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Pac-12 National Signing Day recap: USC surges late once again but don’t sleep on Stanford

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History repeated itself out West as USC once again proved to be among the elite programs when it comes to recruiting on National Signing Day. Echoing their strong surge to end the 2016 season, the Trojans added a string of high profile commitments on Wednesday to surge to yet another top five class.

As well as the Rose Bowl champions did though, they weren’t alone when it comes to putting together an impressive group of players. Stanford remained a force when it came to top-tier players, cleaning up with five-star offensive linemen while adding several future contributors all over the board. UCLA also made an impression by receiving pledges from a pair of five-stars and shook off that disastrous 2016 season to close with a top 20 class.

Even the Pacific Northwest schools did well, with Washington riding an appearance in the College Football Playoff to a top 25 class while rival Oregon managed to finish not far behind despite a wholesale staff change. So while things weren’t quite to the level of their SEC counterparts aside from a trio of California schools, it was nevertheless another strong Signing Day for the Pac-12.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 1 overall Jaelan Phillips (DE, UCLA), No. 5 overall Foster Sarell (OT, Stanford), No. 10 overall Walker Little (OT, Stanford), No. 15 overall Davis Mills (QB, Stanford), No. 20 overall Stephen Carr (RB, USC)

Top 25 classes: No. 4 USC, No. 14 Stanford, No. 19 UCLA, No. 21 Washington, No. 24 Oregon

Biggest storyline: Coffee is for closers… and USC recruiting

USC has always recruited well so it’s not exactly surprising to see them finish in the top five of the team rankings. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by yet another incredible closing stretch for the Trojans, highlighted by the signatures of five-star tailback Stephen Carr, wideout Joseph Lewis and four-star athlete Greg JohnsonClay Helton basically mirrored his team’s season on the recruiting trail, starting out slower than expected before zooming up the rankings with an impressive amount of talent.

Biggest surprise: UCLA and Oregon pulled in quite a haul

There’s no other way of putting it but UCLA and Oregon were among the most disappointing teams in all of college football last season. Despite those on-field struggles, the two Pac-12 rivals still did a ton of work on the recruiting trail to land top 25 classes. The Bruins not only hauled in the top recruit in the country in Phillips, but also really beefed up in the trenches with some nice additions. The headlines out of Eugene have been anything but pretty for new coach Willie Taggart but the Ducks still plucked some speedy skill position talent and really got better defensively.

Don’t sleep on: Stanford, Utah

The Cardinal are a different type of recruiting machine given their academic restrictions and the fact that they have to go so far nationally but David Shaw assembled a very impressive class in 2017. Because most of the players were already in the fold, there wasn’t much buzz about Stanford on Wednesday but don’t let that fool you with five-star offensive tackles and a wealth of impact playmakers headed to the Farm. Utah’s small class size probably hurt them when it came to the team rankings but Kyle Whittingham and staff really did a nice job of filling out depth while landing a few potential freshman starters.

We’ll see about: Colorado, Arizona State, Cal

The Buffaloes best season in a decade didn’t result in a top 25 recruiting class but that is not too concerning given how well the staff in Boulder can develop players once they arrive on campus. The one concern though, might be the fact that there wasn’t as many high end secondary talent brought in as you would expect for CU. Arizona State received the best news earlier in the week when they learned Alabama transfer Blake Barnett would be eligible right away but the real question is if the 2017 class will be enough to close the rather significant gap in the Pac-12 South right away, especially on defense. Justin Wilcox did ok for Cal on such short notice but the Bears remain behind the 8-ball in the division and the league overall after Wednesday.

Butch Jones says the most Butch Jones quote of all time

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It’s become a theory among some in the media that Butch Jones is conducting a social experiment or participating some sort of performance art. While that’s the more charitable and fun interpretation, I tend to think the Tennessee head coach is just frighteningly insecure and, thus, fighting for every inch of public approval he can in a likely doomed attempt to keep his job.

