Nation’s No. 1 2014 recruit opts for Tide over home-state LSU

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Surprise!  Nick Saban and his coaching staff have done it again on the recruiting trail.

In a press conference televised live on ESPNU Wednesday afternoon from his high school, Cameron Robinson, 247Sports.com‘s No. 1 player at any position in the Class of 2014, announced that he has verbally committed to play his collegiate football at Alabama.  The West Monroe, La., offensive tackle opted for the Tide over the other member of his Top Two, LSU.

The verbal to the Tide comes a handful of days after Robinson’s good friend, four-star Monroe, La., wide receiver Cameron Sims, committed to UA,

(Writer’s note: it’s at this point in the program where we, as always, note that verbal commitments are non-binding and nothing is official until pen is put to National Letter of Intent paper)

Robinson plans to graduate high school in December and, at least for now, enroll at Alabama in January.

The 6-6, 320-pound Robinson had narrowed down his choices to Alabama and LSU in late May, eschewing planned visits to schools like Georgia and Texas A&M.  As recently as late July, Robinson denied that he had a favorite among the two.

“Neither school has really separated themselves from each other,” Robinson said. “People are talking and don’t know what they’re talking about. Neither school has led for me. I don’t have a lead school other than those two. If I had to make a choice tomorrow I don’t know if I could because I actually don’t know where I want to go.”

In addition to being the top player in the country according to 247Sports.com, Rivals.com puts Robinson as the No. 3 player at any position while Scout.com ranks him No. 2.  Suffice to say, he’s the consensus No. 1 offensive lineman in next year’s class.

The fact that the Tide landed a verbal from one of the top players in the country, though, is hardly a surprise, even as they went into LSU’s backyard to do so.  Rivals ranks Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class — 19 commitments, 13 of them four-star players — as the No. 1 class in the country.  Since 2008, Saban’s second year in Tuscaloosa, the Tide has claimed that recruiting service’s top class a whopping five times.  The only time in that six-year stretch they weren’t the No. 1 class was 2010 when they were No. 5.

UA’s worst finish under Saban was the coach’s first year (No. 10, 2007).  To put the recruiting success with Saban involved into perspective, the Tide finished No. 30 (2002), No. 49 (2003), No. 24 (2004), No. 18 (2005) and No. 11 (2006) in the five years prior to Saban’s arrival.

Roll Damn Tide indeed.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.

Army’s Donovan Franklin tweets transfer to Kansas

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This is something you don’t see all too often.

Donovan Franklin (pictured, No. 26) tweeted out late Tuesday night that, “[a]fter careful consideration I am happy to announce that I have decided to continue my academic and athletic career at the University of Kansas.” Franklin had spent the past two years at the United States Military Academy at West Point, playing his college football for the Army Black Knights.

It’s unclear what led the slotback to leave the service academy and head to the Big 12 school.

Franklin was a two-star prospect coming out of high school in Maryland in Army’s Class of 2015.  After playing in two games in 2016, he carried the ball one time for seven yards this past season.

The 5-9, 185-pound Franklin was listed as a defensive back coming out of high school, and could assume such a role yet again with the Jayhawks.  That likely won’t happen this season, however, as it’s expected he will have to sit out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.