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Florida announces full 2013 recruiting class

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(Below are the bios released by Florida on the new members of its 2013 recruiting class.)

ENROLLED IN JANUARY

Alex Anzalone, Linebacker
6-3/ 220
Wyomissing, PA/Wyomissing Area
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Helped Wyomissing High to its first Class AA state championship in 2012, finishing 16-0, a school single-season record for wins…Selected to the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game…Finished his senior year with over 1,000 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns from the fullback position and registered more than 100 tackles…Earned a spot on the 247Sports Class of 2013 All-America team…Named senior Class AA Player of the Year as part of the 2012 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Team…As a junior, was named first team all-state, all-region and all-county…In 2011, ran for over 900 yards and scored 13 touchdowns and was named to the all-state team…Invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Chose Florida over Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, USC, UCLA, Miami, Tennessee, Pitt, Stanford, Georgia and Florida State…Coached by Bob Wolfrum.

Darious Cummings, Defensive Line
6-1/310
Titusville, FL/Astronaut HS/Florida State/East Mississippi CC
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Played in all 10 games during the 2012 season at EMCC, tallying 26 tackles (12 unassisted) with 4.0 TFL (12 yards), 3.0 sacks, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble…EMCC finished 8-2 on the year and ranked 15th in the final NJCAA poll…Anchored a defense that allowed just 74.2 rushing yards per game…Notched a season-high four tackles twice during the season, against Pearl River CC and Itawamba CC…Played under head coach Buddy Stephens at EMCC…Spent two years at Florida State before transferring to EMCC…Played in three games as a true freshman and two games as a sophomore before suffering an injury that caused him to miss most of the 2011 season…Totaled seven tackles in five career games at FSU…Missed the spring of 2012 at FSU after arthroscopic knee surgery and then transferred to EMCC in the summer of 2012…Entered his senior year of high school with 159 tackles, including 22 for loss and 15 sacks…Was the first commit in FSU’s 2010 signing class…Was a Florida Super 75 selection by the Times-Union…Named to SunStateFootball.com all-state first team in 2009…Attended the same high school as former Gator football players LB Wilber Marshall, WR Cris Collinsworth and TE Aaron Walker…Chose Florida over offers from Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

Joey Ivie, Defensive Line
6-4/ 270
Dade City, FL/Pasco
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Could play both end and tackle…Named the 12th best defensive lineman at the Rivals/VTO camp in May…Had eight sacks and forced two fumbles as a junior for the Pirates…He earned first-team honors from the Sunshine Athletic Conference…Chose UF over offers from 23 other schools, including Florida State, Miami and Tennessee. Coached by Tom McHugh.

Daniel McMillian, Linebacker
6-3/220
Jacksonville, FL/ First Coast
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Led First Coast to a 10-1 record in 2012…According to MaxPreps, totaled 97 tackles (67 solo), 2.0 sacks, 3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries as a senior…Recorded 12 sacks, nine forced fumbles during his junior year…Led First Coast to a 13-1 season and berth in the Class 7A state championship game in 2011…Participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl… Chose Florida over Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and many others…Coached by Marty Lee.

Tyler Moore, Offensive Line
6-5/312
Clearwater, FL/Countryside HS/Nebraska/St. Petersburg CC
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Spent a year at Nebraska beginning in the fall of 2011 before attending St. Petersburg Community College for the fall of 2012…While at Nebraska, Moore started the first four games of the 2011 season and played in nine games overall…With him in the lineup, Nebraska totaled more than 200 yards rushing in all four games that he started, including 300-plus yard outputs against Washington and Wyoming…Was just the 10th true freshman offensive lineman to see action for Nebraska since 1973…His four starts for the Cornhuskers was the most by a true freshman offensive lineman in school history and made him the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener…Named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team by ESPN.com in 2011…While at Countryside HS, Moore was regarded as one of the top offensive line prospects in the country after helping his team to a 12-1 record in 2010, and a trip to the regional finals…Helped a Cougar offense rush for better than 2,900 yards and 45 rushing touchdowns in his senior campaign…As a junior, helped Countryside to an 11-2 record and the offense to a 225 rushing yards per game average…Chosen as a Class 5A all-state pick during junior season…Was a three-year starter for Countryside…Following senior year of high school, Moore played for the East team in the U.S. Army All-Star Game in San Antonio…Father, Brian, played tight end for Nebraska in the mid-1980s…Cousin, Jay Moore, was a three-year letterman (2004-06) playing defensive end at Nebraska…From the same high school as former Gator offensive lineman Jeff Mitchell and defensive lineman Clint Mitchell.

