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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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Boise State running back Jay Ajayi declares for NFL Draft

Jay Ajayi

Boise State running back Jay Ajayi will play his final game as a Bronco in the upcoming Fiesta Bowl against Arizona. Ajayi announced Sunday he will enter himself into the 2015 NFL Draft, passing on his final year of eligibility at Boise State.

Ajayi informed his teammates while in the huddle for the final rep in practice on Sunday. He reportedly made his decision to enter the NFL Draft without hearing from the NFL advisory group in place to assist with the decision-making for underclassmen thinking about leaving for the NFL Draft.

Ajayi was the second-leading rusher in the Mountain West Conference in 2014 with 1,689 rushing yards, but he was the conference’s leader with 25 rushing touchdowns. His 25 rushing touchdowns are second in the nation only to Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.

The NFL Draft has not been particularly kind to running backs in recent seasons. Last year there was not a single running back chosen in the first round of the draft. There was also a record number of underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft, which left many without a football home in 2014. Ajayi will be likely to be drafted somewhere between the second and fifth round of the draft, although exactly when he may go is difficult to predict.

Boise State has had six running backs drafted in NFL Draft history. Doug Martin to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in 2012 is the most recent Broncos running back to be picked.

Boise State will face Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl on December 31.

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Oklahoma State AD wants to schedule Oregon and UNC

Mike Holder

Oklahoma State athletics director Mike Holder took note of the way the College Football Playoff selection committee seemed to punish Big 12 champion Baylor for its non-conference scheduling this fall. He wants to make sure that does not affect his Cowboys program in the future, and he is already talking about the possibility of scheduling future games with Oregon.

“I’ve never seen a game in Autzen (Stadium),” Holder said in an interview with The Oklahoman. “I’d love to see that. There’s a lot of those opportunities out there. Need to see some places that are different, rather than Austin, or Norman, or Manhattan, Kansas.”

Holder’s overall point is the entire Big 12 has to schedule tougher non-conference competition. More importantly, the Big 12 needs to win games against other power conference opponents on the schedule. This year the Big 12 failed to score a signature victory. the biggest win in non-conference play may have been TCU’s victory at home against Minnesota. While it may be tough for Holder to ensure Oklahoma State (who opened the season against Florida State) to improve on the non-conference slate in 2015, he knows it will be important for the Big 12 to step things up as a whole in the future.

Holder and his head coach, Mike Gundy, do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to non-conference scheduling.

“My football coach doesn’t want to play anybody any good, definitely, but jiminy Christmas, we looked pretty good against Florida State,” Holder said. “Until we beat OU, that was the highlight of our season.”

It seems everybody would love to take a crack at Oregon, but Holder has a wider scope as well.

“I’d really love to play North Carolina home and home,” Holder mentioned. “Find somebody from the Big Ten or Pac-12 to play us. Maybe even the SEC.”

The Big 12 plays nine conference games and does not currently require its members to schedule another power conference opponent the way the ACC and SEC will be regulating. The lack of a conference championship game may hurt a Big 12 champion in the playoff picture, as seemed to be the case this season, but it is far too early to suggest it is a make-or-break factor. One thing that is somewhat clear is the strength of a team’s non-conference schedule is a factor.

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UCLA’s Mora and Auburn’s Malzahn potential NFL targets?

Jim Mora

The college football world may be on Jim Harbaugh watch to see what happens with his coaching future (NFL or Michigan?), but two other college coaches could be ready to receive some NFL overtures as well.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn are two names of interest according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport suggests the San Francisco 49ers would be a team expected to have an interest in Mora, where he would replace Harbaugh. The 49ers have a knack for plucking coaches from the Pac-12, so perhaps that makes sense. Mora also has NFL coaching experience with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. Mora’s time in the NFL did not end well, but sometimes a return can ay off. Just ask current Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.

