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Blake Bell named Oklahoma starter against Irish

Tulsa  v Oklahoma Getty Images

To no one’s surprise, Blake Bell’s big game against Tulsa has resulted in the junior quarterback being named the starter for Oklahoma’s game against Notre Dame in South Bend two weekends from now.

Bell started against the Golden Hurricane in place of an injured Trevor Knight and he responded with the best-ever debut (statistically, at least) by a Sooners quarterback. Bell completed 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns as OU beat Tulsa, 51-20.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops refused to go into detail about the shift at QB.

“I’m not going back to all of that,” Stoops said after the Tulsa game. “There’s no sense in rehashing all of that. (Bell) played really well today. He showed poise, consistency. He threw the ball great and was on the money. I didn’t detail it all when Trevor was the guy, either.”

Though he is known primarily as a runner, Bell didn’t get a chance to show it much against Tulsa. He gained just 24 yards on 10 carries against the Golden Hurricane. He rushed for 24 touchdowns, mostly in goal line situations, the past two seasons. Coming into the game, he had just 153 career passing yards, a total he surpassed by halftime of Saturday’s game.

If Bell starts clicking again as a runner while maintaining his prolific passing numbers, he could be on his way to a big season.

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Via Twitter, ex-UCLA DB Priest Willis announces move to A&M

Priest Willis, D.J. Foster AP

Nearly two months to the day he was moving on from the program with which he signed coming out of high school, Priest Willis has apparently found a new landing spot in which to continue his collegiate playing career.

In a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account early Thursday evening, Willis announced that he will be continuing his education at Texas A&M and play football for the Aggies.  The playing part won’t happen in 2015 as the defensive back will have to sit out the upcoming season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Then, beginning in 2016, Willis will have two years of eligibility remaining.

It’s at this point in the program where we note A&M has yet to officially announce Willis’ addition to the roster.

A four-star member of UCLA’s 2013 recruiting class, Willis rated as the No. 6 safety in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Arizona; and the No. 56 player overall according to Rivals.com. Along with fellow defensive back Tahaan Goodman, Willis was the highest-rated recruit in the Bruins’ class that year.

After sitting out his true freshman season as a redshirt, Willis played in nine games last season for the Bruins.

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Indiana loses leading returning receiver to torn ACL

Indiana v Ohio State

The news on the personnel front was decidedly negative for Indiana at Big Ten Media Days Thursday.

The most noteworthy is that J-Shun Harris sustained a torn ACL at some point this offseason. As a result, the wide receiver will miss the entire 2015 season.

Head coach Kevin Wilson stated during his time at the podium that “we knew for a long time j-Shun would be out.”

Harris’ 18 receptions and 168 yards receiving as a true freshman last season were fourth and third, respectively, on the Hoosiers. His two receiving touchdowns, meanwhile, were second on the team.

Thanks to attrition, Harris would’ve served as IU’s leading returning receiver. Instead, that honor among wide receivers now falls to Simmie Cobbs Jr. (114 yards) and Dominique Booth (eight receptions).

Additionally, the school announced that fifth-year senior offensive lineman Ralston Evans has been granted a medical hardship, which will end his football career. Evans started eight of the nine games in which he played last season, although the injuries, for the most part, prevented him from being viewed as a potential starter throughout most of the offseason.

“Injuries ended Ralston’s final two seasons and limited him this spring,” the head coach said in a statement. “He was a great player and is an even better man. Fortunately, Ralston will serve as a student coach this year. His leadership will continue to be invaluable to our team.”

Finally, Wilson also confirmed that projected cornerback starter Donovan Clark will be limited during summer camp because of a back injury.

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CFP won’t force Notre Dame, other independents to join a conference

Touchdown Jesus AP

Over the past 10 days, in the midst of various conference media days, one of the talking points has suddenly become Notre Dame and its lack of a conference when it comes to consideration for a College Football Playoff spot.  Head coaches from Missouri to Clemson to seemingly everyone in between has been very publicly — and loudly — calling for the football-independent Irish to join a conference in order to be eligible for one of the four playoff spots.

If the South Bend institution is going to be forced into becoming a conference member (don’t count on it), the pressure won’t be coming from the folks who run the playoff.

Thursday, CFP executive director Bill Hancock, in a conversation with ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich, confirmed that there has been no internal discussions about forcing Notre Dame or the other two independents, Army and BYU, to join a conference in order to be eligible for one of their postseason slots.

“The three independents are perfectly happy being independent,” Hancock said. “They have the ability to craft their schedules to fit their needs. If their need and goal is to be in the playoff, then they’re in the same boat as everybody else. You better play a good schedule if you want to be in the playoff.”

