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Virginia announces recruiting class of 22

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

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia football program signed 21 student-athletes to a National Letters of Intent (NLI) for the 2013-14 academic school year head coach Mike London announced. One additional recruit enrolled at UVa in January, topping the class off at 22. Highlighting the nationally ranked class are 10 signees from the state of Virginia, including six from the Richmond region and three from the Tidewater region.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 22 members of Virginia’s 2013 recruiting class.)

George Adeosun
6-6 • 295 • OL
Alpharetta, Ga.
Alpharetta HS

Played offensive tackle at Alpharetta High School for head coach Jason Dukes … a native of Nigeria, didn’t start playing football until reaching high school … started junior season on the junior varsity team and an injury forced him to make varsity debut blocking ESPN’s No. 2 recruit and Auburn signee Carl Lawson … holding his own, he remained on varsity for the remainder of his career … student body president at Alpharetta High School … a four-star player by 247sports … a three-star player by Rivals.com, ESPN.com and Scout.com.

Zach Bradshaw
6-3 • 210 • ATH
Damascus, Md.
Damascus HS

Played linebacker, receiver and kick returner for head coach Eric Wallich at Damascus High School … named to the Maryland Consensus All-State team at linebacker … also named to Maryland’s Big School All-State team at linebacker … Washington Post All-Met first team and Montgomery Gazette first team honoree … one of the state’s top all-around performers, a defensive standout who had more than 600 receiving yards and handled kick return duties … played in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … listed as three-star player by ESPN.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports … attended the same high school as current UVa safety Brandon Phelps.

Tyrell Chavis
6-3 • 290 • DT
Richmond, Va.
Varina HS/Fork Union Military Academy

Was a 2012 signee with Virginia before attending Fork Union Military Academy for a post-graduate season where he played for coach John Shuman … offensive guard and defensive tackle for head coach Stu Brown at Varina High School … first-team all-district offensive lineman … first-team all-region offensive and defensive line … Touchdown Club of Richmond first-team defensive lineman … first-team All-Metro offensive and defensive line … is a four-star player by 247Sports and the No. 9 prep player in the country … a three-star player by Rivals.com and ESPN.com … played at Varina with current UVa cornerback Maurice Canady … son of Marie Chavis … has an older brother, Robert … enjoys cooking.

Malcolm Cook
6-1 • 195 • S
Richmond, Va.
Fork Union Military Academy

Played safety for head coach Captain Brian Hurlocker at Fork Union Military Academy, playing for the high school team … was an All-Prep League and Virginia Prep/Rivals.com All-State honoree … made 96 tackles and intercepted nine passes, four of which he returned for touchdowns … amassed 369 interception yards … had a 100-yard interception for a touchdown against St. Christopher’s … returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Georgetown Prep … scored a receiving touchdown against Liberty Christian in the VIS Division 1 State Championship game … caused three fumbles during the season … caught four passes for 59 yards … spent first three years of high school at Armstrong High School in Richmond where he also played quarterback … made 67 tackles and had seven interceptions at Armstrong in 2011 … returned five of his interceptions at Armstrong in 2011 for touchdowns … a four-star player by 247Sports … a three-star player by Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com … ranked the No. 27 safety in the nation by 247Sports … ranked the No. 13 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times.

Corwin Cutler
6-4 • 180 • QB
Chesapeake, Va.
Ocean Lakes HS

Played quarterback at Ocean Lakes High School for head coach Chris Scott … senior season was cut short due to injury, but still threw for over 2,100 yards and 30 touchdowns … VHSL Group AAA All-State first-state first-team honoree … named a VHSCA All-State first-team quarterback as a senior … All-Tidewater first-team honoree while guiding the Dolphins to an unbeaten regular season and Beach District Championship … Beach District Offensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Eastern Region … threw for over 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2011 … finished high school career with 4,635 career passing yards in regular season games, which ranks No. 12 all-time on the South Hampton Roads career passing list … ranked by ESPN.com as a four-star player and the No. 21 quarterback in the class of 2013 … a three-star player by 247Sports, Scout.com and Rivals.com … ranked the No. 14 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … nickname is Turtle.

Jack English
6-5 • 260 • DL
Richmond, Va.
St. Christopher’s School

Played tight end and defensive line at St. Christopher’s School for head coach Michael Turner … Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Metro second team in 2012 … was a three-year letterwinner in football, earning all-state, all-prep and All-Metro honors twice … as a tight end, made 11 catches for 204 yards and one touchdown in 2012 … made 56 tackles and 17.0 tackles for loss … also collected five sacks for a loss of 43 yards … made 50 tackles, including 20 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2011 … also plays baseball and basketball … all-prep and all-state pitcher and outfielder on the baseball team … is a three-star player by ESPN.com and Rivals.com … ranked the No. 18 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … son of Ben and Loretta English … has an older brother, Patrick … has an older sister, Kate.

