Nick Saban

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.

Laremy Tunsil: ‘I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins’

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #13 overall by the Miami Dolphins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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For those expecting Laremy Tunsil to expound on Thursday night’s revelation, you were sorely disappointed.

Friday evening, following a strange hiccup that involved a purported allergic reaction, Tunsil was introduced to the Miami media as the first-round pick of the Dolphins.  Not surprisingly, Tunsil was asked about the events of last night, from the gas-mask bong hit to the hacked Instagram account displaying damning text messages that could leave Ole Miss in further NCAA hot water to seemingly acknowledging in the affirmative during a post-draft press conference that he had received money from a Rebels staffer.

Not surprisingly, the sequel, Tunsil wasn’t touching last night’s developments.

“I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins,” Tunsil responded in one variation or another when asked a handful of times about the video and potential NCAA issues.

In the aftermath of the allegations and admission, Ole Miss released a statement in which the university vowed to “aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

UMass chancellor scoffs at talk of disbanding football

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This month we’ve already seen Eastern Michigan emphatically push back against faculty-fueled talk of moving the football program down to the FCS level or disbanding it completely.  Now it’s a former MAC member doing some pushing of its own on a similar effort.

Thursday, the faculty senate at UMass urged officials at the university to vote on a resolution “to end Division I football (Football Bowl Subdivision) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and either move to a different division or discontinue NCAA football altogether.”  That blast served as the latest salvo in a nearly four-year effort by the senate to rid itself and its university of the sport.

As has been the case in previous efforts, they appear to have failed miserably as the motion was defeated by a 2-1 margin.  Saying “[t]his is now the third time in my four years that they have brought up a motion and have not succeeded,” chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy went on to praise the direction of a program that is now a football independent after leaving the MAC following the 2015 season.

I think the program is in good shape and (headed) in the right direction,” he said. “This was simply a small group of senators who have been carrying on this agenda for some time. And they’re not getting the support they need. …

“I can’t control what the Faculty Senate does. It’s a waste of this important body’s time, in my opinion, to keep bringing up this issue. We have lots of issues on the curriculum and we have lots of issues on our future planning and so forth. So I think the academic senate’s time should be more wisely spent than debating something over and over again.”

Like their former conference counterparts at EMU, UMass has struggled mightily of late.  Since becoming full-fledged members of the FBS in 2012, the Minutemen have posted just eight wins versus 40 losses.

Despite those struggles, “we have strong support from the alumni base and our own student body,” Subbaswamy said, “which we’re going to build even more once we start playing even more games on campus.”

FCS LB Ray Lewis III, son of ‘Canes legend, charged with sexual assault

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A former member of the Miami Hurricanes football program — and the son of a U legend — is facing some rather significant allegations at his current football home.

WMBF-TV in Conway, SC, is reporting that an arrest warrant was issued for Coastal Carolina cornerback Ray Lewis III in connection to claims that he had sexually assaulted two women.  The FCS player turned himself into authorities earlier Friday and was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The alleged incidents that led to the charges occurred in January.  From the television station’s report:

On Saturday, January 23, Conway Police officer responded to a local hospital, where the victims told police they were sexually assaulted at an apartment in the 2200 block of Technology Drive, according to a news release from the police department. Detectives were called to the hospital to take over the investigation.

Medical reports, victim statements, witness statements, and lab statements were presented to the solicitor’s office, and warrants were obtained for 20-year-old Ray Lewis III.

The arrest warrant alleges that Lewis did engage in sexual battery with an 18-year-old female with the knowledge that the victim was incapacitated and/or physically helpless from the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

Ray Lewis IIIThe 20-year-old Lewis, the son of UM Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, spent two seasons at his father’s alma mater without ever playing a down before transferring to Coastal Carolina in January of 2015.  In 2015 as a redshirt sophomore, the younger Lewis played in 12 games for the Chanticleers.

Suffice to say, he has been indefinitely suspended from the football team.

Coastal Carolina, incidentally, will be making the move from the FCS to the FBS level for the 2017 season.  It was announced in September of last year that the Chanticleers will join the Sun Belt Conference for football beginning that season.

A Travone Valentine return to LSU in 2016 now a possibility

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 10:  Mike VI, mascot of the Louisiana State University Tigers, during pregame warmups before the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Back in January, Travonte Valentine was hoping Les Miles would give him another shot at a playing career at LSU. Specifically, Valentine was hoping that he’d get another shot at being a Tiger in 2017.

Not only does it appear Miles is ready to welcome the defensive lineman back, but that welcome could come a year earlier than expected. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Currently enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Valentine was expected to become a 2017 prospect, but NCAA rules may allow him to suit up for LSU in 2016, according to numerous sources with knowledge of Valentine’s academic situation.

Valentine and other sources have confirmed that LSU has checked with its compliance department about what it would take for him to enroll this fall. Valentine, who is currently in good academic standing, has to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, while completing the required number of course hours to qualify. The Tigers are taking a conservative approach to the situation, given the history between both parties, but multiple sources said the program is open to the idea if Valentine maintains his current course, and compliance decides that the transfer would meet NCAA guidelines.

Should Valentine ultimately return to Baton Rouge, it’d be the continuation of a lengthy — and bumpy — odyssey.

After signing with the Tigers in February of 2014, Valentine dealt with NCAA Clearinghouse issues — the player said another SEC program was the root cause — that forced him to miss the start of summer camp his true freshman season. While he was ultimately cleared to practice, he was not permitted to play in any games because of the lingering academic issues.

Then in April of last year, head coach Les Miles confirmed that Valentine had been suspended, with the specific reason being, again, academics.  At the time of his departure from the program, it was reported that Valentine, in addition to the academic issues, had failed multiple drug tests.

A four-star member of the Tigers’ 2014 recruiting class, Valentine was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 7 player at any position in the state of Florida. He had been expected to be an immediate contributor to LSU’s line rotation.