Category: West Virginia Mountaineers

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby arrives to speak to reporters after the first day of the conference's meeting Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
AP Photo/LM Otero

Big 12 presidents take vow of public uniformity

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There may be plenty of heated debates and conversations behind closed doors, but when it comes to showing the public their stance, the leaders of the Big 12 have agreed to stand together for the greater good of the Big 12. On Friday, Big 12 presidents and chancellors agreed to defer all comments to commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

The show of uniformity in refraining from comment appears to put Oklahoma president David Boren on notice. Boren had made headlines with his public remarks regarding the stability of the Big 12 by suggesting the conference was psychologically disadvantaged in the power conference landscape, speaking out in favor of expansion and lamenting the missed opportunity to add Louisville to the conference. Boren’s comments have either been echoed by fellow Big 12 leaders or disputed by others. Boren speaking out gave credence to the idea the Big 12 really is not standing on solid ground as a conference, because if Oklahoma is not happy with the state of the Big 12, then there are issues that will continue to be problematic. For the Big 12 to be stable, it likely needs Oklahoma and Texas to be happy. Now, no matter what Boren really thinks, he is essentially muzzled on the big topics for the Big 12.

After two days of meetings, the Big 12 essentially comes out of their meetings silent and without any drastic changes in the works. Expansion was discussed during the recent meetings, but no specific candidates were discussed during the board of directors meeting. Bowlsby did suggest there may not be an ideal number for the conference, which is currently operating with 10 members.

So for now, as has been the case for the last few years, there is no movement on the expansion front for the Big 12, which may be disheartening to fans of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and any other number of programs dreaming and wishing for an invite to the power conference.

Big 12 ADs meet but make no progress on championship game, expansion or TV network

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses attendees to Big 12 Conference Football Media Days Monday, July 20, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Big 12 may one day bring its conference championship back to the conference schedule, but any hope of reviving the game in 2016 appears to be fading quickly. A meeting of Big 12 athletic directors on Thursday in Irving, Texas yielded no movement toward implementing a conference championship for the upcoming college football season.

Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12, confirmed ADs from the conference were presented with information regarding the impact a conference championship game has on sending a Big 12 champion to the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 was represented this past season by Oklahoma, an outright conference champion in regular season play, but the conference was left out of the four-team playoff field in the 2014 season despite co-champions Baylor and TCU having identical 11-1 records. Big Ten champion Ohio State wiggled past the Big 12 co-champs for the fourth and final spot in the inaugural playoff. No votes regarding the conference championship game were held by Big 12 ADs, which was expected to be the case.

The Big 12 ADs also discussed other topics that seem to follow the Big 12 wherever it goes; expansion and a Big 12 network. Like the championship game, no votes were held regarding expansion or a conference-branded sports network similar to networks operated by the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12. But they most certainly were discussed. Bowlsby suggested the discussions were “high-level discussions.”

On Friday the presidents and chancellors from the 10 Big 12 members will meet in Irving, during which time they will be expected to review these same topics and more.

The topic of expansion in the Big 12 has continued since the departures of Nebraska (Big Ten, Colorado (Pac-12), Texas A&M and Missouri (SEC) were followed by the additions of West Virginia and TCU. Stuck on 10 members, the Big 12 lost the ability to host a conference championship game under the NCAA rules regarding championship games (conferences must have 12 teams or more to hold a conference title game). The NCAA recently allowed conferences the ability to run a conference championship game without 12 members, but the once believed to be easy choice for the Big 12 has seemed to lose support and momentum from within, and now the conference appears to have a diving line on the subject. On the one hand, a conference championship game hypothetically gives the Big 12 champion one last good, quality matchup to make a final playoff push, which may have benefitted Baylor or TCU in 2014. On the other, Oklahoma just proved it is possible to make the playoff without a championship game. A Big 12 championship game would provide more potential revenue for the conference, which is a nice luxury to have, but it carries a risk of potentially knocking a playoff entrant out of the discussion with a loss on the final weekend. The Big 12 has seen its championship game ruin national title dreams before, so it knows the pros and cons of the debate.

The complications of a Big 12 network also open the door for a stalemate, as it would likely come only if Texas abandoned The Longhorn Network. The Longhorn Network has been a polarizing issue in the Big 12 since its launch, and that is not about to change. Texas has every right to continue to stand by the network if it chooses, which means the rest of the Big 12 is going to have to convince Texas a conference-branded network would be more beneficiaal and valuable to Texas than its own network. For Texas, the ideal situation would be to have both its Longhorn Network and get a cut of a Big 12 network pie. It sounds so simple in theory, but nothing in the Big 12 is ever going to be simple.

Why start now, right?

2016 early NFL draft entries fall just shy of ’14 record

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So close, yet so far.  Well, technically speaking it is.

