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Crimson Tide signs 25 for 2013

ALABAMA BCS CELEBRATION AP

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

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban announced that 18 student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to play football with the Crimson Tide, joining seven players who enrolled at the Capstone in January and will compete in spring practice later this semester.

The 25 total players, including seven mid-year enrollees, come from 13 states – Alabama (7), Georgia (3), Florida (2), Louisiana (2), Tennessee (2), Texas (2), Arkansas (1), California (1), Maryland (1), Pennsylvania (1), New Jersey (1), Utah (1) and Virginia (1).

As of 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Alabama’s 2013 signing class ranked first nationally by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals.com and MaxPreps. The Crimson Tide is ranked fourth in the Scout.com team rankings.

As listed by position, the Crimson Tide add to their roster four running backs, three defensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs, three offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, two wide receivers, two athletes, one tight end, one long snapper and one defensive lineman/linebacker.

Seven players – Cooper Bateman (QB), Leon Brown (OL), Raheem Falkins (WR), Derrick Henry (RB), Brandon Hill (OL), O.J. Howard (TE) and Parker McLeod (QB) – are already attending classes at the University. They all enrolled in January, began taking classes for the spring 2013 semester and will be able to participate in Alabama’s spring football practices. The other 18 players signed national letters of intent today. The Crimson Tide had eight players in enroll in the spring of 2012, nine in 2011, 11 in 2010 and four in 2009.

Among the 25 players are:

· Class Rankings as of 3:45 p.m.: No. 1 247Sports, No. 1 Rivals, No. 1 ESPN, No. 1 MaxPreps (CBSSports.com) and No. 4 Scout.com
· 6 Five-Star Prospects (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN & Scout): Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, O.J. Howard, A’Shawn Robinson)
· 14 Four-Star Prospects (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN & Scout): Anthony Averett, Cooper Bateman, Leon Brown, Jonathan Cook, Raheem Falkins, Grant Hill, Eddie Jackson, Tyren Jones, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams,
· 9 players participated in the Under Armour All-America Game – Cooper Bateman, O.J. Howard, Robert Foster, Reuben Foster, Grant Hill, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Maurice Smith, Tim Williams
· 5 players participated in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl game – Jonathan Allen, Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones, A’Shawn Robinson, Altee Tenpenny,
· 3 members of the Parade Magazine prep All-America team – Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry
· 8 members of the USA Today’s 2011 All-USA High School Football Team – Jonathan Allen (2nd), Robert Foster (1st), Reuben Foster (1st), Derrick Henry (1st), Grant Hill (1st), Dee Liner (1st), A’Shawn Robinson (2nd), Tim Williams (2nd)
· 14 players in the ESPNU150 – Jonathan Allen, Cooper Bateman, Robert Foster, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams
· 13 players on the PrepStar 150 Dream Team – Jonathan Allen, Robert Foster, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Dee Liner, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams
· 11 players named to the Rivals.com 100 – Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, A’Shawn Robinson, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny
· 16 players in the Rivals 250 – Jonathan Allen, Cooper Bateman, Reuben Foster, Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Altee Tenpenny, Tim Williams
· 18 players in the 247sports.com Top 247 – Jonathan Allen, Anthony Averett, Cooper Bateman, Jonathan Cook, Reuben Foster, Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, Grant Hill, O.J. Howard, Eddie Jackson, Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Darius Paige, A’Shawn Robinson, Maurice Smith, ArDarius Stewart, Tim Williams.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 25 members of Alabama’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Jonathan Allen
LB/DL, 6-3, 264, Leesburg, Va./Stone Bridge
Jonathan Allen is one of the premier defensive prospects in the 2013 signing class … a defensive end in high school that could also project at outside linebacker … a five-star player by 247Sports, Rivals.com and Scout.com … played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl … 2012 Gatorade Virginia Football Player of the Year … first-team Parade Magazine All-American … second-team USA Today All-American in 2012 … the No. 11 player in the Top247 and the No. 2 outside linebacker nationally by 247Sports while ranking second among player from Virginia … listed 17th in the 247Sports Composite listing and the No. 3 OLB …. also the No. 11 player nationally and the No. 2 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com, but ranks as the No. 1 player in Virginia … Scout.com ranks Allen as the No. 2 defensive end and 34th in the Scout300 … 28th in the ESPN150 and outlet’s No. 3 defensive end … ranked 36th in the Tom Lemming MaxPrep rankings and the outlet’s No. 4 defensive end nationally … first-team All-American as a defensive lineman by MaxPreps … a five-star defensive end by PrepStar that ranks third at his position and 18th nationally … member of the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team and a PrepStar All-American … posted 119 tackles with nine sacks, six fumble recoveries, eight pass breakups, six blocked kicks and had seven pass breakups as a senior in 2012 … totaled 102 stops with 15 sacks and seven blocked kicks as a junior … finished with 87 tackles, 20 sacks and eight forced fumbles as a sophomore in 2010 … two-time first-team All-State performer in Virginia and Washington Post All-Metro selection … coached by Mickey Thompson at Stone Bridge High School … chose Alabama over Florida, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Stanford, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech.

Anthony Averett
ATH, 6-0, 170, Woodbury, N.J./Woodbury
Anthony Averett joins the Crimson Tide out of Woodbury High School in New Jersey … a talented athlete, who also boasts a distinguished career in track and field … ranks 115th in the Top247 and is the site’s No.14 safety and No. 5 player in New Jersey … ranks 274 in the 247Composite … No. 22 athlete by ESPN and No. 211 in the ESPN300 … Scout.com ranks him as the No. 23 cornerback nationally while Rivals.com lists him as the No. 23 corner … a PrepStar All-East Region choice … ranked 193rd nationally by PrepStar … No. 10 athlete in Tom Lemming’s MaxPreps … second-team small school All-American as a defensive back by MaxPreps … played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Game … clocked at 10.6 in the 100-meters, 6.46 in the 55 meters and high jumped 6-feet, 4-inches … maybe the top prep long jumper in the nation with a jump of 25-feet, two-inches, which was the longest jump in the nation this year and the second longest in state history … finished second in the 2012 Penn Relays in the long jump … posted 106 tackles, 12 pass breakups and five interceptions as a senior in 2012, which earned him first-team All-State honors … had 52 stops and three picks as a junior in 2011 and 40 tackles and three interceptions in 2010 … also ran for 1,278 yards (15 touchdowns) and passed for 836 yards (14 scores) as a senior … coached by Zac Valentine … nephew of former Miami (Fla.) All-American and Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie … chose Alabama over Penn State, Iowa, South Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Cooper Bateman
QB, 6-3, 215, Murray, Utah/Cottonwood
Cooper Bateman comes to the Capstone as one of the top quarterbacks in the class of 2013 … a consensus four-star prospect that is ranked as the No. 3 pocket passer by ESPN and the No. 5 pro-style quarterback by 247Sports and Scout.com … 44th in the ESPN150 … rated 87th in the Top247 and 79th in the 247Sports composite rankings … ESPN Elite 11 quarterback … No. 11 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com and No. 189 in the Rivals250 … the consensus No. 1 player in the state of Utah … led the Black Team to a win in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … No. 4 pro-style quarterback by MaxPreps … ranked 59th overall nationally by PrepStar … Sporting News’ No. 14 quarterback nationally … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … coached by Greg Croshaw at Cottonwood High School in 2012 … threw for 2,384 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior while running 82 times for 277 yards and 12 touchdowns … threw for 2,484 yards as a junior with 26 touchdowns … connected for 27 touchdowns and just five interceptions as a sophomore while connecting on 68 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards … in his final three seasons at Cottonwood, passed for 7,654 yards and 68 touchdowns … chose Alabama over LSU, Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn and Washington.

