At the rate Alabama is recruiting, Nick Saban might be able to field his own track team next fall.
The Crimson Tide’s recruiting class includes two 5-star cornerbacks who just so happen to be the nation’s top two prep track and field hurdle recruits.
Tony Brown, a 6-foot, 182-pounder from Beaumont, Texas, is already enrolled in school at Alabama and, despite some off-field trouble, is likely to contribute early for the Tide. He was ranked the 25th-best player in the country overall by Rivals.com and the No. 4 cornerback. On the track, however, Brown is as good as they come. His time of 13.38 in the 110-meter high hurdles run during his junior season was tied for the fastest mark in the country in that event. How fast is that? Well, 2012 Olympic gold medalist and current 110-meter high hurdle world record holder Aries Merritt had a best time of 13.92 in high school. Does that mean Brown is going to be better than Merritt at the high hurdles? No. But it does mean he has the potential to be a great one. It also shows that Brown had the speed (he also has a best of 10.53 in the 100 meters), coordination and athleticism to be an elite corner.
Securing Brown as a recruit would’ve been good enough, but Alabama also went out and claimed the commitment of in-state star Marlon Humphrey on Wednesday morning, too. If there’s any football player/track athlete more talented than Brown in this class, it might be Humphrey.
The 6-foot, 175-pounder from Hoover, Ala., is ranked the No. 9 player overall by Rivals.com and the No. 2 cornerback. He also tied Brown for the top 110-meter hurdles time in the country last track season, at the aforementioned 13.38 time. But Humphrey was also the nation’s best at both the 300 and 400-meter intermediate hurdles as well. His top 300-meter hurdle time of 35.60 is close to challenging the prep record set by NCAA champion Reggie Wyatt and his 50.25 time in the 400 hurdles is also outstanding. While Brown will be taking in spring ball for the Tide, Humphrey will have another go at breaking that mark when track season rolls around.
It’s extremely rare for two athletes of this caliber to exist in the same recruiting class, much less play the same position, much less sign with the same school. It doesn’t bode well for opposing quarterbacks in the next few seasons, nor for opposing track teams.
Mike Gundy originally blamed himself for Oklahoma State’s 48-20 loss to Ole Miss at the Sugar Bowl that closed the 2015 season.
Speaking at the AFCA Convention in Nashville last month, I heard Gundy explain to thousands of fellow coaches he felt he overtrained his Cowboys in preparation to play the physically imposing Rebels. The end result backfired. As I wrote for FootballScoop:
As Oklahoma State prepared to face No. 12 Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, Gundy pushed his players harder than usual in December practices. “They’re going to knock us off the ball and it’s not going to look pretty,” he remembers thinking. That strategy backfired on him, though, as the Rebels pounded Gundy’s team 48-20. Oklahoma State was out-rushed 207-63 and averaged only 6.7 yards per pass attempt to Ole Miss’s 9.9. “We weren’t physical and we were slow,” Gundy said.
But now Gundy thinks something else may have contributed to that 28-point spanking.
As he explained to the Tulsa World‘s Bill Haisten, Gundy said he couldn’t help but think of the Sugar Bowl when he learned of the NCAA’s charges against Ole Miss.
“The first thing I thought about was (OSU’s recent experience with the NCAA),” Gundy said, “and the second thing was the Sugar Bowl and my players and what they went through.”
He continued: “We’ll never know what we could have done in the Sugar Bowl if it was a level playing field. That is the truth. I’m not sure we would have won the Sugar Bowl, but we’ll never know.”
Though she isn’t the most visible coach on Baylor’s campus, women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey is certainly the most accomplished. In her 17th season on campus, Mulkey has led the Lady Bears to two national championships, three Final Fours, eight Big 12 championships and a run of six consecutive Sweet 16 visits.
She has mostly remained silent through the school’s ongoing sexual assault scandal, but spoke up Saturday night after an 86-48 thrashing of Texas Tech that saw Baylor clinch its seventh consecutive conference championship and Mulkey secure her 500th win in Waco.
“If somebody’s around you and they ever say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face,” Mulkey said.
As you’ll see in the video below, the green and gold crowd greeted that line with applause.
“Because these kids are on this campus. I work here. My daughter went to school here. And it’s the damn best school in America.”
“I’m tired of hearing it,” Mulkey explained of the comments in the post-game press conference. “I’m tired of people talking on it on a national scale that don’t know what they’re talking about. If they didn’t sit in those meetings and they weren’t a part of the investigation you’re repeating things that you’ve heard. It’s over. It’s done. It’s a great institution, and I would send my daughter here, and I’d pay for anybody else’s daughter to come here. I work here every day. I’m in the know, and I’m tired of hearing it… The problems we have at Baylor are no different as any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write.”
As a reminder, a lawsuit alleges 52 rapes were committed by Baylor football players under head coach Art Briles.
Arizona signee My-King Johnson probably caught most Wildcats’ fans attention with his impressive name when it was listed among the 23 signees for the football program on National Signing Day.
The 6-3, 225 pound defensive end’s name is set to become a little more well known however.
In a story on Saturday in the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson confirmed that he would become the first active openly gay scholarship player in FBS when he enrolls over the summer down in Tucson.
“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson told the paper about going public with his sexuality. “But whatever.”
Johnson is far from the only gay athlete to play major college football but does appear to be one of the first to go public on the matter prior to suiting up for a major program. Missouri’s Michael Sam came out once he entered the NFL Draft. Just up the road in Tempe, where Johnson went to high school, Arizona State walk-on Chip Sarafin told his teammates in 2014.
From the Daily Star:
When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.
Johnson picked the Wildcats despite offers from numerous FBS programs, including many in the Pac-12. Perhaps coincidentally, he really jumped on the radar of the coaching staff when he sacked quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee himself (and the son of head coach Rich Rodriguez), three times in a high school game.
It certainly seems as though Johnson is very comfortable telling his story to a wider audience than just his teammates and coaches by doing the interview with the Daily Star and the environment down in Tucson has been very welcoming to all the new attention that it will bring. As the Wildcats begin spring practice this month, chances are the coaching staff is probably just as excited about the prospect of Johnson making an instant impact on defense this fall after seeing plenty of issues on that side of the ball during a 3-9 campaign in 2016.
Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.
Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.
Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.
While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.
Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.