NCAA Football

Jordan Fuller to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 4-Star ATH Prospect

College football teams win national titles with stars and athletes, so Jordan Fuller's commitment to Ohio State once again has the Buckeyes headed in the right direction.

Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports passed along word that Fuller was heading to Columbus Monday evening. 

Fuller commented on his decision, per Wiltfong

I felt the most comfortable there. For a long time they’ve really been my favorite and that’s the place for me.

...The tradition, top-notch football, the competition, the way they develop their players, the way they take care of their players, the honesty, the opportunity for early playing time and networking, their alumni base is huge.

I’m just excited to be part of a program that’s been storied and so successful in history. I’m excited to be part of something that’s a lot bigger than me.

Fuller is everything a coach looks for in a high school recruit. He's a 4-star prospect and the sixth-ranked athlete in the 2016 recruiting class, per 247Sports. The 17-year-old dual-threat quarterback is listed at 6'1 ½" and 196 pounds.

Fuller's position wasn't always clear during the recruiting process. He played Wildcat quarterback and wide receiver at Old Tappan High School (New Jersey), racking up 1,665 total yards and 15 touchdowns en route to earning NJ.com's State Player of the Year award in 2015. 

Along with those positions, Scout.com lists Fuller as the nation's 10th-ranked cornerback prospect. Wiltfong said Fuller will play cornerback for the Buckeyes. 

ESPN.com noted his defensive chops have dramatically increased: 

This kid has really improved his stock in our eyes. He's become faster and more fluid. Fuller makes most of his big plays on offense, but shows really upside on the defensive side to blossom. Gives coaches lots of options. He can run, he's physical and he's versatile. Will be very attractive for power five programs.

Even though Fuller didn't have a defined position on the recruiting trail, he's one of the most exciting talents in the nation and has the potential to become a superstar at his new home. Varsity Highlights HD passed along some of his highlights and his decision Monday:

Fuller is just another example of death, taxes and a successful recruiting year for Urban Meyer. The Ohio State head coach added the dynamic Fuller to an incoming class that ranks second overall (as of Monday), trailing only LSU, according to 247Sports.

It makes sense that Fuller will be going to Ohio State as a cornerback, as Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com noted the Buckeyes need more help in the secondary after Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP Eli Apple declared for the NFL draft.

Meyer is a master of developing talent and will find the best way to use his new weapon as soon as possible. Fuller is going to be working with one of the best in the nation and will make an impact for the Buckeyes over the next few years.

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Damar Hamlin to Pitt: Panthers Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Pennsylvania cornerback Damar Hamlin has decided to make Pitt his home for the next four years after giving the Panthers his commitment. 

Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Hamlin's pledge to attend the university on Monday. He chose the Panthers over the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions, per Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch.

Hamlin is one of the most intriguing defensive backs in this year's recruiting class. He's highly regarded, rated as a 4-star prospect and the No. 14 overall cornerback by 247Sports' composite rankings, but that's just where the excitement begins. 

Size and length are two key assets for a defensive back in football today because wide receivers are bigger and faster than ever before. Hamlin has great measurables at 6'1" with a 175-pound frame, giving him the potential to disrupt plays even when it appears he's been beaten. 

With all the pressure on his shoulders in 2015 as such a high-profile recruit, Hamlin was terrific enough to earn a spot on the Max Preps' All-American Team, and Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports threw high praise his way:

Past performance can say something about where a player is going, but recruits also need to show potential. Hamlin boasts as much of that as any cornerback in the 2016 recruiting class, as noted by ESPN.com's Recruiting Nation scouting report.

Hamlin may be a guy that rises into an upper-echelon corner in this class. He has size, hips, savvy and athleticism as well scheme and coverage versatility. Very good prospect with a high ceiling. ... Hamlin has good length for a corner with room to fill out frame and add bulk. For a taller corner is able to transition well enough to turn and run with receiver without having to waste a lot of motion and regain balance when having to make a 180-degree turn.

Adding muscle is not a concern at this stage of Hamlin's development. He's going to have plenty of time working with head coach Pat Narduzzi and a tremendous staff to get there. 

Home-field advantage seemed to work for Narduzzi, as the Pittsburgh native elected to stay close to home. The Panthers' 2016 class is holding steady with a solid ranking of fifth in the ACC and 34th overall, per 247Sports

Pitt has struggled breaking away from the middle of the pack in the ACC, winning an average of seven games during its three seasons in the conference. Recruiting has become more difficult in the conference with Florida State, Clemson and Miami with new coach Mark Richt

However, the eight games Narduzzi won in his first season in 2015 were the most for the team since the 2010 season. If he can develop all of this high-end talent being compiled, the Panthers will be a dangerous team very soon.

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Chris Black to Missouri: Latest Transfer Details, Comments and Reaction

Wide receiver Chris Black never lived up to expectations as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, but he will attempt to resurrect his career in 2016 with fellow SEC school Missouri. 

He shared news of his transfer on Twitter Monday:

Michael Casagrande of AL.com noted Black will be a graduate transfer for the Tigers, which means he is eligible to play in 2016. The playmaker also considered Arizona State and Maryland.

David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune said Black will participate in spring football with the Tigers as well.

Black came to Alabama as a highly regarded recruit, but he only caught 25 passes for 290 yards in three seasons. His best campaign came in 2014 when he tallied 188 receiving yards, but he dealt with injuries throughout his tenure in Tuscaloosa. He redshirted his first season in 2012 and only saw the field in two games in 2015 because of various physical setbacks.

Black was actually Alabama’s leading returning receiver entering the 2015 campaign after the departures of Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones, but an ankle injury held him back.

There isn’t much room for impact pass-catchers on Alabama’s depth chart following a national title with Calvin Ridley, O.J. Howard and ArDarius Stewart all returning in 2016. Ridley racked up 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns, Howard won the MVP of the national title game as a tight end with 208 receiving yards and two scores and Stewart tallied 700 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Had Black returned to the Crimson Tide, he would have faced an uphill battle coming off an injury to even consistently see the field.

As for Missouri, it was a dismal 113th in the nation in passing yards per game in 2015 (165.6) and didn’t feature a single wide receiver with more than 350 total receiving yards all season. What’s more, 247Sports only listed one wide receiver commit among Missouri’s 2016 recruits, as of Monday, and that was 3-star Dominic Collins.

From an opportunity standpoint, Black will have a much better chance to emerge as a go-to option in the Tigers offense. Black was talented enough to draw interest from powerhouse Alabama in the first place, and he may finally have the chance to show what he can do as a healthy pass-catcher in a new uniform.

Missouri’s aerial attack must improve if it wants to compete for an SEC East crown after finishing 5-7 in 2015, and adding Black is an ideal step forward this offseason.

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Latest Buzz Surrounding Big 12 Recruiting Ahead of National Signing Day

It’s been a rough recruiting cycle for the Big 12, which has been lagging behind the other conferences in commitments from top players. But Big 12 schools are hoping for some top recruits to help close that gap by the end of national signing day.

Just four recruits in the Rivals 100 are committed to Big 12 schools—three to Baylor and one to Oklahoma. On Wednesday, however, the conference will be in contention for a few more top prospects.

The Oklahoma Sooners are in the hunt for 4-star cornerback Jared Mayden. His other choice is Alabama. He told Greg Powers of Scout.com, “It’s a real close one.”

“They’re really good schools,” Mayden said. “I really just don’t know.”

