Devonta Smith

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Ohio State continues its hot streak on the recruiting trail

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Not even a global pandemic can quarantine Ohio State’s momentum on the recruiting trail.

Since adding 4-star, top 100 cornerback Jakailin Johnson out of St. Louis on Sunday and 4-star running back Evan Pryor on Monday, the Buckeyes have picked up two more commits — and the week is not yet halfway complete.

Three-star cornerback Devonta Smith joined the class after we went to press yesterday, and today 4-star safety Andre Turrentine has joined the fray. Smith is from Cincinnati, while Turrentine hails from Nashville.

In case you’d like to feel old today, Smith’s Twitter account lists all of one tweet, from 2016, portraying his excitement to start… eighth grade football.

And here’s Mark PantoniOhio State’s personnel director:

As of this writing and subject to change by the time it meets your eyeballs, Ohio State’s 14-man class has extended its lead over Clemson for the nation’s No. 1 class. The 247Sports composite rankings gives Ohio State 268.81 points to Clemson’s 220.98, while Clemson edges the Buckeyes on a per capita basis, 95.59 to 95.09.

 

Reports: Steve Sarkisian staying at Alabama after flirting with Colorado

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Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian no longer appears headed West after all.

The Crimson Tide play-caller is reportedly staying in Tuscaloosa with a rich new contract after being heavily linked with the head coach opening at Colorado in the past 24 hours. ESPN’s Chris Low was the first to report the news, noting Sark’s new deal will include a pay raise.

Yahoo! Sports later confirmed the same.

The move is certainly a blow to the Buffs, whose coaching search has now extended past the weeklong mark in the wake of Mel Tucker being hired away by Michigan State. Sarkisian was among the more interesting names floated for the gig and made plenty of sense given his connections in the Pac-12 as the former head coach at both Washington and USC.

Former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and ex-Tennessee coach Butch Jones have also been mentioned in connection to the opening. Interim head coach Darrin Chiaverini is pegged as the top internal candidate.

As for Sark, the move is an interesting one. It says plenty that he even got an interview given the way things ended in Los Angeles but also speaks to the image rehabilitation he’s done under Nick Saban as well. Alabama missed out on the College Football Playoff for the first time last season but were among the most dangerous offenses in the country when starting QB Tua Tagovailoa was healthy.

Replacing the Heisman finalist under center will now be one of Sarkisian’s top priorities over the coming months but at least whoever winds up taking snaps against familiar foe USC will have the benefit of playing in an offense that features the likes of Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith.

Sarkisian’s new contract will also be interesting to see once it emerges from the university bureaucracy. He was already the highest paid offensive assistant coach in the country for the upcoming 2020 season at $1.6 million. He originally signed a three year deal to return to the program after a stint with the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Tua Tagovailoa to enter 2020 NFL Draft

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In one of the most anticipated stay-or-go announcements in recent memory, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will skip his senior season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tagovailoa made the announcement in a televised press conference from Tuscaloosa on Monday.

Nick Saban on Monday proclaimed him one of the most impactful players in Alabama’s football history, and it would be impossible to argue otherwise.

A former 5-star recruit out of Honolulu, Tagovailoa burst on the scene in one of the most memorable performances in college football history. Though he had appeared in seven games prior, he saved Alabama’s 2017 national championship hopes by arriving in a big way, rescuing the Tide from a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat Georgia, 26-23 in overtime, sealing the win on an astonishing 41-yard touchdown throw to fellow freshman Devonta Smith.

In his first year as a starter, Tua set the FBS single-season efficiency record, hitting 69 percent of his 355 throws for 3,966 yards (11.2 per attempt) with 43 touchdowns against six interceptions — good for a 199.44 rating. He was even better this fall, connecting on 71.4 percent of his 252 passes for 2,840 yards (11.3 per) with 33 touchdowns against just three picks, a 206.93 rating that put him on pace to shatter his own record had he appeared in one more game this season.

With the announcement, Tagovailoa’s career ended with a hip-breaking sack against Mississippi State on Nov. 16. That injury robbed him of a chance to win a Heisman Trophy and to lead Alabama to a national championship as a full-time starter, but otherwise he checked every box a quarterback can in just two years as a starter.

Speculation had grown in recent weeks that Tua could return and hopefully enter the 2021 draft fully healthy, but that speculation proved moot on Monday.

