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Mark Emmert says “Don’t worry, nothing to see here,” regarding Division IV

Mark Emmert

NCAA President Mark Emmert tends to stick his hand in the sand from time to time, if you ask his critics at least. With the topic of autonomy taking on higher and higher importance among conferences lately, the figurehead representing the NCAA wants you to believe the organization is closer together than you may believe. Emmert says the new structure of governance being put together will avoid any potential split to the so-called Division IV.

“The reality is, they’re not that far apart on the various ends of that and I’m pretty confident the whole thing is going to work out and probably be successful,” Emmert said in a report by USA Today. Emmert made the comments at this week’s National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) convention in Orlando, Florida. For now, Emmert is optimistic that the vote on autonomy will keep everybody happy.

In August the conference commissioners will vote on a proposal that would allow for autonomy to be used by member schools of the power conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. The vote will require a two-thirds majority from the 65 member institutions and there appears to be momentum moving forward that will allow for schools to use more of their respective resources to provide more for student-athletes. Though nothing will be made official for months, Emmert suggests this will help avoid any sort of breaking up of the NCAA structure once reform measures are approved.

“I’m sure that the steering committee will find a sensible compromise,” Emmert said.

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Report: Michigan pegs NJ high school coach as recruiting coordinator

Jim Harbaugh

Michigan’s latest addition tot he football staff may help to boost recruiting efforts in the east. The Wolverines have reportedly added New Jersey high school football coach Chris Partridge to the staff as recruiting operations coordinator.

A report from The Record/NewJersey.com says Partridge, the head coach of Paramus Catholic High School has accepted the position and the high school program already has a new head coach.

“This opportunity is so good, because he gets to touch the nation in terms of recruiting and really get a good grasp of a program’s goals,” new Paramus Catholic coach Blake Costanzo said to the local New Jersey news outlet. “It’s going to be a good opportunity to broaden his horizons for the future. It’s a big step for him.”

Partridge coached current Wolverines Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty in high school, which shows Partridge has a connection with Michigan. If things work out for Michigan, the Wolverines could add another one of Partridge’s players in the Class of 2016. Defensive tackle Rashan Gary is currently ranked the No. 2 player in the nation in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.

Michigan may be given a pass for a lacking recruiting class in 2015 given the circumstances the new coaching staff has inherited, but all eyes are already moving forward to the Class of 2016, which will be the first full recruiting cycle for Jim Harbaugh and his staff. Partridge will take over a recruiting program that should see some better results a year from now in the recruiting rankings, and his connections in and around New Jersey could help at some point.

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ACC National Signing Day Primer

Jimbo Fisher

Traditional recruiting powers in the ACC Clemson and Florida State are once again battling for the top recruiting class in the conference. Both the Tigers and Seminoles are also competing well against the rest of the country with top five classes already heading into National Signing Day on Wednesday. With a solid finish, either could move up into the second place spot behind Alabama, but regardless of what happens in the next few days it appears there is some breathing room between Clemson and Florida State and the rest of the conference.

The ACC has three more members currently ranked in the top 25 recruiting rankings, with Virginia Tech at No. 19, Miami and No. 22 and North Carolina chiming in at No. 25. But North Carolina State and Pittsburgh have generated some late buzz as well. For Pitt, the seeds for a solid 2016 are more the focus right now, but N.C. State is pulling some good, quality talent from the in-state pool.

Current Rivals Team Rankings (as of February 1, 2015)

1. Clemson

2. Florida State

3. Virginia Tech

4. Miami

5. North Carolina

6. Louisville

7. N.C. State

8. Georgia Tech

9. Boston College

10. Virginia

11. Wake Forest

12. Duke

13. Pittsburgh

14. Syracuse

The Top Recruit

DB Derwin James (Haines City, FL): Florida State

Rivals ranks James the fifth best player overall in this year’s class, and he is currently the highest ranked player committed to an ACC school. Florida State has him locked in, but the Seminoles could have another player or two that could top James by signing day.

Recruiting Battle To Watch

Florida State has made a push for California cornerback Iman Marshall, the third-ranked player in the country per Rivals. Florida State is considered in the mix along with LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame and traditional west coast recruiting powers USC, UCLA and Oregon. Florida State may come up short here.

