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Mark Stoops pulls in 22 signees in first Kentucky class

Mark Stoops AP

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

Jeff Badet, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 170, Fr-HS, Orlando, Fla. (Freedom) – Possesses great quickness and a
sudden burst that help him project as an ideal receiver … Has displayed great hands, body control and the awareness
that make him great at making tough catches in traffic … Caught 63 passes for 881 yards, 10 receiving touchdowns and
six rushing scores as a senior … Played for Coach Andy Johnson, helping Freedom HS to a 7-4 record and state playoff
berth as a senior … Junior stats featured 46 catches for 718 yards and 11 TDs … Ranked No. 13 on the Orlando Sentinel
Central Florida “Super 60” … Finished fifth in the long jump at the Florida state track and field championships … Last name
pronounced “bah-DETT.”

Alvonte Bell, Defensive End, 6-5, 255, Fr-HS, Miramar, Fla. (Everglades) – Explosive defensive end at
Everglades High School in Miramar, Fla., where he was coached by Rodney Rumph … The nation’s No. 24 weakside
defensive end by Rivals.com … The No. 34 overall defensive end according to Scout.com … “Bell is a raw athlete with
speed, length, and quickness that attracts attention his way. He has long arms to get into passing lanes, he can move well
in space, and he really pursues the ball well,” according to Scout analyst Chad Simmons … Was timed at 4.88 in the 40
with a 27-inch vertical … Made 40 tackles as a junior, with his 18 total tackles for loss including 11 quarterback sacks …
Helped led the team to the Florida Class 6A regional quarterfinals his freshman and sophomore seasons … Missed much of
his senior season because of injury … Began high school career as a basketball star before making the move to football …
Name is pronounced “al-VON-tay.”

Javess Blue, Wide Receiver, 6-0, 190, Jr-JC, Babson Park, Fla. (Lake Wales/Butler Community College)
Second-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American during his sophomore season at Butler Community
College in El Dorado, Kansas … Also was named first-team all-conference … Ranked as the nation’s No. 14 junior college
player by ESPN.com … Led the Grizzlies in receptions with 65, receiving yards with 1,064 and receiving touchdowns with
12 … Ranked in the top-10 nationally in each category … Averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards on punt
returns … Helped the team to a 11-1 record in 2012, winning the Region VI Championship before falling in the Graphic
Edge National Championship Bowl … Grizzlies were the Region VI Champions, KJCCC Champions and played in the
Citizen’s Bank Bowl his freshman season … Great freshman season with 27 receptions for 586 yards, a 21.7-yard average,
and three touchdowns … Coached by Troy Morrell at Butler Community College … Big-play receiver at Lake Wales (Fla.)
HS … Caught 88 passes for 1,774 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 20.2 yards catch, during his final two seasons at
LWHS… Helped team advance to the Class AAA state semifinals his junior season with an 11-2 record … Clocked at 4.41
seconds in the 40-yard dash … Coached in high school by Rod Shafer … Name is pronounced “JAY-vess.”

Steven Borden, Tight End, 6-3, 250, Jr-JC, Waxahachie, Texas (Waxahachie/Kilgore College) – Enrolled at
UK in January … Second-team all-conference tight end at Kilgore (Texas) College … Caught 11 passes as a sophomore
for 181 yards, a 16.5-yard average, and four touchdowns … Versatile athlete who has the size to play tight end and the
athleticism to play as a slot receiver … Coached at Kilgore by J.J. Eckert … Played defensive end during the 2010 season
at Southwestern Assemblies of God, an NAIA school in Waxahachie, Texas … Made 35 tackles, featuring 7.5 tackles for
loss, including 3.5 quarterback sacks … Played his senior season as a defensive end at Waxahachie High School, helping
team to a 12-1 record and the quarterfinals of the state Class AAAA playoffs … Earned first-team all-district honors …
Coached at Waxahachie by David Ream … Played three seasons at Santa Clarita Christian High School in California as a
quarterback, receiver and linebacker … Coached at Santa Clarita by Garrick Moss … Also played basketball in high school.

Justin Day, Offensive Tackle, 6-8, 305, Fr-HS, Aiken, S.C. (South Aiken) – First-team all-state by SCVarsit.com
… Offensive tackle with a huge upside … Long arms and big frame give him the potential to be an outstanding pass blocker
… Has only played one year in the offensive line … Started his high school career playing defensive end before he moved
to the other side of the ball as a senior … Played at South Aiken High School, coached by Jeremy West … Also first-team
all-state and all-region … Was a standout at the Rivals.com South Carolina Elite 100 Camp in the spring of 2012 … “Day
was the biggest surprise of the week,” Rivals analyst Mike Farrell wrote. “(M)ore often than not his opponents ended up on
the ground with the big man lurking over them when the whistle blew.” … Played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, which
pits the best high school players from North Carolina and South Carolina against each other.

Jason Hatcher, Defensive End, 6-3, 250, Fr-HS, Louisville, Ky. (Trinity) – One of the nation’s top prospects
at defensive end … Rated No. 8 in the country by Rivals.com, #10 by Scout.com, #14 by ESPN.com and #16 by
247Sports.com … Helped lead Trinity High School to three-consecutive Class 6A state championships and a three-year
record of 41-2 … First-team all-state as a senior by the Louisville Courier-Journal and The Associated Press … Made 37
tackles as a senior, including 13.5 quarterback sacks and four additional tackles for loss … Played in the U.S. Army All-
American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas following senior campaign … One of the nation’s top-200 prospects by ESPN …
Scout.com’s Scott Kennedy says Hatcher “has the speed to play outside linebacker and the frame to grown into an every
down defense end. He is tremendously quick off the line and fast in pursuit. He relies on speed and quickness rather
than strength.” … Had 40 tackles his junior and sophomore seasons, including 12 sacks his junior year and 11.5 TFL his
sophomore season … Coached by Bob Beatty.