The Sooners need depth at corner with the departure of Zack Sanchez. One advantage for the Sooners is that both of Mayden’s parents went to Oklahoma. They could also pursue his younger brother, quarterback Jalen Mayden.

Another big name still available is 4-star defensive tackle D’Andre Christmas-Giles, who has TCU and Texas in his top three with LSU. Christmas-Giles tweeted that he will announce his decision Wednesday:

If Christmas-Giles were to choose the Longhorns, it would give more life to a class that sits at No. 43 in the Rivals recruiting rankings. Should he pick the Horned Frogs, he would fill their last glaring need in an already historic class.

Texas is also in the running for Nacogdoches, Texas, safety Brandon Jones. Jones is ranked as the No. 11 player overall in Texas. He has the Longhorns in his top schools with Big 12 rival Baylor as well as Arkansas and Texas A&M.

Jones visited Texas earlier this month. He went to Baylor for his last official visit over the weekend and tweeted that he had a great time:

Getting the 4-star safety would be a strong finish for an already strong class by Baylor. Barring a couple of flips from their major commits, the Bears are going to finish with a Top 20 class and possibly higher.

They currently sit at No. 11 in the Rivals team rankings. Jones would likely catapult the Bears into the Top 10.

TCU is the only other Big 12 school with a class ranked in the Top 20 of the Rivals rankings. The Frogs are 16th in the team rankings, and they have a shot at a couple other top prospects in addition to Christmas-Giles.

Kyle Porter, a 4-star running back from Katy, Texas, has the Frogs in his final three with Texas and Arkansas. He visited Arkansas last weekend and told HawgSports.com he enjoyed his time in Fayetteville. He also took official visits to TCU and Texas, according to Rivals.

Porter would give the Frogs another talented running back in a class that has two highly touted prospects at the position: Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua.

The Frogs are also waiting to hear from Tyrie Cleveland. The No. 9 player in the state of Texas is a Houston commit. He has taken official visits to Arkansas, Florida and TCU, however, and plans to announce his final decision on signing day.

Keeping Cleveland, Porter, Jones and Mayden in the Big 12 would be great for the conference. The Big 12 hasn’t done well recruiting in Texas recently. As of now, the Big 12 only has commitments from six of the top 25 players in the state for 2016.

Those four recruits are ranked among the top 32 players in Texas by Rivals. Cleveland, Jones and Mayden are all in the top 14. Commitments from any of them would be a welcome change.

Since TAMU left for the SEC and Texas began its precipitous decline, the Big 12 has struggled to keep players from Texas in the conference. The Aggies have given the rest of the SEC a bigger window to pursue players from the talent-rich state.

Combine that with the recent struggles of Texas, the state’s traditional power, and Mike Farrell of Rivals said those factors have drawn more and more Texas recruits out of Big 12 country.

“There are plenty of reasons the Big 12 is having its butt handed to it in recruiting," Farrell told Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News. "It all started with the decline of Texas and conference realignment. Those two hurt the Big 12."

Keeping these Texas players in the Big 12 would help the conference begin to take back the recruiting pipelines other conferences have taken from it. Convincing these players to play in Texas would also increase the overall quality of the league.

Right now, the national narrative says the Big 12 can’t bring in the talent necessary to compete with the other conferences. Come Wednesday, the Big 12 will have the chance to prove that idea wrong.

 

Star rankings and recruitment information courtesy of Rivals

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Two days from national signing day, Notre Dame football is still looking for a late flurry to its recruiting class of 2016.

The Irish already have five signees—linebacker/defensive end Daelin Hayes, defensive end Khalid Kareem, safety Devin Studstill, safety Spencer Perry and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson—enrolled early in South Bend.

Seventeen other verbal commitments have already pledged to the Irish. Beyond that group of 22, which is ranked ninth nationally, who else will Notre Dame land by the end of the day Wednesday?

There are still six relevant names on Notre Dame's board as it creeps closer to signing day. Wide receiver Demetris Robertson and linebackers Caleb Kelly and Ben Davis are elite 5-star talents, while 4-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch, 4-star athlete Jordan Fuller and 3-star linebacker Jonathan Jones remain targets.

Jones appears to be the most likely to ink with the Irish on Wednesday. The Orlando, Florida, native has narrowed his focus to Michigan and Notre Dame. Jones checks in as the No. 31 outside linebacker and No. 449 overall prospect in the class. He logged his official visit to South Bend in late September for the UMass blowout.

According to Irish247's Tom Loy, "all signs point toward him committing and signing with the Irish on Wednesday."

Irish fans would certainly love to land Robertson, and the high-end wideout may be the next likeliest recruit.

The No. 1 wide receiver and No. 14 overall prospect in the nation, Robertson's recruitment has attracted plenty of attention the last few days. Robertson visited Georgia Tech over the weekend, though an Alabama visit was scrapped again.

This, of course, all comes just days after Notre Dame's in-home visit with Robertson in Savannah, Georgia, on Thursday, when the Irish made tremors with their massive equipment truck.

What does it all mean? Tough to tell.

"There is still talk of visiting Georgia this weekend, but we still believe that he could surprise some people, shut things down and commit and sign 48 hours from now," Loy wrote Monday. "If that's the case, we're confident he ends up with Notre Dame."

Right now, we have the Irish holding off the late-charging competition.

Oklahoma has long appeared to be the leader for Kelly, the No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 25 overall recruit in the class. Despite an official visit to South Bend in mid-December for Notre Dame's awards banquet weekend and an in-home visit from the Irish staff last week, we still like Oklahoma.

"Kelly looks like he's leaning toward Oklahoma over Notre Dame at this point," Loy wrote Monday. "Barring a change of heart, we expect him to suit up for the Sooners next season."

Might McCulloch stay in Big 12 country, too?

The Houston product is the No. 4 outside linebacker and No. 59 recruit in the country. McCulloch took his official visit to South Bend in mid-October and has since taken officials to Stanford, Michigan, Texas and Texas A&M. Loy still expects McCulloch to sign with Texas.

Rounding out the remaining linebackers, Davis is another top-tier 'backer. Notre Dame's equipment truck made a stop in Gordo, Alabama, to check in on the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 10 overall player. Loy expects Davis to sign with the Crimson Tide.

Fuller will make his announcement Monday night.

According to Loy, Fuller is down to Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State—with the Buckeyes as the favorite. The Westwood, New Jersey, native is the No. 6 athlete and No. 130 overall prospect.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com, and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Auburn Football: What Tigers Need to Do to Close Strong on National Signing Day

National signing day is one of the biggest days on the college football calendar for any program, but it's become monumental for Auburn in the last several years.

The Tigers are one of the top recruiting powerhouses in the SEC and, by extension, the entire country. It's virtually impossible for teams to compete for championships without winning big on signing day, and Auburn has maintained an elite level of recruiting over the past decade.

Auburn is currently No. 14 in 247Sports' composite team rankings, which is still impressive considering the Tigers' underwhelming seasons in 2014 and 2015 and recent coaching turnover. No matter the records, Auburn is still an appealing destination for some of the nation's top recruits.

The Tigers also have a chance to close inside the Top 10 of the rankings with a strong showing on national signing day. Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles named Auburn as one of nine teams that could win big Wednesday.

What do the Tigers need to do to close strong and wrap up an outstanding 2016 recruiting class? Here are three target areas to watch this Wednesday.

 

Sign two of the remaining Top 100 defensive targets

Auburn's best chance at pushing into the Top 10 of the overall team rankings—and perhaps a run at a potential Top 5 class—resides with four defensive Top 100 recruits:

These four players are the bulk of the biggest targets remaining for Auburn, and the Tigers have a strong chance with at least three of them.

