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Jim Harbaugh has a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution for fans

Jim Harbaugh

The Constitution of the United States is so often misquoted or misinterpreted for the benefit of supporting one cause over one issue or another. While some portions of the constitution have been amended over the course of the lifespan of the country, you have to imagine our Fore Fathers did not have a football fan’s expectations of winning at heart while drafting the document. Well, good news, because Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has the next amendment ready to put to print.

Harbaugh’s overall point here is valid. Fans do have a right to have an expectation their favorite teams or teams will do anything and everything in order to build a winner. However, this is not a right protected by the Constitution.

Yet.

Harbaugh’s comment came during a spring conference call with Big Ten football coaches and media. When not gawking over anything Harbaugh had to say, the strength of the Big Ten’s East division was discussed by a number of coaches. If you are still recovering from recent realignment changes and are still confused over which team is in which division, here is a reminder the Big Ten East is home to Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. Randy Edsall of Maryland (who may just have uniforms appropriate for this discussion in short time) suggested the Big Ten East may be the strongest division in college football. Kyle Flood of Rutgers agreed.

Is the Big Ten East really the best division in college football? Better than the SEC West or the Pac-12 South? Let’s not go crazy just yet. Sure, Ohio State and Michigan State may be worthy of going head-to-head with whatever division you can throw at then, but Michigan and Penn State are not quite up to that level yet and may need another year (or two). Maryland and Rutgers had better-than-expected debuts in the Big Ten in 2014 and each has potential to improve, but neither is ready to compete at a high level. And Indiana is still Indiana.

The Big Ten East may be very competitive for years to come, and if Michigan and Penn State catch up to Ohio State then watch out. But we’re not quite at that point to have this discussion in 2015.

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Condoleezza Rice has conservative stance on College Football Playoff expansion

Condoleezza Rice

Since the dawn of the College Football Playoff era in college football (it’s been one whole year already), the company line seems to be selling a commitment to the four-team playoff model for the duration of the 12-year contract. Executive director Bill Hancock has been pitching that every time he is asked about it, and selection committee member Condoleezza Rice is echoing the message as well.

I feel pretty strongly about four now because I thought that the rivalry weekend — that Saturday after Thanksgiving — almost felt like a play-in game,” Rice said to Heather Dinich of ESPN.com. “Now the Iron Bowl, Alabama has to beat Auburn. You could imagine the circumstances in another year where the Civil War, Oregon really has to beat Oregon State.”I agree that if it got much larger, I don’t think you would have that momentum coming out of the regular season, so it’s the best possible scenario.”

Despite its first year’s hits (massive TV ratings) and misses (weekly ranking debates and the Big 12 conversation), Rice feels confident four is still the right number for college football.

“I agree that if it got much larger, I don’t think you would have that momentum coming out of the regular season, so it’s the best possible scenario,” Rice added.

The College Football Playoff may be in its infancy, but it is standing firm on a number of issues and ideas regarding its future. Maybe something changes down the line, but there has been no wiggle room on the topic of expansion coming from the selection committee. Some coaches have a different opinion. In the same vein, the College Football Playoff has opted not to budge its scheduling, which means games will be played on December 31 (New Years Eve) despite some concern about the scheduling and TV programming hassles it seems to cause. It is also no afraid of possible Monday night competition from the NFL.

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Vandals give Michigan State’s spartan statue maize and blue makeover

Purdue Boilermakers v Michigan State Spartans Getty Images

Michigan fans are feeling pretty good about the future of the football program with Jim Harbaugh now in command, as they probably should. But perhaps some Michigan fans got a little carried away with the enthusiasm last night, taking their school pride a bit too far over the line on a rival’s campus.

The bronze spartan statue on the campus of Michigan State was painted blue with a yellow “M” on the chest overnight, strongly suggesting a fan or fans of Michigan left their mark on Michigan State’s statue. Unless someone is making like MIT pulling a prank on Harvard and Yale, we can probably be safe to assume the culprits root for or represent the Wolverines. You can see the damages in this photo here…

This is hardly the first time the statue has been vandalized. In fact, the bronze statue was put in place to replace the original terra cotta statue in 2005. The former statue had also been a target for vandals from Michigan, which led to annual repairs and restoration by Michigan State.

On the football field, Michigan’s intimidation tactics blew up in their faces last season. After senior Joe Bolden drove a tent stake into the turf at Spartan Stadium, with Michigan players jumping around behind him as they stared across the field, Michigan State sent Michigan home with a 35-11 loss. Now former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke apologized for the incident, and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio did not mince words after the game. The Spartans have won each of the previous two meetings with their big brothers from Ann Arbor, and six of the last seven games between the two in-state rivals.