Nick Haynes, Offensive Lineman, 6-3, 305, Fr-HS, Niceville, Fla. (Niceville) – A great athlete with a high
upside after having played football only two years in high school … Ranked as the nation’s No. 40 guard by Rivals.com …
Extremely versatile player who has experience as a tight end, fullback and defensive lineman as a high school player …
Played predominantly as a tackle in high school, but could transition to guard or center at UK … Excels as a run blocker
as he compiled an impressive tally of pancake blocks in high school … Relies on great footwork as he also lettered in
basketball as a prepster … Attended Niceville (Fla.) High School, helping team to a winning record both seasons he played
… Coach by John Hicks.

Jacob Hyde, Defensive Lineman, 6-2, 330, Fr-HS, Manchester, Ky. (Clay County) – Was Kentucky’s first verbal
commitment of the 2013 signing class … One of the nation’s top-50 defensive tackles by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com …
First-team all-state as a senior as chosen by The Associated Press …Comes to Lexington from Clay County High School,
where he played for head coach Evan Napier … Played defensive tackle and offensive guard in high school, but is projected
on the defensive side for Kentucky … Helped Clay County finish 8-4 his sophomore season en route to an appearance in
the Class AAAAA state playoffs … Helped lead Kentucky all-stars to a 29-27 win over Tennessee in the National Guard
Border Bowl … Played for the USA national team in the International Bowl on Feb. 5 in Austin, Tex. … Named All-SEKC by
MaxPreps.com … Also chosen first team on the All-Mountain squad.

Jaleel Hytchye, Cornerback, 5-10, 175, Fr-HS, Cincinnati, Ohio (La Salle) – Talented athlete who also had a
successful track career at La Salle High School in Cincinnati … One of the nation’s top-25 cornerbacks as evaluated by
ESPN.com, which gives him a positive rating in man coverage, zone coverage, ballhandling and instincts … ESPN.com
ranks him as the 20th-best prospect in Ohio and wrote, “Hytchye has the coverage skills to see early playing time at the
BCS level of competition.” … Has been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash and is considering running track at
Kentucky … Finished the 2012 season with two interceptions – one for a touchdown – and a fumble recovery … Second-
team all-conference in the highly competitive Greater Catholic League …During his junior campaign in 2011, he posted four
interceptions and 14 pass breakups … Helped Lancers to third-place finish in the city in 2010 with a 9-2 record and a 7-3
record his junior season … Coached by Tom Grippa … Name is pronounced “jah-LEEL HI-chee.”

Jojo Kemp, Running Back, 5-10, 190, Fr-HS, DeLand, Fla. (DeLand) – Earned Associated Press all-state
first-team honors his senior season … Rushed 255 times as a senior for 1,469 yards and 23 touchdowns … Equally as
impressive his junior season when he rushed 178 times for 1,163 yards and 14 touchdowns … Had a great game on the
big stage, rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns on a game televised by ESPN2, which featured several Division
I prospects on defense … Rated the nation’s No. 10 multipurpose back by Rivals.com … The No. 28 running back by
ESPN.com … Scout.com’s Mike Bakas says Kemp “has enough size to grow into a potential 210-plus pound running
back who will be able carry to carry the rock 20 times a game and get the tough yards inside.” … Bakas also says Kemp
is “a tremendous athlete who can make a lot of people miss in space … changes directions well … can catch the ball very
well out of the backfield … he’s just a good football player with plus athleticism.” … No. 10-ranked player in the Orlando
Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida “Super60” prospects … Coached by Al Manning.

Austin MacGinnis, Kicker, 5-10, 175, Fr-HS, Prattville, Ala. (Prattville) – One of the nation’s top three kicker
prospects according to Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Played his senior season at Prattville (Ala.) High School under
Coach Chad Anderson … Handled punts, field goals and kickoffs for the Lions, making seven of 10 field goals, including
a 50-yarder … 76 percent of kickoffs went for touchbacks … Named to the all-area team … Participated for the winning
National team in the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl in Houston following his senior campaign … Played at Randolph
County High School before moving to Prattville his senior season … Converted six of nine field goals and made all of his
extra points as a junior, with 81 percent touchbacks on kickoffs … Participated in the National Underclassmen Challenge
and performed well … According to ChrisSailerKicking.com, MacGinnis “is a tremendous kicker. He has a huge leg …
kickoffs are Division-I ready right now. A great competitor that kicks well under pressure.” … Spent time with One-on-One
Kicking.

Blake McClain, Defensive Back, 5-11, 190, Fr-HS, Winter Park, Fla. (Winter Park) – Versatile defensive back
could be either a cornerback or safety on the collegiate level … Considered the nation’s No. 66 safety by ESPN.com, which
says McClain’s strengths are zone coverage, ball skills and run support … The No. 61 cornerback by Rivals.com … Good
senior season at Winter Park (Fla.) HS, gathering 60 tackles and three interceptions, including one for a touchdown …
Ended his high school career with nine picks … Also played wide receiver, with two receiving touchdowns his senior season
… Ranked as the No. 25 prospect on the Orlando Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida Super60 … The Orlando Sentinel wrote
that McClain “has top-notch footwork and an ability to keep his hips parallel to the line of scrimmage to keep quarterbacks
at bay.” … Named a Central Florida All-Star … Coached by Larry Gergley … Has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard
dash … All-around athlete who also played basketball.

