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SEC National Signing Day recap: Alabama reigns supreme but Georgia isn’t far behind

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When it comes to recruiting, there’s Alabama and there’s everybody else playing for second. It seems that way on the field each season and it is certainly evident on the first Wednesday of every February when Nick Saban puts together yet another ho-hum No. 1 overall recruiting class.

How high of a level are the Crimson Tide operating on? Well, when you are so loaded that you are grayshirting top 100 recruits, you know things are going pretty well in Tuscaloosa.

Despite another banner day for the defending SEC champions though, the rest of the league once again impressed when it came to reeling in the talent. Schools from the conference stacked half of the top 10 in the class rankings and nine of the 14 programs cracked the overall top 25. Nobody surged as much as Georgia did, with Saban protegé Kirby Smart cleaning up in the state while cherry-picking some great players elsewhere too. Only Alabama and Florida State signed more five-stars than the Bulldogs and the Tide and Michigan were the only two programs in the same league when it came to top 100 players. LSU closed strong in Ed Orgeron’s first recruiting class as head coach of the Tigers and SEC West stalwarts Auburn and Texas A&M continued to add depth with top 12 classes.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 3 overall Najee Harris (RB, Alabama), No. 4 overall Alex Leatherwood (OT, Alabama), No. 13 Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama), No. 14 Trey Smith (OT, Tennessee), No. 16 Isaiah Wilson (OT, Georgia)

Top 25 classes: No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Auburn, No. 10 Florida, No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 17 Tennessee, No. 21 South Carolina, No. 24 Mississippi State

Biggest storyline: Georgia finds plenty of success to keep the Tide from rolling away

Alabama’s recruiting domination is no surprise but it’s the Tide’s former defensive coordinator who made one of the biggest splashes on Signing Day by landing a top three class. Of course it’s not too hard to recruit at a school like Georgia in such a fertile recruiting area but the fact that Smart and company were able to haul in the group they did is still impressive. Adding this group to the young team that is returning for 2017 should ratchet up expectations even further in Athens going forward.

Biggest surprise: Ole Miss’ dramatic departure from the top 25

The Rebels have been a mainstay in the top 15 ever since Hugh Freeze took over the program but the specter of impending NCAA sanctions really hampered the team’s recruiting efforts in 2017. Ole Miss found itself in the 30’s of the team rankings, right behind Kentucky with fewer four- and three-star players than the Wildcats. Freeze didn’t exactly sound like a happy camper on Wednesday and there’s no secret why that is.

Don’t sleep on: Auburn

Their in-state rival took home all the headlines but don’t overlook the work that Gus Malzahn did despite not having an offensive coordinator for several weeks. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham will rightfully get the most attention and he could be one of the most talented QB’s to head to the Plains since a recent Heisman Trophy winner. In addition, the Tigers landed five-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley and came out of nowhere to snag Markaviest Bryant from several of their SEC rivals.

We’ll see about: Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina

Georgia was the top, um, dawg in the rankings among SEC East teams but the other half of the league still managed to put together some fairly highly ranked classes. Florida closed very strong on Wednesday to sneak into the top 10 with some late flips, but the Gators still missed on adding an impact defensive tackle and landed only one top-tier offensive lineman. The Vols had the No. 1 offensive tackle enroll early but didn’t quite have the momentum of past years on the recruiting trail. South Carolina was among the surprises in the top 25 team rankings but the question with the Gamecocks and the other two divisional rivals listed above is if that is all going to be enough to close the gap on the SEC West.

Lamar Jackson given key to city of Florida hometown

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Before he was a Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson was still the greatest football player to come out of Pompano Beach, Fla.

Jackson played for Boynton Beach High School, where he was a 4-year starter, but became the first player ever from the city of 99,000 people just north of Fort Lauderdale to win the Lou Groza Award High School Player of the Year in 2014.

He then matriculated to Louisville where he, of course, won the most prestigious individual award in sports just two years later.

Over the weekend, Jackson was given the key to his hometown.

Thank you to the city of pompano beach key to the city🔑🔑🙏🏾🙏🏾

A post shared by Lamar Jackson (@new_era8) on

Jackson completed 230-of-409 passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns against nine interceptions while rushing 250 times for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore for Louisville in 2016.

Former Michigan AD Jim Hackett named Ford CEO

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Both of Michigan’s two most recent athletics directors traded their maize and blue for the suits of corporate America. Dave Brandon left Ann Arbor for Toys ‘R’ Us in relative disgrace. Jim Hackett left Michigan a hero and has now taken the reins of another Michigan institution.

The former Michigan interim AD on Monday was named the CEO of Ford Motor Company.

