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10 Takeaways from the new early Signing Day and the Class of 2018

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Well, that was different.

The very first early National Signing Day in college football has come and we finally found some answers for something that many fans of the sport were wondering about. Even if you are not following recruiting like a junkie, you probably had reason to get excited over the next class of freshman for your team or league as coaches far and wide lay the ground work for championships (or their eventual firings).

Sorting through everything from coast-to-coast, here are a few takeaways after the initial flurry of news out of the signing period and what to take note of:

1. Dabo Do and Kirby Can

The center of the recruiting world on Wednesday? That just might be in the 75 mile stretch between Athens and Clemson.

The Tigers and head coach Dabo Swinney inked the No. 1 and No. 3 players in the 247Sports Composite rankings and three of the top 10 recruits in the country. Perhaps most notably, they plucked the top offensive tackle out of Ohio in Jackson Carman, yet another top-ranked quarterback out of Georgia in Trevor Lawrence and the best defensive lineman in the country out of IMG Academy in Florida in Xavier Thomas. Considering how small the class is going to be in terms of numbers, it’s certainly not lacking for impact players.

Not a bad little haul for a team that is No. 1 in the country and playing for a second straight national title next month.

Then there’s that other semifinalist this year in Georgia. Kirby Smart certainly has turned the Bulldogs into a recruiting machine and has the No. 2 class in the country at the moment. It’s not just quantity for the SEC champs but a lot of quality too. That includes the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in Justin Fields and a total of three of the top 10 players in the rankings.

What’s even crazier is they’re not even done and still involved in several other top 100 guys over the next few days and through the February signing period. The rich certainly seem like they will get richer and we’re not talking about that new tax bill either.

2. Urban Meyer and the Ohio State narrative

It’s kind of wild to see the discussion surrounding the Big Ten champions as Wednesday unfolded because it almost felt like many were disappointed in the effort Ohio State had on the recruiting trail.

Wait, what?

Urban Meyer managed to walk away from Wednesday with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation — by a wide margin. It’s loaded with four- and five-star players and might just be the best non-Alabama group anybody has signed in the past few years. Defensive coordinator Greg Schanio managed to wind up ranked as the No. 2 recruiter among all assistants per 247Sports as well.

Yet there was quite a bit of grumbling from some OSU fans about some missed opportunities with the Class of 2018. As mentioned above, Carman left the state for Clemson and longtime quarterback commit Emory Jones flipped to Florida (in addition to strongly considering Florida State). Five-star defensive lineman Micah Parsons, who was involved in a bit of a recruiting scandal in Columbus, also signed with division rival Penn State.

The only flip that noted recruit-flipper Meyer managed to turn was probably Cameron Brown, a four-star wideout who was previously set to join Nebraska.

Make no mistake, the Buckeyes got better with this class of recruits and ended the day with a better group than, well, everybody. It didn’t quite seem that way as the day unfolded but Ohio State probably won’t mind when all is said and done when these guys suit up over the coming year.

3. Fresh faces, new places

One of the most talked about aspects of the early signing period has been the impact on programs hiring new head coaches quicker than ever to keep pace with the accelerated recruiting calendar. How did it all shake out? Pretty much as expected to be honest, with a few notable flips from some recruits but mostly business as normal for most.

Down in the SEC — where there was greater movement than any league — things were perhaps the most intriguing. Dan Mullen landed Jones as his quarterback in the future while new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt managed to flip highly-touted signal-caller J.T. Shrout away from Cal. Joe Moorhead reeled in a top 25 class at Mississippi State and new full-time coach Matt Luke did a remarkable job in getting Ole Miss into the same zip code given NCAA sanctions in Oxford.

Then there’s Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M, which will ink a top 20 group (currently sitting at No. 18 in the 247Sports’ rankings) that has room to rise as the Aggies are in on several top prospects that should sign in the regular period in February. His old job isn’t doing so hot though, as Willie Taggart and the Seminoles are sitting in the 60’s as the biggest shock of the day.

