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Clemson’s Brent Venables joins LSU’s Dave Aranda as $2 million coordinators

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Dave Aranda has some company in the rarefied air in which his bank account currently resides.

Thursday, and as expected, Clemson’s Board of Trustees approved raises for all nine of the assistant coaches who were on Dabo Swinney‘s coaching staff in 2017.  Included in that group is Brent Venables, with the defensive coordinator’s salary being bumped from $1.7 million to $2 million in 2018.

That figure for the upcoming season makes Venables just the second $2 million coordinator in college football.  In January, Aranda spurned overtures from Texas A&M to remain as the defensive coordinator at LSU on a contract that will pay him $2.5 million annually over the next four years.

The other financial bumps for Swinney’s assistants weren’t nearly as impressive Venables’.

Co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott each received $50,000 raises, pushing their salaries from $800,000 to $850,000.  Defensive tackle coach Todd Bates was also given a $50,000 raise, giving him a 2018 salary of $300,000.

The other raises for the remaining five assistants were in the range of $20,000-$25,000.

RB C.J. Fuller one of two transferring from Clemson

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Lost amidst some high-profile additions on National Signing Day was a bit of additional attrition for Clemson.

Dabo Swinney confirmed Wednesday that redshirt sophomore tight end Shadell Bell and redshirt junior running back C.J. Fuller have both decided to transfer from the Tigers. Per the head coach, both players will remain in classes at the university until they graduate this spring.  As grad transfers, the players would be eligible to compete immediately with another FBS program.

The fact that Clemson’s two leading rushers from 2017 — freshman Travis Etienne (766 yards) and junior Tavien Feaster (669) — return in 2018 likely led Fuller to decide to spend his final season elsewhere.

Last season, Fuller, who began the year as the starter, was fifth on the Tigers with a career-high 217 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll finish the Tigers portion of his playing career with 599 yards and four touchdowns on 147 carries, as well as 18 receptions for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

One of those touchdown catches came in the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Ohio State in 2016.

Bell, meanwhile, leaves with one reception for eight yards, numbers he posted in 2017.

Fuller and Bell are at least the fifth and sixth Tigers to leave the program this offseason. Two quarterbacks, Zerrick Cooper (HERE) and Tucker Israel (HERE), and a pair of defensive linemen, Sterling Johnson (HERE) and Jabril Robinson (HERE), have previously been confirmed as having left Swinney’s program.

Top Dawgs: Georgia takes recruiting crown in 2018 and other takeaways from National Signing Day

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National Signing Day — Part II — is pretty much in the books, wrapping up another wild day in college football as we find out where the game’s next stars will be playing at. While the Class of 2018 was the first with an early signing period, there was still plenty of action on the traditional first Wednesday in February date and scores of coaches across the country will be able to claim their teams got much better with the next wave of recruits on board.

Sorting through all the announcements and tallying up the multitude of recruiting numbers, here are a few takeaways from National Signing Day:

1. Top Dawgs

Kirby Smart finished second last season but was second to none when it came to recruiting this cycle.

Georgia finished with the consensus top-ranked recruiting class in 2018 and pretty much picked up where they left off in the early signing period. The Bulldogs landed five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell, flipped both Otis Reese (previously committed to Michigan) and Quay Walker (Alabama), plus went into Texas to grab a pledge from lengthy wideout Tommy Bush. And that was just on Wednesday morning. All told the team is bringing in a CFB-high seven (yeah, seven) five-star recruits in this cycle and 15 others who are ranked as four-stars. Whether it’s by sheer volume or by average star rating, this is one of the best recruiting classes any program has put together and a pretty incredible feather in Smart’s hat. While the good news in February probably won’t take all the sting out of what happened in Atlanta last month, it sure does help to smooth the pain a little and keep the Bulldogs in the running for SEC titles and playoff appearances for years to come.