When it comes to the Fighting Irish, that last sentence shouldn’t be a problem.

In 2015, Notre Dame will play nine games against teams from Power Five conferences (Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Boston College, Stanford) and three from Group of Five leagues (UMass, Navy, Temple). In 2016, it’s the exact same split between P5s and G5s.

In fact, those two regular season slates stack up quite well with the four teams that qualified for the inaugural CFP last year:

Ohio State — eight Big Ten games; one P5, two G5 non-conference games
Oregon — nine Pac-12 games; one P5, one G5 non-conference game; one FCS game
Alabama — eight SEC games; one P5, two G5 non-conference games; one FCS game
Florida State — eight ACC games; two P5, one G5 non-conference games; one FCS game

What Notre Dame would lack, the same thing that impacted the Big 12 last season, is a conference championship game on its résumé, something all four of those semifinalists had. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney suggested ND add a 13th game in lieu of joining a conference, although that would require a change in current NCAA bylaws that only permit a 13th game when a road trip to Hawaii is involved.

Like the Big 12 and its lack of a title game, Hancock stated that the Irish would have to weigh the benefits of joining a league — and a potential 13th game in the form of a conference championship game — against its storied history as an independent.

“The risks and rewards of conference championship games will always come into play,” Hancock said. “I feel the same way about Notre Dame that I feel about the Big 12. It’s impossible to quantify the effect of a championship game because you don’t know who’s going to win the game.”

In another breath, Hancock very plainly explained that a league title game had no impact on how the four teams were selected last year, even as some would suggest otherwise.

“Frankly, in the committee room, it wasn’t a factor,” Hancock said of a 13th game. “The committee has the luxury of looking at the full body of work from an entire season — 12 or 13 games — for each team, irrespective of what conference they’re in. Having been in the committee room, I can tell you, it’s just not a factor.”

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Recruit who had Mich. St. offer pulled after attending Ohio St. camp gets Buckeye offer

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Maybe this was the kid’s plan all along?

Quite the ruckus was kicked up over the weekend when it was reported that Michigan State had pulled the scholarship offer made to one of its 2016 commits, Gavin Cupp, because the player attended a football camp hosted by rival Ohio State.  As it turns out, it wasn’t Cupp’s attendance that was the issue; rather, it was the fact that Cupp didn’t let MSU know of his intentions and the perceived lack of “loyalty” that led to the yanking of the offer.

That left Cupp offers from, among others, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Virginia and West Virginia… but none from OSU.  Until today.

The Ohio high school offensive lineman confirmed to ElevenWarriors.com that he received a scholarship offer from his state’s flagship football program Thursday.  And, to say the least, he is a little bit excited over the development.

“It feels great,” Cupp told the OSU-centric website. “It’s just a huge relief and a childhood dream. I’m very happy at the moment.”

That said, Cupp, the No. 31 tackle in next year’s class according to Rivals.com, hasn’t pulled a trigger on a verbal commitment to the Buckeyes.  Yet.

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Four-star RB denied Wisky admission opts for ‘Huskers

Jordan Stevenson

For whatever academic reason, Wisconsin denied admission to touted 2015 signee Jordan Stevenson.  Now, though, they could very well have to face the running back once a season for at least the next three years.

While nothing is official from his new school, Jordan Stevenson announced on his personal Twitter account that he has decided to continue on with UW’s Big Ten West rival Nebraska.  Stevenson had taking a visit to Lincoln shortly after he was denied admission to the school with which he signed, then followed that up with a visit to Miami.  There was also talk that yet another visit, this one to Alabama, could be in the offing this weekend, although that never came to fruition.

For the past week or so, though, the Cornhuskers have been widely viewed as the favorites to land the player’s services.  Stevenson will be eligible to play immediately for the ‘Huskers in 2015.

Rivals.com had the Texas high school product as a four-star prospect, rated as the No. 27 running back in the country and the No. 34 player at any position in the state.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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Urban on suspensions: ‘Get going. Move forward’

Urban Meyer

The announcements of the suspensions of four Ohio State football players — possibly related to marijuana and/or academics — dropped roughly three hours or so prior to Urban Meyer‘s turn at the microphone for Big Ten Media Days.

Not surprisingly, that particular topic dominated a good portion of the media Q&A with the head coach of the defending national champion Buckeyes.  Also not surprisingly, Meyer delved into very few details as to what led to the punitive measures.

“A violation of team policies.  That’s as far as I’ll go,” Meyer responded when the first query on a specific reason for the suspensions was tossed his way.  Meyer also acknowledged that he’s “known about the suspensions for a little while.”