Leon Brown
OL, 6-6, 300, Riverdale, Md. (Parkdale/ASA College
Leon Brown arrives at Alabama from junior college looking to compete for one of the open positions along the Crimson Tide offensive line … enrolled at the Capstone in January of 2013 to get an early start in spring drills … out of ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y., Brown was a second-team All-Northeast Football Conference selection at tackle in 2012 … a four-star prospect by ESPN, 247Sports and Scout.com … Scout.com ranks Brown as the No. 2 offensive tackle and the No. 8 overall junior college prospect … No. 50 in the Rivals.com JUCO Top 50 … a PrepStar JUCO All-American … played at Parkdale High School where he was a first-team All-County selection in 2010 … chose Alabama over Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Jonathan Cook
DB, 6-0, 186, Daphne, Ala./Spanish Fort
Jonathan Cook is a fast-rising four-start prospect at cornerback according to 247Sports … the nation’s No. 13 cornerback according to 247Sports and ranked 145th in the Top247 … a PrepStar All-Southeast Region selection … rated as the No. 33 cornerback nationally by Scout.com … ranked as the nation’s No. 37 cornerback by Rivals.com … No. 73 defensive back according to ESPN … made 81 tackles as a senior in 2012 with seven interceptions and 21 pass breakups … made 65 tackles with six interceptions as a junior … first-team 2012 All-State selection by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … also named to the 2012 ASWA Super 12 team and was selected as the 5A Back of the Year … played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … played for Mark Freeman at Spanish Fort High School … chose Alabama over Nebraska, Louisville, Mississippi State and Mississippi.

Raheem Falkins
WR, 6-4, 195, New Orleans, La. /G.W. Carver
Raheem Falkins is a four-star prospect that boasts outstanding measurables for the wide receiver position … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … ranks as the No. 38 wide receiver nationally and the No. 13 player in Louisiana by Rivals.com … the No. 41 wide receiver by ESPN and 247Sports … is 268th nationally in the ESPN300 while ranking 12 in the state and 128th in the Southeast Region … 247Sports also has Falkins as the No. 50 wide out in its composite rankings … No. 67 wide receiver by Scout.com … caught 47 passes for 1,058 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior while averaging 22.5 yards per reception … earned first-team 2A All-State honors from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association in 2012 … as a junior hauled in 51 catches for 800 yards and 14 scores … No. 23 in the Times-Picayune’s Nifty 50 … coached by Bryon Addison at G.W. Caver High School … chose the Crimson Tide over LSU, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Southern California, Illinois and Mississippi.

Robert Foster
WR, 6-3, 187, Monaca, Pa./Central Valley
One of the top wide receiver prospects in the nation, Robert Foster will give the Crimson Tide an explosive passing-catching option … participated in the Under Armour All-America Game … a first-team USA Today All-American … a five-star prospect by 247Sports and Scout.com … the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver according to 247Sports … No. 18 in the Top247 and he No. 2 player in the state of Pennsylvania … ranked 23rd nationally in the 247Composite and the No. 2 wide out … Scout.com lists him as the No. 4 wide receiver and No. 23 in the Scout300 … ESPN ranks Foster as the No. 2 wide receiver nationally and No. 25 in the ESPN150 … ESPN also has him as the No. 1 player in Pennsylvania and the No. 25 player in the East Region … Rivals.com rates him as the No. 4 wide receiver and the No. 4 player in the state … No. 32 nationally according to Tom Lemming with MaxPreps and is the site’s No. 1 wingback … Sporting News’ No. 49 player in the nation … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team and the publication’s No. 10 receiver and No. 80 player nationally… caught 45 passes for 756 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior, while rushing for 549 yards and 12 scores in 2012 … earned Pennsylvania Sportswriters Class AAA All-State honors in 2012 and was a 2011 PSWA All-State selection as a specialist … also intercepted four passes on defense with 67 tackles and eight pass breakups in his senior year … hauled in 37 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns as a junior while rushing for 419 yards and two touchdowns in 2011 … as a sophomore in 2010, caught 25 passes for 520 yards and seven scores while rushing for 406 yards and three TDs … coached by Mark Lyons at Central Valley High School … chose Alabama over Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame.

Reuben Foster
LB, 6-1, 244, Auburn, Ala./Auburn
Reuben Foster comes to the Capstone as the nation’s consensus No. 1 inside linebacker … member of the 2012 first-team All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … named the defensive MVP of the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … a five-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals.com, Scout.com, MaxPreps and PrepStar … the nation’s No. 2 overall player according to Scout.com and PrepStar while ranking third nationally by MaxPreps … rated 13th nationally in the Rivals100 … No. 15 in the Top247 and No. 16 in the ESPN100 … the top-ranked player in the state of Alabama by all national services … ESPN also ranks him 11th in the Southeast Region … the 247Composite has Foster ranked seventh nationally, the No. 1 inside linebacker and the top player in the state … member of the PrepStar Dream Team … recorded 102 tackles with 22 tackles for loss and six sacks as a senior at Auburn in 2012 … earned first-team All-State honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association and was named the 6A Lineman of the Year … … invited to “The Opening” in the summer of 2012 on the Nike campus in Oregon … played in the 2013 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic … was the Georgia AAA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-State selection as a junior at Troup County High School in 2011 … made 185 tackles with 144 solo stops, 34 tackles for loss and 18 sacks … had 112 tackles as a sophomore in 2010 at Troup County … coached by Charles Flowers at Troup County in 2010 and 2011 … played for Auburn High School head coach time Carter in 2012 … chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn and Georgia.

Derrick Henry
RB, 6-3, 242, Yulee, Fla. /Yulee
Derrick Henry is a five-star prospect that is listed as the nation’s No. 1 athlete and No. 4 running back prospect … member of the 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … 2012 Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year … broke Ken Hall’s 51-year-old national high school rushing record with 12,124 yards after rushing for 4,261 yards as a senior in 2012 … Parade Magazine All-American and the publication’s National Player of the Year … played for the East squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, rushing for 53 yards with a touchdown and a two-point conversion … MaxPreps National Player of the Year and first-team All-American … finished his high school career with 153 rushing touchdowns, which ranks fifth all time, including 55 in 2012 … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … five-star prospect by ESPN, 247sports and Scout.com … No. 9 in the ESPN150 and the outlets No. 1 athlete … ranks sixth by ESPN in Florida and eighth in the southeast region … the No. 3 player in Florida by 247Sports and the No. 1 athlete nationally while ranking 12th in its Top247 … the No. 4 athlete by Rivals.com and the No. 70 player in the Rivals100 … MaxPrep’s (Tom Lemming) No. 2 running back and No. 13 player nationally … Sporting News’ No. 2-ranked running back and No. 5 player overall … PrepStar All-American and member of the PrepStar Dream Team … set the Florida high school record with a 510-yard performance against Jacksonville Jackson and averaged 9.2 yards per carry and 327.8 yards per game as a senior … 2012 first-team All-State selection by the Associated Press and was the Player of the Year on the All-First Coast team … named the 2012 Columbus (Ohio) Touchdown Club National High School Player of the Year … rushed for 2,610 yards and 34 scores as a junior in 2011 to earn first-team All-Coast honors from the Florida Times-Union … also a first-team All-Coast running back in 2010 after rushing for 2,788 yards and 38 touchdowns while averaging 8.9 yards per attempt … went for 2,465 yards and 26 scores as a freshman in 2009 … coached by Bobby Ramsay at Yulee High School … chose the Crimson Tide over a myriad of schools, including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame, Southern California and Florida State.

Brandon Hill
OL, 6-7, 390, Collierville, Tenn. (St. George’s/Hargrave Military Academy
Brandon Hill arrives at Alabama after a season at Hargrave Military Academy with a lot of potential along the offensive line … enrollee in January of 2013 … No. 13 in the Rivals.com 2013 Prep Top 50 … a massive prospect who has good athleticism and quickness for his size … MaxPrep 2011 U.S. Air Force Medium Schools All-American … Scout.com rates him as the nation’s No. 25 offensive guard prospect … the No. 9 player in Tennessee by 247sports.com and the site’s No. 46 offensive tackle prospect … SuperPrep ranks him 11th in the state of Tennessee … earned All-State honors in Tennessee at the Division 2A level … Rivals.com has Hill as the No. 57 offensive tackle and the No. 18 player in Tennessee … ESPNU lists him as the No. 77 tackle nationally and the No. 19 player in Tennessee … PrepStar All-Southeast Region selection … a three-star recruit … helped St. George capture the Class A Division II Tennessee State Championship … coached by Brent Hill … chose Alabama over Mississippi coming out of Hargrave Military Academy … also recruited by Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky coming out of high school.