2. Alabama double-take 

One of the most bizarre sights when the dust settled on signing day was the placement of Alabama at No. 7 in the 247Sports‘ team rankings. That puts an end to one of the more remarkable streaks in college football as the Crimson Tide had hauled in the top-ranked class every year since 2011 and finished outside the top three for the first time since Nick Saban’s initial class in Tuscaloosa. No one will be crying for the national champions however, especially not with three true freshman keying that comeback against Georgia in the title game. Alabama still landed top cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., who could start right away with the team given what the depth chart looks like going into the season. Still, it was strange to see the program that had been a recruiting juggernaut lose battles to Georgia, Ohio State, ClemsonStanford and USC. Saban made several staff changes this offseason that were no doubt aimed at getting better on the recruiting trail so this dip is probably temporary but it was nevertheless strange to see the Tide not crushing everybody like they normally do on and off the field.

3. USC’s big day

Death, taxes, and USC rolling up commitments on National Signing Day. The Trojans once again had a frenzy of top-ranked players don the cardinal and gold on Wednesday, including the majority of the big hitters in their backyard. Everybody already knew five-star quarterback J.T. Daniels had reclassified from 2019 to 2018 to bolster the class but the team also added four-star teammate Solomon Tuliaupupu, landed the services of five-star corner Olaijah Griffin then secured another top player in four-star corner Isaac Taylor-Stuart. Just as important, they leapfrogged Pac-12 rivals Washington, Oregon and UCLA. While the fan base may not have been thrilled at Clay Helton receiving a new contract yesterday, the results on Signing Day may have them reconsidering.

4. Dabo does it again

The biggest commitment Dabo Swinney and Clemson received came last month when three potential first round picks along the defensive line announced they would return to school for another season. Add that group to yet another top 10 class and the Tigers look like they’ll remain in the nation’s elite for years to come. Two of the top three recruits in the country are already on campus and Clemson signed the top-ranked player from a whopping six states, including plucking five-star wideout Justyn Ross out of Alabama and away from the Crimson Tide. Only Georgia signed more five-stars and you’d be hard pressed to find many teams with a better average than this group.

5. Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart close strong

The biggest mover from the first signing period to today appears to be Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M. After getting behind the eight-ball with his hire coming a little late in the cycle, the Aggies went on a roll to close strong with the class of 2018. They landed Louisiana TE Glenn Beal over Tennessee and others, plucked Jeremiah Martin out of California, got four-star QB James Foster and flipped DL Bobby Brown from Alabama among other moves. It will still take time for the new regime in College Station to establish ties in the state of Texas but as far as first recruiting classes go, it was a heck of a first effort from Fisher and company.

As for the guy who took his old job at Florida State, Willie Taggart delivered one of the other big surprises in the team rankings as the Seminoles moved from the 30’s in the team rankings into the top 12. They won the battle for Jamarcus Chatman over in-state rival Miami and also secured the signature of four-star defensive end Malcolm Lamar among other moves but were very active in locking up another talented class despite not having much time to work with. Perhaps just as importantly, it looks like FSU is already rolling with the class of 2019 and will be a force to be reckoned with all those quality recruiters on staff.

6. Texas returns to the top

Up the road in Austin, second-year coach Tom Herman appears to have the Longhorns back among the elite recruiters in college football this year after trending downward the past few years. UT finished with a consensus top three class and landed some impact players in the secondary with a pair of five-star safeties. Even more notable is how the program cleaned up in-state, landing 11 of the top 15 players in Texas.

