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Can Ohio State land Big Ten’s first No. 1 recruiting class since 2002?

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On a day that saw Ohio State flip a pair of talented players from Maryland’s Class of 2016 and add one more nice addition to a stocked Class of 2016 haul, the Ohio State Buckeyes are, for the moment, the new recruiting kings in college football. Rivals pushed Ohio State up to No. 1 in the latest team rankings with National Signing Day just a few weeks away.

Urban Meyer and Ohio State currently have a recruiting class lined up of 21 players, which includes two players receiving five-star grades from Rivals and 14 more with a four-star ranking. The latest prizes of the recruiting season are four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and five-star linebacker Keandre Jones (both flipped from Maryland) and four-star wide receiver Binjimen Victor out of Florida. Six of Ohio State’s four-star recruits in 2016 have already enrolled in Columbus, which helps put Ohio State ahead of the curve this recruiting cycle. It is not just Rivals giving the Buckeyes top accolades right now either. Scout and 247 Sports each have bumped the Buckeyes into first place as well (247 Sports‘ composite ranking also shows the Buckeyes locking down the top spot).

What remains to be seen in the weeks to come is whether or not Ohio State can manage to land the top class at the end of the signing day festivities. USC was crowned the recruiting national champion by Rivals in 2015, snapping a four-year run by Alabama from 2011 through 2014 (Alabama was second in 2015 according to Rivals). History suggests Ohio State will lose its grip on the top spot in the Rivals rankings. No Big Ten has landed the No. 1 class since 2002 according to the Rivals database. Alabama and USC have combined for 12 of the 14 classes ranked by Rivals, with Texas and LSU each landed one top class in that time. If the Buckeyes can finish strongly enough, they could make some history.

Ohio State has been light years ahead of its Big Ten rivals in the recruiting game for a while now, especially since the hiring of Meyer. Michigan has made some moves over the years but it is clear the hiring of Jim Harbaugh continues to breathe new life into the recruiting juice of the historic power in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are currently ranked fifth in the Class of 2016 team rankings and could make a push for the top spot in the rankings as well. Meanwhile, Michigan State (No. 11) and Penn State (No. 18) are the only other Big Ten programs currently ranked in the top 25 by Rivals.

LSU (No. 2), Ole Miss (No. 3), Florida (No. 6) and Georgia (No. 9) are all currently sitting in front of Alabama, which feels odd right now, but expect the Crimson Tide to benefit from some later decisions on and around national signing day for a final push. The Crimson Tide also should get a nice championship game victory bump, as if they need it.

Clemson (No. 7) is just ahead of division rival Florida State (No. 8) for now, and each could end up making some late noise on signing day, as is typically the case. North Carolina (No. 16) and Miami (No. 19) are also floating in the middle of the top 25 and even Duke (No. 25) is hanging on to a top 25 recruiting class.

As things stand right now, just two Big 12 teams are currently ranked among the top 25 recruiting classes. Baylor (No. 10) and TCU (No. 24) are the lone representatives among the top 25 of the Rivals rankings. Oklahoma is sitting at No. 27. If you are a Texas fan, brace yourself. Texas Tech (No. 37) and West Virginia (No. 40), not to mention Houston (No.28) are all currently ranked ahead of the Longhorns (No. 42).

In the Pac-12, UCLA (No. 13) is on track for another talented recruiting haul, but USC (No. 18) can always make a late push as well. Both have done well on signing day in recent years, and that trend could continue. Defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, the kings of football in California when it comes to results on the field, are also looking to sign a top 20 class. Meanwhile, Oregon (No. 22) continues to recruit well but continues to show a need to finish strong on the recruiting trail heading to signing day.

Transfers from Rutgers, Coastal Carolina land at same FCS school

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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.

Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program.  James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.

As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.  He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.

Witness in hoops trial claims he paid football players from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, others

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A sweeping college hoops scandal that’s engulfed the sport has now touched its gridiron counterpart.

Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh financial advisor-turned government informant after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges, took the witness stand Tuesday in the college basketball fraud trial and levied some potentially explosive allegations.  As part of his testimony, Blazer alleged that, between 2000-14, he paid football players from, among others, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pitt.  The payments, some of which were in the thousands of dollars, were aimed at convincing the player to remain in college and not enter the NFL draft in the hopes that they would retain him as their financial adviser when they did turn pro.

The names of specific players were, for the most part, not mentioned by Blazer.

The most damning of the accusations made by Blazer seems to involve Penn State during the Joe Paterno era.  Specifically, Blazer alleges that he paid the father of then-Penn State player Aaron Maybin $10,000, with the payment being made at the behest of an unnamed Paterno assistant coach.

If accurate, the NCAA would consider such an arrangement a major infraction.  It’s unclear what, if any, action The Association will take on the football side of the accusations made under oath.

Requests for comment from each of the football programs mentioned in Blazer’s testimony have not yet been met with a response.

Kentucky’s Gunnar Hoak latest QB to enter transfer database

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You can go ahead and add Kentucky to the burgeoning list of FBS schools that have lost signal-callers to the infamous portal.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday morning, Kentucky’s Gunnar Hoak wrote that, “[a]fter much thought and consideration, I have decided to put my name in the NCAA transfer portal.” As Hoak is set to graduate from UK very early next month, the quarterback would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS program immediately in 2019.

As an added bonus for whichever school he ultimately chooses, Hoak has two seasons of eligibility available.

After losing out in the quarterback competition that ended in summer camp, Hoak spent the 2018 season as starter Terry Wilson‘s primary backup.  In that role, Hoak completed 13 of his 26 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Coming out of high school in Dublin, Ohio, Hoak was a three-star 2016 signee.

RB Jonathan Taylor competing with Wisconsin track team

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Jonathan Taylor is on track to be one of the most prolific running backs in college football history, but, this spring, he’ll be giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “on track.”

Wisconsin confirmed Tuesday that the Badgers running back will run in at least three meets with the UW track & field team this spring.  Taylor will make his collegiate track debut this weekend at the Penn Relays.  Additionally, he’ll run in the university’s Alumni Classic May 3 and the Big Ten Championships May 10-12.

Taylor will be running a leg of the 4×100-meter relay team, and would run in the NCAA prelims as well if they qualify.

Taylor, one of a handful of preseason Heisman Trophy favorites, is no stranger to the track as he won a pair of New Jersey state high school titles in the 100-meter dash.

As a true freshman in 2017, his 1,977 yards were third nationally.  This past season, he led the country in rushing with 2,194 yards.  If Taylor were to rush for at least 2,235 yards in 2018 — five players in FBS history have surpassed that total in college football history, most recently San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny in 2017 — he would break Donnel Pumphrey‘s all-time record of 6,405 career rushing yards.