NCAA Football

Ohio State Football: National Title Could Trigger Recruiting Dominance for OSU

Ohio State is the king of college football after beating Alabama and Oregon to win the national title, but Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will have to wait a year to reap the rewards on the recruiting trail.

With a 2015 recruiting class that already boasts 25 commitments, Ohio State doesn't have room for an influx of new prospects. But the recent championship run will pay off with the Buckeyes' future classes.

In fact, that process has already started.

Since the night of the national championship, Meyer has secured commitments from four 5-star prospects and one 4-star recruit. Five-star running back Kareem Walker and 4-star tight end Jake Hausmann pledged to join the 2016 class, while a trio of 5-stars—offensive tackle Josh Myers, cornerback Shaun Wade and athlete Bruce Judson—committed for 2017.

The string of commitments kicked off the day Ohio State rolled its way past Oregon. Wade, the No. 2 ranked cornerback in 2017, gave Ohio State the good news four hours before kickoff. Later that night, as Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott bulldozed his way for 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns, 2016's top-ranked ball-carrier announced that he wanted to join the Buckeyes via Twitter.

It only took a day for Judson, the No. 3-ranked athlete and a dual-threat quarterback for 2017, to join the fold. The wave of commitments continued two weeks later as Hausmann and Myers (the top offensive tackle and the No. 3 overall prospect for 2017) committed to the Buckeyes the day after the national championship celebration in Columbus.

Ohio State's wave of good fortune shouldn't be a surprise.

It's not uncommon for schools to sign highly rated classes the year after they win the title. Since LSU won the national championship in 2007, only two teams failed to sign the country's top class a year later. The only exceptions were Auburn, which was the only school that fired its coach within two years of winning its title, and Florida State, which is on pace to sign the nation's No. 2 class this year.

Meyer is looking to continue that trend.

Currently, Ohio State's six-member class for 2016 ranks fourth nationally. But two of three schools ranked ahead of the Buckeyes are there more because of quantity—Miami already has 12 commitments while Ole Miss has eight. Only Florida State, which ranks third, has an average star rating that's on par with Ohio State. 

That could change quickly. According to the recruiting experts in 247 Sports' Crystal Ball, the Buckeyes are the favorite or have a great shot to land elite prospects such as 5-star Nick Bosa (Joey Bosa's younger brother), and 4-stars Jauan WilliamsDemario McCallPrince SammonsBrendan Ferns and Liam Eichenberg.

Meyer explained why recruiting success is imminent after winning the national title.

"The door's open," Meyer said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "You move to the front of the line."

If history repeats itself, Ohio State could be on the brink of dominating the recruiting trail like it did the college football world in 2014. 

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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2016 Athlete Ahmir Mitchell Tweets His Top 8 Schools

Four-star athlete Ahmir Mitchell, a rising high school senior rom Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, has narrowed his list of college choices to eight.

He tweeted his list Tuesday night in no particular order, naming four teams from the Big Ten, two from the ACC, one from the SEC and Notre Dame (an FBS Independent):

Mitchell is the No. 92 overall player and No. 5 athlete in the 2016 class, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He is 6'2", 190 pounds, and capable of playing both defensive back and wide receiver.

Bleacher Report Recruiting Columnist Tyler Donohue, an expert on all things Tri-State, passed along this thorough scouting report:

When I scouted eventual Arkansas quarterback signee Damon Mitchell in 2012, it was difficult to ignore the freshman receiver who made strides as the season progressed. It turns out that was Damon's little brother, Ahmir, and people around the Cedar Creek program began telling me how he was "the next big thing."

They were absolutely right. When his brother graduated in 2013, Ahmir became the face of the program and contributes in all phases of the game. He plays receiver, wildcat quarterback, defensive back and kick returner. Head coach Tim Watson told me his growing list of scholarship offers includes schools that view him as a potential safety, receiver or even running back.

Given his length, college-ready physical frame and improving speed, expect him to enter the mix as one of America's all-around "athletes" in the 2016 class. It doesn't hurt that he's a humble young man focused on making his mother and community proud every step of the way. Motivation is a major plus in his approach.

Home-state Rutgers has the lead on Mitchell's "Crystal Ball," although just three experts have offered their predictions. There is a long way to go in his recruitment, and any of these eight teams can rise or fall based on visits over the next year.