Rashan Gary, the No. 1 overall player in the country, is the longest shot. Auburn had some good momentum with the New Jersey native during the 2015 season, but the departure of former defensive coordinator Will Muschampdidn't sit well with Gary's mother, who has played a vocal role in his recruitment.

Head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive line coach Rodney Garner visited Gary over the weekend—before the nation's most coveted recruit made his official visit to Clemson. The ACC's Tigers and Michigan appear to be the leaders for Gary, but one can't completely rule Auburn out.

Fellow defensive tackle and Top 10 recruit Derrick Brown, however, has a much better chance of signing with Auburn. His last three weekends were official visits to—in order—Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee.

According to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports, "Auburn likes its chances" of signing the elite Georgia native. Niebuhr put Auburn's chances of signing Brown at 55 percent.

Over the weekend, Auburn's chances at signing 5-star linebacker Ben Davis surprisingly rose. The nation's No. 1 inside linebacker, the son of Alabama all-time tackles leader Wayne Davis, made his official visit to Auburn and told reporters he didn't have a leader after his trip to the Plains.

"I got to see a lot of things that I was wondering about, answered a lot of questions," Davis said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "Coach Malzahn and Coach Steele, they’re great coaches. I’m just glad, like I said, that I got down here to see them. It’s going to be tough on signing day for me."

As Green reported, the top factor in Davis' recruitment is his chance at early playing time. That's something Auburn can offer more than Alabama. While Davis picking anyone but the Tide would still be a signing day surprise, the Tigers are very much in the hunt for the star linebacker.

Finally, Auburn is also in the running for 4-star safety Nigel Warrior. Tennessee, where his father, Dale Carter, played, is said to be the leader, but the Tigers could snatch him from the Vols on signing day. 

Warrior officially visited Auburn on Jan. 21, and a host of Auburn coaches visited him on Jan. 19 and Jan. 27. New defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff has been a key figure in Auburn's late push for Warrior.

Signing one of these Top 100 recruits would obviously be huge for Auburn, but the best-case scenario involves the Tigers snagging at least two of them—most likely Brown and either Davis or Warrior.

If Auburn signs two of these four, it's a strong signing day finish that would put the Tigers firmly into the Top 10. If Auburn signs three of the four, it's one of the biggest hauls in recent memory. 

If Auburn signs all four, the world might stop spinning on its axis. Then again, much stranger things have happened with this program in recent years.

 

Land the Myers brothers

Offensively, Auburn's No. 1 target is a name that should already be familiar to Tigers fans—4-star wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers.

The Tampa native and former No. 1 wide receiver recruit in the 2016 class was widely expected to stay in-state after decommitting from Auburn last May. However, with just days remaining in the recruiting cycle, Craig-Myers narrowed his list down to just Auburn and North Carolina.

The 6'2", 205-pound Craig-Myers is an all-around receiver with the ideal body size to become a future No. 1 target in the Auburn offense.

The position is one of huge need for the Tigers—they've already gotten commitments from two other 4-star wideouts—and Craig-Myers has been Auburn's biggest target on this side of the ball for quite sometime.

North Carolina has made a strong push late for Craig-Myers, moving past Florida State and Ole Miss to land in the final spots with Auburn. Co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer is a big fan of his talents.

Auburn currently holds 70 percent of the 247Sports crystal ball predictions for Craig-Myers, and the Tigers have gotten all the experts' picks since late December.

Craig-Myers' brother, 3-star cornerback Jayvaughn Myers, is also deciding between Auburn and North Carolina. He officially visited Auburn with Craig-Myers on Jan. 15.

Myers is far from Auburn's top recruits left on the board, but he brings good size at 6'1" to the cornerback position—and the Tigers can always use additional depth in the secondary. He played at the Under Armour All-America Game and could be a high-potential pickup.

While the brothers haven't said they are officially a package deal, Myers' matching of Craig-Myers' two finalists is quite telling. It's hard to imagine one of them going to Auburn and the other one going to Chapel Hill at this point.

Auburn simply needs to close strong with these Florida siblings by edging North Carolina for their signatures on Wednesday. If that happens, the Tigers will have an instant-impact receiver and another quality defensive back for 2016.

 

Pick up another offensive lineman

After signing a large offensive line class last year, Auburn only has one current commitment along the front five for 2016—3-star tackle Brodarious Hamm.

That's not from any lack of trying on Auburn's part, though. The Tigers, who have a new offensive line coach in Herb Hand, are targeting a trio of 4-star linemen ahead of national signing day.

While the Tigers lag behind both Florida State and Tennessee at this point, they're still said to be factors in the recruitment of North Carolina tackle Landon Dickerson. A borderline 4/5-star recruit, Dickerson visited Auburn for the Iron Bowl.

Auburn has a better chance at landing Georgia tackle E.J. Price, who officially visited the Plains on Jan. 22. The Tigers are in the hunt with Georgia, who already has several offensive tackle commitments, and USC for his signature on Wednesday.

Price, a 2016 Under Armour All-American, is being recruited by Auburn to play left tackle. The Tigers lost starting tackles Shon Coleman and Avery Young to the NFL this offseason, making a blue-chip pickup like Price important for the future.

"Well, I ‘m sure everyone knows Shon Coleman and Avery Young left so it’s an amazing opportunity for me to come in and play early," Price said, per Niebuhr. "I have a great relationship with Coach Malzahn and Coach Hand. It’s just a great relationship overall as far as football."

The final target is Nigerian-born Ohio recruit Prince Sammons, who can play both defensive end and offensive tackle at a high level.

Hand recruited the 6'8" Sammons at Penn State and wants him to join the Tigers—and Auburn is the only one to recruit him exclusively at offensive tackle, per Niebuhr. Sammons is raw, much like 2015 signing Prince Tega Wanogho, but his physical gifts make him a high-value target.

Again, with two star tackles leaving early for the NFL this offseason, the Tigers would love to add another recruit on the offensive line with Hamm.

Auburn most likely has the best shot at landing Sammons of the three, but a surprise pickup of Dickerson or Price would make for an exciting Wednesday on the Plains.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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4-Star DE Terrell Hall Tweets List of Final 4 Schools

With less than 48 hours remaining until the start of national signing day, it's now down to four schools for 4-star defensive end Terrell Hall, one of the nation's top uncommitted recruits.

Hall tweeted his final four of Alabama, Florida State, Maryland and Ole Miss on Monday afternoon in the new standard form of the iPhone note screenshot with team-specific emojis:

Hall, who decommitted from Ohio State last August, will announce his college decision at 2:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday at his high school, St. John's College in Washington, D.C. The decision will be televised on ESPNU.

The nation's No. 6 weak-side defensive end is a high 4-star, according to 247Sports' Composite Rankings. However, 247Sports' own list has him as a 5-star and the No. 23 overall recruit.

Hall stands at 6'5" and weighs 250 pounds. His incredible physical gifts have made him such a high-rising recruit in the class of 2016.

"Physically, Hall is the freak defensive lineman of the 2016 class," Barton Simmons of 247Sports wrote. "Though he's raw, he's got the highest defensive end ceiling in this class. An injury prevented him from playing in any All-American games which could have driven his rating even higher."

Hall also has great versatility on the defensive side of the ball. He told Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue last year he could play multiple positions at the college level.