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Bowling Green suspends CB accused in on-campus assault of woman

Nick Johnson AP

A prominent member of Bowling Green’s defensive secondary is the latest college football player tripped up by legal entanglements.

According to the Toledo Blade, cornerback Nick Johnson was arrested recently in connection to an incident that occurred earlier this month. The defensive back is facing a charge of misdemeanor assault after he allegedly assaulted a female during the course of an on-campus incident.

From the Blade‘s report:

On Monday, April 6, Johnson is alleged to have struck a female with a closed fist, then choked the woman, whom he was dating. The incident occurred in a parked car in Lot A on campus at 10:37 p.m., according to BG spokesman Dave Kielmeyer.

As a result of the arrest, Johnson has been indefinitely suspended from the Falcons football program.

This is actually Johnson’s third run-in with the law in two months.  In early February, he was charged with theft, which was eventually reduced to unauthorized use of property.  A month and a half later, he was charged with disorderly conduct-fighting.

As a true freshman last season, Johnson started five of the 14 games in which he played. His five interceptions tied a school record for freshmen and was second in the MAC.

Following that season, and despite not being a full-time starter, he was named second-team all-conference.

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Status of Colorado State’s Kivon Cartwright still uncertain

Colorado v Colorado State Getty Images

Granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA earlier this year, it remains uncertain whether Kivon Cartwright will be able to utilize it.

The Colorado State tight end sustained an ankle injury in the 2014 season opener against Colorado that, ultimately, ended his season. Seven months later, Cartwright is still not participating in spring practice; in fact, the Denver Post wrote that the senior “had his ankle wrapped heavily Tuesday and used a scooter to keep weight off that leg.”

That far removed from the initial injury, it doesn’t appear to bode well for Cartwright’s chances to see the field in 2015, even as the CSU coaching staff is putting a glass-half-full face on the situation.

“We decided to back off and make sure he is ready to go in the fall,” first-year head coach Mike Bobo said in explaining the tack they’ve taken with Cartwright. “We thought it was in his best interests. We’re still very, very, very optimistic that he’s going to be ready to go. We just don’t want to risk anything and are taking every precautionary measure.”

If Cartwright can get back on the field, he’d certainly be a reliable boon to Bobo’s offense.

In 2013, Cartwright was fourth on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (462). His six receiving touchdowns tied for the team lead. In 2012, he was third in receptions (26) and receiving yards (310), and again tied for the lead amongst Ram receivers in touchdowns (three).

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Florida’s Chris Thompson has battery charge dropped

Chris Thompson AP

Apparently it’s “Take Your Case to Court and Drop It Day” across the SEC East.

Following an investigation into a domestic incident involving Florida’s Chris Thompson, the Gainesville Sun wrote, “the State Attorney’s Office has elected not to pursue the case, citing a lack of evidence and the alleged victim’s decision not to prosecute the case.” Reports surfaced April 9 that Thompson had been arrested and charged with simple battery/dating violence.

According to the reports at the time, Thompson was involved in an argument with an ex-girlfriend after he received a text from another female. The ex took Thompson’s phone, which led to the wide receiver scratching the woman’s arms and neck while attempting to retrieve his phone.

In explaining his decision to drop the charge, State’s Attorney Bill Cervone stated that Thompson was within his rights to try to get his phone back from the woman who took it.

“He was legally entitled to make what is called defense of his property, which in this case was his phone,” Cervone told the Sun. “That’s what he was doing, and the injuries that resulted were in inconsequential.”

Thompson did not play in last weekend’s spring game because of the incident. UF has not yet addressed the receiver’s status with the football program, with the latest update being he had been “excused” from the team while the legal situation played itself out.

While Thompson had just two catches for 17 yards as a true sophomore in 2014, he’s expected to take on a bigger role in the Gators’ passing game this season.

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Iowa coach Brian Ferentz tiptoes around Aaron Hernandez verdict

Aaron Hernandez Reuters

Believe it or not, there’s a college football connection outside of the University of Florida to the Aaron Hernandez situation.

Hernandez, of course, was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  After leaving the Gators early for the 2010 NFL draft, the Mackey Award-winning tight end was selected by the New England Patriots.  His position coach for the 2011 season with the Patriots was Brian Ferentz.

The son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, the younger Ferentz now serves as the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach.  The Iowa-Hernandez connection doesn’t stop there as D.J. Hernandez, the convicted murderer’s older brother, is an offensive grad assistant who’s worked with Iowa’s tight ends the past two seasons.