Grant Hill
OL, 6-6, 301, Huntsville, Ala./Huntsville
Grant Hill arrives at the Capstone as one of the top offensive guard prospects in the nation … member of the 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … a consensus four-star prospect that is rated as the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard by ESPN … 86th in the ESPN150 while being listed as the No. 5 player in the state of Alabama and the No. 47 player in the southeast region … participated in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game … No. 2 guard in the nation according to 247Sports and the 247Composite while ranking third and fourth in the state respectively … ranked 54th nationally in the Top247 and 60th nationally in the 247Composite … Scout.com ranks Hill as the No. 3 offensive guard and 67th in its Scout300 … PrepStar lists Hill as the No. 1 guard nationally … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the No. 71 player in the country … second-team All-American as an offensive lineman by MaxPreps … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps ranked him 40th overall nationally and the No. 5 offensive tackle prospect … Rivals.com rates Hill as the No. 5 offensive guard nationally and the No. 77 player in the Rivals100 … first-team All-State selection by the Alabama Sports Writer Association … finalist for the ASWA 6A Lineman of the Year … played for head coach Scott Sharp at Huntsville High School … chose Alabama over Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Clemson and Mississippi State.

O.J. Howard
TE, 6-6, 235, Prattville, Ala. (Autauga Academy
O.J. Howard comes to Alabama the top tight end prospect in the class of 2013 … participated in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … a five-star prospect is the No. 7 prospect nationally in the Rivals100 … is the outlet’s top-ranked tight end and No. 2 player in Alabama … 247Sports ranks Howard 20th in its Top247 with five stars while listing him as the No. 1 tight in and the No. 2 player in the state … the 247Composite lists him 14th nationally … No. 14 in the Scout300 and Scout.com’s top-ranked tight end … is ranked 45th in the ESPN150, the No. 2 tight end and No. 24 in the southeast region by ESPN … Sporting News’ No. 32 player in the nation … rated eighth nationally by MaxPreps (Tom Lemming) and is the No. 1 tight end … is the No. 13 player nationally by PrepStar, the publication’s No. 1 tight end and a member of the PrepStar Dream Team… three-time was first-team AISA All-State selection … missed part of his senior year due to injury, but amassed 854 of total offense and 12 touchdowns … accounted for 57 tackles on the defensive side of the ball in 2012 … named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Super 12 team … AISA 2012 Lineman of the Year … as a junior in 2011 had 11 receiving touchdowns, eight rushing scores and also threw for three TDs … caught 41 passes for 926 yards while rushing for 487 yards … had 89 tackles with eight sacks and three forced fumbles on defense … as a sophomore in 2010, set the school record with 31 total touchdowns while also breaking the school’s receiving records … named the team’s defensive MVP after making 89 tackles with six interceptions and four sacks … coached by Chris Honeycutt at Autauga Academy … chose Alabama over Florida, USC and Auburn.

Eddie Jackson
DB, 6-0, 175, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson
Eddie Jackson was key addition for the Crimson Tide in the secondary for the 2013 class … a four-star prospect by ESPN and 247Sports … ranks 157th in the Top247 and is the outlet’s No. 5 athlete … ranked as the No. 14 athlete in the 247Composite … also ranked 21st in the state of Florida by 247Sports … ESPN lists him as No. 54 wide receiver … also rated as a wide out by Rivals.com where he was listed 48th … the No. 48 wide receiver by Scout.com … caught 37 passes for 792 yards and touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball as a senior in 2012 … also contributed five interceptions, 66 tackles and one forced fumble on defense … returned two interceptions for touchdowns … coached by Wayne Blair at Boyd Anderson High School … chose Alabama over LSU, Florida State, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Tyren Jones
RB, 5-9, 215, Marietta, Ga./Walton
Tyren Jones is one of the more productive running backs in the class of 2013 … participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl … consensus four-star prospect … ranked 63rd in the ESPN150 and the network’s No. eight running back … rated as the No. 9 player in Georgia and the No. 34 player in the southeast by ESPN … 64th in the Top247 and the site’s No. 6 running back nationally … in the 247Composite ranks 66th nationally, eighth at running back and sixth in Georgia … Rivals.com rates Jones as the No. 11 running back and 79th in the Rivals 100 … Rivals.com also lists him as the No. 5 player in the state of Georgia … the No. 91 player nationally by Scout.com and the No. 15 running back … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the No. 62 player nationally and the No. 9 running back … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps ranks Jones as the No. 5 running back nationally and the No. 79 overall recruit … rushed for 1,845 yards (6.46 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns as a senior in 2012 … was a second-team All-State selection in Class AAAAAA by the Georgia Sports Writers Association … earned first-team GSWA All-State honors and was named the AAAAA Offensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2011 … rushed for 2,375 yards and 33 touchdowns while catching 15 passes for 205 yards and two more scores … also scored twice on returns while totaling over 400-return yards … coached by Rocky Hildalgo at Walton High School … chose Alabama over Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Walker Jones
LB, 6-2, 234, Germantown, Tenn./Evangelical Christian
Walker Jones continues a family tradition, inking his scholarship papers with the Crimson Tide, joining Barrett and Harrison as members of the Alabama football team … a middle linebacker and running back in high school that projects to the defensive side of the football at Alabama … ESPN rates him as the No. 26 inside linebacker nationally and No. 11 in the state of Tennessee … the No. 8 prospect in the state by CBSSports.com … Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 22 linebacker and 11th in Tennessee … ranked 40th at his position by Scout.com … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps rates him as the nation’s No. 25 inside linebacker … invited to play in both the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl and the Semper Fidelis All-American bowl (unable to play due to basketball) … earned All-State honors from both the Tennessee Sports Writers Association and TNVarsity.com in both 2011 and 2012 … PrepStart All-Southeast Region selection and the publication’s No. 18 outside linebacker … Memphis Commercial Appeal Best of Preps in 2010, 2011 and 2012 … a finalist for Tennessee Mr. Football in 2012 when he captained Evangelical Christian to a state runner-up finish … All-Region selection in his final three seasons and the Region Defensive MVP in 2011 … set the school record for most tackles in a season and most tackles in a career … led team in tackles as a sophomore, junior and senior … scored 15 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and 10 in 2012 … Southern Prep Stars top linebacker in 2012 … helped lead his team to the State Championship on the basketball court in 2010 … … father, Rex, played basketball for Alabama … will join brother, Harrison, at the Capstone … oldest brother, Barrett, started on three Crimson Tide National Championship teams (2009, 2011 and 2012) … coached by Geoff Walters at Evangelical Christian School … chose Alabama over Tennessee, Arkansas, Nebraska, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

Alvin Kamara
RB, 5-10, 195, Norcross, Ga./Norcross
Alvin Kamara represents one of the nation’s top running backs with excellent versatility … the nation’s No. 2 all-purpose by Rivals.com and the No. 45 player in the Rivals100 … also ranked as the No. 6 player in Georgia by Rivals … selected to participate in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game … No. 32 in the ESPN150 and the No. 4 running back … ESPN ranks Kamara as the No. 4 player in Georgia and No. 17 in the Southeast Region … 247Sports lists him as the No. 3 all-purpose back and the No. 7 player in Georgia, while ranking him 66th in the Top247 … is the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 247Composite, the No. 5 player in Georgia and the No. 42 player nationally … invited to “The Opening” in the summer of 2012 on the Nike campus in Oregon … the No. 69 player in the Scout300 and Scout.com’s No. 12 running back prospect … No. Sporting News’ No. 47 player in the nation … rushed for 2,264 yards and 26 touchdowns while averaging 7.5 yards per carry as a senior in 2012 … added 22 receptions for 286 yards and five scores … … second-team All-American as a running back by MaxPreps … earned Georgia Mr. Football honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution … was the Class AAAAAA Player of the Year and garnered first-team All-State honors from the Georgia Sports Writers Association … added 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior in 2011 … played for head coach Keith Maloof at Norcross High School … chose the Crimson Tide over Georgia, but also considered Florida State, Georgia Tech, Florida, Southern California, Clemson and Tennessee.

