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Ohio State signs 24 to National Letters of Intent

Urban Meyer AP

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

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Coach Urban Meyer announced Wednesday a class of 24 prospects, including five already enrolled in school, who have signed national letters of intent to attend The Ohio State University and play football for the Buckeyes. The class, heavy along the defensive line and with significant resources in the defensive backfield and at the offensive skill positions, is among the finest classes in the nation this year.

“Great day,” Meyer said. “I thought it would be a good day, but now I’ll put it in the great category.”

The recruiting class features individuals from 11 different states and includes 13 defensive players, eight offensive players and three “athletes.” A total of 14 recruits are from outside the state of Ohio, including:

– three top performers from Texas – five-star linebacker Mike Mitchell, running back/athlete Dontre Wilson and quarterback J.T. Barrett;
— seven from the southeastern United States, including five-star defensive lineman Joey Bosa from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and five-star safety Vonn Bell from Rossville, Ga.;
— a five-star cornerback from New Jersey (Eli Apple);
— the top player from Missouri (running back Ezekiel Elliott); and
— one of the top tight ends in the country – Marcus Baugh – from Riverside, Calif.

“I’m really pleased with this class,” Meyer said. “Joey Bosa, a big-time defensive lineman from Florida, got us started off when he was the first to FAX his letter of intent in, and then we capped it the way I had hoped we would: by getting a very, very talented and skilled running back out of St. Louis in Ezekiel Elliott.”

Ohio is well represented in this class. In fact, there are 11 outstanding Ohio players, a contingent that includes:

– five-star receiver prospect Jalin Marshall from Middletown;
— four of the top five Ohio prospects, according to ESPN – No. 1 athlete Gareon Conley, No. 2 Marshall, No. 3 cornerback Cam Burrows and No. 5 offensive lineman Evan Lisle; and
— six more players who are ranked between Nos. 12 and 28 in the state: SAF Jayme Thompson, DL Donovan Munger, DL Billy Price, SAF Christopher Worley, DL Tracy Sprinkle and ATH Darron Lee.

Offensive speed is prominent. Marshall, Elliott, Wilson, wide receiver James Clark, from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and wide receiver Corey Smith, from East Mississippi Community College, are all blessed with true speed and all can find the end zone.

The Ohio State secondary returns three starters from the unbeaten, 2012 team – cornerback Bradley Roby and safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant – but it gets a tremendous infusion of freshmen talent as five of the top defensive back prospects in the country are now Buckeyes: Apple, Bell, Cam Burrows, Conley and Thompson.

Ohio State’s defensive line grew by six members today with Bosa, Munger, Price and Sprinkle joined by Michael Hill, from Pendleton, S.C., and who had scholarship offers from all the top Southeastern Conference schools, and Tarboro, N.C. end Tyquan Lewis.

Lawrenceville, Georgia prospect Trey Johnson, the No. 3 inside linebacker prospect in the nation according to two services, gives Ohio State an outstanding linebacker tandem (with Mitchell) in this class.

Indianapolis’ offensive lineman Tim Gardner joins Lisle as the only players at their position among the class.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 24 members of Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Eli Apple
Cornerback / 6-0, 184
Voorhees, N.J./Eastern High School
Overview: Eli Apple, who enrolled into Ohio State in January, is a five-star prospect (ESPN 150) who is rated as high as the No. 11 prospect nationally on the ESPN 150 … the No. 1 prospect in New Jersey and No. 6 cornerback prospect (247Sports) … he played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl after helping his Eastern High School team, coached by Dan Spittal, to a 7-4 record in 2012 and to a regional semifinals berth … had 17 pass break-ups, two interceptions, 45 tackles, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick in 2012, plus 39 receptions for 770 yards and four touchdowns on offense … was the fourth in this class to commit (on Feb. 16, 2012) … the son of Annie and Tim Apple, Eli recently changed his last name from Woodard to Apple to honor Tim, his father since age 2 … “…I am the man I am today because of his tireless love, and commitment to our family,” Eli said in a statement. “So it is with great pride and honor to carry his last name. I am truly blessed to be Eli Apple.” … his family includes a younger sister, Jordan.

J.T. Barrett
Quarterback / 6-1, 225
Wichita Falls, Texas / Rider High School
Overview: John Thomas (J.T.) Barrett is considered one of the nation’s premier dual threat quarterbacks, although his senior season came to an early end with a knee injury in the fifth game of the season … rated as the No. 11 prospect in talent-rich Texas (247Sports) and a consensus four-star cornerback (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports) … a top 150 player by both Scout and 247Sports and on the ESPN 300 … enrolled at Ohio State in January and is recovering from his 2012 knee surgery and taking part in winter conditioning drills, except for the running … coaches expect him to be throwing this spring but aren’t concerned that he won’t be running until later … Barrett can run, though: he had rushed for 569 yards with seven touchdowns and passed for 784 yards and five scores as a senior prior to the injury … he rushed for over 1,500 yards with nine touchdowns and passed for over 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns for coach Jim Garfield’s Raiders as a junior … he is the son of Stacy and John Barrett and he has two brothers: Xavier and Stephen.

Marcus Baugh
Tight End / 6-4, 245
Riverside, Calif. / John W. North
Overview: Marcus Baugh is a consensus four-star prospect (ESPN, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports) and a Top 150 player overall, including a No. 73 ranking on the final Scout 100, a No. 102 ranking on the ESPN 150 and a 148 ranking on the final Rivals 250 … considered among the Top 3 tight ends in this recruiting class (Scout and 247Sports) … played in the 2013 Under Armour All-American game … Marcus caught a combined 68 passes for 1,138 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior and senior for John W. North High School and coach Mark Parades … his senior season included 38 receptions for 610 yards and he was named second-team Division II all-state … as a junior he caught 30 passes for 528 yards and seven touchdowns … was also used as a wide receiver, running back and linebacker by Parades in 2012 … has family in the Central Ohio area as an aunt lives in Reynoldsburg (Mom, Debbie Clausen’s, twin sister) and he has a cousin who already attends Ohio State.

Vonn Bell
Safety / 6-1, 190
Rossville, Ga. / Ridgeland
Overview: The exclamation point on this Class of 2013, Under Armour All-American Vonn Bell announced on National Letter of Intent signing day that he would be a Buckeye … a five-star prospect by Rivals, Scout and 247Sports, Bell is a one of the top 30 players in the nation with overall rankings of No. 25 by Scout, No. 29 by 247Sports and No. 32 by Rivals … is No. 50 on the ESPN 150 … the No. 4 player in the state of Georgia this season, Bell is also ranked as high as the No. 3 safety prospect nationally by Scout … helped his Ridgeland team, coached by Mark Mariakis, to a 13-2 record and a runner-up finish in the Georgia Class AAAA state championships … Bell had 146 tackles and three interceptions as a senior, and on offense he had over 1,700 all-purpose yards and scored 21 touchdowns … helped Ridgeland to the state Sweet 16 in 2011 as a junior with 119 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles … is the son of Vanessa and Vencent Bell.