"I can play middle linebacker, defensive end and outside linebacker. I bring a lot to the table," Hall said, per Donohue. "It makes it hard for an offense to find a way to stop me. You have to worry about where I am before the snap—whether I'm going to drop back in coverage, rush off the edge or line up over your guard."

Defending national champion Alabama is said to be the leader for Hall's signing, with 77 percent of the 22 Crystal Ball Predictions at 247Sports going the Tide's direction.

Hall officially visited Alabama on Jan. 22, and head coach Nick Sabanwent to the nation's capital last Friday with outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi to see the defensive end.

"They prepare you to be the best player and also the best person as far as pushing you to be great everyday," Hall said of Alabama, per Hank South of 247Sports. "I stayed until Monday, so I got to see their first workout since the national championship game. ... They’re gonna push you day in and day out."

The Alabama coaches visited Hall before he went to Ole Miss for his final official visit over the weekend. He also officially visited Florida State on Dec. 11 and Maryland on Jan. 16.

Maryland is the only other program that has received more than one Crystal Ball prediction for Hall.

New Terps defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, a native of Washington, D.C., recruited Hall for Alabama prior to his arrival at Maryland, per Ahmed Ghafir of 247Sports.

"Earlier this season, Maryland appeared out of the race for the prized former Ohio State commit," Ghafir wrote. "But assistant coach Aazaar Abul-Rahim, head coach D.J. Durkin and associate head coach Mike London have put the full-court press on Hall and the four-star has become increasingly more receptive to the Terrapins’ pitch."

Whether he decides to stay close to home with Maryland or heads south to SEC or ACC country, one thing is for sure—Hall is going to make one fanbase extremely happy come Wednesday afternoon.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Will Alabama Continue Its No. 1 Overall Recruiting Class Streak?

Not to be a buzzkill, but no matter how the University of Alabama fares on national signing day, Nick Saban will downplay his latest success.

He has done so every year at Alabama, including 2015, when the Crimson Tide again finished atop the recruiting rankings.

“I know there's going to be a lot of talk and speculation and everybody relates to recruiting based on how'd you get ranked,” Saban said at this time last year. “Every coach is going to stand here at this podium...and say they're pleased with the guys that they recruited. No one has a bad recruiting class.

“And we're certainly pleased with our guys, but predicting how a young person is going to do academically and athletically in college by giving them some rating when he's in high school is not very scientific.”

That’s what Saban says publicly. Behind the scenes, it’s a little different, as just about every move the Crimson Tide make—from facility upgrades to the coaching hires—is with an eye on attracting future prospects.

It’s the backbone of any program and the key to the Crimson Tide’s success.

However, Saban is correct that there are no guarantees, even with his stellar Class of 2008 that set the benchmark and helped lead to three national championships. That class included the Crimson Tide’s first Heisman Trophy winner and 12 players who would be selected in the NFL draft, including five in the first round.

Yet at the time, running back Mark Ingram Jr., defensive lineman Marcell Dareus (the No. 3 overall selection in the 2011 draft) and junior college transfer Terrence Cody (a two-time All-American nose guard) were all thought to be closer to the bottom of the recruiting class than the top.

Most recruiting services use a 5-star rating system, with five stars being the equivalent to a player who could contribute immediately, four suggesting that he’s a year away and so on.

Alabama had three 5-star players in 2008, led by wide receiver Julio Jones, who had a legendary career with the Crimson Tide. 

The other two were offensive tackle Tyler Love, who never started a game, and wide receiver B.J. Scott—who had been instrumental in drawing other standout players to join him at Alabama but eventually ended up transferring to South Alabama to get more playing time as a cornerback.

That’s the disclaimer. Now consider the broader picture:

  • 2008: Notre Dame had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. It played for the 2012 title.
  • 2009: LSU and Alabama finished Nos. 1 and 2, and they played for the national championship in 2011.
  • 2011: Alabama and Florida State finished Nos. 1 and 2. The Seminoles won the 2013 championship.
  • 2013: Alabama and Ohio State were Nos. 1 and 2. The Buckeyes won the 2014 title.

Of course, Alabama won the 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015 national titles, and no one doubted the Crimson Tide’s level of talent this past season. Every year since 2011, Saban's team has been ranked no. 1 on 247Sports’ composite recruiting class rankings. But as of Feb. 1, Alabama's incomplete recruiting class is ranked fifth in the nation.

Consider that in college football, winning three national titles over a six-year span is certainly a dynasty. What Saban’s done in recruiting is unparalleled in college football history.

This is the backdrop to this year’s signing day, which figures to be different from 2015, when Saban said, “We didn't have a lot of drama,” because nearly every player had been committed to Alabama for a while. This time, that’s not the case.

Through Monday afternoon, it had seven early enrollees plus Christian Bell (Hoover High School, Alabama), who grayshirted last season—which means to delay enrolling for a semester—and came in as a linebacker after being a defensive lineman in high school.

Saban never discloses scholarship information or numbers, but Bell’s believed to count as part of the 2015 class.

Among the early enrollees is junior college offensive lineman Charles Baldwin (Windsor, Connecticut/ASA College), who at 6’5” and 315 pounds, could immediately challenge for the open right tackle job vacated by Dominick Jackson.

One of his biggest competitors could be Jonah Williams (Folsom, California), a 5-star player who stands 6'5", 296 pounds.

The others who were able to practice with the team in Tuscaloosa prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship were tight end Miller Forristall (Cartersville, Georgia), quarterback Jalen Hurts (Channelview, Texas), defensive back Shawn Jennings (Dadeville, Alabama), offensive lineman Chris Owens (Arlington, Texas) and wide receiver T.J. Simmons (Pinson, Alabama/Clay-Chalkville).

Hurts and Owens are rated as 4-star prospects.

The part that has Alabama fans a little nervous is that the program only has 10 other hard commits after outside linebacker Riley Cole decommitted over the weekend and claimed he had been asked to consider a grayshirt.

That leaves eight openings, which is a lot more than Alabama usually has at this point, but the tea leaves are a lot harder to read this year because so many top prospects are waiting to make an announcement on signing day—and just about all of them are considering the Crimson Tide.

Among them are the state’s top two prospects, 5-star linebackers Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson, the nation’s top recruit in defensive tackle Rashan Gary and prized wide receiver Demetris Robertson, who will likely continue his recruiting process beyond signing day.

Cole, ranked as the 33rd-best prospect in the state of Alabama, may simply be fallout from the coaching carousel with Kirby Smart leaving to become the head coach at Georgia and Jeremy Pruitt replacing him as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator.

But it also signals something important that should put fans at ease: Alabama’s coaches are confident in a full class and their ability to add an interior linebacker in particular.

The Oneonta High School product was almost certainly on the redshirt path anyway, but he had been the only committed interior linebacker. That’s the position Davis plays.

Overall, 247Sports has 25 players listed as 5-star recruits, 11 of whom have yet to announce where they’ll be playing college ball. Alabama will be watching all 11, although it isn’t considered the favorite with most of them.

Alabama got a bump on Monday from 4-star cornerback Nigel Knott, moving it up from No. 6 to fifth in the 247Sports team rankings, despite having just 17 players in the class.

All of the teams ahead of it have landed 21 or more commitments and are looking to make final touches. The only schools to have more than one 5-star commit so far are Ole Miss (three) and Georgia (two). So the door is open for Alabama to keep moving up.

Should it land Davis and Wilson in addition to players like cornerback Shyheim Carter and defensive end Terrell Hall, who are thought to be strong Crimson Tide leans, Alabama will be in the running for No. 1 again.

