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South Carolina unveils 21-player signing class

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

LARENZ BRYANT
Linebacker
6-0 215
Charlotte, N.C. (Vance)
Played both running back and linebacker for the Vance Cougars in Charlotte, N.C… coached by Keith Wilkes… named to the 2012 Associated Press all-state team… helped his squad to a 9-4 record as a senior… logged 1,694 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns on offense and notched 84 tackles with nine sacks on defense… played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas game and in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his senior season… rushed for 1,423 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior while recording 154 tackles with 23 tackles for loss… returned three of his four interceptions for touchdowns… notched 56 tackles as a sophomore as his team reached the state finals… a four-star prospect, the fourth-best player in the state, the fourth-best inside linebacker in the country and the 112th-best prospect in the nation according to Rivals… a four-star prospect and the nation’s seventh-best outside linebacker by Scout… a four-star prospect, the top player in North Carolina, the sixth-best outside linebacker in the country and the 50th-best player overall according to 247Sports… rated a four-star prospect and No. 237 on the ESPN300… a four-star prospect, the nation’s 44th-best player overall and the fifth-best “Big Back” by MaxPreps… a five-star prospect, the fourth-best outside linebacker in the country and No. 45 overall by PrepStar… selected South Carolina over a host of schools with Clemson, Florida, Virginia and Wake Forest also making his final list of five… born November 1, 1994.

MOHAMED CAMARA
SafetY
6-1 191
Cumming, Ga. (West Forsyth)
Prep linebacker who figures to play the Spur position at South Carolina… helped West Forsyth (Cumming, Ga.) to a 10-2 record, a region title and to the second round of the state playoffs as a senior… logged 102 tackles, three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 12 tackles for loss and seven pass breakups on his way to Region 6 6A Defensive Player of the Year honors… named honorable mention all-state by the Atlanta Journal Constitution… added 300 yards rushing on 35 attempts with seven touchdowns on offense… coached by Frank Hepler… notched 110 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions as a junior… regarded as a threestar prospect, the 69th-best player in Georgia, and the 54th-best outside linebacker in the country by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 107th-best outside linebacker by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 85th-best player in the state, and the 85th-best outside linebacker in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect, the 49th-best outside linebacker and an AllSoutheast Region pick by PrepStar… turned down offers from Southern Miss, East Carolina, UCF and Western Kentucky… born May 30, 1994.

PHAROH COOPER
Cornerback
5-11 194
HaveLock, N.C. (Havelock)
Versatile performer who could player either receiver or defensive back at South Carolina… helped Havelock (N.C.) to back-to-back 3A state titles… Rams went 15-1 during his senior season and a perfect 16-0 during his junior campaign… coached by Jim Bob Bryant… played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas game after his senior season… used at quarterback, running back, receiver and was the primary return man on punts and kickoffs in the Shrine game… finished with 253 total yards including a 45-yard TD run, earning offensive MVP honors for the North Carolina squad… also played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl… as a junior, rushed for 300 yards and caught 65 passes for 1,285 yards and 14 scores… registered 58 tackles with six interceptions… a four-star prospect and the state’s ninth-best player by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 120th-best wide receiver by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 15th-best player in the state, and the 24th-best “athlete” in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect, the 62nd-best wide receiver and an All-Atlantic Region pick by PrepStar… also had offers from East Carolina and NC State… same high school that produced current Gamecock Corey Robinson… born March 7, 1995.

DEVAN’TE COVINGTON
Defensive end
6-4 220
Rockingham, N.C. (Richmond County)
Defensive end who helped Richmond County (Rockingham, N.C.) to an 11-2 record and the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs as a senior… coached by Paul Hoggard… named to the 2012 Associated Press all-state team… participated in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas following his senior season… as a junior, recorded 34 tackles and eight sacks… three-star prospect who was ranked as the 28th-best player in the state of North Carolina by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 42nd-best defensive end by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 17th-best player in the state, and the 20th-best weakside defensive end in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect and an All-Atlantic Region pick according to PrepStar… also had offers from Clemson, East Carolina, NC State and Tennessee… hails from the same high school that produced former Gamecock All-American Melvin Ingram… born March 6, 1994.