Malzahn would be a potential target for the Miami Dolphins, per Rapoport, if the team makes a coaching change. Malzahn has no NFL coaching experience, which can be of some mild concern. But if offensive innovation is the key to winning in the NFL, then perhaps Malzahn would be a good fit if he was interested.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports the 49ers could be expected to let Harbaugh go between 24 and 48 hours following the conclusion of the NFL’s regular season. So the wait may drag on for Michigan fans. If Michigan does not lure Harbaugh to Ann arbor, the coaching carousel in the college ranks could get into fifth gear one last time. Pittsburgh and Colorado State still have to find a head coach too.

Stanford head coach David Shaw will reportedly turn down any NFL offers that may come his way.

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Report: Stanford’s David Shaw will not entertain potential NFL offers

David Shaw

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has remained mostly silent on his potential coaching future despite reports saying his alma mater, Michigan, have gone all in on luring him to Ann Arbor. No matter what happens in the coaching carousel in the NFL, Harbaugh’s successor at Stanford plans on staying put at Stanford.

David Shaw will not listen to any potential NFL coaching offers that may come his way, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN. Schefter says Shaw is committed to coaching in college despite having many tendencies that appear attractive to NFL franchises in need of a new head coach. Shaw is every bit a Stanford guy at this stage in his career, and his desire to stay put has been put on display in recent seasons since taking over for Harbaugh as head coach of the Cardinal.

We should never say “never” when it comes to coaching possibilities, although Shaw’s history with Stanford would suggest he really is loyal to the program. Born in San Diego, Shaw grew up in Michigan before his family moved back to California. Shaw went on to play wide receiver for Dennis Green and Bill Walsh at Stanford. After a few different coaching stops in his coaching career, Shaw returned to Stanford as an assistant coach and later was named the head coach of the program after Harbaugh accepted a job offer from the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.

Michigan would be wise to give a call to Shaw in the event Harbaugh leaves the Wolverines hanging, if they have not already, although Shaw seems very comfortable right where he is with the Cardinal.

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Jimbo Fisher once again asked about Jameis Winston’s NFL future

Jimbo Fisher, Jimbo Fisher

With Florida State’s College Football Playoff semifinal match-up with Oregon looming, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher continues to be faced with questions regarding the playing status of his star quarterback, Jameis Winston. A ruling in Winston’s recent code of conduct hearing is expected before Florida State faces Oregon in the Rose Bowl on January 1, but at this point it appears very likely Winston will be available and eligible to play. even if the ruling from the university serves a punishment to Winston that would prevent him from playing, Winston would be entitled to appeal the decision and remain eligible until the appeal process plays out. The process, if enacted, could take another two to three months.

Bottom line, expect Winston to play against Oregon.

With that said, Fisher is also hounded by questions regarding Winston’s future. Will Winston head to the NFL or return to Florida State for the 2015 season? Depending on whom you ask, Winston is better off in the NFL or another year in Tallahassee. There is no real clear answer to what is best for Winston. Fisher suggests there is much more to the decision to turn pro that needs to be evaluated. Is it an easy decision? Not likely.

“Yeah, was it for Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck? See, everybody assumes you go, but Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning stayed,” Fisher said, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s not just being a top-two pick. It’s about what you want out of life, to me. Is it to get to the NFL and be a top pick or be at the Hall of Fame, or to be a college graduate.”

There have multiple reports in the past suggesting Winston has the intention to return to Florida State to complete his degree before turning pro.

“We all assume that money drives everything, and it’s a very important factor, but at the same time, other people have a lot of value and things that we may not always see that they can do it.”

So, what does Winston value? That’s the big question that only Winston can truly answer.

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Johnny Majors, who once left Pitt for Vols, says Pitt is still a destination job

Johnny Majors

The University of Pittsburgh is in the midst of its fourth head coach search in five years, leaving the question of whether or not Pitt is still home to a destination job in college football to be answered. At least one coaching legend believes it is; Johnny Majors.

“It’s definitely a destination job, and I think it’s a job you can win the championship at, without question,” Majors while being interviewed by MLive.com. “If you have a strong, supportive, loyal president that wants to win at football as well as academics, and a strong A.D. that’s loyal and will support you, you can win championships at a place like Pitt.”

