UTEP Miners

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is seen during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Getty Images

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

2 Comments

Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Mountain West to consider expansion with or without Big 12 poaching

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 05:  The Championship Trophy, with the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Game trophies, sit on a table fieldside prior to the Mountain West Championship game between the San Diego State Aztecs and  the Air Force Falcons at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Regardless of what happens in one Power Five conference, one Group of Five league could be expanding.

Air Force and Colorado State of the Mountain West have reportedly made the cut as the Big 12 looks to expand by at least two teams and possibly four.  That conference could make their expansion decision as early as the next month.

In the meantime, the MWC won’t be sitting idly by waiting to be poached as commissioner Craig Thompson confirmed Saturday that his conference will look to expand independent of what the Big 12 does.  And, more to the point, Thompson doesn’t hide the fact that the league would like a presence in the state of Texas.

“I can say this — and I said it at our [football] media days. We have a lot of people saying, ‘If there’s an opportunity to be in your league, we’re interested.’ So there are numbers there,” Thompson said, without getting into any specifics. “I’ve challenged our membership to think about expansion — with or without losing [current] members. Do we look east? Do we look at the state of Texas, for example?

“So that’s probably going to be something we have to confront this year.”

The Salt Lake Tribune mentions current Conference USA members North Texas, Rice, UTEP and UT-San Antonio as possibilities from the state of Texas.  The Sun Belt’s Arkansas State is also considered a viable option.

Ex-Gator Kent Taylor, Jayhawks’ leading pass-catching TE in 2015, transfers to third FBS program

LAWRENCE, KS - SEPTEMBER 12:  Defensive back DaShaughn Terry #32 of the Memphis Tigers nearly intercepts an overthrown ball intended for tight end Kent Taylor #81 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the game at Memorial Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

We have yet another member of the “Maybe the Third Time Will be a Charm” club.

Earlier Thursday, UTEP announced that it had added Kent Taylor to its roster as a graduate transfer from Kansas. As Taylor comes in as a graduate, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016, his final season of eligibility.

Last season, he led all Jayhawk tight ends with 15 receptions for 179 yards. He also scored his second career receiving touchdown.

In December of 2013, Taylor announced his decision to transfer from Florida to KU. He sat out the 2014 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.

Taylor, a consensus four-star recruit, was rated as the top tight end in the nation by both Rivals.com and Scout.com in the Class of 2012. As a true freshman with the Gators, he caught a pair of passes, one of which went for a touchdown. He took a redshirt his sophomore season prior to transferring from UF.

2015 finalists Leonard Fournette, Christian McAffrey part of Walker Award watch list

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

With 2015 winner Derrick Henry of Alabama off to the NFL, there will be a new winner of the Doak Walker Award in 2016.  Based on the projected performances of a couple of other finalists from a year ago, this year’s winner could very well come from the group below.

Thursday, the PwC SMU Athletic Forum announced a watch list that contains a whopping 76 players.  The Walker Award has ben handed out annually since 1990 to the nation’s top running back and is named in honor of former SMU great Doak Walker.

Two finalists for last year’s award have made the cut this preseason — LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.

The SEC led all conferences with 13 watch listers, followed by the Big 12 (9), Big 12 (9), Pac-12 (9), ACC (8), Mountain West (6), Sun Belt (6), MAC (5), Conference USA (4) and AAC (3).  There were also four from independents (BYU, Notre Dame).

Those two independents were two of the 13 schools with two running backs listed, the others being Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Cal, Duke, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, USC, Western Kentucky and Western Michigan.

Below is the complete 2016 Doak Walker Award preseason watch list:

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 1.10.32 PM

UTEP star RB Aaron Jones not facing game suspension over DUI

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - SEPTEMBER 5:  Aaron Jones #29 of the UTEP Miners runs the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Miners 48-13.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It appears one of the most talented but unheralded running backs in the country has made his way out of his head coach’s doghouse.

In February of this year, UTEP’s Aaron Jones was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.  In early March, head coach Sean Kugler said in a statement that “[w]e are waiting for the process to fully develop and once I have all the facts, I will evaluate the situation.”

Wednesday, Jones entered into a pretrial diversion program that will see the charge dismissed if he meets certain conditions. That same day, Kugler released a statement saying that, essentially, Jones had been punished enough.

“Aaron’s situation was handled internally as is the case with every player,” the coach said. “He has been punished harshly and I consider this matter to be put behind him, he will not be suspended further.”

Jones, who went to high school in El Paso, led the Miners in rushing in 2014 (1,321 yards) and 2013 (811). He sustained a season-ending ankle injury two games into the 2015 season; at the time of the injury, his 209 yards rushing were far and away the Miners’ leading rusher (Autrey Golsen, 19 yards at the time).  Despite missing the last 10 games of the season, he finished third on the team in rushing behind Jeremiah Laufasa‘s 381 yards and LaQuintus Dowell‘s 276.

Even as he’s missed a total of 14 games because of injury, including four games at the end of his true freshman season in 2013, Jones is currently eighth on the school’s all-time rushing list.

Earlier today, Jones was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list.