Kelsey Griffin
Defensive tackle
6-2 292
Buford, Ga. (Mill Creek)
Defensive tackle who recorded 108 total tackles including 10 sacks as a senior at Mill Creek High School (Hoschton, Ga.)… helped the Hawks to a 9-4 record and the third round of the 6A state playoffs as a senior… coached by Shannon Jarvis… named to the Atlanta Journal Constitution Class AAAAAA all-state team… named second-team all-state by the Georgia Sportswriters Association… played in the Under Armour All-American game following his senior season… recorded 44 tackles with six tackles for loss as a junior, earning all-state and All-Gwinnett County accolades… four-star prospect who was regarded as the 10th-best player in Georgia, the seventh-best defensive tackle in the country and the 120th-best player overall on the Rivals250… a four-star prospect and the nation’s 13th-best defensive tackle according to Scout… a fourstar prospect, the eighth-best player in Georgia, the seventh-best defensive tackle in the country, the 78thbest player overall and a second-team All-American according to 247Sports… a four-star prospect, the 12thbest defensive tackle in the country and the 123rd-best player overall by PrepStar… considered the nation’s 12th-best defensive tackle by MaxPreps… rated a fourstar prospect and No. 100 on the ESPN150… named honorable mention on PARADE magazine’s All-America team… had numerous offers including Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee… born September 19, 1994.

Ali Groves
Cornerback
5-10 184
Stone Mountain, Ga. (Stephenson)
Two-way standout who figures to be a cornerback at South Carolina… played wide receiver and defensive back for the Stephenson Jaguars in Stone Mountain, Ga… coached by Ronald Gartrell… team went 9-3 in his senior season… played just four games as a junior due to injury, finishing with 23 tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles… also ran in the sprint events and competed in the long jump in track & field… threestar prospect who was the state’s 78th-best player and the 74th-best “athlete” in the country according to Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 110th-best cornerback by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 45thbest player in the state, and the 39th-best cornerback in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect, the 55th-best cornerback in the country and an All-Southeast Region pick according to PrepStar… numerous offers included Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Missouri, Vanderbilt and NC State… mother went to T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C… prepped with current Gamecocks Kyle Fleetwood, Kadetrix Marcus and Mike Davis… born September 16, 1994.

David Johnson
Linebacker
6-1 268
Lithonia, Ga. (Lithonia)
Linebacker who recorded 109 tackles including 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks as a senior in 2012 at Lithonia (Ga.) High School… Bulldogs posted a 3-7 record… coached by Marcus Jelks… named firstteam Class AAAA all-state by the Atlanta Journal Constitution… played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl following his senior campaign… had 94 tackles including 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks with three forced fumbles as a junior… notched 105 tackles with 10 sacks as a sophomore… earned All-DeKalb County honors… a three-star prospect who was considered the 30th-best player in the state and the 29th-best outside linebacker in the country, according to Rivals… a three-star prospect and the 62nd-best defensive end in the country by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 37thbest player in the state, and the 17th-best weakside defensive end in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect, the 24th-best outside linebacker and an AllSoutheast Region pick by PrepStar… had numerous offers including Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, NC State, Pitt and Vanderbilt… prepped with current Gamecock Cedrick Cooper… born January 20, 1995.

Bryce King
Offensive lineman
6-3 281
Dillon, S.C. (Dillon)
Started on the offensive line for Class AA I state champion Dillon (S.C.) High School… the Wildcats went 14-1 during his senior season… coached by Jackie Hayes… played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas following his senior season… also played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif… three-star prospect who was considered the sixth-best player in the state and the third-best center in the country by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 12th-best center by Scout… a three-star prospect, the eighthbest player in the state, and the eighth-best center in the country by 247Sports… a four-star prospect and the second-best center in the country by PrepStar… also had offers from Clemson, LSU, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech… hails from the same high school that produced current Gamecock Kwinton Smith… born October 4, 1994.

Alan Knott
Offensive lineman
6-4 272
Tyrone, Ga. (Sandy Creek)
Helped the Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) Patriots to a pair of state titles, including a perfect 15-0 mark in 2012… coached by Chip Walker… named first-team Class AAAA all-state by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and by the Georgia Sportswriters Association… played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif. following his senior season… regarded as a threestar prospect, the 61st-best player in Georgia and the 53rd-best offensive tackle in the country according to Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 30th-best offensive guard by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 43rd-best player in the state, and the 27th-best offensive guard in the country by 247Sports… a threestar prospect, the 43rd-best offensive guard and an All-Southeast Region pick by PrepStar… had many offers including Kentucky, Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina… David Alan Knott was born December 16, 1994.