Kirk Garner
5-11 • 180 • S
Olney, Md.
Our Lady of Good Counsel High School

Played safety and receiver at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School for head coach Bob Milloy … rushed 10 times for 70 yards and one touchdown … caught 18 passes for 270 yards … made 42 tackles on defense and two tackles for a loss … snatched four interceptions and caused two fumbles … returned a kickoff against Gonzaga for a 78-yard touchdown … returned 14 punts for 128 yards … Maryland Consensus All- State honoree … All-State Big Schools first team at defensive back … All-WCAC first team at wide receiver … All-Gazette first team … All-Met second team as a defensive back … played in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … made 33 tackles as a junior in 2011 … a four-star player by Rivals.com … a three-star player by 247sports, ESPN.com and Scout.com … current Cavaliers E.J. Scott and Vincent Croce attended the same high school.

Tim Harris
6-2 • 190 • DB
Richmond, Va.
Varina HS

Defensive back and wide receiver at Varina High School for head coach Stud Brown … Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Metro first team … played in the Chesapeake Bowl … ranked the No. 10 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … All-Capital and All-Central Region first-team honoree … ranked as the No. 11 recruit in Virginia according to the 2013 Daily Press Fab 15 … a four-star performer by 247sports, ESPN.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com … the No. 124-rated player in the nation by 247sports and the No. 16 rated cornerback … the No. 179-rated player in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 14-rated cornerback.

Keeon Johnson
6-3 • 200 • WR
Kannapolis, N.C.
A.L. Brown HS

Wide receiver at A.L. Brown High School for head coach Mike Newsome … in 2012, made 41 catches for 535 yards and five touchdowns … ranked as MaxPreps.com’s No. 25 wide receiver … member of the 2012 Carolina All-Gridiron team … represented the North team in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas … as a junior in 2011, caught 39 passes for 795 yards and nine touchdowns … a three-star performer by 247sports, ESPN.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com.

Zack Jones
5-11 • 180 • WR
Chesapeake, Va.
Oscar Smith HS

Wide receiver at Oscar Smith High School for head coach Richard Morgan … earned VHSL Group AAA all-state second-team honors as a wide receiver in 2012 … caught three passes for 85 yards, one touchdown and had 116 all-purpose yards in the 2011 Group AAA Division 6 state title game, helping Oscar Smith win its second title in four years … caught 32 passes for 675 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 … named first-team all-district and all-region … named to the All-Tidewater second- team … caught 52 passes 1,015 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior … had a 90- yard kick return for a touchdown and a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown in 2011, the only two times he registered a kick return … also punted for over a 40- yard average … all-district and all-region first-team … All-Tidewater and all-state … three-star performer by 247sports, ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com … ranked the No. 19 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … brother of former UVa captain Perry Jones.

Micah Kiser
6-2 • 215 • LB
Baltimore, Md.
Gilman School

A linebacker and tight end at the Gilman School for head coach Biff Poggi … was a three-year letterwinner and a three-time All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Conference honoree … two-time Maryland Consensus All-State first- team defense … two-time All-Metro first-team … was the 2012 All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year … Baltimore Sun ‘s Defensive Co-Player of the Year … helped Gilman to a MIAA A Conference title defense … was a 2012 Semper Fidelis All- American … accumulated 111 tackles, two forced fumble and intercepted three passes, while returning two for touchdowns … was a team captain in senior and helped lead Gilman to a No. 19 ranking in the USA Today Super 25 high school team rankings … was a 2011 MaxPreps Air Force Junior All-American second-team linebacker … made 91 tackles and forced three fumbles as a junior in 2011 … a four- star player by 247sports and ESPN.com … a three-star player by Scout.com and Rivals.com …. also played lacrosse at Gilman in 2011 with current Cavalier Ryan Tucker … played the 2010 season of football at Gilman with current Virginia wide receiver Darius Jennings … volunteers with Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Agape House … son of Michael and Donna Kiser … has a younger brother, Jordan.

Andre Levrone
6-2 • 195 • WR
Laurel, Md.
Our Lady of Good Counsel

Played wide receiver and safety at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School for head coach Bob Milloy … suffered a lower extremity injury in the first game of 2012 and didn’t return to play until the final three games of the year … caught nine passes for 117 yards … rushed twice for 63 yards … ranked the No. 42 wide receiver in the nation and No. 2 wide receiver in Maryland by Rivals.com … ranked the No. 11 recruit from Maryland by Rivals .com … ranked the No. 1 wide receiver in Maryland by 247sports … selected first-team all-combine of the US Army All-American Junior Combine … named preseason all-state first-team by MaxPreps … named Top Performer out of the 30 participants from the state of Maryland at the Army All- American Combine by MDHigh.com … named the No. 2 wide receiver at the Top Gun Showcase Camp by Rivals.com … a three-star player by 247sports, ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com … son of Andre and Angie Levrone … has an older brother, Jonathan … has an older sister, Raquel … brother Jonathan served a tour in Iraq as a tanker in the U.S. Army … mother Angie was a high school MVP for three years in track & field, gymnastics and cheerleading … father Andre, Sr. played linebacker for his base team while serving in the Marine Corp … cousin Kevin Levrone is a IFBB Hall of Fame body builder, four-time first-runner-up to Mr. Olympia … current Cavaliers E.J. Scott and Vincent Croce attended the same high school.

