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Just two (of 347) four-star 2018 recruits didn’t put pen to FBS paper during signing periods

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National Signing Days (plural) 2018 may have run its course, but the Herbie Hancocking of National Letters of Intent hasn’t quite ended yet for some.

Entering Wednesday, four of 247Sports.com‘s 29 five-star 2018 recruits were unsigned; suffice to say, all four of those exited having signed with various Power Five programs.  That same recruiting service listed a whopping 347 prospects as four-star recruits.  With the second signing day in the books, just two of those didn’t sign with FBS teams — Denton (TX) wide receiver Gabriel Douglas and Detroit (MI) center Tyrone Sampson Jr.

Douglas, rated as the No. 51 receiver and No. 312 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board, had been committed to Texas Tech since October of 2016.  However, the day before Signing Day, Gabriel decided against signing with the Red Raiders and instead plans to attend a Mississippi junior college.

The No. 7 center in the country and No. 346 recruit overall, Sampson had reportedly zeroed in on Arizona State, Mississippi State and Nebraska as likely destinations.  Sampson’s high school coach, however, told the Detroit News that a couple of new schools, including Illinois, Missouri and West Virginia, had entered the picture recently and prompted the player to hold off on signing.

“It’s a case where he had a couple of schools come in real late so he won’t be able to visit until after the dead period, maybe next week,” East English Coach Rod Oden told the News.

In addition to Sampson and Douglas, six other recruits, all three-star prospects, listed in the Top 600 of 247Sports.com‘s composite board went unsigned by FBS programs for various reasons as well.

  • No. 415: Salt Lake City (Utah) outside linebacker Salua Masina — No. 25 at his position, No. 7 in his state
  • No. 521: Ramsey (NJ) strongside defensive end Marcellus Earlington — No. 23 at his position, No. 11 in his state
  • No. 533: Harrisburg (PA) athlete Shaquon Anderson-Butts — No. 39 at his position, No. 16 in his state
  • No. 547: Tampa (FL) athlete Jermaine Eskridge — No. 40 at his position, No. 85 in his state
  • No. 568: Murfreesboro (TN) defensive tackle D’Andre Litaker — No. 43 at his position, No. 17 in his state
  • No. 580: Philadelphia (PA) safety Isheem Young — No. 38 at his position, No. 19 in his state

Of that group, Eskridge, who had Ohio State and Oregon among others chasing him, and Anderson-Butts, a one-time Penn State commitopted for the JUCO route and are expected to sign with an FBS program during the 2019 cycle.  Litaker, meanwhile, decommitted from Tennessee in the days leading up to signing day and will now consider such schools as Miami and Oklahoma as well as a couple of SEC programs.  The defensive lineman, whose mother passed away in 2016, is also recovering from a second torn ACL he suffered last September.

And Young?  In early December, he was arrested in connection with the armed robbery of a Wawa convenience store in South Philadelphia this past summer.  At the time of his arrest, Young, who was a Penn State commit, was rated as the No. 12 safety in the country; the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania; and the No. 151 player overall.  He went from a four-star to three-star recruit because of the off-field issues.

No. 5 Oklahoma avoids massive upset with overtime win over Army

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If you woke up this morning and thought there was any chance Army (2-2) was going to come away with a win on the road against No. 5 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12), then you are probably the most optimistic of Army football fans there may be. Army did not pull off a major upset of the Sooners, but boy did they come closer than anyone realistically could have imagined.

Oklahoma avoided being upset at home by Army with a 28-21 victory in overtime Saturday night. The game got off to a wild start with the two teams exchanging touchdown drives on the first five possessions of the game, with Oklahoma holding a 21-14 lead by the time the first punt was made by Army in the second quarter.

Army’s valiant effort in the second half to force the game to reach overtime was highlighted by the defensive effort to stand tall in times of need. Army intercepted a pass by Kyler Murray on Oklahoma’s first possession after halftime and capitalized with a 19-play drive covering 85 yards and ending with a short touchdown run by Andy Davidson to draw the game even at 21-21. The defense again made a big play with a fourth down stop on the goal line on Oklahoma’s ensuing possessions. The Sooners had three plays run from the five-yard line and in, but were stuffed on fourth down to give Army a chance.