Joey Bosa
Defensive Lineman / 6-5, 270
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / St. Thomas Aquinas
Overview: Joey Bosa is one of the premier football prospects in the Class of 2013 with impressive national rankings of No. 38 (Scout), No. 47 (Rivals), No. 56 (ESPN) and No. 53 (247Sports) … a Scout five-start prospect, Bosa earned the No. 4 overall ranking at his position – strong side defensive end – by both Scout and Rivals … an Under Armour All-American and second-team all-USA Today pick … the leader of a St. Thomas Aquinas defense that allowed approximately 12 points a game … Aquinas defeated Tallahassee Lincoln, 41-25, to cap a 13-2 season and win the Florida Class 7A state championship in 2012, the school’s seventh state title and first for second-year coach Rocco Casullo … a two-time Associated Press first-team all-state selection, Bosa totaled 51 tackles-for-loss in his last two seasons and 19 quarterback sacks, including 27 TFLs and 9.5 sacks as a senior … father, John, was a first-round NFL Draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in 1987 out of Boston College and played three years in the league … Mom, Cheryl, is an Ohio State graduate and an uncle, Eric Kumerow, was a star linebacker for the Buckeyes between 1984-87 and a 1987 co-captain.

Cam Burrows
Cornerback / 5-11, 200
Trotwood, Ohio / Trotwood Madison High School
Overview: Cameron Burrows was Ohio State’s first commitment to the 2013 class when he announced in January 2012 that he would be a Buckeye … he was also among the first to arrive at Ohio State, as he was one of five Class of 2013 recruits to enroll in school in January … a first-team Associated Press all-state selection as a junior and senior, Burrows helped lead Trotwood Madison to three consecutive Division II state championship games, including an unbeaten, 15-0 state-title winning season in 2011 … had 14 pass break-ups as a senior for coach Maurice Douglass’ 12-3 state finalist team and also had 39 tackles … a consensus four-star cornerback (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports) who was the No. 38 prospect nationally (Rivals), an ESPN 150 performer (No. 62) and the No. 2 senior in Ohio (ESPN) … played in the 2013 Under Armour All-American game … a two-time state track finalist in the sprint relays … the first from his high school to sign with Ohio State since Will Allen (Class of 2000), who committed while at Trotwood Madison before transferring to Huber Heights Wayne for his senior year … Burrows is the son of Dionne and Andre Burrows … his brother, Chris, is a senior track and field performer for Arizona State University.

James Clark
Wide Receiver / 5-11, 170
New Smyrna Beach, Fla. / New Smyrna Beach
Overview: James Clark was one of the last in this class to commit and ultimately sign an NLI with Ohio State, doing so today – Feb. 6 – the first day for prospects to sign their national letters of intent … Clark was a first-team Florida 6A all-state pick by The Miami Herald as a senior when he led New Smyrna Beach into the state playoffs … he totaled 87 receptions for 1,954 yards and 29 total touchdowns for his career, playing for coach Lance Jenkins … had 49 receptions for 1,112 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior … had 28 catches for 576 yards as a junior … outstanding as well in track, Clark has a 100-meter dash best of 10.71 … he placed fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 at the 2012 Florida outdoor state track championships … the son of Jesse Clark.

Gareon Conley
Athlete / 6-2, 170
Massillon, Ohio / Washington
Overview: The No. 1 player in Ohio as a senior (ESPN 150) and a first-team Associated Press Division I all-state selection, Gareon Conley is an athlete with wide receiver-cornerback skills that earned him consensus four-star status (ESPN, Scout, 247Sports, Rivals) … the No. 43 overall prospect nationally by ESPN and the No. 14 cornerback prospect (247Sports) … played in the Under Armour All-American game … as a senior Conley, who was coached by Jason Hall at Washington, caught 50 passes, averaged 21.9 yards per catch and scored 16 touchdowns while on defense he had 13 pass break-ups, an interception and 25 tackles … Washington was 11-2 during Conley’s senior season and advanced to the regional finals … recorded four interceptions and 30 tackles as a junior … Washington is also the same school that produced current Buckeye receiver Devin Smith … Gareon is the son of Sherry Robinson and
Jameel & Angel Conley.

Ezekiel Elliott
Running Back / 6-0, 210
St. Louis, Mo. / John Burroughs High School
Overview: Ezekiel Elliott is a consensus four-star prospect (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports) and one of the Top 100 prospects nationally with overall rankings of No. 47 by Scout, No. 70 by 247Sports, No. 84 by Rivals and No. 109 by ESPN … also ranked fourth, ninth, 11th and 12th among running backs by 247Sports, Scout, ESPN and Rivals, respectively … named to the U.S. Army All-American game … the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offensive player of the year in 2012, Elliott put up tremendous statistics with 3,061 all-purpose yards and 50 touchdowns, including 2,155 rush yards, and 40 rushing touchdowns for the 13-1 Class 3 state runner-up … also had 16 receptions for 383 yards … rushed for 1,802 yards and 34 touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 401 yards and six touchdowns as a junior … Burroughs, coached by Gus Frerotte, has been state runner-up three consecutive years … Ezekiel’s father, Stacy, and mother, Dawn, were each student-athletes at and are graduates of Missouri with Stacy a football player and Dawn a member of the track and field team.

Tim Gardner
Offensive Lineman / 6-5, 320
Indianapolis, Ind. / Lawrence Central High School Overview: Tim Gardner was a 2012 Associated Press first-team all-state performer for Lawrence Central, the Indiana Class 5A state champion, and he was also named to the Indiana Football Coaches Association’s Top 50 all-state team … he was considered the top offensive lineman in the state by the Indianapolis Star and he was also named to that publication’s “Super Team” … Gardner helped his undefeated (15-0) Bears team, coached by Jayson West, average 328.5 rushing yards and 38.5 points per game in 2012 … was rated as the No. 5 prospect in Indiana as a senior and the No. 24 offensive tackle prospect by 247Sports … a three-year starter, he also helped Central to the 2010 Class 5A state final before losing to Fishers … joins Centerville, Ohio’s Evan Lisle as the only offensive linemen in the Ohio State Class of 2013.