Marcus McWilson, Safety, 6-0, 210, Fr-HS, Youngstown, Ohio (Cardinal Mooney) – Physical, athletic safety
who is ranked as one of the nation’s top-20 safeties by Scout.com and Rivals.com … Ranked No. 18 nationally in the
athlete category by 247Sports.com … The No. 10 player in talent-rich Ohio by Rivals … Played at Cardinal Mooney HS
in Youngstown, Ohio, the alma mater of new UK head coach Mark Stoops and tight ends coach Vince Marrow … Helped
Cardinal Mooney to a Division III state championship his junior and freshman seasons … Team went 15-0 his freshman
season and 11-3 his junior year … First-team All-Ohio in 2012 … Had eight interceptions as a junior, two picks as a
sophomore … Also played running back in high school, including posting 124 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a
single game last fall … Coach P.J. Fecko told the Tribune-Chronicle before the 2012 season that, “Marcus is a tremendous
athlete. He does a lot of different things. He kicks the ball. He returns the ball. He’s a defensive guy. He’s a receiver. He’s a
running back. His ability to want to compete and to do so wherever he’s called upon helps. He’s been successful to do that.”

Kyle Meadows, Offensive Lineman, 6-5, 270, Fr-HS, West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West) — Combines great
footwork with tremendous length and playing strength … No. 38 overall offensive tackle according to Scout.com … The No.
31-ranked player in the 247Sports composite of the talent-rich state of Ohio … Ranked No. 5 among the top 50 players in
the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Greater Cincinnati to watch list of the 2013 … Played for Larry Cox at Lakota West High School
… Helped his team to an 8-2 record as a senior … A former basketball player who exhibits an all-around combination of
quickness, balance and strength … Went to the same high school as former UK fullback John Conner, now a member of the
Cincinnati Bengals.

Regie Meant, Defensive Lineman, 6-4, 275, Fr-HS, Cape Coral, Fla. (Baker) – A speedy defensive line prospect
with a huge frame to go along with quickness … Has been timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a remarkable time
for a defensive lineman … With his great combination of size and speed he could project as a defensive tackle or end …
Second-team all-state in Florida Class AAAAA as a senior … Did not begin playing football until high school … Attended Ida
Baker High School, where he played just three seasons for Coach Brian Conn … Totaled 68 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, two
sacks, a caused fumble and two quarterback hurries his senior season … Finished junior season with 23 tackles, four sacks
and three caused fumbles … Name pronounced same as “Reggie.”

Ramsey Meyers, Offensive Lineman, 6-4, 290, Fr-HS, Orange Park, Fla. (Ridgeview) – First-team all-state
senior season in Florida Class 6A … A big and athletic offensive line prospect with great run-blocking ability … Physical
attributes could help him project into multiple offensive line positions … The nation’s No. 60 guard prospect by 247Sports
and ranked No. 61 by Scout.com … Played for Coach Tom McPherson and the Ridgeview Panthers in Orange Park, Fla.
… Helped Ridgeview to a 9-2 mark and a spot in the state playoffs his senior year … Senior honors also included All-First
Coast, All-County and the Florida Times-Union “Super 24” … Played in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-
South All-Star Classic following senior campaign … Honorable-mention all-state as a junior … Named the top sleeper at the
Nike Elite Camp last spring … A first-team all-combine performer at the US Army combine in 2012 … The first Southeastern
Conference signee in school history.

Alex Montgomery, Wide Receiver, 6-2, 210, Fr-HS, Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay) – First-team all-state wide
receiver from Cypress Bay High School, where he helped his team to the 8A state championship game his senior season,
regional semifinals his junior year and state semifinals his sophomore season … Ended his high school career in fine
fashion with a tremendous performance in the 8A state championship game … Had nine catches for 199 yards and three
touchdowns in the final, including a nifty one-handed touchdown catch … His 199 receiving yards was a state finals record
… Also played defensive back and had what appeared to be the game-winning interception in the state championship
game before a late penalty nullified the play … In the two playoff games before the state final, Montgomery returned an
interception for a touchdown in each, first for 34 yards and then 56 yards … Had 42 catches for 892 yards and seven
touchdowns his senior year en route to first-team all-state honors by the Miami Herald … Ended his junior campaign with 27
catches for 556 yards and 10 touchdowns … Coached by Mark Guandolo … ESPN.com lists key traits as good hands and
speed … Ranked as the nation’s No. 51 wide receiver by Rivals.com.

Reese Phillips, Quarterback, 6-2, 225, Fr-HS, Signal Mountain, Tenn. (Signal Mountain) – Two-year all-
state quarterback at Signal Mountain (Tenn.) High School … Led team to a 7-4 record as a senior and an appearance in the
Tennessee Class AAAA state playoffs … Completed 172 of 274 passes for 2,274 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three
interceptions to earn all-state honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association … District Player of the Year … Was
named the MVP of the Tennessee High School East/West All-Star Classic after going 10-for-10 for 95 yards and a
touchdown … Led the East to a 41-20 win, setting a record for most points in the all-star game … Solid junior season as a
first-year starting quarterback, throwing for 1,895 yards, 21 TDs and four interceptions while completing 71 percent of his
passes … Was named a first-team all-state performer in 2011 by Tennessee Sports Writers Association … Started at tightend and defensive back as a freshman and sophomore, including sophomore campaign which saw Signal Mountain win the Class AA state championship with a 14-0 record (SMHS competed in 4A during his junior and senior seasons) … Known for
a strong arm and consistent accuracy … Coached by Bill Price … “Reese is a very intelligent kid with a work ethic that is
tremendous,” Price said. “He has a very strong arm and his accuracy is a big plus.” … A two-year all-district performer in
baseball, playing shortstop and pitching …Junior year pitching stats featured a 7-1 record with an 0.85 earned run average,
striking out 60 in 49 innings of work … Honor-roll student and member of the Beta Club … Reese’s grandfather, Harry, and
great uncle, Dick, were members of the football team at Georgia.