Still, the Scarlet Knights are good for a couple of big commitments each season, and Mitchell would fit the bill. He attended the Rutgers-Michigan game last season, and he walked away impressed with the atmosphere after the 26-24 Rutgers victory.

"That was wild," Mitchell said, per Todderick Hunt of NJ.com. "The storming of the field after they won their first Big Ten game. It was live. It was a show of how Rutgers definitely belongs in the Big Ten."

Absent from Mitchell's list is Penn State, which offered him a scholarship in October and hosted him in 2013. Head coach James Franklin has made a great fuss over owning the region, and he has thus far done a good job, but this looks like a swing and miss—at least for now.

Again, there's still a long way to go.

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7 Reasons College Football Playoff Needs to Expand

By all accounts, the inaugural College Football Playoff was a smashing success. Following years of fan angst and complaints over the Bowl Championship Series, the first four-team playoff delivered exciting games, huge buzz and a champion who’d never have had a chance in the old format: No. 4 seed Ohio State.

What’s more, the games delivered financially, too. The CFP semifinals and title game registered as the three highest rated programs in cable television history, justifying ESPN’s investment in the playoff. And the two-day tripleheader between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day served as a perfect showcase for college football.

That said, room for improvement exists. We all wondered what TCU could’ve done following an 11-1 regular season and a 42-3 Peach Bowl obliteration of Ole Miss. And who says Michigan State couldn’t have made a run in an expanded playoff? After all, its only losses were to finalists Ohio State and Oregon.

Even as early as last May, College Football Playoff chairman Bill Hancock was fending off talk about expanding the playoff. “It is going to be four (teams) for 12 years,” Hancock said while speaking with reporters, per Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com. “There is no talk in our group about (increasing playoff field).”

The field won’t stay at four teams forever. Here are some compelling reasons why the College Football Playoff should expand.

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Brian Kelly's Biggest Signing-Day Victories

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football is hoping to close out its 2015 recruiting class with three more commitments on or before national signing day.

7 days till signing day. Early flight, off to another city. #ShamrockSoldiers15

Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) January 28, 2015

With that in mind, let’s analyze how Irish head coach Brian Kelly has fared down the stretch in the past few full recruiting cycles since he arrived in South Bend in December 2009.

Not all of these victories were commitments actually on national signing day. In some cases, Kelly and his staff earned late pledges and held strong through the finish line, garnering actual signings in February.

In determining the biggest victories, we’ll consider the timing of the commitments and the prospects’ rankings.

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Alabama Makes Necessary Staff Changes

Just a Slight Tweak

Alabama's coaching staff had two holes to fill after outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson moved down the road to Auburn, and inside linebackers coach Kevin Steele got the defensive coordinator job at LSU.

Head coach Nick Saban knocked it out of the park with their replacements.

Tosh Lupoi, who worked as an off-the-field "intern" for the Crimson Tide last season, will step in and coach outside linebackers in 2015. Lupoi, who made a name for himself as a top-flight recruiter in the Pac-12, previously worked as the defensive line coach for Cal (2008-2011) and Washington (2012-2013).

"I'm extremely fortunate to join the best college football organization in the country," Lupoi said in a statement from Alabama. "Fresh off our 24th SEC Championship, playoff appearance and pursing another top-rated signing class, it's an exciting time at Alabama right now. I couldn't be more fired up to be part of what Coach Saban and his excellent staff have established."

Washington's defense finished in the top four in the Pac-12 in scoring defense in each of his two seasons in Seattle, and finished fourth in the country in sacks per game (3.15) in 2013. It's a slight tweak for Lupoi to move back and coach outside linebackers, but in Alabama's 3-4 defense, their primary role is to get after the quarterback. Lupoi can definitely help them do that.

According to Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans, Mel Tucker will also be on his way to Tuscaloosa to coach defensive backs, which will also add middle linebackers to defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's responsibilities. 

Tucker wasn't great in the NFL. His Bears finished 30th in the league in pass defense in 2014 (264.4 yards per game) and 18th in 2013 (233.1 yards per game). But he's familiar with Saban from his time at Michigan State and LSU, and he provides the slight tweak Alabama needs to fix its lingering secondary problem.

