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times details, among other things, the threats directed at not only himself but his wife as he played a significant role in covering the scandal from the very beginning.  From being accused of sleeping with Winston’s  accuser to accusations that he was tipped off by Alabama’s Nick Saban, the central theme from the Florida State community seems to be encapsulated in this message Baker received from an FSU student: “Why do you have to go around digging for s— (you) have no business in? The FSU nation is coming for u.”

And come after him they did as Baker writes “[f]ans bombarded my phone with more than 100 calls over a couple of weeks,” as well as having his phone number attached to “a gay personal ad on Craigslist next to a picture of a chiseled man wearing only boxer shorts and a Santa hat” and having “a photo of a stranger’s penis” sent to him. “Florida State fans wanted me to die of brain-eating cancer and in a car crash on my way home,” Baker added.

Unbelievably, it went downhill from there.

I was covering a high school football game one night when a Twitter post popped up on my phone:

You’re a marked man … Say goodbye.

My wife started worrying about me at home, so she reported it to the police and the FBI.

She spent that night combing through message boards, looking for other threats. Buried in the hundreds of vicious comments, she found a photo someone posted of the two of us. One of the trolls said our future children would be ugly.

When I called her on the drive home, she was in tears.

I didn’t know what to say.

Again, click HERE to read Baker’s entire account.

It should be said that the abuse and threats heaped on Baker and his wife likely came from a very small percentage of the FSU fan base. That said, it doesn’t make it any less sickening.

Speaking as someone who had death wished upon his then-three-year-old daughter… who had, and I quote, “ass cancer” wished upon his whole family… who, like Baker, it was hoped would exchange bodily fluids with an AIDS-infected monkey… whose home phone number had to be changed (twice) after “fans” found it and abused him and his family because he had the audacity to write something negative about Alabama or Ohio State or Penn State or whatever football program it was, I can say this with complete sincerity and utter authority: get a life, people. Seriously. It’s just football.

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Historic financial boon for SEC West coaches

Raining Money

Thanks to Dan Mullen and other developments this offseason, the SEC West has entered some rarefied financial air.

Late Thursday night, it was announced that Mullen and Mississippi State had, as expected, reached agreement on a new contract that includes both an extension and raise.  Financially, Mullen will be paid an average of $4.275 million annually over the next four years.

In December of last year, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze received a $1 million bump in pay that will push his total salary for the 2015 season to $4.3 million.  Earlier this month, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema was on the receiving end of a new contract that will pay him $4 million in 2015 and average $4.25 million over the next six years.

As part of a new contract announced in June of last year, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn will earn $4.1 million in 2015.  Add in the 2014 salaries of Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7.1 million), Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin ($5 million) and LSU’s Les Miles ($4.4 million), and all seven coaches in the SEC West will make at least $4 million in the same calendar year; that’s the first time in the history of college football such a thing has happened in the same division.

To put it into perspective, just eight non-SEC West coaches in 2014 surpassed the $4 million barrier: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio ($5.6 million), Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.06 million), Texas’ Charlie Strong ($5 million), Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($4.5 million), Penn State’s James Franklin ($4.3 million), Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($4.07 million), South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier ($4.02 million) and TCU’s Gary Patterson ($4.01 million).

Spurrier and Georgia’s Mark Richt, armed with a new contract announced in January, are the only SEC East coaches in the same financial neighborhood as their West counterparts.  Next up on the East compensation food chain is Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who, thanks to his new contract signed in March of last year, will make around $3.5 million in 2015 after earning $3.4 million in 2014.

All told, the seven coaches in the SEC West will make somewhere in the neighborhood of $33 million in 2015; according to the USA Today database, 11 coaches in the ACC — three (Boston College, Syracuse, Wake Forest) weren’t listed — made approximately $26.6 million combined in 2014.

For further perspective, the 11 coaches in the Sun Belt conference combined to earn a total of approximately $5.3 million in 2014.

And, while this coaching arms race is ongoing across not only the SEC West but all of college football — an arms race financed by the billions of dollars universities as a whole are making off of the sport — walk-ons are being ruled ineligible because they had the audacity to accept a place to live instead of going homeless.  Priorities, y’all.

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A&M distances itself from #WRTS hashtag connected to 2015 recruit

Daylon Mack

If you follow recruiting in general and Texas A&M specifically on Twitter, you know what #WRTS stands for.  If you don’t, it’s an acronym for “We Run This State,” an inference that the Aggies rule the recruiting roost in the talent-rich state of Texas.

