Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck (12) stands on the sidelines with head coach David Shaw after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of their NCAA football game against the University of Oregon in Palo Alto

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

ECU transfer QB Kurt Benkert moves on to Virginia

In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert rolls out to pass during NCAA college football practice in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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On April 25, East Carolina announced that Kurt Benkert had decided to transfer out of the Pirates football program.  Less than a week later, the quarterback has found himself a new football home.

On Twitter Sunday afternoon, Benkert confirmed that he will be enrolling at Virginia and continuing his collegiate playing career with the Cavaliers.  Beckert also acknowledged his decision in a text message to 247Sports.com.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Beckert said in a portion of the brief text.

As Beckert is headed to UVa. as a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play for the Hoos immediately in 2016.  Not only that, but he will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Beckert was named the Pirates’ starter in early August of 2015, but sustained a right knee injury a couple of weeks later that knocked him out for the entire season.  In Charlottesville, Beckert will join a competition that includes returning starter Matt Johns and Texas/Arizona transfer Connor Brewer.

Mark Richt continues to be the classiest of acts in college football

Mark Richt gestures after being introduced as the new University of Miami NCAA college football head coach, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015,  in Coral Gables, Fla.  (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
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In my seven-plus years at CFT, I’ve never been shy in expressing my absolute and utter respect for Mark Richt, whether it was for an honorable against-the-grain stance on transfers or honoring a high school football player who tragically drowned before he could become a walk-on at Georgia or myriad other things.  Sunday, Richt solidified that respect.

As you may know, Richt and UGA parted ways this offseason, with the head coach ultimately moving on to Miami to take over his alma mater’s football program.  As expected, his departure from Athens was classy.

Just as expected, one of Richt’s returns to his old stomping grounds further showed his class.

Not to be outdone, Richt’s replacement showed his class as well.

Bravo to both head coaches.  Sometimes, most times, being classy is the absolute right move — even as Richt’s successor could take some lessons from his predecessor when it comes to transfers.

Ohio State draftees to sign contracts worth in excess of $110 million

Urban Meyer
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Forget about going shirtless at a satellite camp or a sleepover or climbing up a tree or any of the like; this is what you call a recruiting pitch.

During the course of the three-day NFL draft, a dozen former Ohio State Buckeyes were drafted.  While OSU failed to break its own record for most picks in a single draft, the 12 selections in the first four rounds were the most ever.

And, not surprisingly, those players are going to get paid.

According to PennLive.com‘s David Jones, those players will sign contracts that could be worth a total of $120 million.  Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch has the number pegged slightly lower at $111,462,707.  Either way, that’s a lot of cash — and a lot dollar signs for Urban Meyer to flout in front of potential recruits.

Of course, not all of that money is guaranteed, although the guaranteed dollars involved aren’t too shabby either.  From the Dispatch:

Just the signing bonuses alone, which range from Bosa’s projected $17,017,226 to Jones’ $383,393, have an expected total of $60,526,660. Unless a player does something to cause his contract to be voided, signing bonuses are theirs to keep.

Regardless of how you spin it, former Buckeyes did quite well financially the last couple of days.  And, as Jones alludes to when it comes to James Franklin and Penn State specifically and the Big Ten in general, Meyer and the Buckeyes are in an entirely different zip code than the rest of the conference — a fact that will no doubt come up on the vast expanses of the recruiting trail.

The good news for Franklin and Penn State: They had three of those 11. The bad news for them and everyone else in the league: Urban Meyer is probably preparing a recruiting flyer right now with a 9-figure dollar amount printed in big bold numbers.

Veteran NFL assistant reportedly to fill Alabama’s coaching vacancy

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On the same day some details emerged on an Alabama assistant’s “resignation,” that assistant’s potential replacement has been identified.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Karl Dunbar is expected to be hired as the Tide’s new defensive line coach.  Dunbar would replace Bo Davis, who “resigned” Friday amidst allegations of potential NCAA violations.

Dunbar served as Nick Saban‘s strength & conditioning coach at LSU from 2001-02, and then returned to Baton Rouge as Les Miles‘ line coach in 2005 after spending two years (2003-04) in the same position at Oklahoma State.

Most of Dunbar’s coaching career, though, especially recently, has come at the NFL level.

From 2006-11, Dunbar was the line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, and then held the same job with the New York Jets from 2012-2014.  Hired by Rex Ryan to coach the Buffalo Bills’ line in 2015, Dunbar was fired in March of this year.

Dunbar is a former NFL defensive lineman who played for Arizona in 1994-95, when Ryan was one of his Cardinals assistant.