Michael Hill
Defensive Lineman / 6-2, 305
Pendleton, S.C. / Pendleton High School
Overview: U.S. Army All-America Bowl invitee Michael Hill announced in June 2012 that he was committing to Ohio State, the school that has been his favorite since he was a youngster … a consensus four-star prospect by (ESPN, 247Sports, Scout, Rivals) and one of the Top 20 defensive tackles in the nation by Scout (No. 16) … listed on the ESPN 300 (216) … named to the South Carolina Shrine Bowl this year and the No. 6 player in the state by 247Sports, Hill had an unfortunate end to his senior season, injuring a hand in the eighth game that caused him to miss the remainder of the season and all post-season all-star games … Pendleton finished 8-4 on the year … Hill was dominant as a junior playing in the middle of Pendleton’s line for coach Paul Sutherland … he recorded 25 tackles-for-losses and 81 total tackles despite persistent double-teams against him … he also had six sacks as a junior and had four as a senior before his injury … he is the son of Dianne Blount and Michael Hill, Sr.

Trey Johnson
LB / 6-2, 220
Lawrenceville, Ga. / Central Gwinnett
Overview: Trey Johnson committed to attend Ohio State Jan. 4 on national television while playing at the Under Armour All-American Bowl … a consensus four-star prospect (ESPN, Scout, Rivals and 247Sports) and one of the top senior prospects in the talent-rich state of Georgia, Johnson is rated as high as the No. 3 inside linebacker prospect in the nation (Rivals and 247Sports) and he is the No. 48 overall player on the ESPN 150 … Scout listed him as the No. 16 outside linebacker … Johnson recorded 456 career tackles for Central Gwinnett and was coached by Todd Wofford … as a senior he had 140 tackles and four sacks and as a junior he had 164 tackles, including 25 tackles-for-loss … named first-team allstate by the AtlantaJournal-Constitution as a senior and second-team 6A all-state by the Georgia Sportswriters Association … is the son of Wilbur and Shellie Johnson.

Darron Lee
Athlete / 6-2, 205
New Albany, Ohio / New Albany
Overview: Local prospect Darron Lee is fine athlete who played quarterback, wide receiver, safety and returned punts and kickoffs as a junior for the New Albany Eagles and he played primarily in the secondary and at quarterback as a senior … Lee was named a first-team Associated Press Division II allstate cornerback as a senior after recording five interceptions with three punt return touchdowns, and accounting for over 1,700 yards of offense and 21 touchdowns … he helped New Albany, coached by Mark Mueller, advance to the Division II state semifinals and to a 11-3 overall record as a senior … Lee did it all in a third-round win over Marion-Franklin, throwing for two touchdowns, rushing for a 36-yard score, returning a punt 82 yards for a touchdown and making the game-clinching interception in the final minute … team was 9-3 and a state qualifier in 2011 … Lee is considered a four-star prospect (Scout) and the No. 29 safety prospect by Scout … ESPN ranks him the No. 28 prospect overall in the state of Ohio … originally from Chattanooga, Tenn., Lee moved to Ohio as an eighth grader … Mom, Candice, is a news anchor for WCMH Ch. 4, the local NBC affiliate.

Tyquan Lewis
Defensive End / 6-3, 223
Tarboro, N.C. / Tarboro High School
Overview: Tyquan Lewis, one of five from this class who enrolled at Ohio State in January, is a four-star defensive end prospect (Rivals, Scout, 247Sports) from Tarboro, N.C., and Tarboro High School … a Top 25 defensive end who comes from a tremendous program at Tarboro … the Vikings, coached by Jeff Craddock, won three consecutive North Carolina Class 2A state championships and had won 21 consecutive games before falling in the 2012 state championship to East Lincoln … Lewis was injured in the title game but still played and earned defensive player of the game honors … he finished his senior season with 13 sacks and was named to the Associated Press all-state team … he had 12 sacks among his 63 tackles as a junior … is the son of Tyronda Whitaker, and a proud big brother to three younger brothers: Kenai, Tylie and Christian. Note: Tyquan is pronounced TIE-kwan)

Evan Lisle
Offensive Lineman / 6-6, 290
Centerville, Ohio / Centerville
Overview: Evan Lisle was one of the first five prospects to commit to this Ohio State class, doing so on Feb. 28, 2012 … he is a member of the ESPN 150 (No. 106) and is rated by ESPN as a Top 5 player in Ohio by ESPN, Scout and 247Sports … also regarded as the top offensive lineman in the state and a Top 10 prospect nationally by Scout, Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN … he is a consensus four-star player (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports) and a special mention Associated Press Division I all-state honoree in 2012 … only Ohioan named to the 2012 USA Today All-America team … played for coach Ron Ullery at Centerville, which went 6-4 in 2012 … selected for the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, something he referred to as an honor for the family … father, Steve, went to West Point and brother, Nick, is in the Army … Mom’s name is Marcy … Centerville also produced former Buckeyes A.J. Hawk, Mike Nugent and Kirk Herbstreit. Note: Lisle is pronounced LYLE

Jalin Marshall
Wide Receiver / 6-0, 190
Middletown, Ohio / Middletown
Overview: Jalin Marshall was considered the No. 1 prospect in Ohio by 247Sports and the No. 2 prospect as a senior by ESPN and Rivals … he was the second to commit to Ohio State in this Class of 2013, announcing his decision in late January 2012 … a skilled quarterback who rushed for a school-record 4,759 yards during his career, including more than 1,400 yards as a senior with 14 touchdowns scored, Marshall is being looked at as a wide receiver for the Buckeyes … a five-star prospect by Scout, he played receiver in the 2013 Under Armour All-America game and had a 44-yard reception … as a quarterback, he passed for 2,240 yards as a senior … also totaled 4,929 all-purpose yards for coach Troy Everhart during his career and scored 52 rushing touchdowns and 54 total touchdowns (two receiving) … one of the Top 50 prospects in the nation (ESPN, Rivals, Scout) … had a 56-yard touchdown rush on his first varsity carry as a freshman, and rushed for a career-high 312 yards as a senior vs. state champion Cincinnati Moeller … led Middletown to its first Greater Miami Conference championship in more than 20 years in 2010 … 2012 state Division I long jump champ (23.00) … the son of Richard and Angel Marshall … has older brothers (Richard Jr. and DeAnte), an older sister (Monae) and a younger brother (Blake).

Mike Mitchell
Linebacker / 6-4, 225
Plano, Texas / Prestonwood Christian
Overview: Highly regarded Mike Mitchell is one of only two middle linebackers nationally to receive a five-star rating by Scout … also a five-star prospect by Rivals … Scout’s No. 2 middle linebacker announced Jan. 5 on national TV, and while playing in the U.S. Army All-American game, that he would be attending Ohio State … the No. 10 overall player in the state of Texas, Mitchell is rated as high as the No. 26 overall prospect (Rivals) and No. 28 by Scout … also a member of the ESPN 150 (No. 128) … grew up in Winter Park, Fla., but spent final three years in Texas … played for Prestonwood Christian as a sophomore and senior, and for Plano West as a junior … he recorded 151 tackles and 11 sacks as a junior and then totaled 186 tackles, 32 tackles-for-loss (11 of them sacks), seven forced fumbles and even returned a kickoff for a touchdown as a senior playing for coach Chris Cunningham … Mike is the son of Ken and Candy Mitchell … father played two seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.