Za’Darius Smith, Defensive End, 6-6, 260, Jr-JC, Greenville, Ala. (Greenville/East Mississippi Community
College) – The nation’s No. 1 junior college strongside defensive end prospect as ranked by JCGridiron.com … The
nation’s No. 10 overall juco prospect, and No. 2 defensive end, by ESPN … Listed No. 15 overall, and the No. 2 weakside
defensive end, by 24/7 Sports … Totaled 47 tackles, including 6.5 quarterback sacks and 11 total tackles for loss, as a
sophomore at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss. … Named second-team All-America by the National
Junior College Athletic Association … Also named to the juco all-region and all-state teams … Helped EMCC to an 8-2
record … Made 19 tackles, featuring 4.5 sacks and seven total TFL, as a freshman … EMCC won the 2011 NJCAA national
championship with a 12-0 mark … Head coach was Buddy Stephens and his defensive line coach was current UK assistant
Jimmy Brumbaugh … A relative latecomer to the game as he grew up playing basketball at Greenville (Ala.) High School
and didn’t begin playing football until his senior year …Coached at Greenville by Ben Blackmon …An older brother, Bob
Meeks, played center at Auburn from 1988-91 and for the NFL’s Denver Broncos … A cousin, Davern Williams, played at
Troy and for the NFL’s New York Giants … A niece, Kristi Mokube, currently plays basketball at Florida State.

Khalid Thomas, RB, 5-10, 170, Fr-HS, Tallahassee, Fla. (Godby) – Skilled athlete who was named
the 2012 Tallahassee Quarterback Club’s Most Valuable Player of the Year after helping Godby High School win the 2012
Class AAAAA state championship … Had 13 carries for 70 yards in the state championship game … Scored the game-
winning touchdown on a 28-yard run, breaking multiple tackles in the process, in Godby’s 21-20 title triumph … Team
posted a 14-1 record under Coach Ronnie Cottrell … Outstanding senior campaign, rushing 184 times for 1,471 yards and
15 touchdowns … Also had 23 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown last fall … Led Godby in rushing and receiving
his junior season … Had 958 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns his junior season, while also posting 421 receiving yards
… Also played some defense in high school, making some interceptions … Named Class 1A-5A all-state second team his
senior season and was a Tallahassee Democrat All-Big Bend Co-Player of the Year … Brother of current UK linebacker
Kadeem “Pancho” Thomas … The nation’s No. 27 all-purpose back by 247Sports.com … 4quartersonline.com said Thomas
is “an elusive multi-purpose back that can give opposition teams nightmares.” … ESPN.com praises Thomas for versatility,
being a playmaker and his ball skills … Name is pronounced “kah-LEED.”

Ryan Timmons, Athlete, 5-10, 185, Fr-HS, Frankfort, Ky. (Franklin County) – Dynamic playmaker who was all
over the field offensively in high school … Played running back, wide receiver and returned kicks … Produced eye-popping
numbers … First-team all-state as a junior and senior by the Louisville Courier-Journal … Also all-state as a senior by
The Associated Press and a member of the Lexington Herald-Leader “Class of the Commonwealth” … Rushed for 1,306
yards and 25 touchdowns his senior season, averaging an amazing 15.7 yards per attempt … Caught 33 passes for 1,004
yards and 16 TDs, averaging more than 30 yards per reception … Opponents kicked off to him only three times and he
returned them all for touchdowns … Had equally incredible numbers his junior season … Rushed 62 times for 1,382 yards,
averaging 22.3 yards per carry, and 20 touchdowns … Also had 38 receptions for 1,100 yards, a 28.9 average, and 18
touchdowns his junior campaign … Versatility makes him difficult to define as he ranks as the nation’s No. 23 running back
by 247Sports.com, the No. 28 athlete by ESPN.com and the No. 46 wide receiver by Scout.com.

Nate Willis, Defensive Back, 6-0, 180, Jr-JC, Pahokee, Fla. (Pahokee/Arizona Western College)
Rated as the No. 3 junior college cornerback in the nation by 247Sports.com … Helped Arizona Western College to an 8-
2 record last fall and a victory in the El Toro Bowl – the team’s first bowl game win in more than 40 years … Team finished
the 2011 regular season No. 1 in the nation and hosted the national championship game before suffering its first loss of the
season to finish 11-1 … Solid sophomore season at AWCC, earning 19 tackles, one interception and five pass breakups …
Had 31 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one fumble forced and three interceptions his freshman season … Also returned kicks
in junior college … His freshman season, he return four kickoffs for 133 yards and two punts for 135 yards and a touchdown
… Had three kickoff returns last season for 65 yards … ESPN.com gives Willis praise for his man coverage, zone coverage,
instincts and ball skills … Helped his team win the 2B state championship his freshman and sophomore seasons …
Focused on basketball and did not play football his last two years at Pahokee (Fla.) HS … Did play one season at Glades
Central HS.

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Report: UCLA’s Mazzone, USC’s Helton interviewed for Vols OC job

Noel Mazzone AP

We don’t know yet when Butch Jones will pull the trigger on his biggest coaching hire this offseason, but we do know some of the candidates who have caught his attention.  Reportedly.

According to Jimmy Hyams of radio station WNML in Knoxville, Jones has interviewed five outside candidates for the Vols’ vacancy at offensive coordinator: current Michigan administrator and former UM coordinator Mike DeBord, as well as 2014 coordinators Matt Canada (North Carolina State), Clay Helton (USC), Noel Mazzone (UCLA) and Kurt Roper (not retained at Florida). Additionally, UT wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni is listed by Hyams as a candidate as well.

Hyams notes that Jones has interviewed those individuals in locations such as Los Angeles, Oakland, Las Vegas.

Of the reported candidates, Mazzone and Helton would be the most noteworthy.

Mazzone has spent the past three seasons as the Bruins coordinator.  During those three seasons, the Bruins finished 37th (33.5 ppg, 2014), 21st (36.9 ppg, 2013) and 31st (34.4 ppg) in scoring; in the two years prior to Mazzone’s arrival, the Bruins were 88th (23.1 ppg, 2012) and 103rd (20.1 ppg) in that category.

