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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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Wazzu to induct Steve Gleason into its Hall of Fame

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints

If you’re looking for a morning pick-me-up, we have you covered.

During Saturday’s Apple Cup game with Washington, Washington State will induct its Class of 2014 into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. That class will consist of one person: Steve Gleason.

Gleason played both football and baseball for the Cougars from 1995-99. On the gridiron, he was a two-time captain; he was a captain on the baseball team his senior year as well. Three times he earned All-Pac-10 honors in football, and four times he was a Pac-10 All-Academic selection.

In 2011, a handful of years after a seven-year NFL career came to an end, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since then, Gleason established “Team Gleason,” a foundation that looks to raise money and awareness for ALS.

Gleason raising awareness will serve as his lasting and most impactful legacy; his collegiate athletic prowess, though, will now have an official legacy as well.

“Steve is a tremendous Cougar and his induction Saturday night into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame is well deserved,” said athletic director Bill Moos in a statement. “With a sold-out Martin Stadium for the Apple Cup, I can think of no better setting to highlight Steve’s accomplishments than in front of a fan base that has admired him for so many years.”

Gleason’s induction will take place between the first and second quarters of the rivalry game. It will mark the first time in the school’s history that just one former student-athlete has been inducted in that year’s class.

Based on how Gleason lived his life before and after his diagnosis, the honor is well-deserved.

 

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Guy, Mackey, O’Brien, Outland, Thorpe awards announce finalists

Melbourne Cup Day

It was a busy Tuesday night for major awards announcing its finalists, as evidenced by the fact that CFT is now just getting to the other half of them.

The finalists for the Maxwell (most outstanding player at any position), Nagurski (defensive player), Biletnikoff (wide receiver), Groza (kicker) and Walker (running back) awards we’ve already covered; now we’ll get to the other five. In announcements Tuesday night, the Guy (punter), Mackey (tight end), O’Brien (quarterback), Outland (interior lineman) and Thorpe (defensive back) finalists were revealed.

Below are the three distinguished finalists for each award:

RAY GUY AWARD
Tom Hackett, Utah (Jr.)
JK Scott, Alabama (Fr.)
Austin Rehkow, Idaho (Soph.)

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
Trevone Boykin, TCU (Jr.)
Marcus Mariota, Oregon (RS Jr.)
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (Jr.)

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
Nick O’Leary, Florida State (Sr.)
Clive Walford, Miami (Sr.)
Maxx Williams, Minnesota (RS Soph.)

OUTLAND TROPHY
Malcom Brown, Texas (Jr.)
Reese Dismukes, Auburn (Sr.)
Brandon Scherff, Iowa (Sr.)

JIM THORPE AWARD
Landon Collins, Alabama (Jr.)
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (Sr.)
Gerod Holliman, Louisville (RS So.)

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Amari Cooper likely to become Alabama’s first Biletnikoff winner

Amari Cooper

And then there were three. The competition for the Biletnikoff Award is down to three of the nation’s top wide receivers. Alabama’s Amari Cooper is the lone player from a College Football Playoff contender in the running, although that should not diminish the accomplishments of two others up for the award.

Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins and West Virginia’s Kevin White are also finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the nation’s top wide receiver in college football. No player from any of these three schools has ever won the award, which was first awarded in 1994.

Last year’s award went to Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. This year’s award will be presented on December 11 during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN.

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Les Miles will worry about LSU’s QB future, in the future

Les Miles

LSU has one more game to play in the 2014 regular season before going to a bowl game. Some are already wondering what head coach Les Miles is going to do with the quarterback position in the future, but Miles is not ready to make any long-term decisions. He still has a game at Texas A&M to prepare for after all. But he will make those decisions at the appropriate time. When he does, freshman Brandon Harris appears to be getting a chance to make his case for the starting job.

“We’ve chosen not to make the decision on our future quarterback until down the road,” Miles said during his weekly radio show Tuesday night, according to The Advocate. “That’s why he’s getting 50 percent of the reps.”