Things weren’t so smooth out West either. Chip Kelly saw only a handful of his 10 commitments sign on the dotted line and had the Bruins a few spots behind crosstown rival USC with the gap growing by the day. Oregon’s new staff did well to secure a top 15 class but saw several decommitments down the stretch and a handful of non-West Coast prospects opt to wait until the next signing period instead of inking with the Ducks.

4. Who didn’t sign

As much as this new early signing date was about who did send in their National Letter of Intent, it was also about who didn’t. That includes both the uncommitted players for 2018 and the ones who are verbally committed to teams but not signing.

Among the players who didn’t wind up faxing in their letters on Wednesday (as of 2 pm. ET) in the 247Sports’ top 20: cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. (No. 5 overall), wideout Terrace Marshall (No. 11), receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (No. 12) and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (No. 17).

Only a handful of schools like Notre Dame and Washington were able to lock up their entire recruiting class of verbal commitments on Wednesday. That means the work certainly isn’t over yet for many head coaches over the coming months as they work to reassure some players and lure others into a commitment.

5. Strange sight in the Pac-12

Taking a glance at where Pac-12 programs rank nationally at the moment might cause a bit of a double-take.

To start with, the top class in the conference is at Washington, which was the only team out West to crack the top 10 (for the moment) after overtaking a sliding Oregon. The Ducks are still sitting pretty with a top 15 class given the coaching change but that was not quite where they were in the top five just a week ago.

After those two though? You’ll have to all the way down to… USC. Well no surprise there, right? Wrong, because the Trojans are hovering in the mid-20’s and have just 11 commitments. The cardinal and gold are naturally in the mix to land several guys down the stretch but it’s still strange to see the team around the N.C. State’s and Michigan State’s of the world as lunch comes and goes on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Also a notable absence in the top 20 like they normally are? Stanford. The Cardinal are always a bit of a unique program when it comes to recruiting and the limited numbers they take do them no favors when it comes to the formulas used to determine these things. Still, it’s not what we’re used to seeing on National Signing Day compared to the past few years and a possible sign of things being a little different with the new date.

6. Alabama’s grip at the top

Sunrise, sunset and Alabama landing the No. 1 recruiting class. It seems like it’s been routine up to this point but that’s because it has as Nick Saban has landed the No. 1 recruiting class every year since 2011.

Think about that, the best group… every year… for seven years. Even when you think somebody might pass the Tide, they end up closing strong by signing a few more five-stars and Saban winds up smiling for the cameras when all is said and done just like normal.

That will not be the case with the Class of 2018 barring a huge surprise however. Heck, Alabama might not even wind up No. 1 in their own conference.

While the team rankings are far from finalized given that we have two more days left here in December and another period to go in February, it seems like the king of recruiting will finally be topped this cycle. Ohio State currently sits at No. 1 in the team rankings and No. 2 Georgia is closing on them quickly by signing six — count ‘em, six — five-stars on Wednesday. Neither appear to be done either.

7. Big 12’s big dogs (and then some)

Remember when there was some discussion earlier this year of Lincoln Riley and Tom Herman starting a Red River Rival edition of the 10 Year War after their first seasons at Oklahoma and Texas? Well, if you didn’t believe it at first maybe you’ve reconsidered after this month.

The Sooners made it to the College Football Playoff, saw Baker Mayfield grab the Heisman Trophy and now have inked a top 10 recruiting class to keep the momentum going. While things have been a bit disappointing on the 40 Acres for the Longhorns, they still bounced back to land the Big 12’s best class and the third-best group in the country after Wednesday according to the rankings. Significantly, that includes a near sweep of the Lone Star State’s highest rated prospects and included maybe the best secondary haul of anybody in a long time with six defensive backs in the top 100 in the nation.

That’s impressive and much-needed for the Big 12 to have both of their bluebloods recruiting and playing at an elite level.

It was also quite notable to see TCU back in the top 25 again and Baylor punching as far above one’s 2017 season as you can get by landing a top 25 class as well despite winning just one game all year.