No five-stars for Miami

For the second time in three years, Miami is in danger of not signing a single five-star player. The Hurricanes used to be a destination for five-star players, but this could be another season without a single one. Miami is still finishing ahead of a number of ACC rivals and still is adding some quality depth on the roster, but if Miami is going to ever make a run in the ACC then it is going to need to maximize the potential of its incoming talent and step back up to the top when it comes to elite talent.

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Marcus Lattimore comes home after being hired by South Carolina

Marcus Lattimore, Steve Spurrier, Dr. Jeffery Guy

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier previously suggested former Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore would always be allowed to come back and be a part f the football program. Spurrier, who made that comment shortly after Lattimore retired from the NFL, has apparently made good on that promise.

According to Chris Clark of Gamecock Central, via Twitter, Lattimore has been hired and has started working for South Carolina in some unknown capacity. No official title has been reported or announced at this time, but Lattimore is a part of the program.

“We’ll find something for (Lattimore) to do, whether it’s football or general athletics,” Spurrier said in November, after news broke Lattimore is retiring from the NFL. “He has put everything into it. It’s disappointing.”

Lattimore was one of the biggest recruits to choose South Carolina during Spurrier’s run as head coach in Columbia. Lattimore was Spurrier’s biggest recruit even before Jadeveon Clowney, but Lattimore was at times held back by injuries. Injury concerns also brought Lattimore’s NFL career to an early halt, but his impact on the South Carolina program will rarely be overlooked.

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Big 12 National-Signing Day Primer

Charlie Strong

The Big 12 may have taken a step back in national prominence in recent seasons with programs like Texas and Oklahoma having a down 2014 season not helping the overall image. Sure, TCU had an argument to be in the College Football Playoff and Baylor thought it had a case too, but the Big 12 still has some work to do.

The recruiting successes in the Big 12 have been few and far between compared to some other conference recruiting powers. As of today, with just a few days to go until National Signing Day, just one five-star player has committed to a Big 12 school. There is still time to change that, but that is a recruiting stat you likely do not expect to see so close to signing day.

Current Rivals Big 12 Team Rankings (as of February 1, 2015)

1. Texas

2. Oklahoma

3. West Virginia

4. TCU

5. Baylor

6. Oklahoma State

7. Texas Tech

8. Kansas State

9. Kansas

10. Iowa State

The Top Recruit

LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, TX): Texas

Rivals ranks James the 28th best player overall in this year’s class, and he is currently the highest ranked player committed to an Big 12 school. Texas managed to keep Jefferson in the state and away from some other options. Given head coach Charlie Strong’s defensive mindset, Jefferson should be a centerpiece of Strong’s defense in the coming years.

Recruiting Battle To Watch

A handful of Big 12 schools are in the running for Plano, Texas running back Soso Jamabo. Rivals ranks Jamabo the 22nd best player in the country and the fourth-best running back in the Class of 2015. Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas all want him, but so do Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA.

Longhorns and Sooners continue recruiting dominance

As is the case in most recruiting cycles in the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma are pulling in the top talent. This despite the down seasons each program had in 2014 and the rise of programs like TCU and Baylor. Both the Horned Frogs and Bears continue to improve on the recruiting pitches and should be considered on the rise, but the Longhorns and Sooners remain the landmark programs of the Big 12 and that brings a certain advantage others can only hope to have one day. West Virginia has been doing well in this recruiting cycle as well. Both West Virginia and TCU are seeing some advantages in recruiting as they enter their fourth seasons in the Big 12.

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Devonte Fields announces commitment to Louisville

Devonte Fields, Wes Lunt

Louisville had previously been reported to be the leader in the clubhouse for the recruiting of former TCU defensive end Devonte Fields. Those reports were not without merit it seems. Fields officially announced his commitment to Louisville Sunday morning with a picture on Twitter calling out anyone who stands in his way.

Fields should be a terrific addition to the recently handsomely paid defensive coordinator Todd Grantham‘s defense. The former Big 12 standout at TCU is coming off a season playing football for Trinity Valley Community College in Austin, Texas and is hungry to get back to playing at the FBS level. The former Horned Frog was a Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year in 2012 but was booted from the team prior to the 2014 season after allegedly pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend. His 2013 season was a hindered by an injury.

