SEC Network on pace for solid debut

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If there were any fears from SEC fans about not being able to get the SEC Network, which hits airwaves next month, many of those nightmare scenarios are starting to calm down. Today ESPN and Cox Communications announced the two sides have reached an agreement to bring the SEC Network to Cox subscribers.

“The addition of Cox is another very important step in the development of the SEC Network, bringing millions more viewers nationwide to the network when it launches on August 14,” said SEC commissioner Mike Slive in a released statement. “As one of the largest cable television distributors in the U.S., including five states in the SEC footprint, this agreement with Cox has a significant impact on exposure for the SEC.”

It certainly is. As it stands now, the SEC Network is scheduled to go live with access to an estimated 26 million customers.

It is important to make note the Big Ten Network’s launch faced a different TV environment and had to break down some walls to be able to help sell the idea that a conference-specific network was desirable and worth adding. Since then the Pac-12 has launched the Pac-12 Network, media rights deals have skyrocketed and now the ACC is contemplating the possibility of launching its own network. The customer base expected to have access to the SEC Network when it launches in mid-August is a testament to the popularity and demand for conference-specific programming from region to region.

The SEC Network is currently scheduled to be available to customers of Dish Network, Google Fiber, AT&T U-Verse and assorted smaller carriage providers throughout the region (Comcast is not a done deal yet, but expected to be finalized before launch; Verizon FIOS should not be far behind either). The SEC Network still has to get by the DirecTV hurdle, but there is still time to sort out that one.

Devin Bush confirms he’s leaving Michigan early for the NFL

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Not surprisingly, the collegiate portion of Devin Bush‘s playing career has come to an end.

In the midst of the Early National Signing Period, Bush took to Twitter to announce that, as expected, he will be foregoing his senior season in order to make himself available for the 2019 NFL Draft. Additionally, Bush confirmed that he will not be playing in Michigan’s bowl game against Florida.

“Despite getting treatment every day, I have not been cleared to practice or play in the Peach Bowl due to the hip injury I suffered in the [Ohio State] game,” the linebacker wrote.

One of the top linebackers in the country, Bush was a finalist for the 2018 Butkus Award won by LSU’s Devin White.  He was also named as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Linebacker of the Year late last month.

Bush joins teammate and defensive lineman Rashan Gary as Wolverines who have left U-M early this year for the 2019 draft.

Five-star DB who flipped from Michigan to Alabama a week ago flips back to Michigan

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This just might be the perfect example of how a verbal commitment is not even remotely binding.

On Sept. 18 of this year, five-star 2019 prospect Daxton Hill announced that he had committed to playing his college football at Michigan.  On Dec. 8 of this year, that same recruit announced that he had decommitted from Michigan and, on the same day, committed to playing his college football at Alabama.

As the second Early National Signing Period dawned earlier today, Hill decommitted from Alabama and signed his National Letter of Intent with… Michigan.

And, at least for now, there will be no additional flipflopping as Hill is officially signed, sealed and delivered to Ann Arbor.

Hill, the younger brother of Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill, is the top-rated safety in the Class of 2019 and, according to 247Sports.com‘s composite board, the No. 8 prospect overall.

Battle won: Alabama flips four-star DB commit from Ohio State

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In late June, four-star Florida defensive back Jordan Battle committed to Ohio State.  A little over five months later, Urban Meyer announced his retirement as OSU’s head coach; a couple of weeks later, Meyer’s replacement, Ryan Day, officially suffered his first big loss.

Even after Battle committed to OSU, and before Meyer’s retirement announcement, he took official visits to, among others, Alabama.  As the second Early National Signing Period kicked off Wednesday, the uncertainty for the Buckeyes over the level of Battle’s commitment morphed into a hard reality as the St. Thomas Aquinas product officially flipped his commitment from OSU and signed with the Crimson Tide.

It’s a big loss for Day as Battle had been the third-highest-rated commitment in OSU’s 2019 recruiting class, and the highest-rated recruit on the defensive side of the ball.  Battle becomes the first 2019 commit to decommit since Meyer announced he was stepping down, although two 2020 four-star prospects decommitted in the days after the announcement.

On the flip side, of course, Battle’s signing merely adds to an Alabama class that entered the day as the top-ranked group in the country.

Battle is a consensus four-star prospect, rated as the No. 6 safety in the country; the No. 10 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 77 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  As was the case with the Buckeyes, it’s believed he will, at least initially, play cornerback for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama enters Early Signing Day with nation’s top-ranked class, could add at least two five-star undecideds

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It appears very likely the 2018 cycle will indeed be but a hiccup for the recruiting machine that is the Alabama Crimson Tide.

From 2011-17, Nick Saban pulled in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class to Tuscaloosa.  Last year, however, Georgia and former UA defensive coordinator Kirby Smart knocked Saban off his recruiting perch and claimed the top class in 2018.

As we head into the second Early National Signing Day, Alabama once again sits atop 247Sports.com‘s team rankings with 304.52 points (24 commits, including two five-stars and 21 four-stars).  The Tide is also poised to add to their recruiting riches as they are in play for five uncommitted five-star prospects:

  • Florida running back Trey Sanders — No. 5 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Louisiana defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher — No. 9 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • West Virginia offensive tackle Darnell Wright — No. 10 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Mississippi linebacker Nakobe Dean — No. 14 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board
  • Florida offensive tackle Evan Neal — No. 20 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board

Of the five, though, Alabama is only currently projected to corral two of them (Sanders, Neal).  LSU is in line to land Sopsher (per 247 crystal ball projections), who is expected to wait until the February signing period to put pen to paper, while Tennessee is an overwhelming favorite for Wright.  Dean is viewed to be a near tossup between UA and Georgia, with a slight lean toward UGA but also with other SEC schools (Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss) in the mix.

After Alabama, the rest of the current Top 10 consists of, in order from Nos. 2-10, Georgia (287.38), Texas A&M (282.55), LSU (274.12), Oregon (272.07), Clemson (269.57), Texas (268.18), Oklahoma (263.03), Michigan (262.36) and Ohio State (255.99).

Those last two rivals, incidentally, could make a big early splash as both are in the mix for the top uncommitted 2019 prospect, Ohio defensive end Zach Harrison (No. 4 on 247′s composite board).  While Penn State is also a finalist, the home-state Buckeyes are the projected front-runners for Harrison, who will tweet his school of choice around 12:30 ET this afternoon.

And that’s it.  A tweet.  No dog-and-pony show, no elaborate signing ceremony.  Just a tweet to announce where he will spend at least the next three years.  Refreshing.