Helton has spent the past five seasons as the Trojans’ coordinator/quarterbacks coach.  In his first season under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, Helton did not hold play-calling responsibilities.

Jones, incidentally, was on DeBord’s coaching staff at CMU from 2000-03.  DeBord has been out of the coaching game since serving as the tight ends coach of the Chicago Bears in 2012.  Hyams notes, though, that DeBord has NFL opportunities from which to potentially choose as well.

Whoever it is that Jones hires will replace Mike Bajakian, who left to to take the quarterbacks coach job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this month.

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Tide makes Mel Tucker hiring official

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Three days after it was first reported, the lone hole on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff has been filled.

In a press release, UA announced that Mel Tucker has been hired as Saban’s defensive backs coach.  Tucker will also hold the title of assistant head coach.

Tucker has a history with Saban, who hired him as a grad assistant at Michigan State nearly two decades ago.

“He is an outstanding coach all the way around and really does an excellent job in terms of teaching the players,” Saban said in a statement. “When you look at his college and NFL experience, his resume is very impressive, and he’ll be a positive addition to our defensive staff. Mel’s experience with the secondary will allow us to move Kirby back to coaching the inside linebackers, which has been most effective for our defensive coordinator. We’re pleased and happy to welcome Mel and his family to Tuscaloosa.”

Tucker has been away from the college game for the last decade, having spent time on NFL staffs with the Cleveland Browns (2005-07, defensive backs; 2008, defensive coordinator), Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-12, defensive coordinator) and Chicago Bears (2013-14, defensive coordinator).  His last job at the collegiate level came in 2004 as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.

Prior to that, the Cleveland, Oh., native coached the secondary at OSU (2001-03), LSU (2000) and Miami of Ohio (1999).

“I’ve known Coach Saban since I was 17 years old and he recruited me when he was the head coach at Toledo,” said Tucker. “He gave me my first job at Michigan State and most of what I learned as a defensive backs coach came from him. He has always been extremely loyal to me and my family, and is a trusted friend and mentor.

“We’ve become big Crimson Tide fans through the years and our family actually went to the bowl games against Michigan State and Notre Dame. When I was invited to speak here at one of the coaching clinics, I really got to see first-hand how special the University of Alabama is and I’m honored to join Coach Saban’s staff. I have the utmost respect this program and what Coach Saban stands for as a man and as a coach.”

In addition to Tucker, UA also announce the hiring of former UAB assistant Jody Wright.  This is a return for Wright as he spent 201 as a graduate assistant with the Tide and 2011-12 as an offensive analyst.

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About-face: ACC to count BYU as Power Five opponent

BYU Stadium

Just last May, it was reported that the ACC would not consider BYU an option for its membership to satisfy the mandatory scheduling of at least one Power Five opponent per season.

Eight months later?  Never mind, apparently.

The same day that the ACC released its complete 2015 schedule, ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy reports that games against BYU will now count toward the Power Five non-league requirement for the conference. The league has yet to announce the reversal, for whatever that’s worth.

As it stands now, Virginia is the only ACC school with BYU on its future schedules, with games slated for 2019 in Charlottesville, 2020 in Provo. Whether this reported decision to allow BYU to meet the P5 scheduling requirement means future games between the football independent and ACC schools will start popping up remains to be seen.

Unless a change hasn’t been made public yet, the SEC still does not consider BYU meeting a scheduling requirement similar to that of the ACC’s. Of course, the Cougars have played just five games total against teams that were members of the SEC at the time the game was played, so it’s not as if there’s an extensive history between that institution and that conference.

Regardless, the ACC’s decision is a huge one for BYU as it will allow the football program to further bolster its schedule — and any potential playoff résumé — with quality Power Five opponents.  Short of landing a spot in one of those conferences — you have their digits, Big 12 — this is about as good as it gets for the Cougars.

(Photo credit: BYU athletics)

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Brandon Harris’ HS coach advised QB to ‘please get out of’ LSU

Brandon Harris

Here’s to guessing David Feaster‘s brutal honesty won’t ingratiate him too much to the LSU coaching staff.

Feaster is the head coach at Bossier City Parkway High School in Louisiana, the high school of LSU quarterback Brandon Harris.  After Harris’ true freshman season devolved into one of (mostly) sideline inactivity even as the quality of play at the quarterback position was suspect to say the least, Feaster encouraged his former player to leave the situation.

And by “leave the situation” I mean “get the hell out of Dodge before you do permanent damage to your collegiate career.” From the New Orleans Times-Picayune‘s transcription of Feaster’s radio interview Wednesday.

“Please get out of there,” Feaster said he told Harris. “I wanted him to go to junior college. Go to a junior college, and because he’s a qualifier, he can just be there one year, leave at the midterm and restart the recruiting process all over again.”

“You’ve got the worst passing game in the country, and the best quarterback in the country sitting on the bench,” Feaster said. “Why don’t we even try him against Arkansas? He almost saved you against Mississippi State, did save you against New Mexico State. Why don’t we even give him a shot in some of these other games we can’t get a first down?”

There was speculation floating around that part of the reason for Harris’ inactivity over the last half of the season stemmed from what the Times-Picayune described as a lack of “dedication to studying tape and the playbook.”  On that front, Feaster lays the onus for the leak that cast his former player in an unfavorable light squarely on the LSU coaching staff.

“The stuff they’ve been saying has been lies,” Feaster said. “That he has trouble learning plays or checks, reading defenses, all that is bogus. He got there in January. They had plenty of time to go over the plays. I’ll just say that on his behalf, all that stuff is lies.

“He’s (Les Miles) the head coach, and he plays who he wants to. I don’t want people telling me who to play at QB either. But I don’t think they should be putting out false information about Brandon to make him look bad.”