As for whether it can finish there, the odds seem to be a bit stacked against the Crimson Tide—sort of like they were this past season.

Saban probably needs one more big-time addition to the class to claim his sixth straight recruiting title.

But no one should bet against him.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are from 247Sports.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Will Clemson Get a National Championship Game Bump in Recruiting?

Clemson lost the College Football Playoff National Championship to Alabama last month, 45-40, but that was by no means the peak for the Tigers program. Head coach Dabo Swinney has already won too many big games and recruited too well for Clemson to suddenly drop off the face of the college football earth. 

Despite coming up just short in the biggest game of the year, could Clemson still see a recruiting bump that one would normally be associated with national championship winners?

There are still a few pieces that need to fall into place, but the short answer is yes. The more relevant question is by how much. 

Clemson has typically recruited well under Swinney, especially over the last five classes. There's no magic recruiting number that correlates to a national championship per se, but the rule of thumb is you need to consistently rank somewhere in the top 10-15 nationally, as noted by Paul Myerberg of USA Today

Dating back to 2011, Clemson has done just that, for the most part: 

But with a mere two days before signing day, the Tigers have the chance to earn their highest class ranking to date under Swinney.

It's a fluid situation, but Clemson holds down the No. 10 class nationally as of Monday afternoon. With four early enrollees and 11 verbal commits, Clemson's class is on the smaller side this year. There might be a few headlines on signing day, but the Tigers aren't hauling in a star-studded class of 25 players. 

Clemson could, however, jump up several spots if it lands No. 1 overall recruit Rashan Gary. According to Brandon Rink of the Independent Mail, "with Gary’s addition alone, they [Clemson] would move to as high as sixth." Keep in mind, too, that Clemson has never landed a No. 1 overall recruit under Swinney. 

According to 247Sports' Crystal Ball graph, the 5-star prospect is expected to sign with Michigan, but underdog Clemson has made the finalists cut.

Gary took an official visit to Clemson on Jan. 29 and was sent home with one heck of a recruiting cake, as tweeted by Gary's mother, Jennifer Coney: 

Gary's official visit apparently also went "even better" than expected, according to David Hood of Tigernet.com

Swinney is never one to give up on a big-time prospect. One of the things he can point to in the '16 class is how stout the Tigers D-line could be in the future. Clemson already has 5-star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who enrolled early, and 4-star defensive end Xavier Kelly as a verbal commit. 

Add Gary to the mix, and the '16 D-line class goes to an entirely different level. 

Gary isn't the only prospect who could provide Clemson's class with a late bump. Offensive lineman John Simpson, the No. 2 in-state recruit, looks like he could sign with the Tigers over Florida. Trayvon Mullen, a 4-star cornerback, reportedly has the Tigers as a top-three candidate going into signing day, according to CardinalSports.com. Another 4-star defensive back, Romeo Finley, is "very high" on Clemson, according to an interview with Phil Kornblut of the State

The smallest class Swinney ever signed at Clemson was his first in 2009, which had just 13 signees. But the '16 class is on track to have the highest number of top-end players despite not being large in size. Even if only a couple of Clemson's top targets sign with the Tigers, this class should get a nice boost. 

The prize, though, is Gary. Stealing him would put Clemson at a level in recruiting it hasn't reached under Swinney. It would only add to the momentum the Tigers program has experienced in recent years. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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Heartwarming On-Field Moments in College Football History

Every so often, college football sheds the label of being a brutal, violent game and offers heartwarming on-field moments.

The tear-jerking times aren't always the result of a happy occasion, since injuries are a part of that brutal, violent sport.

But everyone who's ever played the sport will say something similar: It's a brotherhood. Bonds are created and meant not to be broken. And sometimes, in moments of agony, those bonds extend beyond the color of the uniform players are wearing.

From spring scrimmages to regular-season outings to bowl games, college football can become an outlet of unbridled happiness and unexpected tenderness from players, coaches and fans.

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College Football Teams That Would Be Perfect for Reality TV Shows in 2016

College football and reality television seemingly go hand in hand these days—and I'm not just referring to my Bleacher Reportcolleagues who love to live-tweet The Bachelor.

As Bachelor live-tweeter and SEC football lead writer Barrett Sallee wrote last month, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has a new web-based reality show from in-state radio host Bo Mattingly. Being Bret Bielema already has two trailers on YouTube, including one where Bielema makes the perfect pitch for year-round egg nog.

Bielema isn't the only college football figure to get the reality show treatment recently. Last year, Showtime went in-depth with college football's famous Fighting Irish on its series A Season with Notre Dame.

But why stop there? Here are 10 other college football programs that would be perfect for reality television shows heading into the 2016 season. Some have head coaches who are made for the spotlight, while others are programs with intriguing storylines as they venture into new eras.

Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list of college football programs that would be great for reality TV. Pitch your own ideas for shows in the comments below.

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Nicholas Turner, Northwest Missouri State Football Player, Found Dead in Dorm

Nicholas Turner, a junior defensive end on the Northwest Missouri State football team, was found dead in his dorm room Sunday, the school announced.

The Nodaway County coroner's office and local authorities are investigating, though no foul play is suspected. According to USA Today's A.J. Perez, the coroner's full autopsy report will be completed in 10 to 12 weeks.

Brendan Welch of the St. Joseph News-Press reported head coach Adam Dorrel informed his players of Turner's death during a celebration honoring Northwest Missouri State's Division II national championship.

Turner appeared in 12 games this past year, making 22 total tackles, including seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also recorded a sack in the Bearcats' 34-7 victory over the Shepherd Rams in the D-II title game.

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star Ready to Announce; 4-Star Choosing Between 2

It's here.

The week of national signing day is upon us, and there are still a few major college football recruiting targets still uncommitted. By Wednesday, the recruiting world will have answers for several athletes who took the recruiting process down to the wire.

Here's the latest on some of the athletes looking to finalize their college futures on Wednesday, as well as some athletes looking to add elite-level teammates to their respective classes.

 

No final official? No regrets for Hardman

This past weekend was the last for 2016 recruits to take official visits. Mecole Hardman Jr. chose to play for his country instead.

Hardman was a member of the U.S. under-19 national team that beat Canada, 33-0, in the International Bowl Sunday afternoon in Arlington, Texas. The Elberton, Georgia, 5-star athlete lined up as a wide receiver for Team USA and caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in the win.

And if he had to choose between playing in the International Bowl or taking an official visit for that weekend, he'd make the same choice all over again.

"You get to represent your country. There's nothing like that," Hardman said. "Anything you can do to give back to the troops and soldiers before you, you try to do it. I think I did everything right. I came out and had some time to myself to think about my upcoming decision. I'm happy with that."

Hardman said playing for Team USA also gave him a chance to put recruiting temporarily on the shelf. Over the next few hours, however, Hardman said his focus is solely on where he'll play college football. In fact, Hardman said he's ready to make a decision.

"This week's been helpful. I definitely know what school is best for me," Hardman said. "Anything can change between now and signing day, but I think I'm about 75 or 80 percent where I know I'm going."

Among the schools that have a shot at Hardman, according to him, are Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State. One school he said has always been a silent contender is Tennessee, a school that Hardman said "has been there from the beginning."

Hardman is expected to announce Wednesday morning.

 

Alabama or Oklahoma for CB Mayden?

For Sachse, Texas, 4-star cornerback Jared Mayden, a decision will come down to which shade of crimson he prefers. It also will come down to whether he wants to continue a legacy or start one of his own.