Dee Liner
DL, 6-3, 281, Muscle Shoals, Ala./Muscle Shoals
Dee Liner is one of the elite defensive line prospects in the 2013 signing class … a member of the first-team 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … participated in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game … ESPN rates Liner as the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation and ranks him 26th on in the ESPN150 … also second in the state by ESPN and 14th in the southeast region … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps lists Liner as the nation’s No. 21 overall player, a five-star prospect and the No. 3 defensive tackle … No. 7 strongside defensive end by Rivals.com and ranked 61st in the Rivals100 … the No. 3 player in the state of Alabama by Rivals … listed as the No. 8 defensive tackle by Scout.com and No. 48 in the Scout300 … Sporting News’ No. 55 player in the nation … ranked 112th in the Top247, the site’s No. 10 defensive tackle and No. 7 player in the state … No. 46 nationally and the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 247Composite … first-team medium school All-American as a defensive lineman by MaxPreps and a second-team selection on the overall All-American team … was a 5A All-State selection by the Alabama Sports Writer Association … recorded 76 tackles with 18 tackles for loss as a senior at Muscle Shoals High School where he was coached by Scott Basden … made 83 tackles with 17 sacks as a junior in 2011 while also breaking up two passes, forcing five fumbles and recovering two fumbles – one for a touchdown … registered 81 stops with six sacks in 2010 … finished his high school career with over 200 tackles, 68 tackles for loss and 32 sacks … Alabama over Auburn, Georgia, Miami (Fla.), Southern California, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Cole Mazza
LS, 6-1, 246, Bakersfield, Calif./Liberty
Cole Mazza proved to be one of the best long snappers in the country and that was a priority for the Crimson Tide faced with the departure of three-year starter Carson Tinker … earned a five-star ranking as a sophomore in high school at the Rubio Long Snapping Camp … the nation’s No. 1 long snapper by 247Sports and the No. 1 long snapper nationally in the 247Composite … ESPN ranks Mazza as the No. 3 long snapper in the country … three-star prospect by Rivals.com and the No. 11 snapper … three-star prospect by PrepStar and the No. 8 long snapper nationally … also served as the starting center for head coach Tony Mills at Liberty High School in Bakersfield, Calif. … chose Alabama over UCLA, Washington State and Utah.

Parker McLeod
QB, 6-3, 190, Marietta, Ga. /Walton
Park McLeod comes to the Capstone as the nation’s No. 31 pocket passer according to ESPN … ranks 58th in Georgia by ESPN and 278th in the southeast region … arrived at Alabama as an early enrollee in January of 2013 … the No. 35 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com … 247Sports lists McLeod as the No. 59 pro-style quarterback nationally in 2013 and No. 41 in its 247Composite rankings … Scout.com has him as the No. 63 QB nationally … as a senior in 2012 played in six games due to injury and threw for 541 yards with four touchdowns … threw for 1,619 yards as a junior in 2011, while completing 63.9 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions … earned All-League and All-Metro honors as a junior … coached by Rocky Hildalgo … chose Alabama over Oklahoma State, Louisville, Maryland and Boston College.

Darius Paige
DL, 6-4, 314, Foley, Ala./Foley
Darius Paige a consensus four-star defensive line prospect out of Foley High School … the fourth-ranked defensive tackle by 247Sports and No. 55 in the Top247 … rated the No. 4 player in Alabama by 247Sports … No. 14 tackle in the 247Composite and 175th nationally … Rivals.com rates him as the No. 15 defensive tackle, No. 240 in the Rivals250 and No. 10 in the state of Alabama … ESPN ranks him 21st among defensive tackles and No. 239 in the ESPN300 … 10th in the Alabama by ESPN and 115th in the southeast region … Scout.com lists him as the No. 23 tackle and No. 221 in the Scout300 … played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl for the East squad … PrepStar ranks him as the No. 18 defensive tackle and No. 176 nationally … earned honorable mention 6A All-State honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association in 2012 at Foley … made 97 tackles with 32 tackles for loss and three sacks as a junior at Washington High School in Pensacola, Fla. … played for Todd Watson at Foley High School … chose Alabama over Florida State, Tennessee, LSU, Tennessee, and Louisville.

A’Shawn Robinson
DL, 6-4, 320, Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights
A’Shawn Robinson is one of the elite defensive linemen in the 2013 signing class … member of the second-team 2012 All-USA Football Team, chosen by USA Today … played for the West squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl … a five-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals.com and Scout.com … Scout.com ranks him as the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle and the fifth-best player in the nation at any position … 247Sports lists Robinson as the country’s No. 3 offensive tackle, the 26th overall prospect in the Top247 and the No. 3 player in the state of Texas … the 247Composite has him as the No. 2 offensive tackle, the No. 33 overall player and the No. 4 athlete in Texas … Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 2 prospect in Texas, the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation and was 33rd in the final Rivals100 … Sporting News’ No. 32 player in the nation … ranked 11th by ESPN at defensive tackle and 13th in the state of Texas … ESPN also listed him as the No. 13 player in the Midlands Region and 105th in the ESPN150 … rated 70th nationally by Tom Lemming at MaxPreps and the No. 4 defensive tackle … No. 30 on the 2013 PrepStar Dream Team … invited to the 2012 “The Opening” all-star event on the Nike campus in Oregon … recorded over 60 tackles with seven sacks and six forced fumbles as a junior in 2011 and graded out at over 85 percent on his blocking assignments at offensive tackle … coached by Todd Whitten at Arlington Heights High School … chose the Crimson Tide over Texas while also considering Southern California, LSU, Arkansas and Florida State.

Maurice Smith
DB, 6-0, 180, Sugar Land, Texas/Fort Bend Dulles
Maurice Smith is a consensus four-star cornerback … played in the Under Armour All-American Game … ranked as the No. 5 cornerback in the class of 2013 by Scout.com and listed 55th in the Scout300 … 247Sports ranks him as the No. 11 corner, rates him No. 121 in the Top247 and 14th in Texas while the 247Composite has him 84th nationally, the No. 9 cornerback and No. 111 in Texas … ranked 12th among corners by Rivals.com and 143 in the Rivals250 … ESPN has him as the No. 8 player in the state of Texas and No. 8 in the Midlands Region … No. 84 in the ESPN100 and the outlet’s No. 12 cornerback … PrepStar ranks him as the No. 7 corner and the nation’s No. 89 player … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team … the No. 15 cornerback by Tom Lemming of MaxPreps … recorded one interception as a senior in 2012 with 21 receptions for 389 yards and seven touchdowns … had 63 tackles and three interceptions as a junior in 2011 … played for head coach Jim Creech at Fort Bend Dulles High School … chose Alabama over Florida, Arkansas, Arizona State, Texas, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Michigan.

ArDarius Stewart
ATH, 6-0, 190, Fultondale, Ala./Fultondale
ArDarius Stewart was one of the top football players in the state of Alabama as a junior and senior … a consensus four-star athlete … ranked as the No. 3 athlete nationally by Rivals.com and No. 66 in the Rivals100 while being listed as the No. 4 player in Alabama … No. 67 in the Top247, the No. 3 athlete nationally and the No. 5 player in the state by 247Sports … No. 86 nationally in the 247Composite, No. 3 athlete and No. 5 in Alabama … ESPN rates him the No. 18 athlete and 181st in the ESPN300 … Scout.com lists him as the No. 10 wide receiver and 94th-best prospect in the nation … No. 59 in Tom Lemming’s MaxPreps Top 100 and the No. 1 athlete … a five-star prospect by PrepStar, which ranked Stewart as the No. 49 player in the nation and No. 3 athlete … first-team small school All-American as an all-purpose player by MaxPreps and a second-team selection on the overall All-American team at defensive back … The Birmingham News Player of the Year … a 2A All-State selection and Back of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association in 2012 after scoring 52 touchdowns on passes, runs and returns in 2012 … had 1,923 yards rushing in 2012 after totaling 2,188 on the ground in 2011 … had 55 tackles with two interceptions in 2012 … also earned 2011 ASWA first-team 2A All-State honors … finished his career at Fultondale High School with 138 total touchdowns … coached by Keith Register at Fultondale High School … chose Alabama over Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and Utah.