Ronnie Martin
Cornerback
5-11 173
Spartanburg, S.C. (Spartanburg/Georgia Military)
Cornerback who enrolled at Carolina in January
2013… originally signed with South Carolina in February 2011… attended Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga., for the 2011-12 academic year and the fall of 2012… coached by Bert Williams… saw limited playing time in 2012 after being sidelined early in the season with a hamstring injury… in three games, logged 10 tackles and three interceptions while forcing a pair of fumbles… in 2011, had 11 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and six pass breakups… considered a three-star prospect and the nation’s 31st-best junior college prospect by Rivals… regarded as a three-star prospect, the fifth-best junior college player in Georgia, the sixth-best JUCO cornerback in the nation, and the 88th-best JUCO player in the country according to 247Sports… a three-star prospect by Scout… played cornerback for Freddy Brown Sr. at Spartanburg (S.C.) High School graduating in 2011… participated in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas following his senior season… was a first-team all-state selection as a junior for the Vikings when he totaled 44 tackles, eight pass breakups, six blocked kicks, 930 total return yards including four touchdown returns… also ran track where he recorded times of 10.6 in the 100m and 21.7 in the 200m… regarded as a threestar prospect, the 16th-best player in South Carolina and the 46th-best cornerback in the country by Rivals coming out of high school… regarded as a three-star prospect and the 60th-best cornerback by Scout… was a three-star prospect according to 247Sports… named to PrepStar’s All-Atlantic Region class… offers included Illinois, LSU, Maryland, Nebraska and Wake Forest.

Connor Mitch
Quarterback
6-3 219
Raleigh, N.C. (WakefieLd)
Quarterback who enrolled at Carolina in January 2013 after graduating from Wakefield High School in Raleigh, N.C in December 2012… a four-year starter… coached by Rod Sink… ranks second in four career categories in North Carolina high school history, passing for 12,078 yards with 1,384 attempts, 807 completions and 153 touchdowns… threw for 4,661 yards and 63 touchdowns while completing 62 percent of his passes as a senior, leading the Wolverines to an 11-2 record… set the state record with nine touchdown passes in a win over Broughton, one shy of the national record… as a junior, threw for 3,832 yards and 48 touchdowns as the team went 9-3… earned all-state and all-region honors… threw for 3,300 yards and 33 scores as a sophomore, leading Wakefield to a 9-3 mark… fourstar prospect who was regarded as the seventh-best player in the state, the 13th-best pro-style quarterback in the country and ranked No. 248 on the Rivals250… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 44th-best quarterback by Scout… a four-star prospect, the seventh-best player in the state, the 13th-best pro-style quarterback and ranked No. 243 overall by 247Sports… rated a four-star prospect and No. 226 on the ESPN300… considered the 10th-best pro-style quarterback in the country by MaxPreps… a three-star prospect, the 15thbest pro-style quarterback in the country and the 167thbest player overall by PrepStar… named honorable mention on PARADE magazine’s All-America team… chose the Gamecocks over Alabama, LSU, Auburn and North Carolina… father, Bob Mitch, played quarterback and safety at Syracuse in the early 1970s and had a brief stint in the NFL…. brother, Ryan, played quarterback at Maryland… sister, Brittany, played basketball at Duke.

Skai Moore
Linebacker
6-2 205
Cooper City, FLa. (University)
Linebacker who helped Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School to an undefeated season and the 3A state title as a senior… coached by Roger Harriott… racked up 14 tackles and a sack in the championship game for the Suns… totaled 103 tackles with six sacks and four interceptions during his final season… the Suns posted five shutouts and limited seven of their opponents to three points or less… credited with 70 tackles including 18 tackles for loss during his junior campaign… a four-star prospect and the 43rd-best player in the state and the No. 19 outside linebacker in the nation according to Rivals… a three-star recruit and the No. 29 outside linebacker prospect in the country per Scout… considered a four-star prospect the 45th-best player in Florida and the 22nd-best outside linebacker in the country by 247Sports… named All-Southeast Region by PrepStar… originally committed to Rutgers… also considered Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