“We’re moving from a position of strength to transform Ford for the future,” executive chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. “Jim Hackett is the right CEO to lead Ford during this transformative period for the auto industry and the broader mobility space. He’s a true visionary who brings a unique, human-centered leadership approach to our culture, products and services that will unlock the potential of our people and our business.”

After successfully completing the coup to bring Jim Harbaugh home, Hackett will now be in charge of leading a company of 202,000 employees from its Dearborn, Mich., headquarters.

The man whom Hackett hired thinks Ford made a great move.

“I absolutely think (it’s a good fit),” Harbaugh told MLive. “He brings a tremendous wealth of experience and he has tremendous leadership skills. He believes in — the way I put it — in building a ball team. And he does it with a really high intellect. He cares about people, he listens.”

This is not Hackett’s first foray as a business CEO. He previously served as CEO of Steelcase in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1994-2014.

Rimington watch list details list of returning centers

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It’s the dead time of the college football calendar, which means it’s time for this sport’s oldest, most antiquated tradition: watch lists.

First one in line is the Rimington Trophy, given to the best center in college football. And to help voters narrow down their choice for when voting picks up six months from now, the Rimington has helpfully provided this watch list of essentially every returning starting center in college football.

The 2017 list includes (deep breath):

– Aaron Mitchell, Fresno State
– Alan Knott, South Carolina
– Alac Eberle, Florida State
– Antonyo Woods, Florida Atlantic
– Asotui Eli, Hawaii
– Austin Doan, Central Michigan
– Austin Golson, Auburn
– Austin Schlottmann, TCU
– Billy Price, Ohio State
– Blaise Fountain, New Mexico
– Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State
– Brad North, Northwestern
– Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
– Brendan Moore, Maryland
– Brian Allen, Michigan State
– Bryce Holland, Army
– Cameron Ruff, South Florida
– Chandler Miller, Tulsa
– Coleman Shelton, Washington
– Colton Prater, Texas A&M
– Danny Godloveske, Miami (Ohio)
– Dennis Edwards, Western Kentucky
– Drew Keyser, Memphis
– Erick Wren, Oklahoma
– Evan Brown, SMU
– Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
– Gabe Mobley, Georgia State
– Garrett McGhin, East Carolina
– Jake Bennett, Colorado State
– Jake Hanson, Oregon
– Jake Pruehs, Ohio
– James Daniels, Iowa
– James O’Hagan, Buffalo
– Jesse Burkett, Stanford
– John Keenoy, Western Michigan
– Jon Baker, Boston College
– Julian Good-Jones, Iowa State
– Keoni Taylor, San Jose State
– LaVonne Gauthney, Akron
– Levi Brown, Marshall
– Luke Shively, Northern Illinois
– Mason Hampton, Boise State
– Matt Hennessy, Temple
– Mesa Ribordy, Kansas
– Michael Deiter, Wisconsin
– Nathan Puthoff, Kent State
– Nick Allegretti, Illinois
– Nick Clarke, Old Dominion
– Reid Najvar, Kansas State
– Ryan Anderson, Wake Forest
– Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame
– Scott Quessenberry, UCLA
– Sean Krepsz, Nevada
– Sean Rawlings, Ole Miss
– Sumner Houston, Oregon State
– T.J. McCoy, Florida
– Tanner Thrift, Baylor
– Tejan Koroma, BYU
– Tim McAullife, Bowling Green
– Trey Martin, Rice
– Will Clapp, LSU
– Will Noble, Houston
– Zach Shackelford, Texas

Exhale.

Got all that?

Ohio State’s Pat Elflein claimed the honor last season.

Miami OT Sunny Odogwu leaving The U as graduate transfer

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Miami’s offensive line is losing a key piece up front this coming season. On Monday, the Miami program announced the departure of offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu, a starter at right tackle.

Despite having started 14 games for the Hurricanes, it seems Odogwu is looking for a better opportunity to start with another FBS program.

“Sunny and I had a good conversation, and he informed me that he feels his best opportunity to get the most playing time would be at another school,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said in a released statement. “Sunny has been a great teammate and leader for this program, and we will miss him.”

Odogwu is coming off surgery for a right knee injury late last season. After starting 12 games for the Hurricanes, Odogwu was forced to miss Miami’s bowl game and later was limited in spring practice drills. Odogwu had to undergo surgery for a right knee injury late in the 2015 season as well.

Odogwu has already graduated from Miami, so he will be eligible to play immediately next fall with another FBS program as a graduate transfer. Tyree St. Louis appears to have a stranglehold on the starting job at right tackle for the Hurricanes moving forward after a good showing in the spring.