Instead of Saban and Smart devoting some time to the defensive backs, now there's somebody back there dedicated to teaching them the right way to do it. That might be all Alabama needs to get back to the promised land.

 

"DL Zou"

Missouri has established an identity for itself over the last few years, producing top-tier defensive linemen. 

Aldon Smith, Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, Shane Ray and Markus Golden are just a few of the monsters that have passed through Columbia over the last few years.

Their leader, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, will return in 2015 after exploring the co-defensive coordinator position at Illinois, according to a release emailed by the school.

"It was important for me and my family to consider this opportunity, and I’m grateful to have gone through the experience, but after evaluating everything, what is best for us is to stay here at Mizzou," Kuligowski said in the release. "We’ve built something special here at Mizzou, and I’m excited to continue to be part of it."

He has been Missouri's defensive line coach since 1996, and has worked with Pinkel for 23 years at both Missouri and Toledo. As Pete Scantlebury of PowerMizzou.com notes, "Coach Kool's" return will also help the Tigers close strong on the recruiting trail.

Terry Beckner is a 5-star defensive line prospect from East St. Louis, Illinois, who is considering Missouri, Auburn, Ohio State, Florida State and others. His departure would almost certainly give Beckner more to think about with a week to go before national signing day, but now he only has to worry about the best fit, not possible coaching changes.

 

The Eyes of Texas

While the battle for 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray dominates headlines in the Lone Star State (here's B/R's Lars Anderson on that), another big—"pun" intended—battle is waging with just a week to go before national signing day.

Former Texas A&M commit Daylon Mack, a 5-star defensive tackle from Gladewater, Texas, has narrowed his finalists down to Texas A&M, Texas and TCU. He received an in-home visit from Texas this week, which promoted this tweet.

Should that make Aggies fans nervous? Well, of course.

It's never a good thing to see a top-tier commit excited about a visit from the intra-state rival and Photoshop their uniform on a picture and post it on social media.

Mack won't make or break Texas A&M's class, though.

It has safeties Justin Dunning and Larry Pryor coming in to help out the back end of the defense, James Lockhart coming in to complement Myles Garrett off the edge and plenty of young talent already in-house to help out new defensive coordinator John Chavis.

Losing Mack and Murray would certainly hurt, especially if both wind up in Austin. But it's still a solid class for head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff, provided there are no other unexpected flips.

 

New Year, Fresh Faces

The number of early enrollees has risen over the last few years, and one thing that Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has become known for is welcoming small villages of new players in each of the last two seasons.

He welcomed 14 players last January, and many of those players, including running back Jalen Hurd, wide receivers Josh Malone and Von Pearson, safety Todd Kelly Jr. and tight end Ethan Wolf, made immediate impacts on Rocky Top.

Which of the 10 Jones welcomed in this year will follow suit?

The smart money is on running back Alvin Kamara. The junior college transfer and former Alabama running back is an all-purpose back, but quicker than Hurd, which will provide head coach Butch Jones options with how he uses his two studs.

Defensive end Kyle Phillips and defensive tackle Shy Tuttle should also step in and provide depth up front along a defensive line that will return superstar defensive end Derek Barnett.

 

Quick Outs

  • 4-star wide receiver Van Jefferson committed to Ole Miss this week, which will give the Rebels Jefferson, Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore'ea Stringfellow. If they can find a quarterback, look out.
  • If you're looking for an instant-impact stud, keep an eye on Georgia commit and 5-star athlete Terry Godwin. Whether he sticks with Georgia or flips somewhere else, he's going to be a monster in space as a receiver.
  • Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com and Geoff Ketchum of OrangeBloods.com got into a good 'ole fashioned Twitter war according to FoxSports.com. Out of line? Eh, it's the offseason, and Twitter wars are fun. Texas and Texas A&M really do need to meet on the field, though. That press box would be tremendous.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Georgia Football: Unlikely Position Group Will Make or Break Dawgs' Signing Day

The fate of Georgia's defense-dominated 2015 recruiting class falls squarely on an unlikely position group as national signing day approaches.  As the Bulldogs anticipate an impressive haul of defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties, it's actually the wide receivers that will make or break this class.