8. The great unknown comes next: coaching changes

Lost amid all the excitement that came on Wednesday will be what assistant coaches will end up changing jobs. It happens every single year after the normal signing date in February and nobody quite knows if that will be the case again after the December period closes.

Remember, there’s still seven weeks between now and the next date for pen meeting paper. Add in the fact that schools can hire a 10th assistant in early January and there’s bound to be a lot of movement over the coming days, weeks and months when it comes to assistant coaches. How will that re-shape the rankings and commitments? Nobody really knows just yet.

9. All-Name Team

The great Matt Hinton cobbled together another great group of All-Namers from the Class of 2018, many of whom signed on Wednesday. Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool might be MVP of the team but we, for one, can’t wait to have Joe Tessitore or some other play-by-play man get really excited about Rachad Wildgoose Jr. making a tackle or picking off a pass.

10. Until next time

There was a lot of energy put into Wednesday as the first ever early signing period got underway and many schools treated it just like they did back in February. That includes live stream shows from various football facilities, flashy new graphics to announce new players who signed and wall-to-wall coverage on TV (seven hours on the Big Ten Network!).

So let’s do it all again in two months.

In all seriousness, it will be fascinating to see how the later date plays out across the country on February 7th. Will things be a bit more muted the second time around or will it feel like normal? We didn’t get many live TV announcements, no parent drama, non-faxed NLI’s or commitments involving animals this time around — will that be the case on the next go around?

Nobody knows for sure but it will be worth following along.

Mike Gundy says season should start on time because ‘we need to run money’ through state of Oklahoma

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In arguing that coaches should get back to work on May 1 and the season should start on time, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy inadvertently argued that college football players are professional athletes. That, or indentured servants.

In an hourlong teleconference Tuesday that began with a 20-minute monologue, Gundy said, though he’s not 100 percent, the season should begin on time because players are young and, thus, “have the ability to fight this virus off” and because “we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”

He also said there are “too many people that are relying on” college football the sport not to be played.

Gundy floated the idea that games could be played without fans in the stands and students on campus.

Others can debate about Gundy’s thoughts on testing and antibodies and the ability of a 22-year-old to “fight off COVID-19” — though I’d add Boise assistant Zac Alley, a 26-year-old, said his bout with the disease was like breathing with a knife in his ribs — but I’d like to talk about the economic implications of Gundy’s comments.

Gundy is not wrong at all that plenty of families depend on college athletics to put food on the table and that Cowboy football is an important economic engine of the state of Oklahoma. He’s exactly right, of course.

But to argue that a college scholarship is appropriate compensation for risking exposure to the virus while fans and students remain home — “We’re trying to find a way to pay everybody’s salary and keep the economy going.” — then either the players deserve a cut of that economy, or they’re nothing more than indentured servants whose labor belongs to others.

“I’m not taking away from the danger of people getting sick,” Gundy said. “You have the virus, stay healthy, try to do what we can to help people that are sick, and we’re losing lives, which is just terrible. The second part of it is that we still have to schedule and continue to move forward as life goes on and help those people.”

Boise State assistant reveals bout with COVID-19

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Boise State assistant coach Zac Alley revealed to reporters on Tuesday that is among the 392,000 and counting Americans to test positive for COVID-19. And he said it was terrible.

“I had no symptoms, no anything, and in about a 24-hour period I went from 0 to 100,” Alley told the Idaho Press. “I just had some sharp pains in my chest and all that. It got to a point that night where I was pretty short of breath and couldn’t breathe, and thankfully my girlfriend was like ‘we’re going to the ER’. When we got there they were saying thank God you came in.

“Every breath was kind of like taking a knife and sticking it through your ribs.”

Alley, 26, is in his second year on Boise State’s staff, where he coaches the Broncos’ outside linebackers and co-coordinates the special teams. He spent his previous eight years at Clemson as an undergraduate and graduate assistant.