D.J. Park
Offensive lineman
6-4 335
Dillon, S.C. (Dillon)
Offensive lineman who enrolled at Carolina in January 2013 after graduating from Dillon (S.C.) High School in December 2012… started at left tackle for the Class AA I state champions… the Wildcats went 14-1 during his senior season… coached by Jackie Hayes… participated in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif… named to the MaxPreps 2012 Small Schools All-American Football team…earned all-region and all-state honors as a junior… four-star prospect who was the state’s third-best player, the 19th-best offensive tackle in the land and the nation’s 220th-best prospect according to Rivals… a four-star prospect and the nation’s 23rd-best offensive tackle, and No. 294 on the Scout300 list… a four-star prospect, the fifth-best player in the state, and the 16th-best offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports… considered a four-star prospect, the nation’s second-best offensive tackle and the 52nd-best player overall by MaxPreps… a four-star prospect, the 20th-best offensive tackle in the country and the 178th-best player overall by PrepStar… had offers from numerous other schools throughout the Southeast, including Auburn, Clemson, Florida, LSU and Tennessee… hails from the same high school that produced current Gamecock Kwinton Smith.

Na’ty Rodgers
Offensive lineman
6-5 296
Waldorf, Md. (McDonough)
Offensive lineman who helped McDonough High Rams (Pomfret, Md.) to a 9-2 record as a senior… coached by Luke Ethington… played in the Chesapeake Bowl all-star game and in the Under Armour All-America Game following the season… rated as a four-star prospect, the sixth-best player in the state, the 15th-best offensive tackle in the country and No. 181 overall by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the 22nd-best offensive guard in the nation according to Scout… considered a four-star prospect, the seventh-best player in the state and the 20th-best offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports… ranked as the nation’s 15th-best offensive tackle by MaxPreps… a PrepStar All-American…had a slew of offers from all over the country ultimately chose South Carolina over Maryland, with Florida State, Washington and Oklahoma also in the mix… father first placed at Oklahoma then transferred to Washington…
born February 3, 1995.

Jasper Sasser
Safety
6-0 192
Jacksonville, FLa. (Wolfson)
Played running back, quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back at Wolfson High School in Jacksonville, Fla… likely will begin his Carolina career at safety but could also play receiver… coached by Walter Williams… Wolfpack went 3-7 in his senior season… fractured his foot during his senior season and underwent surgery… missed most of the football season but returned to the basketball hardwood… in four games on the gridiron he passed for over 300 yards, had 298 yards receiving and five touchdowns on offense… also had 15 tackles and returned two kickoffs for scores… rushed for 2,000 yards and 17 scores as a junior… earned all-district honors as both a sophomore and junior… three-star prospect who was ranked as the 59th-best “athlete” in the nation and 96th on the Florida top-100 by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 84th-best safety by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 156th-best player in the state, and the 79th-best “athlete” in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect, the 47th-best safety and an All-Southeast Region pick by PrepStar… turned down offers from Clemson, Ole Miss, NC State, South Florida and Stanford among others… born November 30, 1993.

Jamari Smith
Running back
5-10 183
Jacksonville, Fla. (Fletcher)
Running back who prepped at Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Fla… team went 12-3 in his senior season under head coach Josh Corey… tallied 2,178 yards on the ground with 24 touchdowns earning firstteam Class 8A all-state honors as a junior… did not have a fumble in 295 carries as a junior while garnering Florida Times-Union Offensive Player of the Year accolades… three-star prospect, the 43rd-best running back in the nation and ranked 82nd on the Florida top 100 according to Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 61st-best running back by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 64th-best player in the state, and the 14th-best all-purpose back in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect, the 33rd-best running back and an All-Southeast Region pick by PrepStar… selected South Carolina over Wake Forest but drew scholarship offers from multiple programs including Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, West Virginia, and others… born October 19, 1994.

Gerald Turner
Defensive end
6-2 256
Goose Creek, S.C. (Goose Creek)
Defensive end who finished his senior season with 93 tackles and eight sacks for Goose Creek (S.C.) High School… coached by Chuck Reedy… team went undefeated during his senior season… participated in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas following his senior season… recorded six tackles, including 1.5 for loss, an interception and two pass breakups in that contest… also played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl… tallied 42 tackles, 11 tackles for loss with nine sacks, six forced fumbles, five pass breakups and five blocked punts during his junior season, helping his team to the 4A Division II state title, all-state honors and Defensive Player of the Year accolades… also returned an interception 80 yards for a score and recovered a blocked punt for a TD… notched 40 tackles and six sacks as a sophomore… regarded as a three-star prospect, the eighth-best player in the state and the 23rd-best inside linebacker in the country according to Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 56th-best middle linebacker by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 10th-best player in the state, and the 34th-best inside linebacker in the country by 247Sports… was the nation’s 16th-best inside linebacker by MaxPreps… a four-star prospect, the ninth-best inside linebacker in the country and the 156th-best player overall by PrepStar… also had offers from Clemson and North Carolina… prepped with current Gamecock Brandon Shell… born December 28, 1994.