Altee Tenpenny
RB, 6-0, 207, North Little Rock, Ark./North Little Rock
Altee Tenpenny comes to the Capstone as one of the best running backs in the nation and the consensus No. 1 player in the state of Arkansas … consensus four-star recruit … selected to play in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl … 247Sports ranks him as the No. 5 running back in the nation and the top player in Arkansas … 51st in the Top247 … Rivals.com rates him as the No. eight running back and No. 53 in the Rivals100 as well as the No. 1 player in the state … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps No. 3 running back and No. 46 recruit nationally … Sporting News’ No. 47 player in the nation … Scout.com lists Tenpenny 84th in the Scout300 and as the nation’s No. 14 running back … a five-star player and member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the publication’s No. 33 player nationally and No. 7 running back … Sporting News’ No. 8 running back … first-team 7A All-State by the Arkansas High School Activities Association … rushed for 1,379 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2012 with seven receptions for 135 yards and two more scores … missed the 2011 season with a broken ankle … averaged 7.63 yards per carry as a sophomore with 15 touchdowns and 1,121 rushing yards … invited to “The Opening” in the summer of 2012 at the Nike campus in Oregon … coached by Brad Bolding at North Little Rock High School … chose Alabama over the in-state Razorbacks as well as Auburn, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Tim Williams
LB, 6-3, 235, Baton Rouge, La./University Lab
Tim Williams gives Alabama another top player out of the state of Louisiana … a consensus four-star prospect … selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game … 36th in the ESPN150 and the No. five defensive end in the nation by ESPN … also ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Louisiana and the No. 18 player in the Southeast Region by ESPN … Tom Lemming of MaxPreps rates Williams as the nation’s No. 35 player and the No. 4 outside linebacker … 247Sports lists him as the No. 2 weakside defensive end nationally, No. 73 in the Top247 and the No. 3 player in Louisiana … 82nd in the 247Composite … Scout.com has Williams as the nation’s No. 20 defensive end and No. 167 in the Scout300 … Sporting News’ No. 48 player in the nation … a member of the PrepStar Dream Team as the nation’s No. 85 prospect and the sixth-ranked defensive end … registered 115 tackles with 45 tackles for loss and 16 sacks as a junior in 2011 … a 2011 and 2012 first-team Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-State selection … second-team small school All-American as a defensive lineman by MaxPreps … named to the Baton Rouge All-Area team and was a Louisiana 2A All-State selection … coached by Chad Mahaffey at University Lab High School … chose Alabama over Miami, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Southern California and Texas A&M.

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Report: Braxton Miller surgery tentatively slated for Tuesday

Braxton Miller AP

Braxton Miller‘s road to recovery appears to have a semi-official start date.

Citing a source close to the Ohio State quarterback, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Miller is tentatively scheduled to undergo surgery next Tuesday.  The procedure will be performed by world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.

Initial reports had the injury labeled as a dislocated shoulder, which later morphed into a torn labrum.  Instead, the Dispatch reports, Miller suffered a partially torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder.

The injury, similar to the one he suffered during the Orange Bowl and for which he underwent February surgery, occurred during practice Monday as Miller was making a short throw to the sidelines.  There was no contact on the play.

Head coach Urban Meyer said earlier in the week that a timeline for a return would be 9-12 months, which means Miller could return as early as summer workouts in 2015 or as late as the end of summer camp.  Or, obviously, somewhere in between.

With Miller out for the season, the Buckeyes are expected to turn to redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett under center.  At the very least, Barrett will get the start in the opener against Navy, although backup Cardale Jones is expected to see some action as well.

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Neal Burcham holds off A&M transfer, named SMU’s starter

Central Florida v SMU

The official successor to Garrett Gilbert has been anointed, and it’s just who most expected it to be.

Following practice Thursday, June Jones announced that Neal Burcham has been tapped as SMU’s starting quarterback.  The Mustangs’ quarterback competition technically involved multiple players, but it essentially came down to Burcham and Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis.

“He has been waiting his turn to get in there,” Jones said. “I have been impressed watching him the last couple of years. He’s prepared himself, he’s worked hard. It’s just getting familiar with the offense and knowing where to go with the ball quickly and knowing your reads.”

The redshirt sophomore started the last two games in place of an injured Gilbert last season and went through spring practice, which Davis didn’t take part in, as the No. 1 quarterback. Jones cited Burcham’s experience in the offense as the deciding factor.

Burcham, a three-star member of the Mustangs’ 2012 recruiting class, completed 64-of-106 passes for 556 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in 2013.  Davis isn’t going away anytime soon, however, as the four-star 2012 signee still has three years of eligibility remaining counting this season.

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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: ACC Predictions

Navy v Duke

As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the ACC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. Florida State (Last year: 14-0; beat Auburn in BCS Championship Game)
It is easy to make the Seminoles the chalk favorite when evaluating the rest of the ACC. Despite losing some key players from a national championship roster, Florida State returns Heisman Trophy winning Jameis Winston and a deep roster that has benefitted and prepared for this moment since the day Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach. The depth is there with loads of quality all around. Karlos Williams should have a big year at running back and Winston’s top targets in the open field will be Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary. The defense has a few holes to plug, but that should not be of much concern. Florida State looks to have the top unit or second-best unit in the entire ACC at every position on the field. There is not one game on the 2014 schedule Florida State should not be the favorite in, and they could keep this winning streak going into the playoffs. This team is clearly in College Football Playoff or bust mode with this amount of talent and the level of expectations in Tallahassee. Of all teams around the country, Florida State looks to be the most likely to be able to afford a blip in the loss column and still be invited to the playoff. But who can beat them? Anybody?

2. Clemson (Last year: 11-2; beat Ohio State in Orange Bowl)
The distance between Clemson and Florida State at the top of the Atlantic Division is not as widespread as last season’s meeting might suggest, but it did widen a bit heading into 2014 with the loss of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, but having Vic Beasley back on defense is rather nice. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris could have his work cut out for him in 2014 and Clemson could fall behind early if adjustments are not made. Getting to October with a winning record is not exactly a given with road trips to Georgia and Florida State lined up. Clemson should be a better team by the end of the season once they go through some growing pains early on.

3. Louisville (Last year: 12-1; beat Miami in Russell Athletic Bowl as member of AAC)
This Louisville team may be a far cry from the team we saw a year ago, but they could have a better debut season lined up compared to last year’s ACC rookies at Syracuse and Pittsburgh (and they both went to a bowl game and returned home with a win). The question is what does Bobby Petrino to get the Cardinals off on the right foot and can he continue to work some quarterback magic as the Cardinals enter the post-Teddy Bridgewater era? For starters, he feeds Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer on the ground and gets the ball to DeVante Parker through the air. Will Gardner will be the likely heir to Bridgewater’s throne under center, with just 12 pass attempts last season. The defense should be prepared for an adjustment period after returning juts four starters from last season.

4. Syracuse (Last year: 7-6; beat Minnesota in Texas Bowl)
Syracuse turned out to be a nice little surprise last season, but running back Terrell Hunt is no longer a secret. The Orange will let him carry the offense with his legs and his arm once again. If he can cut down on the interceptions and tack on a few more touchdowns through the air he will give defenses a little something extra to think about. With 15 starters back, the Orange look to have a good amount of experience on both sides of the football. They are not at a level ready to compete for a top spot in the division, but Syracuse could make a push for a third place finish if some pieces come together. The Orange have a schedule that could set up for a great start, but a challenging October will see Syracuse go through some rough spots. How they play through it will tell how their season will end.