Mayden, who played for the U.S. U19s, reconfirmed on Sunday what he tweeted on Jan. 24: His top two schools are Oklahoma and Alabama. The one-time Oregon pledge said he'll announce his commitment at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, and that he knows what to look for in a winning program.

"Really, it's all about how comfortable I'll feel going to that school for the next three or four years," Mayden said. "With OU, I know I can go and keep a legacy going. Plus, my parents went there. With Bama, it's a good program with a winning tradition. I can't go wrong with either one."

Mayden said he's built great relationships with both Oklahoma defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. 

 

Ultimate Decider for LB Jones: Prayer

Orlando, Florida, 3-star linebacker Jonathan Jones, also a member of the U19s, has Notre Dame and Michigan as his top two schools. On Sunday, he admitted that the schools were neck-and-neck as he inches closer to national signing day.

When asked how he planned on choosing the right school, Jones kept his answer short and simple. And spiritual.

"Jesus," Jones said, chuckling but not necessarily joking. "Straight up, wherever God wants me to go, I'll follow."

Jones, who had four tackles and a sack in the International Bowl, said both schools were "50-50" as of Sunday night, and he planned on speaking to mentors for the next couple of days to make the right decision. He visited Notre Dame in September and Michigan in December.

"Right now, I'm just praying on it. I've got a couple more days to pray," Jones said. "I'm going to talk to my pastor and talk to my dad. We're all going to sit and pray about it. We'll see what my family thinks and get a decision from there."

 

Buckeyes pledge Haskins targeting No. 1 ATH

Ohio State quarterback commit Dwayne Haskins Jr. completed 12 of 16 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns for the U19s Sunday and left the International Bowl with the MVP trophy.

Playing in the game was something of a business trip for Haskins—a trip that had two objectives. First, the Gaithersburg, Maryland, 4-star prospect wanted to lead Team USA to a win and represent his country well. Second, he wanted to make sure he did his job as a player-recruiter for the Buckeyes.

"I'm out here recruiting a little bit," Haskins said. "The class is pretty much done, but Coach [Urban Meyer] is trying to get a couple more players."

One of those players high on Ohio State's list is Mecole Hardman Jr. Haskins and Hardman connected on a third-quarter touchdown pass in the International Bowl. Haskins let him know that the play could be something routine at the next level.

"I'm working hard on Mecole. I know he decides pretty soon, but I think we have a good chance with him," Haskins said of Hardman. "That dude is really fast. I've never met somebody so fast. He makes me want to throw the ball deep all the time. That's how fast he is. He really is a special talent."

 

UCLA pledge Alloway: 'I want to get Burton'

Fontana, California, 4-star all-purpose back Damian Alloway committed to UCLA on Friday via Bleacher Report video. Since then, Alloway's taken on the role of player-recruiter and has his eyes set on one player in particular.

"One guy I can name off the top is Brandon Burton," Alloway said. "I've talked to him about all of us trying to bring something special back to L.A."

A 4-star safety from Gardena, California, Burton has UCLA and USC high on his list, as well as out-of-state schools Florida State and Arizona. Burton can also play wide receiver but is ranked as the nation's No. 6 safety in the 2016 class.

Alloway, the nation's No. 3 all-purpose back, said Burton's energy would be a perfect complement to what the UCLA class currently has.

"I'm a passionate guy playing football, and you can tell he has that, too," Alloway said of Burton. "There's a focus and a fire he plays with. I can see myself competing with him in practice and us making each other better."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports.com's composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Charlie Strong Must Find Offensive Weapons in Texas' 2016 Recruiting Class

Texas head coach Charlie Strong is entering a pivotal third year with the Longhorns. In short, there are no more excuses. There can be no more losing seasons and no more problems on offense.

Otherwise, the Strong era in Austin could be over rather quickly.

Strong made one big change to rectify the identity crisis on offense when he hired offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert from Tulsa. Now, Strong needs players to run the new scheme.

There are some significant pieces already in place from the 2015 season.

The team's leading passer, Jerrod Heard, was a redshirt freshman. Heard also led the team with 139 rushing attempts, but two of the top three running backs (D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III) were a sophomore and freshman, respectively. 

Additionally, the leading receiver, John Burt, was a freshman. So, too, was one of the better linemen on the team, Patrick Vahe.

But with a new OC and time not exactly on Texas' side, the Longhorns need to find the best answers at every position right away. That means jobs should be open again this offseason.

But the question is, which incoming players can make an immediate impact on offense? With just days before national signing day, the Longhorns are lacking blue-chip recruits on offense for the 2016 class.

Below is a table of the offensive players Texas has verbally committed or already enrolled:

There are some standouts, to be sure. Quarterback Shane Buechele is expected to challenge Heard for the starting spot.

Additionally, Strong did an outstanding job at Louisville developing 3-star players into future NFL draftees. To say he couldn't do the same at Texas given the proper amount of time would be to ignore what he's already done.

By and large, though, there's room for the 2016 class to be better on offense. The Horns have the No. 4-ranked class in the Big 12 and No. 34-ranked class overall. That's not where Texas fans are used to seeing their incoming groups.

In addition to offensive players, Texas is in dire need of defensive tackles.

Can Strong close hard in the final couple of days and pick up some additional, much-needed offensive pieces?

As it stands now, Delance, Buechele and Okafor are the only offensive recruits Texas has committed who rank among the Top 50 in-state players. For comparison purposes, Baylor has five, including the No. 4-ranked in-state player, wide receiver Devin Duvernay.

The state of Texas is spread out when it comes to committed blue-chip players. Houston and second-year coach Tom Herman have made a sizable dent by picking up three Top 50 players, including 4-star receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Courtney Lark.

SEC programs Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M have a decent-sized presence in Texas, too, when it comes to top-tier offensive players.

The point being, Texas has some work to do if it's going to land some uncommitted players or flip some previously committed prospects. As SB Nation Recruiting points out, there's a glaring hole for Texas atop the in-state rankings:

The silver lining is Strong is the complete opposite of his predecessor, Mack Brown, when it comes to recruiting.

For years, Brown would establish recruiting classes early and signing days would be relatively drama-free. Strong, on the other hand, tends to start slow and finish, well, "strong."

This was on display in last year's class when players like Malik Jefferson, then the No. 1-ranked player in Texas, committed in December 2014.

So which remaining uncommitted (or even committed) prospects could Strong lock down in the next 48-72 hours? Here are the top targets.

 

Running Back Kyle Porter

The 4-star back from Katy, Texas, is down to Texas, TCU and Arkansas, and he recently took visits to all three schools. The Longhorns' depth chart at running back is solid, but Porter would be a fine addition.

"I believe in the coaching staff," Porter told Gabe Brooks of Scout.com. "If they keep that coaching staff around, they're gonna be pretty good. They got a new OC coming in who's got a good plan for the offense to have a balanced passing and running game."

 

Offensive Lineman Patrick Hudson

Oh, the vague tweets of a high school football player. Hudson is verbally committed to Baylor, and there's been little to suggest he won't end up signing with the Bears.

However, just last week, Hudson tweeted the following:

The Longhorns have a decent O-line class already, but Hudson—the No. 7-ranked in-state player—would be the crown jewel of Texas' class if Strong can flip him.

 

Tight End Irvin Smith

Smith looks like he could be slipping away from the Horns. There was some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel when Smith decommitted from Texas A&M late last month.

However, Smith officially visited Alabama the next day, and 88 percent of 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions are leaning toward the 3-star signing with the Crimson Tide.

