Stanford signs 12 to National Letters of Intent

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

STANFORD, Calif. – Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football David Shaw announced today the members of the 12-man 2013 recruiting class who have officially signed their National Letter of Intent and Financial Aid Agreement to play football at Stanford University.

“When you look at our 2013 class, you will see size. You will see athleticism. You will see toughness,” said Shaw, the two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year. “We made it a point in this class to find tight ends and linebackers who can physically do what we need, and we’re excited about the guys we found.”

A class mirroring Stanford’s on-field prowess built upon big athletes, today’s signees average 6’4” and 235 pounds. That comes in a class with no defensive linemen and just two offensive linemen.

The 12 newest Cardinal hail from eight different states. Five come from California, plus one each from Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah and Virginia.

While the number of available scholarships due to a small graduating senior class limited the size of Stanford’s recruiting class, the quality stands strong. As of the completion of today’s final signing, the 2013 Cardinal class ranked 16th in the nation for average player rating and 17th by 247Sports.com.

Among Stanford’s 12 signees, five were named PrepStar All-Americans and five were members of the ESPN 300. Nine of the 12 members of Stanford’s 2013 signing class were rated at least four stars by various recruiting services, including two five-star selections. Nine signees were also selected to play in an All-American game, while 10 were ranked top-25 in the nation at their respective positions by various services.

Seven of these signees are slated for offense – three tight ends, two offensive linemen, a quarterback and a wide receiver – with a quartet on defense – two each at outside linebacker and inside linebacker. One player is listed on both sides of the ball at wide receiver / cornerback. Following several successful recruiting classes at the positions, Stanford passed on signing a running back or defensive lineman for 2013.

“Offensively, we believe that we’ve added exciting firepower,” said Shaw. “Ryan Burns is a big, athletic, strong-armed quarterback, and he is joined by Francis Owusu, who is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the nation. Up front, we have added two physical, aggressive and versatile offensive linemen who fit our style and temperament of play.

“People have asked me the last few years, ‘Where do you find those tight ends?’ We believe that we have three guys in this class who can be as productive in the running game and passing game as Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo were for us.”

Stanford’s three-man tight end haul is a leading strength of the 2013 signing class. Austin Hooper (San Ramon, Calif./De La Salle HS) is a First-Team All-State two-way standout, captain of the CIF Open Division State Champions and No. 1 ranked team in the nation. Greg Taboada (Atlanta, Ga./Marist HS) also earned First-Team All-State honors and was ranked the 167th overall prospect in the nation and 18th overall player in Georgia by ESPN.com. A talented receiving threat and athlete in the mold of Ertz, Eric Cotton (Nampa, Idaho/Columbia HS) may be a sleeper in this class, unranked in any category by Rivals.com and holding one other Pac-12 scholarship offer, though ranked 227th overall in the nation and first overall in Idaho by 247Sports.com.

The Cardinal signed one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Ryan Burns (Leesburg, Va./Stone Bridge HS), a PrepStar Dream Team selection and U.S. Army All-American who can throw and run at 6’5” and 225 pounds. Burns came to the forefront of Stanford’s recruiting in the summer of 2011, when he thrilled at the Cardinal’s Quarterback Academy camp. He ranked top-six in the nation among pro-style quarterbacks in the 2013 class by PrepStar, ESPN.com and Rivals.com.

A familiar name to Stanford, wide receiver Francis Owusu (Oxnard, Calif./Oaks Christian School) is the younger brother of former Cardinal wideout Chris Owusu (2008-11), now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The younger Owusu is a taller version at 6’3” who broke his high school’s receiving records and ranked among the top 20 wide receivers in the nation by PrepStar and Rivals.com.

A year after signing what was hailed as the top offensive line recruiting class in the history of college football, Stanford selectively and patiently targeted versatile and athletic linemen to fit the Cardinal’s culture. Both were found in Southern California, after standout performances at Stanford’s summer camps. David Bright (Yorba Linda, Calif./Mater Dei HS) can play tackle or guard and rated as a PrepStar All-American. Thomas Oser (Los Angeles, Calif./Harvard-Westlake School) is an experienced center ranked 11th in the nation by 247Sports.com who can also play offensive guard.