Harris has appeared in eight games this season. In those games, Harris has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 452 yards and six touchdowns. He has been intercepted twice. Harris has not been seen much since an early October game against Auburn.

“We like Brandon Harris, and he’s coming. We’re not going to put parameters on that,” Miles added. “What we’re trying to get accomplished is put him in a position where he can go on the field and give us some explosive plays and not necessarily encumber him with the full offense, the whole thing. If we can do that, we might be able to get him on the field.”

Anthony Jennings, a sophomore, is the other quarterback in the mix, of course. Jennings has completed 47.9 percent of his passes in 11 games for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns. He has been picked off six times this season.

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Ohio State’s Spence declared permanently ineligible by Big Ten

Ohio State Buckeyes v Michigan State Spartans 12-7-2013

We will not see defensive end Noah Spence wearing an Ohio State football uniform this season, and we may not see him in any Big Ten uniform anytime soon. The Big Ten has declared Spence permanently ineligible from all intercollegiate athletics competition. Ohio State released a statement with that decision Tuesday night.

Spence was suspended by Ohio State earlier this season following a failed drug test. It was not the first time Spence failed a drug test at Ohio State, which led to an automatic suspension by the program and the threat of the NCAA wiping out the remaining two years of his eligibility.

Spence was guided through an appeals process by Ohio State, which is customary when filing appeals to the NCAA. That appeals process played out today, and it did not go well for Spence.

“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we are pleased that Noah has come a long way and we are very proud of the progress he has made with regard to his health,” Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith said in the released statement. “The Department of Athletics will continue to assist Noah through his pursuits and provide the academic resources necessary to help him complete his degree program.

Spence took to Twitter to express his feelings as well.

What is next for Spence is unknown at this point. Hopefully the troubles are behind him and he can find a way to thrive on and off the football field.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: No change in top four, but hello Boise State and Marshall!

Oklahoma State v Florida State Getty Images

The top of the latest College Football Playoff rankings look the same as they did a week ago, but this week’s rankings saw a significant development toward the bottom of the order.

Alabama remains on top of the playoff ranking, followed by Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State in that order. This is the same top four from last week. TCU remains sitting in fifth place, waiting for a shot to creep into the top four, just as it did last week.

Boise State and Marshall made their respective debuts in the playoff ranking this week, and this is notable. The highest-ranked conference champion from a non-power conference will be given a spot in an access bowl. If Boise State wins the Mountain West Conference, it will be difficult for Marshall to make up enough ground to pass the Broncos despite trailing Boise State by one in the rankings.

The Top Four

1. Alabama

2. Oregon

3. Florida State

4. Mississippi State

No change here, perhaps as expected. The question was whether or not the committee would drop Florida State after another close loss during a week that saw Mississippi State blow away Vanderbilt. This was not the case, although that precedent had already been set. The big question the next two weeks will be whether or not Mississippi State without a conference championship can stay ahead of a one-loss Big 12 and/or Big Ten champion.

Who Is On Deck?

5. TCU

6. Ohio State

7. Baylor

Ohio State remains one spot behind TCU, which means it looks like the Buckeyes could need a little help to move up two spots. The good news for Ohio State is the Buckeyes could have a Big Ten championship game match-up with a rising Wisconsin team to help push them up in the final rankings if things go Ohio State’s way. We also need to know when the committee might feel the time is right to move Baylor ahead of TCU with a head-to-head result in favor of the Bears.

The Full Ranking

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Some Quick Thoughts

We finally got a glimpse of the non-power conference representation in this week’s ranking, yet it does not come without some potential controversy. Boise State, if it wins out, would have a more impressive overall body of work compared to a potentially undefeated Marshall, but what about Colorado State? If Boise State slips, Marshall is set up to stay ahead of a one-loss Colorado State team at a late point in the season. The committee will have to hope Boise State runs the table, because Colorado State with one loss has an even stronger case than a two-loss Boise State does against an undefeated Marshall. Colorado State has two victories against power conferences away from home compared to zero for Marshall, and the Rams only lost one game, at Boise State.

