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

No. 13 Notre Dame rolling early to take big halftime lead over turnover-prone USC

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There are bad starts, and there are starts like what No. 11 USC had in the first half of their rivalry game against No. 13 Notre Dame.

Fumble on the first drive? Check. Shank a short field goal? Yep. Muff a punt? Indeed. Throw an interception. Thumbs up.

As a result, the Irish fed off an electric atmosphere in South Bend to jump out to a hot start against their intersectional rival and went to the locker room up 28-0 at halftime in a game that seems over given the way the two sides are playing at the moment.

Proving that a few weeks off were indeed plenty to get back to 100 percent, quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked sharp in taking advantage of all those USC miscues. He finished the half with two touchdown passes (one to Kevin Stepherson, the other to Equanimeous St. Brown) and ran for 76 yards and another score despite that balky foot injury that kept him out for several weeks.

Running back Josh Adams didn’t get a ton of work given all the quick end zone trips (just 14 carries), but also gave a boost to his low-key Heisman campaign by running for 68 yards and a touchdown.

As many positives as you could come up with for Notre Dame in the half, you could just about double it and come up with the number of negatives for USC. Sam Darnold had one of his worst halves in cardinal and gold, fumbling on the opening drive and throwing an interception late in the second quarter. He wound up with 107 yards as the only source of offense for the Trojans after Ronald Jones was bottled up to the tune of just five yards on seven carries.

USC has authored several second half comebacks already this year but, based on the way they played so far in Notre Dame Stadium, they’re going to need a comeback just to avoid getting blown out. The flip side is another strong showing like that and all the College Football Playoff talk surrounding the Irish will start to become very, very real come Sunday.

Penn State starts fast, but Michigan hanging around

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On a white out night in State College, Penn State threatened to blowout Michigan early, but the Wolverines battled back to a 21-13 deficit at the break.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead pulled out a wrinkle on the Nittany Lions’ second play from scrimmage, and it worked to perfection. Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley shifted pre-snap, and Barkley took the direct snap and raced 69 yards untouched for a touchdown.

After forcing a three-and-out, Penn State moved 78 yards in four plays, keyed by a 35-yard rainbow heave from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki. Barkley scored his second touchdown of the first quarter one play later, a 15-yard burst around the right side. 

But Penn State’s offense stalled from there. The Lions’ next possession ended in a McSorley interception, and the possession after that was a three-and-out that lost nine yards. Penn State penetrated Michigan territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley dropped a wheel route that would’ve put the Lions inside the red zone. Penn State turned the ball over on downs two plays later.

Meanwhile, Michigan turned McSorley’s interception into an 11-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard Karan Higdon run on fourth-and-goal. Quinn Nordin missed the ensuing PAT.

After the turnover on downs, Michigan marched 67 yards on a series of John O’Korn plays — a 14-yard rush, an 18-yard strike to Donovan Peoples-Jones, and 23 yards to Kekoa CrawfordTy Isaac powered in from six yards out to pull the Wolverines within one with 1:45 to play before the half. 

Threatened for the first time of the evening, Penn State ended its streak of three straight unsuccessful drives with a 7-play, 75-yard march that consumed only 52 seconds. McSorley accounted for 68 yards on the drive, including a 3-yard rush to put the home team back up eight.

O’Korn closed the half hitting 7-of-9 passes for 63 yards, while a host of Wolverines runners combined to rush 22 times for 78 yards.

McSorley hit 10-of-18 passes for 159 yards with an interception with five carries for 26 yards and a score. Barkley rushed 11 times for 109 yards and two scores, while DaeSean Hamilton caught three passes for 69 yards.

Michigan will receive to open the second half.

Tennessee’s Rashaan Gaulden apologizes for flipping off Alabama fans

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It would take someone in need of Mr. Magoo-level corrective lenses to not see this one coming.

As you no doubt know by now, Alabama took Tennessee to the woodshed Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.  The Vols did save a slight sliver of their collective manhood as they scored a touchdown for the first time since the second quarter of the Sept. 23 win over previously winless UMass, a span that stretched nearly 13 full quarters of playing time.

In the aftermath of that defensive touchdown, however, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden decided to offer up a double-digit, middle-finger salute to the Crimson Tide student section that resulted in a 15-yard penalty.  In the aftermath of that gesture, Gaulden offered up an apology.

“I would like to issue an apology to the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama for my gesture after the pick-six by (Daniel) Bituli,” Gaulden said. “That remark that I showed was very out of character. That’s not how my parents raised me. That’s not how a leader of the team should show their emotions on the field.

“I really, sincerely apologize to the student section at Alabama for disrespecting them.”

Beleaguered head coach Butch Jones, who is likely out at some point after the end of the regular season if not sooner, certainly didn’t need something like this shedding even more negative light on his flailing football program.  Jones stated that any punishment meted out to Gaulden will be handled internally.

“That’s something that will be dealt with internally in our football program, but that’s not who we are, that’s not what we’re about,” Jones said. “But, he knew that. We spoke about it, and he feels awful about it. It’s one of those things of overall just being a mature football team. But, again, that’s something that we don’t accept in this program and he understands that.”

Since we here, we’ll go ahead and offer this up as the current state of the once-proud UT football program.

Late heroics save No. 9 Oklahoma on the road at Kansas State after wild second half

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Just before the end of the first half, everybody was wondering if Baker Mayfield was 100 percent healthy. Just before the end of the second half, it became pretty clear he was doing just fine. The Sooners’ star quarterback was dazzling once again to power a last minute comeback on the road, leading No. 9 Oklahoma to a 42-35 win against a pesky Kansas State squad that was looking to pull an upset before some late heroics on the final drive.

The signal-caller appeared to get injured during a scramble late in the second quarter and was taken out in the red zone on the ensuing possession, used only as a decoy on a few wildcat snaps. As it turned out, that seemed to be a coaching strategy as OU rotated in backup Kyler Murray several times on ensuing possessions. Mayfield eventually wound up with an efficient 32-of-41 for 410 yards and two touchdowns passing while rushing for two scores and 69 yards as well.

Most importantly, he also got the win after perfectly executing a two minute drive that led to tailback Rodney Anderson (147 yards, two scores) hitting the corner for the game-winning touchdown.

That was all despite the best efforts of his counterpart Alex Delton, who was making just his second start behind center for the Wildcats. While he was solid as a passer (144 yards, one TD, one interception), the dual-threat was incredible on the ground and ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns. That led to quite the combination in the backfield as Alex Barnes managed 108 yards — 75 of which came on a touchdown run on the second snap of the game.

The close victory on the road keeps Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff race, even if the effort was less than impressive given the early struggles. The meeting between the youngest and oldest coaches in FBS proved to be quite the thriller in the end too, as Lincoln Riley claimed the ‘W’ over the Wizard himself Bill Snyder in what will surely be a memorable game for both sides.