Now Fields is ready to line up in the ACC and be a big part of the Louisville defense. Assuming he is ready to go at this level after some time away, this is a huge pick-up for Louisville.

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Ezekiel Elliott gets Ohio State championship tattoo

Ezekiel Elliott

When it comes to Ohio State and tattoos, some will find it easy to make some jokes. But let’s skip the obvious jokes here and move on. One of the big reasons Ohio State won a national championship in the first College Football Playoff was the emergence of running back Ezekiel Elliott, who powered the Buckeyes running game in the postseason with big performances against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal game and Oregon in the championship game.

To celebrate and commemorate Ohio State’s crowning achievement, Elliott got a fresh tattoo featuring the College Football Playoff national championship trophy (that trophy really does need a better name).

On a related note, we are still awaiting any update on Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer following through on his promise to get inked up.

Helmet sticker to The Student Section.

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Louisville bumps DC Todd Grantham’s annual pay to $1.4 million

Miami v Louisville

It was a mild surprise to see Louisville find a way to keep defensive coordinator Todd Grantham when the Oakland Raiders of the NFL came calling. As you might have suspected, Louisville made it worth it to stick around.

Grantham and Louisville reworked the terms of his contract as defensive coordinator to increase the pay to $1.4 million per year, according to a report by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. That places Grantham in the upper echelon of assistant coaching salaries, even more so than before. USA Today reports Grantham was being paid $975,000 in 2014. Grantham was the third highest-paid assistant in the ACC, but Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris accepted a position as SMU’s head coach.

Auburn is paying new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp a total between $1.6 million and $1.8 million. Texas A&M will pay new defensive coordinator John Chavis $1.5 million. With his new contract in place, Grantham will be floating around or just ahead of Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Alabama offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster also recently had a contract extension that is expected to keep him among the highest-paid assistant coach in the country.

This new contract is a latest example of the increased ability Louisville has to funding its football program. Long references as a basketball school, the commitment to improving the football program that was initiated years ago continues to take strides in becoming more fo a football school as well. The funding from boosters is one thing, but the move to the ACC has its advantages as well with a larger bowl revenue split and more television revenue to incorporate into the budget. Because of these changes, Louisville can afford to pay football assistants on the same level as other power conference opponents. Louisville has been growing up quite nicely in this respect.

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Kam Lott transferring from Rutgers to be closer to Fla. home

Kam Lott

After a couple of positives Saturday, Rutgers was due for a little bit of a downer.

Friday, reports surfaced that Kam Lott had decided to take his leave of the Scarlet Knights football program.  A day later, the cornerback took to social media to confirm as much.

In a missive posted to his Twitter account late Saturday morning, Lott explained that he had decided to transfer out in order to be closer to be closer to his family in Jacksonville. Fla.

Lott was a three-star member of RU’s 2014 recruiting class.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

If Lott transfers to another FBS institution, he’ll be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws.

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Notre Dame catches USC in Pro Football Hall of Famers

Hawaii v USC

Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its eight-man class that will be enshrined in Canton later this year.  Not so unexpectedly, the two most-represented colleges in that prestigious club coming in added to its respective totals.

Running back Jerome Bettis and wide receiver Tim Brown, from Notre Dame, as well as the late linebacker Junior Seau, from USC, are a part of the to-be-inducted octet.  Entering this weekend, the Trojans led all college football teams with 11 Hall of Famers; after today, the Men of Troy are tied with the Irish at 12 apiece.

The other 2015 first-year eligible inductees include former Dallas Cowboy and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Charles Haley (James Madison) and former Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields (Nebraska). Seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff (Nebraska) and contributors Bill Polian (New York University) and Ron Wolf (played college baseball at Maryville (Tenn.) College) are part of the newest class as well.

Behind the even dozen from ND and USC, Ohio State has nine Pro Football Hall of Famers, followed by Michigan and Pittsburgh (eight each) and Alabama and Syracuse (seven each).

The inclusion of Shields and Tingelhoff pushes Nebraska’s total to five, which ties them for 13th all-time with Arizona State, SMU and UCLA.