Majors, of course, coached at Pittsburgh two separate times. The first stint came from 1973 through 1976. His second tour of Pittsburgh came two decades later from 1993 through 1996. Majors won a national championship at Pittsburgh in 1976 (Pitt’s last claimed national title), after which he left the program to go closer to home to coach at Tennessee. So you can understand why his comments about Pitt being a destination job may come off a tad ironic.

Majors is not off-target with that last part of the comment though. Any job has the ability to be a long-standing destination job with the proper and supportive leadership in place on multiple levels. Right now Pittsburgh is looking for a permanent athletics director in addition to a head football coach, so there is undoubtedly some stability issues for the program to address. The same holds true at Michigan, with the Wolverines looking for a new AD and reportedly going all in on San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh .

In a way, every coaching job can be a destination job for the right candidate, and Pittsburgh is no different. Simply being in a power conference does not make any job a destination job for most, but it can be the right job for the right guy if the pair can be matched up.

Pittsburgh is looking to replace Paul Chryst, who accepted a head coaching offer from Wisconsin. Whoever becomes Pittsburgh’s next head coach will be the third coach hired to be head coach since the school parted ways with Dave Wannstedt, not including two interim head coaches.

What do you think? Is Pitt a destination job or not?

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Texas A&M brings down west end of Kyle Field

LSU v Texas A&M

Texas A&M took the next step in a massive renovation project on Kyle Field. The entire project is aimed to improve the facilities at Kyle Field and expand seating beyond 100,000 fans. The $450 million project is a two-year process and is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2015 season after getting started last year. Work began immediately following the conclusion of Texas A&M’s 2013 home schedule.

Today called for the tearing down of the west end of the football stadium, which took place this morning.

Texas A&M tore down part of the east side last year as the renovation project got underway. Texas A&M has already installed a new video scoreboard, the largest in college football. The school also approved a $16 million budget to improve other football facilities including locker rooms and training rooms.

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Colorado State University-Pueblo wins first D2 national title

Jarrod Lacey

Saturday may not have been a great day for Colorado State, but another Colorado program achieved the ultimate glory on the field. Colorado State University-Pueblo shutout offensive juggernaut Minnesota State to win the Division 2 national championship. The ThunderWolves scored a 13-0 victory in Kansas City to win the first national championship in program history.

Colorado State-Pueblo scored 10 points in the second quarter, which proved to be more than enough with the way the defense played. Chris Bonner completed a touchdown pass of 18 yards to Paul Browning in the final minute of the first half to put the ThunderWolves up 10-0. Kicker Greg O’Donnell kicked two field goals. The story was the defense though, with Colorado State-Pueblo holding Minnesota State to just four third down conversions out of 16. Defensive end Darius Allen was all over the field to lead the defense. He ended the season with 15.5 sacks

The last time the Division 2 national championship was a shutout was in 1997 when Northern Colorado blew away New Haven, 51-0. Perhaps it is something in the water in Colorado. This was the first time since 1997 played for the Division 2 title. This was also the first appearance in the championship game for Minnesota State. The game was the lowest scoring Division 2 championship game since Brian Kelly‘s Grand Valley State team defeated North Dakota 10-3 in the 2003 championship game. The CSU-Pueblo program was relaunched in 2008 after a period of inactivity from 1985 through 2007. It did not take long to rebuild the program from scratch into a national title program.

Will Colorado State-Pueblo head coach John Wristen be the next coach to make a move up in competition? Wristen is now 68-16 in seven years as head coach with four straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships and playoff appearances. Now with a national championship on his résumé, perhaps Wristen will begin to gain some traction in some coaching carousel news.

Remember that another Division 2 coach from Colorado just got a new opportunity. Colorado School of Mines head coach Bob Stitt was recently named the head coach at Montana. Maybe the state of Colorado is becoming the next fertile ground for rising coaches.

As for that other Colorado State? The Rams went down in flames against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl.

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As BGSU, S. Alabama trade late bowl punches, Falcons left standing

If you like your after-dark football a little dangerous and a lot wild, the Camellia Bowl was served it up just right.

