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Top Dawgs: Georgia takes recruiting crown in 2018 and other takeaways from National Signing Day

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National Signing Day — Part II — is pretty much in the books, wrapping up another wild day in college football as we find out where the game’s next stars will be playing at. While the Class of 2018 was the first with an early signing period, there was still plenty of action on the traditional first Wednesday in February date and scores of coaches across the country will be able to claim their teams got much better with the next wave of recruits on board.

Sorting through all the announcements and tallying up the multitude of recruiting numbers, here are a few takeaways from National Signing Day:

1. Top Dawgs

Kirby Smart finished second last season but was second to none when it came to recruiting this cycle.

Georgia finished with the consensus top-ranked recruiting class in 2018 and pretty much picked up where they left off in the early signing period. The Bulldogs landed five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell, flipped both Otis Reese (previously committed to Michigan) and Quay Walker (Alabama), plus went into Texas to grab a pledge from lengthy wideout Tommy Bush. And that was just on Wednesday morning. All told the team is bringing in a CFB-high seven (yeah, seven) five-star recruits in this cycle and 15 others who are ranked as four-stars. Whether it’s by sheer volume or by average star rating, this is one of the best recruiting classes any program has put together and a pretty incredible feather in Smart’s hat. While the good news in February probably won’t take all the sting out of what happened in Atlanta last month, it sure does help to smooth the pain a little and keep the Bulldogs in the running for SEC titles and playoff appearances for years to come.

2. Alabama double-take 

One of the most bizarre sights when the dust settled on signing day was the placement of Alabama at No. 7 in the 247Sports‘ team rankings. That puts an end to one of the more remarkable streaks in college football as the Crimson Tide had hauled in the top-ranked class every year since 2011 and finished outside the top three for the first time since Nick Saban’s initial class in Tuscaloosa. No one will be crying for the national champions however, especially not with three true freshman keying that comeback against Georgia in the title game. Alabama still landed top cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., who could start right away with the team given what the depth chart looks like going into the season. Still, it was strange to see the program that had been a recruiting juggernaut lose battles to Georgia, Ohio State, ClemsonStanford and USC. Saban made several staff changes this offseason that were no doubt aimed at getting better on the recruiting trail so this dip is probably temporary but it was nevertheless strange to see the Tide not crushing everybody like they normally do on and off the field.

3. USC’s big day

Death, taxes, and USC rolling up commitments on National Signing Day. The Trojans once again had a frenzy of top-ranked players don the cardinal and gold on Wednesday, including the majority of the big hitters in their backyard. Everybody already knew five-star quarterback J.T. Daniels had reclassified from 2019 to 2018 to bolster the class but the team also added four-star teammate Solomon Tuliaupupu, landed the services of five-star corner Olaijah Griffin then secured another top player in four-star corner Isaac Taylor-Stuart. Just as important, they leapfrogged Pac-12 rivals Washington, Oregon and UCLA. While the fan base may not have been thrilled at Clay Helton receiving a new contract yesterday, the results on Signing Day may have them reconsidering.

4. Dabo does it again

The biggest commitment Dabo Swinney and Clemson received came last month when three potential first round picks along the defensive line announced they would return to school for another season. Add that group to yet another top 10 class and the Tigers look like they’ll remain in the nation’s elite for years to come. Two of the top three recruits in the country are already on campus and Clemson signed the top-ranked player from a whopping six states, including plucking five-star wideout Justyn Ross out of Alabama and away from the Crimson Tide. Only Georgia signed more five-stars and you’d be hard pressed to find many teams with a better average than this group.

5. Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart close strong

The biggest mover from the first signing period to today appears to be Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M. After getting behind the eight-ball with his hire coming a little late in the cycle, the Aggies went on a roll to close strong with the class of 2018. They landed Louisiana TE Glenn Beal over Tennessee and others, plucked Jeremiah Martin out of California, got four-star QB James Foster and flipped DL Bobby Brown from Alabama among other moves. It will still take time for the new regime in College Station to establish ties in the state of Texas but as far as first recruiting classes go, it was a heck of a first effort from Fisher and company.

As for the guy who took his old job at Florida State, Willie Taggart delivered one of the other big surprises in the team rankings as the Seminoles moved from the 30’s in the team rankings into the top 12. They won the battle for Jamarcus Chatman over in-state rival Miami and also secured the signature of four-star defensive end Malcolm Lamar among other moves but were very active in locking up another talented class despite not having much time to work with. Perhaps just as importantly, it looks like FSU is already rolling with the class of 2019 and will be a force to be reckoned with all those quality recruiters on staff.

6. Texas returns to the top

Up the road in Austin, second-year coach Tom Herman appears to have the Longhorns back among the elite recruiters in college football this year after trending downward the past few years. UT finished with a consensus top three class and landed some impact players in the secondary with a pair of five-star safeties. Even more notable is how the program cleaned up in-state, landing 11 of the top 15 players in Texas.

