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10 Major Takeaways from Early National Signing Day and the Class of 2020

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The “early” National Signing Day is on its third edition this December so at this point, it’s no longer just a new normal but the normal way of going about business on the recruiting front. The Class of 2020 once again proved that point, as the traditional February date looks less and less important in the wake of such a bustling period of activity on the third Wednesday of the final month on the calendar.

What are the biggest takeaways as pen met paper and the future of college football was officially linked with a particular program? Here are 10 things to remember about National Signing Day 2019 and everything that went on.

1. Clemson caps off a 2019 to remember

Clemson will begin and end 2019 by winning a pair of national championships.

The first one happened in early January when they thumped Alabama to win the only trophy that matters. The second one happened on Wednesday as Dabo Swinney ditched his ‘ROY’ Bus for a fully loaded Cadillac in landing the No. 1 class in the country.

“Maybe this might be our first-ever No. 1 class, but that’s not a goal of mine,” Swinney said at his signing day press conference. “It just so happens that the best players in the country this year are great fits for Clemson.”

He’s not joking. The Tigers netted the signatures from the No. 1 DT (Bryan Bresee out of Maryland), No. 1 QB (DJ Uiagalelei from California) and many services top DE (Myles Murphy from Georgia) among others. The number of five-stars they landed were double that of Alabama and two more than the combined total of the three other teams in this year’s College Football Playoff.

Clemson has always been impressive on the recruiting trail in recent years as they’ve climbed the college football mountain top under Swinney but this year was even different as both the quality and the quantity of recruits was unsurpassed. We’ll have to wait until everything gets settled in February but a historic year for the program appears to be continuing unabated.

2. Ohio State continues to separate from the Big Ten

The Tigers’ semifinal opponent in the Fiesta Bowl isn’t slacking on the recruiting front either.

As The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman pointed out, Ohio State wound up signing eight top 100 prospects on Wednesday. The rest of the Big Ten? Six.

The stark disparity is even worse under the microscope. The highest-ranked player not going to Columbus in the Big Ten is ticketed to Maryland (five-star Rakim Jarrett is staying home) and the next highest after that clocks in at No. 44 according to 247Sports. Michigan signed just one top 100 prospect while Penn State had two. Taking out those two programs and Nebraska and the entire rest of the conference has the same number of four- and five-star recruits combined as the Buckeyes do.

OSU has consistently been one of the best recruiting programs in the league for decades now and nothing has changed on that front in the wake of the coaching transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day. If anything, the gap between the current conference champions and the rest of the Big Ten is only growing wider.

3. USC was historically bad on the trail

It turns out that having a coach on the hot seat for two full years has a negative impact on recruiting. Like, a historically big impact.

It’s just so jarring to see but USC turned in their worst recruiting performance of the internet era on Wednesday and ranked dead last in the Pac-12 by most metrics. While the Trojans were always going to take a small class due to the way their numbers shook out, just 11 total recruits signing up to be in cardinal and gold was still a bit hard to fathom — especially given that one of them is a kicker.

Overall numbers aside, there was not much for Clay Helton to hang his hat on other than aggressively netting some big bodies along the offensive and defensive lines. USC failed to sign a five-star player period and netted only one four-star. The program actually was closer in the 247Sports team rankings to UMass than they were the next best Pac-12 team (Arizona). While it’s trending toward four-star Corona (Calif.) WR Gary Bryant Jr. picking the Trojans, at the moment the school doesn’t have a single top 25 prospect from their own state.

Heck, Maryland has three times as many four/five-star recruits than Southern Cal does. Bowling Green is ranked higher.

So yeah, USC fans have every right to keep posting either the ‘Not Great Bob’ or fire burning around dog memes on social media because… it isn’t exactly all sunshine and roses out West for one of the typical recruiting superpowers.

4. Pac-12’s balance of power has shifted

Speaking of being out West, the absence of USC on the trail has allowed others to come in and fill the void quite nicely. This has been a recent trend in the last couple of years but was really driven home on Wednesday as Oregon particularly made their presence felt in Southern California.

Top linebacker prospect Justin Flowe went with the Ducks and follows the program landing No. 1 overall prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux the year prior. They were the only team that signed multiple five-stars in 2020 in the Pac-12 and Mario Cristobal’s staff also did some quality work in the Juco and transfer markets.