Donovan Munger
Defensive Lineman / 6-4, 290
Shaker Heights, Ohio / Shaker Heights
Overview: Consensus four-star prospect (Rivals, Scout) Donovan Munger was a two-way lineman for coach Jarvis Gibson at Shaker Heights High School and was recruited by the Buckeye coaches to play along the defensive line … called “quick, fast, strong and a mammoth of a man” by Gibson, Munger is considered among the Top 25 tackles (Scout, 247Sports, ESPN) nationally with a No. 18 ranking by 247Sports his highest … he helped Shaker Heights to a six-win improvement from 2011 to 2012 – the team went 8-2 this season – by recording 70 tackles, including 14 tackles-for-loss with six quarterback sacks and 23 pressures … Munger also had 34 pancake blocks on offense … named second-team Associated Press Division I all-state in 2012 … …is the son of Deidra Sanders … Donovan joins Shaker Heights graduate and current junior offensive lineman Antonio Underwood on the Ohio State team.

Billy Price
Defensive Lineman / 6-4, 305
Austintown, Ohio / Fitch
Overview: Billy Price was the Associated Press’s 2012 Division I co-defensive player of the year in the state of Ohio (along with Gareon Conley and Tracy Sprinkle) and a first-team all-state pick … a consensus four-star prospect (ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports, Scout) … rated among the top 200 players in the Rivals 250 and a member of the ESPN 300, Price was the third Buckeye to commit to the Class of 2013 with his decision coming Feb. 13, 2012 … rated as the No. 17 defensive tackle nationally by 247Sports and No. 21 by Scout … helped Fitch to a 9-2 record in 2012 and to the state playoffs … also helped Fitch to the state playoffs in 2010 with a 10-2 record and again in 2011 … was named first-team all-state as a junior when he recorded 40 tackles with three sacks, 10 TFLs and an interception … coached by Phil Annarella … placed seventh in the discus at the 2012 Ohio outdoor state track and field meet after placing sixth in the shot and second in the weight throw indoors … is the son of Bill Price and Pam & Dave Lescsak.

Corey Smith
Wide Receiver / 6-1, 190
Akron, Ohio / East Mississippi C.C.
Overview: Corey Smith is the first junior college prospect to sign with Ohio State since Larry Grant (a member of the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl team) signed out of Community College of San Francisco in 2006 … Smith, from Akron Buchtel High School, played on an unbeaten (10-0) Grand Rapids (Mich.) C.C. team in 2011 before the college discontinued the program after 80 years … Smith had 28 receptions for 438 yards and two touchdowns for Grand Rapids … played for Buddy Stephens at East Mississippi C.C., located in Scooba, Miss., in 2012 … he recorded 51 receptions for 733 yards and nine touchdowns for the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges’ north division champion … caught 11 passes for 113 yards vs. Northwest C.C. and seven passes for 158 yards vs. Southwest C.C. … his team won first eight games before dropping final two games of the season … named the No. 9 junior college prospect in the nation by 247Sports and the No. 3 receiver … Smith will have three seasons to complete two years of athletic eligibility at Ohio State … he is the son of Erika Smith.

Tracy Sprinkle
Defensive End / 6-2, 241
Elyria, Ohio / Elyria High School
Overview: The 2012 Associated Press first-team all-Ohio selection and Division I co-defensive player of the year, Tracy Sprinkle recorded 19 sacks and 30 total tackles-for-loss among his 103 tackles as a senior … dominant games included five sacks against Amherst Steele and four sacks (and 12 tackles) against Hudson … the first defensive player since Matt Wilhelm in 1999 to win the prestigious Lorain County Golden Helmet award as the best player in the county … also was named the Northeast Ohio All-Lake District Defensive Player of the Year as a senior … Elyria, coached by Kevin Fell, was 7-3 in both 2012 and 2011 … Sprinkle, a Top 30 strong side defensive end by 247Sports, had 27 sacks his final two seasons of play … he was a third-team all-state pick as a junior after making 94 tackles and eight sacks … Elyria High’s Chase Farris is a third-year sophomore offensive lineman at Ohio State … Sprinkle, who enrolled at Ohio State in January, is the son of Tracie Sprinkle and Percy Hicks.

Jayme Thompson
Safety / 6-2, 185
Toledo, Ohio / Central Catholic
Overview: Jayme Thompson is a consensus four-star prospect (ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports) and among the top 250 prospects in the nation (No. 204 on the Rivals 250 and No. 218 on the ESPN 300) … considered the top safety in Ohio (ESPN) and the No. 12 prospect in the state … played in the AllAmerican bowl Dec. 27 inHouston … helped lead his Central Catholic Fighting Irish, coached by Greg Dempsey, to the 2012 Division II state title and a 14-1 record … Central, also the high school of former Buckeye Dane Sanzenbacher, defeated defending state champion Trotwood-Madison, 16-14, in the title game for the second state title in school history (2005) … Thompson was an Associated Press all-state pick as a senior when he had 48 tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries … he also helped Central to the state playoffs in 2011 and was a second-team AP all-Ohio pick … played at St. Francis DeSales in Toledo prior to attending Central Catholic as a junior and senior … moved to Toledo from Washington, D.C. … is the son of Deon Thompson … practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Dontre Wilson
Running Back / 5-10, 174
DeSoto, Texas / DeSoto
Overview: Dontre Wilson announced Feb. 4 live on Dallas’ KDFW TV4 that he would accept his Ohio State scholarship offer and become a Buckeye … his choice gives the Buckeyes three players – QB J.T. Barrett (Wichita Falls) and LB Mike Mitchell (Plano) – from the state of Texas in this recruiting class … Wilson is the No. 5 player in Texas and considered one of the Top 100 players in the nation and a consensus four-star prospect (ESPN, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports) … rated as the No. 5 all-purpose back by Rivals … ranked overall as high as No. 50 and the nation’s No. 10 running back by Scout) … also rated No. 55 on the ESPN 150 and No. 100 on the Rivals 250 … led DeSoto, coached by Claude Mathis, to the Texas Class 5A Division I state semifinals as a senior by rushing for 1,895 yards and 37 touchdowns and catching 37 passes for 750 yards and nine scores … DeSoto finished 14-1 on the season … Wilson finished his high school career with over 3,200 rushing yards, 1,200 receiving yards and 81 touchdowns … the son of Don Wilson.

