Jordan Scarlett

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Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

No. 23 Florida clinches SEC East with goal line stand at No. 16 LSU

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The wait appeared to be worth it for No. 23 Florida (8-2, 6-2 SEC) as the Gators clinched the SEC East with a 13-10 victory on the road against No. 16 LSU (6-4, 4-3 SEC). The game, originally scheduled to be played in Gainesville earlier this year but was rescheduled due to a hurricane, was quite the physical one that saw the Gators fund an edge on the ground in the fourth quarter. A 26-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro with 4:37 to play gave the Gators a lead and the special teams unit recovered a fumble by LSU on the ensuing kickoff to run some more clock. But it was a goal-line stand on the final play of the game that would put the game in the win column for the Gators.

Down 16-10, LSU had the football with a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line and got two plays from the one-yard line to punch it in for a game-tying touchdown and potential game-winning PAT, but the Gators thwarted the Tigers when Derrius Guice lept over the pile and was stopped short of the goal line on the final play of the game.

Jordan Scarlett rushed for 108 yards and freshman Lamical Perine showed he can carry a pile on a key late drive. The play of the game, however, came shortly after LSU botched a field goal try and had a desperation pass by holder Josh Growden fall incomplete to allow Florida to take over from their two-yard line. Austin Appleby unloaded for a deep ball down the right sideline to Tyrie Cleveland, who broke a tackle and raced his way the remaining distance of the field for a 98-yard game-changing play to finish off a 10-point swing. The 98-yard scoring play more than doubled Florida’s offensive output at that point in the third quarter (68 total offensive yards before the play).

LSU running back Leonard Fournette was not scheduled to play today but reportedly convinced Ed Orgeron to allow him to play after a pregame dustup lit a fire under the banged-up Fournette. Fournette carried the football 12 times for 40 yards.

With the win, Florida clinches its second-straight SEC East Division title, which means the Gators are heading to Atlanta for a repeat of last year’s SEC Championship Game against SEC West champion Alabama. Alabama clinched the West last week with a win and an Auburn loss. It will be the first repeat SEC Championship Game matchup since Alabama and Florida clashed in the 2008 and 2009 conference championship games, although both of those games were between the top two teams in the country those seasons. Alabama may be the top team this year, but Florida will likely be outside the top 10. The SEC East hasn’t had a representative in the top 10 for the title game since No. 5 Missouri in 2013. Alabama and Florida have also met in the SEC Championship Game eight times prior to this season. Each team has won four meetings.

Before the SEC Championship Game, Florida will play rival Florida State next week in Tallahassee. LSU will close out its regular season on the road against Texas A&M.

Tomorrow is National Signing Day

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We are now fewer than 24 hours away from the moment high school football players can begin faxing in their National Letter of Intent to the college of their choice. It is an exciting time and is the most significant part of the offseason calendar in college football.

Tomorrow, Wednesday February 4, will be the big day but the past 24 hours have seen plenty of recruiting activity from coast to coast. Last night Texas head coach Charlie Strong managed to flip quarterback Kai Locksley, son of Maryland assistant Mike Locksley, from Florida State to Texas, giving him what may be the quarterback he needs to begin turning things around at Texas. Florida head coach Jim McElwain also won a recruiting battle against the Seminoles and Miami by securing four-star running back Jordan Scarlett. There were also a number of commitments and developments around the country leading up to signing day. It is like the mad rush on Christmas Eve; a lot is happening, but tomorrow is the big day for the biggest headlines.

There will be a full day of live announcements being made on national television, with ESPNU offering some big announcements from tight end Chris Clark (Michigan or UCLA), offensive lineman Pat Allen (Tennessee, Georgia or Oklahoma), defensive end Byron Cowart (Auburn or Florida) and running back SoSo Jamabo (Texas A&M, Texas, UCLA, Notre Dame all considered among the favorites) by 9:00 a.m. eastern.

Power conferences will once again have the upper hand for the most part as the divide between the power conferences and the non-power conferences continues to evolve. Alabama will be a big winner, as will programs like USC, Clemson, Florida State and Tennessee. Ohio State has come on strong of late and Penn State looks to have its best class in years. Keep an eye on Florida and Michigan to see if they can finish with any notable additions, but remember these programs should be more fairly reviewed with what they do in 2016.

Some quick links with a quick glance at the power conference recruiting rankings as of Sunday, top recruits and top recruiting battles to keep an eye on leading up to tomorrow.

ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Some quick closing thoughts as we get ready for signing day. Do not tweet at recruits. These are high school kids making a life decision and they deserve the chance to make what they feel is the best decision for them, not your rooting interests. If a recruit does choose a rival school, it is for a reason or reasons that most likely do not involve the other school cheating.*

Are you ready? Let’s go!

* Your rivals definitely cheated.

 

Why Michigan and Florida get a pass for the Class of 2015

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With National Signing Day coming up on Wednesday, Florida finally added its first four-star recruit to the Class of 2015 Monday evening. Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett gave Florida head coach Jim McElwain a nice recruiting victory over in-state rivals Florida State and Miami.

Florida State is already well ahead of the Gators so there is no sleep lost by Jimbo Fisher in Tallahassee over missing on one more four-star player when 13 are already lined up. Being a year removed from a national championship and coming off another ACC title and berth in the first College Football Playoff helps, and Florida’s downward trend under Will Muschamp made for a rough situation McElwain walked into when named the new head coach in Gainesville. It is for this reason McElwain gets a pass on whatever happens with Florida’s Class of 2015 when the faxes start coming in on Wednesday morning.

McElwain took over a sinking ship at Florida, and with only a short period of time to work with it is very difficult to turn things around enough to make up for the damage that has been done. Coaches need a full recruiting cycle to really do what they can on the recruiting trail. By the time McElwain took over at Florida, SEC rivals and ACC recruiting pitches have been spoon-fed to recruits more than enough times to make anything McElwain could have possibly done to have any real lasting impact.

Recruiting in Florida is extremely competitive, and McElwain stepped to the plate with a whiffle bat in the bottom of the ninth inning and two outs in Game Seven of the World Series.

Florida will finish near the bottom of the SEC when the final recruiting rankings are assembled, but the real work for McElwain will be done in the Class of 2016, with a full recruiting calendar at his disposal.

McElwain’s situation is not a unique one. This happens every season around college football when the coaching carousel spins. If any coach can get the same kind of free pass in 2015, it is new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh’s hiring was received favorably by just about everybody around college football, but it is far from a quick fix some might have had you thinking it was in the heat of the moment.

Like McElwain at Florida, Harbaugh inherited a rough situation in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s recruiting success had been trending downward in the final years under Brady Hoke and the Wolverines were likely expected to bring in a relatively smaller class in 2015 regardless of the coaching situation. Most of this is beyond Harbaugh’s control, and it will take a plan to restructure the recruiting plans for Michigan moving forward.

Michigan is also lagging in the Big Ten recruiting rankings, and they may not move up much in the coming days. But this should not be a sign that Michigan is done as a football program. Both Michigan and Florida should have big bounceback recruiting seasons in 2016, and this will be when we can see just what kind of impact coaches like Harbaugh and McElwain can have on their respective programs. So cut them some slack when you look at the rankings for the Class of 2015.