That approach has backed him into some verbal corners that, in the long run, make his job more difficult on himself.

I’m talking about the “Champions of Life” quote of last season or, in February, actually stating that he didn’t want 5-star players, he wanted 5-star hearts.

This season has seen Jones go on an odd rant blaming the media for negative recruiting and saying Tennessee had one of the best bye weeks ever last week.

It wasn’t one of the best bye weeks ever, because Tennessee lost at home to South Carolina, 15-9. And you’re not going to believe Jones’s explanation for why Tennessee loss. Scratch that. You will believe his explanation, and that’s the problem here, isn’t it?

Here’s the full quote.

Jones is 33-24 in his four-plus seasons in Knoxville, and 14-21 in the SEC. Those numbers will likely fall to 33-25 and 14-22 after Saturday, when the Vols face No. 1 Alabama. The end is likely near.

And here’s the grand irony of Jones’s everything’s-sunny-here p.r. strategy: his attempt to keep his job by stating blatantly cliche quotes in the state of the obvious will live on much longer than Jones’s actual tenure. Two and three years from now, when Jones is working on someone else’s staff or sitting on his buyout money, the next time an on-the-hot-seat coach says his team won the game everywhere except the scoreboard, we’ll see he Pulled a Butch.

Houston Nutt settles lawsuit with Ole Miss

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Houston Nutt wanted money and an apology from Ole Miss. He’ll have to settle for the second of the two — and a largely different future for the program he used to lead.

It was Nutt’s lawsuit, remember, which exposed the documents that led to a Mississippi State fan finding Hugh Freeze‘s call to a Tampa escort service, which led to Freeze’s resignation, which led to… we have no idea what it will lead to, but, whatever that future is, it will be wildly different than if Freeze was still the Rebels’ coach.

Nutt amended his lawsuit in August to seek simply an apology from Ole Miss, and that apology finally came on Monday.

Each side released their own bitter, short statements.

Nutt will go on, with his apology but without any monetary compensation, while Ole Miss will play out the string of this season, hire a new coach, and move into a future that will be immeasurably different that the one it would have lived had it apologized to Nutt in the first place.

Washington loses LT Adams, CB Miller for the season

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No. 12 Washington’s loss to Arizona State was a disaster on the field — for more reasons than one.

The Huskies not only put their College Football Playoff hopes in danger — they’ll need to sweep their next six games, including a finishing kick that calls for games against No. 22 Stanford, No. 15 Washington State and, presumably, No. 11 USC, two of them away from Seattle. But the road to get there became noticeably more difficult after losing two starters.

Left tackle Trey Adams suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, and cornerback Jordan Miller sustained a broken ankle. Head coach Chris Petersen confirmed Monday that both will be lost for the season. Miller is the third Husky this season to suffer a broken ankle.

The Seattle Times noted that Washington is also without another starting corner in Byron Murphy, who is expected to return later this year from a broken foot. The Huskies are expected to replace Miller with either a pair of true freshmen or a converted running back.

But Adams may be the bigger loss for the Huskies. A junior, Adams was widely expected to be a first round pick in this spring’s NFL Draft. It’s the second straight season Washington has lost a key player in the trenches to a season-ending injury; a year ago, it was linebackers Joe Mathis, who finished one sack away from the team lead despite playing in only seven games, and third-leading tackler Azeem Victor.

Maryland AD Kevin Anderson to take 6-month sabbatical

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Maryland AD Kevin Anderson will not be the Maryland AD for the next six months.

Anderson announced Monday he will take a 6-month sabbatical to focus on “professional development.” That leave of absence will see him remain on his national committees with the NCAA and NACDA, the professional organization of ADs.

It was reported over the weekend that Anderson would be out completely as Maryland’s AD, but those reports were knocked down by the university.

Additionally, Maryland announced that former Georgia AD and current Terps associate AD/CFO Damon Evans will run the department in Anderson’s stead.