Da'Shawn Hand

Suspense builds on eve of nation’s top recruit’s announcement


Tomorrow serves as D-Day for the nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2014.  Will Da’Shawn Hand, um, hand Brady Hoke and Michigan the top two overall prospects in that class, or will one of SEC teams poach a Virginia product long thought to be (somewhat) ticketed for the Big Ten school?

That, of course, is the great unknown, with the five-star defensive end set to make his announcement at noon ET on NBC Sports Network’s SportsDash with Yahoo! Sports and on Rivals.com. Barring an unexpected development over the next 24 hours or so, Hand’s three finalists for a verbal commitment will be favorite Michigan along with Alabama and Florida.

National recruiting expert Mike Farrell of Rivals.com, which will share in the announcement via an Internet stream, reported earlier today that this may actually be a two-team race, writing that “Florida’s game atmosphere and fans calling for Muschamp’s head eliminated them.”  Hand visited Gainesville — he’s also visited Ann Arbor and Tuscaloosa the past two months — and was in attendance for the Gators’ 31-17 loss to Vanderbilt, a drubbing that cranked up the heat on head coach Will Muschamp’s seat.

On-field performance, however, likely doesn’t matter as much to Hand.  Farrell indicated in an interview last week that academics will play the biggest role in the defensive lineman’s decision; that continues to be the theme on the eve of the announcement as Farrell predicts “[i]n a race that comes down to academics as much as athletics, the Wolverines win this one and secure No. 1 to go along with No. 2 Jabrill Peppers.”

In late May, Peppers, a cornerback from New Jersey, announced that he had verbally committed to the Wolverines over a group of finalists that included LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State, home-state Rutgers and Stanford.  Since then, Peppers has served as a de facto recruiter in UM’s pursuit of hand.

In a video posted earlier this week, Peppers made one final Maize & Blue pitch to his buddy.

“Hey, D, listen bro, we need you. You make our class a lot stronger. We have a lot of great recruits on the list already, and you can make us that much stronger. Come get that degree and play top-notch ball in the biggest stadium in college football.”

So, where will Hand ultimately land, at least verbally?  Tune in tomorrow and find out.  After checking your local listings — or entering your zip code HERE — of course.

(Photo credit: Woodbridge (Va.) High School)

Gus Malzahn says ‘no doubt’ Kerryon Johnson will play vs. Ole Miss

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers dives into the end zone for a touchdown during their game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Kerryon Johnson‘s absence from the field will apparently be a brief one.

The running back sustained a sprained ankle in Auburn’s Week 6 win over Mississippi State, and, coming off a bye, the football program was initially optimistic he’d be available for the Week 8 game against Arkansas.  Instead, he was a game-day decision for the Razorbacks.

While Johnson missed that game, that won’t be the case this Saturday as Gus Malzahn declared his starting back ready to go against Ole Miss.

“He practiced yesterday. He will play, there’s no doubt about that,” the head coach Gus Malzahn said during the weekly SEC teleconference Wednesday. “We’re trying to be smart about it.”

At the time of his injury, Johnson’s 538 yards rushing and six touchdowns were tops among all Tiger backs.  Kamryn Pettway ran for a career-high 192 yards against te Razorbacks, and now leads the team with 697 yards.  Both Johnson and Pettway are part of an offense that ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game (302.9).

Kirk Ferentz would be owed $25 million if Iowa fired him this year

TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1:  Coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes directs play against the LSU Tigers January 1, 2014  in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yes indeed: if there were an Agent Hall of Fame, Neil Cornrich would be a first-ballot inductee.

Early last month, Iowa announced that it had reached an agreement with Kirk Ferentz on a new contract that runs through the 2026 season.  The details of the contract, revealed as part of USA Today‘s annual coaching salary database release, negotiated by Cornrich and agreed upon by the university are staggering.

From USA Today‘s report on coaching buyouts:

— Even if he’s fired after this season for not winning enough games, the 61-year-old Ferentz would be owed more than $25 million, payable in monthly installments until 2026.

