Da’Shawn Hand: Michigan’s loss is Alabama’s gain

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The general consensus Thursday morning was that Da’Shawn Hand, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, would play his college ball at Michigan. Brady Hoke’s staff was expected to land the nation’s two top recruits, with Hand joining No. 2 overall prospect Jabril Peppers, a defensive back from New Jersey.

But, like everything in college football the last three years, it all came back to Alabama.

“It was hard, but I think I made the right decision,” Hand said. “Roll Tide.”

Hand would’ve been a game-changing recruit for a program like Michigan. Adding him and Peppers to the mix in 2014 could’ve been a boon for Michigan’s BCS hopes, even with both players seeing their first collegiate snaps.

For Alabama, he adds to the ever-growing talent pool in Tuscaloosa.

“I know when I go in, I’m not going to No. 1 on the depth chart, and I know I gotta do a lot of hard work,” Hand said. “But they have the most freshmen playing this year, so anything’s possible.”

No doubt this one stings for Brady Hoke and his coaching staff. At 6-3 and with games at Northwestern and Iowa preceding a season-ending home game vs. Ohio State, Michigan isn’t in great shape. After beating Notre Dame in Week 2, it was hard to imagine this team sputtering to what could be a 7-5 finish. A year ago, Michigan went 8-5.

Hoke isn’t, and shouldn’t be, on the hot seat in Ann Arbor just yet. But landing Hand and Peppers in the same class could’ve positioned Michigan extremely well in a weak conference dominated by their rival to the south.

South Carolina hadn’t won 10 games since 1984 before Jadeveon Clowney — 2011’s No. 1 recruit — came to Columbia. In Clowney’s first two seasons on campus, South Carolina went 11-2; the Gamecocks are 7-2 and likely will make it three consecutive 10-win seasons with a victory over Clemson or in their bowl game.

Of course, there are plenty of other factors that’ve gone into that success beyond just Clowney — the emergence of Marcus Lattimore, for example.

But these No. 1 recruits are game-changers, especially for programs spinning their wheels a bit (side note: Michigan made the 2012 Sugar Bowl less on merit and more on fanbase; eligible teams in Boise State, Kansas State and Baylor all ranked ahead of Michigan in the final regular season BCS standings).

Perhaps Peppers can turn Michigan around on his own. But that’s not an easy task for any single player, let alone a defensive back.

Instead, the game-changing Hand goes to a program not in need of a game-changer. He’ll likely help widen the gap between Alabama and everyone else. Specifically looking at Hand’s choices, he’ll also help widen the gulf between the SEC and Big Ten.

While Hand talked up Alabama’s academics — he’ll major in civil engineering — Michigan brought excellent academics to the table. The difference-maker, then, become this: Two straight national championships, three in four years and a possible three-peat clinched in January.

It’s tough for any program to compete with that.

“Why not go where it’s a great possibility that you can win a national championship,” Hand said. “I’m just excited. Roll Tide.”

Les Koenning is Les Miles’ second OC hire at Kansas

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For the second time this offseason, a Koenning has been added to a new Power Five coaching staff.  And, for the second time since taking over in Lawrence two months ago, Les Miles has hired an offensive coordinator.

Jan. 10, Troy announced that Chip Lindsey, hired by Miles as Kansas’ offensive coordinator the month before, would take over as the Sun Belt program’s head football coach and replace Neal Brown, who left to take the head job at West Virginia.  Two weeks after Lindsay’s departure, KU confirmed Tuesday that Les Koenning will take over for Lindsey as the Jayhawks’ coordinator.

Koenning, whose cousin, Vic Koenning, was named as WVU’s defensive coordinator by Brown earlier this month, spent the 2018 season as the running backs coach at Southern Miss.

“We are so excited to add an offensive coordinator with the experience of Les Koenning,” said Miles in a statement. “He has proven to be an innovative offensive mind who has great success recruiting and developing offensive skill players, particularly at the quarterback position.”