If current projections hold, Georgia should bring in a nice group of pass-catchers next week.  

Terry Godwin, a 5-star athlete according to 247Sports, will contend for playing time immediately at a receiver position.  Darius Slayton, the nation's 15th-best prospect at the position and a 4-star prospect, will also push for early playing time.  Jayson Stanley, another 4-star prospect, is firmly committed to Georgia and even cancelled a previously scheduled visit to Miami for this weekend in exchange for another trip to Athens, according to Jake Rowe of Dawgs247.

Toss 3-star wide receiver Michael Chigbu and Shaquery Wilson (who could theoretically end up on offense) into the mix, and Georgia is poised to bring in a deep and talented class of receivers on national signing day.

But at this point, solid posturing does not necessarily equate to signed paperwork.  From top to bottom, a lot could change within this group.

While Godwin made his commitment to Georgia clear to Shane Youngblood of BamaOnLine (subscription required), he didn't necessarily indicate finality with regards to an ongoing decision-making process.  When asked about the impact of his recent visit to Alabama, Godwin told Youngblood, "We will have to sit down and talk about it. I might have an in-home visit with coach Saban this week."

Those words should strike terror into the hearts of Georgia fans who have longed to see Godwin making plays in red and black.

And Godwin's not the only offensive athlete drawing serious late interest from other schools.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell, Slayton's recent trip to Auburn caught Georgia "totally out of the blue."  Carvell indicated that if Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn won a battle of in-home visits, Slayton could end up at Auburn.

Carvell also pointed out that Wilson—who was initially recruited by Georgia as a defensive back but will get a chance to try the wide receiver position—is getting serious interest from West Virginia as a receiver.  If Wilson wants to play receiver, West Virginia may be the optimal destination regardless of his interest in Georgia.

So there's still a lot for Georgia to lose at the wide receiver position.  But that doesn't mean nothing can be gained.

Earlier this week, Georgia hosted Terrell Chatman, a big, physical wide receiver standing 6'3".  Chatman has been committed to Miami since July while also considering Arizona State and TCU, but the Bulldogs are making a strong, late push, perhaps at the urging of new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Chatman isn't a burner, but he has a big frame, long arms and tremendous ball skills, and he could be a real asset in red-zone scenarios.  For a Georgia offense looking for a quarterback and improvement close to the goal line, Chatman could offer a safety net.

So how does all of this shake out?  

Ultimately, the longstanding commitments of Godwin, Slayton, Stanley and Chigbu should stay firm.  Wilson seems like the leading candidate for decommitment, but he is also the least likely candidate to contribute (at least early on) offensively.  

And late, furious recruiting pushes tend to have a disproportionately strong impact on prospects, particularly when the delay in intentional pursuit can be blamed on a prior coaching regime.  As such, don't be surprised to see Chatman choose the Dawgs.

If the assumptions come true, it could be the wide receivers that define the 2015 recruiting class.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 24 Defensive Ends

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As national signing day draws near, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today we present the Top Defensive Ends. 

Other Positions 

Between Byron Cowart, CeCe Jefferson and Josh Sweat, the 2015 class of defensive ends is represented by three prospects who rank among the nation’s top 10 players overall. However, the depth behind that talented trio is what makes the defensive end position a loaded unit in the current cycle.

Seventeen defensive ends rank among the nation’s top 150 prospects in the 2015 cycle, which highlights the strength of the group as a whole.

The latest edition of the CFB Recruiting 200 series will dig deep into the 2015 class of defensive ends. 

Bleacher Report scored the defensive end class on traits such as pass-rush ability (15 points), tackling (15 points), strength (20 points), run defense (25 points), hands (15 points) and motor (10 points). The cumulative figures from those traits resulted in our overall grade of each prospect. 

How do the nation’s top defensive ends measure up to one another?

*All analysis provided by B/R National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani. All rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite RankingsWDE denotes weak-side defensive end, SDE denotes strong-side defensive end. 

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Miami Football: Al Golden Addressing Needs but Has Little Room for Error

Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden has assembled a respectable recruiting class in 2015, but the much-maligned leader of The U can ill afford many signings to backfire.

The fifth-year coach is under a constant barrage of criticism from disgruntled fans who are lamenting the win-loss regression of the Hurricanes' 2014 campaign.

