Getty Images

Big Ten National Signing Day recap: Ohio State lands historic class, Michigan not far behind

3 Comments

 

The Big Ten is the same as it ever was after National Signing Day with Ohio State and Michigan once again leading the way thanks to a boat load of talent headed their way. Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh both have proven to be some of the top coaches in college football and that is certainly apparent every February when the two land a pair of top five classes like they did this year.

The Buckeyes’ haul is particularly notable as one of the few groups that can keep pace with No. 1 ranked Alabama, even edging the Tide’s class when it comes to the average star ranking of the 21 signees. That historic haul for OSU includes the top cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive guard and top junior college defensive back. As if that isn’t enough talent headed to Columbus, the second-ranked defensive end, dual-threat quarterback and all-purpose back are also in the fold.

The Wolverines were no slouch either and managed to already enroll 11 top players early. In addition, Harbaugh and his staff reached into the South for defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and several IMG Academy stars. Defending champion Penn State made a late surge as well and Nebraska made a very nice push into Southern California to land a quality class.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 7 overall Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State), No. 8 overall Chase Young (DE, OSU), No. 11 Baron Browning (LB, OSU), No. 12 overall Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR, Michigan)

Top 25 classes: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Maryland, No. 23 Nebraska

Biggest storyline: Ohio State, Michigan find plenty of success nationally

Everybody knows the two Big Ten powerhouses will perform well on the recruiting trail given their coaching staffs, history of success and ability to put players in the league. But what might be most impressive this year is the amazing reach the two displayed in mining the entire country for talent. Meyer went to Nevada for a top quarterback, landed more blue-chippers from Texas than any in-state school and beat out just about everybody in the South for prospects from Florida. The Wolverines, meanwhile, beat out Alabama and Georgia for a five-star defensive tackle and recruited even more nationally than Notre Dame with signees from 14 different states.

Biggest surprise: Maryland lands a top 20 class

There’s always a head-turner in the team rankings each year and in 2017 that might be the fact that Maryland landed a top 20 classes and the fourth-best in the Big Ten. That includes a whopping nine four-star recruits for D.J. Durkin’s team, led by tailback Cordarrian Richardson straight from the heart of SEC territory. The team had a nice turnaround last season and appear primed to climb more based on how they did Wednesday.

Don’t sleep on: Nebraska, Iowa

Mike Riley is no stranger to the West Coast thanks to his days at USC and Oregon State and he’s clearly leaning heavily on those ties in putting together a great group for the Cornhuskers in 2017. Big Red wrestled away Nevada receiver Tyjon Lindsey away from Ohio State and beat out a bunch of names for early enrollee quarterback Tristan Gebbia from Southern California. There’s been a major infusion of speed and quickness with this class. As for the Hawkeyes, they managed to lure a surprising commitment from a five-star defensive end and really upgraded some of the skill position talent.

We’ll see about: Michigan State, Wisconsin

The usual suspects dominated the top spots in the team rankings but that wasn’t quite the case for two teams that love to recruit, develop and then crank out talent for the next level in Michigan State and Wisconsin. The two schools combined for just six four-star players on Wednesday but still managed to finish with a pair of top 40 classes. Given how well the coaching staffs have been able to find some hidden gems, chances are high that will be the case once again with their 2017 signees, even if it takes a few seasons before those results will be realized.

Syracuse makes hiring of D-II Coach of the Year official

Edinboro athletics
Leave a comment

Dino Babers‘ second coaching staff is whole once again.

Following up on reports that first surfaced late last week, Syracuse confirmed in a press release that Justin Lustig (pictured, left) has left his job as the head coach at Div. II Edinboro (Pa.) College to take over as Babers’ running backs coach.  Additionally, Lustig will serve as special teams coordinator for the Orange.

Lustig replaces Mike Hart, who left earlier this month to take the running backs coach job at Indiana.

“The job Justin did as a first-time head coach was fantastic,” Babers said in a statement. “He’s also been a highly-successful assistant coach. The running backs he has coached have performed extremely well, and his special teams units have consistently ranked among the nation’s best. We’re very excited to welcome Justin and his family to Syracuse.”

Hired in January of last year, Lustig took over an Edinboro team that finished 0-11 in 2015 and turned them into a 9-2 squad one year later.  For that turnaround, he was named the Div. II Coach of the Year.

Lustig’s last job at the FBS level came at Ball State, where he served as running backs coach/special teams coordinator from 2011-15.  He also earned the title of assistant head coach prior to the start of the 2015 season.

This will mark Lustig’s first job of any kind at a Power Five program.

“My family and I are excited, honored and grateful for the opportunity to come to Syracuse and join Coach Babers’ staff,” Lustig said. “He is building a championship program there. The future of Syracuse football is very bright and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

UNLV ‘very excited’ to share Las Vegas stadium with Raiders

Manica Architecture
2 Comments

The biggest news of the day in the NFL has a decidedly college football connection.