Brendan Marshall
6-5 • 210 • QB
Gaithersburg, Md.
Our Lady of Good Counsel

Played quarterback and punter at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School for head coach Bob Milloy … completed 102-of-172 passing attempts for 1,375 yards and seven touchdowns to lead Good Counsel to an 11-1 record and a national rank of No. 43 … was an honorable mention All-State Big Schools first-team as a punter … had 37 punts for 1,351 yards which comes to a 36.51 average … seven punts were inside the 20 … also named All-Sentinel first-team punter … in 2011 he threw for 1,471 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior … a three-star player by 247sports, ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout .com … current Cavaliers E.J. Scott and Vincent Croce attended the same high school.

Jack McDonald
6-5 • 275 • OL
Quincy, Mass.
Boston College HS

Played the offensive and defensive line at Boston College High School for head coach Joe Gaff … also played for two seasons for head coach Jon Bartlett … three- year starter on the offensive line … two-time Catholic Conference All-Star … 2012 Catholic Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year … 2012 Massachusetts Super 26 all-state team … three-time scholar athlete … 2011 Massachusetts Division I state champion … 2012 Patriot Ledger All-Scholastic … 2012 Boston Globe All-Scholastic … earned High Honors or Honors every term of high school … volunteers at My Brothers Keeper, an organization that delivers presents and furniture to families in need … son of John and Michelle McDonald … has an older sister, Kiley … has two younger brothers, Michael and Dylan … uncle Cliff McDonald played offensive tackle at New Hampshire and held the New England Heavyweight boxing title … cousin Cliff McDonald, Jr. played football at Dartmouth.

Taquan Mizzell
5-10 • 185 • RB
Virginia Beach, Va.
Bayside HS

Played running back at Bayside High School for head coach Darnell Moore … a five- star player by Rivals.com … the first five-star recruit to come to UVa since current Jacksonville Jaguar Eugene Monroe in 2005 … a Parade All-American honorable mention honoree … ranked the No. 29 player in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 5 running back in the class … a ESPNU Top 150 prospect, ranking in at No. 78 … ranked by ESPN.com as the No. 9 running back in the nation … a four-star recruit by ESPN.com, Scout.com and 247sports … ranked the No. 3 player in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … ranked as the No. 6 recruit in Virginia according to the 2013 Daily Press Fab 15 … a Lemming Top Player for MaxPreps.com as the No. 4 running back prospect in the nation … ranked the No. 51 prospect in the nation by MaxPreps.com … selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl … had a 72-yard kickoff return that set up the game-winning score as the East beat the West, 15-8, in the U.S. All-American Bowl which was played in the Alamodome in San Antonio … also played in the Chesapeake Bowl and rushed for one touchdown … All-Tidewater first-team honoree … All-Beach District first-team honoree at running back and kick returner … finished senior season with 1,231 yards rushing with 31 touchdowns … accounted for over 2,000 all-purpose yards … led Beach District in rushing … added five receiving touchdowns and returned two punts and one kickoff for scores … finished high school career with 416 regular-season points, which ranks No. 2 all-time in South Hampton Roads history … collected more than 3,500 career rushing yards … All-Beach District first-team running back and kick returner … All- Tidewater first-team honoree … VHSL Group AAA All-State second team honoree … rushed for 1,198 yards and 23 touchdowns as junior in 2011 … nickname is Smoke.

Sadiq Olanrewaju
6-6 • 280 • OL
Gaithersburg, Md.
Salisbury School (Conn.)

Played offensive line and defensive line at the Salisbury School for head coach Chris Phelps … registered 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks for a loss of 21 yards … helped the Salisbury School to the 2012 New England Championship … a three-star player by 247.com, ESPN.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com … listed as the No. 64 overall player in Scout.com’s East 100 rankings … helped school to a 9-0 record during his senior season … named to Max Emfinger’s Northeast Top-75 list … named No. 3 player in Connecticut by Rivals.com … helped team defeat Phillips Exeter Academy to win the Jack Etter Bowl and win its second New England Preparatory School Athletic Council title in the last three years.

Eric Smith
6-5 • 280 • OL
Decatur, Ga.
Columbia HS

Played offensive line at Columbia High School for head coach David Edwards … also played for former head coach Mario Allen … Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-DeKalb honoree … is a three-star player by 247sports and ESPN.com … team finished 5-5 during his senior season … starting center on high school basketball team … named to Class AAAA All-Region 6 team.

LaChaston Smith
6-0 • 215 • LB
Statesville, N.C.
South Iredell HS

January early enrollee and will participate in spring football … a linebacker and running back at South Iredell High School for head coach Scott Miller … was MVP of the North Carolina AA State title game after rushing 25 times for 159 yards and three scores … scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left in 30-27 win over Carrboro … missed most of senior season with an injury … upon return in opening round of playoffs rushed for a state single-game record of seven touchdowns on 13 carries for 191 yards and all in the first half … did not play the second half … played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas … as a junior made 82 tackles, 12 of which went for a loss … also had 1.0 sacks and two interceptions … added 99 tackles, 24 of which went for a loss in 2010 … also had 7.0 sacks and forced seven fumbles … Catawba Valley Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore … all-conference selection as both a sophomore and junior … listed as a four-star linebacker by ESPN.com … listed as three-star player by Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports … national position ranked by Rivals.com at No. 36, ESPN.com at No. 40 and Scout.com at No. 45 … son of Janice Smith … has three sisters, Shakayla, Tatiana and Kendrea Mayfield … has one brother, Preston Ellis … brother Preston ran track at Livingstone … nickname is Ray Ray.