Though some of the complaints are fair and some are not, that's irrelevant. The fact of the matter is it's happening; the frustration is real and—thanks to social media—vocal, too.

National signing day, one of the most important landmarks of the offseason, is within a week, and Miami currently holds 19 commitments who comprise 247Sports' No. 20 class. Four prospects have enrolled, and 3-star Charles Perry is set to arrive on campus shortly, per Nate Taylor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Golden and assistant coaches are still working the recruiting trail, looking to fill a half-dozen more spots for this cycle. The way they've gone about it, though, is leaving little room for error.

Six pledges are offensive linemen, four are D-linemen and the 'Canes aren't done recruiting for either unit. Fredrick Johnson, Kendrick Norton and at least five others are still on the board.

Now, that's not a problem. Considering the losses due to graduation and early exits for the NFL, Miami needs to bolster both sides of the trenches. Attacking two positions so aggressively, however, leaves the Hurricanes coaches extremely reliant on their evaluation abilities for the rest of the class.

Ah, yes, evaluation. Strong showings by former Miami players in all-star events—like Anthony Chickillo in the East-West Shrine Game along with Phillip Dorsett and Ladarius Gunter in the Senior Bowl—provided evidence that neither player evaluation nor development is the problem.

They didn't become standout performers due to three days of NFL-level coaching. As Chickillo—who was constantly criticized for never living up to his 5-star potential—said during the Shrine Game, per Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, "I've always had it."

So, there's plenty of proof that supports Golden and Co. are targeting the right talent. The issues lie in utilization and execution, but that's a-whole-nother debate with a-whole-lotta time remaining before next season to discuss it.

Take a look at the progression of the 'Canes staff in evaluating for this cycle. If possible, forget about records, stars, class rankings and any pent-up anger for just 10 minutes.

Golden had his quarterback in Dwayne Lawson, who committed in May 2014. Then, Brad Kaaya immediately backed up all the hype and will undoubtedly be a four-year starter if he stays that long. Consequently, no one should criticize Lawson for backing out of that situation.

But then, Vincent Testaverde transferred from Texas Tech to Miami, so the once-imperative need to sign a quarterback in this cycle diminished. As a result, Evan Shirreffs is on the radar, but—while a decent addition as a reserve—he appears to be a contingency plan because no scholarship has been offered.

The Hurricanes must replace their three biggest skill-position contributors in Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford, which isn't accomplished easily.

Johnson doesn't leave a "next man up" hole; rather, there's a gaping void. But with Joe Yearby and Gus Edwards returning, Mark Walton showing no signs of wavering and Jordan Scarlett down to Miami, Florida and Florida State, Miami is set at running back.

Dorsett is the only departing wideout who consistently logged significant snaps, so the 'Canes aren't even in dire need of receivers. That said, Lawrence Cager and Terrell Chatman are both possession-oriented additions, while key target Antonio Callaway provides straight-line speed akin to Dorsett.

Walford emerged as his quarterback's leading target, something to which few newcomers can ever stake a similar claim. But Golden signed Jerome Washington, a 6'5", 260-pounder who's ranked the No. 1 JUCO tight end.

On paper, what else did Miami need to accomplish?

The narrative alters slightly on defense, but it's certainly not drastic. Linebacker is the most glaring need, so the Hurricanes only bringing in a pair of prospects can be concerning to some.

At this time, only Perry and Jamie Gordinier have given pledges to The U. While Miami is still pursuing Kansas State commit Mohamed Barry, other options in an already weak position for 2015 are dwindling.

But it's not for a lack of trying. Perry, Gordinier, John Houston, Tevon Coney, Dominic Sheppard, Claude George, Saleem Brightwell and 30 more linebackers were extended a scholarship. Barring a surprise commitment or shocking flip, none of them are coming to Coral Gables.

However, those 37 offers are tied with Louisville for most in the ACC, according to 247Sports' data.

Yes, the 'Canes must further deal with their linebacker situation, but Golden stormed the need from the beginning. He is addressing it, and it's a safe bet he'll continue exploring backup plans after signing day.

In the secondary, Miami has targeted players who potentially fit at multiple spots. For example, early-enrollee Jaquan Johnson could play cornerback while Deon Bush completes his final season of eligibility, then move to safety in 2016.

