Alabama joins LSU in offering scholarship to eighth grader

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Last summer, we noted that LSU had taken the unusual — but not unprecedented — step in offering a scholarship to a 14-year-old prospect who had yet to complete his junior-high playing career let alone high school.

Seven months later, a recruiting behemoth from the same conference has hopped on the way-too-early offer train as well.

The father of eighth grader Dylan Moses confirmed to al.com that Alabama had offered his son a scholarship over the weekend.  The offer came in the midst of the Tide’s Junior Day event and was one of several handed out.

Like everyone else, Edward Moses says he was surprised by the offer that came wrapped in a pretty little “your son could be the best player in the Class of 2017” bow.

“We got the invitation to come to Alabama’s Junior Day a few weeks ago and to be honest we were kind of surprised,” said Dylan’s father Edward Moses Jr. “When we got there, Coach (Burton) Burns took us around and introduced us to the entire coaching staff and they all seemed very interested in Dylan. They treated him like a five-star recruit.”

“We met with Coach Saban after lunch and he talked to Dylan about his future and what he needed to do to achieve his potential as a student and as a football player. When he said he was offering Dylan a scholarship, we asked a lot of questions just to make sure we knew exactly what he meant. Coach Saban said the Alabama staff believes Dylan has a chance to be the best player in the country in the Class of 2017 and they were ready to offer him a scholarship. That’s when the fireworks started going off in our heads.”

Just to reiterate, Moses has yet to complete the eighth grade and will not make his high school football debut for about six months.

Moses, who lives a short distance from LSU’s Tiger Stadium, has yet to give a verbal commitment to either of the schools, although he did say last July after his first scholarship offer that he’s “always wanted to play for LSU since I was a kid, and now it’s coming true in front of my eyes.”  The elder Moses added that the family isn’t “putting any pressure on him with the recruiting process right now” and that his son doesn’t “feels any need to rush his decision.”

As previously noted, this is not exactly an unprecedented move on the part of either Alabama or LSU.  At around the time Moses was receiving an offer from LSU, 14-year-old San Diego quarterback Tate Martell was on the receiving end of one from Washington.

Neither of those players are the youngest, however (unfortunately?), as that honor falls to David Sills, who was a 13-year-old quarterback when he received a scholarship offer from Lane Kiffin and USC.  Unlike Moses, though, Sills verbally committed to the Trojans; three years later, and after sitting in on positional meetings with Trojan players and coaches, both the commitment and offer remains rock solid.

Sills will be a member of the 2015 recruiting class.

New Arkansas house bill will allow some concealed guns at football games

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill regarding a person’s ability to carry a concealed handgun into various buildings at a public university or college into state law. However, House Bill 1249 will not allow all legal gun owners to carry a gun to a football game in the state of Arkansas.

Football games will be considered a “sensitive area,” which require enhanced training in order to be allowed to carry a gun into a football stadium. The law supposedly trumps any provisions already in place to prevent guns from being allowed on the premises.

“The enhanced level of training is very important, and I am convinced the public will be more safe,” Governor Hutchinson said. “This bill, in my view, reflects the view of the general assembly.”

The bill has received praise from Arkansas Republican state representative Charlie Collins and the NRA.

While the bill has now become an act in the state, it will not go into effect until January 2018, so guns will still not be allowed in football games where Arkansas, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, or Central Arkansas during the 2017 season.

The news of the new Arkansas state law comes on the same day the SEC has just unveiled a new clear bag policy for football games in the 2017 season. How the SEC handles this latest state law within its footprint remains to be seen (as well as the Sun Belt Conference). The bigger question will be where the SEC stands on this law considered the law is designed to overrule any stadium policies. The way the law is written, the SEC may not be able to do much to stand in the way, but the conference has those clear bag policies hammered down, rest assured.

Kentucky hands Mark Stoops a two-year contract extension

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After guiding Kentucky through its best season in nearly a decade, Mark Stoops has been rewarded.

Kentucky announced Wednesday afternoon that Stoops’ contract has been extended by two years.  The head coach’s previous deal had been set to run through June 30, 2020; the extension pushes that date out to June 30, 2020.

Stoops will earn $3.5 million in 2017, with the new contract calling for annual $250,000 raises.  In the last year of the contract extension, and barring any additional tweaking, Stoops could earn $4.75 million.