Army managed to run out away from the shadows of their own end zone but was unable to take its first lead of the ballgame. With one final chance to avoid overtime, Oklahoma missed a 33-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.

Unfortunately for Army, the dream of a colossal upset that would shake up the College Football Playoff picture quickly disintegrated in overtime. Murray completed a touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb on the second play of overtime to give Oklahoma a touchdown lead, and Army’s Kelvin Hopkins Jr. had a fourth-down pass picked off by Parnell Motley to seal the win for Oklahoma.

Enough cannot be said about the effort shown by Army. It is not often a service academy gets a chance to take a highly ranked team and a playoff contender the distance, but Like the original Rocky movie, Oklahoma had just a little more to score the decision in their favor. Army dominated the time of possession with their offensive style gobbling up nearly three full quarters of the clock with 339 rushing yards and 26 first downs. Oklahoma was just too efficient early on with their offense and Army was unable to get an early stop.

Oklahoma will take a 4-0 record back into Big 12 play for the remainder of their regular season, beginning next week at home against Baylor. The Bears are 3-1 after their Big 12 opener victory against Kansas, snapping a two-game winning streak for the Jayhawks.

Army will be back on the road next week to play Buffalo. The MAC program is 4-0 after their demolishing of Rutgers on the road earlier in the day.

Army may have lost, but this is a game that will not soon be forgotten by Army fans around the country and the world.

Report: Ohio State discussing making Ryan Day its coach-in-waiting

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On the same day he returned to the field, a report has surfaced as to what might happen when Urban Meyer steps away permanently.

With Meyer suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, Ryan Day served as the acting head coach in his boss’ absence, guiding the nationally-ranked Buckeyes to a 3-0 record amidst a sea of off-field turmoil.  Upon his return, Meyer lavished praise on the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

Ryan Day is elite,” Meyer said three days, adding tonight, “It’s a healthy, strong program, and Ryan was exactly the guy we needed to lead it and get us through this, and he did a hell of a job.”

Because of the job he did amidst very trying circumstances, the 39-year-old Day, who has never been a head coach at any level, is expected to see his name prominently mentioned when the 2018 version of the coaching carousel inevitably starts spinning next month.  Ahead of that, one report has OSU potentially setting up an arrangement that would make Day the head coach-in-waiting (HCIW) for whenever the 54-year-old Meyer retires.

From The Athletic‘s Ari Wasserman:

A person close to the program told The Athletic that senior university officials have begun discussions about a “coach-in-waiting” arrangement, meaning he would be Meyer’s eventual successor as Buckeyes coach. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are in progress. Day doesn’t have any head-coaching experience but did have a three-game trial run as Ohio State’s interim coach.

The HCIW has had varying degrees of success over the years, although it’s become a relative relic of late.

It worked out for Wisconsin (Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema) and Florida State (Bobby Bowden to Jimbo Fisher, even as FSU officials botched its execution).  The one at Texas, expected to go from Mack Brown to Will Muschamp?  Not so well after Muschamp took the Florida job two years after accepting the HCIW tag.

How it’d play out for OSU, with Meyer being closer in age to Brown than Bowden, is the great unknown.  What is known is that Day will be one of the hottest coaching commodities in the coming months, and the Buckeyes will have to do something creative to keep him on the coaching staff.

Mistakes bury Tennessee as Florida tops Vols for 13th time in 14 tries

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They honored Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. And why wouldn’t they pick tonight of all nights? It’s been 20 years, after all, and the Tennessee-Florida game was almost always the game of the year in the SEC in the 1990’s. Remember, it was a 20-17 overtime win for the No. 6 Volunteers over No. 2 Florida that set Phillip FulmerTee MartinPeerless Price and company on their way to the first BCS crown.

But the fact that the ’98 Vols were in the house quickly became kind of a macabre joke, because Tennessee has never looked further away from a national title than it did on Saturday night.

Five turnovers did the Vols in, as unranked Florida cruised to a 47-21 win over unranked-and-going-to-stay-that-way-for-a-while Tennessee.

The mistakes started immediately for Tennessee. On the Vols’ first drive of the game, Jarrett Guarantano was sacked and fumbled, which Florida’s David Reese II recovered and returned to the UT 21. Felepie Franks put the Gators up 7-0 four plays later when he hit R.J. Raymond for a 1-yard toss.