5. Boston College (Last year: 7-6; lost to Arizona in Advocare V100 Bowl)
Steve Addazio has already breathed new life into this program, but what happens this season could be crucial. Boston College only brings back a handful of players from last season’s 7-6 squad, and they must find a way to replace 2,000-yard rusher and Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams. The primary running duties will likely be handed off to Myles Willis, and quarterback transfer Tyler Murphy from Florida should embrace a fresh opportunity with a head coach who knows all about him. The spring showed Boston College will once again be likely to rely on the running game, but help could be on the way in the passing game with some receivers getting into the mix.

6. North Carolina State (Last year: 3-9)
The 2013 season was a painful one for the Wolfpack, somewhat literally. With a rash of injuries across the roster, NC State hardly got a chance to see what it could do with new head coach Dave Doren on the sideline. With any luck that should change this season, with 14 starters due to return this season. There is plenty of work to be done on offense and defense in Raleigh, but having a steady quarterback situation with the transfer of Jacoby Brisket from Florida could help.

7. Wake Forest (Last year: 4-8)
New head coach Dave Clawson will have to be patient as he takes over a Wake Forest team in need of improvement across the field. The offense has averaged fewer than 19 points per game each of the past two seasons. Can that possibly go one more year? Competing in this division does not make anything easier for the Demon Deacons. They could jump out to a promising start (3-1 is not completely unrealistic), but once ACC play opens it could be a long fall.

COASTAL DIVISION

1. North Carolina (Last year: 7-6; beat Cincinnati in Belk Bowl)
The biggest thing going for North Carolina is momentum. After getting off to a rough start in 2013 (1-5), the Tar Heels kicked things in gear and ended the season winning six of the final seven games of the year, including a bowl victory. Larry Fedora finally seems to have things in order for a potential run to a division title, and he does so with 15 starters coming back this season. Marquise Williams will keep the dual-threat going for the Tar Heels after leading the team in rushing in 2013 and second to Bryn Renner in passing, but getting running back TJ Logan more involved should be in the plans. North Carolina may be a little in development on the defensive line, but the linebackers and secondary are in really good shape this fall.

2. Miami (Last year: 9-4; lost to Louisville in Russell Athletic Bowl)

It is hard to believe but Miami is entering its 11th season as a member of the ACC and is still searching for a trip to the ACC Championship Game. Could this finally be the year for the Hurricanes? Al Golden certainly has a running back to lead his offense there with Duke Johnson and the defense did put up some better numbers in 2013 compared to 2012 by knocking off roughly four points and 60 yards per game. And for the first time in a while Miami posted back-to-back seasons with a positive turnover margin. Want more? The offense has increased its average scoring each season Golden has been in Miami. Yet, they can’t seem to take a firm grasp on the Coastal Division. Why? Inconsistent play. Miami will be challenged early with road games at Louisville and Nebraska and a home date against Arkansas State is no guarantee. Miami also catches Florida State on the schedule, which could hurt their chances in the division race when other possible contenders skip FSU (and Clemson).

3. Virginia Tech (Last year: 8-5; lost to UCLA in Sun Bowl)
Virginia Tech returns nine starters on offense, but the Hokies break in a new starting quarterback. Fortunately, transfer Michael Brewer is not without experience and could be ready to step right into action in Blacksburg. The offensive line has just one hold to fill as well, so stability and uniformity should not be a concern. Virginia Tech’s biggest concern will just be scoring points after averaging just 22.5 points per game last season. And that’s the catch. Virginia Tech only allowed 19.3 points per game last season, so the Hokies probably should have won more than eight games. There is a chance to get off to a good start too, because the road trip at Ohio State looks much more manageable now with Braxton Miller out for the season.

4. Pittsburgh (Last year: 7-6; beat Bowling Green in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl)
Pittsburgh loses a monster on the defensive line with Aaron Donald now in the NFL, and the secondary is extremely thin in light of some offseason news, so to say the defense is a concern is putting it nicely for the Panthers. The Panthers also allowed more points per game than they scored, which tends to be a rarity for a team with a winning record.  If the defense can clamp down just a bit more, Pittsburgh could easily play their way to a Coastal title, although they will win ugly at times. Pittsburgh has young receiver Tyler Boyd, already one of the top receivers in the ACC, and a steady running stable of James Conner and Isaac Bennett. The schedule is also extremely favorable for Pittsburgh, with no Florida State or Clemson and home games against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke.

5. Duke (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas A&M in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Let us not attempt to take anything away from the great work done in Durham by David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils the last two seasons. Duke going to back-to-back bowl games was something that could once only be dreamed of. Can they get back to the postseason for a third straight year? Absolutely, but will the rest of the division and the typical football powers rebound a little to block a return trip to the ACC Championship? Duke was set to return 14 starters, but injuries have already taken a toll with an ACL tear to All-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown and another to tight end Braxton Deaver. On top of that, Duke lost quarterback Brandon Connette to a transfer to Fresno State. All is not lost though. Duke still has receiver Jamison Crowder, one of the best in the ACC, and the schedule avoids Florida State and Clemson once again. No school in the country will have an easier October either.

6. Georgia Tech (Last year: 7-6; lost to Mississippi in Music City Bowl)
Georgia Tech’s strategy will be the same as it has always been under head coach Paul Johnson; Run, run, option run. Will the Yellow Jackets be able to use that offensive style effectively enough to take the heat off of Johnson? The depth on offense is not great, although six starters return from 2013. One starter not back this season is quarterback Vad Lee, who decided to transfer this offseason. That opens the door for sophomore Justin Thomas under center, and he played sparingly last season. The big concern will be the defense. Georgia Tech allowed just 22.8 points per game last season, the lowest average since 2008, but just four starters return for the new year. Georgia Tech may still have enough to make a run at the wide-open Coastal Division (avoiding Florida State on the schedule helps, and they get Clemson at home).

7. Virginia (Last year: 2-10)
If there is one coach that is latched into the hot seat in the ACC, it may just be Virginia’s Mike London. The head coach of the Cavaliers. Virginia lost their top offensive player in tight end Jake McGee (he went to Florida), so the need for returning players to step up in 2014 cannot be overstated. Virginia does return eight starters on offense, with a handful of young players scattered throughout. Running back Kevin Parks should be the focus of the offense after a 1,000-yard season with 11 touchdowns. The defense returns nine starters from 2013, and the hope is playing experience last season will help slow down a trend in allowing more points per game each of the past three seasons. The defense was gashed for 404 yards per game last season, the highest per-game average dating back to 2007. One positive might be the number of sacks (28) was the highest sack total for Virginia since recording 29 in 2008. But Virginia has a long way to go to improve on two wins from last season.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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Another SEC school keeping 4-star DT from LSU?

Travonte Valentine

It appears the Travonte Valentine situation hasn’t been resolved after all.

Earlier this week, the the four-star 2014 signee’s high school was quoted as saying his former player, who had been awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse, had been cleared by The Association and would arrive on campus Tuesday.  That didn’t happen, and may not happen until Saturday… if then.

While the defensive tackle has been cleared by the NCAA, he has yet, for whatever reason, to be cleared by the SEC.  Valentine, however, has an idea why the league has yet to give a thumbs up.

From the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Ross Dellenger:

“I think there’s a few people that don’t want me to play in the SEC,” Valentine said, “and I’m pretty sure who it is, but I’m not going to say.”

Valentine suggested that he was referring to another SEC school.

The SEC office did not immediately return a message for comment on Valentine’s situation.

(SEC football: catch the intrigue and back-room backstabbings at the expense of 18 year olds!!!)

According to Dellenger, Valentine, who held scholarship offers from nine SEC schools before signing with LSU last February, and his mother were slated to meet and talk Thursday night about the situation.  What was discussed hasn’t been divulged.

Even if Valentine enrolls in school Monday and begins practicing with the team, he won’t be permitted to practice in full pads during the mandatory four-day acclimation period.  Such a timeline means there would be a very real chance Valentine wouldn’t have a full-pad practice prior to LSU’s opener against Wisconsin a week from Saturday.  It also means this delay could have Valentine ticketed for a redshirt.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He was originally expected by some to be a part of the line rotation as a true freshman.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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No Choice: injury to keep Clemson from redshirting 4-star RB

Adam Choice

The ripple effects from Zac Brooks‘ injury has commenced in earnest.