Harris, of course, eschewed a transfer from LSU — “I couldn’t talk him into it,” Feaster said — and will, along with 2014 starter Anthony Jennings, compete for the starting job again beginning this spring. To Feaster’s credit, he did allow later in the interview that Harris is “right and I’m wrong” about wanting the quarterback to bolt after being on campus for less than a year.

In his first season in Baton Rouge, Harris played in eight games and started one. That lone start was, to say the least, a rough one, with Harris completing just 3-of-14 passes for 58 yards in a 41-7 loss on the road to Auburn. Harris attempted just one pass the remaining seven games, although that hasn’t seemed to dampen the former four-star recruit’s enthusiasm for the Tigers.

“Brandon is really enjoying LSU,” Feaster said. “He’s all in for it. He’s just going to try and compete. Maybe there’ll be a different set of criteria this year on how they choose their quarterback, and maybe he’ll get a shot.”

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ACC releases complete 2015 schedule

ACC Logo

With the start of the 2015 season less than eight months away — damn, that seems a long, long, long ways away — the ACC has gotten around to releasing its full schedule for the upcoming campaign.

The conference will have several high-profile games opening weekend, beginning with North Carolina-South Carolina Sept. 3 in Charlotte; continuing with Louisville-Auburn in the Georgia Dome for the Sept. 5 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game; and concluding with Virginia Tech-Ohio State Labor Day night, Sept. 7, in Blacksburg.  The Hokies were the only team to knock off the Buckeyes en route to OSU’s national championship.

Notre Dame will also be in the second year of its scheduling arrangement with the conference, with six games on the slate versus league foes. Clemson (Oct. 3), Virginia (Sept. 12) and Pitt (Nov. 7) will host the Irish, while Georgia Tech (Sept. 19) and (Wake Forest (Nov. 14) will travel to Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Additionally, the Notre Dame-Boston College game will be played in Boston’s Fenway Park, and will be considered a home game for the Irish.

In the release announcing the 2015 slate, the ACC touted its schedule as one of the toughest in the country, at least on paper. Let us count the reasons why:

  • ACC teams will play more games against teams that are ranked in ESPN’s Too Early Top 25 rankings for 2015 (12) than any of the other Top Five Conferences. The ACC’s total is also more than double the number of games played by the next closest Power Five league.
  • ACC teams also are playing a higher percentage of Power Five Conference teams (38%) than any other Power Five Conference.
  • ACC teams are also playing games against opponents who had a higher FBS (.536) and overall (.536) winning percentage in 2014 than any other Power Five Conference.
  • ACC teams will also play 24 games against non-conference opponents that played in bowl games in 2014. That total is the second-highest total of any Power Five Conference.

“This year’s ACC Football schedule once again showcases that collectively our league is arguably playing the toughest nonconference schedule in the country,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford in a statement. “In addition to the nonconference games, we have a tremendously competitive league schedule which provides our teams and fans with great games each week of the season.”

For the complete 2015 ACC schedule, click HERE.  For the complete helmet or logo versions, click HERE or HERE, respectively.

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Grantham confirms Raider interview, but will stay at Louisville

Miami v Louisville

As it turns out, Louisville won’t need to embark on a search for a new defensive coordinator after all.

Late Wednesday afternoon, it was reported that the Oakland Raiders, which had previously targeted Todd Grantham, had offered their coordinator job to the current UofL coordinator.  In a statement subsequently released by the school, Grantham confirmed that he did interview for the NFL post.

He also confirmed, though, that he would be returning to the Cardinals for the 2015 season.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to have interviewed for the defensive coordinator position with the Oakland Raiders, but I’m committed to the University of Louisville,” Grantham said in a statement. “I said when I came to Louisville that I thought we could win a national championship, and we are building toward that goal with the success we had this season.

“Coach Petrino and Tom Jurich have given me a great opportunity and I’m grateful for their commitment. My family loves it in Louisville, and I think we are establishing something special here with head coach Bobby Petrino and our staff. Our main objective over the next week is to finish strong in recruiting and continue to bolster this signing class.”

In his first season at Louisville in 2014, Grantham’s $975,000 salary was sixth amongst assistant coaches nationally and third in the ACC. It’s unknown at the moment if he’ll receive a bump in pay to repay his commitment to the university.

Under Grantham in 2014, the Cardinals were tied for 24th in the country in scoring defense at 21.8 points per game. The year prior to Grantham’s arrival, they were second at 12.2 ppg.

“We’re very pleased and happy that Todd is going to be staying at the University of Louisville,” Petrino said in his statement. “He’s done a fabulous job with our defense that ranked in the top 10. He’s one of the finest assistant coaches in the country, and you expect excellent coaches like Todd to get opportunities in the NFL. I’ve always had respect for the job that Todd has done throughout his career, especially this past year at Louisville, and we’re happy that he has and family will continue to be members of the Cardinals’ family.”

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Lincoln Riley to make $1 million over two years as Oklahoma’s OC

Lincoln Riley

In a fairly news-y day for the Sooners from Oklahoma, it was revealed Wednesday that new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has inked a two-year contract that will pay him $500,000 annually. His contract was approved during an OU Board of Regents meeting.

Thanks to Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World, we know Riley will be the Big 12’s second-highest paid offensive coordinator in the Big 12. Texas’ Shawn Watson made $650,000 in 2014 to lead the league. Departed Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery made $504,645 this fall.

Riley’s half-a-million dollar salary would have tied him for 66th nationally among all college football assistants last fall according to the USA Today coaching salary database. He ranked 244th at just north of $278,000 at East Carolina in 2014.

Riley will be Oklahoma’s second-highest paid assistant, trailing defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Previous offensive coordinator Josh Heupel earned $605,000 in 2014.

 

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Jimbo Fisher’s new contract includes a mighty large buyout

Jimbo Fisher

We’ve known of Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher‘s new eight-year contract for more than a month now, but on Wednesday we learned the details of the head Seminole’s new deal.

