Toledo Rockets

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

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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

Cal’s Davis Webb shines in Senior Bowl victory

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 28: Davis Webb #7 of the South team throws the ball during the first half of the Reese's Senior Bowl against the North team at the Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 28, 2017 in Mobile, Alabama.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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It can be difficult to make too much out of one performance in the Senior Bowl as far as draft prospects go, but there is no denying you would much rather have a good performance to take away from Mobile, Alabama than a shaky one. Cal quarterback Davis Webb will return home with reason to feel good about what eh showed on the field in the nation’s top college football all-star game leading into the NFL Draft preparation season.

Webb orchestrated all three scoring drives for the South team in a 16-15 victory in the Senior Bowl on Saturday. Webb completed 11 of 16 of his passing attempts for 165 yards and a touchdown, a 39-yard scoring pass to Texas A&M wide receiver Josh Reynolds, who also had a good showing. The Cal quarterback led the South to two scores in the final three minutes of the first half. Webb was named MVP of the Senior Bowl.

For the North, Pitt quarterback Nate Peterman also played well with a six-yard touchdown pass to East Carolina’s Zay Jones late in the game. A failed two-point conversion attempt prevented the North from taking the lead on the South, however. Toledo running back Kareem Hunt was named the North’s Most Outstanding Player after rushing for 118 yards on 15 rushing attempts. Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis received the South’s Most Outstanding Player award after forcing a pair of fumbles and recording a pair of sacks.

Geoff Collins puts finishing touches on first Temple staff

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 02: Temple live mascot Stella the Owl is seen prior to the game between the Army Black Knights and Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field on September 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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A little over four weeks after landing his first head-coaching job, Geoff Collins has completed his first coaching staff.

Temple announced Thursday that Collins has made three additions to his initial staff: Tony Lucas, Cory Robinson and Andrew Thacker.  Lucas will serve as running backs coach, Robinson defensive backs and Thacker linebackers.

Lucas and Thacker join the AAC program from the FCS level.  The former had spent the past four seasons at Delaware State, the latter was at Kennesaw State for the 2016 season.

Robinson served in the same capacity at Toledo this past season.

With the trio of hires, Collins’ nine-man on-field coaching staff is full.  The coach had previously brought in Dave Patenaude (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Taver Johnson (defensive coordinator/safeties), and Jim Panagos (defensive line) from outside the program.  In late December, it was announced that Collins had retained three coaches from Matt Rhule‘s staff: Ed Foley (tight ends), Frisman Jackson (wide receivers) and Chris Wiesehan (offensive line).

Report: Wazzu pulls WRs coach away from Toledo

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22:  Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars talks with his team on the sidelines during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Cougars 52-31.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Toledo wide receivers coach Derek Sage is leaving the staff to accept a similar post at Washington State, multiple outlets have reported.

Sage spent three seasons tutoring wideouts at Toledo and helped turn the Rockets’ passing attack into one of the best in the Group of 5. Toledo tied for eighth nationally in passing at 322.8 yards per game this fall, and Cody Thompson and Corey Jones both finished among the top 100 receivers nationally. Thompson collected 64 receptions for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Jones grabbed 66 balls for 817 yards and five scores.

Thompson was a First Team All-MAC honoree, while Jon'Vea Johnson earned a Second Team All-MAC nod. Sage himself was a finalist for the FootballScoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year award. (Full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop.)

Sage will coach inside receivers at Washington State, where he takes over for JaMarcus Shephard. Shephard left earlier this month to join Jeff Brohm‘s staff at Purdue.

 

Appalachian State claims second straight Camellia Bowl thriller

Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb (11) is upended after a big gain by Toledo cornerback Trevon Mathis (6) during the Cramton Bowl NCAA college football game in Montgomery, Ala., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)
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If the College Football Playoff games can be half as good as the Camellia Bowl, we’ll be in good hands this bowl season.

For the second consecutive December, Appalachian State won a back-and-forth Camellia Bowl, backing up last year’s buzzer-beating 31-29 defeat of Ohio with a 31-28 see-saw win over Toledo on Saturday night.

In what would be the theme all night, the Mountaineers opened the scoring on a 72-yard drive capped by a 16-yard scoring strike from Taylor Lamb to Deltron Hopkins only to see Toledo immediately answer when Logan Woodside found Michael Roberts for a 15-yard score to end a 75-yard march.

Midway through the second quarter, Marcus Cox put App State back in front when he punched in a 13-yard rush to close a 93-yard march, which Kareem Hunt later answered by way of a 26-yard rush to tie the game at 14 at the break.

App State again opened the scoring in the second half, this time a 13-yard Lamb rush, and Toledo again answered on a 4-yard toss from Woodside to Cody Thompson. Appalachian State immediately nudged back in front when Darrynton Evans raced the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 28-21 lead. Five plays later, Toledo knotted its fourth tie when Hunt found pay dirt for a second time with a 1-yard plunge with 43 ticks left in the third quarter.

The Mountaineers blew a scoring chance on their next possession when a fake field goal pass on a 4th-and-13 flew incomplete, but the App State defense held serve by forcing a three-and-out. Back in field goal range a second time, App State head coach Scott Satterfield made the sensible call by asking Michael Rubino to knock in a 39-yard field goal, which he did, giving the Mountaineers a 31-28 lead with 5:14 remaining.

Given a chance to break serve and take their first lead, Toledo could not convert a 3rd-and-2 rush from the App State 8-yard line. Rockets head coach Jason Candle briefly looked like he was going to try a make-or-break 4th-and-2 with the clock rolling under two minutes to go but accepted a delay of game instead. He will live to regret that decision; Jameson Vest‘s game-tying 30-yard field goal sailed wide right.

Appalachian State (10-3) accepted the ball with 1:42 remaining and did not give it back. The Mountaineers out-rushed Toledo (9-4) 297-127 on the night. Lamb carried nine times for 126 yards and a score while completing 14-of-32 throws for 119 yards and a touchdown. Cox rushed 22 times for a game-high 143 yards and a touchdown.

For Toledo, Woodside completed 18-of-26 passes for 247 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while Hunt added 22 carries for 120 yards and two scores.