Christopher Worley
Safety / 6-3, 195
Cleveland, Ohio / Glenville
Overview: Christopher Worley was one of the final prospects in this Class of 2013 to commit to attending Ohio State, doing so on Jan. 11 … a special mention Associated Press all-state pick as a senior, Worley led Glenville, coached by Ted Ginn, to an 8-2 record this season by recording 89 tackles with nine sacks, five interception returns for touchdowns and five forced fumbles … for his career he had 161 tackles, 13 sacks, eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles … a Top 25 senior prospect in Ohio (No. 20 by 247Sports and No. 25 by ESPN) … Worley extends a streak of Glenville Tarblooders signing NLIs with Ohio State to 12 consecutive years … 19 Tarblooders have become Buckeyes since 2002, including four current members of the team – Marcus Hall, Christian Bryant, Cardale Jones and Devan Bogard – and past greats like Super Bowl players Donte Whitner and Ted Ginn (San Francisco 49ers) and 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith … Christopher is the son of Michelle Bandy and Chris Worley, Sr.

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A&M drops Ducks, adds future Clemson series

12th Man AP

The scheduling gods taketh… and then they giveth right back.

Thursday, Twitter was all, well, atwitter when it was reported that Texas A&M had backed out of its home-and-home series with Oregon that had been scheduled for 2018 and 2019. “Typical SEC school, ducking tough non-conference games,” some derisively said, never mind the fact that A&M already has Notre Dame, Clemson, UCLA and Arizona State on its future slates.

A short time later, however, both A&M and Clemson announced that they had agreed to a future series, with the Tigers replacing the Ducks in 2018 and 2019. Clemson will travel to Kyle Field on September 8, 2018, while TAMU will head to Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2019.

“We are excited to play the Clemson Tigers, who have been on Texas A&M’s non-conference schedule previously, A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said in a statement. “As a fellow land-grant institution, Clemson is very similar to Texas A&M with a great football tradition and passionate fans. This will be a great non-conference series for both schools.”

According to FOXSports.com, Hyman “exercised a clause from the contract A&M and the Ducks… that said they could get out deal if A&M changed conferences.” The original series between A&M and UO was agreed to in 2009, prior to the Aggies’ departure from the Big 12 for the SEC.

Hyman further explained that the reason for dumping Oregon came down to simple math as it relates to home dates in 2018 and 2019.

“Our goal is to play seven home games at Kyle Field each season,” the release quoted Hyman as saying. “Playing at Oregon in 2018, combined with the Arkansas game in Arlington, would leave us with only six home games that season. In even-numbered years such as 2018, we only have three SEC home dates as long as we continue to play Arkansas in Arlington.”

And, for those who are wondering, this is not a case of UO being hard to deal with either.  Also from the release:

Texas A&M offered to switch the home-and-home dates with Oregon on the original contract, but Oregon faces the same situation with only four Pac-12 home games in even years with five on the road.

Clemson and A&M have met four times previously, with the last coming in 2005. The Aggies own a 3-1 edge in the series.

“We are looking forward to playing Texas A&M as the two schools share a rich military heritage and of course passionate fan bases,” Hyman’s Clemson counterpart, Dan Radakovich, said. “We know our fans make Clemson a great game day experience and the Aggie fans make Kyle field also one of the great venues in all of college football.”

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Ground and pound: Hurricanes establish identity during 30-6 victory over Hokies

Al Golden, Duke Johnson

The Miami Hurricanes made a statement Thursday against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

While the program may never return to the winning ways it once experienced while Al Golden is at the helm, the program finally gravitated toward an identity that’s long been forgotten. The vaunted Miami teams from the 1980’s and the early 2000’s used to physically dominate opponents. They did that Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Miami (5-2) captured a dominant 30-6 victory over Virginia Tech (4-4).

When Golden was the head coach of Temple from 2006-10, the Owls climbed their way out of football purgatory by running the football effectively week in and week out. The talent level at Miami supersedes anything Golden had at Temple, but the team’s approach against the Hokies was reminiscent of those Owls.

There was nothing fancy about what Miami did to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes lined up and jammed the ball down the Hokies’ collective throat. Two running backs combined to run for an impressive 364 yards.

Junior running back Duke Johnson ran like a man possessed. Johnson set a career high with 249 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Sophomore Gus Edwards took over in the second half and managed 115 yards.

The Hurricanes were so dominant in the trenches, freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya was only asked to throw the ball 16 teams. He completed seven of those passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Plus, Miami played well on the defensive side of the football.

The Hurricanes shut out the Hokies through the first half of play, before Virginia Tech decided to ride freshman running back Marshawn Williams. Willams carried the ball 21 times for 100 yards. The young back also fumbled twice.

With the ACC Coastal division being wide open, the Hurricanes may have found its identity at the right time. At 2-2 in the division, Miami is now a half game behind the Duke Blue Devils going into this weekend’s games. But Miami holds the head-to-head edge.

If Miami plans to make a run in their division, its ball-control offense will be needed over the next two weeks against the North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 2 Florida State Seminoles.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates may stumble in polls despite 31-21 victory over UConn

Ruffin Mc Neill

The No. 18 East Carolina Pirates secured a 31-21 victory over the Connecticut Huskies Thursday. But was it enough for the Pirates to remain the top non-Power Five program and the favorite to claim an appearance in a contract bowl?

Sometimes a win can be viewed as a loss.

The Pirates struggled against a Huskies squad that entered the game 1-5 and didn’t have a victory against a single FBS opponent this season. It wasn’t until six minutes left in the game that East Carolina finally pulled away from UConn.

When a non-power conference team trying to impress the College Football Playoff gets an opportunity to add style points to their resume on national television, it has to do so. East Carolina didn’t.

The Pirates moved the ball and racked up 580 total yards, but they weren’t able to complete drives most of the evening. UConn employed a bend-but-don’t-break, and the scheme worked.

If East Carolina isn’t putting up big scoring and yardage numbers, the team is nowhere near as impressive.

East Carolina’s primary competition as the top non-Power Five program is the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. The Thundering Herd’s underwhelming schedule has prevented them from legitimately entering the national conversation. Yet, Marshall’s schedule doesn’t feature a team ranked lower than Connecticut.

Despite the lackluster effort, East Carolina did win the game. Ruffin McNeill‘s squad overcame adversity and was able to win a close contest even though everything didn’t go in their favor. The program still holds victories over the Virginia Tech Hokies and the No. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels.

