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After one-year hiatus, Alabama regains recruiting crown as rankings remain largely unchanged from Early Signing Period

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Welcome to the continuation of the new recruiting norm.

In years past, the first Wednesday in February served as bizarro, ofttimes frightening Christmas for fanatical recruitniks and college football fans all across the country. With the implementation of the December Early Signing in 2017, however, National Signing Day has very quickly morphed into, relatively speaking, an afterthought compared to what it once was.

Case in point: school rankings.

Following the second Early Signing Period this past December, the Top Four schools in the 247Sports.com composite rankings were, in order, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Texas A&M; after signing day, the top four remained unchanged.

With just six four-star prospects (out of more than 340) left unsigned, the end of National Signing Day 2019 means the beginning, potentially, of another recruiting championship streak for ‘Bama. From 2011-17, the Crimson Tide pulled in the top-ranked class each year; in 2018, they tumbled all the way down to No. 5, Nick Saban‘s worst class ratings-wise since a fourth-ranked group in 2010.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten, No. 5 LSU and No. 6 Oklahoma flipped spots from a month and a half ago, while Oregon and Michigan held steady at Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. Florida made one of the most noteworthy jumps of the day, climbing from No. 11 to No. 9, pushing Clemson down one spot to No. 10.

Penn State, conversely, took one of the biggest drops of the day, tumbling from the Top 10 at No. 10 to No. 13, replaced by a pair of SEC schools — No. 11 Auburn (up from No. 12) and No. 12 Tennessee (up from No. 15). Ohio State (from No. 13 to No. 14) and Notre Dame (From No. 14 to No. 15) each fell one spot apiece. The status quo was in effect for Nos. 16-18 (Florida State, Washington, USC), with South Carolina at No. 19 and Nebraska at No. 20 rounding out the Top 20.

Stanford began Wednesday at No. 20 before ending it at No. 21; the Gamecocks had started the day in the same place the Cardinal finished it.

As for the best classes in each conference?

AAC — UCF (No. 56)
ACC — Clemson (No. 10)
Big 12 — Texas (No. 3)
Big Ten — Michigan (No. 8)
Conference USA — FAU (No. 66)
Independent — Notre Dame (No. 15)
MAC — Toledo (No. 71)
Mountain West — Boise State (No. 49)
Pac-12 — Oregon (No. 7)
SEC — Alabama (No. 1)
Sun Belt — Louisiana (No. 72)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Louisville, at No. 73, was the lowest-ranked Power Five school.  No. 68 Oregon State (Pac-12), No. 67 Texas Tech (Big 12), No. 62 Illinois (Big Ten) and No. 57 Vanderbilt (SEC) had the lowest-ranked classes in their respective conferences.

Penn State replaces special teams coordinator lost to NFL

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A week after losing his special teams boss to the NFL, James Franklin has found a replacement.

Penn State confirmed Thursday that Joe Lorig has been hired as Franklin’s new special teams coordinator.  Lorig will also serve as an unspecified defensive assistant as part of Franklin’s Nittany Lions coaching staff.

The move to hire Lorig comes after Phil Galiano, who spent two years with the Nittany Lions, left earlier this month for a job in the NFL.

“We are looking forward to having Joe join our staff,” a statement from Franklin began. “We conducted a comprehensive study of special teams coordinators across the country to find the best fit for our staff and identified Joe as the best candidate. His special teams units have a history of being among the best in the country and we know he can continue that success here. I have also known Joe for many years, dating back to when we worked together at Idaho State under Larry Lewis.”

“I am extremely excited to join the staff at Penn State University and begin working with such a storied program,” Lorig said. “Penn State is a program with outstanding players, coaches and tradition. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Franklin and his entire coaching staff. My wife, three children and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to join the Nittany Lion family, and we look forward to helping Penn State win championships!”

The past three seasons, Lorig was the special teams coordinator at Memphis.  He also served as the outside linebackers coach for the Tigers.