Max Valles
6-5 • 210 • ATH
Sicklerville, N.J.
St. Joseph (Fork Union Military Academy)

Was a 2012 signee with Virginia before attending Fork Union Military Academy for a post-graduate season … played wide receiver, defensive end and safety for head coach Paul Sacco at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, N.J. … finished 2011 with 13 catches for 204 yards and four touchdowns … on defense had 33 tackles and seven sacks … grabbed one interception, caused three fumbles and recovered one … part of a defense that allowed only 17 points the entire season (1 rushing TD, 1 passing TD & 1 FG) … member of three state championship teams, including 2011 with a 10-0 record … All-South Jersey … all-state … Press Athlete of the Fall … named All-Cape-Atlantic League … Philadelphia Inquirer South Jersey Defensive Player of the Year … also a All-Cape-Atlantic performer as an outfielder for the St. Joseph baseball team … son of Paul and Pamela Valles … has two older brothers, Andre, and Hakeem, a sophomore in 2012 on the football team at FCS Monmouth … volunteers at the St. Joseph eighth grade football camp … plans to major in criminal justice.

Eric Tetlow
6-6 • 300 • OL
Richmond, Va.
Mills E. Godwin HS

Played on the offensive line at Mills E. Godwin High School for head coach John Phillips … saw time all over the offensive line, including at center … started on the defensive line as well at Godwin … VHSL Group All-State second-team and VHSL Group AAA Coaches All-State second-team honoree on offense … VirginiaPreps.com’s All-Central Region first-team honoree … led an offensive line at Godwin that produced two players who each averaged over 96 yards rushing per game in 2012 … ranked the No. 36 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … played in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … a three-star player by ESPN.com, 247sports and Rivals … listed as the No. 41 offensive tackle prospect in the nation by ESPN.com … listed as the No. 23 prospect in Virginia by ESPN.com … a two-star player by Scout.com … also played baseball, basketball and wrestling first two years of high school … father Peter, who was born and raised in Australia, was a world-class swimmer, won national championships and qualified for the Olympics before coming to the United States to swim at Harvard … father was ranked as high as seventh in the world in the 1,500-meter freestyle.

Donta Wilkins
6-2 • 305 • DT
Woodbridge, Va.
Potomac HS

Played offensive and defensive line at Potomac High School for head coach Jerry Roadcap … VHSCAA All-State AAA first-team honoree as an offensive lineman … All- Met first-team honoree and two-time Northwest Region offensive and defensive player of the year … recorded 100 tackles with 12.5 sacks and 27 tackles for a loss in 2012 … played in the Chesapeake Bowl … recorded 90 tackles and 10 sacks in 2011 as a junior … also recorded 20 tackles for a loss … in 2011 was a VHSCAA All-State AAA honoree on both offense and defense … was a first-team defensive honoree and a second-team offensive honoree … ranked the No. 12 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … ranked the No. 18 defensive tackle in the nation by 247sports and the No. 13 player in the Commonwealth of Virginia regardless of position … is a four-star player by 247sports … ranked a three-star player by ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Connor Wingo-Reeves
6-3 • 220 • LB
Midlothian, Va.
Monacan HS

Played linebacker and tight end at Monacan High School for head coach Danny Parsons … collected 93 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles as a senior in 2012 … Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Metro second-team performer in 2012 … a first-team All-Dominion District linebacker … ranked the No. 40 prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times … a two-star player by 247sports, ESPN.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com … also plays basketball for Monacan.

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SEC National Signing Day Primer

Butch Jones

The SEC is so fertile with high school talent, it is almost sickening. Four different SEC schools currently have more five-star commitments than the Big 12 has as a conference. The success on the field may not have netted a national championship the past couple of seasons for the SEC, but the conference continues to be a leader in the recruiting game.

Alabama is playing on a different playing field when it comes to recruiting despite some changes on the coaching staff this offseason. Regardless, the Crimson Tide are well on their way to another recruiting national championship. SEC West rivals LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn are putting together great classes as well, but they tend to get overlooked by Alabama’s efforts. In the east, Tennessee continues to be a program on the rise with a very impressive class being put together brick by brick. Georgia continues to do well, as you might expect.

Current Rivals SEC Team Rankings (as of February 1, 2015)

1. Alabama

2. Tennessee

3. Georgia

4. texas A&M

5. LSU

6. Auburn

7. South Carolina

8. Mississippi State

9. Arkansas

10. Ole Miss

11. Missouri

12. Kentucky

13. Vanderbilt

14. Florida

The Top Recruit

DT Kahill McKenzie (Concord, CA): Tennessee

For the moment, no SEC school has landed a bigger commitment in the Class of 2015 as Tennessee with Kahill McKenzie… literally. McKenzie is the nation’s sixth-ranked player and measures in at 6′ 4″ and 340 pounds to be the top defensive tackle in the country. He is the prized recruit for Butch Jones at Tennessee, where the Vols have come on very strong in this recruiting cycle.