Plus, very few teams feature a dynamic duo like quarterback Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Carden was 38-of-64 passing Thursday for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hardy, meanwhile, grabbed 14 passes for 186 yards. The impressive effort moved Hardy into second place among the FBS’ all-time receptions list.

The Huskies deserve some credit for knocking down the Pirates a notch. First-year head coach Bob Diaco has his team playing hard, and they seem to be figuring some things out. The defense plays sound football, while the offense was finally able to move the ball in stretches against East Carolina.

In the end, East Carolina is still the top non-Power Five program in college football, but the margin between the top team and the second team is much closer after Thursday night’s effort.

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Miami RB Duke Johnson explodes as Miami leads Virginia Tech 24-0 at halftime

Brad Kaaya, Duke Johnson

Welcome to the Duke Johnson show.

The Virginia Tech Hokies simply had no answer for Miami’s running back. Johnson accumulated 185 total yards through two quarters of play as the Hurricanes lead the Hokies 24-0 at halftime.

Miami came into Thursday night’s contest with the intention of establishing the run game, and Al Golden‘s squad did so in spectacular fashion.

As the Hurricanes dominated an undersized Virginia Tech defensive front, Johnson continued to churn out yardage. The junior running back accumulated 148 rushing yards on 19 carries.

The dagger at the end of the first half also came from the running back.

Already leading 17-0, Miami drove the ball to Virginia Tech’s 22-yard line with the clocking ticking within 15 seconds remaining before the horn for halftime blew. With the clock still running, the Hurricanes snapped the ball and freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya found Johnson open out of the backfield for his second touchdown in the half.

While the Hurricanes’ offense running all over the Hokies, Miami’s defense completely shut down the Hokies’ rushing attack. Virginia Tech ran the ball eight times for minus-13 yards.

Because of the Hokies’ inept running game, quarterback Michael Brewer suffered. When forced to throw, Brewer couldn’t step up and make a play. Virginia Tech’s signal-caller finished the half 7-of-12 passing for 49 yards.

The Hokies should expect the same approach from the Hurricanes in the second half. Golden may decide to lighten Johnson’s load (after he establishes a new career high), but Virginia Tech will then get a steady dose of sophomore Gus Edwards.

If Frank Beamer‘s squad has any chance of coming back in tonight’s game, Brewer must take his game to another level. That may be asking too much of the junior quarterback.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates lead UConn 14-7 as Carden, Hardy post memorable halves

Shane Carden

The first half of Thursday’s meeting with the Connecticut Huskies had it all for East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.

Carden already threw the ball 39 times as the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates built a 14-7 over the Huskies at halftime. Carden is well on his way to eclipsing his season high of 48 passes.

The quarterback also doubled his season total for interceptions by throwing an ill-advised pass into the end zone. UConn senior cornerback Byron Jones came down with the ball.

The senior signal-caller also threw a pair of touchdowns. The first of which was a highlight reel reception by senior wide receiver Justin Hardy. Hardy dove in the end zone and bobbled the ball before he finally came down with the 13-yard touchdown reception (see: below).

The catch wasn’t Hardy’s only memorable moment of the evening. The prolific pass-catcher also climbed another rung on NCAA’s all time receptions ladder. Hardy became the NCAA’s third all-time leader in receptions during the first half. The talented wide receiver already made six receptions for 90 yards.

While the Pirates continued to throw the ball over the field, the Huskies prevented the big play. Despite surrendering 302 yards of total offense through two quarters, Connecticut is within striking distance due to Easter Carolina’s miscues.

Connecticut has been able to throw the ball better than expected. Senior quarterback Chandler Whitmer is 7-of-10 passing for 96 yards. But the Huskies stalled on offense numerous times due to penalties and an inability to run the ball.

For the Huskies to remain in the game, they’ll need to shorten the second half. Carden can’t be allowed to throw the ball 25 times in one quarter like he did in the opening frame. A commitment to the running game will help keep the Pirates offense off the field, while the Huskies try to to muster enough offense to garner their first win over an FBS opponent this season.

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Marshall hires PR firm to help with possible College Football Playoff berth

Marshall v Florida International Getty Images

A year ago, the Marshall Thundering Herd would be known as a “BCS Buster.” Instead, Doc Holliday‘s squad is attempting to be this year’s dark horse choice to become one of four teams invited to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Thundering Herd (7-0) is one of three undefeated teams, and the program is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. With only five games left on the regular season schedule, Marshall has plenty to overcome to be named one of college football’s Top 4 teams.

But the university and Conference USA won’t go down without a fight.

“Marshall University and Conference USA have hired an LA-based public relations firm to assist with their case to be selected to the first College Football Playoff,” Tess Quinlan of USA TODAY Sports reported.

“Brener Zwikel & Associates, which counts the Rose Bowl, Los Angeles Dodgers and Speedo as clients, sent out a release Thursday highlighting the Thundering Herd’s undefeated record, standing in the Amway Coaches Poll and their non-Power Five conference affiliation.”

The Thundering Herd’s schedule is expected to hold the program back despite a potential undefeated campaign. Marshall won’t face a single ranked opponent this season and their biggest win could eventually come in the Conference USA Championship Game.

However, the school features one of college football’s most exciting offenses and an electric quarterback.

Marshall’s offense is ranked second overall behind the Baylor Bears. The Bears only average 4.1 more yards per game than the Thundering Herd. And senior quarterback Rakeem Cato accumulated 2,135 total yards and 24 total touchdowns through seven games.

While it’s unlikely a strong public relations effort will be enough to push the Thundering Herd into this year’s College Football Playoff, the hire won’t be for naught. Marshall still trails the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates as the top program not affiliated with a Power Five conference. The highest-rated team outside of the Power Five automatically receives a bid to one of the remaining contract bowls.

Marshall’s ability to pass East Carolina in the rankings is far more important and achievable than chasing a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Report: Syracuse football is under NCAA investigation

Scott Shafer

Syracuse is the latest football program to find itself in the clutches of the NCAA.

While the Orange’s basketball team was believed to be the focus of an ongoing investigation, there are concerns regarding the football program, too.

Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink reported the investigation could affect multiple areas within the school’s athletic department.

“The Syracuse football program is part of the wide-ranging NCAA investigation into the school’s athletic department,” sources told Mink.

“The information shows that the NCAA inquiry that has swirled around the basketball team for two years is more involved, and that the football team is part of the investigation and potentially exposed to penalties. It’s unclear if other teams are involved.”

If the Orange football team was to receive any type of sanctions, possible infractions apparently didn’t occur during Doug Marrone‘s tenure. Marrone served as the Orange’s head coach from 2009-12. The current head coach of the Buffalo Bills spoke with Fink about possible reasons behind the investigation.

“There’s nothing that I know about that we did that wasn’t either punished or put forth,” Marrone said.