Those connected to the football program have begun to distance themselves from that particular hashtag, and there’s a very specific reason why.

The father of 2015 A&M signee Daylon Mack, ESPN.com writes, “filed for the trademark to #WRTS with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June” while his son was a verbal commitment to the Aggies.  In fact, the photo in the upper right is of Daylon Mack and was posted to Twitter in late May (since deleted).

The same attorney who helped Johnny Manziel with his trademarks, Derek Gilliland, provided assistance to Coris Mack throughout this process.  The Mack family does not yet officially own the #WRTS trademark, but, when/if they acquire it, they could benefit financially by having the mark placed on clothing apparel or other goods that are sold.

Even as the Mack trademark situation was known back in December, there have been growing message board whispers that A&M was able to secure the services of Mack by, in part, allowing his father to attempt to trademark the hashtag and, thus, potentially profit from it. A&M jumped into proactive mode Thursday, ESPN again writes, as a statement from the Aggies “rendered the mark, at least at its school, virtually useless… in an attempt to disconnect from any appearance of impropriety.”  From the website’s accounting of the statement:

“Texas A&M has not had any plans — past or future — to trademark, purchase, or otherwise profit financially from #WRTS,” the school said in a statement Thursday. “Texas A&M was aware of Mr. Coris Mack’s trademark application but this trademark application had nothing to do with the recruitment of Mr. Daylon Mack as a student-athlete at Texas A&M.”

The school also said it has “disallowed licensees from using #WRTS in connection with Texas A&M trademarks, to include official logos, phrases and colors, in production of licensed goods. Texas A&M’s Office of Business Development, which oversees the university’s trademarks and licensing, is not a part of the athletics department, and is not involved in the recruitment of student-athletes.”

The AggieFBLife Twitter account, which ESPN explains “is run by a third party but connected to an athletic staff member with the Aggies,” still has the #WRTS hashtag in its profile as of this morning.

Mack had been committed to A&M before decommitting in mid-December of last year.  The four-star defensive end ultimately signed with the Aggies over Texas and TCU.

This Mack situation continues an odd relationship A&M and those connected to it have with trademarks, joining the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Johnny Football and the infamous Kenny Trill.

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Two Beaver O-linemen who have started games forced to retire

Grant Bays

At bare minimum, Oregon State’s depth along the offensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

According to the Corvallis Times-Gazette, offensive linemen Garrett Weinreich and Grant Bays (pictured) were two of the four players who have been forced into medical retirement from football. The other two are defensive end Glyeb Ewing and safety Zack Robinson.

Over the past two seasons, Bays had started 10 games for the Beavers, including seven at guard in 2014. The Oregonian writes that the lineman “was hobbled by a nagging back issue much of his career.”

A three-star member of OSU’s 2012 recruiting class, Weinreich has been hampered by a knee injury originally sustained during summer camp of his true freshman season. He started the opener in 2014, but aggravated the injury once again.

Robinson had played in 19 games the last two seasons while Ewing took a redshirt as a true freshman last season. The nature of the injuries that forced that pair to retire weren’t detailed.

(Photo credit: Oregon State athletics)

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Jon Gruden on Ohio State’s Urban Meyer: ‘Greatest coaching job of all time’

Jon Gruden

ESPN’s Jon Gruden is often criticized due to his bouts of hyperbole, but his stance on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer may have redefined even his barometer.

What Ohio State accomplished last season was certainly astounding.

After the team lost to the hapless Virginia Tech Hokies 35-21 during the second week of the season, the Buckeyes changed gears and eventually ran roughshod through the Big Ten’s conference schedule and championship game, into the first ever College Football Playoff and grabbed the school’s eight national championship.

“Maybe the best coach in the SEC went to the Big Ten,” Gruden told Colin Cowherd during a radio interview, via CoachingSearch.com. “Urban Meyer did the greatest coaching job of all time. Winning a national championship with his third-string quarterback, I’ve never seen that before. … I’ve always respected him. Won two national titles at Florida.

“What he did at Ohio State, losing a Heisman Trophy candidate and then doing what he did with two different quarterbacks that were backups. Amazing to me.”

All of this came a year earlier than expected. Next year’s Ohio State squad was supposed to be the breakthrough team for Meyer in Columbus. Instead, the program is a year ahead of schedule and will almost certainly enter this coming season as the No. 1 team in the country.

