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CFT Predicts: the Big 12

Gary Patterson AP

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big 12. 

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig TenPac-12

1. TCU (Last year: 7-6; lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Thanks to injuries, dismissals and attrition of various varieties, the Horned Frogs tossed a lot of young players into their first Big 12 fire and still managed to win seven games. Included in the list of new faces was quarterback Trevone Boykin, who played out the final two months of the season while Casey Pachall dealt with substance abuse issues. Of all the success Gary Patterson‘s had in Fort Worth, 2012 may have been was his best coaching job, and a young defense buckled down in the final month of the season.

So why are they picked here?
Most of them youngins mentioned above are back. The offense should be fine no matter which quarterback, Pachall or Boykin, takes the field. And they’ll have options at their disposal too. Running back Waymon James averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. In that vein, TCU’s backfield had its fair share of injuries, but when healthy, it should flourish alongside a solid receiving unit.

And that defense? It should be the best in the conference with just about everybody coming back (minus linebacker and second-leading tackler Joel Hasley).

Anything else?
Some departures just before, and around the start of, preseason camp have put a dent in the offensive line and linebacker units. Defensive end Devonte Fields will miss some early-season action as well. But Patterson is well-respected around these parts and he’s shown as recently as a year ago that he can coach around injuries. Also, the Horned Frogs have some intriguing road games at Oklahoma (Oct. 5), Oklahoma State (Oct. 19) and Kansas State (Nov. 16) that should provide tough tests. Going to Lubbock in the early portion of the season (Sept. 12) and Ames in November (Nov. 9) aren’t always picnics, either.

2. Texas (last year: 9-4; beat Oregon State in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Texas experienced about as many ups and downs as a nine-win team could possibly go through in one season. The Longhorns got taken to the woodshed (again) by Oklahoma and still couldn’t find a way to beat Kansas State, but a come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl cleansed the football palate just enough to make the offseason bearable. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, was inconsistent and the defense exhibited too many breakdowns in fundamentals and tackling. 

So why are they picked here?
That’s a handsome question considering there wasn’t a lot praise being doled out in the 2012 recap. But the simple answer is Texas brings back among the most experienced group of starters not just in the Big 12, but in the country. There’s no denying the skill position talent on offense, where receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be complemented by the deepest backfield in the conference. If the defense can improve even a little — getting Jordan Hicks back should help — this team has the potential to be dangerous.

Anything else?
Yeah, about that Mack Brown. Two BCS championship appearances (and winning one) would normally eliminate Brown from being mentioned as a concern, but media members in Big 12 country didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him when they picked Texas to finish fourth in the conference this year. I’m a little more convinced Texas will ascend to the top, or near the top, of the Big 12, which should be wide open this year. But if Brown can’t make it happen this year, it’s hard to see him hanging around much longer.

3. Oklahoma State (Last year: 8-5; beat Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl)
What happened last season?
For a moment, Oklahoma State thought it was Maryland or something with the way quarterbacks were dropping with injuries. But Mike Gundy and staff still coached three signal callers — Clint Cheilf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt — to throw for over 4,200 yards passing at 34 touchdowns. In a way, OSU’s season shared some parallels with TCU. Though the Cowboys won eight games, the fewest since 2007, it might have ranked among Gundy’s better coaching jobs in Stillwater.

So why are they picked here?
The Cowboys lose running back Joseph Randle but return plenty of key guys on both sides of the ball. Both coordinators, on the other hand, are entirely new — well, sort of. Glenn Spencer takes over full responsibility on the defense while Mike Yurcich makes a big jump from the Division II level to lead the offense. Trying to mesh with both could be an adjustment, but Spencer has familiarity on his side and Gundy is still the mastermind for the Pokes’ offense.

Anything else?
The Cowboys are preseason Big 12 favorites, but they’ll need to do a better job of closing out close games this year. The schedule sets up nicely for the Cowboys with key games against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma being played at home. 

4. Oklahoma (Last year: 10-3; lost to Texas A&M in Cotton Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Sooners scored a lot of points on their way to a shared Big 12 title, but in three losses, Oklahoma looked just as stagnant by scoring an average of 15 points per loss. OU also lost not one, but two home games in 2012, something that’s never happened under head coach Bob Stoops. A blowout loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl is probably not how quarterback Landry Jones wanted to end his career with OU, too. Just a guess.

So why are they picked here?
Oklahoma loses some key offensive figures, none perhaps more important than Jones. Regardless of whether “Good Landry” or “Bad Landry” showed up, Jones played a lot of games for the Sooners and put up some career passing records. Receivers Kenny Stills and Justin Brown are gone as well. The defense, which was pedestrian at best last season and lacks depth along the defensive line, enters Year 2 under defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

Anything else?
Bob Stoops surprised just about everyone when he named Trevor Knight, not Blake Bell, the Sooners’ starting quarterback. Knight becomes the third straight redshirt freshman to start for the Sooners, but Bell will likely be a part of the offensive game plan in some capacity.

5. Kansas State (Last year: 11-2; lost to Oregon in Fiesta Bowl)
What happened last season?
K-State’s BCS title hopes were derailed in a big way when the Wildcats got utterly embarrassed by Baylor with just a few weeks left in the regular season. Even with that in mind, 2012 was a huge success for a program projected to finish in the middle of the conference. Instead, KSU won a share of the Big 12 and Collin Klein was a Heisman finalist.