Recruiting Battle To Watch

Auburn and Florida are going down to the wire for the number one recruit in the nation, defensive end Byron Cowart of Seffner, Florida. The top player in the nation according to Rivals has visited both schools in the past month, and no others. Although Alabama could be in the mix, as well as Florida State or Clemson and Georgia, the decision is highly expected to be between Auburn and Florida. Florida could really use a boost in the recruiting rankings with Jim McElwain getting a late start on the process, but former Gators head coach Will Mushcamp is now at Auburn as defensive coordinator and that could be a big factor.

Florida has nowhere to go but up

The pains on the field experienced by Florida the last few years have been a drain on recruiting in this recruiting cycle. A coaching change can have a negative impact on the situation as well, and the extended uncertainty over the status of Muschamp as head coach at Gainesville did not help the cause. In steps McElwain, a former Nick Saban assistant with a solid knowledge of how to recruit in the SEC. Like Michigan in the Big Ten, McElwain and his staff in Gainesville are allowed a free pass in the Class of 2015, but dramatic improvements must be made starting in 2016 with a  full recruiting calendar. The Gators will not be on the bottom of the SEC recruiting rankings for very long.

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Notre Dame with no Big Ten opponents for first time since 1916

Amir Carlisle, Corey Robinson, Jourdan Lewis

The ACC released its 2015 schedule the other day, which once again included the latest games to involve Notre Dame on a rotating schedule for ACC members. With another year on the ACC schedule for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are now entering the next phase of parting ways with former traditional rivals in the Big Ten. For the first time since the 1916 season*, Notre Dame will not face a single opponent from the Big Ten.

Notre Dame and Michigan went through a rather messy divorce to those who had been paying attention. Michigan thought they got the last zinger in the series with a 2013 victory capped by the speakers in Michigan Stadium playing The Chicken Dance song as Notre Dame players left the field in the final Michigan home game in the series for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame had opted out of its contract with Michigan the previous season, which ruffled a few feathers in the Michigan community. Notre Dame ended up getting the last laugh in the series with a dominating victory over Michigan in South Bend last September.

Notre Dame is also not playing two other Big Ten opponents that have been somewhat routinely on the schedule; Purdue and Michigan State. Michigan State returns to the schedule in 2016 for the first in a home-and-home agreement for 2016 and 2017. The Irish and Spartans have played more games in their series than Notre Dame has with Michigan, but it tends to receive less notoriety. There are no games between Notre Dame and Michigan State currently scheduled beyond 2017.

Purdue will return on Notre Dame’s schedule in 2020 and 2021 in a home-and-home deal. After a two-year break, the Boilermakers and Irish will resume the series again in 2024 and 2025 in another home-and-home deal, and there are tentative plans for a 2026 game that could be played on a neutral field (potentially in Indianapolis).

Notre Dame has made no secret about where it places the most emphasis on rivalry games. Notre Dame prefers to continue annual rivalries with Navy and USC, as well as Stanford. Doing so makes sense for Notre Dame, as playing in those games allows for more of a national audience than staying within the Big Ten footprint Notre Dame currently resides. Fans from Michigan and Michigan State may scoff at the notion, but Notre Dame will do what makes the most sense for it as a university and football program.

It is not that Notre Dame will shy away from Big Ten competition though. In addition to the future games against Purdue and Michigan State, Notre Dame has scheduled a future home-and-home with Ohio State (in 2022 and 2023) and Northwestern appears back on the schedule in 2018 as well. Notre Dame is not necessarily phasing out the Big Ten on its future schedule, but it is stepping away from past traditional rivalries to make rom for other options.

Helmet sticker to Reddit.

* Notre Dame played Michigan State in 1916, but the Spartans were not a member of the Big Ten — then known as the Western Conference —  at the time.

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Report: Michigan pegs NJ high school coach as recruiting coordinator

Jim Harbaugh

Michigan’s latest addition tot he football staff may help to boost recruiting efforts in the east. The Wolverines have reportedly added New Jersey high school football coach Chris Partridge to the staff as recruiting operations coordinator.

A report from The Record/NewJersey.com says Partridge, the head coach of Paramus Catholic High School has accepted the position and the high school program already has a new head coach.

“This opportunity is so good, because he gets to touch the nation in terms of recruiting and really get a good grasp of a program’s goals,” new Paramus Catholic coach Blake Costanzo said to the local New Jersey news outlet. “It’s going to be a good opportunity to broaden his horizons for the future. It’s a big step for him.”

Partridge coached current Wolverines Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty in high school, which shows Partridge has a connection with Michigan. If things work out for Michigan, the Wolverines could add another one of Partridge’s players in the Class of 2016. Defensive tackle Rashan Gary is currently ranked the No. 2 player in the nation in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.