However, none of that makes the most recent National Championship run the greatest in football history. Yes, the Buckeyes were forced to start three different quarterbacks. But all of them were more talented than…say…Craig Krenzel, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 National Championship.

In fact, Ohio State was considered a 12-point underdog to an absolutely loaded Miami Hurricanes squad that year. The difference in overall talent level from top to bottom was actually in Ohio State’s favor against the Oregon Ducks in January.

It was a tremendous run by Meyer and his Buckeyes, but this is another case where Gruden remains completely over the top with his comments.

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Dan Mullen signs a contract extension with Mississippi State

Dan Mullen

All of the discussions regarding whether or not Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen will eventually leave Starkville to take another job at a different university should die down now.

After being linked to multiple openings over the past two years, Mullen signed an extension with Mississippi State Thursday through the 2018 season.

“Dan has done a phenomenal job in leading our football team the past six years, and we’re happy to be in a position to reward his efforts while making sure he’ll be able to continue building a championship program for Mississippi State,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement.

“Under Dan’s guidance, Bulldog football has achieved a level of consistent success unparalleled in our history, during which time we’ve been ranked No. 1 in the nation and appeared in elite bowl games. We’re proud Dan is our coach.”

HailState.com’s Bob Carskadon provided some of the contract details:

With an average salary of $4.275 million, Mullen becomes the ninth-highest paid coach in college football. He still trails Alabama’s Nick Saban, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and LSU’s Les Miles among SEC coaches, according to USA TODAY Sports.

Mullen shouldn’t be too concerned about where he stands in the SEC pecking order, though. It’s clear the school is committed to retaining its head coach after a 46-31 overall record — including last season’s 10-3 campaign — during his six seasons with the program.

“It’s a privilege to represent our university, our program and our fans here at Mississippi State,” Mullen said. “I appreciate Scott Stricklin and our administration who have given us the tools and resources to be successful and develop Bulldog football into a national brand over the last six years.”

“We spent five weeks ranked No. 1 last season for the first time, but we have only scratched this surface on what we can accomplish here. We have created a winning culture both on and off the field and built a program that has sustained success in the nation’s toughest conference. I’ve always said we are going to win a championship here, and I firmly believe that.”

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Oklahoma State announces official changes to coaching staff

Mike Gundy

Spring practice begins Tuesday for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Before a new season gets underway, the program needed to clean up some loose ends.

The school officially announced the hiring of five new assistant coaches to Mike Gundy’s staff:

Titles weren’t bestowed on former Buffalo Bills tight ends coach Greg Adkins, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo or Montana State offensive line coach Jason McEndoo, but they’re expected to serve in similar roles to their previous stops.

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MSU’s Mark Dantonio believes best players should play, including freshmen

Mark Dantonio

Those within the Big Ten Conference aren’t presenting a united front on the topic of freshman ineligibility.

A week ago, the league was trying to drum up interest among its members to support a potential rule change. University of Maryland president Wallace Loh even came out publicly in support of the possibility.

The league has yet to officially propose any changes but it wants to continue the “national conversation.”

Apparently, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio didn’t get the memo.

Dantonio’s comment clearly isn’t just a chance to appeal to recruits. He doesn’t appear to be an advocate of the rule in any form or fashion.

The coach could have worded his answer differently in order to tow the party line. He didn’t. He stated freshmen should play if they’re good enough after being directly asked about the issue.

If the Big Ten Conference wants the possibility of freshman ineligibility to become more than a national conversation, the league needs to develop support from its coaches.

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Potential starter along Oregon’s O-line calls it a career

Rose Bowl - Oregon v Florida State Getty Images

Unfortunately, one of the best names in college football retired Thursday.

Andre Yruretagoyena won’t return to the Oregon Ducks football program this year. An exact reason wasn’t provided, but the redshirt senior decided it was time to leave.

Yruretagoyena finally found his way into the Ducks’ starting lineup last year, but it was short-lived as he dealt with a lingering foot injury.

After the amount of injuries Oregon suffered along the offensive line a season ago, Yruretagoyena’s loss hurts the team’s depth at offensive tackle.

Tyler Johnstone is expected to return from a torn ACL he suffered last summer to start at left tackle, while sophomore Tyrell Crosby should prove to be the team’s bookend at right tackle.

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