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D-III champs Wisconsin-Whitewater stays in-house for new coach

Kevin Bullis

In replacing a living legend, the most dominant program at the Division III level over the last decade didn’t have to look very far.

Friday, Wisconsin-Whitewater announced that Kevin Bullis has been promoted to the position of head coach.  Bullis has spent the past seven seasons with the Warhawks as a defensive assistant, most recently as defensive line coach.

Including Bullis, there were five finalists for the job.  The other four, who came from outside the program, were three head coaches — Wabash College’s Erick Raeburn, Urbana’s Dave Taynor, Ohio Northern’s Dean Paul — and one defensive coordinator — UW-Platteville’s Rob Erickson.

“We are thrilled to promote Kevin to the position of head football coach at UW-Whitewater,” athletic director Amy Edmonds said. “His passion, integrity and understanding of the holistic student-athlete experience stood out during the search and screen process. Kevin understands the rich history of Warhawk football and the entire university, and we are confident in his ability to continue our tradition of excellence both on and off the field.”

Bullis becomes the 21st head coach in the program’s history, but just the fourth in the last 60 years. He replaces Lance Leipold, who left to take the head-coaching job at Buffalo of the MAC.

During Leipold’s eight seasons at UW-W, the Warhawks went an astounding 109-6, which includes a current 32-game winning streak. The Warhawks also won six national championships in Leipold’s tenure, and lost in the championship game in another.

UW-W has claimed the last two titles, including a 42-34 Stagg Bowl win over fellow Div. III power Mount Union last month.

(Photo credit: Wisconsin-Whitewater athletics)

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Utah DC target Pendergast reportedly headed to NFL

Clancy Pendergast AP

Friday a report surfaced that Clancy Pendergast was the front-runner for the defensive coordinator position at Utah.  A day later, it appears the Pac-12 program will have to look elsewhere.

Instead of the Utes coordinator job, it’s being reported by FOXSports.com‘s Alex Marvez that Pendergast will be named as the inside linebacker coach for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.  Marvez did confirm, though, that Pendergast interviewed for the Utah job.

If the move to the NFL comes to fruition, it’ll put Pendergast back at the level in which he’s spent the majority of his coaching career.

Pendergast was last on the sidelines as the coordinator at USC in 2013, his lone season with the Trojans.  He wasn’t retained as part of Steve Sarkisian‘s new coaching staff.  For the three years before that, he served in the same position at Cal.

Prior to that, Pendergast had spent 15 seasons as an assistant at the NFL level.  During his stint as coordinator with Arizona (2004-08), the Cardinals earned the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl berth following the 2008 season.

The Utes have been without a coordinator on the defensive side of the ball for well over a month after Kalani Sitake left for the same post at Oregon State.

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Rutgers’ Sam Bergen granted sixth season of eligibility

Sam Bergen

It’s good news aplenty for Rutgers football this Saturday.

Earlier today we noted that a talented wide receiver has been reinstated to the football program.  Now comes word that Sam Bergen has received a sixth season of eligibility and will play for the Scarlet Knights in 2015, which the school announced in a press release.

A pair of knee surgeries sidelined the fullback for the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons, while yet another knee injury in the 2013 opener cost him the remainder of that season as well.

“I love it here. I love playing football. I love the offseason program, the camaraderie in the locker room. I just love everything about it,” Bergen said in quotes distributed by the school. “I can’t understand why someone would turn that down if they could potentially have one more year of it. Maybe I’m crazy but that’s the way I feel about it. I love Rutgers. The people here are great. It’s a great program. We played against the best competition in the country and if you love football it’s a no-brainer to me.

“I first started playing football in seventh grade. It’s been a huge part of my life for a while. I’m not ready to put down the helmet just yet.”

Bergen will become the fourth Scarlet Knight to play six seasons at the school, joining Brian Duffy, Edmond Laryea and Mason Robinson.

In the two seasons in which Bergen was healthy, 2012 and 2014, he played in 26 games. Bergen will be expected to continue to contribute on special teams, while also being looked at as a short-yardage/goal-line option.

With Michael Burton graduating, Bergen sees an opportunity to grab significant playing time in 2015.

