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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.

More signs connecting Charlie Strong to analyst role at Alabama

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At this point, it would seemingly be an upset if Charlie Strong doesn’t land at Alabama football.

In early December of last year, Strong was let go as the head coach at South Florida.  Over the past two-plus months, the 59-year-old Strong has remained on the outside of the coaching profession looking in.  There has been speculation, though, that Strong could be returning to Florida and joining Dan Mullens‘ extended staff as a defensive analyst.

Late last week, however, it was reported that Charlie Strong was in Tuscaloosa visiting with the Alabama football coaching staff.  A few days later, it’s now being reported that Strong is expected back in T-Town this week.  Perhaps as early as tomorrow, according to Matt Zenitz of al.com.

Nick Saban doesn’t have an opening on his 10-man on-field coaching staff.  However, Charlie Strong could conceivably join the Alabama football program as some type of an analyst, ala Butch Jones and myriad others.

Strong has spent the past decade as a head coach.  After going 37-15 in four seasons (2010-13) at Louisville, Strong left to take the head job at Texas.  Three seasons (2014-16) in Austin ended with his dismissal following a 16-21 record.  Strong’s tenure at USF ended after three seasons (2017-19) as well and a 4-8 2019 campaign.

In the last six years of his head-coaching career, Strong posted a 37-37 record.

Prior to that, Strong spent seven years (2003-09) as the defensive coordinator at Florida.  During that time with the Gators, he also coached defensive ends and linebackers.  For four of those seasons, Mullen was UF’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before leaving to take the Mississippi State job.

That was actually Strong’s fourth stint with the Gators.  From 1991-94, he coached defensive tackles (1994) and defensive ends (1991-93).  He also served as outside linebackers coach from 1988-89.  Strong began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at UF in 1983-84.

Strong was also the defensive coordinator at South Carolina for four years (1999-2002) before moving on to Gainesville that fourth time.  In between the third Gainesville stint and his time in Columbia, Strong was the defensive line coach at Notre Dame from 1995-98.

Kentucky’s Vince Marrow will likely be highest-paid non-coordinator in college football this year

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For Vince Marrow of Kentucky, it paid to be wooed by Michigan State.

After an initial denial, Mel Tucker reversed course and left Colorado to become the Michigan State head coach. Not only will Tucker be doubling his salary in East Lansing, but his salary pool for assistant coaches will be nearly double what he had to work with in Boulder as well.

Marrow was one of the assistants Tucker had hoped to bring to Michigan State, wooing the longtime Kentucky coach and close friend into his new fold. Instead, he opted to eschew the chance to move to Michigan State and remain at Kentucky.

In a non-coincidental move, UK Monday released the details of a new contract agreement signed last Thursday by Marrow. Per that new deal, Marrow, who is tight ends coach while also serving as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach, will be paid $900,000 annually as part of the three-year contract. This past season, Marrow was paid $600,000 in guaranteed compensation.

With Mike Yurcich ($950,000) taking over as Texas’ offensive coordinator after spending 2019 as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and Sam Pittman ($900,000) leaving as Georgia’s offensive line to take the head job at Arkansas, Marrow is currently the highest-paid non-coordinator in college football. That statement is based on the USA Today coaches salary database.

Marrow will also have a salary on par with UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and slightly above the $875,000 set for defensive coordinator Brad White.

The 51-year-old Marrow has spent the past eight seasons at Kentucky.  He was retained when Mark Stoops took over the Wildcats in November of 2012.

Chris Creighton puts finishing touches on Eastern Michigan staff with three additions

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Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton is ready to go to work with a new staff finally put in place in Ypsilanti. On Monday, Eastern Michigan formally announced the additions of tight ends coach Brandon Blaney, cornerbacks coach LaMarcus Hicks, and quarterbacks coach Mike Piatkowski. A few role adjustments on the staff were also ironed out for the upcoming season.

Blaney joins the Eastern Michigan staff after spending the past two seasons as an offensive analyst for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Blaney also has NFL coaching experience as an assistant with the Tennessee Titans and he previously coached at Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Youngstown State. For Creighton, it was a long time coming to be able to land Blaney on his coaching staff.

“I have wanted to work with Coach Blaney since the late 1990s,” Creighton said in a released statement. “I am thrilled that it has worked out for him to join us here at Eastern Michigan. He has been successful at so many different levels. His expertise and genuine care for our players will serve us well.”

Hicks joins the Eagles program after two years at another MAC program, Bowling Green. Piatkowski comes to the program from his most recent job at Indiana, but he has a history with Eastern Michigan. Piatkowski was a graduate assistant on the coaching staff at EMU in 2016-17. Piatkowski also played for Creighton at Drake.

As for returning members of the coaching staff, James Patton is taking on the role of run game coordinator while retaining his role as offensive line coach. Fred Reed will move from coaching the cornerbacks to coaching the safeties, now that Hicks will take on the cornerback coaching. Special teams coordinator Jay Nunez will now also be in charge of coaching defensive tackles.

Eastern Michigan will begin spring football practices on March 10. The Eagles are coming off a 6-7 season that ended with a loss to Pitt in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Mel Tucker bringing OL coach Chris Kapilovic from Colorado to Michigan State

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As is typically the case any time a head coach moves from one school to another, he is bound to take some assistants from his previous stop with him. Mel Tucker appears to be doing just that as he puts together his coaching staff at Michigan State. Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic is reportedly making the move from Boulder to East Lansing to remain a part of Tucker’s coaching staff.

Football Scoop and Buff Stampede each reported the news of Kapilovic following Tucker to Michigan State on Monday afternoon. As reported by Football Scoop, Kapilovic turned down a couple of offers to join the coaching staff at Auburn and Missouri this offseason with the intent on remaining in Colorado with Tucker. But once Tucker had his sudden change of heart regarding the vacancy in East Lansing, the situation changed for Kapilovic as well. And with those SEC offers no longer being options, a move to the Big Ten may be just as lucrative. It was certainly lucrative enough for Tucker, of course, and Tucker’s coaching staff should be set to receive better pay compared to the pay that was being offered at Colorado.

Tucker has already retained two holdovers from the coaching staff assembled by former Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. Ron Burton opted to stay at Michigan State as a defensive line coach after nearly leaving for Indiana (Indiana has just filled the vacancy Burton was slated to occupy). Mike Tressel, who was Dantonio’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (and was named the interim head coach following Dantonio’s retirement), is also staying in East Lansing.