Demarcus Robinson, Wide Receiver
6-2/200
Fort Valley, GA/Peach County
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Led his team to the quarterfinals of the 2012 GHSA Class AAA State Football Championship…Named the 2012 Class AAA All-State Team…Played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl…Had more than 1,000 yards receiving on 53 receptions as a senior…Scored 15 touchdowns in his final high school season…Named the top wide receiver at the Atlanta MVP Camp…Grew up rooting for the Gators…Nephew of former NFL wide receiver Marcus Robinson, who played for the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings…Chose Florida over Clemson and South Carolina…Also played basketball in high school…Coached by Chad Campbell.

Matt Rolin, Linebacker
6-4/205
Ashburn, VA/Briar Woods
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Selected to the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game…Was a first-team all-state selection by the Associated Press as a junior and first-team all-region as well as first-team all-district…Selected to the all-metro team by the Washington Post during his junior year and given the defensive MVP of his team in the same season…Invited to “The Opening”, all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Was part of a Briar Woods team that went 15-0 during senior year and claimed the state title…Notched 43 tackles (23 solo stops), with one sack in 2012 before suffering a season-ending injury…Chose Florida over South Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Duke, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame…Coached by Charlie Pierce.

Kelvin Taylor, Running Back
5-11/216
Belle Glade, FL/Glades Day
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Ran for 2,423 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior…Surpassed NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith as the state of Florida’s all-time leading rusher as a junior…In his high school career, totaled 12,121 yards and 191 touchdowns…Ended his junior campaign with 3,152 yards and 42 TDs…Was voted Player of the Year and received the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 2A Player of the Year Award…Named to the Florida Class 2A All-State First Team as a junior and senior…Under Armour All American…Was named the 2012 Lou Groza High School Player of the Year…Earned a spot on the 247Sports Class of 2013 All-America team…His father also won the award, making them the first father-son duo to do so…Invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Played on the varsity team as an 8th grader and had over 1,500 yards and scored 28 touchdowns…Son of former NFL and Florida running back Fred Taylor…His father played with the father of fellow signee, Marcell Harris, at the University of Florida…Coached by Pete Walker.

2013 SIGNEES

Alvin Bailey, Wide Receiver
6-0/170
Seffner, FL/Armwood
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Caught 40 passes for 658 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior…In the state championship game against Central, Bailey threw two touchdown passes and caught one in the 40-31 victory…All-State selection as a junior…Invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Playing in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game at Tropiciana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla….Went to the same high school as current Gator running back Matt Jones…Coached by Sean Callahan.

Jay-nard Bostwick, Defensive Line
6-4/291
Port Saint Lucie, FL/West Centennial
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Two-time all area and all-state selection…Had 73 tackles and seven tackles for loss in his final high school season…Totaled 74 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and two sacks as a junior…In his high school career, totaled 176 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, 3 sacks and one fumble recovery…Was just the second player in West Centennial school history to play varsity football as a freshman…Coached by Rob Parker.

Caleb Brantley, Defensive Line
6-3/304
Crescent City, FL/Crescent City
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Named the top 2013 defensive tackle at the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge…Competed in the Orlando Nike Football Training Camp and The Opening…Played in the Under Armour All-American Game in January…Recorded 94 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries as a senior…Named to the Florida Class 1A All-State First Team in 2012…Chose Florida over Alabama, Auburn, Cal, Florida State, Miami, Ole Miss, Purdue, South Florida, Tennessee, and Southern Cal…Coached by Alvin Carter.

Trenton Brown, Offensive Line
6-8/363
Albany, GA/Westover HS/Georgia Military College
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Spent two years at Georgia Military College after graduating high school from Westover in 2011…Was named a second-team NJCAA Football All-American in 2012…At GMC in 2012, Brown was part of a team that went 7-4 and averaged 188 yards rushing per game…Played under head coach Bert Williams at GMC…Brother, Reggie Brown, Jr., plays basketball at Fresno Pacific…Chose Florida over offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia, Houston, Kansas, LSU, Middle Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, USF, Texas A&M, Texas Tech.

Jarrad Davis, Linebacker
6-2/225
Kingsland, GA/Camden County
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Helped Camden County to an 11-2 record and the quarterfinals of the Georgia Class AAAAAA state playoffs during his senior season…Finished his final year of high school with 114 tackles, 69 being solo stops, to lead the team (5.0 TFL) with three forced fumbles…In 2011, finished the year with 61 tackles, 15 for loss with two sacks and two forced fumbles…Chose Florida over Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Clemson…Coached by Jeff Herron

Cameron Dillard, Offensive Line
6-3/285
Canton, MI/Canton
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Named to the AP Michigan Division 1-2 All-State Prep Team in 2012…Selected to the 2011 Michigan AP Division 1 All-State First Team, The Detroit Free Press All-State Dream Team, The Detroit News All-Metro West First Team, The Detroit Free Press All-West First Team, All Observer First Team, and KLAA All League in 2011…No. 259 prospect in the nation…Coached by Tim Baechler.