If you recall, the elder Hernandez was involved in a scuffle back in July of 2013 when some individuals mistook him for his brother.

As fate would have it, Ferentz was scheduled to meet with the media on the same day the Hernandez verdict was announced .  Not so surprisingly, Ferentz fielded questions regarding the development.

Just as unsurprisingly, the assistant attempted to steer as far away from the conversation as possible.

Here’s the transcription of the exchange, as provided by UI’s sports information department:

Q. You coached Aaron Hernandez and you coached alongside his brother here. First of all, how difficult what happened today is it for you personally, and then also to be there to try to support DJ?

BRIAN FERENTZ: These things are unfortunate, and really I don’t think it benefits Iowa football or myself to comment on the situation other than it’s tragic. It’s certainly much more tragic for the victims involved, but these types of things, they affect everyone. I feel bad for DJ and for his family, but I feel worse for the victims in this case. Things like this, again, I think the reason you don’t comment is what can you really say. I don’t know what I could say that would make any sense to me or to anyone in here and wouldn’t be picked apart.”

Ferentz isn’t the only one at the collegiate level looking to distance himself from Hernandez.

Even prior to the verdict, and shortly after Hernandez’s arrest in 2013, Florida removed nearly all mentions of Hernandez from their facilities. He still, though, remains in the school’s record book for receptions by tight ends.

Hernandez was connected to a 2007 shooting in Gainesville when he was just 17 and a freshman at UF, but police later said Hernandez was not a suspect and he declined to speak to police on the right to have counsel present.

Urban Meyer, Hernandez’s coach, was widely criticized by many following his former player’s arrest, with critics labeling the current Ohio State head coach as an enabler.  After initially distancing himself from the situation, Meyer finally took his shots at what he called “irresponsible” criticism.

“He was an athlete at Florida 4-to-7 years ago and there are some comments being made that are not correct,” Meyer said in July of 2013. “Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him. Prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. Relating or blaming these serious charges to Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible.”

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Brian Kelly on Irish’s QBs: ‘I’d take our two over Ohio State’s’

Malik Zaire Everett Golson Brian Kelly AP

This certainly has the potential to end well in the comments section — and by “end well” I mean “be a train wreck.”

As everybody knows, one of the biggest storylines in college football throughout the offseason has been Ohio State’s three-headed quarterback competition, which won’t commence in earnest until summer camp rolls around in August. And not only will it be a three-man battle, it will include what may well be the most talented collection of quarterbacks ever assembled on one team at the collegiate level: Cardale Jones, the hero of the Buckeyes’ postseason run viewed as one of a handful of preseason contenders for the 2015 Heisman Trophy; J.T. Barrett, the 2014 starter who led the Buckeyes to the cusp of a Big Ten title and spot in the College Football Playoff before fracturing his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan; and Braxton Miller, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year who was one of the favorites for the 2014 Heisman before reinjuring his shoulder during summer camp last August and missing the entire season.

With that as a backdrop, and as relayed by our own JJ Stankevitz for his main gig at CSNChicago, Brian Kelly was asked during a Wednesday press conference which unit’s depth on his Notre Dame squad has pleased him the most. Unprompted, the Irish head coach brought up OSU’s quarterback situation in pumping up his own group of signal-callers, Everett Golson and Malik Zaire.

“At the quarterback position, maybe other than Ohio State, I would take our two quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “And I would take our two over Ohio State’s. In terms of depth, I don’t know if anybody has a better situation than we do in terms of the two quarterbacks we have.”

The fact that Kelly pumped up his own players publicly isn’t a surprise as coaches all across the country do it on an almost daily basis, especially in the spring. The fact that Kelly, unsolicited, brought up OSU and claimed he’d take his guys over Urban Meyer‘s, though, is head-scratching and chuckle-inducing to say the least.

While Golson/Zaire are far from middle school-level talents, they’re also far from the Jones/Barrett/Miller triumvirate when it comes to on-field production and success — 38-3 with that starting trio the past three years, three division titles, one conference championship, one national championship. Granted, Golson helped lead the Irish to the 2012 BCS title game, but still, there’s not a coach in the country who, if he’s being honest with himself, wouldn’t trade his situation depth-wise for the Buckeyes’.

It’s interesting to note that Kelly’s very public praise comes amidst rumors that bubbled yet again to the surface that Golson may be considering a transfer. Maybe it’s merely a coincidence, but maybe it’s Kelly’s way of publicly telling Golson that he does indeed want him in South Bend — and, in the process, leaving him more than one viable option at the position heading into the new season.