Thanks to an open records request by the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida State revealed that Fisher will earn $5 million a year in 2015, and the coach will receive a $100,000 a year bump through the 2022 season. Fisher, who earned $3.6 million in 2014 according to the USA Today coaching salary database, joins Alabama’s Nick Saban, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Texas’ Charlie Strong and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh in college football’s $5 million club.

Of course, the most important figure in any coaching contract is the buyout. And there is a significant one here. Fisher would owe a cool $5 million should he leave before Dec. 31, 2016, a more manageable $3 million if he left between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2018, and a minuscule $1 million thereafter.

Fisher is eligible for bonuses ranging from $50,000 for reaching a non-College Football Playoff bowl game to $250,000 for reaching certain team GPA or other off-the-field benchmarks. He’ll make $200,000 if the ‘Noles win a national championship. Fisher will also receive a $1.2 million longevity bonus should he remain in Tallahassee through the life of the contract.

The new deal also provides an extra $750,000 for Fisher’s assistants. The group earned nearly $3.4 million in 2014, good for 12th nationally and third in the ACC. The new pool would rank them just behind Auburn for fifth nationally.

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Report: OU to delay Memorial Stadium expansion, school president denies it

Oklahoma State v Oklahoma Getty Images

Oklahoma is planning on postponing the major renovation project to Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium announced last summer. Or, they’re not. One or the other.

A report from SoonerScoop.com released Wednesday stated Oklahoma had informed contractors and architects that it is placing the $370 million project on hold due to “market related” factors. More specifically, the price of oil has dropped precipitously, directly impacting many of the Sooners’ big money donors. The report outlined that OU’s fundraising arm has struggled to secure sales of new suites, which would underwrite a large portion of the renovations.

The Sooners’ limp finish to the 2014 season certainly didn’t help, but SoonerScoop writes that competitive factors aren’t holding up the project. “The football outlook has barely entered into the discussion at all,” a source told the site. “It seems everyone knows upgrades like this are important in keeping us competitive.”

Another reason, the report states, that the project will go on hold has been Oklahoma president David Boren‘s drive to secure funding for OU’s Residential College, a sort of academic utopia mimicking schools back east and across the pond. “The new housing facilities will be designed as living/learning communities that would, by their nature, build strong communities and identities and become the cornerstone of the undergraduate experience,” said a university press release. “They will be patterned on those at Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge.”

As fate would have it, the report went live as Boren spoke to reporters at an OU Board of Regents meeting.

Well, then.

To its credit, SoonerScoop is standing by its reporting.

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Boren said that Oklahoma is “shovel ready,” and that he is slated to discuss the project with the Regents at their March meeting.

One thing is certain with stories like this: either the renovations will happen, or they won’t. We’ll find out soon enough.

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Central Florida, Florida Atlantic schedule home-and-home

George O'Leary

Central Florida and Florida Atlantic each have short histories as FBS programs. FAU played its first season in 2001, and UCF joined FBS way back in the ancient days of 1996. As such, two programs one would think tussle on a semi-annual basis have only played once, a 33-29 Knights win back in 2003.

That is about to change.

The schools announced a home-and-home series for 2018 and 2019 on Wednesday. Florida Atlantic will visit Orlando on Sept. 22, 2018, and Central Florida will return the favor on Sept. 7, 2019.

A home-and-home with Florida Atlantic means Central Florida will have played a Sunshine State opponent in non-conference play every year from 2005-19, save for a one-year break in 2010.

Each program has played Florida twice. Central Florida has played Florida State once and Miami twice, while Florida Atlantic has faced FAU once and never played Florida State.

Here’s hoping UCF’s sideline cabana is still around in 2018.

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Reports: Joker Phillips to coach WRs for NFL’s Browns

Joker Phillips

It appears that the Joker is back in the coaching game.

Following up on reports that began surfacing a couple of days ago, ESPN.com is reporting that Joker Phillips has agreed to become the wide receivers coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.  The organization has not yet announced his hiring, although that’s something that could happen this week and perhaps as early as today.

Phillips had spent the 2013 season as Florida’s receivers coach before abruptly resigning his position in June of last year.  Other than “personal reasons,” no reason was given for the unexpected departure.  It was subsequently reported that Phillips was photographed eating in a restaurant with a football prospect during a recruiting dead period, which would be an NCAA violation.  He sat out the 2014 season, at least as far as coaching goes.

Phillips, whose main mark while at UF was as a recruiter and Twitter genius, has never held a job at the NFL level as his entire 26-year coaching career has come in the college game.

A receivers coach on six different occasions at five schools, Phillips has, in addition to his time at UF, held that role on staffs at Kentucky (199-96), Cincinnati (1997), Minnesota (1999-2000) and South Carolina (2002).  He spent another stint at UK from 2003-09 before becoming the Wildcats’ head coach in 2010-12.

A 13-24 record in the three seasons led to his dismissal in 2012.

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Report: Raiders offer Todd Grantham their DC job

It appears Louisville could indeed be forced to search for a new defensive coordinator.

Monday, reports surfaced that the Oakland Raiders had targeted UofL coordinator Todd Grantham for the same position with the NFL club.  Two days later, the courtship between the two sides has reportedly gotten very serious.

It’s not, though, a done deal that Grantham will accept the Raiders offer.

While Grantham has coached at the collegiate level since 2010, he spent the previous 11 years in the NFL.  In February of 2013, Grantham, then the coordinator at Georgia, interviewed for the same job with the New Orleans Saints before deciding to remain with the Bulldogs.  Less than a year later, however, he left UGA for the UofL.

In mid-August of last year, it was reported that significant friction existed between Grantham and head coach Bobby Petrino.  Both coaches subsequently downplayed the speculation.

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Star FCS QB Vernon Adams will reportedly visit Oregon

Vernon Adams Jr.

