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Butkus Award watch list led by SEC’s 11 players with Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten close behind

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Award watch season in college football continues to be in midseason form with the Butkus Award watch list being revealed on Monday. A total of 11 players from the SEC were included in the preseason watch list for the award for best linebacker.

The Pac-12 had 10 players included on the watch list, and the ACC and Big Ten each landed nine players on the list. The Big 12 managed to get just two linebackers named to the watch list, which was one fewer than the total number of FCS linebackers appearing on the list.

Alabama’s Reuben Foster was named the 2016 Butkus Award winner, making him the third Alabama linebacker to win the award since 2009 (Rolando McClain in 2009, C.J. Mosley in 2013). As it just so happens, the 2016 high school Butkus Award winner was IMG Academy’s Dylan Moses, who is now at Alabama. Alabama has two players on this year’s collegiate watch list (Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion).

This year’s watch list includes one returning finalist from the 2016 award (Iowa’s Josey Jewell) and five additional semi-finalists (Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, Texas’ Malik Jefferson, Virginia’s Micah Kiser, Washington’s Azeem Victor, and Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy).

2017 Butkus Award Watch List

Genard Avery, Memphis
Jerome Baker, Ohio State
Davin Bellamy, Georgia
Keishawn Bierria, Washington
Eric Boggs, Appalachian State
Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
Jason Cabinda, Penn State
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Jermaine Carterq, Maryland
Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
Koron Crump, Arizona State
Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State
Devante Downs, California
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
DeMarquis Gates, Ole Miss
Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
Shaquem Griffin, UCF
Porter Gustin, USC
Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
James Hearns, Louisville
Manase Hungalu, Oregon State
Malik Jefferson, Texas
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Jordan Jones, Kentucky
Kendall Joseph, Clemson
Junior Joseph, UConn
Peter Kalambayi, Stanford
Arden Key, LSU
Micah Kiser, Virginia
Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
Mike McCray, Michigan
Skai Moore, South Carolina
Airius Moore, N.C. State
Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
Uchenna Nwosu, USC
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
D.J. Palmore, Navy
Jacob Pugh, Florida State
Shaquille Quarterman, Miami
Tegray Scales, Indiana
Cameron Smith, USC
Sione Teuhema, Southeastern Lousiana
Matthew Thomas, Florida State
Azeem Victor, Washington
Fred Warner, BYU
Tré Williams, Auburn
Chris Worley, Ohio State
Trevon Young, Louisville
Kenny Young, UCLA

Purdue the new home for transferring Notre Dame WR

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In early December, it was thought that Miami was the front-runner for the services of transferring Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Holmes.  Arizona State, North Carolina and UCLA were also schools that the wide receiver was considering.

In the end, Holmes won’t be leaving the state of Indiana.

On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Holmes announced that he would be transferring to Purdue and continuing his collegiate playing career with the Boilermakers.  The football program has yet to address any potential addition of the transfer.

Holmes indicated at the time of his transfer that his plan was to graduate from Notre Dame in August of this year. If Holmes follows through with that plan, he would be eligible to play for Purdue in 2017.  Additionally, he’d be eligible to play during the 2018 season as well.

A four-star 2014 recruit, Holmes was rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Florida. After redshirting as a true freshman then not seeing any action in 2015, Holmes caught 11 passes for 96 yards this past season. He had a career-high four receptions in what turned out to be his final game at the school in the regular-season finale against USC.

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

‘Canes might be front-runner for transferring Irish WR Corey Holmes

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For the second time this week, Notre Dame is losing a player to transfer.

On his Twitter account Saturday afternoon, Corey Holmes indicating that he would be leaving the Fighting Irish and would be continuing his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  ND officials subsequently confirmed that the wide receiver will transfer out after the spring semester.

Holmes’ decision was triggered by a desire for a better shot at playing time.

According to the South Bend Tribune, Miami is expected to be the front-runner for Holmes’ services. The receiver also stated that Arizona State, North Carolina and UCLA “are some schools I’d be considering.”

Like it was with Malik Zaire, the quarterback who announced his transfer late last month, there will be no restrictions placed on Holmes by the university.

As it stands now, Holmes plans to graduate next August, which means he would have two years of eligibility remaining and would be eligible immediately in 2017 i he moves on to another FBS school.

A four-star 2014 recruit, Holmes was rated as the No. 27 receiver in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Florida. After redshirting as a true freshman then not seeing any action in 2015, Holmes caught 11 passes for 96 yards this past season. He had a career-high four receptions in what turned out to be his final game at the school in the regular-season finale against USC.

Notre Dame WR Torii Hunter Jr. ruled out vs. Army

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As Notre Dame’s season continues tumbling into oblivion, and as they look to maintain some hope of bowl eligibility, the Irish won’t have one of their top targets in the passing game to help break the fall.

Prior to this afternoon’s game against Army, Notre Dame announced that Torii Hunter Jr. will not play in the game against the service academy.  The wide receiver has been dealing with a knee injury that ultimately forced him to the sidelines this weekend.

Hunter suffered the injury in the loss to Navy in week 10, but ultimately returned to that game.

The senior is currently second on the team in receptions (38), receiving yards (521). He’s also third yards per reception (13.7) and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (three).

With Hunter sidelined, Kevin Stepherson (16-335-3) is expected to take on an expanded role in the passing game.