“There’s definitely a void to be filled at the fullback position and I feel like I can be the guy for us who can step in and hopefully do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “There’s an opportunity there and I’m going to do everything in my power to take advantage of it.”

(Photo credit: Rutgers athletics)

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Second long-time college assistant lands with NFL’s Browns

Kurt Roper

For the second time this week, an out-of-work college assistant has landed a job at the same NFL stop.

While nothing is official, Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com is reporting that Kurt Roper will be hired by the Cleveland Browns as a senior offensive assistant.  Roper had been swept out as part of Florida’s post-2014 coaching housecleaning, and hadn’t yet latched on elsewhere.

Roper had, though, been rumored to be a candidate for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

This will mark Roper’s first foray into the professional ranks as he had spent every one of his 19 seasons as a coach at the collegiate level.  Roper served as the Gators’ offensive coordinator for just one season, not retained after Will Muschamp was fired and Jim McElwain was hired.

Prior to that, he spent six very successful seasons as the coordinator at Duke.  Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, Roper had served as an assistant on coaching staffs at Tennessee (2005; 1996-98), Kentucky (2002-04) and Ole Miss (1998-2004).

Earlier this week, the Browns confirmed that former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips had been hired as wide receivers coach.

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Vols QB Nathan Peterman considering transfer to Pitt

Alabama v Tennessee

Three weeks ago, Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian stated that there was no indication that Nathan Peterman was considering a transfer, even as the speculation suggested otherwise.

Since then, Bajakian has left for an NFL job.  And now, it appears, Peterman is seriously considering a move away from Rocky Top as well.

Citing an unnamed source, Panther-Lair.com is reporting that Peterman is visiting Pittsburgh this weekend as he looks for a new spot to continue his playing career.  The interest would make sense on multiple levels, and for both sides.

First, the Panthers are woefully lacking in depth behind starter Chad Voytik.  In fact, Peterman could come in and challenge the incumbent immediately for the starting job as he would be a graduate transfer and thus eligible to play in 2015.

Secondly, Pitt’s new offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, served as the Vols’ coordinator from 2009-12 and helped recruit Peterman to UT.  Chaney abruptly left as Arkansas’ OC earlier this month to take the same job at Pitt.

A four-star member of UT’s 2012 recruiting class, Peterman was rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school in Florida.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Peterman started one game in 2013, breaking his hand in that loss to Florida, incidentally, and one game in 2014.

With true sophomore Josh Dobbs the future for the Vols at the position, it would likely be a wise move for Peterman to get out and use his remaining two seasons of eligibility elsewhere.

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Starting DE among four leaving Fresno State

Ikaika Woolsey, Maurice Poyadue

The attrition train has hit Fresno State hard, especially along the defensive line.

In a press release Friday night, the Bulldogs announced that four players — quarterback-turned-wide receiver Myles Carr, defensive end Maurice Poyadue, running back/defensive back/wide receiver Dillon Root and running back-turned-linebacker-turned running back T.J. Thomas — have left the football program. No reason was given for the quartet’s departure.

In the release, the school stated that Poyadue and Root will remain on scholarship this spring as they are both close to graduating, while Carr and Thomas are no longer enrolled at the university.

“We are grateful to the student-athletes for their contributions to the program and wish them the best with their future endeavors,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said in a statement.

The most notable of the departures is that of Poyadue as he had started the past seven games of the 2014 regular season.  He played in all 13 games this past season as well after playing in 12 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2013.

Poyadue, along with Carr, was one of four suspended for Fresno State’s Hawaii Bowl matchup with Rice for violating unspecified team rules.

Root’s absence will also be noticed, especially on special teams.  In 2014, Root, who was suspended for the 2014 opener, led the Bulldogs with 25 kick returns for 483 yards, while his 19.3 yards per return were second on the team.  In 2013, Root led all Bulldogs in kick returns (28) return yards (601) and yards per return (21.5).

He also caught 10 passes for 85 yards and averaged 5.6 yards on five carries in 2014.  His 596 all-purpose yards were fourth on the team.

Thomas ran for 71 yards on 11 carries last season.  Carr, who moved from quarterback after spring practice last year, did not record a reception.

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