Seemingly in control at halftime, Bowling Green (8-6) watched as South Alabama (6-7), playing in its first-ever bowl game, whittled away at the deficit and actually took the lead late.  However, the Falcons matched the Jaguars’ late-game magic with some of its own, claiming a wild 33-28 win in the inaugural Camellia Bowl.

With 1:20 remaining in the game, a three-yard Terrance Timmons run gave USA its first lead of the game at 27-26.  However, on BGSU’s first play from scrimmage after that go-ahead score, James Knapke hit Roger Lewis on a 78-yard touchdown pass that, after a failed two-point conversion, gave the Falcons a five-point lead with 1:04 remaining.

On the very next play from scrimmage for USA, any hopes of another comeback were immediately thwarted as quarterback Brandon Bridge threw his second interception of the game.  All told, the Jaguars committed four turnovers.

Knapke finished the game with 368 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner.  Suffice to say, he was named as the Camellia Bowl’s most outstanding player.

BGSU and Knapke, though, would’ve saved themselves some angst at the end if they hadn’t botched a possession midway through the fourth quarter.

Up 27-21, BGSU moved the ball to the USA one-yard line thanks to a pass interference penalty in the end zone.  Three straight running plays up the middle gained exactly zero yards.  Instead of going for it on fourth down to essentially put the game out of reach, the Falcons attempted an 18-yard field goal… and promptly missed it.

Another source of angst for the winning squad?  Ronnie Moore, one of BGSU’s starting wide receivers, was ejected for targeting on a punt return early in the third quarter.  At the time of his ejection, Moore had five receptions for 61 yards and his team led 20-7; after that, the Falcons were outscored 21-13 and nearly coughed up the victory.

The game wasn’t without its bizarre moments on the sidelines, either.

Very early in the third quarter, an official was injured by something thrown from the stands as he was running down the sidelines.  In the fourth quarter, USA head coach Joey Jones, a former Alabama football player, sustained an injury to the nose after he was inadvertently kicked by one of his own players who had been tackled out of bounds.  Jones was shown during the broadcast bleeding rather profusely and being tended to by team medical personnel as he continued his coaching duties, with the speculation being that it was broken.

After midnight, and at least as far as college football goes, it doesn’t get much better than MACtion vs. Funbelt.

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Bowling Green in first-half control of bowl rookie South Alabama

MAC Championship - Bowling Green v Northern Illinois

Entering the first-ever Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, both Bowling Green and South Alabama were looking to end losing streaks and build momentum for the 2015 offseason.  Through two quarters of play, the MAC school is well on its way to doing just that.

After jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead through the first half of the first quarter, the Falcons offense slumbered for a bit before reawakening in the second quarter long enough to take a 20-7 lead into halftime on the Jaguars.  In addition to it being the inaugural game for the Montgomery bowl, incidentally, it’s also USA’s first-ever postseason appearance in its third season as an FBS program.

Even given that, and the fact that the game was being played in USA’s home state, the first two quarters were all about BGSU.

James Knapke, who took over as the starting quarterback when Matt Johnson sustained a season-ending injury in the opener, passed for 230 first-half yards and a touchdown.  134 of those yards came in the first half, with 97 of those yards coming on two completions — one being a 44-yard touchdown pass to Roger Lewis that opened the scoring.

The Falcons’ defense, which had struggled during the three-game losing streak to close out the regular season, allowed the Jaguars’ offense to gain just 119 yards.  In its last three games, BGSU had given up nearly 1,500 yards in losses to Northern Illinois, Ball State and Toledo.

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UAB transfers land at Southern Miss, Troy

FBC- UH vs. UAB AP

The exodus of UAB football players continues unabated, with Southern Miss and Troy the latest landing spots for the erstwhile Blazers.

Friday evening, Troy announced that cornerback Lamarcus Farmer has signed a grant-in-aid agreement and will continue his playing career with the Trojans. A day later, kicker Nick Vogel confirmed to the Biloxi Sun-Herald that he has transferred to Southern Miss.

