Getty Images

Big Ten National Signing Day recap: Ohio State lands historic class, Michigan not far behind

3 Comments

 

The Big Ten is the same as it ever was after National Signing Day with Ohio State and Michigan once again leading the way thanks to a boat load of talent headed their way. Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh both have proven to be some of the top coaches in college football and that is certainly apparent every February when the two land a pair of top five classes like they did this year.

The Buckeyes’ haul is particularly notable as one of the few groups that can keep pace with No. 1 ranked Alabama, even edging the Tide’s class when it comes to the average star ranking of the 21 signees. That historic haul for OSU includes the top cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive guard and top junior college defensive back. As if that isn’t enough talent headed to Columbus, the second-ranked defensive end, dual-threat quarterback and all-purpose back are also in the fold.

The Wolverines were no slouch either and managed to already enroll 11 top players early. In addition, Harbaugh and his staff reached into the South for defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and several IMG Academy stars. Defending champion Penn State made a late surge as well and Nebraska made a very nice push into Southern California to land a quality class.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 7 overall Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State), No. 8 overall Chase Young (DE, OSU), No. 11 Baron Browning (LB, OSU), No. 12 overall Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR, Michigan)

Top 25 classes: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Maryland, No. 23 Nebraska

Biggest storyline: Ohio State, Michigan find plenty of success nationally

Everybody knows the two Big Ten powerhouses will perform well on the recruiting trail given their coaching staffs, history of success and ability to put players in the league. But what might be most impressive this year is the amazing reach the two displayed in mining the entire country for talent. Meyer went to Nevada for a top quarterback, landed more blue-chippers from Texas than any in-state school and beat out just about everybody in the South for prospects from Florida. The Wolverines, meanwhile, beat out Alabama and Georgia for a five-star defensive tackle and recruited even more nationally than Notre Dame with signees from 14 different states.

Biggest surprise: Maryland lands a top 20 class

There’s always a head-turner in the team rankings each year and in 2017 that might be the fact that Maryland landed a top 20 classes and the fourth-best in the Big Ten. That includes a whopping nine four-star recruits for D.J. Durkin’s team, led by tailback Cordarrian Richardson straight from the heart of SEC territory. The team had a nice turnaround last season and appear primed to climb more based on how they did Wednesday.

Don’t sleep on: Nebraska, Iowa

Mike Riley is no stranger to the West Coast thanks to his days at USC and Oregon State and he’s clearly leaning heavily on those ties in putting together a great group for the Cornhuskers in 2017. Big Red wrestled away Nevada receiver Tyjon Lindsey away from Ohio State and beat out a bunch of names for early enrollee quarterback Tristan Gebbia from Southern California. There’s been a major infusion of speed and quickness with this class. As for the Hawkeyes, they managed to lure a surprising commitment from a five-star defensive end and really upgraded some of the skill position talent.

We’ll see about: Michigan State, Wisconsin

The usual suspects dominated the top spots in the team rankings but that wasn’t quite the case for two teams that love to recruit, develop and then crank out talent for the next level in Michigan State and Wisconsin. The two schools combined for just six four-star players on Wednesday but still managed to finish with a pair of top 40 classes. Given how well the coaching staffs have been able to find some hidden gems, chances are high that will be the case once again with their 2017 signees, even if it takes a few seasons before those results will be realized.

Lane Kiffin pushed back against wearing bulletproof vest in return to Tennessee as Alabama OC

Getty Images
Leave a comment

College football, y’all.

Suffice to say, Lane Kiffin‘s departure from Rocky Top after one season as head coach at Tennessee for the same job at USC left a bad taste in the mouth of many members of Vols Nation.  How bad of a taste?  From ESPN.com in January of 2010:

But the real trick for Kiffin was figuring out a way to leave the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center late Tuesday night in one piece.

Groups of angry students and fans began surrounding the football complex after the news leaked that Kiffin had taken the USC job. Eventually, it evolved into a mob-like scene, with police moving in and barricading Johnny Majors Drive in front of the football complex.

Every time a car moved anywhere in the vicinity of the complex, the mob ran in that direction, shouting and chanting, “F— you Kiffin!

Fast-forward nearly five years, and Kiffin made his return — a triumphant, winning return as it turned out — to Neyland Stadium as the offensive coordinator at rival Alabama in October of 2014.  Ahead of that return, security was fearful for Kiffin’s life.  So fearful, in fact, that they wanted the former Volunteers head coach to wear a bulletproof vest into the famed stadium.

