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.

Derrius Guice ‘very questionable’ for LSU vs. Syracuse

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LSU could very well be without its most potent offensive weapon when it looks to bounce back from an embarrassing Week 3 loss.

Late in the third quarter of Saturday’s 37-7 loss to Mississippi State, Derrius Guice sustained an injury to his left knee.  The star running back hasn’t practiced at all this week, even as Ed Orgeron downplayed the severity of the injury.

On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, however, the head coach acknowledged that it could be much worse than he’d been letting on, so much so that the Guice could miss the Week 4 game against Syracuse.

“I don’t know if Derrius is going to play,” Orgeron said. “He didn’t dress out yesterday in pads. He’s very questionable right now.”

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns.  His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Should Guice be unable to go, Darrel Williams (28-159-4) would likely be next in line to shoulder the running-game load.

Baylor gets back 2016 leading rusher, two starting DBs for Oklahoma game

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They may be winless, but at least Baylor will be getting some much-needed reinforcements for their game against No. 3 Oklahoma this weekend.

According to head coach Matt Rhule, three projected starters — running back Terence Williams (pictured), safety Taion Sells and cornerback Grayland Arnold — are all expected to play in the Week 4 game against the Sooners. Neither Williams nor Arnold have played this season because of injury, while Sells completed a three-game suspension last week.

Williams led the Bears last season with 1,048 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. The junior underwent offseason shoulder surgery, leading to his absence for the first quarter of the year.

With Williams rehabbing the injured joint, John Lovett currently leads the 0-3 Bears in rushing with 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As a team, BU is averaging just 150 yards per game and slightly less than five yards per rush; last season, they were at 241.8 and 5.0.

“I think it takes a little bit of the pressure off the young guys,” the first-year head coach, by way of the Associated Press, said of Williams’ much-anticipated return. “I think Terence gives us the physicality and a presence running the football that you can clearly see on tape. … He brings us that ability to run you over and make you miss.”

Arnold started four games last season and was listed as the starter heading into summer camp before breaking his left arm in August. After starting four games in 2015, Sells sat out the 2016 season because of an injury. Prior to the suspension for unspecified violations of team rules, Sells too had been listed as a starter in camp.

Mother’s health — and playing time — triggered Byron Cowart’s Auburn departure

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Initially, there was no known reason for one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015 left his original college football home. Not long after, the window of insight was cracked a bit.

Tuesday, Byron Cowart was granted a release from his Auburn scholarship, one day after requesting it from the football program. In an interview with al.com, the defensive lineman revealed that his mother in Florida is going through an unspecified health situation and, as an only child, he wanted to be closer to her to help her through it.

Additionally, he acknowledged that, yes, his playing time, or lack thereof, played a role in his decision to leave The Plains.

“I’m happy with my decision and I know that this ain’t it for me,” Cowart told the website. “My main reason was my mother’s health is more important. Me being an only child, got to get back to home to her. Plus I already wasn’t playing enough and contributing to the team.”

In a separate interview with 247Sports.com, Cowart also acknowledged that he has twice previously considered leaving the Tigers, the last coming this past summer.

Cowart also indicated that, very soon, he will be starting up classes nearer his home in Seffner, Fla., presumably at a junior or community college. After that, he’ll decide where to continue his collegiate playing career at the FBS level.

“I’ll see what options I have and what the NCAA allows me to do,” the junior lineman told al.com. “This isn’t over for me and this definitely is not the end of my college career. … I can guarantee you football is not over for me. I still love the game, I love everything about football.”

A consensus five-star signee, Cowart was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 while 247Sports.com had Florida product as the No. 3 player overall on its composite board. In 26 career games, Cowart was credited with 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was one of four Tigers arrested for marijuana possession in May of last year.

This past spring, Cowart was moved from end to tackle in an attempt to jumpstart his career. In three games at his new position this season, he had three tackles and half a tackle for loss in three games.

Div. II football player Robert Grays dies from neck injury sustained in game

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There’s horribly sad news to note today as Midwestern State University football player Robert Grays passed away Tuesday, the Division II school in Texas confirmed Wednesday morning.

Grays sustained a serious neck injury attempting to make a tackle during this past Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.  After initially being taken to a local hospital in Wichita Falls, he was life-flighted to a hospital in Houston, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” a statement from university president Suzanne Shipley said, in part. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches, and teammates.”

Grays was listed as a 5-8, 160-pound sophomore cornerback on the Mustangs’ official roster.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Grays’ way-too-soon passing.