7. Michigan’s disappointing effort

In a way, the Wolverines’ recruiting mirrored their most recent season and finished on a down note. Jim Harbaugh does have a pretty good roster coming back to Ann Arbor for 2018 but it was a bit of a head turner to see the team ranked No. 21st in the 247Sports’ team rankings after so much talk about the program the past few years. They finished well behind division rivals Ohio State and Penn State in the rankings and failed to land a top 100 prospect. To add insult to injury, they lost five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere to the Buckeyes and saw their highest rated commit flip to Georgia. Not exactly attacking recruiting with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

8. New coaches, new rankings

Here’s how new head coaches in the Power Five finished in the 247Sports’ team rankings:

Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin: 58th overall, 11th in the Pac-12

Arizona State’s Herm Edwards: 36th overall, 5th in the Pac-12

Arkansas’ Chad Morris: 54th overall, 14th in the SEC

Florida’s Dan Mullen: 14th overall, fourth in the SEC

Florida State’s Willie Taggart: 11th overall, third in the ACC

Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead: 27th overall, ninth in the SEC

Nebraska’s Scott Frost: 22rd overall, fourth in the Big Ten

Oregon’s Mario Cristobal: 16th overall third in the Pac-12

Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith: 69th overall, 12th in the Pac-12

Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt: 20th overall, eighth in the SEC

Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher: 17th overall, sixth in the SEC

UCLA’s Chip Kelly: 18th overall, fourth in the Pac-12

9. Turning our attention to 2019

This was the first class that could sign early in December so from players to coaches to parents, the altered recruiting cycle was an adjustment period for just about everybody. While the vast majority of players decided to put pen to paper in the first period, there was still plenty of drama left for recruiting junkies to get excited about in January and February despite worries there would not be. It’s still too early to pull out some big takeaways from how everything is going to play out long-term given all of the unique factors involved in the Class of 2018, but it’s possible we’ll see some tweaks in strategy from programs large and small going forward. One thing is for certain, teams are not wasting any time getting started with the Class of 2019 and the team that sits atop the 247Sports’ rankings this year is the same one that is in pole position next year as Georgia already has seven commitments — all four-stars or better. As we know though, it’s a long road between now and then.

10. Still plenty of NSD strangeness

Despite the early signing period taking some of the buzz out of the air in February, there was still plenty of the regular strange moments we’ve come to expect from National Signing Day. Twitter accounts getting suspended, moms walking off the stageSnoop Dogg and more.

Ahh, ‘crootin.

Report: Notre Dame going with Ian Book over Brandon Wimbush at QB in Week 4 vs. Wake Forest

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Back in late August, when Brian Kelly reaffirmed that Brandon Wimbush would be Notre Dame’s season-opening starter under center, we opined that it remained to be seen how long of a leash the incumbent would have. As it turns out, it could be just three games long.

According to a report from 247Sports.com, Ian Book (pictured) will start at quarterback for Notre Dame in Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. If the report comes to fruition, it would mark the second start of Book’s collegiate career, with both of those coming on the road.

As speculation churned regarding the status of the position throughout the week, Brian Kelly had steadfastly refused to tip his hand as to a Week 4 starter.

“They’re both going to play,” the head coach said Thursday. “I’ve said that all year. They’re both prepared. They’re both ready. We’re going to need both of them.”

Wimbush started all but one game for the Fighting Irish last season, throwing for 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. One of the biggest knocks on Wimbush, who has four interceptions in three games in 2018, is his accuracy, as evidenced by a 49.5-percent completion percentage on 275 attempts last season; that number has improved to 55.3 percent this season as the Fighting Irish have gotten off to a 3-0 start.

However, their passing offense is tied for 89th in the country (200.7 yards per game) while their scoring offense is even worse — tied for 104th (out of 130 FBS teams) in points per game at 23.3.

The only game Wimbush didn’t start last season, Book did. In the 33-10 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill last October, Book completed 17-of-31 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Book also replaced Wimbush in the Citrus Bowl versus LSU, connecting on 14 of his 19 pass attempts for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The last of those scores was a 55-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the Irish’s 21-17 come-from-behind win over the Tigers.

This season, Book has completed all three of his passes for 13 yards and a touchdown.

McKenzie Milton’s six-touchdown night powers No. 16 UCF past FAU

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The longest active winning streak in FBS was extended to 16 straight games by No. 16 UCF (3-0) Friday night in Orlando. McKenzie Milton accounted for six touchdowns as UCF topped FAU, 56-36, in a battle of the defending AAC and Conference USA champions.

UCF started off on a quick foot with two touchdowns on their first two offensive series in the game, building a 14-0 lead before FAU could find any offense to work with. After the Owls strung together 17-straight points, Milton drive UCF down the field in the final 90 seconds for a go-ahead touchdown and UCF never really had to look back from there. UCF scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 42-23 lead into the fourth quarter.