With the deadline for early entry into the NFL draft in the rearview, the NFL announced Friday that 96 players “have been granted special eligibility for the 2016 NFL Draft” and will be eligible to be selected during the April 28-30 event in Chicago. While that’s significantly more than 74 draft-eligible sophomores and juniors who declared last year, it falls two shy of the record 98 who declared early for the 2014 draft.

For some perspective, the number of players combined who declared early for the 2007 (40) and 2008 (53) falls short of the number for this year alone.

Another 11 players with eligibility remaining “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements” and are thus eligible for the draft as well. Those 11 are…

2016 NFL Draft I

Of the 96 deemed by the NFL as having special draft eligibility granted, 48 played defense and 46 were from the offensive side of the ball. There were also two kickers in this category — Southern Oregon’s Aldrick Ross and British Columbia’s Quinn van Gylswyk.

A total of 18 defensive ends and tackles are included, while the secondary, combining both cornerbacks and safeties, has 17. On the offensive side, 16 running backs are in the group, joined by 12 offensive linemen and 10 running backs. Just four draft-eligible quarterbacks cannonballed into the pool: Cal’s Jared Goff, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch.

The SEC, naturally, leads all conferences in NFL-designated special draft eligibility — The Shield differentiates this year between them and those who have eligibility remaining but earned degrees — with 25 players leaving early.  12 of the 14 teams in that conference have at least one player in the group, the lone exceptions being Kentucky and Missouri. Next up is the 15 of the Big Ten and Pac-12; the only other conference in double digits is the ACC (11).  The lone remaining Power Five conference, the Big 12, just missed with nine.

The most of any Group of Five league is the Mountain West’s four.  Two conferences, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, had no players granted special eligibility.

Individually, Ohio State saw seven players deemed to have met the NFL’s criteria for special eligibility, followed by UCLA with six and Clemson with five.  Below are the other individual schools with more than one player in this category:

4 — Notre Dame
3 — Arkansas, Baylor, Mississippi State, Ole Miss
2 — Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Cal, Indiana, LSU, Oklahoma, West Virginia

And, below this, are all of the 96 players with special eligibility for the NFL draft:

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston
Peyton Barber, RB, Auburn
Vonn Bell, DB, Ohio State
Caleb Benenoch, OL, UCLA
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Dariusz Bladek, OG, Bethune-Cookman
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan
Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi State
Artie Burns, CB, Miami
Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Trenton Coles, DB, Duquesne
Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
Jack Conklin, OL, Michigan State
Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
Kamalei Correa, DL, Boise State
Su’a Cravens, LB, USC
Elijah Daniel, DT, Murray State
Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Thomas Duarte, WR, UCLA
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Jared Goff, QB, Cal
T.J. Green, S, Clemson
David Grinnage, TE, North Carolina State
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Jerald Hawkins, OL, LSU
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
Willie Henry, DT, Michigan
Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State
Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Quinton Jefferson, DL, Maryland
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona
Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
Jayron Kearse, DB, Clemson
Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas
Darius Latham, DL, Indiana
Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green
Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Jalin Marshall, WR, Ohio State
Alex McCalister, DE, Florida
Brett McMakin, LB, Northern Iowa
Keanu Neal, S, Florida
Yannick Ngakoue, DL, Maryland
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
Emmanuel Ogbah, DL, Oklahoma State
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA
C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Alex Redmond, OL, UCLA
Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU
Aldrick Rosas, K, Southern Oregon
Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
Isaac Seumalo, OL, Oregon State
Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virginia
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
Ron Thompson, DE, Syracuse
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Quinn van Gylswyk, K, British Columbia
Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State
Cleveland Wallace III, CB, San Jose State
Dwayne Washington, RB, Washington
Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt
De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia
Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona
Avery Young, OL, Auburn

West Virginia president in favor of Big 12 expansion

In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, incoming interim West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee gestures as he speaks at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown, W.Va., Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013.  Gee, who was named interim president last week, was WVU's president from 1981 to 1985.  (AP Photo/Charleston Gazette, Chip Ellis)
AP Photo/Charleston Gazette, Chip Ellis
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If you thought the Big 12 being given the opportunity to hold a conference championship game with just 10 members was going to silence all talks about conference expansion, think again. West Virginia president Gorden Gee is apparently joining Oklahoma president David Boren on his side of the chalk line in the debate over the Big 12 operating with 10 members or 12.

I think the notion of going to 12 [schools] is most likely,” Gee said in a story published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail this week. Gee said the topic of expansion and the issues attached to it are scheduled to be discussed during the Big 12’s meeting of presidents and chancellors in early February. It is at those meetings the spotlight will be shining on Boren, who is expected to take the lead in addressing a number of previously stated concerns regarding the conference’s stability like the Longhorn Network blocking a path to creating a conference-wide network among others. But when it comes to finding two more potential members, Gee is on board the expansion train.