“One thing I did, if we made a mistake, an incidental contact or something, I just always reported it. It’s not worth it. This way I can sleep at night.”

Syracuse officials are expected to meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis at some point before the end of the month.

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Michigan lowers student-ticket prices for 2015 season

Minnesota v Michigan Getty Images

The Big House’s student section should be completely full during every game next season.

After recent complaints by the student body, the University of Michigan decided its in the school’s best interests to decrease the prices of student tickets for the 2015 campaign.

This season, a season ticket purchased by a student was $280. Next season, the prices will be dropped to $175 per season ticket.

“We’ve been listening,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Michigan Daily Thursday. “We really learned that two really important components to re-engaging with our students in trying to create a more robust, more enthusiastic and larger student section for next year’s football season was price and strength of schedule.

“A nearly 40-percent reduction in ticket prices is, I think it’s fair to say, unprecedented.”

However, it’s not quite to the price level demanded by the president of Michigan’s central student government, Bobby Dishell, a week earlier at Michigan’s Board of Regents meeting.

During’s Dishell’s address to the board, he said Michigan’s “athletic department has broken its trust” with students. Another student representative respectfully asked for Brandon’s resignation.

Dishell appears happy with the change, though.

“It’s been great working together,”  Dishell told The Michigan Daily. “We realized that the University takes need into account when you’re coming here, so your experiences here should also take that into account.”

As the future of the football program remains in turmoil, it appears to have regained the trust of its students and may avoid seeing empty seats at Michigan Stadium.

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Hackenberg, other Nittany Lions deliver pizzas to ‘Nittanyville’

Christian Hackenberg AP

Christian Hackenberg may not be delivering on the field the way he did as a true freshman last season, but he sure is off of it.

(Waiting for the groaning to die down… waiting… still waiting… and we’re good)

This week, students at Penn State have set up camp in “Nittanyville” ahead of Saturday’s primetime showdown with Ohio State in Happy Valley.  And by “this week” I mean “several days ahead of the contest.”

As is ofttimes the case with individuals in that age group, they came down with a serious case of the munchies.  And, thanks to the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback and some of his teammates, said craving was sated Wednesday night.

Before you ask, I have no idea who paid for the pizzas.  And, for video of the special delivery that we can’t embed here, click HERE.

The Nittany Lions, incidentally, will be looking to snap a two-game Big Ten losing streak when they host the 13th-ranked Buckeyes.  And Hackenberg will be looking to bounce back from both a rough first half of the 2014 season (five touchdowns, seven interceptions compared to 20-10 a year ago) and his worst day yardage-wise a year ago (112 in a 63-14 thrashing by OSU in Columbus).

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Butch Jones playing coy with Justin Worley’s availability for ‘Bama

Justin Worley, Robert Nkemdiche AP

Earlier this week, Butch Jones seemed to indicate that there was little doubt his starting quarterback would be healthy enough to play this weekend.

With the Alabama game getting closer on the horizon?  Yeah, not so much.

Justin Worley was knocked out of the Week 8 loss to Ole Miss with a shoulder injury.  While Worley has practiced since, the Vols’ head coach intimated during his radio show Wednesday night that it’s up in the air whether or not Worley plays in the rivalry game.

It’s ongoing right now,” Jones said when asked for an update on Worley’s status. “We’ll have to make a decision here later in the week with Justin’s status. The great thing for us is the way we practice all of our quarterback get equal reps in practice.”

That said, it’s widely expected Worley will be on the field and under center when the Vols square off with the Tide in Neyland Stadium.  Should the unexpected happen and Worley is shelved, either Josh Dobbs or Nathan Peterman would assume the position.

Regardless of just who is under center, though, the UT offensive line, with all new starters from last year’s unit, needs to do a better job of protecting the quarterback.  The 30 sacks surrendered by the Vols is second only to SMU’s 35 as the most at the FBS level this season.

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Northwestern CB retires… after learning he has one kidney?

Alonzo Moore, Dwight White AP

This is something you don’t hear or read about every day.

In a press release Thursday, Northwestern announce that Dwight White has decided to retire from the game of football.  No specific reason, injury, medical or otherwise, was given, although the cornerback said in a statement that the “decision I’ve had to make [is] for my long-term health.”

According to InsideNU.com, however, the reason for the decision is that the player has one less significant organ than most.

OK then.

“We love Dwight and we’re proud to have him as a part of the Wildcats football family,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a statement. “It’s disappointing to lose a great teammate from the field but I’m excited he’s able to remain involved in the program, and I’m looking forward to his continuing development as a student, a leader and a professional at Northwestern.”

After starting six of the 12 games in which he played in 2013, White was being looked upon as a significant contributor to the Wildcats’ secondary this season. After playing in the season opener, White was subsequently announced the following week as being out with an undisclosed injury. He hadn’t seen the field since.

“I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches, teammates and especially the Northwestern Sports Medicine staff for all of their support,” the final portion of White’s statement read.

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Five-person committee to steer SEC search for Slive replacement

Mike Slive

Just a little over a week after Mike Slive not-so-unexpectedly announced he would be stepping down as the commissioner of the SEC next year, the conference has taken the next expected step in securing a replacement.

The SEC announced in a press release Thursday that it is set to launch its search for Slive’s successor.  As part of that search, Vanderbilt chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, current chair of the SEC’s presidents and chancellors, has appointed a five-person committee charged with the task of hiring the eighth commissioner in the conference’s history. The Fab Search Five are:

  • Dr. David Gearhart, Arkansas chancellor
  • Dr. Judith Bonner, Alabama president
  • Dr. Eli Capilouto, Kentucky president
  • Dr. Mark Keenum, Mississippi State president
  • Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, Missouri chancellor.

Dr. Gearhart’s will serve as the committee’s chairperson.

“The SEC has enjoyed an era of unprecedented success under Mike Slive and at the same time has been a leader in dramatic change in the landscape of college athletics under his direction,” Zeppos said in the statement. “It is critical to have an efficient transition of leadership in order to continue our success on the fields of play as well as to identify a staunch advocate for academic achievement, integrity and sportsmanship. Our objective is to seamlessly maintain our conference’s participation in shaping the future of intercollegiate athletics.”

It’s widely believed that the SEC’s current chief operating officer, Greg Sankey, is the current favorite to take over for Slive.  Before what many assume to be the inevitable happens, though, the committee will undertake a search that’s national in scope.

As for a timeline, there’s not one specific in nature.  The release, though, stated that “the presidents and chancellors hope to select the new commissioner in a timely manner to allow a transition period before Slive’s retirement on July 31, 2015.”

By most accounts, the conference would like to have the successor in place around the first couple of months of the new year to allow for as smooth a transition as possible.