J.P. Vonashek
Offensive lineman
6-6 283
Saint MaryS, Ga. (Camden County)
Offensive lineman who played at Camden County (Kingsland, Ga.)… coached by Jeff Herron… the Wildcats went 11-2 in his senior season… previously attended Glynn Academy… played in the Rising Seniors Georgia Junior Bowl following his junior campaign… three-star prospect who was regarded as the 62nd-best player in the state and the 54th-best offensive tackle in the country by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 60th-best offensive tackle by Scout… a three-star prospect, the 56th-best player in the state, and the 44th-best offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports… a three-star prospect, the 51th-best offensive tackle and an All-Southeast Region pick by PrepStar… also had offers from Florida State, Georgia, Miami, North Carolina, Ohio State and Tennessee among others… James P. Vonashek was born October 10, 1994.

Jonathan Walton
Linebacker
6-0 234
Daphne, Ala. (Bayside Academy)
Played linebacker at Bayside Academy in Daphne, Ala… helped the Admirals to a 7-5 record as a senior… logged 122 tackles and three blocked punts during his final season… coached by Phil Lazenby… regarded as a three-star prospect, the No. 20 player in the state of Alabama and the 21st-best inside linebacker in the nation by Rivals… a three-star recruit and the No. 46 middle linebacker in the country according to Scout… considered a three-star prospect, the 21st-best player in the state and the 39th-best inside linebacker in the country by 247Sports… named All-Southeast Region by PrepStar… originally committed to Penn State… also officially visited Auburn, Tennessee and Minnesota… born September 20, 1994.

Devin Washington
Defensive end
6-3 225
Orlando, Fla. (Jones)
Played defensive end for Jones High School in Orlando… coached by Jerry Howard… helped the Fightin’ Tigers to a 7-5 record as a senior… member of the Orlando Sentinel’s 2013 Super 60… played at East River before transferring to Jones before his junior season… logged 55 tackles with 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks as a junior and 43 tackles with 9.5 sacks as a sophomore… rated a three-star prospect, the state’s 58th-best player and the nation’s No. 20 weakside defensive end by Rivals… a three-star prospect and the nation’s 57th-best defensive end by Scout… a four-star prospect, the 48th-best player in the state, and the 14th-best weakside defensive end in the country according to 247Sports… considered the 25th-best defensive end in the nation by MaxPreps… a three-star prospect, the 16th-best defensive end in the country and an All-Southeast Region pick according to PrepStar… also had offers from Boston College, Cincinnati and Clemson among others… born March 24, 1995.

David Williams
Running back
6-1 200
Philadelphia, Pa. (Imhotep Charter)
Rushed for 1,904 yards on 195 carries (9.8 per rush) with 23 touchdowns as a senior at Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia… led the Panthers to a 14-1 record… coached by Albie Crosby… played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif… following his senior season… earned first-team All-City honors as a junior when he fell just short of 2,000 yards rushing… a four-star recruit, the eighth-best player in the state and the 21st-best running back in the country according to Rivals… a four-star prospect and the nation’s 23rd-best running back by Scout… a four-star prospect, the seventh-best player in the state, the eighth-best running back in the country and the 146th-best player overall according to 247Sports… rated a four-star prospect and No. 131 on the ESPN150… considered the nation’s 11th-best running back by MaxPreps… turned down offers from Ohio State, Arizona State, Tennessee, Miami, Arizona, Auburn and Boston College among others… born June 17, 1994.

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Max Wittek takes in Texas’ spring game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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

Nick Bhardwaj

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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

Navy White House 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

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

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

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

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

“I thought he had a good spring.”

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

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

Tennessee v Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Uniforms

 

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BYU lands Nebraska DB transfer Harvey Jackson

Monte Ball Harvey Jackson AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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