The suspensions will be owned by junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson, who will all miss the opener because of the sanctions.  Meyer very powerfully intimated that the temporary losses should not be used as a crutch by his football team, mainly because he and his staff have collected the kind of depth that can withstand the impact of losing a player or players.

“The university, the athletic department has the policies that we expect and that I 100-percent fully support,” the coach said. “Whether it’s a sprained ankle or [other] stuff, you try to create a culture where a team knows how to move forward and not concern yourself.  When we lost Braxton [Miller] 10 days before the first game [of the 2014 season], you lose J.T. [Barrett] a week before the Big Ten championship game, you push forward.  We’re pushing forward.

“The comment I did make, we are playing an extremely talented team [in the opener vs. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg], very well-coached team on the road in a tough environment.  However, we have recruited very well.  So, get going.  Move forward.”

When pressed by a Tech beat writer regarding his greatest concern for an impact stemming from the suspensions, Meyer responded, “Off the get-go, arguably one of the best defensive players in the United States of America [Bosa] won’t play in that game, so that’s the one.”

Meyer did, though, attempt to mitigate the loss of Bosa by… referring back to the depth that’s been accumulated at the wide receiver and H-back positions before finally circling back to “the big defensive end.”

“I think if we stay healthy throughout training camp, and continue to improve,” Meyer began, before rattling off a sizable portion of his skill-position depth chart, “and [projected H-back/wide receiver] Braxton and then we have [wide receiver] Noah Brown, we have [wide receiver] Michael Thomas, you have [tight end] Nick Vannett,  you have [wide receiver] Johnny Dixon, [wide receiver] Terry McLaurin and [wide receiver] Parris Campbell, [running back-turned-H-back] Curtis Samuel, you know, we’ve recruited pretty good.  Now we have to get them ready to go play and I’ll know more as we get going.

“But I’m not overly concerned at that spot [defensive end].  Obviously when you lose the big defensive end, that everyone knows where he’s at, that is [still] a concern.”

In other words, Meyer wants to hear no excuses.  And he wants his players to know there are no excuses at their disposal, and that it’s very much next man up for the opener — just as it was when the Buckeyes lost two starting quarterbacks in its run to the title.

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Likely starting center abruptly leaves Cal football team

Ohio State v California Getty Images

Sonny Dykes will begin his third summer camp at Cal next week, and the head coach will do so without the projected anchor for his offensive line.

A school spokesperson confirmed to Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News that Matt Cochran is no longer on the Cal football team.  No reason was given for the abrupt departure, although the spokesperson did state that Cochran is still a student at Cal.

The junior’s brother, Aaron Cochran, is a sophomore offensive lineman for the Bears and remains a member of the team.

The past two seasons, Cochran has played in 13 games.  Four of those were starts, including three first three games at right guard in 2013.

With Cochran’s departure, a pair of redshirt freshmen, Addison Ooms and Michael Trani, are now the likely 1-2 at center on the depth chart.

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Report: ‘marijuana, academics’ led to OSU Four’s suspensions

Jalin Marshall

The world of college football received quite the jolt earlier Thursday when it was announced that four Ohio State Buckeyes, including All-American Joey Bosa, had been suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech because of unspecified violations of “Department of Athletics policy.”

A couple of hours later, we now somewhat know what those unspecified violations were.  Reportedly.

ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad reported via Twitter a short time ago that, per an unnamed source, the four suspensions involve “marijuana and academics.” In addition to Bosa, H-back Jalin Marshall, wide receiver Corey Smith and H-back Dontre Wilson were suspended as well.

Just who was suspended for what reason was not detailed by Schad.

Regardless of having a specific reason attached to a specific player, one parent of one member of the suspended quartet could not have been more supportive of the decision to mete out punishment.

I fully support Ohio State and I fully support my son,” John Bosa, Joey’s father, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Coach Meyer, to his character, has team rules and it doesn’t matter who breaks them.”

Another of John Bosa’s sons, five-star 2016 recruit Nick Bosa, verbally committed to OSU earlier this past week.

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Four key Buckeyes, including Joey Bosa, suspended for opener

Joey Bosa, Mitch Leidner

Just a short time ago, Ohio State received the first of what’s expected to be a string of No. 1 votes in preseason polls.  Now we learn that, when the Buckeyes take that No. 1 ranking into the opener, they’ll do so without a handful of key components.

In a press release, OSU confirmed that four players will miss the first game of the season, Sept. 7 vs. Virginia Tech: junior defensive end Joey Bosa, sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall, senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson. The only reason given was “violating Department of Athletics policy.”

