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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.

Texas officially adds Syracuse grad transfer Kendall Moore

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In early April, erstwhile Syracuse tight end Kendall Moore announced on social media that he had himself a new college football home.  Nearly four months later, that move has come to fruition.

Texas confirmed Friday that Moore has graduated from SU and officially joined the UT football team.  The Longhorns open summer camp Monday, and Moore will be on hand working out with his new teammates.

As he’s coming in as a graduate transfer — he announced his departure from the Orange in December — he’ll be eligible to play in 2017, his final season of eligibility.

Moore started a total of four games in 2014 and 2015, including two of the first three in the latter season before sustaining the season-ending injury that led to a medical hardship waiver that will allow him to play this season. The 6-5, 245-pound senior finished his ‘Cuse career with 14 catches for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  He caught one of the passes for 15 of the yards in 2016.

In Austin, Moore could very well open the season as the starter.  The incumbent Andrew Beck has undergone a pair of foot surgeries while two others on the roster at the position, Reese Leitao and Cade Brewer, haven’t played a down at the collegiate level.  The former definitely won’t be the starter to start the season as he was suspended for the first two games because of an offseason arrest.

One other option at tight end,Garrett Gray, is making the transition from wide receiver.

Anthony Julmisse, projected starting CB, suspended by Colorado after domestic violence arrest

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Colorado’s rough offseason off the field will continue right up to the eve of summer camp kicking off.

The Boulder Daily Camera is reporting that Buffaloes cornerback Anthony Julmisse was arrested on multiple charges Thursday related to a domestic incident.  Specifically, the sophomore defensive back is facing one count each of third-degree assault and domestic violence and two counts of physical harassment.

No specific details of what led to the arrest and charges have been made available at this time.

As a result of the situation, however, Julmisse was indefinitely suspended by Mike MacIntyre.

“We will determine any further disciplinary action after receiving more information,” the head coach said in a statement. “I am very troubled by these allegations, as they do not represent the values of our university and our football program. I have reported the allegations to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance so that it may conduct any appropriate inquiries.”

Julmisse played in all 14 games last season.  Exiting spring practice, he was one of the Buffaloes’ starters at cornerback.

In June, MacIntyre was publicly reprimanded by the university for his handling of allegations made by the longtime girlfriend of one of his assistants, Joe Tumpkin, of a long history of domestic abuse.  Additionally, MacIntyre was ordered to make a $100,000 donation to domestic violence causes.

Less than a week later, the university’s regents approved a four-year, $16.25 million extension for the coach.

Darren Carrington cleared, will open camp with new Utah teammates

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That certainly didn’t take long.

Not long after Darren Carrington‘s father confirmed that his son would be transferring to Utah, Kyle Whittingham confirmed Thursday that would indeed be the case, although the talented wide receiver still had some unspecified hurdles to clear in order to play or even practice with the team.  One day later, however, a school spokesperson confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune that Carrington has been cleared and has now been admitted to the university.

Carrington opens summer camp Friday night, and will be on the field practicing with his new Utes teammates.

“It’s always a tough decision when you talk about a player that you’re going to add to your program potentially that has a checkered past,” Whittingham said Thursday. “You’ve got to make a decision based on all the information you can gather, based on the athletes’ attitude. …

“I feel, in this case, that it was the right thing to do to give Darren another opportunity.”

Earlier this month, Oregon announced that it had dismissed Carrington, a move that came a couple of weeks after the senior was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants.  That was merely Carrington’s latest off-field misstep as the receiver was ruled ineligible for Oregon’s College Football Playoff Championship loss to Ohio State a couple of years ago; was cited for open container in October 2015; and was accused of breaking a man’s arm in a Halloween incident last year.

On the field last season he was an explosive weapon as his 606 yards receiving last year were tops on the team, while his five receiving touchdowns were tied for first. His 43 catches were second on the team as well.

Michael Oher: Hugh Freeze is ‘man of God, man full of integrity’

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Hugh Freeze may have been blindsided by his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, but at least one of his former players has his back.

Homeless for stretches of his teenage life, Michael Oher was taken in by the Freeze family — a 2014 Bleacher Report article notes that “Oher spent one to two nights a week at their house” — while Freeze was the head coach at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis.  Oher went on to play football for Freeze in high school, with his compelling life story forming the basis for the Academy Award-winning film “The Blind Side.”

The player and the coach have formed a deep bond that stretches back more than a decade, a bond that hasn’t been broken despite the latter’s resignation as Ole Miss head coach under a cloud of controversy.

“He is a man of God and a man full of integrity,’’ Oher told USA Today Sports of his former coach. “I don’t know the full story but I’m willing to bet that everyone in the world had made a mistake that they have wanted someone to forgive them for.”

The offensive lineman added that without Freeze, “there is no Michael Oher and no “The Blind Side.'”

The news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.  Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze said earlier this week in his first public comments since his departure. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” he added.

On the same day Freeze resigned, coincidentally, Oher was cut by the Carolina Panthers.  Earlier this offseason, Oher was arrested after an altercation with an Uber driver in which the player allegedly bit the driver on the back.