“The SEC has enjoyed an era of unprecedented success under Mike Slive and at the same time has been a leader in dramatic change in the landscape of college athletics under his direction,” Zeppos said. “It is critical to have an efficient transition of leadership in order to continue our success on the fields of play as well as to identify a staunch advocate for academic achievement, integrity and sportsmanship. Our objective is to seamlessly maintain our conference’s participation in shaping the future of intercollegiate athletics.”

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UPDATE: SMU ‘floating $4 million annually’ to entice Mack Brown

Mack Brown

If SMU fails to land Mack Brown as its next head coach, it won’t be for lack of trying.  Or financial incentive.

In a piece detailing just who may emerge as legitimate candidates for the Mustangs job opened by June Jones’ abrupt retirement two games into the 2014 season, Dallas Morning News writer Bill Nichols dropped the intriguing nugget below a handful of paragraphs into the article:

And basketball’s quick ascension under Larry Brown seems to have galvanized the school’s football commitment.

Thus, it’s not shocking that SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years, sources say. Brown, 63, fits the Larry Brown model — a national championship winner who can land star prospects on name alone.

A $4 million-per-year commitment would more than double Jones’ 2013 salary of $1.9 million. The healthiest salary for an AAC head coach in 2013 was the $3.7 million earned by Louisville’s Charlie Strong, who, oddly enough, replaced Brown in Austin. Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville made $3.1 million at Cincinnati last season, while Strong’s successor at the UofL, Bobby Petrino, will average $3.5 million annually on a seven-year contract.

In his final season at Texas, Brown pulled in just over $5.4 million.

All of the discussion involving Brown, SMU and salary, though, is wholly dependent on whether the coach wants to return to the sidelines.

Earlier this month, the former UT head coach’s attorney confirmed that SMU had approached his client about a return to the sidelines. While acknowledging that Brown misses coaching, the attorney, Joe Jamail, flatly stated that “he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now.”

Brown, currently serving as a college football analyst on ESPN, himself said a week earlier that he will decide in December if his coaching career is done.

Should Brown decide to take over the reins at SMU, he’d be stepping into an on-field mess.  The Mustangs’ offense has scored 39 points in six games this season; 14 teams are averaging at least that many points per per game.  UConn is the second-lowest scoring team in the country, and they’ve nearly doubled up SMU’s output (77 points in seven games).

To add insult to offensive injury, the Mustangs rank dead last in points allowed at 48 per game.  Not so unexpectedly, they are 125th out of 125 teams in total defense (548.8 ypg) and next-to-last in total offense (249.2 ypg, ahead of only Wake Forest’s 206.7).

On the flip side, the Mustangs qualified for four straight bowl games from 2009-12 before missing out with a 5-7 record in 2013, so there is a recent track record of both some modicum of talent and success.  Still, it’s a significant rebuilding effort for anyone who takes over, let alone an individual who will turn 64 prior to the start of the 2015 season.

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Texas OC, Okla. St. trade lawsuits over play-calling duties

Joe Wickline AP

Just who is calling plays for Texas in 2014 is at the heart of a pair of lawsuits that have begun their journeys through the legal system.

Oklahoma State filed a lawsuit Oct. 17 (case summary HERE) against former OSU assistant and current Texas co-offensive coordinator Joe Wickline in which the university essentially accuses Wickline of lying about the duties his new position entails.  Wickline left the Cowboys in January to become the Longhorns’ co-offensive coordinator along alongside Shawn Watson; in that role, Wickline would reportedly hold play-calling responsibilities.

That latter aspect is key as, the Austin American-Statesman wrote, “Wickline would owe OSU the balance of his contract unless he was named offensive coordinator ‘with play-calling duties’ or went to the NFL.” The balance of that contract is nearly $600,000, which OSU is seeking in its lawsuit.

The impetus for this legal back and forth appears to have been triggered, in part, by Wickline’s new boss. Back in mid-March, ESPN.com wrote, “[UT head coach Charlie] Strong changed course publicly, clarifying that Watson and Wickline would share play-calling duties and that ‘the one final voice will be Shawn.'”

Six days later, Wickline was sent a letter from OSU athletic director Mike Holder that contained the following passage.

“Further, it has now come to our attention that you do not have ‘play-calling duties,'” Holder wrote in a letter dated March 24. “Instead, it appears that your head coach has confirmed that Shawn Watson, not you, will be calling the plays. Thus, in reality it appears you unilaterally and voluntarily terminated the Contract to make a lateral move and as such a waiver of the liquidated damages clause of the Contract is not triggered.

“While OSU wishes you every success in your endeavors and burgeoning career, it is paramount to OSU that contract terms be taken seriously and that they be strictly enforced in the interest of professionalism. Accordingly, OSU will insist upon payment of the liquidated damages clause of the Contract.

It’s readily apparent that Wickline does not hold sole play-calling duties at UT. Based on multiple media accounts, Wickline’s OSU contract also didn’t specify that he must maintain sole play-calling responsibilities or be liable for damages. It’s that distinction that will likely be the crux of the battle should the lawsuits ever see the light of day in a courtroom.

Wickline’s lawsuit, meanwhile, was filed Monday and claims “tortuous interference” on the part of OSU. The coach’s suit makes the claim that his former school’s action “is baseless and its sole purpose is to interfere with coach Wickline’s ongoing employment relationship with UT and the UT contract.”

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Pac-12 paces Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

You know you how you can tell another season is quickly beginning to wind down?  Awards begin to whittle their lengthy preseason watch lists down to quarterfinalists or semifinalists.

The first to get down to its quarterfinalists was the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which announced its group of 20 Wednesday.  There were two quarterfinalists from a year ago that made the cut this time around: Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks.

The Pac-12 led all conferences with seven players selected.  The ACC and SEC had four players apiece, while the Big Ten and Big 12 had two each.  There were no players from the Non-Power Five conferences as Notre Dame claims the remaining player.

Washington was the only school with two players included.

Linebackers and defensive ends had the most players for positions with eight and six, respectively.  Cornerbacks, safeties and defensive tackles accounted for two apiece.

The Lott Trophy, named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, is presented annually to the player who best embodies the award’s six tenets — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity. Last year’s winner was UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

Eight semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 11. In a release, the award states that “four finalists will fly to Newport Beach for a black-tie gala at the Pacific Club on Dec. 14 where the winner will be announced.”

Below is the complete list of 20 Lott IMPACT quarterfinalists.

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Henry Coley, LB, Virginia
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Michael Doctor, LB, Oregon State
Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
David Helton, LB, Duke
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, DE, Washington
Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
Jordan Richards, S, Stanford
Deterrian Shackelford, LB, Ole Miss
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Leonard Williams, DT, USC

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