7. Michigan’s disappointing effort

In a way, the Wolverines’ recruiting mirrored their most recent season and finished on a down note. Jim Harbaugh does have a pretty good roster coming back to Ann Arbor for 2018 but it was a bit of a head turner to see the team ranked No. 21st in the 247Sports’ team rankings after so much talk about the program the past few years. They finished well behind division rivals Ohio State and Penn State in the rankings and failed to land a top 100 prospect. To add insult to injury, they lost five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere to the Buckeyes and saw their highest rated commit flip to Georgia. Not exactly attacking recruiting with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

8. New coaches, new rankings

Here’s how new head coaches in the Power Five finished in the 247Sports’ team rankings:

Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin: 58th overall, 11th in the Pac-12

Arizona State’s Herm Edwards: 36th overall, 5th in the Pac-12

Arkansas’ Chad Morris: 54th overall, 14th in the SEC

Florida’s Dan Mullen: 14th overall, fourth in the SEC

Florida State’s Willie Taggart: 11th overall, third in the ACC

Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead: 27th overall, ninth in the SEC

Nebraska’s Scott Frost: 22rd overall, fourth in the Big Ten

Oregon’s Mario Cristobal: 16th overall third in the Pac-12

Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith: 69th overall, 12th in the Pac-12

Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt: 20th overall, eighth in the SEC

Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher: 17th overall, sixth in the SEC

UCLA’s Chip Kelly: 18th overall, fourth in the Pac-12

9. Turning our attention to 2019

This was the first class that could sign early in December so from players to coaches to parents, the altered recruiting cycle was an adjustment period for just about everybody. While the vast majority of players decided to put pen to paper in the first period, there was still plenty of drama left for recruiting junkies to get excited about in January and February despite worries there would not be. It’s still too early to pull out some big takeaways from how everything is going to play out long-term given all of the unique factors involved in the Class of 2018, but it’s possible we’ll see some tweaks in strategy from programs large and small going forward. One thing is for certain, teams are not wasting any time getting started with the Class of 2019 and the team that sits atop the 247Sports’ rankings this year is the same one that is in pole position next year as Georgia already has seven commitments — all four-stars or better. As we know though, it’s a long road between now and then.

10. Still plenty of NSD strangeness

Despite the early signing period taking some of the buzz out of the air in February, there was still plenty of the regular strange moments we’ve come to expect from National Signing Day. Twitter accounts getting suspended, moms walking off the stageSnoop Dogg and more.

Ahh, ‘crootin.

Clemson pulls No. 1 player out of the state of Alabama

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This one will likely leave at least a little bit of a mark.

Justyn Ross is the No. 1 rated player in the state of Alabama in the Class of 2018.  Obviously, Alabama and Auburn were both in on the 6-4, 201-pound four-star wide receiver, with the Crimson Tide thought to be the frontrunner heading into National Signing Day.

In the end, however, Dabo Swinney did it again, pulling another top-rated player from his home state to Clemson.  Ross, in fact, is the fourth player rated as the No. 1 recruit in his state to leave home and sign with the Tigers this cycle, joining prospects from Ohio, Georgia and Florida.  Of course, the No. 1 recruit from the state of South Carolina is headed to Clemson as well.

In addition to Clemson and the two in-state schools, Ross, the No. 7 receiver in the country and No. 45 player overall, had Florida and Florida State in his Top Five.

Once thought to be a near-lock for LSU, five-star CB Patrick Surtain Jr. signs with Alabama

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A few hours into National Signing Day 2018, we have our first real “wow” moment.

Entering the first Wednesday in February, it was widely thought that five-star cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. was a near-lock to sign with LSU, with Alabama a very distant second.  In fact, 247Sports.com didn’t have anyone even remotely in the Tigers’ neighborhood when it came to landing the son of the former Southern Miss standout and three-time Pro Bowler.

However, a report surfaced earlier in the day today that the Crimson Tide had gained some serious traction of late and was viewed as the likely landing spot.  At his signing ceremony at American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Surtain confirmed that he is indeed headed to Alabama.

“I picked Alabama because they win championships and I want to be a part of that winning culture,” Surtain explained.

In addition to Alabama and LSU, Clemson and Miami were in the defensive back’s Final Four.

A consensus five-star recruit, Surtain was rated as the No. 1 corner in the country and the No. 6 player overall in the Class of 2018.  Surtain was the highest-rated player who hadn’t signed during the early signing period this past December.