Ex-Texas All-American takes defensive line job at UTSA

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Rod Wright is officially returning to the state that helped launch his coaching career.

As had been speculated on over the last few days, UT-San Antonio has announced that Wright has been hired by Frank Wilson as the head coach’s new defensive line coach.  Wright played his college football for the Texas Longhorns in the mid-aughts, earning All-American and All-Big 12 honors as a defensive lineman during his time in Austin.

“We are excited to announce Rod Wright as our new defensive line coach,” Wilson said in a statement. “He was an outstanding collegiate player and he has done an exceptional job mentoring defensive linemen everywhere he’s coached. We think he’s one of the best young coaches in the country and he will be a great addition to our staff.”

This past season, Wright served as the line coach at East Carolina, his first on-field role at the FBS level.  Prior to that, he spent four seasons at FCS Sam Houston State.

Wright began his coaching career at his alma mater, working as a student assistant/defensive special assistant for three years at UT beginning in 2011.

Nation’s top 2017 recruit announces transfer to Miami

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The transfer train has made yet another stop in South Florida, and this one brought a passenger with a helluva high school pedigree with not a lot to show for yet on his college résumé.

In mid-December, it was reported that Jaelan Phillips would be transferring from UCLA.  A little over two months later, Phillips announced on Twitter that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Miami.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Phillips will likely have to sit out the 2019 season.  He would then have two years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.

Phillips was the No. 1-rated recruit in the entire country for the Class of 2017 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Despite that lofty ranking, although in large part due to injury, his collegiate career thus far hasn’t amounted to much.

As a true freshman, Phillips started four of the seven games in which he played. Despite missing nearly half the season because of an ankle injury, he finished fourth on the Bruins in tackles for loss with seven and second in sacks with 3.5. Battling additional injuries in 2018, including concussions, Phillips played in just four games this past season.

Phillips would be at least the seventh FBS player — and sixth from a Power Five program — to transfer to Miami since Manny Diaz took over at The U, joining USC safety Bubba Bolden (HERE), Virginia Tech defensive end Trevon Hill (HERE), Auburn running back Asa Martin (HERE), Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell (HERE), Buffalo wide receiver K.J. Osborn (HERE) as well as Phillips’ former UCLA teammate, defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka (HERE).

Clemson 4-star LB signee suffers knee injury in basketball game

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When a clip of Trevor Lawrence getting into a scuffle during an intramural basketball game went viral earlier this week, a chorus of takes screamed into the void asking what a college football player was doing playing basketball in the first place.

Dabo Swinney has always defended his players’ intramural endeavors, reasoning that unpaid college students should not be treated as employees. “They’re just having fun and enjoying being college people and doing what college kids do,” he said.

Swinney has defended this even in light of Jordan Williams, a potential starter at defensive tackle, suffering a leg injury during an intramural basketball game that will keep him out of a crucial spring for his development.

And now the basketball injury bug has struck another Clemson player.

Bryson Constantin, a 4-star linebacker signee in Clemson’s 2019 class, suffered a knee injury while playing for Baton Rouge’s University Lab High School basketball team last week — and he believes it could be serious.

“At a basketball game last week, I came down from an alley and I felt a pop in my knee,” Constantin told TigerNet. “I went to the ER that night to make sure it wasn’t like a knee cap or anything like that. They figured out it was most likely my ACL. I went for an MRI two days ago but I had too much blood in my knee to do an MRI, so they drained all the blood out and they were like, the only way you’d have this much blood in your knee is if you did tear your ACL. I go back for an MRI this weekend or Monday, so I’ll know for sure what it is coming up soon.”

While active college players playing intramural basketball is a (somewhat) controversial practice, incoming signees playing for their high school teams is not. Many a college coach has waxed poetically about falling in love with a player’s gridiron potential while watching him compete on the hardwood.

Still, it’s a cruel bit of irony: the only place the nation’s best football team seems to suffer any sort of defeat is on the basketball court.