Additionally, if the Wildcats win at least seven games but no more than nine in a season, the contract automatically extends by one year.  If the team wins 10-plus games, it extends by two years. “Stoops will continue to receive $250,000 for each win beginning with the seventh win of each season and $50,000 per semester in which the team grade-point average is 2.75 or higher,” the release stated.

Participation in an SEC-affiliated bowl will net Stoops a $100,000 bonus, provided the Wildcats win at least six games that season.  There’s also a $50,000 bonus for earning a spot in a non-SEC bowl game, with the same six-win threshold.  Last season, UK qualified for a bowl game for the first time under Stoops and the first time under anyone since 2010.

“The last four years have been a grind for Mark and his staff, but he has never wavered in his commitment to building Kentucky football into a consistent winner,” a statement from athletic director Mitch Barnhart began. “While the work isn’t close to finished, we believe Mark is the coach to take us there. We are thankful to Mark and Chantel for all they have done to this point and we look forward to our program’s bright future under his leadership.”

The Wildcats’ 7-6 record last season was the program’s best since hitting the same mark in the last season under Rich Brooks in 2009.  The first three seasons with Stoops in control, UK posted a 12-24 mark.

In SEC play, they are just 8-24 since 2013, although they were 4-4 in conference play this past season.  The Wildcats have finished seventh (2013), sixth (2014), tied-fourth (2015) and tied-second (2016) in league play with Stoops as head coach.

“I want to thank Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and the Board of Trustees for their continued support,” Stoops said. “When we came here, doing a rebuild in a challenging situation, I said that full support from everyone involved was imperative and we have always received that. We needed great commitment, we’ve had great commitment and we’re continuing to get great commitment.”

If Stoops is fired by UK, he’s entitled to receive 75 percent of the remaining guaranteed compensation on the contract.  If Stoops leaves of his own accord, he’d owe the university $1 million regardless of how many years are left on the deal.

Toledo, Jason Candle reach agreement on contract extension

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After just one year on the job, Jason Candle has earned himself some additional job security — or a bigger golden parachute should he be canned.

Toledo announced Wednesday that the university and its head football coach have reached an agreement on a contract extension.  Candle is now signed through 2021, meaning he received a one-year extension of his original five-year deal agreed to in December of 2015.

There was no word on what if any financial bump was included in the reworked contract.  Candle’s $675,000 salary in 2016 was second to Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck ($820,000) in the MAC.  With Fleck now at Minnesota, Candle is likely the highest-paid coach in the conference.

“Jason has played a very important part of the success of our football program over the last eight years, first as an assistant coach and now as head coach,” said athletic director Mike O’Brien in a statement. “He is a tremendous leader and teacher of young men, and has a great desire to elevate our football program to even greater heights. We look forward to his leadership for many years to come.”

Candle spent seven seasons as a Toledo assistant, the last four as offensive coordinator, before taking over the program after Matt Campbell left for the Iowa State job.  In his first year as head coach, Candle guided the Rockets to a 9-4 record.

“I’m very appreciative of the support and confidence that President Gaber and Mike O’Brien have in me and my staff,” said Candle. “Our program is built on a strong foundation of success, and we are focused on bringing a Mid-American Conference Championship to this great University.”

WKU RB Leon Allen medically cleared to return to practice

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Leon Allen‘s return from a devastating injury has taken a major step forward.

In September of 2015, Allen, one of the top running backs in Conference USA, sustained a significant and serious knee injury in Western Kentucky’s Week 2 win over Louisiana Tech.  While he received a medical hardship waiver in March of last year, he hadn’t played in a game or even fully participated in practice since the injury.

Tuesday, that all changed as the football program confirmed that Allen has been medically cleared to participate in practice.  The Hilltoppers will kick off spring practice Thursday afternoon, with the back adding the next chapter to his comeback.

“There are a lot of Western Kentucky fans that have been around the program multiple years who haven’t seen an athlete do some of the things he’s done on the field,” head coach Mike Sanford said according to the Bowling Green Daily News. “To me it’s disappointing to think there’s even a thought of him not having a chance to return to that football field.

“So the football side of it to me is extremely important to … end what he started well.”

Allen was far and away the Hilltoppers’ leading rusher in 2014, totaling 1,542 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Those totals were good for third in Conference USA and 18th nationally.

The multi-purpose back was also a threat out of the backfield, with his 51 receptions that season finishing up fourth on the team.