Rival Washington still wound up with the top-ranked class in the Pac-12 overall on Wednesday but some of the most impressive pulls on the day of belonged to the folks in Eugene. In short, the conference of champions sure feels like the heavyweights will remain the North and not the South

5. Alabama and the usual SEC suspects roll again

Sunrise, sunset, the SEC dominated recruiting on Signing Day like usual.

Six of the top 10 teams in the 247Sports team rankings were from the conference and a whopping 10 of the league’s 14 teams managed to haul in a top 25 recruiting class when all was said and done. Alabama and Nick Saban were the SEC standard bearers as they usually have and responded to some fluctuation on recent recruiting results by turning in one of their most well rounded crops of recruits in several years. Five-star QB Bryce Young out of California is one of the headliners but this was a deep and impressive group that really added an infusion of skill position talent to the Crimson Tide roster that was already among the best in the sport.

Georgia continued to gobble up talent in the region and beyond to net another top class for Kirby Smart while Ed Orgeron is certainly capitalizing on an SEC title and a magical season in Baton Rouge by flipping several commits and winding up with a top five class of their own. Of note is the increased geographic diversity out of the Tigers in 2020, with more out-of-state recruits than you’d typically find with the school.

Texas A&M, Auburn and Florida also put forth strong efforts, with the latter in particular capitalizing on the other in-state programs being in a state of flux this year. Perhaps the most impressive of the bunch however came with Mark Stoops signing a quartet of four-stars on Wednesday, all of whom hailed from different states. The Wildcats ranked just ninth in the SEC overall but were 23rd nationally in the 247Sports  team rankings at last check.

That speaks to how the conference does overall on the recruiting front and why signing day just means more in the southeastern part of the country.

6. New faces, new places

The early signing period has made life even more difficult for new head coaches and that trend mostly held true far and wide again in 2019. Some interim coaches with their tags taken off fared better than others, as both Memphis and Appalachian State landed groups in the upper half of their respective leagues and the Mountaineers impressively inking the best class in the Sun Belt. Others weren’t so lucky as USF’s Jeff Scott could only cobble together a class in the low 90’s and Willie Taggart found himself inheriting a small group that was in the triple digits.

One major exception? Washington’s Jimmy Lake, who kept the Huskies entire class in tact after Chris Petersen announced his surprise decision to step away. That in itself was hard to fathom but he also managed to score the best class in the Pac-12 to boot. It’s going to be rare, if ever, that we see that again.

7. Drama was limited at the top

The recruiting calendar being moved up so much in recent years has resulted in a lot less drama than we’re used to seeing among top players. For one, they’re mostly signing in the early period and doing so largely with the programs that were pegged as the favorites coming into the day. The three card monte hat trick some recruits pull was kept to a minimum on Wednesday and things mostly played out without incident.

While there were a few major announcements like Jordan Burch staying home to play for South Carolina or Rakim Jarrett flipping from LSU to Maryland that made waves, there was nowhere near the Wild West theme going on that one had typically come to associate signing day with.

8. Baylor, Notre Dame and plenty of others get creative

One of the better parts about Signing Day is the effort that schools put in just to announce who has sent in their Letter of Intent. We’ve started to see a bit of an arms race on this front in particular as some programs try to out do others, but the bottom line is that just posting a simple name graphic with a star ranking simply isn’t cutting it for most.

We saw some unique ways of attacking these announcements as a result. Notre Dame did a fantastic job of incorporating family members into videos they used to confirm signees and Syracuse went with a comic book theme this year.

However nobody won the day quite like Baylor did, which took things to another level with muppet-esque videos for each player and a special one for head coach Matt Rhule:

It will be hard to top that in future years though others will undoubtedly try.

