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Seven National Signing Day Takeaways from the Class of 2017

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The T’s are crossed, the I’s are dotted and the Class of 2017 is in the books for college football programs across the country. What did we learn as National Signing Day came and went on Wednesday? Here are seven takeaways from the day that was as the calendar can officially flip forward and take us full steam into the upcoming season.

1. Illinois State won National Signing Day

Yes, tiny FCS program Illinois State was the biggest winner of National Signing Day bar none. Why? Simple, the Redbirds announced they had signed superstar All-Name first-teamer Kobe Buffalomeat. Yes, you read that right, his name is Kobe Buffalomeat. Soak up all that attention and more kid, you’ve earned it.

MORE: Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

2. Alabama dominates once again

Ho-hum, Alabama rolled to their seventh straight recruiting national championship. At this point, Nick Saban isn’t even reloading even more in Tuscaloosa — he’s refilling, refreshing and restocking the Crimson Tide shelves twice over. When you don’t even have enough room for a bleeping top 100 recruit who committed in a video from France, you know things are at just a different level than everybody else.

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

3. Meyer, Harbaugh are waging Ten Year War on the recruiting trail too

As good as Alabama was in putting together their class, the Big Ten was no pushover thanks to the league’s two powerhouses and their two big name head coaches at Ohio State and Michigan. Urban Meyer assembled a class that was right there with any in the SEC and actually out-paced the Tide when it came to average star rating, finishing just a tick behind Saban and company thanks to a smaller number of scholarships. The Buckeyes wound up with five five-stars in all and the top rated player at three different position and the No. 2 player at six others. The OSU head coach was basically searching for flaws and having a hard time coming up with negatives. His opposite number up North was no slouch either, as Jim Harbaugh dipped into the heart of the SEC to grab a top defensive tackle and fanned out across the country to pull talent to Ann Arbor. There’s been a lot of talk of a new Ten Year War between the two rivals given their head coaches and we certainly are in for one given the way they recruit.

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

4. USC continues to recruit itself

We’re to the point where it’s safe to say that no matter what, USC is going to land a top five recruiting class on Signing Day. At least it seems that way after the Trojans once again closed in impressive fashion to dominate the headlines out west and even draw a few eyebrow raises from the southeast. Whether it was locally in Southern California or across the country in places like Utah, Arizona or Florida, the cardinal and gold was typically on the head of many top recruits during announcements. In a way, the strong push across the line with the Class of 2017 was fitting given the job Clay Helton did this past season. Those calls for a new coaching staff in Los Angeles seem so, well, five months ago.

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

5. Programs deal with scandals in different ways

Every college football team goes through ups and downs but dealing with off the field scandals can sometimes affect programs in unexpected ways. We saw that play out a little bit for a few folks on National Signing Day. One the positive side, Matt Rhule and the new staff at Baylor did a mighty fine job shrugging off all the negative publicity from the sexual assault scandal (and seemingly daily headlines) to land a top 40 class. That’s far better than most predicted just a few weeks ago and was one spot behind Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, which nearly won the league title. The flip side was Ole Miss, a mainstay in the top 10 the past few years that had suddenly found itself at No. 30 overall — one spot behind Kentucky (and yes, it’s football we’re talking about). Head coach Hugh Freeze seemed fairly grumpy about NCAA sanctions hanging over the Rebels and that was clearly reflected with the less than stellar group he signed.

MORE: Big 12 records worst signing day in conference history

6. Awful season? Wouldn’t know it at some programs

All good things must come to an end and there were a number of teams that took a drastic step back in 2016. Among those that would rather forget last season were Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon, Mississippi State and Michigan State. Nobody from that group ended up making a bowl game, the Ducks ended up hiring a new head coach while the others all made significant staff changes. Despite all that, the Irish landed a top 12 class on Wednesday, the Bruins secured the No. 1 overall recruit, Oregon and MSU found themselves in the top 25 of the team rankings while the Spartans managed a pretty solid haul.

MORE: ACC National Signing Day recap: Florida State, Clemson impress once again

7. It was a relatively drama-free day but there were still some surprises

Despite there being more attention than ever on recruiting, this seemed like one of the most drama-free Signing Days in a long, long time. Part of that had to do with so few uncommitted players heading into the week — and only one major decision really going against conventional wisdom when top-rated DT Marvin Wilson committed to Florida State. Despite the lack of drama, there were still a few surprises like Maryland finishing with a top 20 class that was eight spots better than Texas, Clemson not ranking as high as you would expect because of their super small class, Florida’s late surge toward a respectable top 10 group, Lane Kiffin stealing a commit and the Big 12 looking very lackluster outside of Oklahoma.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.