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Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Miami pays Arkansas State $400,000 settlement over canceled game

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A legal issue that arose between a Power Five school and one from the Group of Five has finally been resolved.

The Miami-Arkansas State game in Jonesboro last season was scuttled by Hurricane Irma, mainly because of The U’s concerns over traveling back to South Florida in the wake of the superstorm.  ASU sued Miami in February of this year, seeking financial damages as a result of a breach of contract; Miami had sued ASU two days earlier in an effort to void the contract because the effects of the hurricane were out of its control.

In mid-September, a judge set a Dec. 20 deadline for the two sides to resolve the dispute via third-party mediation.  Wednesday, ASU announced that a settlement has been reached, with each entity dismissing their lawsuits against the other as well as Miami paying the Sun Belt school $400,000.

ASU had been seeking $650,000 in damages.

“I am pleased that both lawsuits have been resolved and that this matter is now behind us,” Brad Phelps, general counsel for the Arkansas State University System, said in the statement. “I believe this is a fair resolution of these issues.”

As part of the settlement, the 2017 game, which was the back-end of a home-and-home series, will not be rescheduled.

Last year’s winner Ed Oliver one of eight semifinalists for Outland Trophy

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Another day (hour?), another award paring down its field of players eligible to win this year’s honor.

The latest to do as much is the Outland Trophy, with the award that is handed out annually to the nation’s top interior lineman on either side of the ball announcing the eight semifinalists for this year’s honor.  Headlining the most recent group is Houston’s Ed Oliver, who was the 2017 Outland winner.

Top-ranked Alabama (offensive tackle Jonah Williams, nose guard Quinnen Williams) and second-ranked Clemson (offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins) accounted for half of the eight semifinalists.  The other three semifinalists not already mentioned are North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury, Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter and Oklahoma guard Ben Powers.

Next week, this group of eight semifinalists will be pared down to three finalists.  The winner of the 2018 Outland Trophy will be announced during the Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN in early December.

Ohio State LB Baron Browning ruled out for Maryland game

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For the second straight week, Ohio State will be down a man in its linebacking corps.

Earlier this week, Urban Meyer listed Baron Browning as probable for Saturday’s game against Maryland.  Wednesday night after practice, however, the head coach confirmed that the linebacker will not play against the Terrapins.

Browning is dealing with an unspecified injury that sidelined the sophomore linebacker for the win over Michigan State this past Saturday.

Through eight games in 2018, Browning has been credited with 22 tackles, 3½ tackles for loss and a sack.  As noted by ElevenWarriors.com, Browning has been rotating in with Tuf Borland at the middle linebacker spot throughout the season.

A five-star 2017 signee, Browning played in a dozen games as a true freshman last year.

Western Michigan announces firing of DC Tim Daoust

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Tuesday night, Western Michigan was officially removed from MAC West contention.  Less than 24 hours later, WMU removed one of its top assistants.

Wednesday night, the Broncos announced that they have “parted ways” with defensive coordinator Tim Daoust.  The move comes after WMU gave up 42 points in a loss to a three-win Ball State team that came into the game 99th in the country in scoring (24.5 points per game).

All told, the Broncos gave up 51, 59 and 42 points in three straight losses that knocked them out of the West race and handed the division title to Northern Illinois.

“I appreciate Tim and his family’s dedication to the Bronco football family these past two seasons,” head coach Tim Lester said in a statement. “At this time I felt we needed to go in a different direction.”

This was Daoust’s second stint in Kalamazoo as he was an assistant with the Broncos from 2006-09.  Prior to this two-year stint at WMU, Daoust was the coordinator at Ball State.

Daoust will be replaced for the remainder of the year by defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Lou Esposito.  WMU, which is bowl-eligible for a school-record fifth-straight year, will close out the 2018 regular season against West champion NIU next Tuesday.