Both players, as has been the case with every other player who’s fled the shuttered UAB program, will be eligibility to play immediately in 2015. Of the two, Farmer comes into his new program with by far the more impressive pedigree.

After starting 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, injuries the past two seasons helped limit the defensive back to just 10 total starts, five each in 2013 and 2014. The 2015 season will serve as Farmer’s final year of eligibility.

“Lamarcus is a veteran player and will come in and compete immediately in our program,” new Troy head coach Neal Brown said in a statement. “What happened at UAB is very unfortunate and we really feel for all of the players and staff who were effected by those events. We’re glad that Lamarcus has decided to join our family and we look forward to having his experience on the field.”

Vogel, meanwhile, did not see any action at UAB as a freshman in 2014. He is, though, expected to compete for kicking duties beginning in spring practice.

“I do believe that I will be able to contribute to the success of the team immediately and look forward to the opportunity to do so,” the kicker, who will have four years of eligibility remaining, told the Sun-Herald.

Oddly enough, and thanks again in part to the demise of UAB football, the two football programs announced Friday afternoon that they have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. Troy will travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Sept. 17, 2016, for the first game of the series, while the Golden Eagles will make the return trip on Sept. 7, 2019.

Troy had scheduled to host UAB in 2015 and travel to Birmingham in 2016.

“I have to give [athletic director] John Hartwell a lot of credit for having a plan in place and locking down this series quickly after the news broke about UAB,” Brown said. “This is going to be an exciting series for our players and for our fans. From a recruiting and fan engagement standpoint, it is very beneficial for us to continue to play games within our geographic footprint.”

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Air Forces bakes Western Michigan for sweet 38-24 Potato Bowl victory

Zach Terrell, Jordan Pierce

Camouflaged in all blue from head to toe and standing on a drenched blue field, Air Force raced past Western Michigan for a 38-24 victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Though Western Michigan trailed from the 10:12 mark of the second quarter on, the game played closer than the final score. Trailing 23-10 entering the fourth quarter, Zach Terrell found Corey Davis for a 35-yard touchdown to pull the Broncos within 23-17 with 13:26 remaining. Western Michigan pushed Air Force 13 yards backward on the ensuing possession, and Daniel Braverman returned Will Conant‘s punt for a touchdown to seemingly give the Broncos a chance to take the lead. But the touchdown was pulled off the board for a block in the back that was ultimately irrelevant to the play (aren’t they all?) but illegal nonetheless. After an incomplete pass and a one-yard loss, Terrell scrambled forward on 3rd-and-11, but fumbled and Air Force’s Dexter Walker returned the loose ball for a 60-yard touchdown.

In a proverbial blink of an eye, a 24-23 lead turned into a 31-17 deficit and Western Michigan was baked, fried and scalloped.

Terrell through four straight incompletions on Western Michigan’s next possession, and Air Force turned a short field into a 38-yard touchdown drive, pushing the lead to 38-17. Terrell hit Davis for a 51-yard touchdown, his third of the day, with 3:16 remaining to provide the final score.

Air Force rushed for 284 yards and four touchdowns, led by Shayne Davern‘s 12 rushes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while college football’s 12th-leading rusher Jarvion Franklin was limited to 26 yards on 12 carries for Western Michigan.

With no help from his banged up running back, Terrell carried the Western Michigan offense as he completed 19-of-38 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 11 times for a team-leading 61 yards. Davis caught eight passes for 176 yards and his trio of scoring strikes.

The win is Air Force’s 11th bowl victory in program history, while Western Michigan falls to 0-6 all-time in bowl games.

Win or lose, both teams represent the best turnaround stories in college football outside of Fort Worth, Texas, for the 2014 season. Air Force turned a 2-10 record a year ago into a 10-3 finish in 2014, while Western Michigan jumped from 1-11 in P.J. Fleck‘s first season to 8-5 in his second campaign.