There are opportunities for Strong to land a more impressive, balanced class for this year, but the windows are closing. Ideally, Strong will redshirt a majority—if not all—of the incoming O-line players. As for the skill players available, there just aren't many blue-chippers committed to the Longhorns.

Stout defenses are always great, but the key to winning the Big 12 is on offense. In four of the past five years, the Big 12 champion (or co-champion) has averaged at least 40 points a game. In 2012, Kansas State and Oklahoma averaged roughly 38 points per game.

Under Strong, Texas has never averaged more than 26.4.

Texas needs offensive help in the worst way, and the class that's unfolding for 2016—while certainly not bad—definitely lacks top-end skill on that side of the ball.

It's crazy to think Strong's future in Texas could come down to how well he closes in the next few days, but given where the program needs to go in its trajectory, it's not as crazy as you think.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan, Ohio State Raising the Stakes for Big Ten Football Recruiting

With fewer than 48 hours to go until national signing day, the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State has been very much renewed on the recruiting trail as the Wolverines and Buckeyes battle for the right to claim the nation's top-ranked class.

In the case of Michigan, the Wolverines currently tout the country's No. 5 class and are the favorites to land the nation's top prospect, 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections. Ohio State, meanwhile, possesses the nation's second-ranked class at the moment and could climb as soon as Monday evening with the impending announcements of 4-star athlete Jordan Fuller and 4-star cornerback Damar Hamlin.

It's also a safe bet that the Buckeyes are keeping an eye on their rivals to the north as the final days of the 2016 recruiting cycle approach.

"We do keep score against the rival in everything we do," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said on last year's national signing day, after beating out Michigan for 4-star running back Michael Weber. "They're great recruiters, they always have been."

But regardless of the results that come for both the Buckeyes and Wolverines on Wednesday, the real loser in all of this won't be the school with the lower ranked recruiting class—but rather the rest of the Big Ten.

If the original "Ten Year War" turned the Big Ten into the "Big Two and Little Eight," then a sequel to the most storied chapter in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry—plus conference expansion—could transform the league into the "Big Two and Little 12."

The results on the field may not be there just yet—it was just two months ago the Buckeyes trounced the Wolverines by a score of 42-13 in their regular-season finale—but the recruiting trail currently paints the picture of a conference failing to keep up with its two pillar programs.

While Meyer's arrival in Columbus four years ago changed Big Ten recruiting forever, Jim Harbaugh's presence in Ann Arbor in the past 13 months has only upped the ante. Whereas Meyer seemingly shook the foundation of the league by (legally) recruiting prospects already committed to other programs, Harbaugh has take an an innovative national approach, which included a 10-city satellite camp tour last summer.

Both coaches have been magnets for criticism: Meyer over accusations of oversigning and Harbaugh for unapologetically making room in his class whenever deemed necessary.

"We’re very much out there. We don’t hide how we operate and what we do," the second-year Wolverines head coach told reporters last week, amidst multiple public decommitments from prospects who claimed to have been told their scholarship offers were no longer valid. "We’re going to bring the finest student-athletes and character that we can to the University of Michigan. That process continues for the next three to four days."

The results for both schools speak for themselves. With two days to go until national signing day, no other Big Ten team currently possesses a class ranked higher than Michigan State's No. 12 class.

For Meyer, it's been a matter of success breeding more success, with the Buckeyes' 2014 national championship playing a prominent role in this year's impressive recruiting haul. Since coming to Columbus, Meyer has never signed a class ranked lower than seventh nationally and is currently in line to ink the Big Ten's top-ranked class for a fifth consecutive year.

In Harbaugh, however, Ohio State has found its first legitimate threat to its reign atop the conference's recruiting throne. Should the Wolverines land Gary as expected, Michigan could lay claim to the nation's top-ranked class, with 4-star cornerback Lavert Hill also expected to land in Ann Arbor.

The decision of Fuller, a New Jersey native whom Crystal Ball projections peg to become a Buckeye, could go a long way in determining whether it's Ohio State or Michigan who wind up with the higher ranked of the two.

But while the Buckeyes and Wolverines battle down the stretch, both have separated themselves from the likes of Michigan State and Penn State over the course of the past year.

After possessing the nation's sixth-ranked class as recently as last summer, the Spartans have failed to capitalize on this past season's Big Ten championship and subsequent appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Nittany Lions, likewise, started strong with a 2016 class that ranked fourth nationally in August but have seen a slip to No. 13 that's coincided with a lack of results on the field and a string of offseason departures from James Franklin's coaching staff.

"I don't think there's any doubt that we've been getting a lot of negative recruiting," Franklin said last week. "Has it been a challenge? Yeah, yeah, there's no doubt about it."

Meanwhile in the Big Ten West, no program currently possesses a class ranked higher than Nebraska's 29th-ranked haul.

This isn't merely a one-year sample size, but rather what appears to be both the continuation of one trend along with the start of another. Meyer's resume on the Big Ten recruiting trail has already been well established, while Harbaugh turned in the nation's 37th-ranked class a year ago—which included the addition of two 4-star prospects—in just one month on the job.

With a full recruiting cycle under his belt, Harbaugh's ability to recruit for his alma mater at an elite level is apparent and only strengthened by his flipping of former OSU commit and 4-star running back Kareem Walker. And as far as 2017 is concerned, Michigan already possesses a commitment from 4-star offensive tackle JaRaymond Hall, while Ohio State can lay an early claim to the nation's top-ranked class—possibly for the second straight year.

Of course, a lot can change in the next two days—let alone the next few years. Michigan State's post-playoff bump on the recruiting trail may not appear until a year from now, and Franklin has already shown a prowess for recruiting top-level talent in his two years in Happy Valley.

But for now, it's Meyer and Harbaugh and everybody else when it comes to Big Ten recruiting.

"Big Two, Little 12?" We're not quite there yet.

But it also may not be too far out in the future if these recruiting results are sustained.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Former Ole Miss QB Maikhail Miller Dies at 23 in Car Accident

Former Mississippi and Murray State quarterback Maikhail Miller died Saturday after being involved in a single-vehicle accident. He was 23.

The Associated Press (via ESPN) reported authorities found Miller's car overturned near Holly Springs, Mississippi.   

"My heart is so sad tonight when I received the news on Maikhail," former Rebels head coach Houston Nutt, who coached Miller at Ole Miss, said in a text message to John Davis of the Oxford Citizen. "My thoughts and prayers are with the family. I know you are hurting. What a great young man you raised!! Maikhail always did things the RIGHT WAY."

Current Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze also reached out with his condolences:

Miller played in two games during his career at Ole Miss, compiling 23 rushing yards on six attempts. He later transferred to Murray State for one season, throwing for 2,221 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding 429 yards and five scores on the ground. The Ohio Valley Conference named him to its All-Newcomer Team, and he appeared well on his way to a promising career at Murray State before leaving the program for personal reasons.

"The hearts of Racer Nation break tonight for the family of former Racer Maikhail Miller. Our thoughts are with them," Murray State said in a statement released on its Twitter account.

Additional details regarding the crash have not been made publicly available at this time.

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National Signing Day 2016: Date, Top Prospects and TV Schedule for Commitments

When it comes to the world of college football recruiting, the news on top prospects trickles in over months and years, before the news that really matters finally comes rushing in all at once.

This Wednesday is national signing day for the 2016 class. Football fans are eagerly awaiting the announcement of a few top uncommitted prospects while desperately hoping that the verbal commits don't renege on their words.

