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Can Ohio State land Big Ten’s first No. 1 recruiting class since 2002?

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On a day that saw Ohio State flip a pair of talented players from Maryland’s Class of 2016 and add one more nice addition to a stocked Class of 2016 haul, the Ohio State Buckeyes are, for the moment, the new recruiting kings in college football. Rivals pushed Ohio State up to No. 1 in the latest team rankings with National Signing Day just a few weeks away.

Urban Meyer and Ohio State currently have a recruiting class lined up of 21 players, which includes two players receiving five-star grades from Rivals and 14 more with a four-star ranking. The latest prizes of the recruiting season are four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and five-star linebacker Keandre Jones (both flipped from Maryland) and four-star wide receiver Binjimen Victor out of Florida. Six of Ohio State’s four-star recruits in 2016 have already enrolled in Columbus, which helps put Ohio State ahead of the curve this recruiting cycle. It is not just Rivals giving the Buckeyes top accolades right now either. Scout and 247 Sports each have bumped the Buckeyes into first place as well (247 Sports‘ composite ranking also shows the Buckeyes locking down the top spot).

What remains to be seen in the weeks to come is whether or not Ohio State can manage to land the top class at the end of the signing day festivities. USC was crowned the recruiting national champion by Rivals in 2015, snapping a four-year run by Alabama from 2011 through 2014 (Alabama was second in 2015 according to Rivals). History suggests Ohio State will lose its grip on the top spot in the Rivals rankings. No Big Ten has landed the No. 1 class since 2002 according to the Rivals database. Alabama and USC have combined for 12 of the 14 classes ranked by Rivals, with Texas and LSU each landed one top class in that time. If the Buckeyes can finish strongly enough, they could make some history.

Ohio State has been light years ahead of its Big Ten rivals in the recruiting game for a while now, especially since the hiring of Meyer. Michigan has made some moves over the years but it is clear the hiring of Jim Harbaugh continues to breathe new life into the recruiting juice of the historic power in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are currently ranked fifth in the Class of 2016 team rankings and could make a push for the top spot in the rankings as well. Meanwhile, Michigan State (No. 11) and Penn State (No. 18) are the only other Big Ten programs currently ranked in the top 25 by Rivals.

LSU (No. 2), Ole Miss (No. 3), Florida (No. 6) and Georgia (No. 9) are all currently sitting in front of Alabama, which feels odd right now, but expect the Crimson Tide to benefit from some later decisions on and around national signing day for a final push. The Crimson Tide also should get a nice championship game victory bump, as if they need it.

Clemson (No. 7) is just ahead of division rival Florida State (No. 8) for now, and each could end up making some late noise on signing day, as is typically the case. North Carolina (No. 16) and Miami (No. 19) are also floating in the middle of the top 25 and even Duke (No. 25) is hanging on to a top 25 recruiting class.

As things stand right now, just two Big 12 teams are currently ranked among the top 25 recruiting classes. Baylor (No. 10) and TCU (No. 24) are the lone representatives among the top 25 of the Rivals rankings. Oklahoma is sitting at No. 27. If you are a Texas fan, brace yourself. Texas Tech (No. 37) and West Virginia (No. 40), not to mention Houston (No.28) are all currently ranked ahead of the Longhorns (No. 42).

In the Pac-12, UCLA (No. 13) is on track for another talented recruiting haul, but USC (No. 18) can always make a late push as well. Both have done well on signing day in recent years, and that trend could continue. Defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, the kings of football in California when it comes to results on the field, are also looking to sign a top 20 class. Meanwhile, Oregon (No. 22) continues to recruit well but continues to show a need to finish strong on the recruiting trail heading to signing day.

Ohio State starting RB still dealing with hamstring injury but expects to play in opener

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Ohio State’s newish looking offense is expected to lean on the ground game early in 2017 but a key cog in that machinery might not be 100 percent healthy heading into the Buckeyes’ opener against Indiana.

Starting tailback Mike Weber has dealt with a lingering hamstring injury he suffered over the summer and hasn’t participated at all in the team’s preseason camp. Despite that bit of concerning news, it seems both the running back and the coaching staff is expecting him to be good to go in less than two weeks when the team kicks off the 2017 campaign.

“I’m getting close,” Weber said Friday, according to Cleveland.com. “They’ve been holding me back all camp to make sure I don’t have problems with it during the season. … I talk to the trainer a lot and it’s looking pretty good. I’m not at full speed yet, but I’m going to get there and I should be ready for the first game.”

Weber rushed for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns last year as a redshirt freshman and will see an increased load carrying the ball with Curtis Samuel off to the NFL. True freshman J.K. Dobbins has apparently slid into the backup role but running backs coach Tony Alford told reporters that the starting job is Weber’s when it comes time to go against the Hoosiers.