So why are they picked here?
You’d think by now I’d stop doubting Bill Snyder, but that requires learning from your mistakes and everyone knows that’s an overrated quality anyway. Klein is gone and either Daniel Sams or Jake Waters will need to step up alongside running back John Hubert and receiver Tyler Lockett. Losing Arthur Brown on the defensive side of the ball is a huge departure too, but safety Ty Zimmerman is back.

Anything else?
The Wildcats have some crucial games back-to-back at two points during the season: a pair of road games at Texas and Oklahoma State, and a pair of home games against TCU and Oklahoma in November. Even splitting those four games would be considered a success.

6. Baylor (Last year: 8-5; beat UCLA in Holiday Bowl) 
What happened last season?
[/Throws to Terrance Williams for a touchdown]. The Bears were able to put up tons of points, but they couldn’t always stop the other team. Baylor lost four in a row midseason before going on a roll and winning five of their final six games — including dismantling UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Baylor wasn’t always victorious, but damn if they weren’t entertaining.

So why are they picked here?
Baylor was left out of both the preseason USA Today coaches poll and AP poll, but many believe the Bears were the biggest snub. Running back Lache Seastrunk is getting some preseason Heisman love, however. Replacing playmakers hasn’t been an issue for Art Briles, arguably one of the best recruiters in the state of Texas. Bryce Petty figures to put up some big passing numbers, mainly to Tevin Reese. In a conference of uncertainty, about the only thing anyone can count on for sure is that Baylor will be a fun team to watch again.

Anything else?
Art Briles is hilarious and awesome and you only wish you were related to him.

7. Texas Tech (Last year: 8-5; beat Minnesota in Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas)
What happened last season?
The Red Raiders started the season hot with a 6-1 record before losing four out of their last five regular season games (and needing overtime to beat Kansas). Tommy Tuberville then bolted for Cincinnati, of all places. Tuberville never quite fit in with the Lubbock crowd, but departing for an American Athletic Conference school (then Big East) was surprising.

So why are they picked here?
Enter Tech’s former quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, who takes over the Red Raiders program after serving as Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator. This is a natural fit for TTU, but how Kingsbury fares in his first year as a head coach remains to be seen and makes this team one of the bigger wildcards in the conference. There’s plenty of firepower on offense with the return of receiver Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro, and running back DeAndre Washington should be healthy again after missing all of last season with an injury. However, getting the ball to those playmakers could be a challenge as Tech still has to replace Seth Doege at quarterback.

Anything else?
Besides the quarterback spot, the defense will be an area to watch as the Red Raiders switch to a 3-4. Eight starters return on that side of the ball, including defensive linemen Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush. If the offense struggles to get going under Kinsgbury for whatever reason, the defense may have to take control.  

8. West Virginia (Last year: 7-6; lost to Syracuse in Pinstripe Bowl) 
What happened last season?
I don’t know. Things were going fine until the Mountaineers went to Lubbock, and then everything came unhinged and the whole damn thing just flew off the tracks into a thousand pieces.

So why are they picked here?
West Virginia loses quarterback Geno Smith, and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey — all to the NFL. Trying to replace that sort of production isn’t going to come easy and there weren’t many bright spots on WVU’s roster outside those three. WVU needs a quarterback to emerge out of the Clint Trickett/Ford Childress/Paul Millard race, but adding Houston transfer Charles Sims to the running back rotation definitely helps. Dana Holgorsen has a track record of success wherever he’s been, but 2013 could prove to be his biggest challenge to date.

Anything else?
There are plenty of questions for the Mountaineers, but namely, can the defense improve? Karl Joseph is a name to watch at the safety position after a stellar freshman campaign, and Travis Bell has been moved to corner to help a unit that was torched time and time again last season. The defensive coaching staff has gone through some significant changes. Will that yield results?

9. Iowa State (Last year: 6-7; lost to Tulsa in Liberty Bowl)
What happened last season?
Well, you know Paul Rhoads. Give him a top-25 opponent and he’ll pull out a victory once a year. The Cyclones managed to knock off TCU (just days removed from suspending starting quarterback Casey Pachall, mind you) in October on their way to a 6-7 season. Wins didn’t come easy down the stretch, but ISU found some consistent quarterback play in Sam Richardson.

So why are they picked here?
We love Rhoads here at CFT, so it’s hard for us to give ISU such little respect. The linebacker unit loses two key players in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, who were the heart and soul of that defense in 2012. Richardson showed promise in a couple of starts late in the season, but needs to make the next jump as a possible full-time starter.

Anything else?
The running game has to improve. James White and Shontrelle Johnson combined for 1,000 yards and four touchdowns last year.

10. Kansas (Last year: 1-11) 
What happened last season?
Charlie Weis called last year’s team a “pile of crap.” There is simply no other way I can recap the 2012 Jayhawks with the same level of effectiveness.

So why are they picked here?
For as wide open as the Big 12 projects to be this year, Kansas may actually be the biggest wildcard. Weis signed 15 junior college players in February, so this team figures to be almost completely different from the year before. Is that a good thing? Well, it can’t possibly get any worse.

Anything else?
Can any wide receivers emerge for the Jayhawks? Not a single wide receiver caught a touchdown pass last year and Miami (OH) transfer Nick Harwell will not be eligible to play until 2014. Good luck, Jake Heaps.

——————————————-

John Taylor‘s prediction:

1. Oklahoma State
2. Oklahoma
3. TCU
4. Baylor
5. Texas
6. Kansas State
7. West Virginia
8. Texas Tech
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas

John’s Big 12 champ: Oklahoma State

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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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