The loss of Bosa will be most noteworthy nationally as the 2014 All-American is a consensus pick to similar squads entering the 2015 season. He’s also projected to be a Top Five pick in the 2016 NFL draft if he leaves OSU early, perhaps even the top pick overall.

The Columbus Dispatch writes that “[t]he Buckeyes likely will make do for the loss of Bosa by picking from a defensive end corps which includes sophomore Tyquan Lewis, who emerged in the spring as the new starter for the vacated spot on the other end of the line, redshirt-freshman Sam Hubbard, sophomore Jalyn Holmes and redshirt-freshman Darius Slade.”

Wilson and Marshall had split time at H-back prior to the former’s injury, which allowed the latter to become a breakout star and one of the most dangerous weapons on an offense loaded with them. In traveling to Blacksburg to face a tough Hokie defense, just how deep and loaded that group is will be tested.

Braxton Miller, who announced last week that he would be moving from quarterback  — probably — could very well be an option at the H-back in the opener, and even beyond.  Curtis Samuel, the primary backup to star running back Ezekiel Elliott, has been working , the Dispatch wrote, “almost exclusively at hybrid back in the spring as the coaches sought ways to get his speed and possible playmaking ability on the field more often.”

Smith is the Buckeyes’ second-leading returning pass-catcher among wide receivers, hauling in 20 passes for 255 yards last season.

Head coach Urban Meyer is expected to address this development as he takes to the podium for the Big Ten Media Days later this afternoon.

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Ohio State a near-unanimous No. 1 in preseason coaches’ poll

All State Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Ohio State Getty Images

Ever since Ohio State finished off its magical, and some would say improbable, postseason run by hoisting the first-ever College Football Playoff trophy, and with the talent it has returning, it’s been widely assumed that the Buckeyes would be ranked No. 1 entering the 2015 season by nearly major poll.

After the first release, OSU is on its way to doing just that.

In yet another sign that a fresh college football season is right around the corner, the Amway coaches’ poll was released late Thursday morning and — surprise! — OSU is ranked No. 1 in the country.  Perhaps the only real surprise is that the Buckeyes weren’t a unanimous selection, receiving “just” 62 of the 64 first-place votes.

The only others receiving first-place votes were preseason No. 2 TCU (one) and No. 3 Alabama (one). OSU holds a 112-point edge on No. 2 TCU; in last year’s preseason poll, Florida State held an 88-point edge on No. 2 Alabama.

Rounding out this year’s Top Five are No. 4 Baylor and no. 5 Oregon.  The lone 2014 playoff team outside of the Top Five is Florida State,. which will begin the year at No. 8.

Two SEC schools and one each from the Big Ten and Pac-12 finish up the initial Top Ten: Michigan State (No. 6), Auburn (No. 7), Georgia (No. 9) and USC (No. 10).

The coaches still loves themselves some SEC, with eight schools from that conference ranked in the Top 25.  The Pac-12 is next with six, followed by three each from the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC.

The highest-ranked Group of Five member is Boise State at No. 24.  Independent Notre Dame nearly cracked the Top 10, coming in at No. 11,

1 Ohio State 14-1 1598 (62)
2 TCU 12-1 1487 (1)
3 Alabama 12-2 1452 (1)
4 Baylor 11-2 1365
5 Oregon 13-2 1260
6 Michigan State 11-2 1230
7 Auburn 8-5 1103
8 Florida State 13-1 1057
9 Georgia 10-3 1026
10 USC 9-4 1014
11 Notre Dame 8-5 883
12 Clemson 10-3 838
13 LSU 8-5 727
14 UCLA 10-3 697
15 Ole Miss 9-4 668
16 Arizona State 10-3 577
17 Georgia Tech 11-3 573
18 Wisconsin 11-3 470
19 Oklahoma 8-5 407
20 Arkansas 7-6 377
21 Stanford 8-5 365
22 Arizona 10-4 299
23 Missouri 11-3 229
24 Boise State 12-2 190
25 Tennessee 7-6 166

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USC picked by media as preseason Pac-12 title favorites

Pac-12 Championship Game - UCLA v Oregon Getty Images

If the media is correct — and when are they ever wrong? — the Reign of the Duck will be a short one.

The results of the media’s preseason voting was released Thursday morning, with the voters determining that USC will win the 2015 Pac-12 championship.  The Trojans received 21 of the 44 first-place votes submitted.

USC was far from an overwhelming favorite, though, as Oregon, the 2014 conference champion, was named on 17 first-place ballots.  The only others receiving votes were Arizona State (three), UCLA (two) and Stanford (one).

