Wrapping up Signing Day 2013

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And… exhale.

Another Signing Day is in the books. Did you get everything you wanted? How’d the press conference go? Wait, let me guess. There was probably a “We really feel like we addressed our needs” or a “I think this might be our best class ever.” Maybe there was a disgruntled “We’re not about the star system here. I’m more concerned about how we do on the field in the fall.”

Anyway, there was a lot happening as recruits from around the country faxed in (for probably the first and only time in their lives) their national letter of intent. Below are some highlights from today. We’ll also have final class rankings later tonight when they become available, so stay tuned.

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Rebels with a cause
Ole Miss may not have had the top signing class in 2013 — Rivals.com says that distinction technically belongs to Alabama for now — but it’s difficult to imagine any one program having a bigger day than the Rebels. Hugh Freeze and his coaching staff managed to pull in the No. 1 overall recruit, Robert Nkemdichethe No. 1 wide receiver  Laquon Treadwell; and the No. 1 offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil. All three are five-star prospects. Of course, this doesn’t mean Ole Miss is automatically an SEC West contender, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the pieces Freeze is putting into place.  

Don’t forget about the champs, though 
Yeah, Ole Miss had a banner day on the recruiting trail, but Alabama did pretty well today too. Win three out of four BCS championships and getting the best high school athletes in the country becomes a lot easier. And weirder, for that matter. Tide offensive line commit A’Shawn Robinson had a man in an elephant costume at his Signing Day press conference. Here’s the link to the picture (Warning: nightmare fuel). 

It’s all about the [SWAG] U 
While appearing on ESPNU’s coverage of Signing Day, Miami coach Al Golden spoke about the difficulty of recruiting with the NCAA’s investigation of the program lingering in the background — even with the Association completely botching said investigation. Still, the Hurricanes were able to land four-star wide receiver Stacy Coley. Upon making his announcement, Coley pulled out an orange and green “SWAG” hat — SWAG of course standing for “Stuff We All Get” — as everyone watching nearly died from the irony.

For whom the recruiting Bell tolls 
Most of the Big Ten may be struggling to land top recruits, but Michigan and Ohio State certainly aren’t. In fact, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer managed to flip a couple of recruits from SEC territory: highly-touted safety, Vonn Bell, previously a Tennessee commit; and four-star receiver, James Clark, who was previously “in good shape” to sign with Florida. That’s some B1G crootin’ right there.

Vander-does is better than Vander-doesn’t
Notre Dame signed three five-star recruits on Wednesday, including 310-pound defensive tackle Eddie VanderdoesIt’s weird to think the Irish could quietly have one of the best classes this year, but this is a top-five group that could rise another spot or two tonight before the final rankings are called.

Is that you, Landon Collins’ mom?
Watch out, Alex Collins‘ mother is apparently on the loose with her son’s letter of intent in hand. The four-star running back committed to Arkansas Monday night, but it sounds like his mother has other plans. Collins is still expected to sign with the Hogs, but yikes.

Randy Edsall’s high speed chase: more exciting than Maryland football 
Speaking of weird recruiting stories, this one from Maryland coach Randy Edsall doesn’t get much stranger. Calling 911 and getting chased out of a neighborhood by a mysterious truck was involved. Thankfully, no quarterbacks were harmed in the process.

It’s not the size that matters 
USC had one of the smallest classes today with 12 commitments, but had more five-star signees (five) than any other program. Rivals.com has the Trojans as the team with the highest star average with 4.42.

Unfamiliar territory
While Oklahoma and Texas had top-20 classes, neither had a five-star commitment. The last time either program went without a five-star commit was in 2010 and 2008, respectively.

Iowa linebacker announces transfer

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been known to have a program that could play some solid defense more often than not, but the depth at linebacker just got a bit more shallow this Memorial Day weekend. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Garbutt has announced he is leaving the program.

“After prayer, consulting with my family and Coach Ferentz, I have made the decision to leave the University of Iowa,” Garbutt announced in a statement on Twitter. “I am thankful for my years as a Hawkeye and will continue to support the franchise.”

Garbutt went on to announce he will make a decision after going through a recruiting process. No timeline for his decision was announced.

Garbutt still has three more years of eligibility remaining, although he has already burned one redshirt year after joining the Class of 2015 at Iowa. If he transfers to another FBS program, he will have to sit out the upcoming 2017 season and lose a year of eligibility in the process. He would be available to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a lower division football program.

Report: Navy’s football stadium will host NHL outdoor game between Caps and Leafs

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The NHL has enjoyed the success of their growing number of outdoor games. What started out as an attempt to steal the New Years Day spotlight from the college football bowl season has grown to include additional outdoor games around the country in February and March as part of the league’s Stadium Series. With an abundance of outdoor games, finding new venues to host the outdoor games offers new opportunities to showcase a wide range of stadiums. Navy is now set to get in on the NHL outdoor fun.

The Associated Press reports Navy’s Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium will be used for one game in the NHL’s Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. The Washington Capitals will “host” the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 34,000-seat venue in Annapolis, Maryland. A formal announcement is expected to be made on Monday, Memorial Day. It’s also the same day the NHL kicks off the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators and commissioner Gary Bettman gives his annual state of the league address.

The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres were previously slated to play in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets.

Heinz Field, the home of the Pitt Panthers, was used to host the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, becoming the first college football stadium to host an outdoor NHL game. Of course, Heinz Field is also home to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, so this college stadium host came with an asterisk. Heinz Field hosted a Stadium Series game this past February between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the Winter Classic in 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hosted a game in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2016 between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.

There are still a good handful of stadiums worth considering for future NHL outdoor games, especially in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has long been suspected of being a potential target for an outdoor game, but any plans involving Beaver Stadium may have to wait until after the stadium’s facilities are upgraded as part of the school’s upcoming athletics department renovation. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium could also be an attractive candidate for an outdoor game in the future as well.

A couple other venues for possible Stadium Series game sin the future should include the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. The NHL has already played an outdoor game in Dodger Stadium, back in 2014, so the league is not afraid to play outside in LA (and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a game in 2015). If they return, playing in either historic stadium would seem to make sense, although it is possible the NHL would prefer to wait until the new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is completed before making a trip to LA again.

Alabama DB Tony Brown has chance to prove he’s fastest NCAA athlete in nation

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Forget the 40-yard dash. Alabama defensive back Tony Brown is setting his focus on the 100-meter dash.

Brown, a track star in addition to being a fixture on the Alabama defense, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 100-meter dash after finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA East Regional at Kentucky. Brown is a two-time All-American on the track.

Let this serve as another example of the caliber of athletes Nick Saban is bringing in to his program. Recruiting analysts have been noting for years the importance of recruiting athletes with skills in more than one sport, and Alabama has that with Brown. Brown was one of the nation’s top hurdlers in high school, and that success on the track has continued in Tuscaloosa.

Brown brings the pain on the football field too, of course. Just ask former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams what kind of damage Brown can bring.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.