By a 31-1 vote, NFL owners approved the Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas later this decade.  The new stadium that will eventually serve as the home for the NFL club is expected to be ready for play for the 2020 season.

As expected, it will also serve as the new home for Sin City’s FBS team, a fact that UNLV’s hierarchy was quick to point out and highlight in the hours after the vote was officially confirmed.  Below are the statements from the three main characters involved with the football program.

Len Jessup, UNLV President
UNLV and the entire Rebel family welcome the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. We look forward to a long-term partnership with the Raiders and the Stadium Authority Board to give UNLV football access to a world-class stadium and accompanying game day experience that will rival the best in college football. We also recognize and thank the numerous stakeholders – including the Adelson family – who invested their time and energy toward this vision. This is an historic day for Nevada and another example of how Las Vegas continues to reinvent itself.

Tina Kunzer-Murphy, UNLV Athletics Director
We are very excited to welcome the Raiders to our great city of Las Vegas. Our community is on the rise and that has clearly been recognized by the NFL owners with today’s vote. We can’t wait for the day our UNLV football program has a new home, sharing the new world-class stadium with the Las Vegas Raiders. What a great day for the NFL, our city and our university.

Tony Sanchez, UNLV Football Head Coach
Today is a huge development for UNLV Football and the city of Las Vegas. Sharing a state-of-the-art stadium with the Raiders is another thing that will allow us to recruit at a high level. The combination of an NFL stadium and our upcoming Fertitta Football Complex brings so much energy to this program and campus. As someone who has lived here for eight years, I’m also excited for this community. This is a great place to live and the pride of being an NFL city will make it an even better place.

In addition to being tenants in a new state-of-the-art stadium, the university will soon begin construction on an on-campus football practice facility.

There are five FBS teams that will share stadiums with NFL teams on at least a part-time basis in 2017 — UMass (New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium), Miami (Miami Dolphins, Sun Life Stadium), Temple (Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field), Pitt (Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field) and USF (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raymond James Stadium).  Georgia State had shared the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons but are moving to the new Turner Field this season, while San Diego State will still call Qualcomm Stadium home even as the Chargers have bolted the facility for Los Angeles.

There has been chatter that both Temple (HERE) and USF (HERE) could find themselves in a position to build an on-campus stadium at some point down the road — although the latter could extend its agreement with its current home as it continues to evaluate its long-term plans.

The Los Angles Rams are also temporarily crashing at the home of the USC Trojans, Memorial Coliseum, until their new stadium is completed.

Kaylee Hartung leaves ESPN sidelines for CNN

Getty Images
1 Comment

ESPN’s roster of college football talent has taken a bath lately. Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman broke up their critically acclaimed team for NFL work at different networks. Brad Nessler left for CBS. Brent Musuberger left for Vegas. Samantha Ponder has joined McDonough on the Worldwide Leader’s NFL team and, now, Kaylee Hartung is leaving the network as well.

Hartung confirmed her departure from ESPN on Monday. Though she did not name her next employer, it’s been an open secret within the industry for nearly a month Hartung will leave for CNN.

“Last night I worked my final event with ESPN,” Hartung announced on her Twitter page. “The decision to leave a job I love and take on a new challenge has been incredibly emotional but the overwhelming feeling I have today is gratitude. I am so grateful for the experience I’ve had within the ESPN family for 5 years. I’m grateful for the people I’ve worked with who have supported me, made me a better reporter, made me a better person and became my friends. I’m grateful for the coaches, athletes, staffers, and university officials who’ve shared their stories with me and let me be a part of their magical moments. I’m grateful for the fans who have embraced me and shared their passion with me. Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of my life during this incredibly fun and exciting chapter. I can’t wait to see what this next chapter has in store… Now I get to be a fan of you all!”

Hartung started with Longhorn Network and since moved to SEC Network and the mothership. Her final event for the network was Sunday night’s Women’s Elite Eight match between Mississippi State and Baylor. Hartung worked in the political media prior to landing with the Longhorn Network as an associate producer for the CBS program Face the Nation.

Final Four forces South Carolina to postpone indoor facility groundbreaking

Getty Images
Leave a comment

File this one under the most first world of all problems: the South Carolina football program is having to adjust its plans because the Gamecocks’ basketball team has been more successful than anticipated.

With Frank Martin‘s hoops headed to Phoenix for this weekend’s Final Four and taking all the Palmetto State’s attention with them, Will Muschamp‘s football program has been forced to alter what had been a big day planned.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to break ground on their announced indoor practice facility; those plans have now been postponed.

With only six days between South Carolina’s clinching of a Final Four berth and the football team’s planned Garnet-White game, the spring game will have to remain slated for Saturday. But it has been bumped forward to a noon kickoff.

Muschamp did not make the trip to Madison Square Garden for Sunday’s Elite Eight win (Florida’s Jim McElwain was in attendance) and Saturday’s spring game will also preclude his attendance, meaning the head football coach must wait until a possible national championship berth to support the basketball team in person.