It’s not often that an FCS player transfers up to the FBS.  It appears, though, that at least one star at the Level Formerly Known as Div. I-A is at least contemplating such a move.

According to Jen Beyrle of The Oregonian via Twitter, Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams will be visiting Oregon this weekend. While not stated specifically in the tweet, the assumption is that the quarterback is considering a transfer to the Ducks.

247Sports.com is reporting that Adams has already been granted his transfer release, which seems to make a move to the Ducks imminent.

With Heisman winner Marcus Mariota leaving his remaining eligibility on the table and moving on to the NFL, UO will conduct a quarterback competition beginning this spring. The way it stands now, Jeff Lockie will enter spring as the front-runner, with competition being provided by redshirt freshmen Taylor Alie and California product Ty Griffin, true freshman Morgan Mahalak and 2015 early signee and four-star recruit Travis Waller.  There have also been rumors that Braxton Miller has an interest in transferring to the Ducks, although that talk has waned of late.

Adams certainly has the credentials to come in and compete immediately with the group that will be there as he would be a grad transfer.

In a 49-46 win over Oregon State in 2013, Adams accounted for 518 yards of offense and six total touchdowns — 411 and four passing, 107 and two rushing.  A year later, Adams passed for 475 yards in a 59-52 loss to Washington.

Over the past two seasons, Adams has thrown for 90 touchdowns and ran for another 10.  In 2013, he was runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the FCS.

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Four-star WR says he wore Vols gear during Auburn visit, denies pot rumors

Preston Williams

Don’t you just love the wonderful world of college football recruiting, especially when it comes to the SEC (or the Big Ten)?

Four-star 2015 wide receiver Preston Williams has been a verbal commit to Tennessee for the last four months but has still taken visits to, among other places, Georgia and, most recently, Auburn.  It was on that latter trip this past weekend that the darker side of the recruiting game reared its head yet again.

In the wake of that visit to The Plains, one in which he was reportedly adorned in UT clothing, rumors surfaced that the Georgia high schooler was caught smoking marijuana in a hotel.  During a radio interview Tuesday night, Williams, who claimed he was “forced into the visit” by the AU coaching staff, denied the weed accusations.

Not at all,” Williams told WNML when asked if what in part began as message board rumors were accurate. “That’s how people get when you don’t want to do something, they try to put bad words out on you, rumors and stuff. I just let them put rumors out on me. People are going to believe what they want to believe because they have their own opinion.”

Williams also copped to wearing Vols gear during his visit to The Plains, which could explain why or how the pot speculation surfaced in the first place. Not only was he (allegedly) wearing an SEC rival’s colors, he was (allegedly) actively recruiting other prospects who were visiting in an attempt to get them to flip to UT.

Suffice to say, and per the player, it didn’t sit well with his hosts.

“A lot of schools, they don’t like it,” Williams, who left his AU visit earlier than originally planned (or was forced to leave early), said. “They told me to take it off, this and that. They were getting mad. When they were getting mad, I was like, ‘Do I believe them or not? Are they playing with me or what?’ So I was just laughing.”

Of course, now there’s a report out that Williams wasn’t wearing UT apparel at all, that his visit was in fact cut short because of a combination of disinterest on the part of the prospect and the “incident in the hotel room.” The radio station that did the interview with Williams, citing a source in Auburn’s program with direct knowledge of the situation, reported Tuesday evening that Williams was sent home early after he was caught smoking marijuana.

As for Williams’ comments that he was forced into the AU visit and that it was a last-minute kind of thing, the player confirmed Dec. 31 that he would be taking a January visit to the Tigers. “I want to check Auburn out,” Williams said at the time. “Coach (Dameyune) Craig is recruiting me. I’ve talked to him a lot and I told him I’d come visit.”

So, who’s embellishing what?  Who knows.  Or, as some would say when it comes to the seedy side of recruiting, who cares just make it stop.

Williams, incidentally, is rated as the No. 19 receiver in the country and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Georgia by Rivals.com.  Oh, and, call it a hunch as I’m no recruiting guru, but don’t look for him to flip to Auburn.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Michigan’s 2015 recruiting trail setting up 2016 inroads

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh may or may not pull in one of the Big Ten’s top recruiting classes — it’ll more than likely the latter — when it’s all said and done, but what he and his staff are doing now is setting the football program up for the next year’s class.

Exactly one week away from National Signing Day, UM’s 2015 class ranks 75th nationally and dead last in the Big Ten (Purdue is the closest at 60th).  That’s quite an improvement from two weeks ago when, two weeks into his tenure, Harbaugh’s Wolverines were 97th in the country.  That bump was triggered by a trio of flips, including a four-star quarterback who had been a Texas commit.

UM, along with UCLA, is also in play for the No. 1 tight end in the country, Chris Clark, a target that could push the class ranking closer to midpack. Five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the No. 3 player in the nation according to Rivals.com, took an official visit to Ann Arbor earlier this month and came away giving UM serious consideration, although USC is still widely considered the favorite (maybe).  A handful of three- and four-star recruits are still in play as well.

The program hopes to add 15 players from this year’s class, and are currently sitting at nine commitments with signing day seven days away.

Given the tight time frame in which Harbaugh’s been forced to operate, and despite attacking this day with Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind, the 2015 recruiting cycle is essentially serving as a gateway to next year’s class.

“You may not see a huge bump in 2015, in part because of the timing of Jim Harbaugh’s hire,” Brandon Huffman, the national director of recruiting for Scout.com, told the Toledo Blade recently. “But you’ll see that momentum carry into the spring when coaches go on the road to begin evaluating the 2016 class.”

Harbaugh & Company could still make a late push this year, but circle 2016 as the year they begin to challenger Urban Meyer and Ohio State, currently seventh nationally, for Big Ten recruiting supremacy.

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