At what point does the committee remember that Baylor beat TCU? It has to happen at some point, right? Although TCU’s non-conference drubbing of Minnesota clearly looks better now, and may be a key win to hold over Ohio State as well. TCU defeated Minnesota by a wider margin of victory compared to the Buckeyes.

Minnesota avoided being dropped from the committee’s top 25 last week despite losing, and a win against Nebraska helped move them up seven spots this week. This is great news for TCU and Ohio State.

Take a look at UCLA. The Bruins continue to wiggle up the rankings, and could still be within reach of making the top four with a little help. If UCLA wins this weekend against Stanford, the Bruins will play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. UCLA has struggled to get over the hump to be an elite team in the Pac-12, but they seem to be surging at a very good time. It may be a lot of ground to make up in two weeks, but it is far from impossible.

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Maxwell Football Club award finalists include Mariota, Prescott, Gordon and Beasley

Dak Prescott

The Maxwell Football Club has announced the three finalists for each of its individual awards, the Maxwell Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon have been named finalists for the Maxwell Award. Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III have been named finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award.

the Maxwell Award is presented to the top player in college football as determined by the Maxwell Football Club and voting panel. The award does not always go to the player that wins the Heisman Trophy. Last year, for example, the Maxwell Award went to Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Mariota, Gordon and Prescott may be likely names to be heading to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation at the end of the season, but the odds may be good the Maxwell Award goes to another player. No Oregon or Mississippi State player has ever won the Maxwell Award, but Wisconsin has one. The last running back to iwn the award was Penn State’s Larry Johnson in 2002.

The Chuck Bednarik Award is in its 20th season and goes to the top defensive player as determined by the Maxwell Football Club and its voters. Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald won the award last season. Whichever player wins the award this year will be doing so for the first time in school history.

this year’s winners for each award will be announced on December 11 during The Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN. The awards will be formally presented in Atlantic City, New Jersey in March as part of the Maxwell Football Club’s Awards Gala.

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Doak Walker Award finalists filled by Big Ten trio

Melvin Gordon, Desmond King

The Big Ten has a handful of really good running backs, and it shows with the naming of the finalists for the Doak Walker Award. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman were each named finalists for the top running back award, filling all three finalist spots.

Gordon held the single-game rushing record for just one week, but his production this season has been steady. Gordon leads the nation in rushing with 2,109 rushing yards with one more regular season game to play and possibly two more if Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten Championship Game and Gordon plays in Wisconsin’s bowl game.

Abdullah is also one of the top running backs in the country, but he has been slowed by injuries at times. Abdullah is still on track for a possible 2,000-yard season with 20 rushing touchdowns with one regular season game left and a bowl game.

Indiana’s offense may have been a disappointment this season, but this does not apply for Coleman. Coleman is the nation’s second-leading rusher behind Gordon with 1,906 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Coleman has carried the Hoosiers offense for much of the season, and he has handled it well.

Wisconsin’s Montee Ball was the last Big Ten running back to win the Doak Walker Award, two seasons ago. As good of a running program Nebraska has been through the years, the Cornhuskers have never had a Doak Walker Award winner. Indiana is also looking for its first Doak Walker Award winner. Gordon looks to be the favorite in this pack though.

If Gordon wins the award, he will become the third Wisconsin running back to win the award. That total would also tie Texas for the most Doak Walker Award winners.

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FSU’s Aguayo highlights 2014 Lou Groza Award finalists

Roberto Aguayo

Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo has been named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. This should come as little surprise after the Seminoles kicker won the award in 2013 and has put together another dependable season kicking field goals and extra points for the defending national champions.

Maryland kicker Brad Craddock and West Virginia’s Josh Lambert join Aguayo as finalists for this year’s award for best kicker.

Aguayo is looking to become the second repeat winner of the Lou Groza Award. He would join another former Florida State kicker sharing that honor if he wins the award again. Sebastian Janikowski won the Lou Groza Award in 1998 and 1999. No other player has ever won the award multiple times.

Craddock is the only kicker in the country who has been perfect on all of his field goal attempts, and he has kicked a bunch of them. Craddock is a perfect 17-for-17 this season and the Australien kicker has shown great range at times as well.