Michigan may be given a pass for a lacking recruiting class in 2015 given the circumstances the new coaching staff has inherited, but all eyes are already moving forward to the Class of 2016, which will be the first full recruiting cycle for Jim Harbaugh and his staff. Partridge will take over a recruiting program that should see some better results a year from now in the recruiting rankings, and his connections in and around New Jersey could help at some point.

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ACC National Signing Day Primer

Jimbo Fisher

Traditional recruiting powers in the ACC Clemson and Florida State are once again battling for the top recruiting class in the conference. Both the Tigers and Seminoles are also competing well against the rest of the country with top five classes already heading into National Signing Day on Wednesday. With a solid finish, either could move up into the second place spot behind Alabama, but regardless of what happens in the next few days it appears there is some breathing room between Clemson and Florida State and the rest of the conference.

The ACC has three more members currently ranked in the top 25 recruiting rankings, with Virginia Tech at No. 19, Miami and No. 22 and North Carolina chiming in at No. 25. But North Carolina State and Pittsburgh have generated some late buzz as well. For Pitt, the seeds for a solid 2016 are more the focus right now, but N.C. State is pulling some good, quality talent from the in-state pool.

Current Rivals Team Rankings (as of February 1, 2015)

1. Clemson

2. Florida State

3. Virginia Tech

4. Miami

5. North Carolina

6. Louisville

7. N.C. State

8. Georgia Tech

9. Boston College

10. Virginia

11. Wake Forest

12. Duke

13. Pittsburgh

14. Syracuse

The Top Recruit

DB Derwin James (Haines City, FL): Florida State

Rivals ranks James the fifth best player overall in this year’s class, and he is currently the highest ranked player committed to an ACC school. Florida State has him locked in, but the Seminoles could have another player or two that could top James by signing day.

Recruiting Battle To Watch

Florida State has made a push for California cornerback Iman Marshall, the third-ranked player in the country per Rivals. Florida State is considered in the mix along with LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame and traditional west coast recruiting powers USC, UCLA and Oregon. Florida State may come up short here.

No five-stars for Miami

For the second time in three years, Miami is in danger of not signing a single five-star player. The Hurricanes used to be a destination for five-star players, but this could be another season without a single one. Miami is still finishing ahead of a number of ACC rivals and still is adding some quality depth on the roster, but if Miami is going to ever make a run in the ACC then it is going to need to maximize the potential of its incoming talent and step back up to the top when it comes to elite talent.

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Marcus Lattimore comes home after being hired by South Carolina

Marcus Lattimore, Steve Spurrier, Dr. Jeffery Guy

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier previously suggested former Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore would always be allowed to come back and be a part f the football program. Spurrier, who made that comment shortly after Lattimore retired from the NFL, has apparently made good on that promise.

According to Chris Clark of Gamecock Central, via Twitter, Lattimore has been hired and has started working for South Carolina in some unknown capacity. No official title has been reported or announced at this time, but Lattimore is a part of the program.

“We’ll find something for (Lattimore) to do, whether it’s football or general athletics,” Spurrier said in November, after news broke Lattimore is retiring from the NFL. “He has put everything into it. It’s disappointing.”

Lattimore was one of the biggest recruits to choose South Carolina during Spurrier’s run as head coach in Columbia. Lattimore was Spurrier’s biggest recruit even before Jadeveon Clowney, but Lattimore was at times held back by injuries. Injury concerns also brought Lattimore’s NFL career to an early halt, but his impact on the South Carolina program will rarely be overlooked.

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Big 12 National-Signing Day Primer

Charlie Strong

The Big 12 may have taken a step back in national prominence in recent seasons with programs like Texas and Oklahoma having a down 2014 season not helping the overall image. Sure, TCU had an argument to be in the College Football Playoff and Baylor thought it had a case too, but the Big 12 still has some work to do.

The recruiting successes in the Big 12 have been few and far between compared to some other conference recruiting powers. As of today, with just a few days to go until National Signing Day, just one five-star player has committed to a Big 12 school. There is still time to change that, but that is a recruiting stat you likely do not expect to see so close to signing day.

Current Rivals Big 12 Team Rankings (as of February 1, 2015)

1. Texas

2. Oklahoma

3. West Virginia

4. TCU

5. Baylor

6. Oklahoma State

7. Texas Tech

8. Kansas State

9. Kansas

10. Iowa State

The Top Recruit

LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, TX): Texas

Rivals ranks James the 28th best player overall in this year’s class, and he is currently the highest ranked player committed to an Big 12 school. Texas managed to keep Jefferson in the state and away from some other options. Given head coach Charlie Strong’s defensive mindset, Jefferson should be a centerpiece of Strong’s defense in the coming years.

Recruiting Battle To Watch

A handful of Big 12 schools are in the running for Plano, Texas running back Soso Jamabo. Rivals ranks Jamabo the 22nd best player in the country and the fourth-best running back in the Class of 2015. Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas all want him, but so do Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA.

Longhorns and Sooners continue recruiting dominance

As is the case in most recruiting cycles in the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma are pulling in the top talent. This despite the down seasons each program had in 2014 and the rise of programs like TCU and Baylor. Both the Horned Frogs and Bears continue to improve on the recruiting pitches and should be considered on the rise, but the Longhorns and Sooners remain the landmark programs of the Big 12 and that brings a certain advantage others can only hope to have one day. West Virginia has been doing well in this recruiting cycle as well. Both West Virginia and TCU are seeing some advantages in recruiting as they enter their fourth seasons in the Big 12.