“Defensively, with the depth of young talent in the defensive backfield and the returning strength of our defensive line, we’ve added four linebackers in this class who can run and hit and play the aggressive style of defense for which Stanford has come to be known,” said Shaw. “Each of these linebackers has unique abilities in pass rush and in coverage, and they will add to the strength and depth of our front seven.”

Outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi (Matthews, N.C./Butler HS) is one of the most decorated players in the nation, earning First-Team All-American honors by USA Today, selected to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and one of five finalists for the high school Butkus Award. Kalambayi is ranked top-100 among all players in the nation by PrepStar and Rivals.com and consensus top-10 nationally at various linebacker positions. He is joined by Mike Tyler (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights HS), an All-Ohio performer who recorded 18 sacks his senior season.

Kevin Palma (Pixley, Calif./Mission Oak HS) is ranked the 10th best middle linebacker in the nation and 196th overall player by Scout.com. He earned First-Team All-State honors following a senior season that saw him record 19 tackles for loss including a school-record eight in one game. Paired at inside linebacker in this class is Sean Barton (North Salt Lake, Utah/Woods Cross HS), a PrepStar All-American and consensus top-three player in Utah who played myriad positions on both sides of the ball. Barton totaled 43 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 receiving yards on offense plus more than 200 tackles and 36 tackles for loss on defense in his career but will wait until 2015 to enroll at Stanford University, following his two-year LDS church mission in Africa.

Three-way threat Taijuan Thomas (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish HS) has prospects at both wide receiver and cornerback plus special teams for Stanford, with demonstrated track speed and playmaking football ability that earned him top-35 prospect rankings in Louisiana by ESPN.com and Rivals.com and Honorable Mention All-State honors.

“Taijuan Thomas is one of those explosive athletes who could help us on offense, defense and special teams,” said Shaw. “We can’t wait for his playmaking ability to impact our team.”

For detailed bios and highlight videos on all 12 Stanford Class of 2013 signees, visit SigningDay Central.

The Cardinal kicks off spring practices in less than three weeks on Feb. 25, with the Cardinal & White Spring Game returning to Stanford Stadium – for the first time since 2009 – on April 13 at 3pm.

2013 Stanford National Letter of Intent Signing Class

* PrepStar All-Americans (5): ILB Sean Barton, OG/OT David Bright, QB Ryan Burns, OLB Peter Kalambayi, WR Francis Owusu

* USA Today All-American (1): OLB Peter Kalambayi

* ESPN 300 (5): QB Ryan Burns, TE Austin Hooper, OLB Peter Kalambayi, WR Francis Owusu, TE Greg Taboada

* Scout 300 (3): OLB Peter Kalambayi, WR Francis Owusu, ILB Kevin Palma

* Rivals 250 (3): QB Ryan Burns, OLB Peter Kalambayi, WR Francis Owusu

* 247Sports 247 (4): QB Ryan Burns, TE Eric Cotton, OLB Peter Kalambayi, ILB Kevin Palma

* Tacoma News Tribune Western 100: ILB Sean Barton, TE Eric Cotton, TE Austin Hooper, WR Francis Owusu, ILB Kevin Palma

* U.S. Army All-American Bowl selections (2): QB Ryan Burns, OLB Peter Kalambayi

* Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl selections (4): ILB Sean Barton, TE Austin Hooper, OG/C Thomas Oser, WR Francis Owusu

* Offense-Defense All-American Bowl selections (3): ILB Sean Barton, ILB Kevin Palma, TE Greg Taboada

* International Bowl selection by Team USA (1): TE Eric Cotton

Barton, Sean … ILB … 6-3 … 220 … North Salt Lake, Utah … Woods Cross HS
Bright, David … OT/OG … 6-5 … 290 … Yorba Linda, Calif. … Mater Dei HS
Burns, Ryan … QB … 6-5 … 225 … Leesburg, Va. … Stone Bridge HS
Cotton, Eric … TE … 6-6 … 235 … Nampa, Idaho … Columbia HS
Hooper, Austin … TE … 6-4 … 245 … San Ramon, Calif. … De La Salle HS
Kalambayi, Peter … OLB … 6-3 … 240 … Matthews, N.C. … Butler HS
Oser, Thomas … OG/C … 6-5 290 … Los Angeles, Calif. … Harvard-Westlake School
Owusu, Francis … WR … 6-3 … 193 … Oxnard, Calif. … Oaks Christian School
Palma, Kevin … ILB … 6-2 240 … Pixley, Calif. … Mission Oak HS
Taboada, Greg … TE … 6-5 … 235 … Atlanta, Ga. … Marist HS
Thomas, Taijuan … WR/CB … 5-10 … 185 … Monroe, La. … Ouachita Parish HS
Tyler, Mike … OLB … 6-5 … 225 … Brecksville, Ohio … Brecksville-Broadview Heights HS