Ahmad Fulwood, Wide Receiver
6-4/ 200
Jacksonville, FL/ Bishop Kenny
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Totaled 42 catches for 680 yards (16.2 avg) and 12 touchdowns as a senior…Participated in the U.S. Army Combine and The Opening…Big-size receiver who had 46 catches, 22 TDs, 1,141 yards as a junior…Chose Gators over Alabama, Clemson and Georgia…Coached by Mark Thorson.

Vernon Hargreaves III, Defensive Back
5-11/185
Tampa, FL/Wharton
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Totaled 110 tackles, 5 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles and 5 pass breakups as a senior…Also scored five touchdowns and five two-point conversions and averaged 34 yards per kickoff return…Named All-Western Conference, All-Hillsborough, All-Suncoast, All-State, Class 8A Defensive Player of the Year and the Guy Toph Award winner as Hillsborough County’s top senior football player…Finalist for the 2012 Florida Dairy Farmers Mr. Football Award…Named the Tampa Bay Times All-Hillsborough Defensive Player of the Year and a USA Today First Team All-American…Named the MVP of the Under Armour All-America game after a team-high 5 tackles, one interception and a pass breakup…Competed on the Southeast team at Champion Gridiron Kings where he had six interceptions and earned Defensive MVP honors…Earned a spot on the 247Sports Class of 2013 All-America team…Named the Tampa Bay Times Blue Chipper of the Year…Competed in the Sling-n-Shoot 7-on-7 tournament at USF…Defensive MVP from the IMG Madden 7-on-7 National Championship…As a junior in 2011, had 49 tackles and 2 interceptions, along with 11 offensive touchdowns…As a sophomore in 2010, had 44 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions…Chose Gators over an estimated 50 offers including Clemson, Vanderbilt, Miami and Notre Dame…His father, Vernon Hargreaves Jr., is the defensive ends and special teams coach at USF and his older sister, Carina, is on the club competitive cheerleading squad at UF…Vernon Jr. was named a member of UConn’s 100th Anniversary Team, commemorating the best football players in the programs first 100 years…Coached by David Mitchell.

Marcell Harris, Defensive Back
6-2/220
Orlando, FL/Dr. Phillips
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Selected to the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game…In just eight games during his senior season, tallied 52 tackles and eight pass breakups…Participated in “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus, as well as Gridiron Kings…His father, Mike Harris, was a Florida defensive back between 1994 and 1997…Chose Florida over Texas, Florida State, Oklahoma, Auburn, Miami, South Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame and LSU…Coached by Rodney Wells.

Marqui Hawkins, Wide Receiver
6-2/190
Columbus, GA/Carver
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Attended MVP Camp in Hampton, Ga…Recorded a 4.53-second 40-yard dash…Had 31 catches, 635 yards and five touchdowns as a junior…Picked Florida over Clemson among 15 offers, which also included Tennessee, Southern Cal, and North Carolina.

Octavius Jackson, Offensive Line
6-4/285
Moultrie, GA/Colquitt County
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Has recorded a 31-inch vertical jump, he has a 9-foot, 4-inch broad jump and he runs a 4.95 forty-yard dash…Ranked as the No. 30 OG in the country by ESPN…Chose Florida over Vanderbilt and South Florida…Also played basketball in high school…Coached by Rush Propst.

Roderick Johnson, Offensive Line
6-6/316
Delray Beach, FL/American Heritage
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla….Selected Florida over Florida State and West Virginia…Coached by Stacy Sizemore.

Adam Lane, Running Back
5-7/216
Winter Haven, FL/Winter Haven
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Attended the Tampa Combine…Ran for 1,000 yards on just 80 carries (12.5 yards per carry) as a sophomore…Missed his junior season because of an ankle injury… Nicknamed “Night Time”…Chose Florida over Alabama, South Florida, Rutgers, South Carolina and Florida State…Coached by Charlie Tate.

Keanu Neal, Defensive Back
6-1/203
Bushnell, FL/South Sumter
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: All-State selection as a junior…Invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…As a junior, Neal had 151 tackles (68 solo, 83 assists), four interceptions, one of which he returned 20 yards for a touchdown, as well as four forced fumbles, five pass deflections and one offensive touchdown as a goal-line fullback… Picked the Gators over offers from UCF, USF, Duke, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and South Carolina…Coached by Inman Sherman.

Jarran Reed, Defensive Line
6-4/305
Goldsboro, NC/Goldsboro/East Mississippi CC
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Recorded 34 tackles, four tackles for loss, and one sack in 2012 at East Mississippi Community College…EMCC finished 8-2 on the year and ranked 15th in the final NJCAA poll…Part of a defense that allowed just 74.2 rushing yards per game…Played with fellow signee Darious Cummings and the same school as current Gator Damien Jacobs…Coached by Buddy Stephens.