9. Best of the best

Using 247Sports’ composite of the best players in the country, here’s where all the No. 1 ranked recruits at their position wound up:

QB: Bryce Young (Alabama)

WR: Julian Fleming (Ohio State)

TE: Arik Gilbert (LSU)

OT: Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State)

OG/C: Nate Anderson (Oklahoma)

DE: Myles Murphy (Clemson)

DT: Bryan Bresse (Clemson)

LB: Justin Flowe (Oregon)

S: Jaylon Jones (Texas A&M)

10. Who’s left

Some of the top remaining uncommitted prospects still left to sign, per 247Sports:

No. 8 overall, CB Kelee Ringo (Georgia/Texas)

No. 10 overall, ATH Darnell Washington (Georgia/Alabama/others)

No. 14 overall, RB Zachary Evans (LSU/Georgia)

No. 55 overall, S Avantae Williams (Miami/Florida)

No. 57 overall, WR Gary Bryant Jr. (USC/Oklahoma)

No. 59 overall, WR Xzavier Henderson (Clemson/Florida)

No. 76 overall, CB Dontae Manning (Oregon/Arizona State/Georgia/Oklahoma)

No. 80 overall, RB Daniyel Ngata (Arizona State/Oklahoma State)

Syracuse mourns death of former head coach Frank Maloney, 79

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As too many programs have been doing of late, the extended Syracuse football family is mourning the loss of one of their own.

In a press release, Syracuse announced that former head football coach Frank Maloney has passed away, the family confirmed.  Maloney was 79 years old.

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Maloney died at his home in Chicago from complications of metastatic brain melanoma.

From 1974-1980, Maloney served as the Syracuse football head coach.  Maloney replaced Hall of Famer Ben Schwartzwalder, who retired after a quarter-century with the Orange following the 1973 season.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Maloney. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and former players,” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement. “Coach Maloney led our football team during a time of transition, taking over the program after Coach Schwartzwalder’s 25-year tenure. He developed many young men, several of whom went on to very successful business careers and a number of talented players who went on to the NFL.”

Maloney played his college football at Michigan.  The West Virginia native’s coaching career began at his alma mater in 1968.  He spent six years at U-M before leaving to take over the Syracuse football program.

During his seven years with the Orange, Maloney went 32-46.

One fascinating aspect of Maloney’s tenure with Syracuse football?  The man Maloney replaced, Schwartzwalder, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.  The man who replaced Maloney, Dick MacPherson, was inducted into the same Hall of Fame in 2009.

MacPherson was 86 when he passed away in August of 2008. Schwartzwalder died in 1993 at the age of 83.

‘The plan’ is for new Georgia OC Todd Monken to also coach QBs

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If there is a 2020 season, a new addition to Kirby Smart‘s Georgia football staff will have an additional title. As expected.

In mid-January, Georgia football confirmed reports that Todd Monken would be taking over as Smart’s offensive coordinator. Monken replaced James Coley, who remains with the program as assistant head coach.

Coley also served as the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach. It was assumed, but never confirmed, that Monken would assume those duties as well.

During a conference call with Georgia football beat reporters Tuesday, Smart acknowledged that “the plan” is indeed for Monken, whose salary was also revealed Tuesday, to handle his squad’s quarterbacks.

The first — and only — time in Monken’s coaching career, which stretches back to 1989, that he coached quarterbacks was at Oklahoma State in 2011-12. He was also OSU’s offensive coordinator those two seasons.

Since then, Monken’s been a coordinator at two NFL stops (Tampa Buccaneers from 2016-18, Cleveland Browns in 2019) after he stepped down as the head coach at Southern Miss after three seasons.

If/when preparations for the 2020 season start back up, Monken will be working with a group of quarterbacks vying to replace Jake Fromm, the three-year starter who left early for the NFL. At the forefront of that battle will be Jamie Newman, who transferred into the Georgia football program from Wake Forest earlier this offseason. Barring something unexpected, Carson Beck, Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis will be fighting to be Newman’s backup.

Mathis, a touted 2019 four-star signee, missed all of the 2019 season because of a brain cyst. He was medically cleared to fully participate in spring practice.

Bennett served as Fromm’s primary backup in 2019, with the three-star 2019 signee completing 20-of-27 passes for 260 yards, two touchdowns and a pick as a true freshman. Beck was a four-star 2020 signee, rated as the No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the country.

Georgia’s Dan Lanning becomes latest member of $1 million coordinator club

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Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is the latest member of college football’s $1 million coordinator club. And perhaps the news there is Georgia’s defensive coordinator was not — at least officially — in the $1 million coordinator club until Tuesday.

