The SEC may be dominant at the top fo the Rivals team rankings a little more than midway through National Signing Day, but the Ohio State Buckeyes are once again in the mix among the top recruiting classes in the nation. Ohio State is also leaving many of their Big Ten rivals in the dust when comparing recruiting profiles so far.
The updated team rankings compiled by Rivals currently sees Ohio State ranked third overall, trailing Alabama and LSU and sitting just ahead of defending BCS champion Florida State and an impressive Tennessee class. The Buckeyes have 23 players in their Class of 2014, including 15 four-star recruits and one five-star player. That is some serious quality depth being added to the roster in Columbus by Urban Meyer and his staff. You have to move all the way down to No. 21 to find the next Big Ten team in the Rivals team rankings and only two other Big Ten schools are ranked in the top 25 according to Rivals.
The 2013 Big Ten champions from Michigan State are ranked 21st overall. The Spartans lost a commitment to Ohio State today when defensive end Darius Slade out of New Jersey made a last-minute decision to sign with Ohio State. That took some of the steam out of the recruiting victory for in-state talent Malik McDowell, but the Spartans continue to develop tough players that sometimes fly under the radar.
Penn State is putting together a solid class despite missing some scholarships as well. The Nittany Lions are currently ranked No. 23 by Rivals after completing their day’s action. Penn State head coach James Franklin and his staff did a solid job in a short period of time by adding six four-star players to add depth wherever possible. Franklin has said many players should expect to be available to play right away this season due to limited roster options under NCAA sanctions.
What should be concerning for the big Ten is the fact Penn State was able to pull together just the third top 25 class with NCAA sanctions while programs such as Michigan (No. 31), Nebraska (No. 32) and Wisconsin (No. 33) are lagging behind. If the Big Ten is going to compete with the likes of the SEC and Pac 12, these are all programs that will have to put together some more respected classes in the future.
Of course, Ohio State has dominated in recruiting since Urban Meyer arrived as head coach two years ago and last year the Buckeyes failed to win the Big Ten. Recruiting victories are nice, but Michigan State will tell you what victories really matter.
Rivals.com Big Ten Team Rankings
No. 3 Ohio State
No. 21 Michigan State
No. 23 Penn State
No. 31 Michiagn
No. 32 Nebraska
No. 33 Wisconsin
No. 36 Indiana
No. 52 Minnesota
No. 53 Maryland
No. 57 Rutgers
No. 60 Iowa
No. 65 Northwestern
No. 71 Illinois
No. 74 Purdue
Earlier this week, Brad Lambert added a longtime Power Five assistant to his Charlotte coaching staff. Not long after, he has added another.
The 49ers announced in a release that Keith Henry has been hired by Lambert as his running backs coach. The 49ers’ coach at that position last season, Damien Gary, will shift to wide receivers.
Henry and Lambert (pictured, left) were on the same staff at Wake Forest, so they have a previous working relationship.
“Keith brings a lot of experience to our program,” said Lambert in a statement. “Having coached on both sides of the ball, he brings an added dimension of a defensive perspective to our offense. We’re really glad he’s coming on board with us. He’s a North Carolina native who’s played in North Carolina and has recruited for many, many years in North and South Carolina. That will be a huge benefit to our program with the relationships he’s built over the years.
“He’s been very successful and been a part of winning football at Ohio, Wake Forest and Catawba.”
Henry spent 11 seasons with the Demon Deacons (2001-11). He coached on the defensive side of the ball for the first 10 years before spending his final season with the ACC school as special teams coordinator. His last job on the offensive side of the ball came as wide receivers coach at Ohio in 1996.
An off-field incident involving alcohol has unofficially cost an assistant coach a job.
It had been reported that Gerad Parker, who served as Purdue’s interim head coach last season, decided to leave his new job at Cincinnati to take another at East Carolina. That reported move was complicated after reports surfaced that, following a going-away party in West Lafayette early Tuesday morning, the coach was pulled over and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Parker had been expected to take over the wide receivers coach job at ECU; Wednesday, multiple reports indicated that the Pirates are moving on from the coach in light of the recent development.
In a tweet that has since been deleted from his Twitter account, Parker apologized. “I’m sorry to all my friends and family,” the coach wrote. “Thanks to all that have reached out and shown support.”
Parker would’ve replaced Phil McGeoghan, who left ECU in late January for a job with the Buffalo Bills. ECU’s search for a replacement will continue.
After making some changes to the coaching staff this offseason, Kentucky is locking in offensive coordinator Eddie Gran for the next few seasons. Kentucky has signed Gran to a contract extension good through the 2019 season, according to The Courier-Journal.
According to the reported contract extension, Gran will be paid $825,000 in the 2017 season and will be given a $25,000 raise each of the next two seasons. A buyout cost of $150,000 per years is also added to the contract should he leave for another job during that span. Gran was originally under contract through the 2018 season, so his new deal tacks on an extra year in Lexington. The extended contract also bumps Gran’s pay by $175,000 compared to his previous contract.
Kentucky may have finished the 2017 season ranked 9th in the SEC in total scoring, but the Wildcats bumped up their average points per game by roughly six points in 2016 compared to the 2015 season. Kentucky also had the SEC’s third-most productive rushing attack with an average of 234.15 rushing yards per game and 30 rushing touchdowns. Only Auburn and Alabama had better averages and touchdown totals (and Alabama had two more games to pad the stats).
Kentucky has room to improve in the passing game after finishing the 2016 season ranked 13th in passing offense in the 14-team SEC. Kentucky also had an SEC-high 28 turnovers lost in 2016, with 16 fumbles and 12 interceptions thrown.
Gran joined the Kentucky program last year after a three-year stint at Cincinnati as offensive coordinator. Gran has previously been an assistant at Florida State, Tennessee, Auburn, and Ole Miss as well.
Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams pled no contest to charges from a DUI incident last August. On Wednesday, he received his sentence from a county judge and learned he would be sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation.
According to The Lincoln Journal-Star, Williams was also fined $1,000 for his latest DUI charge. Williams has until March 3 to apply for house arrest, although prosecutors made a push for Williams to serve his time behind bars after not being locked up for two prior DUI charges.
Nebraska opens spring football practices on March 4. If he is ruled eligible for house arrest, that would allow Williams to continue coaching in the spring. Otherwise, he could have to miss at least some of Nebraska’s spring practices depending on when his jail sentence would begin.
Williams was pulled over for driving under the influence last August with a BAC above .15. Further complicating things was the fact Williams also had two previous convictions for DUI. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley suspended Williams without pay through the end of August and was prohibited from coaching in Nebraska’s first four games of the 2016 season.