Middle Tennessee holds on to win the bizarre (and turnover-filled) Camellia Bowl over Arkansas State

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Middle Tennessee State entered the Camellia Bowl 121st in the country in turnover margin and had lost the battle in nine of their 12 games this season. Arkansas State was only a little bit better in the same category, ranking 81st in turnover margin in 2017. Predictably those kinds of statistics came into play on Saturday night in the Camellia Bowl as the two sides played a bit of hot potato — six giveaways — before MTSU hung on for a 35-30 win to cap off the first day of bowl season in college football.

Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill had a game that could have been a nightmare for a veteran quarterback but ended up being alright thanks to his defense continually picking him on a night where chunk plays were hard to come by. The signal-caller threw the first of his three interceptions on the night on the first drive of the game but bounced back over the final three quarters, throwing for 232 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. That kind of performance, which included several big throws in the second half, helped secure the first bowl victory of his career and give him the rare distinction of being able to win a postseason game with his father Rick as head coach.

It wasn’t all about the Stockstill combo for MTSU however as their run game produced a pair of touchdowns behind tailbacks Terelle West and Tavares Thomas, and the team’s defense had one of their best outings of the season to limit the Sun Belt’s highest scoring offense to well below all their season averages. Linebacker Darius Harris led the way when his unit was on the field, flying from sideline-to-sideline and racking up 12 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a two pass break ups. His running mate at linebacker, D.J. Sanders, was equally productive with seven tackles and a 54 yard fumble return for a touchdown just before halftime.

The Red Wolves did what they could to threaten to make things interesting down the stretch but never could get over the hill. The team ran a fake punt to open fourth quarter, resulting in a 21 yard strike from the punter to gunner Chris Murray along the sidelines and appeared to seize momentum after a subsequent  touchdown to Warren Wand. However the defense failed to get a stop and then Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen (337 yards, 3TD, 1 INT) threw a fourth down pass out of the end zone to all but seal a rather lackluster loss for a team that had won six of the last eight coming into the bowl.

Arkansas State also came up a bit short in the record books on the defensive side of the ball as well. In addition to allowing 35 points to MTSU, conference player of the year Ja’Von Rolland-Jones failed to record a sack and thus couldn’t break the NCAA career record (held by former Arizona State and current Baltimore Ravens star Terrell Suggs) of 44 career sacks after entering the game just shy of the mark with 43.5. While the pass rusher did manage to sack Stockstill in the game, the play was negated by a penalty to keep him from taking over on the all-time list.

The victory pushed Middle Tennessee over the .500 mark for the fifth time in six seasons and likely meant a little bit more to the program given how many key injuries the team suffered over the course of 2017 before capturing their first bowl win in eight years. Arkansas State did their best to prevent that from happening as they dropped to 7-5 on the season after a rather bizarre Camellia Bowl that had a little bit of everything.

Defense comes up big to help Middle Tennessee grab Camellia Bowl lead at halftime over Arkansas State

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Middle Tennessee State started off the Camellia Bowl on Saturday night in about the worst way possible with a pair of first quarter interceptions but leaned heavily on their stout defense to manage their way to a 21-10 lead over Arkansas State at halftime in a somewhat low-scoring affair few could have seen coming between these high-scoring offenses.

Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill tossed an interception on the team’s opening drive of the game but managed to bounce back and throw for  80 yards and a touchdown after another slow start for the veteran signal-caller. Luckily the team’s defense pitched a goal line stand after his first pick and proved to be similarly stout after his second to keep the team in things after such a rough start against the Sun Belt power.