Antonio Riles, Defensive Line
6-4/262
Lawrenceville, GA/Archer
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: As a junior, he had 53 tackles and 6 sacks…Chose Florida over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Louisville and Michigan State among others… Coached by Andy Dyer.

Jordan Sherit, Defensive Line
6-5/234
Tampa, FL/Hillsborough
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Invited to The Opening, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Game…Chose Gators over FSU, Notre Dame, Stanford among others…Close friends with Gator commit Vernon Hargreaves III…Coached by Earl Garcia.

Max Staver, Quarterback
6-5/235
Brentwood, TN/Brentwood Academy
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: In 2012, passed for 1,715 yards with four touchdowns and rushed for 265 yards with 6 touchdowns…Threw for 1,872 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior…Placed 3rd during competition drills at the Tulsa Power Camp…Selected UF over Memphis and Louisville…Coached by Cody White.

Chris Thompson, Wide Receiver
6-0/170
Gainesville, FL/Gainesville
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Has recorded a 4.37 40-yard dash…First Team All-Area WR by The Gainesville Sun…Helped Gainesville to a 14-1 record and berth in the Class 6A state title game in 2012…Reached the Regional Finals in 2011 after a 12-3 record…GHS had a 47-9 record in his four years…Had 26 catches for 489 yards and 4 TDs as a sophomore…Was a Gainesville Sun first-team all-area selection in track & field…Coached by James Thomson.

Nick Washington, Defensive Back
6-0/183
Jacksonville, FL/Trinity Christian
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Has recorded a 4.48 40-yard dash…He was named a Times-Union All-First Coast first-team selection after scoring 11 touchdowns and intercepting two passes last season for the Conquerors…Has been starting at safety for the Conquerors since he was in the 8th grade…He chose UF over Florida State, Alabama, Auburn and Clemson…Coached by Verlon Dorminey.

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Max Wittek takes in Texas’ spring game

Colorado v USC Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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

Nick Bhardwaj

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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

Navy White House 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

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

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

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

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

“I thought he had a good spring.”

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

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

Tennessee v Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Uniforms

 

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BYU lands Nebraska DB transfer Harvey Jackson

Monte Ball Harvey Jackson AP

The BYU Cougars are on the receiving end of some B1G transfer help in the secondary for the 2014 season.

The football program announced in a release Thursday that defensive back Harvey Jackson has signed with the football program and will continue his playing career with the Cougars.  As Jackson has already received his degree from NU, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2014.

“Harvey is an experienced player and a mature individual with excellent character,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement. “He will join our program after graduating in construction management with a business minor. He is a great fit for BYU on and off the field.”

Jackson played in 35 games the past three years, starting four of those contests.  He started the first three games of the 2013 season before losing that job.

In 2011, Jackson, a three-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2010 recruiting class, was an Academic All-Big Ten selection

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Saban picks Peyton Manning’s no-huddle brain during visit

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In mid-December last year, Lane Kiffin was brought to Alabama by head coach Nick Saban to help evaluate the Tide’s offense ahead of its BCS bowl matchup with Oklahoma.  Less than a month later, the former USC head coach was hired as Saban’s offensive coordinator.

While another hire likely won’t come out of another high-profile visit, Saban has again decided to pick the brain of some offensive-centric football types in his never-ending quest to improve his football program.

Saban confirmed to the media that current Denver Broncos and former Tennessee Vols quarterback Peyton Manning, along with Manning’s coordinator Adam Gase, visited Tuscaloosa for two days last week for a meeting that may have violated the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Saban said Manning has “been a friend and very well-respected for a long time,” and the visit came about as the player and coach were taking a football tour to select cities across the country.

Given the proliferation of no-huddle, spread offenses in the college game — and the Tide’s notorious struggles in stopping them — and Manning’s expertise in running such a system, Saban jumped at the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

“Since they’re a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that give them problems,” Saban said. “That was a mutual benefit. I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well.”

Saban’s attempts to decipher the no-huddle riddle from a defensive standpoint has become almost legendary; earlier this month, a football clinic hosted by Saban featured, among others, the head coach of the fast-paced, high-octane Baylor Bears, Art Briles.

“The goals that you have for next year are basically the things that you struggled with last year,” Saban said in explaining the proliferation of high-profile visitors of late. “You make a list of those things through your quality control, and then you go out and look for people who might be able to help you develop a little more expertise, a better way to teach, a better way to coach some situation.

“Sometimes we bring somebody in here to visit with us. Sometimes we have people call us and ask us if they can come and visit us and try to learn from us, which we share with quite a few people. I think we usually learn from them as well when that happens.”

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