No kicker in the country has kicked more field goals than Lambert though. The West Virginia kicker has kicked 24 of 32 kicks for the Mountaineers this season, and his 24 field goals made this season already surpasses the regular season high for kickers in the 2013 regular season.

All three finalists will be honored at a banquet on Tuesday, December 9 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The winner will be revealed during The Home DepotCollege Football Awards Show on Thursday, December 11 in Disney World.

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Auburn loses sacks leader for season before Iron Bowl

Auburn v Mississippi State Getty Images

If Auburn was hoping to find ways to bring down Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, the Tigers may have to look for someone else on the defensive line to step up. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday defensive end DaVonte Lambert will miss the Iron Bowl and Auburn’s bowl game after undergoing season-ending surgery on his left knee on Monday.

“That’s a big blow for us,” Malzahn said, per The Montgomery Advertiser. “We’re going to need some guys to step up.”

Lambert led the defense with 3.5 sacks this season. Montravius Adams and Angelo Blackson each have three sacks. Adams is also second on the team in tackles for loss, so he may be the most likely name to watch try and fill the void left by Lambert.

Lambert had been listed as the starting defensive end for Auburn on this week’s depth chart for the Alabama game. Sophomore Elijah Daniel (3.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks) is listed as his back-up.

“He’s a factor,” Malzahn said. “But we need some other guys to step up. Football’s a team game and when you’re playing against your rival, it’s got the ability to have guys step up and play better than they have all year, and that’s what we need.”

Getting sacks against Alabama is tough enough. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 10.0 sacks all season. Auburn has just 19.0 sacks this season as well. Losing one of their better sack specialists could be tough to overcome.

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Alabama and Florida State in mix for 2017 Atlanta game? Yes please

Boise State v Georgia Getty Images

Florida State and Alabama have met just four times dating back to 1965, although we could be heading to a postseason head-to-head clash between the Seminoles and Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff. We could also be on the verge of seeing the two southern powers collide in Atlanta to open the 2017 season, and that would be awesome.

The Palm Beach Post reports Alabama and Florida State are discussing a potential 2017 season opener in Atlanta, which would likely be a part of the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff. The game typically features a team from the SEC and the ACC often fills the other spot for the high-profile game. Alabama has been a frequent visitor to Atlanta for these games as well, so hearing about the possibility of the Tide once again playing in Atlanta to open the season is no shock.

According to the report, Alabama had also been in discussions about playing a game in 2017 with Penn State and USC, although the extent of those talks is unconfirmed. Penn State’s 2017 non-conference schedule is already filled, and USC has one spot to fill. The Trojans are also set to open the 2016 season against Alabama in Arlington.

By 2017, both the ACC and SEC will have a non-conference scheduling requirement in place that requires all conference members to schedule at least one game against another power conference opponent. Florida State has this requirement fulfilled by playing Florida each season. A game with Florida State would fulfill the requirement for Alabama in 2017.

Alabama leads the all-time series 2-1-1. The last time the teams played was in 2007 in another neutral site game in Jacksonville. Florida State won the September game, 21-14. Alabama has hosted the other three meeting in the series, winning two, between 1965 and 1974.

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Hugh Freeze to Florida? Rumor mill is turning out unlikely scenarios

Hugh Freeze

There is no question the Florida coaching vacancy that will soon officially become available will be one of the top landing spots for some coach in this season’s edition of the coaching carousel, and the rumor mill should be working at high speed in the coming weeks as Florida looks to find a replacement for outgoing Will Muschamp. One name that has been thrown out there in the coaching rumor mill already is Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.

On the surface, it would seem to make sense Freeze would be on the list of potential targets for Florida, and why not? Freeze has shown signs of solid recruiting and development with the Ole Miss program in his short time in Oxford, and the Rebels looked to be one of the top teams in the country until the last few weeks. Despite a couple of losses in recent weeks, Ole Miss still looks to be in a better position than Florida right now, and that alone should be enough to keep Freeze in Ole Miss.