— He’s guaranteed an additional $22 million from 2021 through 2025 if he sticks around and wins at least seven games each season through 2020. It wouldn’t matter if he’s dismissed in 2021 after finishing 0-12.

— If that’s not enough, those guarantees wouldn’t even be reduced if Iowa fired him and he took a lucrative new job somewhere else.

Another Cornrich client, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, would be owed nearly $25 million if he were fired today without cause. All told, there are at least seven head football coaches, the paper writes, “who would be owed at least $20 million in guaranteed money if he were fired on Dec. 1 for losing too many games.” Jimbo Fisher tops the buyout list, with Florida State on the hook for $33.1 million in the improbable event that Florida State dismisses him.

Others with the $20 million-plus golden parachute include Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($27.4 million), Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($25.6 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($23.3 million), Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($20 million).  Another, Illinois’ Lovie Smith, is just shy of that mark at $19.3 million.

Of the four coaches already dismissed this year, Les Miles had the highest buyout with LSU owing the former coach nearly $9 million according to the paper.  Darrell Hazell is due $5 million from Purdue, while Fresno State will owe Tim DeRuyter $3.3 million and FIU will shell out $609,000 to Ron Turner.

Texas will owe Charlie Strong just north of $11 million if, as expected, they fire the coach at season’s end.

The multimillion buyouts are part of a burgeoning trend all across the sport.

In 2011, there were 15 coaches with guaranteed buyouts of at least $8 million. This year, at least 33 are guaranteed that much — well more than half of the 53 publicly available coaches contracts in the Power Five conferences.

When it comes to actual salary being paid in 2016, Saban would sit atop the list at $6.9 million.  However, Harbaugh is the highest-paid coach in college football at $9 million, with $5 million of that coming in salary and $4 million in the form of insurance payouts.

In 2006, the first year the USA Today database was published, there were eight head coaches making at least $2 million annually.  A decade later, that number has risen to 58.

For USA Today‘s complete database, click HERE.

Jabrill Peppers makes inroads, but Lamar Jackson still Bovada’s overwhelming Heisman favorite

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12:  A general view of the Heisman Trophy during a press conference prior to the 2015 Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Most observers have already handed the 2016 Heisman Trophy to Lamar Jackson, but there are still a couple of players who could make the race at least mildly interesting.

The Louisville quarterback is, once again, Bovada.lv‘s overwhelming favorite to win this year’s Heisman, coming in at 1/3 (bet three dollars to win one). Those are slightly shorter odds than the 1/2 Jackson was getting a week ago.

Tied at 15/2 are Michigan’s jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Peppers was at 33/1 just three weeks ago, while Watson, the preseason wagering favorite, will have a high-profile matchup with Florida State in which to bolster his Heisman pedigree and chip into Jackson’s perceived lead.

Speaking of FSU, running back Dalvin Cook could state his case in the same game and push Bovada odds that currently sit at 40/1. Just three other players are on this particular house’s current board: Washington quarterback Jake Browning (10/1), Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (12/1) and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (22/1).

Two other players, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., were taken off Bovada’s board.

Gophers lose TE Brandon Lingen to season-ending foot injury

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22:  Anthony Cioffi #31 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tackles Brandon Lingen #86 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
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Brandon Lingen‘s injury-plagued season continues.  Or, more accurately, has come to an end.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the Minnesota tight end will miss the remainder of the regular season.  Lingen sustained a left foot injury in last Saturday’s game against Purdue.

On the weekly injury report, Lingen is listed as out for this weekend’s game against Illinois.  Beyond that, the school has not addressed Lingen’s status moving forward.

Lingen had missed three games earlier this season with a broken clavicle.  That issue helped limit him to three catches for 28 yards on the year.

A starter in 10 of 12 2015 games, Lingen was third on the team with 33 receptions for 428 yards.  He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten.

With Lingen injuries, Nate Wozniak (eight receptions, 92 yards) and Colton Beebe (5-42) have taken over the bulk of the responsibility at the tight end position.