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Devonte Fields announces commitment to Louisville

Devonte Fields, Wes Lunt

Louisville had previously been reported to be the leader in the clubhouse for the recruiting of former TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. Those reports were not without merit it seems. Fields officially announced his commitment to Louisville Sunday morning with a picture on Twitter calling out anyone who stands in his way.

Fields should be a terrific addition to the recently handsomely paid defensive coordinator Todd Grantham‘s defense. The former Big 12 standout at TCU is coming off a season playing football for Trinity Valley Community College in Austin, Texas and is hungry to get back to playing at the FBS level. The former Horned Frog was a Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year in 2012 but was booted from the team prior to the 2014 season after allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend. His 2013 season was a hindered by an injury.

Now Fields is ready to line up in the ACC and be a big part of the Louisville defense. Assuming he is ready to go at this level after some time away, this is a huge pick-up for Louisville.

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Ezekiel Elliott gets Ohio State championship tattoo

Ezekiel Elliott

When it comes to Ohio State and tattoos, some will find it easy to make some jokes. But let’s skip the obvious jokes here and move on. One of the big reasons Ohio State won a national championship in the first College Football Playoff was the emergence of running back Ezekiel Elliott, who powered the Buckeyes running game in the postseason with big performances against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal game and Oregon in the championship game.

To celebrate and commemorate Ohio State’s crowning achievement, Elliott got a fresh tattoo featuring the College Football Playoff national championship trophy (that trophy really does need a better name).

On a related note, we are still awaiting any update on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer following through on his promise to get inked up.

Helmet sticker to The Student Section.

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Louisville bumps DC Todd Grantham’s annual pay to $1.4 million

Miami v Louisville

It was a mild surprise to see Louisville find a way to keep defensive coordinator Todd Grantham when the Oakland Raiders of the NFL came calling. As you might have suspected, Louisville made it worth it to stick around.

Grantham and Louisville reworked the terms of his contract as defensive coordinator to increase the pay to $1.4 million per year, according to a report by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. That places Grantham in the upper echelon of assistant coaching salaries, even more so than before. USA Today reports Grantham was being paid $975,000 in 2014. Grantham was the third highest-paid assistant in the ACC, but Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris accepted a position as SMU’s head coach.

Auburn is paying new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp a total between $1.6 million and $1.8 million. Texas A&M will pay new defensive coordinator John Chavis $1.5 million. With his new contract in place, Grantham will be floating around or just ahead of Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Alabama offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster also recently had a contract extension that is expected to keep him among the highest-paid assistant coach in the country.

This new contract is a latest example of the increased ability Louisville has to funding its football program. Long references as a basketball school, the commitment to improving the football program that was initiated years ago continues to take strides in becoming more fo a football school as well. The funding from boosters is one thing, but the move to the ACC has its advantages as well with a larger bowl revenue split and more television revenue to incorporate into the budget. Because of these changes, Louisville can afford to pay football assistants on the same level as other power conference opponents. Louisville has been growing up quite nicely in this respect.

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Kam Lott transferring from Rutgers to be closer to Fla. home

Kam Lott

After a couple of positives Saturday, Rutgers was due for a little bit of a downer.

Friday, reports surfaced that Kam Lott had decided to take his leave of the Scarlet Knights football program.  A day later, the cornerback took to social media to confirm as much.

In a missive posted to his Twitter account late Saturday morning, Lott explained that he had decided to transfer out in order to be closer to be closer to his family in Jacksonville. Fla.

Lott was a three-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

If Lott transfers to another FBS institution, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws.

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Notre Dame catches USC in Pro Football Hall of Famers

Hawaii v USC

Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its eight-man class that will be enshrined in Canton later this year.  Not so unexpectedly, the two most-represented colleges in that prestigious club coming in added to its respective totals.

Running back Jerome Bettis and wide receiver Tim Brown, from Notre Dame, as well as the late linebacker Junior Seau, from USC, are a part of the to-be-inducted octet.  Entering this weekend, the Trojans led all college football teams with 11 Hall of Famers; after today, the Men of Troy are tied with the Irish at 12 apiece.

The other 2015 first-year eligible inductees include former Dallas Cowboy and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Charles Haley (James Madison) and former Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields (Nebraska). Seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff (Nebraska) and contributors Bill Polian (New York University) and Ron Wolf (played college baseball at Maryville (Tenn.) College) are part of the newest class as well.

Behind the even dozen from ND and USC, Ohio State has nine Pro Football Hall of Famers, followed by Michigan and Pittsburgh (eight each) and Alabama and Syracuse (seven each).

The inclusion of Shields and Tingelhoff pushes Nebraska’s total to five, which ties them for 13th all-time with Arizona State, SMU and UCLA.

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D-III champs Wisconsin-Whitewater stays in-house for new coach

Kevin Bullis

In replacing a living legend, the most dominant program at the Division III level over the last decade didn’t have to look very far.