This time of the year always seems to turn out rumor after rumor, and sometimes those rumors may be leaked by agents representing coaches ready to either make a move or make a power move to get a brand new contract signed. Ole Miss is already working to put an end to any potential coaching rumors tied to Freeze. The school is already in the process of working on a new contract for Freeze, which both sides previously were reported to be in agreement to finalize after the regular season. The job security for Freeze at Ole Miss also appears to be very good, as he has already had his contract extended twice before.

Freeze leaving Ole Miss may not necessarily be out of the question, but leaving a job at one SEC school with as much job security as Ole Miss has provided for a bit of a rebuilding project at Florida does not appear to be the likely scenario to bank on. Coaches rarely make a move from one school to another within the same conference too. It is even more rare to see a coach at a strong program leave to rebuild another in the same conference.

Florida announced last week Muschamp will be removed as head coach at the conclusion of the regular season. It was Muschamp’s decision, apparently, to not coach the Gators in any potential bowl game the program will be invited to play. This makes sense, as it gives him plenty of time to focus on his next job, whatever and wherever that may be. It also gives the entire program a chance to move in a new direction and the players a chance to play without the distractions that could come with the Muschamp sideshow.

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Texas’ Espinosa won’t seek sixth year

Mississippi v Texas

As it turns out, an injury occurred early on in the season has played a significant role in one of the most experienced Texas offensive linemen calling it a career.

Starting center Dominic Espinosa sustained what turned out to be a very significant ankle injury in UT’s season-opening win over North Texas.  Because a health issue kept him off the field as a true freshman in 2010, it was thought that the offensive lineman would apply for a sixth season of eligibility and return to the Longhorns in 2015.

That won’t be the case, however, as Espinosa himself confirmed, via a very heartfelt letter penned to the fans of the football program and posted on social media, that he is retiring from the game of football.

Prior to the injury in the opener, Espinosa had started 40 straight games at center for the Longhorns.

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Stanford won’t have Ty Montgomery for game vs. UCLA

Ryan Murphy, Ty Montgomery AP

Stanford’s offense has been bad enough with Ty Montgomery on the field.  Without him?  That’s far from optimal, yet that’s the position the Cardinal will find itself this weekend.

Tuesday afternoon, David Shaw confirmed that the all-purpose wide receiver will not play in Friday’s regular-season finale against UCLA.  Montgomery sustained an injury to his right shoulder very early on in last weekend’s win over Cal.

It’s the same shoulder that nearly kept him out of the opener after undergoing surgery earlier in the offseason.  Shaw did say there’s a “distinct possibility” he’ll be healthy enough to play in a bowl game.

Montgomery leads the Cardinal in receptions (61) and receiving yards (604), and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (three).  Montgomery’s absence will also hurt the Cardinal on special teams as he’s their leading kickoff (25.2 yards per return) and punt returner (19.8 ypr).  He’s returned two punts for touchdowns this season.

The Hornung Award finalist being unavailable could also impact the Pac-12 South race.

If UCLA wins Saturday, they claim the division title and the spot opposite Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.  If UCLA loses, the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game earns the berth.

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Gophers’ David Cobb ‘very questionable’ for B1G play-in game

Minnesota v Nebraska Getty Images

The winner of Saturday’s Minnesota-Wisconsin game will move on to face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game the following weekend.  Unfortunately for one of the participants, they could very well be missing a very key piece of its running game.

Tuesday afternoon, Gophers head coach Jerry Kill was asked about running back David Cobb‘s status for the play-in game. “Very questionable,” Kill responded.

Cobb sustained a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the Week 13 win over Nebraska in Lincoln.

Especially when it comes to a game with such high stakes, losing Cobb would be a significant blow for the Gophers.

Cobb has rushed for 1,430 yards this season, over 1,000 yards more than the team’s No. 2 rusher, quarterback Mitch Leidner (407).  The top back besides Cobb?  Berkley Edwards and his 140 yards.

While Cobb is ninth nationally in rushing, his Gopher teammates on the defensive side of the ball will be tasked with stopping the nation’s leading rusher (2,109 yards) and scorer of rushing touchdowns (25) in Melvin Gordon.

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