“I think [the remarks] are fairly consistent with the thinking in the Big 12,” Gee said. “It’s nothing new. I’m in favor of expansion. I think he’s expressing what we’ve been thinking.”

It makes sense West Virginia would be in favor of expansion.In an ideal world for West Virginia, the Big 12 would focus their expansion efforts closer to Morgantown by adding Cincinnati or Memphis, or both. The Big 12 already missed out on the opportunity to add Louisville of course, and the Big 12 is not going to be able to lure any other power conference option away to join either, so forget about those Clemson and Florida State dreams from a few years ago that never panned out.

Helmet sticker to SB Nation.

Can Ohio State land Big Ten’s first No. 1 recruiting class since 2002?

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2015, file photo, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer leads his team onto the Michigan Stadium field before an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ohio State University has extended its current sponsorship contract with Nike by 15 years in a deal worth $252 million. The university and the Beaverton, Oregon-based athletic apparel company announced the deal on Thursday. The current partnership had been scheduled to end in July 2018. It will now continue to 2033. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File)
AP Photo/Tony Ding, File
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On a day that saw Ohio State flip a pair of talented players from Maryland’s Class of 2016 and add one more nice addition to a stocked Class of 2016 haul, the Ohio State Buckeyes are, for the moment, the new recruiting kings in college football. Rivals pushed Ohio State up to No. 1 in the latest team rankings with National Signing Day just a few weeks away.

Urban Meyer and Ohio State currently have a recruiting class lined up of 21 players, which includes two players receiving five-star grades from Rivals and 14 more with a four-star ranking. The latest prizes of the recruiting season are four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and five-star linebacker Keandre Jones (both flipped from Maryland) and four-star wide receiver Binjimen Victor out of Florida. Six of Ohio State’s four-star recruits in 2016 have already enrolled in Columbus, which helps put Ohio State ahead of the curve this recruiting cycle. It is not just Rivals giving the Buckeyes top accolades right now either. Scout and 247 Sports each have bumped the Buckeyes into first place as well (247 Sports‘ composite ranking also shows the Buckeyes locking down the top spot).

What remains to be seen in the weeks to come is whether or not Ohio State can manage to land the top class at the end of the signing day festivities. USC was crowned the recruiting national champion by Rivals in 2015, snapping a four-year run by Alabama from 2011 through 2014 (Alabama was second in 2015 according to Rivals). History suggests Ohio State will lose its grip on the top spot in the Rivals rankings. No Big Ten has landed the No. 1 class since 2002 according to the Rivals database. Alabama and USC have combined for 12 of the 14 classes ranked by Rivals, with Texas and LSU each landed one top class in that time. If the Buckeyes can finish strongly enough, they could make some history.

Ohio State has been light years ahead of its Big Ten rivals in the recruiting game for a while now, especially since the hiring of Meyer. Michigan has made some moves over the years but it is clear the hiring of Jim Harbaugh continues to breathe new life into the recruiting juice of the historic power in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are currently ranked fifth in the Class of 2016 team rankings and could make a push for the top spot in the rankings as well. Meanwhile, Michigan State (No. 11) and Penn State (No. 18) are the only other Big Ten programs currently ranked in the top 25 by Rivals.

LSU (No. 2), Ole Miss (No. 3), Florida (No. 6) and Georgia (No. 9) are all currently sitting in front of Alabama, which feels odd right now, but expect the Crimson Tide to benefit from some later decisions on and around national signing day for a final push. The Crimson Tide also should get a nice championship game victory bump, as if they need it.

Clemson (No. 7) is just ahead of division rival Florida State (No. 8) for now, and each could end up making some late noise on signing day, as is typically the case. North Carolina (No. 16) and Miami (No. 19) are also floating in the middle of the top 25 and even Duke (No. 25) is hanging on to a top 25 recruiting class.

As things stand right now, just two Big 12 teams are currently ranked among the top 25 recruiting classes. Baylor (No. 10) and TCU (No. 24) are the lone representatives among the top 25 of the Rivals rankings. Oklahoma is sitting at No. 27. If you are a Texas fan, brace yourself. Texas Tech (No. 37) and West Virginia (No. 40), not to mention Houston (No.28) are all currently ranked ahead of the Longhorns (No. 42).

In the Pac-12, UCLA (No. 13) is on track for another talented recruiting haul, but USC (No. 18) can always make a late push as well. Both have done well on signing day in recent years, and that trend could continue. Defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, the kings of football in California when it comes to results on the field, are also looking to sign a top 20 class. Meanwhile, Oregon (No. 22) continues to recruit well but continues to show a need to finish strong on the recruiting trail heading to signing day.