Friday, Wisconsin-Whitewater announced that Kevin Bullis has been promoted to the position of head coach.  Bullis has spent the past seven seasons with the Warhawks as a defensive assistant, most recently as defensive line coach.

Including Bullis, there were five finalists for the job.  The other four, who came from outside the program, were three head coaches — Wabash College’s Erick Raeburn, Urbana’s Dave Taynor, Ohio Northern’s Dean Paul — and one defensive coordinator — UW-Platteville’s Rob Erickson.

“We are thrilled to promote Kevin to the position of head football coach at UW-Whitewater,” athletic director Amy Edmonds said. “His passion, integrity and understanding of the holistic student-athlete experience stood out during the search and screen process. Kevin understands the rich history of Warhawk football and the entire university, and we are confident in his ability to continue our tradition of excellence both on and off the field.”

Bullis becomes the 21st head coach in the program’s history, but just the fourth in the last 60 years. He replaces Lance Leipold, who left to take the head-coaching job at Buffalo of the MAC.

During Leipold’s eight seasons at UW-W, the Warhawks went an astounding 109-6, which includes a current 32-game winning streak. The Warhawks also won six national championships in Leipold’s tenure, and lost in the championship game in another.

UW-W has claimed the last two titles, including a 42-34 Stagg Bowl win over fellow Div. III power Mount Union last month.

(Photo credit: Wisconsin-Whitewater athletics)

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Utah DC target Pendergast reportedly headed to NFL

Clancy Pendergast AP

Friday a report surfaced that Clancy Pendergast was the front-runner for the defensive coordinator position at Utah.  A day later, it appears the Pac-12 program will have to look elsewhere.

Instead of the Utes coordinator job, it’s being reported by FOXSports.com‘s Alex Marvez that Pendergast will be named as the inside linebacker coach for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.  Marvez did confirm, though, that Pendergast interviewed for the Utah job.

If the move to the NFL comes to fruition, it’ll put Pendergast back at the level in which he’s spent the majority of his coaching career.

Pendergast was last on the sidelines as the coordinator at USC in 2013, his lone season with the Trojans.  He wasn’t retained as part of Steve Sarkisian‘s new coaching staff.  For the three years before that, he served in the same position at Cal.

Prior to that, Pendergast had spent 15 seasons as an assistant at the NFL level.  During his stint as coordinator with Arizona (2004-08), the Cardinals earned the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season.

The Utes have been without a coordinator on the defensive side of the ball for well over a month after Kalani Sitake left for the same post at Oregon State.

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Rutgers’ Sam Bergen granted sixth season of eligibility

Sam Bergen

It’s good news aplenty for Rutgers football this Saturday.

Earlier today we noted that a talented wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program.  Now comes word that Sam Bergen has received a sixth season of eligibility and will play for the Scarlet Knights in 2015, which the school announced in a press release.

A pair of knee surgeries sidelined the fullback for the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons, while yet another knee injury in the 2013 opener cost him the remainder of that season as well.

“I love it here. I love playing football. I love the offseason program, the camaraderie in the locker room. I just love everything about it,” Bergen said in quotes distributed by the school. “I can’t understand why someone would turn that down if they could potentially have one more year of it. Maybe I’m crazy but that’s the way I feel about it. I love Rutgers. The people here are great. It’s a great program. We played against the best competition in the country and if you love football it’s a no-brainer to me.

“I first started playing football in seventh grade. It’s been a huge part of my life for a while. I’m not ready to put down the helmet just yet.”

Bergen will become the fourth Scarlet Knight to play six seasons at the school, joining Brian Duffy, Edmond Laryea and Mason Robinson.

In the two seasons in which Bergen was healthy, 2012 and 2014, he played in 26 games. Bergen will be expected to continue to contribute on special teams, while also being looked at as a short-yardage/goal-line option.

With Michael Burton graduating, Bergen sees an opportunity to grab significant playing time in 2015.

“There’s definitely a void to be filled at the fullback position and I feel like I can be the guy for us who can step in and hopefully do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “There’s an opportunity there and I’m going to do everything in my power to take advantage of it.”

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Second long-time college assistant lands with NFL’s Browns

Kurt Roper

For the second time this week, an out-of-work college assistant has landed a job at the same NFL stop.

While nothing is official, Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com is reporting that Kurt Roper will be hired by the Cleveland Browns as a senior offensive assistant.  Roper had been swept out as part of Florida’s post-2014 coaching housecleaning, and hadn’t yet latched on elsewhere.

Roper had, though, been rumored to be a candidate for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

This will mark Roper’s first foray into the professional ranks as he had spent every one of his 19 seasons as a coach at the collegiate level.  Roper served as the Gators’ offensive coordinator for just one season, not retained after Will Muschamp was fired and Jim McElwain was hired.

Prior to that, he spent six very successful seasons as the coordinator at Duke.  Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, Roper had served as an assistant on coaching staffs at Tennessee (2005; 1996-98), Kentucky (2002-04) and Ole Miss (1998-2004).

Earlier this week, the Browns confirmed that former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips had been hired as wide receivers coach.

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