According to documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald, Lanning netted a $500,000 raise to $1.25 million per year. That nudges him ahead of new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and his $1.1 million salary. James Coley made $950,000 in the same spot last year.

Lanning’s $1.25 million salary would place him 14th nationally among assistant coaches based on 2019 figures.

Georgia’s defense finished 2019 rated third nationally in total defense (275.7 yards per game), second in yards per play (4.29) and first in scoring (12.6) en route to a third consecutive SEC East title and a Sugar Bowl victory.

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity clarified with Tuesday’s news that all raises were agreed upon well before the coronavirus wrecked the economy.

“We were all making decisions like we were going to be full speed ahead,” McGarity said. “The key thing is from March 6, or whatever it was, forward, that to me is when the accountability really steps up. It could be, what does your horizon look like in the future? What happened before then I think is kind of irrelevant. It wasn’t in this world we’re in now.”

Additionally, co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann and defensive line coach Tray Smith will each earn $600,000 in 2020, while director of player development Jonas Jennings saw his pay grow by $100,000 to $406,000.

Lawsuit details Kansas’ plan to fire David Beaty, hire Les Miles well before 2018 season

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Though he was allowed to finish out the season, David Beaty was officially fired as Kansas’ head coach on Nov. 4, 2018. Turns out, he was effectively fired before the season even started.

According to testimony provided in an ongoing lawsuit brought by Beaty against his former employer, Kansas AD Jeff Long had determined before the 2018 season that he would fire Beaty and hire Les Miles.

In testimony obtained by the Kansas City StarMatt Baty, one of the chief fundraisers in the KU athletics department, testified Long had determined by that August he would can Beaty at the first opportunity, and the administration turned to rooting against the football team in order to execute Long’s plan:

“I think it would be — if the football program had success that year, it would make it — our jobs more difficult to fire David Beaty,” Baty said in sworn testimony.

The lawsuit also brought to light that Kansas began negotiations to create what became an ESPN+ series titled “Miles to Go” well before Miles was hired, and while Beaty was still employed.

Miles was hired Nov. 18, five days before KU’s 2018 finale.

Beaty’s camp has for months alleged Kansas attempted to find a “dead hooker” in Beaty’s closet in an effort to avoid paying his $3 million buyout, which is the genesis for the lawsuit and the source of Long’s dirty laundry.

The deposition detailed that KU deputy AD for external engagement Chris Freet was indeed tasked with digging up dirt of a possible extramarital affair against Beaty, but Baty testified that Long has more of a skeleton in his closet than Beaty. From the Star:

Baty also testified that he heard Long make inappropriate and inflammatory sexual remarks about an elderly female donor to whom Long was prepared to make “a generous ask” financially. Baty also testified that Long made a comment about wanting a hotel room adjacent to where a female school staffer was staying, which Baty in context understood to be a sexual remark.

“As a general rule, the university does not comment on pending legal matters. However, in this instance, we feel compelled to note that Mr. Baty’s deposition is full of outright fabrications, lies and false attributions,” said Dan Beckler, KU associate athletic director for public relations. “As we have said all along, we are confident this matter will be appropriately resolved in court.”

Aside from what did or did not go on in Long and Beaty’s personal lives, Long based his legal argument for denying Beaty’s $3 million buyout around supposed evidence the athletics department had that Beaty was aware his staff committed NCAA violations by having non-countable coaches perform official coaching duties. However, Beaty’s camp alleged that Long was aware of similar behavior committed by Miles’ staff but was not concerned.

Beaty’s lawyer Michael Lyons pressed Long repeatedly about video clips of game footage from the 2019 season, coached by Miles, showing Long numerous snippets of non-countable KU coaches interacting with players and coaches on the sideline.

The first was from KU’s third game against Boston College, which showed then-offensive analyst Josh Eargle flipping through Miles’ play sheet and pointing to something on it. An analyst, by NCAA rules, cannot “make or assist in making tactical decisions related to the sport during on-court or on-field practice or competition.”

Long stated he disagreed with the assumption that Eargle was committing a coaching act in the specific clip, and later claimed he instituted moves to prevent such confusion in the future.