Two four-star verbals pull Penn State closer to Bama in recruiting rankings

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Don’t look now, Alabama, but a former SEC coach has his new football program nipping at your heels on the 2015 recruiting trail.

Friday evening in separate “events,” four-star recruits Sterling Jenkins and Brandon Wimbush announced that each has verbally committed to play their college football at Penn State. Both have been considered Nittany Lion leans, particularly Jenkins, who has taken four different trips to Happy Valley the past three months.

James Franklin and his coaching staff, in their first year with the Nittany Lions, have pushed hard for both players of late.

The 6-9 (!), 308-pound (!!!) Jenkins is rated as the No. 6 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania. Wimbush, who plays his high school football in New Jersey, is rated as the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in next year’s class.

Ohio State and Miami of Florida were the other finalists for Wimbush, with the Buckeyes serving as the Nittany Lions’ stiffest competition.   Virginia Tech and Boston College were also in Wimbush’s Top Five.  Franklin’s gain came at the expense of his counterpart at OSU, Urban Meyer, as well as Jenkins picked the Nittany Lions over the runnerup Buckeyes.

If Jenkins’ commitment holds through National Signing Day next February, it will mark the first time since at least 2006 the top-rated player in the state of Pennsylvania signed with the Nittany Lions.

The coaching staff in general and the offensive line coach specifically helped seal the deal for the Nittany Lions when it came to Jenkins.

“I really admire [OL] coach [Herb] Hand, everything he has told me and seeing how he coaches,” Jenkins said according to Rivals.com. “It feels like the right place for me to grow. I had already met Coach Hand when he was at Vanderbilt. We got along even then, and I knew when he came to Penn State it wouldn’t be a sales pitch. He is the same guy he was there, a guy I can trust.

“I’m not the first person in my family to go there so that’s a pretty cool thing. It was really surprising to see how the visits there are different. Coach [James] Franklin and all the coaching staff were all there to introduce themselves to me and talk to me. They all took time to come and see me while I was there. The finer details of what they do up there really showed me how much they care about me.”

Coming into Thursday night, No. 1 Alabama had a sizable lead (2,213-1,385) on No. 2 Penn State in Rivals.com‘s 2015 team recruiting rankings.  With the twin commitments, both the Tide and Nittany Lions have 15 verbals for next year’s class.  Two of the Tide commits are five-stars while 11 are four-star; PSU has zero five-stars (yet) and 10 four-stars already committed.

The Tide’s lead in the Rivals’ rankings was sliced to 2213-1688.  Auburn, incidentally, is No. 3 with 1,242 points.

NC State adds Division 2 graduate transfer kicker

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It’s possible Dave Doeren‘s life would feel completely different right now if he had a better kicker in 2016.

In this reality, Doeren is 25-26 after four seasons in Raleigh, coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons following his 8-5 breakthrough of 2014. But if his Wolfpack could kick last year, Doeren is most likely riding high after an 8-4 regular season buoyed by a win over Clemson in Death Valley. Because not only did NC State lose that game on a late field goal whiff, the Pack also suffered a 33-30 loss to East Carolina in which it endured two missed field goals.

NC State’s two kickers combined to hit only 9-of-17 tries last fall, good for 121st nationally, and ranked 104th with a 93.3 percent conversion rate on 45 extra points. And the situation wasn’t getting better this spring.

To rectify that situation, NC State announced the addition of kicker Carson Wise. A graduate transfer from Division II Carson-Newman, Wise will have two years of availability for the Wolfpack.

Wise connected on 21-of-31 field goals and 97-of-101 PATs last season, numbers that, on their face, do not represent massive changes from what NC State posted last season. But Doeren is banking on Wise as a solution for NC State in 2017.

“I’m excited to have Carson join the family,” Doeren said in a statement. “He is a talented player who should be a great addition to our special teams as we look for him to handle our field goal and kickoff duties this fall.”

Arkansas House votes to exempt sporting venues from expanded gun law

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Remember how we talked about it’s impossible to follow sports and ignore politics? Not long after John Swofford released a statement on how a North Carolina law would effect ACC sporting events, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill that will do the same in the SEC.

The Arkansas House voted 71-20 to allow its state colleges and universities to exempt themselves from a law that greatly expands venues permitting concealed-carry handguns. Until the passing of SB724 today, guns would have been permissible inside Razorback Stadium, among other places.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement earlier this week urging state lawmakers to remove sporting venues from the bill. “HB 1249 creates concerns for the Southeastern Conference and its member institutions,” he said. “It remains our collective desire to provide a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans, and will continue to closely monitor the status of this legislation.”

Passing the bill was made more complicated by the involvement of the NRA, according to Rep. Jimmy Gateway.

The bill must now head back to the Senate before it can receive final approval from Governor Asa Hutchinson.

John Swofford releases statement on North Carolina repeal of HB2

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It’s pretty much impossible to keep politics out of the sports page today. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was forced to release a statement on Tuesday urging Arkansas state legislators to exempt Razorbacks sporting venues from a bill that would greatly expand areas allowing concealed-carry handguns, and now ACC commissioner John Swofford has been forced to wade back into political waters.

North Carolina’s state legislature brokered a deal Thursday with new governor Roy Cooper to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial law requiring persons within Tar Heel state borders to use public bathrooms matching their gender at birth. The “bathroom bill” cost the state a reported $3.76 billion in revenue, and some of that lost revenue related directly to college football.

Following the NCAA’s lead of revoking the state’s championship event hosting privileges due to HB2, the ACC moved its football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando (the men’s basketball tournament was previously booked for Brooklyn), a move that cost the conference itself money as well.

Thursday’s repeal of HB2 is more complicated than simply yanking the bathroom bill (this is where I’ll direct you to a much more appropriate place to digest the political news of the hour than a college football blog) and, as such, Swofford’s statement is appropriately nuanced.

The ACC is still undecided where this December’s title game will be played, and Swofford will kick that decision upstairs to the league’s presidents.

Oklahoma OL Christian Daimler to pursue graduate transfer

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Oklahoma offensive tackle Christian Daimler will pursue a transfer, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Thursday.

As a fifth-year senior, Daimler qualifies as a graduate transfer and will be eligible immediately. “I could not be more excited about what my future holds,” Daimler wrote. “Wherever I end up I know that I will always be a Sooner and for that am I so proud. This University [sic] will forever remain close to my heart. Boomer Sooner.”

If that name does not immediately ring a bell, you are forgiven. Daimler appeared in three games as a Sooner, all over last season.

Hailing from Houston, Daimler, who stands 6-foot-7 and is listed at 321 pounds, was a 3-star recruit when he signed with Oklahoma over Texas A&M, Arizona State and Colorado, among others.