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Felony theft charge against Tennessee OL Coleman Thomas dismissed

Coleman Thomas

On March 25, Tennessee offensive lineman Coleman Thomas was charged with felony theft after he allegedly attempted to sell an XBox and three video games that had been reported stolen. On Wednesday those charges were dismissed.

After close to three weeks of investigation, the Knox County District Attorney’s office found no evidence Thomas knew the items were stolen.

“The evidence suggested the opposite actually, that he had no idea the item was stolen,” Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hixson told the Associated Press.

Thomas was removed from team activities following the arrest. A Tennessee spokesman told the Chattanooga Times Free Press Wednesday afternoon that Thomas had officially been reinstated.

Thomas’ attorney, Don Bosch, wasted no time wagging his finger at the law enforcement.

“It appears that a rush to judgement was made charging Coleman Thomas with this offense,” Bosch said. “Mr. Thomas did not commit any crime, and was unaware that the XBox and three video games in question had been stolen. He fully cooperated from the first minute he was notified by law enforcement, and it was unfortunate that such a hasty decision to charge Mr. Thomas was made solely by the University of Tennessee Police Department.”

Thomas played in 11 games with five starts as a freshman in 2014.

(Photo credit: Tennessee athletics)

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Report: Texas to play nation’s toughest non-con schedule over next five years

Charlie Strong

There’s a lot – and boy do I mean a lot – of discussion about who Texas isn’t playing these days in non-conference play. And let’s be clear here, Texas and Texas A&M should play on an annual basis. But lost in the discussion is who the Longhorns actually do have lined up in the near future.

A home-and-home with Notre Dame. A home-and-home with USC. A home-and-home with LSU. Plus home-and-homes with Maryland and California, one-off games with Central Florida and South Florida, and no dates with FCS opponents. That’s all in the next five years. (If we voyage into the next decade we’ll see a road date at Arkansas and home-and-homes with Michigan and Ohio State as well.)

It’s enough for the folks at ESPN’s Stats & Information department to rank Texas atop its list of toughest future non-conference slates (warning: paywall). “Overall, Texas is projected to play a Power 5 opponent in 10 of its 15 nonconference games over the next five years, tied for the most Power 5 matchups of any team,” the group writes. “The Longhorns are also one of 10 Power 5 teams that will not face an FCS opponent during that time.”

How are the relative strength and weakness of future non-conference schedules calculated, especially in light of the fact most of us numbskulls saw Florida State and Alabama advancing in the College Football Playoff semifinals? Great question. “The difficulty of every game was measured using each opponent’s four-year average FPI rating. FPI is a measure of team strength and has been shown to correlate with future team power.” Gotta be honest here, that’s Japanese to me.

“Once the schedule and opponent strength was set, we calculated how an average FBS team would perform against each team’s nonconference schedule. The number associated with each team is the percentage of games an average FBS team would be expected to lose if it faced that schedule; the higher the number, the harder the schedule.” In short, the tougher the schedule, the higher the score. The easier the slate, the higher the score.

Here’s the top 10:
1. Texas – 60.4
2. USC – 59.2
3. Stanford – 58.9
4. UCLA – 54.7
5. Oklahoma – 49.1
6. Ohio State – 47.6
7. Clemson – 46.5
8. Georgia Tech – 46.3
9. Michigan – 45.7
10. Virginia – 45.6

In short, the average team can be expected to lose a tick over 60 percent of its games against Texas’ future schedule, 59 percent against USC’s future schedule, and so on and so forth.

And now for the 10 easiest:

1. Baylor – 25.7
2. Kansas – 26.0
3. Kansas State – 27.1
3. Illinois – 27.1
5. Missouri – 27.5
6. Tennessee – 28.6
7. Iowa State – 29.0
8. Ole Miss – 29.4
8. Washington State – 29.4
8. Iowa – 29.4

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Ohio State bringing Troy Smith back for spring game

Troy Smith

Everyone who’s anyone has a spring game gimmick these days. Some schools let fans call plays. Others bring out a cat and watch the Internet go nuts.

Ohio State is bringing back Troy Smith for a halftime throwing competition.

Let’s see, that’s a former Heisman Trophy winner and Big Ten champion, a Big Ten Freshman of the Year and one-time Heisman Trophy contender, and a Big Ten Championship MVP and a national championship pinch-hitter, all on the same field and wearing the same colors.

Come to think of, that’s not a gimmick at all. That sounds like a normal Ohio State practice.

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Tennessee announces raises for Butch Jones’ assistants

Butch Jones

After returning to a bowl game for the first time since the 2010 season, Tennessee has announced raises for Butch Jones’ eight returning assistants.

Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and running backs coach Robert Gillespie earned the biggest bumps – $50,000 apiece – but both still rank on the low end of the staff at $350,000 a year. (Think about that statement for a moment.) Azzanni earned a promotion to passing game coordinator following the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the hiring of Mike DeBord as his replacement. Gillespie replaces Azzanni as the Vols’ recruiting coordinator. Both coaches also received a contract extension through the 2016 season.

Bajakian’s departure also means defensive coordinator John Jancek, he of a $40,000 raise, is now Tennessee’s highest-paid assistant at $515,000 a year, just outpacing DeBord’s $500,000 salary.

“Coach Gillespie is doing a tremendous job with the recruiting aspect of things and the overall organization and really the focus and the details that’s required day to day,” Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Coach Azzanni’s done a great job with the passing game. He’s worked hand in hand with Coach DeBord.

Defensive line coach Steve Stripling follows at $405,000 a year, then linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen ($400,000), defensive backs coach Willie Martinez ($375,000), offensive line coach Don Mahoney ($360,000) and then special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Mark Elder at $240,000 a year.

All told, Jones’ assistants will earn $3.495 million before incentives in 2015. Jones also received a $650,000 raise up from the reported $2.96 million he made in 2014.

“I’m very grateful to our administration,” Jones added. “They’ve been very, very supportive, not only of myself, but our entire coaching staff. It was great to be able to reward them, and we still have a long ways to go. They all understand that, but we’re very fortunate to have a very good coaching staff. I know they have great relationships with our community and with our players, so I’m very thankful to our administration for showing the support like they have.”

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Report: NIU AD Frazier denies interest in Pitt vacancy

Pittsburgh Football helmets

Pittsburgh has been without an athletics director for nearly five months now. The school fired Steve Pederson on Dec. 17, shortly after head football coach Paul Chryst walked out the door to Wisconsin.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher‘s plan to fix the instability within the football program was to create some instability at the AD spot.

One person who will not replace Pederson is Northern Illinois athletics director Sean Frazier.

Frazier denied interest in the position to HuskieWire.com on Tuesday. “I am not a finalist for any job at Pitt,” Frazier said. “I’m unaware of how I (was on the list of finalists). I’m flattered, don’t get me wrong, but the only job I’m looking at is at the beloved Northern Illinois University.”

Frazier was identified as a finalist by Pittsburgh TV reporter Rich Walsh.

Frazier has been Northern Illinois’ athletics director for two years. The Huskies are 23-5 with a MAC championship and two MAC title game appearances in that span.

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Michigan State WR Kings pleads down arrest, admits to littering

Macgarrett Kings Jr.

Michigan State wide receiver Macgarrett Kings, Jr., was arrested in late February on charges of drunken and disorderly conduct and obstructing, resisting, hindering or assaulting a police officer.

On Tuesday, Kings plead down his two misdemeanor charges to public littering according to the Associated Press. Quite the plea process.

Public littering is a civil, not criminal, infraction.

“We’re aware of the incident,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said at the time of Kings’ arrest. “All of our student-athletes are held to a high standard, and individuals will be held accountable for their actions. We will manage this situation internally.”

Kings missed spring ball a year ago for what turned out to be a DUI arrest. It seems unlikely to this reporter a similar punishment would be in line here, lest Kings become the first player to miss time for littering.

Kings caught 29 passes for 404 yards and one touchdown in 2014, making him the Spartans’ leading retuning pass-catcher.

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Twenty-six players invited to NFL Draft

Leonard Williams

Ah, the NFL Draft. It’s that awkward in-between time when the likes of Jameis WinstonLeonard Williams, et al, aren’t college football players anymore but they aren’t really NFL players yet, either.

Nevertheless, it’s the last time the newest crop of NFL players will be identified primarily by their college, and on Tuesday the NFL released the list of 26 players invited to hear their names (and schools) called over Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre on Thursday, April 30.

They are as follows:

Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
Vic Beasley, DE/LB, Clemson
La’El Collins, OL, LSU
Landon Collins, DB, Alabama
Bud Dupree, LB, Kentucky
Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
Dante Fowler, DL/LB, Florida
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Randy Gregory, DE/LB, Nebraska
Todd Gurley, LB, Georgia
D.J. Humphries, OL, Florida
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
Bernardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Andrus Peat, OL, Stanford
Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
Shane Ray, DL, Missouri
Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Danny Shelton, DL, Washington
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Laken Tomlinson, OL, Duke
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Leonard Williams, DL, USC

 

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