Wednesday, Clemson announced that Brooks would miss the entire 2014 season due to a foot injury.  That left the Tigers with just three healthy running backs… and Dabo Swinney with no other choice.

In a move not entirely unexpected, the head coach confirmed Thursday night that true freshman Adam Choice will not redshirt as had previously been planned.

“With Zac’s injury we have just three healthy running backs to open the season,” Swinney said in quotes distributed by the team. “You can’t go through a season with just three backs, so Adam Choice is going to play this year. Adam has had a great camp. He has a lot of natural ability and we have been very impressed with his ability to pick up the offense. We will get him ready and he will have an impact at some point this year.”

Choice was a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 10 running back in the country by Rivals.com. How choice will fit in with the current rotation of junior C.J. Davidson, redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman and senior D.J. Howard, the presumptive replacement for Brooks as top back, remains to be seen.

As for the specifics of Brooks’ injury, Swinney said it’s a ligament issue in his foot, similar to the one suffered by former Clemson great Andre Ellington.  Swinney sounded optimistic Brooks, the Tigers’ leading returning rusher, will be available for the start of spring practice next year.

“The positive is that Zac will still have two years to play. He has not redshirted. Andre has come back from it just fine. He had a 1,000-yard rushing season for us an is now the top back in Arizona (Cardinals).”

(Photo credit: Clemson athletics)

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Spurrier, on star RB vs. A&M: ‘Mike’s going to be in there’

Mississippi State v South Carolina Getty Images

It appears Steve Spurrier got everyone wound up for, basically, nothing.

Wednesday after practice, Spurrier made it sound as if there was very real doubt that Mike Davis would be available for South Carolina’s opener against Texas A&M next Thursday.  That was offset by both the running back and his position coach downplaying the severity of what’s been described as a rib injury.

A day later, Davis returned to practice after missing the previous two sessions.  And he did so without the benefit of the no-contact jersey some of his injured teammates were sporting.

During a radio interview afterward, the OBC struck a decidedly different tone than 24 hours before when talking about Davis’ availability for the A&M game — even as he couldn’t help but get a shot in at Davis’ expense.

“Mike Davis has sort of been banged-up this preseason,” Spurrier said according to The State. “He’s missed several days of practice, sort of got a bruise in the back or something. He hasn’t practiced but a little bit today, all this week. So Brandon Wilds has been running well, David Williams has been hurt, Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds have been everyday guys all preseason.

“So anyway, Mike’s a heck of a back, but these other guys have actually done a little better than him because Mike’s been hurt a little bit. So we’re going to play our backs, and Mike’s going to be in there.”

Earlier in the day, Davis himself took to Twitter to make light of the concern over his availability for the opener.

Davis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last year, was named first-team All-SEC by the conference’s head coaches Thursday.

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Tom Osborne explains selection process for College Football Playoff

Tom Osborne

There is so much we don’t exactly know regarding the selection process to determine the inaugural College Football Playoff.

This much we do know:

  1. A 13-member committee was created to choose the participants.
  2. Each member of the committee will be recused from voting when their school or conference is discussed
  3. A team’s strength of schedule and level of competition will be primary factors in how team’s are differentiated.

One of the members of the committee is former Nebraska head coach and athletic director Dr. Tom Osborne. The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ official site interviewed Osborne Thursday to discuss the processes the committee will use to help decide which four teams will be chosen to play in the College Football Playoff.

Here are the highlights:

We’ve been introduced to the technology and will be able to watch almost every football game that’s played. We also will have access to a huge amount of statistical data that will become relevant about the fourth or fifth game of the season. We will see trends that take shape in terms of who’s playing well on offense, who’s good on defense, field position, the kicking game, turnovers, and those kinds of things. Of course, we will also look at strength of competition, conference championships, and even injuries will be considered.

I think that if two teams have identical records and similar schedules and one of them wins the conference championship and one of them doesn’t, then some weight may be given to the conference championship team. There are conferences other than the five large conferences which will have a path into the four-team playoff. Obviously if you win the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC or SEC conferences, you are going to be somewhere in the hunt, unless you’re a team that manages to win a conference and still lose two or three games. That will make it more difficult. The teams that are undefeated and win conference championships are certainly going to be under major consideration.

A conference champion who loses their starting quarterback in the last game of the season might possibly be downgraded somewhat. You are going to be looking at who are the strongest teams at the moment the decision is made. You’re also looking at which teams are capable of beating every other team that they face.

I think it is certainly possible that you would have two teams from the same conference selected with one of them not being a conference champion. Obviously they would have to be a very powerful team. I hate to speculate in certain areas because you paint yourself into a corner, but at the end of the year, what you are going to try to do is take the best estimation and decide who the four best teams in the country are. There are many ways to get to that, and being a conference champion is certainly one of those. The win/loss record is another. Strength of schedule and head-to-head competition would be important, and injuries, and some statistical data will be examined as well. For example, if two teams are somewhat identical, maybe two teams have lost one game each and are both conference champions. That’s when you might begin to look at statistical data.

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Vanderbilt names its starting QB for season-opener

Patton Robinette

Derek Mason has made his first major decision as the new head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The team’s quarterback competition is over. Mason was able to differentiate between redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary, senior Stephen Rivers and sophomore Patton Robinette with nine days remaining before the start of the season.

The result of the competition was announced on twitter:

Robinette played in nine games last year with one start. He threw for 642 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. He also added 214 rushing yards.

“I’m excited for Patton as we prepare this team for the season opener next Thursday,” Mason said in a statement. “Patton has really made strides and consistently improved from the spring to now. I believe he has worked to earn this opportunity.”

The wording within the tweet from the team is interesting. Robinette was named the starter for the team’s opener against the Temple Owls. It doesn’t necessarily mean Robinette will be the team’s starting quarterback for the entire season. If Robinette struggles during the first few weeks of play, Mason may insert either Rivers or McCrary into the starting lineup.

“We have three solid guys at the position now, along with the talented freshmen” Mason said. “Johnny and Stephen are very capable quarterbacks and both worked hard to make a strong case for the starting role. They made this a difficult decision.”

With Vanderbilt officially naming its starting quarterback for opening weekend, we’re still waiting on a decision from two more SEC teams.

You’re up Alabama and LSU.

(Hat Tip: Washington Post)

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Report: Oklahoma’s Blake Bell is taking snaps at QB

Blake Bell

Blake Bell‘s full-time transition to tight end has been put on a slight hiatus.

Bell is still projected to become the Sooners’ starting tight end this season, but he’s also working at quarterback with Oklahoma’s second-team, according to The Oklahoman.

“Earlier this week, coach Bob Stoops said redshirt freshman Cody Thomas would likely be Knight’s primary backup, but according to sources, Thomas has been injured, which is why Bell has split second-team reps this week with true freshman Justice Hansen,” Jason Kersey reported.

Last season, only the Kansas Jayhawks had a worse passing offense in the Big 12 Conference than the Oklahoma Sooners. Bell played in 11 games and started eight at quarterback. He averaged a meager 149.8 yards passing in those contests.

Oklahoma’s coaching staff eventually inserted Trevor Knight into the lineup, and the freshman took full advantage of the situation with a stellar performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

This move isn’t meant to be permanent. It’s merely an opportunity to have an experienced signal caller ready if Knight were to be injured at any point during the season.

There is also an opportunity for the Sooners to revive the “Belldozer.” During Bell’s redshirt freshman and sophomore compaigns, he was a unstoppable in short-yardage situations. Bell rushed for 24 touchdowns prior to last season. Yet, he never took full advantage of his athleticism as the team’s full-time starting quarterback.

This opportunity may be a best-case scenario for Bell. He will continue to develop at tight end as one of the team’s primary targets, and he may even return to the role that made once made him a household game.

Thomas isn’t expected to miss a lot of practice time, though, and Bell’s reps at quarterback will likely cease upon his return. The Sooners should also expect the status of Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield to be clarified very soon.

A week from now the Sooners will have plenty of depth at quarterback.

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UPDATE: Fans won’t get to throw a pie in Harvey Updyke’s face

Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr.