We’ll see if that eventually holds up given how finicky hamstring injuries are for tailbacks but at least the prognosis is good enough that Buckeyes fans can breathe a little easier as camp winds down in Columbus.

VIDEO: Indiana hands scholarship to walk-on WR after singing school fight song

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Some training camp traditions are better than others but one universal truth every fall is that coaches will bring up players to sing the school fight song in front of the team. As you can expect, often times hilarity ensues because players either don’t know the words or are so off-key with the notes that you can barely recognize what they’re singing.

Indiana coach Tom Allen joined in on the act this week by putting a few players through the same paces by having them belt out the lyrics to ‘Indiana Fight’ in front of both the team and cameras. The school naturally released video of the event on Friday, including a very special message at the end for one of the players signing:

That would be now-former walk-on Luke Timian, a projected starter this season who received a brand new scholarship from the Hoosiers and was mobbed by his teammates after the message flashed on the screens. The junior was involved in every game last year for Indiana and caught 19 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown.

As cool as the unveil was for Timian though, it’s a good thing he’s now a scholarship player at IU because it seems pretty clear that American Idol is not in the kid’s future. We’re all still suckers for videos of coaches handing out scholarships to walk-ons though and this is certainly one of the more unique ways to let a player know the school is picking up the check this semester.

Alabama reportedly in talks to play Miami in 2021 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game

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Mark Richt may no longer be in the SEC but he still might have to go toe-to-toe with Nick Saban one more time in Atlanta.

The Tuscaloosa News is reporting that Alabama is in negotiations to return to Atlanta for the 2021 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and play none other than Miami for a compelling matchup between two powerhouse programs and do quite a bit to stir up nostalgia for some of a different era in college football. As is the case for the future high-profile season openers as part of the series, the contest is set to be played at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is nothing new for the Crimson Tide, as they open this year against Florida State in Week 1 and are scheduled to return to Atlanta in 2019 to take on Duke as well. The school has typically opened their season in such high-profile neutral site games but don’t have anything on the books for such a matchup starting in 2020.

Miami is also coming around to the idea of starting out the year at a big time NFL stadium for their opener and have set dates at AT&T Stadium in Arlington (against LSU) for 2018 and against in-state rival Florida in Orlando for the 2019 campaign. Adding Alabama to the slate in 2021 will just about lock up their non-conference schedule for that year, with home games against Appalachian State and Michigan State also on the docket.

Should the series eventually be confirmed (and there’s little reason to think it won’t), it will certainly be a welcome clash between two national title-winning programs. The pair last met on the field in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, when No. 2 Alabama topped No. 1 Miami 34-13 to deliver Gene Stallings and the Tide a national championship. The two current head coaches also have a bit of a history playing against each other when Richt was coaching at Georgia and staged a thrilling SEC title game in Atlanta back in 2012 that eventually sent the Tide on their way to another championship.

Hopefully everybody is still around when the time comes in 2021 because matchups like Miami and Alabama don’t seem to happen all that often.

Phone records show Hugh Freeze had over 200 calls with Ole Miss booster in NCAA case

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When Hugh Freeze was fired last month by Ole Miss, most thought that the troubling patterns the school discovered were mostly focused on the coach’s calls to what were later revealed to be escort services. As it turns out, that may not be the extent of the cell phone records that landed the coach in hot water.

USA Today dug a little deeper in Freeze’s phone calls and discovered that he had at least 200 conversations with Lee Harris, a now-disassociated booster at the school who is a central figure in the ongoing NCAA case surrounding extra benefits for recruits and players. Per the report:

“The phone calls included the period in which Harris became a part of the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss and continued before and after his interview with the NCAA on Nov. 16, 2016, in which he provided information that was determined to be false.

Freeze was not named or deemed culpable in the specific NCAA allegation related to Harris, and it is not publicly known what the two men discussed in the calls. According to Freeze’s attorney, W.G. Watkins, Freeze and Harris met by “happenstance” sitting next to each other at church at some point after Harris’ alleged violations occurred, formed a relationship and played golf together. Watkins said Freeze never discussed the NCAA case with Harris, which would potentially be a violation of bylaw 10.1 relating to unethical conduct.”

Harris was one of several boosters included in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations against the Rebels and was alleged by enforcement staffers to have provided free food and cash to linebacker Leo Lewis when he was being recruited by Ole Miss. Lewis eventually signed with in-state rival Mississippi State and later provided information to investigators as part of the case.

Though the phone calls are hardly a smoking gun for either Freeze or the school, the sheer volume of calls between the head coach and a booster who is alleged to have committed NCAA violations certainly raises a big eyebrow in Indianapolis and around the rest of the SEC. The fact that the calls took place on the coach’s cell phone also raises the question as to just how closely school compliance staff was monitoring their coach and whether he attempted to influence the investigation in any way by speaking about it with Harris.

Such points are bound to come up and need clear answers when Ole Miss goes in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions for a hearing scheduled for Sept. 11th.