Great college football programs are of course forged in the crucible of long practices and intense film study sessions, but you have to start with the right materials to have any sort of success. Recruiting the right young athletes is where it all starts.

Here's a look at the TV announcement schedule and top prospects for the big day.

National Signing Day Television Schedule

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 3

TV: ESPNU (8 a.m.-1 p.m. ET); ESPN2 (1-5 p.m. ET); ESPNU (5-7 p.m. ET)

Live Stream: WatchESPN 

Note: ESPNMediaZone.com notes that networks such as the SEC Network and Longhorn Network will provide additional coverage. 

 
Where Will Rashan Gary Land? 

The lucky school that lands No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary will be the talk of the nation shortly after his announcement at 1 p.m. ET. Gary is a beast on the field, combining great size, speed and athleticism to consistently terrorize opposing quarterbacks. He racked up 27.5 sacks and forced four fumbles in his junior and senior seasons.

Scouts have no doubt he can continue his exploits at the next level. Gary's been considered a gem since he was an eighth-grader at a Rutgers big-man camp, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

“It can be dangerous going out there as a younger guy that hasn’t fully developed, but that’s what showed how special Rashan could be,” said NJ Advance Media reporter Todderick Hunt, per Snyder. “He held his own. He competed and certainly looked the part. ... I was definitely intrigued to stumble upon a promising young player like that.”

Michigan is the favorite to land Gary, with 81 percent of experts on 247Sports' crystal ball predictions selecting him to become a Wolverine. Alabama is next on that list at 14 percent. Gary recently chatted with a current Tiger and prized 2015 recruit, per 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr: 

Clemson is very much trying to make a late push for Gary as it looks to restock the defensive line with ends Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson departing for the NFL. Sure, Gary plays up the middle, but it's not like the Tigers are going to miss out on a chance to sway a generational prospect.

Gary will be the prize recruit wherever he lands. Michigan could very well make a monster out of him considering head coach Jim Harbaugh's commitment to building fast, aggressive defenses.


Can Anyone Pry Mique Juarez out of the Golden State?

Mique Juarez is a SoCal stud who ranks No. 1 in the nation at his outside linebacker position. Most experts don't expect him to move far from his hometown of Torrance, California. Per 247Sports, 80 percent believe Juarez will commit to UCLA on Wednesday. 

Juarez would be quite the coup for the Bruins. Juarez ranks 11th in the nation overall, and the Bruins' best prospect currently set to join them in 2016 is wide receiver Theo Howard, who's much farther down the list at No. 102 overall.

A pair of SEC powerhouses in Alabama and Ole Miss are also hot on Juarez, but it's possible that faith, not football, could pry him away from California. Dick Harmon of Deseret News reports Juarez has visited BYU in Provo, Utah, although he doesn't think the Cougars stand much of a chance at landing him:

How does this happen?

Well, not by accident. A major part of the Juarez story is that he is a member of the LDS faith. His mother is Tongan and so is BYU’s new head coach Kalani Sitake. His mother, Nathasha, is very close to the mother of current BYU linebacker Butch Pau’u. Juarez was at the Las Vegas Bowl this past December and Butch’s parents, Tupou and Uepi, posted a photo on Facebook of them with Mique at the Rio Hotel and Casino in front of the famed buffet.

It is unlikely Juarez will sign with BYU next week. He just had a trip to Alabama last week. He was committed to USC before Steve Sarkisian was dismissed. His father is a huge UCLA fan and he has taken recruiting trips to Mississippi, Washington and Oklahoma. Nick Saban was in his home this past week in Torrance, California.

The comfort of playing football with those who share a similar faith cannot be understated, and in any case, it's not like the Cougars are slouches. They finished 9-4 in 2015, including impressive early-season wins over Nebraska and Boise State.

Juarez is rated highly enough that he should have no problem working his way to a big role in any program. However, it appears it's still possible he'll roll with the less-heralded Cougars when it's time to put ink to paper.

 

Stats and player rankings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

A flurry of new verbal pledges and a handful of decommitments have shaken up Michigan football's 2016 recruiting class, but the dust will settle on national signing day.

Prospects will finally be allowed to sign their national letters of intent, and the Wolverines will add those talents to the seven athletes who enrolled early—most notably quarterback Brandon Peters and running back Kareem Walker.

In addition to currently committed recruits, Michigan is looking to secure signatures from a collection of prospects set to announce a decision on signing day.

Note: Projected additions to the class are highlighted in yellow.

 

 

Uncommitted Targets

Though only one program will celebrate when Rashan Gary makes his announcement, Ann Arbor has looked like the No. 1 overall recruit's destination for months. A late unofficial visit likely helped the Wolverines.

Michigan backed off the recruitments of other defensive backs, so the coaching staff must be confident about 4-star corner Lavert Hill. He'll choose between the Wolverines, Michigan State and Penn State.

As long academics are no issue, Connor Murphy would be an excellent take for Michigan. He'd provide depth at defensive end and could join the rotation in 2017.

Quinn Nordin, the first of head coach Jim Harbaugh's "sleepover" visits, backed out of his pledge to Penn State last week. A relationship with former UM special teams coach John Baxter could draw the 3-star kicker to USC, but Michigan is the team to beat.

According to Brandon Justice of Maize n Brew, an unnamed prospect will silently commit to Harbaugh and Co. before announcing on signing day:

Mecole Hardman Jr.Devin AsiasiBoss Tagaloa and Isaiah Simmons come to mind. But if none of those candidates are surprising enough, let your imagination run wild, Wolverines fans.

Additionally, Asiasi and Tagaloa could be a package deal. Distance is often a factor, so Michigan may need to clear that significant hurdle to add the De La Salle (CA) teammates.

The Wolverines won't be 100 percent, of course.

Ohio State appears to be the leader for Jordan Fuller, and Notre Dame is also pursuing the 4-star athlete. He announced on Twitter that he will reveal his decision on Monday, Feb. 1:

For much of the recruiting cycle, the Wolverines were considered the favorite for 3-star linebacker Jonathan Jones. Within the last week, though, Notre Dame has received 15 247Sports crystal ball predictions compared to zero for Michigan.

Jones told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports that the decision is between the two programs, so the Wolverines are in the race. Still, that trend is hard to ignore.

Among other targets, Keyshawn Young and Dontavious Jackson are also likely headed to a top program not located in Ann Arbor.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

National Signing Day 2016: College Football Teams That Could Win Big

Monday officially kicked off a four-day NCAA dead period. The last-minute pitches by college coaches have been made. National signing day is in two days.

For now, with many athletes, we wait and see which college they choose to call home for the immediate future.

Wednesday will be a day when a few teams have the opportunity to shoot up the team recruiting rankings. Wednesday also will be a day when top-ranked recruiting classes can become even more elite by landing some of the best uncommitted players in the 2016 class.

The objective for Wednesday is to sign athletes and score big recruiting victories. Here are eight teams looking to end the recruiting cycle on the highest note possible.

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National Signing Day 2016: Projecting Where Every 5-Star Recruit Will Sign

With hours until national signing day, 11 of the nation's 25 5-star prospects have yet to make their announcement on where they will be attending college.

Included among that group is 5-star defensive tackle and No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary.

Gary is just one of the handful of elite prospects fans will be anxiously waiting to hear from on Wednesday. 

Where are the rest of 2016's 5-star prospects heading, and will there be any surprises to watch for in their recruitments? 

Let's take a look and project where every 5-star prospect will sign.

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