Nick Saban

Winners and Losers from Signing Day


National Signing Day is just about over, so it’s time to take stock at who the winners and losers were on Wednesday.


Alabama — The rich get richer. Alabama nabbed yet another No. 1 recruiting class, thanks in part to the signing of the nation’s top recruit, defensive end Da’Shawn Hand. Ho-hum.

Kentucky — No, this is not a basketball recruiting ranking. Head coach Mark Stoops signed the best Wildcats recruiting class in recent memory, landing at No. 16 on the team list. It’s led by safety Mike Edwards and quarterback Drew Barker.

Virginia — The state of Virginia had three five stars this recruiting cycle and coach Mike London nabbed two of them, including the nation’s No. 5 player, safety Quin Blanding, and the No. 32 player, defensive tackle Andrew Brown. The other? The nation’s top prospect, the aforementioned Hand. Can’t get ’em all.

Stanford — Given the difficulties of recruiting to an elite academic institution, perhaps Stanford should be graded on a curve. The Cardinal checked in at No. 14 in the team rankings, with quarterback Keller Chryst and defensive end Soloman Thomas being the elite prospects.

LSU — The Tigers signed a monster class and finished second in the team rankings behind Alabama. The nation’s top running back, Leonard Fournette, should make an instant impact as a freshman, as should No. 2-ranked wide out Malachi Dupre.

Michigan State — The Spartans used their Rose Bowl victory and No. 3 national finish to sign the No. 21 class, one of the best recruiting finishes by MSU in a long time. The jewel of the class is 5-star defensive end Malik McDowell, who should end up with the Spartans once issues with his dad get worked out.


UCLA — The Bruins thought they had a chance at Adoree Jackson. He went to USC. They thought they might get Malachi Dupre. He went to LSU. They hoped to get Budda Baker. He went to Washington. It was still a good class for Jim Mora (ranked 18th), but he swung for the fences a few times and whiffed.

Michigan — The Wolverines felt the effects of a disappointing 7-6 season and their class slumped to 31st in the national rankings. Michigan needs some instant help this fall and, outside of top corner Jabril Peppers, it fell short.

Virginia Tech — The Hokies received a major blow when top DT Derrick Nnadi signed with FSU. They missed out on Isaiah McKenzie, who signed with Georgia. A top receiver commit, Javon Harrison, also jumped ship to sign with the Seminoles. Overall, the Hokies finished 25th nationally but could’ve finished much higher with a stronger signing day.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.