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.

San Jose State safety Chad Miller recovering from stabbing in brawl

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San Jose State safety Chad Miller is recovering in a hospital after being stabbed in a fight in San Jose this weekend. Early reports suggest Miller is expected to recover from the injury.

“He is hospitalized and is expected to recover,” a statement from San Jose State said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Chad and his family for his prompt recovery.”

According to a report from NBC Bay Area, Miller was stabbed in a brawl that involved at least 12 people. The incident occurred off campus from San Jose State, according to The Mercury News. At this time, San Jose police have not commented on the situation and are thought to be investigating the manner. No charges have been filed at this time.

Miller played in all 12 games, starting in three, for the Spartans last season. He recorded 25 tackles and forced a fumble.

Auburn’s John Franklin III may not be completely done playing QB after all

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Auburn quarterback-turned-wideout John Franklin III may not be completely done taking snaps behind center after all.

The Tigers’ new offensive coordinator tipped that the speedy receiver likely would be the best option to fill the team’s emergency quarterback spot in 2017 while speaking to AL.com during a meeting with a booster club over the weekend.

“I think he definitely could be (the emergency option), for sure,” Chip Lindsey told the site. “He’s done it his whole life, so I think he could definitely do that if we needed him to, for sure.”

Auburn suffered a host of injuries at the position last season, which prompted some extended playing time for Franklin as he appeared in all 13 games of the 2016 campaign and threw for 204 yards and a touchdown. He was moved to wide receiver during spring practice following the arrival of highly touted Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham and seems likely he’ll see the bulk of the action catching passes during the year instead of throwing them.

However, transfers out of the Plains have changed the equation a little bit at quarterback for Auburn. On top of former starter Sean White still recovering from a broken arm, redshirt freshman Woody Barrett decided to move to a JUCO and fellow backup Tyler Queen dropped all the way down to a Division II school this offseason. That leaves just Stidham and White with any experience at the position this year and true freshman Malik Willis behind them on the depth chart.

You can bet that Lindsey and head coach Gus Malzahn want to preserve Willis’ redshirt in 2017 so it certainly makes sense to have Franklin slot in behind the team’s unquestioned top two quarterbacks if either were to go down with an injury. Even if everybody stays healthy, it seems likely we’ll even get to see Franklin in a few Wildcat packages for the Tigers given his skillset so his days behind center don’t appear to be fully over just yet.

Ex-UCF lineman sues athletic department over use of his name and likeness

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Central Florida is involved in yet another lawsuit with a former player only this time it’s over the use of a former lineman’s likeness.

Jah Reid, who played at UCF from 2006-10, has sued the school’s non-profit athletics association as well as a separate corporation led by football coach Scott Frost for “improper use of his likeness,” the Orlando Sentinel  reports. He is apparently seeking some $200,000 in royalties and a whopping $600,000 in damages over the case.

At the heart of the matter is apparently how Frost’s summer camps advertised using Reid’s likeness to promote it to future recruits. The former offensive lineman’s picture was reportedly used and the lawsuit brings up the fact that a brochure used the line: “come to camp and have a chance to earn an offer like Jah Reid.”

Reid did not play for Frost during his time on the team and instead was recruited and coached by former Knights coach George O’Leary. Reid was later drafted by the Baltimore Ravens and is currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs organization heading into the 2017 season.

The use of an athlete’s name and likeness have been litigated quite in recent years, notably in the O’Bannon vs. NCAA case that continues to make its way through the court system. It will be interesting to see if the Reid lawsuit against UCF even makes it to trial in light of that or if the parties eventually settle out of court before it gets to that point.

Either way, probably not the offseason news that Frost and the UCF athletics brass wanted to see this summer.

Former Alabama coach Gene Stallings recovering after suffering slight stroke last week

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Scary news out of Alabama as former Crimson Tide head coach Gene Stallings reportedly suffered a slight stroke last week.

According to AL.com, Stallings was attending a charity golf tournament dinner on Thursday honoring former his player and assistant coach Dabo Swinney when he felt ill. He was eventually hospitalized in Montgomery later that night and diagnosed with a slight stroke after losing peripheral vision in his right eye.

“Bottom line is I’m not supposed to do anything for five, six weeks,” Stallings told the paper after returning to his home in Texas.

The College Football Hall of Famer coached Alabama to the 1992 national title and previously won a Super Bowl as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. Stallings is a regular discussing the Tide in recent years during various radio and TV appearances and played a key role in starting Swinney’s coaching career before the latter eventually wound up winning a national title of his own with Clemson this past season.

Hopefully the veteran coach gets well soon as he recovers from the scary incident in Montgomery last week.