I don’t know who this’ll be more popular amongst, Alabama fans or Auburn fans. Or who’d more want to take a shot at him.

Regardless, Harvey Updyke, the Alabama fan who poisoned the famed oak trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner a couple of years ago, has agreed to appear at a charity function in Mobile, Ala., next month, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported. At this charity event, which is being held to raise funds for a family whose young son died of cancer last month, “fans will be allowed to either dunk [Updyke] in a dunking booth or throw pies at his face,” Schlabach wrote.

Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and his mother are helping raise awareness to the event, but it’s Updyke’s (potential) presence that’ll trigger the most attention nationally. The event’s organizer, Alabama fan T.J. Hodges, stated the “Updyke idea came from me thinking outside the box to raise money for the family” and that “I thought I’d take a chance and see if Harvey was interested in helping, and he said he’d do whatever we wanted.”

It did, though, take Updyke a while to get to that point.

“He thought about it and thought about it,” Updyke’s wife, Elva, told Schlabach. “His daughter said he needed to do it because it will show that he’s not as big of a nut as some people believe. He told them they can do whatever they want to him if it will raise money for kids.”

Updyke, as “Al from Dadeville,” infamously called into the Paul Finebaum radio show in February of 2011 and claimed to have poisoned the Toomer’s oaks after Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. He was subsequently arrested, charged and ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage of an agricultural facility, a Class-C felony. He was sentenced to three years in jailhe served 180 days of the sentence — and was placed on supervised probation for a period of five years. During that probationary period, he has a 7 p.m. curfew.

Additionally, Updyke, who now lives in Louisiana less than an hour from the LSU campus, was ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and has been barred from the following: any Auburn University property, any collegiate sporting event and speaking to the media.

While there was initial hope that the oaks could be saved, they were ultimately taken down after one final roll. New trees are expected to be planted next year.

UPDATE (8:20 p.m.):  Who would have thought the opportunity to throw a pie in the face or dunk infamous Alabama fan Harvey Updyke in water would take a turn for the worse? OK, it was probably inevitable.

Upon the announcement that Updyke would make an appearance at a charity function in Mobile, Ala. for children with cancer, it turned ugly. The mother, Dee Dee Bonner, and wife, Katherine Webb, of former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron both received death threats on social media due to their help organizing the event. As a result, Updyke’s appearance has been cancelled.

“It seems to be taking away from the primary purpose, which is raising awareness for children’s cancer,” Bonner told ESPN.com. “We don’t want to take away from the focus. We needed to get away from it.”

“I think Mr. Updyke’s heart was in the right place with what he wanted to do, but I think too many people are still upset about what he did and haven’t gotten over it. I didn’t approve of what he did, but I think he really wanted to help.”

“We want to focus on the real heroes, which are these children fighting for their lives and their families.”

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Former four-star recruit calls it a career at Wisconsin

Vonta Jackson

The career of Wisconsin’s Vonte Jackson comes to an end before it truly got started.

Jackson suffered from a series of knee injuries which eventually cost him his career. As a senior in high school, Jackson tore the ACL in his left knee. A year later, as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers, he tore the ACL in his right knee. Jackson again injured his right knee Aug. 9 and didn’t return to the practice field.

“It looks like Vonte is going to have to take medical (aid) unfortunately,” Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus. “But he is in a good spot (mentally). We’ve discussed it. We’ve spent time together.

“His family is on board. Everybody knows it is the best thing.”

Jackson entered fall camp with an opportunity to earn playing time at safety. He also provided depth at running back when needed. But the team will now have to address both positions without Jackson’s contributions.

“I feel bad about it,” Andersen said. “But I feel good that he can move on in life now.

“He can close that chapter and go on.”

Jackson was considered a four-star recruit and the No. 2 recruit in the state of Wisconsin when he committed to the Badgers as part of their 2012 class.

(Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin athletic department)

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BYU finally confirms Jamaal Williams’ suspension

Jamaal Williams

BYU running back Jamaal Williams announced three week ago he was suspended for the team’s season opener against the Connecticut Huskies due to an honor code violation.

The school  finally acknowledged the suspension after Williams posted about it on twitter.

“We were caught off-guard a little bit by that,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Jay Drew Wednesday.

“This day and age, with social media and such, we don’t have rules against it. It just kinda surprised us. But these are big boys and girls, and they took it upon themselves to do that, and I am OK with it. I wish they would have communicated and collaborated with our staff. We have professionals that can help it go more smoothly. But they chose to do that, and took accountability for themselves. I am OK with that.”

The decision to suspend Williams is believed to stem from two incidents.  In February, Williams was suspected of underage drinking. The running back also admitted there was another incident in July.

Last season, Williams ran for 1,233 yards. But he may not have been ready for the start of the upcoming season.

The running back suffered a knee sprain during BYU’s scrimmage Wednesday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The injury was deemed “not serious”, but Williams will be evaluated on a daily basis.

With Williams out of the lineup, sophomore Algeron Brown will likely get the nod as the team’s starting running back against the Huskies.

The Cougars expect to have better communication the next time a situation like this arises.

“Yes, it is always smart communication-wise to talk about things [first],” Holmoe said. “We do it as a staff all the time, but when we don’t, something goes wrong. So, we are just trying to practice [that] and help them understand and practice good judgement.”

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Kent State will honor fallen teammate

Jason Bitsko

After the tragic loss of center Jason Bitsko, Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen said, “We are heartbroken by the news of Jason’s death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, teammates and everyone whose lives he touched.”

Bitsko was found unresponsive and passed away Wednesday.

The senior will provide inspiration for his team this season, and the Golden Flashes will honor him every time they take the field.

Kent State head coach Paul Haynes spoke of Bitsko Thursday and what he meant to everyone.

“Jason Bitsko was not just a Golden Flash, he was a son, he was a brother, he was a mentor, he was a friend,” Haynes told the Akron Plain Dealer’s August Fagerstrom.

Despite the loss of their son, Bitsko’s family found a way to make someone else’s life better.

(Photo credit: Kent State athletics)

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OL Joe Manley leaves Louisville, lands at WKU

Joe Manly

Joe Manley began his collegiate playing career in his home state of Kentucky.  While continue it there, he’ll do so in a different football program.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Manly suited up and practiced for the first time at Western Kentucky.  Just this past Friday, the offensive lineman had been granted a release from his Louisville scholarship.

Manly, a three-star member of the UofL’s 2012 recruiting class, played in nine games as a redshirt freshman last season.

Manly is the second Cardinals player to transfer the past week or so.  This past weekend, defensive back Lyn Clark decided to leave the UofL and transfer to an FCS program.

(Photo credit: Louisville athletics)

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Mark Dantonio, on Braxton Miller injury: ‘I felt bad’

Big Ten Championship Getty Images

With Braxton Miller going down with a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this week, Michigan State immediately became the favorite to win the Big Ten East according to most observes as well as the degenerates in Las Vegas.

Just because of that, though, doesn’t mean the Spartans are jumping up and down and gloating over the Ohio State starting quarterback’s 2014 demise.

“I felt bad,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said according to the Lansing State Journal when asked what he thought when he first ehard the news. “Braxton Miller is a great football player. He is a senior, has meant a lot to their football team. He is a great leader, a great young man. You don’t want something like that to happen. It’s a tough deal.

“But I would say this — we played without Max Bullough in the Rose Bowl [because of a suspension]. Usually when those things happen, people rise up. Everybody becomes a little bit better. What was a negative becomes a strength later.”

Dantonio wasn’t alone in his feelings.

“Aw, I mean that’s sad,” senior safety Kurtis Drummond said of the injury. “I never want to see any player get injured or have to miss games. For him to have to go through that, it’s definitely a sad time. I’m definitely praying for him and hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”

In the game that put the Spartans in the Granddaddy of Them All, Miller was able to get his on the ground against the ferocious MSU defense to the tune of 142 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Through the air was a different case during the course of OSU’s 10-point loss as Miller was held to just 8-of-21 passing (38.1 percent) 101 yards.

OSU and MSU will square off in the regular season Nov. 8 in East Lansing in what could still be, despite Miller’s absence, for an early-December trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten championship game.

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