Oregon and USC were overwhelming favorites to win their respective divisions, with the former receiving 37 first-place votes to win the North and the latter 32 to claim the South.  As when it came to the overall conference championship, just three other schools received first-place votes: Stanford, which received eight to win the North, and Arizona State and UCLA, which received seven and six votes, respectively, to win the South.

(Writer’s note: I have no idea why the number of votes for Pac-12 champion totals 44, while the votes for divisional champions totals 45.)

Pac-12 media Preseason Picks

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Arizona State the latest to unveil new uniforms for 2015

Arizona State Uniforms

The number of football programs that have unveiled new uniforms this offseason is in the double digits, so what’s one more?

The latest to do the unveiling is Arizona State, which last December announced a new agreement with apparel provider adidas.  And, in what will come as a surprise to some, or maybe even most people, there’s very little change from what ASU fans have become accustomed to over the past several years.

There are, though, some tweaks to the new duds, as the Arizona Republic noted:

These uniforms retained the fonts, “PT42″ crest and similar sleeve stripes from recent designs, but Adidas looked to enhance those components with a glossier, metallic accent. A larger pitchfork logo has also been added to the pants.

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B1G’s 11-strong ‘Players to Watch’ list released

Big 10 Championship Game - Ohio State v Michigan State Getty Images

Most conferences this time of the year release their preseason players of the year.  The Big Ten is not like other conferences.

Ahead of the start of the the B1G Media Days in Chicago Thursday afternoon, the Midwest league released what it calls its “Players to Watch” list.  This year’s list consists of 11 players — six from the West division and five from the East.  There is one more in the West than in the East due to a tie in the media voting.

While there are 11 players listed, just seven schools are represented as four members earned two players each: Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.  The schools with just one each include Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State.

Interestingly, six of the 11 come from the defensive side of the ball while five come from the offensive.  Also, just one quarterback is represented, and that one wasn’t from Ohio State.

Below is the complete list of preseason honorees.

EAST DIVISION
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State

WEST DIVISION*
Drew Ott, DE, Iowa
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
De’Mornay Pierson-El, WR, Nebraska
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin

*Additional honoree due to tie

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Boise St. QB frontrunner (likely) to be eligible for opener vs. UW

Boise State at Air Force

After exiting the spring as Boise State’s front-runner to take over as starting quarterback, Ryan Finley put that status at risk after being charged with a pair of alcohol-related misdemeanors.  The speculation was, Finley could be facing the loss of playing time.

As it turns out, that couldn’t be further from the case. Probably.

“Because of what’s happened and where the court case is as well, absolutely,” Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin stated when asked if Finley will be eligible to play in the highly-anticipated opener against Washington Sept. 4. “And I’ll say this with absolute confidence: Ryan has done everything we’ve asked of him. I can’t ask him to do more than what he’s done. I’m proud of him.

“This is obviously disappointing, we all understand that, but if guys can make up for their mistakes and I believe he’s done that from our standpoint, then we’re good.”

Finley’s pretrial conference has been postponed until the end of September after originally being scheduled for the middle of July. Despite the fact that the legal case won’t be resolved before the start of the season, Harsin said “I feel like what I’ve asked and what he’s done, he’s done it, and we’ll let the legal process do their jobs.”

Harsin did allow that, should new, pertinent information related to Finley’s case surface as the legal process does its job, additional punishment could be in the offing.

“If there’s something else in there that I don’t know or there’s more too it, then yeah, there’s obviously going to be something that we have to do at that point,” the second-year coach said.

As Grant Hedrick’s primary backup in 2014, Finley completed 12-of-27 passes for 161 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

In addition to the redshirt sophomore Finley, the competition that began in the spring and extend on into summer camp includes redshirt sophomore Tommy Stuart, true freshman Brett Rypien and redshirt freshmanAlex Ogle. None of those three players have attempted a pass at the collegiate level.

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WMU the new home for Notre Dame grad transfer Anthony Rabasa

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Getty Images

Seldom used at Notre Dame, Anthony Rabasa hopes that will change for his final season at his new college football phone.

Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck has confirmed that Rabasa has joined his Broncos program and will play for WMU this coming season. As the defensive end has already received his degree from Notre Dame and is coming in as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Rabasa is expected to immediately join WMU’s defensive line rotation.

A three-star member of the Irish’s 2011 recruiting class, Rivals.com rated him as the No. 11 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 54 player at any position in the state of Florida. After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, he played in two games in 2012 and five in 2013.

He didn’t see the field at all for the Irish in 2014.

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