Top target Marcus Lewis would provide similar versatility in the secondary, and he'll choose between Kentucky and the Hurricanes on Feb. 3, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

So, as it pertains to the class as a whole, what else could Miami have done? The 'Canes surely need top-level talent, but big-name recruits aren't lining up like they did for a dominant program a decade ago.

Consequently, Golden and his assistants must be very selective with their second-, third- and fourth-tier targets. And with mere hours remaining before signing day, despite all the uncertainty of Miami's future, it appears they have.

Golden has addressed the Hurricanes' positional needs. He's targeted players based on scheme fit. He's close to replacing specific attributes of departing players. He's signed prospects who can contribute at multiple spots.

It's not like Golden is stuck in an outlandish state of mind, completely oblivious to what's missing on his team. Properly using that talent is sometimes a problem, but again, table that discussion for a later date.

On paper, he's checked off nearly everything that needed to be a main focus in the 2015 recruiting class. But the results—aka wins—need to start coming, and disgruntled fans want the first victory to arrive on signing day.

The criticism will ratchet up another level on the fourth of February, even though Golden has proved his prowess as a recruiter. The key triumphs demanded cannot be achieved until September, but that's not the point.

If the 'Canes don't finish with a high-profile name or two, the angry voices will likely grow louder. The progression Miami took to reach this stage is irrelevant to disgruntled followers who are demanding change.

Fair or not, Golden doesn't have room for error on signing day.

 

Note: Recruiting information via 247Sports.

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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DJ Durkin and Greg Mattison Will Help Michigan Defense Reach New Heights

Together, D.J. Durkin and Greg Mattison have the potential to drive Michigan’s defense into an era of dominance and superiority. 

Regarded as one of the best young coaches in the game, Durkin, 37, just left Florida to become Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in Ann Arbor. His hiring was a hit among fans and media. 

Due to the addition, Mattison, 65, slid over to the Wolverines defensive line, where he’ll continue to mastermind a rabid front four. His retention and re-designation also went over well. 

Moving into 2015, the scenario has become just about perfect for Harbaugh. Intensely energetic and driven, his defensive coaches are two of a kind. There aren’t many in college football who can recruit at national award-worthy levels like Mattison and Durkin, and there aren't very many who can top their passion for molding athletes.

Durkin and Mattison could spend a handful of years together and construct one of the best defenses to ever take the field at The Big House.

The backbone of Michigan football just got a lot stronger.

 

Meeting of the Minds

The stats have been mentioned several times over, so we don’t need to waste of ton of time rehashing old news. That said, Mattison had the No. 7-ranked total defense in 2014, while Durkin’s Gators finished ranked at No. 15. They both had run-stuffing fronts, too. Michigan was No. 15 overall; Florida was No. 13.

As a defensive assistant, Durkin coached with Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09. He spent the following four years building an SEC power in Gainesville, having a hand in the development of linebackers and special teams.

His best years are ahead, and he’ll have another chance to develop alongside one of the most consistent assistants in the nation.

“We worked together at Notre Dame and kept in close touch ever since," Durkin recently said, via MLive’s Nick Baumgardner. "(I'm) thrilled (to be working with him). We've kept in close touch for a long time, and to get back together and work together is huge.

"For both of us."

Mattison’s move to the D-line is a familiar one. In 1992, he landed his first job with the Wolverines as a defensive line coach. Prior to that, he held the same title at Navy, Texas A&M, Western Michigan, Northwestern and Cornell.

In 2010, he returned to Michigan as its defensive coordinator; prior to that, he had a two-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens (DC/LB).

 

Maximize on the Trail

The Wolverines are breeding an elite D-line and continue to look for the best to fill their 2016 class. They’ve already extended an offer to Rashan Gary, a 5-star defensive lineman out of Paramus Catholic in New Jersey (the former stomping grounds of Jabrill Peppers).

At 6’4” and 285 pounds, Gary, who has “warm” interest in Michigan, possesses the ideal size for a Division I D-tackle. According to 247Sports, he’s the No. 2-ranked prospect of 2016, making him a special case. He’d be a historically good get for Durkin and Mattison, who also have their eyes on 3-star weak-side defensive end Connor Murphy and 5-star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.