He said he and his girlfriend quarantined at home as all good citizens have, and the only place he’d ventured out was the grocery store, where he theorizes he contracted the coronavirus from a shopping cart.

“As a young healthy person I didn’t think it would affect me as drastically as it did,” Alley said. “I mean my health deteriorated so fast and really I didn’t show any traditional symptoms of what they were saying other than the shortness of breath.”

Alley spent one day at the hospital but was discharged the same day. He is now symptom free.

Two ex-Nebraska football players accused of sexual assault expelled from the university

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Not surprisingly, two former Nebraska football players have found themselves s former students as well.

Citing a document obtained by ESPN, Paula Lavigne is reporting that redshirt freshmen Andre Hunt and Katerian LeGrone have been expelled from the University of Nebraska.  The expulsion was effective April 3 of this year.

In late August of last year, Nebraska confirmed that the two football players, Hunt, a wide receiver, and LeGrone, a tight end, had been indefinitely suspended by the program for unspecified reasons.  A little over three months later, it was reported that both of the players have been “found to have violated the school’s sexual misconduct policies and face a 2½-year suspension from the university.”

The extended suspension stemmed from an alleged rape of an NU student on Aug. 25 and, even as a police investigation remained open, no criminal charges had been filed.  There was a development on the legal front in mid-December, though, as LeGrone and Hunt were arrested on one count of suspicion of first-degree sexual assault and one count of suspicion of aiding and abetting first-degree sexual assault, respectively, even as neither had been formally charged at the time.

Yet another disturbing development surfaced around that same time as local media reported that an additional six sexual assault reports have been filed with the Lincoln Police Department that “are connected to either one or both of the former Husker players accused of sexual misconduct.” Four of the new reports involved non-consensual sexual penetration, three of which were designated as rape, while two included allegations of inappropriate touching of private parts.

“The additional six reports date back to the summer of 2018, with three of the alleged assaults occurring in the same UNL dorm room,” the Omaha World-Herald wrote.

As it relates to the incident that resulted in their arrests, Hunt and LeGrone have claimed that any sexual activity was consensual.  The alleged victim claimed it was non-consensual.

Hunt’s hearing on the two sexual assault charges was continued from April to May.  LeGrone’s hearing is scheduled for June.  Whether those court appearances go off as planned is uncertain because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In early December, Hunt and LeGrone entered the NCAA transfer database.  An attorney for Hunt, Carlos Monzon, told ESPN that his client is “already at a different university, and he’s playing.” Monzon declined to specify to which school Hunt had transferred.  LeGrone, meanwhile, is still listed in the portal.

A three-star 2018 signee, Hunt appeared in just two games as a true freshman and didn’t catch a pass.  Because he played in four or fewer games, he was able to use a redshirt for that season.  Prior to the suspension, he had been running with the first-team offense.

Legrone, also a three-star 2018 signee, caught one pass in three games for the Cornhuskers last season

Cal TE Collin Moore opts to enter transfer portal

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Cal is the latest football program to see its depth impacted by Ye Olde Portal.

According to Rivals.com, Collin Moore has taken the first step in leaving the Cal football team by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database. On his personal Twitter account, Moore has not yet acknowledged the move to the portal.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer — or twice daily today — when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Coming out of high school in Novato, Calif., Moore took a greyshirt in 2016. And for those unfamiliar with that term? “A greyshirt is an incoming college freshman who postpones his enrollment in classes until the second term of his freshman year. This means they don’t take classes until the winter term. The NCAA allows college athletes five years to complete four years of eligibility after initial enrollment.”

Moore then didn’t play in 2017 for Cal football and took a redshirt. In 2018, the redshirt junior played in one game. This past season, he played in all 13 games, starting one of those contests.

In that action, Moore caught two passes for 11 yards and a touchdown. That lone score came in Cal’s Redbox Bowl win over Illinois.

Moore is set to graduate from Cal next month. That would allow the tight end to play immediately at another FBS school in 2020. The upcoming season would be his final year of eligibility.

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