On Tennessee’s next possession, Guarantano was intercepted by Luke Ancrum at his own 12, which he returned to the 7. Franks rushed in from one yard out two plays later, handing Florida a 14-0 lead.

Dear reader, this was just the beginning.

A safety handed Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) a 16-3 lead and, after the free kick, Franks found Freddie Swan for a 65-yard score, effectively ending the game at 23-3 with 10:42 to play in the second quarter.

Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) appeared to be in position to pull back within two scores when, on a 4th-and-1 from their own 45, Guarantano found a wide open tight end Austin Pope for a 51-yard connection. But as Pope leaped to avoid a tackle near the goal line, he lost control of the ball, which then rolled out of the end zone, turning a 1st-and-goal into a touchback.

Florida punted on the ensuing possession and Tennessee again moved into scoring territory, facing a 3rd-and-11 at the Florida 23, but a botched shotgun snap ended a second straight promising drive in a fumble.

Florida drove 66 yards at the close of the half to add a 25-yard Evan McPherson field goal to close the first half with a 26-3 lead.

Tennessee accepted the ball to open the second half, and Shawn Shamburger fumbled the return, handing Florida its fifth takeaway of the game. Jordan Scarlett punched in a 19-yard touchdown run one play later.

After a field goal, Guarantano tossed his second of two interceptions — and Tennessee’s sixth turnover — but Florida didn’t cash in this time.

The Gators didn’t need to, though. The score was 33-6 at that point, and Tennessee never pulled within 19 points in the second half.

Florida beat Tennessee for the 13th time in the pair’s last 14 games, and moved its all-time lead to 28-20. Florida is 26-7 against Tennessee since 1976.

Franks closed the night hitting 10-of-19 passes for 172 yards with three touchdowns, while Scarlett’s 11 carries for 77 yards led all runners.

Guarantano, meanwhile, completed 7-of-18 passes for 163 yards with no touchdowns and three turnovers.

It would be comforting to say the road gets easier for Tennessee, but it would be wrong. The Vols’ next three games: at No. 2 Georgia, at No. 9 Auburn and vs. No. 1 Alabama.

Nick Saban asks media to write something not-so-positive about his top-ranked Alabama team

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The infamous rat poison is back in Tuscaloosa, albeit wrapped in slightly different packaging this year.

Through four games, top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama hasn’t even remotely been tested.  They have outscored their four opponents 215-51, including a 45-23 win over No. 22 Texas A&M earlier today that didn’t feel as close as the 22-point final margin.

In early October of last year, following a win over A&M ironically enough, Nick Saban was lamenting “[a]ll that stuff you [in the media] write about how good we are,” likening it to “rat poison” for his players.  Nearly a year later, the head coach is asking the media to, in essence, find something negative about his team and write about it “so I can show it to the players and say, ‘Look here, man. Here’s something you can do better.'”

Seriously.

From ESPN.com:

I don’t want to get into the rat poison again. We have a good team, but our team needs to do a lot of things to improve, all right?

“If what our team has accomplished to this point makes them in any way not take into account the kind of teams that we have to play in the future, and they underestimate what we need to do to improve so that we can become a better team and don’t just take things for granted, all right, that we’re going to show up because we have an Alabama uniform on and win the game, it’s not going to happen that way, and it’s going to be everyone’s choice in the organization.

“So I would appreciate it if you would sort of look at some of the things we didn’t do so well, all right, and write about that so I can show it to the players and say, ‘Look here, man. Here’s something you can do better.’

One, Saban is simply the best.  Ever.  Two, It’s really, really, really difficult, at least statistically, to find much of anything negative to say about what could be his best-ever Crimson Tide team.

In the 45 statistical categories on NCAA.com, Alabama headed into the weekend in the top third in a full 34 of them; they were in the top half in another three.  There were, however, some areas that Saban could sound the alarm to his troops:

  • T-80th in red zone defense
  • T-87th in fewest penalties
  • T-93rd in fewest penalty yards per game
  • T-92nd in fumbles lost
  • T-80th in fumbles recovered
  • 90th in net punting

And then there’s this: Alabama is one of a select few teams that have yet to block a kick or a punt this season.

So, there ya go, coach.  That’s all I got at the moment.