Milton had himself another big game. Milton passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. UCF piled up 546 yards of offense and converted seven of 11 third down plays for a first down.

FAU got a productive night from their offensive star, Devin Singletary. The running back rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and was a difference-maker that provided a much-needed spark in the first half. But UCF was too much for FAU to handle over four quarters. FAU turned the football over twice, including on the game’s opening possession when Chris Robison was picked off. A second interception late in the third quarter stalled a promising looking drive as well.

Having played three games, UCF continues to look like the best Group of Five team in the race for a spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup. No Group of Five school has made back-to-back trips to the New Years Six under the College Football Playoff format, but UCF has shown no reason to suggest they are incapable of becoming the first. With Boise State losing last week and the AAC piling up some good wins as a conference (helping to out-weigh a few bad losses), the AAC looks to be putting itself in solid position to send its champion to a big bowl game at the end of the year. UCF’s biggest competition will come in conference games later on, including matchups with schools like Memphis and South Florida, but having a head-to-head win against a possible Group of Five conference champion is nice to have in the pocket later on.

FAU’s search for a win against a top 25 team will continue to drag on. With the loss, the Owls fell to 0-20 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

UCF will stay home next week for its first and only game against a power conference opponent this season. The Knights will host the Pitt Panthers. UCF had a game against North Carolina canceled due to Hurricane Florence last week and had a game against Georgia Tech wiped out last season so the opportunity to finally play an ACC opponent will be welcomed by the Knights.

FAU will begin the quest to defend their Conference USA championship from last year next week by opening conference play on the road against Middle Tennessee State. Middle Tennessee is off this week after losing at Georgia last week. A bye week before a home game against the Owls is favorable, although FAU is still likely to be the favorite next week and in Conference USA.

UCF starts fast and wakes up from slumber to take halftime lead on FAU

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Expected to be one of the top Group of Five matchups of the season, UCF and FAU have not disappointed so far Friday night. After UCF jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the visiting Owls, Devin Singletary provided a charge to help FAU take a 17-14 lead in the final two minutes of the first half in Orlando, but McKenzie Milton drove the Knights right down the field on a late possession to re-take a 21-17 lead.

UCF opened the game on a solid foot with the defense ending FAU’s game-opening drive on an interception by linebacker Pat Jasinski. Just a few plays later, McKenzie Milton kept the ball himself and ran untouched for a touchdown to the right side.

UCF extended their lead to 14-0 with a 10-play, 92-yard drive in under three minutes on their next possession. Milton ended the drive with a touchdown strike to Dredrick Snelson. After exchanging three-and-out possessions, FAU finally got something working for them on offense after taking advantage of a well-run fake punt to keep a drive alive.

A face mask penalty on UCF helped FAU continue to move downfield a few plays later and Singletary broke off a would-be-tackler and took off up the middle 11 yards for a touchdown for FAU’s first points of the game.

FAU kept things going in their favor with another quick three-and-out against the UCF offense. Singletary then scored his second touchdown of the half to draw the game even at 14-14 with five minutes gone in the second quarter. FAU took its first lead of the night with a field goal by Vladimir Rivas in the final two minutes.

The lead lasted all of one minute and three seconds. Milton answered with a lightning-fast 78-yard touchdown drive by completing passes four of five plays, ending the drive with a touchdown pass to Marlon Williams.

UCF offensive lineman Wyatt Miller left the game with an undisclosed injury in the first half. His status is unknown, but he has not returned to the game.

Investigation details timeline of how Maryland trainers inadequately treated Jordan McNair

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The findings from an independent report into the handling of Maryland football player Jordan McNair has been released, and the report puts blame for the death of McNair on the athletic trainers who were on-hand.

“There was a failure to identify symptoms and aggressively treat it,” sports medicine consultant Dr. Rod Walters stated while addressing the report’s findings.

Although it was confirmed that doing so would have significantly improved the chances of successfully treating McNair, McNair was not placed in an ice bath while experiencing symptoms of heat stroke because an athletic trainer was concerned about his size. On top of that, there was a 34-minute delay in getting McNair off the practice field at the first sign of his symptoms and it took a total of one hour and 39 minutes before McNair was taken away in an ambulance for further medical attention.

The report details why cold water tanks were not available either, stating that the cold water tanks that were available at the time of the practice were inadequate.

Board of Regents Chair Jim Brandy denied saying whether or not this investigation was a display of negligence within the football program, but said he would like to gather more facts before saying whether or not that would be the case.

Maryland head coach DJ Durkin was confirmed to have been on the scene at the time of the heat-induced trauma, but there was no decision made on his fate on the basis of this report by the Maryland Board of Regents. However, Durkin will remain on administrative leave until the second investigation into the Maryland football program concludes. A second investigation has been ongoing regarding the accusations of being a football program with a so-called toxic culture. There is no timeline for when that investigation will wrap up, nor is there any suggestion as to when a decision on Durkin’s future with the program will ultimately be determined.