Mistakes proved to be costly for the Red Wolves throughout the night on both sides of the ball as a roughing the punter ruined a potential stop early and led to MTSU tailback Terelle West running right off his left guard for a 45 yard touchdown and a quick lead for the Conference USA squad who wasn’t doing much to move the ball outside of that big play.

The wildest sequence of the bowl season (so far) happened in the closing minutes of the first quarter however, leaving fans, officials and coaches all confused at what exactly just happened. Stockstill appeared to find a receiver over the middle and on the door step of the end zone but ASU’s Justin Clifton had other ideas — stripping the ball and appearing to run it back (with help) for a touchdown. The call went through a lengthy review process that wound up giving Clifton an interception and his offense the ball back at their 18 yard line instead but they ended up punting it away for 61 yards to cap off a truly bizarre few minutes.

Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen had some decent numbers (151 yards passing, one rushing TD) but things just weren’t clicking for what had been the Sun Belt’s most prolific offense during the regular season. The signal-caller fumbled shortly before halftime, which allowed D.J. Sanders to rumble 54 yards with a fumble recovery touchdown that extended MTSU’s lead. The Red Wolves did manage to mount a scoring drive on the next possession to get right back in the game but they’ll need to show more down the stretch if they want to reach the eight win mark for the sixth time in seven seasons.

It’s had a few strange moments but the conclusion to the first Saturday of the bowl season is shaping up rather nicely down in Montgomery, Alabama. However both sides in this one will be sure to focus on correcting a bunch of mistakes after that somewhat whacky first half.

Marshall pushes bowl winning streak to six in escaping with win over Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

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The Streak lives.  Barely.

Marshall (8-5) came into Saturday’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl having won five straight bowl games.  Exiting Albuquerque, Marshall will head back to Huntington armed with a six-game postseason winning streak as they escaped with a 31-28 win over Colorado State (7-6).

The first half was all about the passing of quarterback Chase Litton.  The second half was all about the running game — with a little Litton sprinkled in as well.

Up 21-14 at halftime, Tyler King outran the CSU defense to score on a 90-yard touchdown run very early in the third quarter to give MU a 28-14 lead that had the feeling of putting the game out of reach.  King finished the win with 106 yards rushing, one of two Thundering Herd running backs to top the 100-yard mark as Keion Davis chipped in with a team-high 141 yards.  Davis himself scored on a 68-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Herd its halftime lead.

After throwing for 177 in the first half, Litton finished with 262 through the air.  Tyre Brady, who caught six passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, was named the Player of the Game.

Entering the fourth quarter, MU held what walked, talked and looked like an extremely comfortable 31-14 lead.  CSU, however, cut the lead to 31-28 midway through the quarter on a pair of Nick Stevens touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).  Getting the ball back with just over six minutes remaining and pinned back on their own 16-yard line, the Rams, who caught a break when a fumble recovered by the Herd was negated by defensive holding, couldn’t reach midfield on their last drive as their hopes for a come-from-behind win were extinguished after turning the ball over on downs.

(That Michael Gallup catch to briefly extend that last drive, though.  Wow.)

While Marshall extended its winning streak — Doc Holliday is 5-0 as head coach — Colorado State extended a skein in the opposite direction as the Rams have now lost four bowl games in a row.

FCS title game set: defending champ James Madison vs. five-time champ North Dakota State

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If everyone is being honest with themselves, and aside from the opposing fans, this is the matchup we were all looking for.

Friday night, No. 2 North Dakota State (13-1) routed No. 6 Sam Houston State (12-2) 55-13 to claim one spot in the 2017 FCS championship game.  One day later, top seed James Madison (14-0) easily took care of business against No. 5 South Dakota State (11-3), claiming the other spot with a methodical 51-16 semifinal woodshedding.

The top two seeds in this years tournament will now square off Jan. 6 in Frisco, Tex., for the 2017 FCS championship.

James Madison is the reigning national champion, claiming the school’s second-ever title with a 28-14 win over Youngstown State last season.  North Dakota State, meanwhile, will be looking to get back to the trophy mountaintop after they won a record five straight championships from 2011-15.

The Bison will likely be shorthanded for that contest, however, as their two starting cornerbacks — Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush — suffered knee injuries in the semifinal win while their second-leading rusher, Ty Brooks, suffered a shoulder injury.  Despite the game being nearly three weeks away, all three are expected to be sidelined for the contest.