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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.

Penn State DT Antoine White announces transfer to Albany

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chris Laviano #5 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is pressured by Antoine White #93 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the second half during the game on September 19, 2015 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Penn State defensive tackle Antoine White will plug gaps and chase passers in a new destination next season. White revealed he will leave Happy Valley to play for Albany in 2017. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, White would lose a year of eligibility if he left for an FBS school.

White announced the transfer on his Twitter account.

“My past 3 years at Penn State have been filled with so many great experiences as a student-athlete, in school, sports, as well as in life,” White wrote.

“I am forever grateful for all of these and I have built relationships that I know will last a life time.”

White collected 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a sophomore this fall. He was a second-team tackle for Penn State’s Big Ten championship squad in 2016 and was expected to assume the same role next season.

Cal hires Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Head coach Beau Baldwin of the Eastern Washington Eagles looks on against the Washington Huskies on September 6, 2014 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Eagles 59-52.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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New Cal head coach Justin Wilcox‘s first hire is a big one.

Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin has left his red field of fire to become the offensive coordinator in Berkeley. “This one is right, it’s an incredible opportunity,” Baldwin said, via the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

He leaves Eastern Washington with an 85-32 record, including six FCS playoffs appearances with four trips to the FCS semifinals and a national championship in 2010. Baldwin’s 2016 Eastern Washington team finished 12-2, won the Big Sky championship and reached the FCS semifinals.

Baldwin, of course, isn’t being hired for his head coaching acumen. He’s being brought to Berkeley to move the ball and score points — and on that front Baldwin is one of the best in college football. Eastern Washington finished the season ranked among the top three in FCS in total offense (529.6 yards per game), passing offense (401 yards per game), third down conversions (52.1 percent), completion percentage (67.9), passing efficiency (168.2) and scoring offense (42.4 points per game).

He’ll inherit an offense that finished tied for 54th in yards per play, 22nd in scoring and 51st in passing efficiency running Sonny Dykes‘s Air Raid system.

Baldwin joins a growing group of FCS or Group of 5 coaches leaving head coaching spots to become Power 5 coordinators, following Dan Enos (Central Michigan to Arkansas), Joe Moorhead (Fordham to Penn State) and Pete Lembo (Ball State to Maryland). Baldwin also interviewed for the Nevada head coaching job that ultimately went to Jay Norvell.

Grueling workouts put multiple Oregon players in hospital, per report

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Willie Taggart era at Oregon is barely a month old, and already the first crisis has arrived.

A report from The Oregonian uncovered that at least three Ducks football players have been sent to the hospital after undergoing grueling workouts administered by new strength coach Irele Oderinde, who followed Taggart from South Florida. Offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick are in “fair condition” at Springfield’s PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend, where they have remained since late last week.

Poutasi has reportedly been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a soft tissue condition triggered by overwork that can lead to kidney damage.

While those three players remained hospitalized, The Oregonian reports the rest of the team was required to complete the same workouts this week:

The sources said that some players “passed out” and others later complained of discolored urine, which is a common symptom of rhabdomyolysis. After testing, others were found to have highly elevated levels of creatine kinase, an indicator of the syndrome.

“The safety and welfare of all of our student-athletes is paramount in all that we do,” Oregon said in a statement to The Oregonian. “While we cannot comment on the health of our individual students, we have implemented modifications as we transition back into full training to prevent further occurrences.

“We thank our medical staff and trainers for their continued monitoring of the students and we will continue to support our young men as they recover.”

Taggart visited the players in Riverbend before leaving the state to recruit, the paper reported.

Brenner is entering his senior season, while Poutasi and McCormick redshirted last fall.

Phillip Fulmer reportedly a candidate for Tennessee AD job

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 22:  Head coach Phillip Fulmer of the Tennessee Volunteers gives a thumbs up after winning the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Nashville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Tennessee is still in search of its next athletics director, which has become a point of contention lately — and especially over the past 24 hours.

Alabama hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without ever letting the job hit the open market, which begs the question, just what the heck are they doing in Knoxville? Outgoing AD Dave Hart has been outgoing since before football season started. Getting outmaneuvered by their rivals to the south — their immensely more successful rivals to the south, at least in the sport that matters in Tennessee — has created turmoil for an athletics department that majors in it.

As an apparent slice of red meet to the fans, the Vols let it be known Monday Phillip Fulmer is a serious candidate for their AD job.

“Fulmer has grown close to Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and a group of influential boosters have been working behind the scenes to help install him as Dave Hart’s replacement, according to people close to the situation,” Wolken writes.

Fulmer has exactly zero athletics director experience, but he is a harken back to the glory days of yonder for the Volunteers. He went 152-52 in 17 seasons with six top-10 finishes, three SEC titles, six SEC East crowns and a national championship in 1998.

In fact, even the “bad” Fulmer seasons — a .531 SEC winning percentage with one top-15 finish and one SEC East championship from 2005-08 — compare favorably with the marks of his three successors. Lane KiffinDerek Dooley and Butch Jones have collectively posted a .349 SEC winning percentage with zero top-15 finishes and zero SEC East championships in the eight seasons since Fulmer’s dumping.

It’s not clear what Fulmer brings to the department beyond a familiar face and a living, breathing link to the glory days, but perhaps those attributes are good enough at Tennessee.