Koenning has served as the coordinator at six stops at the FBS level — UAB (2016-17), Mississippi State (2009-13), Texas A&M (2003-07), Alabama (2001-02), Houston (1999) and Duke (1998).

QB Nick Starkel taking a grad transfer out of Texas A&M

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You can add yet another name to the burgeoning free-agent quarterback pool.

Tuesday night, Nick Starkel used a tweet to announce that he has decided to transfer from Texas A&M and “will explore finishing my final two years of eligibility at another program.” Starkel will graduate from A&M this June, which would make him eligible to use the first of those two years of eligibility immediately in 2019.

Starkel was the Aggies’ starter to open the 2017 season, but suffered a broken ankle in that game that sidelined him for nearly two months.  It turned out to not be a season-ending injury as Starkel returned to start the last four games of Kevin Sumlin‘s final season in College Station, a late-season stint that included a career-high 499-yard effort in a Belk Bowl loss to Wake Forest.

Entering the 2018 offseason as the incumbent, but with a new head coach in Jimbo Fisher in place, Starkel lost the starting job to Kellen Mond and played in just five games this past season — the first four of 2018 plus the bowl game.  In those appearances, the redshirt sophomore completed 15-of-22 passes for a touchdown.

The A&M portion of his playing career will end with the Texas native having totaled 1,962 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions on 138–of-227 passing.

Deion Sanders’ son, a three-star 2019 recruit, commits to South Carolina

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Barring a change of heart in the next couple of weeks, there won’t be a Primetime legacy in Tallahassee this coming season.

In October of last year, Shilo Sanders, the son of former Florida State great and College Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, received a scholarship offer from his father’s alma mater.  three months later, the elder Sanders, a 2019 prospect, announced via video that he has committed to playing his college football at South Carolina.

The defensive back’s decision to commit to the Gamecocks came not long after a second visit to Columbia.

While holding an offer from FSU, Sanders chose USC over a group of schools that included Colorado State, Nebraska and Tennessee.  He was also offered by, among others, Georgia, Oregon, Oregon State and UCF.

CSU was the only other school to which he took an official visit.

The elder Sanders is the offensive coordinator at his son Shilo’s school, Cedar Hill (Tex.) Trinity Christian High School.  Shilo’s younger brother, 2021 prospect Shedeur Sanders, is a wide receiver at the school as well.

Shilo Sanders is rated as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.com’s composite board for the 2019 cycle.

Mississippi State officially adds UConn RBs coach

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Not long after losing a position coach to an SEC West rival, Joe Moorhead turned to an area of the country familiar to him to fill his Mississippi State staff void.

Tuesday, MSU announced that Terry Richardson has been hired by Moorhead to serve as the Bulldogs’ running backs coach.  Additionally, Richardson will hold the title of assistant head coach.

Richardson will replace Charles Huff, who’s expected to move on to a job on Nick Saban‘s Alabama coaching staff.  That move has yet to be confirmed by the Crimson Tide.

“Terry has coached running backs for nearly 20 years at both the college and NFL levels,” Moorhead said in a statement. “He has a firm grasp of our offense and will maximize the potential we have in our running backs room. Having played and coached in the NFL, he understands what it takes to develop players for the next level. Terry is also a dynamic recruiter with proven experience in the South, especially in the state of Florida. We are excited to welcome someone of Terry’s caliber to the Mississippi State family.”

The past two seasons, Richardson was the running backs coach at UConn.  He’s also spent time in that position on staffs at Maryland (2015), Miami (2011-12) and again at UConn (1999-2010).  During that first stint with the Huskies, Moorhead was that team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

From 2013-14, he was the running backs for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

“This is a great opportunity to work with great people at an outstanding university in the best conference in America,” Richardson said. “I am excited to reconnect with Coach Moorhead and work with him again. He is a tremendous football coach and an even better person. We will be well-versed on all five phases of running back play, and our group will maximize our opportunities to make a major impact in winning football games.”