With Tua officially out, the attention will now turn to an intriguing battle to succeed the best quarterback in Alabama history. Mac Jones proved capable over the final three games, throwing for 327 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in Alabama’s 35-16 win over Michigan in last week’s Citrus Bowl. Competing with Jones will be Tua’s younger brother, rising sophomore Taulia Tagovailoa, and incoming 5-star freshman Bryce Young, whom Tua referenced by name on Monday.

Alabama RT Jedrick Wills, Jr., going pro

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Alabama is getting one of its bookend tackles back, as left tackle Alex Leatherwood announced this week he will return for the 2020 campaign.

The Crimson Tide will not go 2-for-2.

Right tackle Jedrick Wills, Jr., announced Saturday he will enter the 2020 NFL Draft. Willis made the announcement on his Twitter account.

“As a kid from Lexington, KY- It has been a dream of mine since the first time I strapped up my pads to play in the National Football League,” he said. “After prayers and discussion with my family I have decided to forgo my senior season and declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.”

Wills appeared in 11 games as a true freshman before entering the starting roster as a sophomore. He started 28 consecutive games for the Crimson Tide.

A First Team All-SEC performer, Wills was a consensus Second Team All-American this fall.

He is widely expected to be a first round selection in this spring’s draft.

With Leatherwood and linebacker Dylan Moses already returning, Alabama is still awaiting word from (deep breath) running back Najee Harris, receivers Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith, safety Xavier McKinney and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

LSU, Alabama headline coaches’ All-SEC teams

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Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Late Monday morning, the SEC unveiled its 2019 all-conference team, as voted upon by the league’s coaches.  SEC champion LSU and West runner-up Alabama tied for the most first-team selections with six apiece.  SEC East champion Georgia was next up with four, while East runner-up Florida had three.

The Crimson Tide placed 14 players on the first- and second-teams, the most of any single school.  The Tigers, LSU, version, were next at 11.

All told, 13 of the 14 schools in the conference placed at least one player on either team.  Vanderbilt was the only team without a player selected.

According to the conference’s release, more than a dozen players have now been recognized twice on the All-SEC teams: Raekwon Davis (Alabama), Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri), Trey Smith (Tennessee), Andrew Thomas (Georgia), Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Grant Delpit (LSU), Braden Mann (Texas A&M), Alex Leatherwood (Alabama), D’Andre Swift (Georgia), Lynn Bowden Jr. (Kentucky), Derrick Brown (Auburn), CJ Henderson (Florida) and Rodrigo Blankenship (Georgia).

FIRST TEAM
OFFENSE
TE
Kyle Pitts, Florida

OL
Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama
Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
Trey Smith, Tennessee

C
Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU

WR
Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

QB
Joe Burrow, LSU

RB
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
D’Andre Swift, Georgia

ALL-PURPOSE
Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky

DEFENSE
DL
Derrick Brown, Auburn
Marlon Davidson, Auburn
Jonathan Greenard, Florida
Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

LB
Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Nick Bolton, Missouri

DB
J.R. Reed, Georgia
Grant Delpit, LSU
Xavier McKinney, Alabama
CJ Henderson, Florida

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK
Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

P
Braden Mann, Texas A&M

RETURN SPECIALIST
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

SECOND TEAM
OFFENSE
TE
Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

OL
Logan Stenberg, Kentucky
Adrian Magee, LSU
Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
Damien Lewis, LSU

C
Landon Dickerson, Alabama

WR
Devonta Smith, Alabama
Bryan Edwards, South Carolina

QB
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

RB
Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
Najee Harris, Alabama

ALL-PURPOSE
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

DEFENSE
DL
Raekwon Davis, Alabama
Benito Jones, Ole Miss
Rashard Lawrence, LSU
Tyler Clark, Georgia

LB
Daniel Bituli, Tennessee
K.J. Britt, Auburn
Terrell Lewis, Alabama

DB
Derek Stingley, LSU
Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Nigel Warrior, Tennessee
Jacoby Stevens, LSU

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK
Brent Cimaglia, Tennessee

P
Max Duffy, Kentucky

RETURN SPECIALIST
*Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss
*Treylon Burks, Arkansas
*Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
*Christian Tutt, Auburn
*Marquez Callaway, Tennessee

(* – Ties)