At least that’s what the current Florida Atlantic head coach claimed on Marty Smith‘s podcast, by way of 247Sports.com:

It’s crazy. They were literally talking about like — from the bus in — a bulletproof vest. I’m like, ‘Come on, guys. This is football.’ They said, ‘No, really.’ They had security with me the whole way, even walking on the field and stuff like that,” Kiffin said. “I’m just like ‘I’m not wearing a vest, guys. All right?’ That’s a little bit over the top. It was all in fun. There was a lot of mean words said — four-letter words. That speaks of Tennessee’s fans, just how passionate they are. I think Phillip Fulmer said it the other day, ‘We have the most passionate fans in the country.

Of course, all that angst and anger had waned by the time UT’s next search for a head coach kicked off as a small but very vocal portion of the fanbase actually wanted the one-time Knoxville pariah to replace Butch Jones late last year.  Hell, it was even reported that, in the midst of what was a circus of a search, “Lane is definitely on board if Tennessee gives him a call” about returning as head coach.

Ah, what could’ve been…

Nebraska transfer QB Patrick O’Brien officially lands at Colorado State

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In mid-April, Patrick O’Brien took to social media to announce his decision to transfer from Nebraska.  Earlier this month, the quarterback announced his new college football home.  Wednesday, said new college football home confirmed O’Brien’s addition.

In a press release, Colorado State acknowledged that O’Brien has indeed joined Mike Bobo‘s football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the 6-4, 230-pound O’Brien will be forced to sit out the 2018 season.

However, beginning with the 2019 season, he will have two years of eligibility that he can use moving forward.

A four-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2016 recruiting class, O’Brien was rated as the No. 10 pro-style quarterback that year.  It’s that pro-style of play that led him to transfer away from Scott Frost and Nebraska after the new regime’s first spring practice came to an end earlier this offseason.

As the primary backup to Tanner Lee last season, and after redshirting his true freshman season, O’Brien completed 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and an interception.  He also ran for four yards on 14 carries.

Oregon student charged in death of former Ducks LB Fotu Leiato

Getty Images
Leave a comment

An arrest has been made in connection to the death of a former Oregon football player, the Eugene Register-Guard and The Oregonian are reporting.

Ex-Ducks linebacker Fotu Leiato was found dead early Friday morning as the result of what was described as a single-car accident. Pedro Chavarin Jr. was the driver of a vehicle that rolled over and crashed in Eugene; at the time, the 22-year-old UO student told police that he was the only occupant of the vehicle.

While Chavarin was initially charged with DUII, one count of first-degree manslaughter has since been added as Leiato’s body was found hours after the crash.  According to police, the 21-year-old Leiato had been a passenger in Chavarin’s Kia sedan at the time of the wreck.

According to The Oregonian, Chavarin faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted of first-degree manslaughter.

Leiato played in 37 games the past three seasons for the Ducks.  He was dismissed from the football program in April after the second of his two arrests this offseason.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Fotu, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” a statement from the university at the time of Leiato’s passing began. “He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him.”

Rice’s Blain Padgett died from effects of drug designed to be elephant tranquilizer

Getty Images
3 Comments

An already tragic story has taken an even sadder turn.

In early March, Rice defensive end Blain Padgett was found dead in his apartment after he failed to show for a football workout and a wellness check was performed.  This week, the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the 21-year-old’s death was caused by the “toxic effects of carfentanil, which is an analog of the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl,” KTRK-TV in Houston wrote.

From the television station’s report:

Dr. Richard Pesikoff, a Baylor College of Medicine employee, said carfentanil is a dangerous opioid that was designed to be an elephant tranquilizer.

It’s 10,000 times more potent than morphine, and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

Dr. Pesikoff said carfentanil is deadly because it causes the brain to suppress breathing.

“It’s a dangerous recreational drug,” Dr. Pesikoff said. “Probably the most dangerous. Maybe LSD is equally as dangerous because it comes in micrograms and just the tiny bit that you touch go through the pores in your skin.

In 2016, the 6-5, 250-pound Padgett was second on the team in tackles for loss with 5½ and led all Owls defensive linemen with 41 tackles.  He played in just three games this past season, while also playing in eight games as a true freshman in 2015.

In response to the cause-of-death report, the university issued the following statement:

The Rice community was deeply saddened by the loss of Blain Padgett. Out of respect for Blain and his family, we will not discuss personal or private matters. His family, teammates and friends continue to have our deepest condolences.

The drug involved in his player’s death led head coach David Bailiff to state that “[i]t makes you evaluate again as a man is there something else you could’ve done? Is there some other outreach that we could’ve lead to?” The family’s question as it pertains to the findings is a poignant one as well.

“We would like to know how Blain got his hands on this drug that seems very difficult to get,” Mical Padgett, Blain’s father, said. “That’s our main question. How did he get it and why did he take it?