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Leading receiver returning to UCLA for another season

USC v UCLA

Many FBS teams have to be concerned about losing players to an early jump to the NFL, but UCLA’s not one of them.  Well, at least not as far as one of its top offensive playmakers is concerned they won’t.

With speculation apparently swirling that he was leaving early, Jordan Payton confirmed Saturday that he will be returning to the Bruins for his senior season.  In fact, Payton claimed that leaving early for the NFL was never a part of his thought process when it came to his football future.

I’m coming back,” Payton told reporters after practice. “There were reports saying that I was leaving or something, but I’m coming back. Didn’t really even think about leaving, to be honest with you.”

As Payton isn’t being projected to be selected in the first couple of rounds of the 2015 draft, it’s likely a wise decision.

In 2014, Payton is leading all Bruins receivers with 63 receptions for 896 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season, he was third on the team in receptions (38) and receiving yards (440).

Jim Mora‘s Bruins won’t go completely unscathed on the early-entry front as the head coach confirmed earlier this month that star quarterback Brett Hundley will forego his remaining eligibility and enter the NFL draft.

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Dan Mullen goes yard with staff party sweater choice

Cousin Eddie

Other people can have “A Christmas Story” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” or myriad others when it comes to Christmas movie classics.  For me, it doesn’t get any better this time of the year than “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

For those who haven’t seen it… shame on you; rectify that egregious error and invite the Griswolds into your home this holiday season.

In that vein, the Mississippi State football staff held its Christmas party Saturday night, and Dan Mullen‘s sartorial sweater splendor was, without a doubt, the highlight of the evening.  Well, it was at least the highlight of the evening that was posted to Twitter.

We were all witnesses to this masterpiece of greatness, which may or may not be SFW depending on your place of employment.

Bravo Coach Mullen, and whoever was responsible for that thing of beauty.  Bravo.

And, again, for those unfamiliar with the movie, click HERE for some perspective on Mullen’s choice of attire.  And then go out and watch the entire movie.

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Nick Saban gives impassioned defense for D.J. Pettway’s second chance

Auburn v Alabama Getty Images

In February of 2013, four Alabama football players, including D.J. Pettway, were arrested in connection with a pair of robberies and, following an initial suspension, dismissed from the football program.  Only Pettway, in December of last year, was ultimately permitted to return to the Tide.

The second chance caused enough of a controversy — Pettway had initially been charged with a pair of felonies that involved beating a UA student– the the university took the somewhat unusual step of releasing a statement from the school’s athletic director addressing the reinstatement.

Fast-forward almost exactly a year, and Alabama is one win away from an appearance in the national championship game, and Pettway has played a role in the Tide’s success as a rush defensive end.  Not only that, but Pettway has earned his degree in just three and a half years.  He’s obviously done well with his second chance, regardless of whether some people think he deserved it at the time based on the serious nature of the crime.

It’s those people, though, for whom Nick Saban had some very choice words as he stepped up to the pulpit following Saturday’s practice and delivered a passionate sermon on second chances.  From al.com‘s account of Saban’s speech:

“Where do you want them to be? Guy makes a mistake. Where do you want them to be? You want him to be [on] the street or do you want them to be here graduating?”

He made reference to Muhsin Muhammad, who got in trouble while playing for Saban at Michigan State but turned into a success story after his second chance.

“Everybody in the school, every newspaper guy, everybody was killing [Muhammad] because he got in trouble and they said there’s no way he should be on our team,” Saban said. “I didn’t kick him off the team. I suspended him. I made him do some stuff.”

The receiver enjoyed a 15-year career in the NFL. He created a charity foundation called “The M2 Foundation for Kids.” Saban noted that he has seven children, and his oldest daughter is at Princeton.

“So who was right? I feel strong about this now, really strong, about all the criticism out there of every guy that’s 19 years old that makes a mistake and you all kill them,” Saban said.

“Some people won’t stand up for him. My question to you is, ‘Where do you want him to be?’ You want to condemn him to a life sentence? Or do you want the guy to have his children going to Princeton?”

Regardless of where you stand on football players and second chances, that’s some powerful stuff right there from Coach Saban.

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