Decommitments decimated Michigan’s 2015 class, which now has nine commits compared to just six before Harbaugh took over. Losing 4-star linebacker Darrin Kirkland and 4-star defensive backs Shaun Crawford and Garrett Taylor hurt, but Mattison and Durkin have scoured the trails for late additions.

They just happened to land one such prospect this past weekend, as former Nebraska pledge Reuben Jones—the No. 44-ranked strong-side defensive end of the next class, per 247Sports—switched his allegiance to the Wolverines.

The 6’3”, 223-pounder runs a respectable 4.89-second 40-yard dash and would fit well into Durkin’s 3-4 or 4-3 packages, either as an end or outside linebacker.

Mattison and Durkin have also courted Shelton Johnson. The 6’5”, 220-pounder is the No. 20-ranked strong-side defensive end of 2015 and reportedly has “warmer” interest in the Wolverines, per 247Sports. He visited Jan. 16 but seems destined for Florida State.

That said, Durkin has plenty of links to other talent in the Sunshine State, and he has pipelines spreading from southern hotbeds out to California.

Mattison is renowned for his ability to attract talent and ultimately develop it into rock-solid linebackers and D-linemen.

Their similarities in terms of recruiting, coaching and development should give the Wolverines one of the best DC/DL tandems in all of college football.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

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Michigan Football: Jim Harbaugh's Staff Is Built to Maximize Recruiting

Jim Harbaugh said that he would hire “the best” assistants to “…carry forward the excellence of the University of Michigan football program.” He has assembled a staff who can not only develop talent but who also have strong ties to the hotbeds of national recruiting.

With a only a few days left before national signing day, incidents like the miscommunication with recruit DaiShon Neal have been rare as his coaches have blanketed the nation to fill Harbaugh's first Michigan recruiting class.

They have been welcomed because in most cases they are already well known to the players they are visiting.

The impact of these relationships will reap dividends in the future.

Compare the geographic recruiting reach of Michigan's coaches with states that have produced the most NFL draft picks over the past three seasons, according to Scout.com.

With the exception of Texas, Harbaugh or a member of his staff have strong ties to 10 of 11 of the top states.

At first glance it appeared that Harbaugh simply followed the “friends and family” model used by most coaches, hiring assistants from his previous staffs and filling gaps based on reputation and expertise. For Harbaugh, family included members of the Michigan family (Tyrone Wheatley and Greg Mattison) and his son Jay.

But his staff contains a mix of coaches who have experience at both the collegiate and professional levels, which allows them to evaluate recruits for success at Michigan and beyond.

This is an important factor for recruits. Many coaches can say they have helped develop NFL draft picks, but Harbaugh and his staff have experience on both sides of the NFL pipeline. They can speak firsthand about how NFL coaches evaluate talent.

Michigan's top recruiter is Harbaugh himself. He is credited with taking San Francisco to three consecutive conference championships and one Super Bowl after making Stanford into a national power. His experience as a former college and pro quarterback also gives him a unique perspective when talking to recruits.

In a few short weeks on the recruiting trail, Harbaugh and his assistants have already made a big impression with a number of top recruits.

With less than a week to go before national signing day, Harbaugh is making a strong case to his top recruiting targets.

Having already flipped recruits from Texas and Nebraska, he now has his sights set on players who can help him compete for a Big Ten championship. 

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow @PCallihan

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Why Matt Canada Is Perfect Fit to Be Tennessee's New Offensive Coordinator

Tennessee coach Butch Jones is spanning the country in search for the Volunteers' next offensive coordinator, but the best candidate can be found in Canada: North Carolina State coordinator Matt Canada.

The offensive guru behind the Wolfpack's resurgence has been mentioned on several hot boards, including Wes Rucker's of GoVols247. Canada is the perfect replacement for departed Vols OC Mike Bajakian—who left late last week to become Tampa Bay's quarterbacks coach.

Though there haven't been any reports that Jones actually has or even will meet with Canada, the name is intriguing for various reasons.

Currently, the expected favorite for UT's vacancy is Mike DeBord, who interviewed with Jones over the weekend. DeBord is a longtime college and NFL assistant and current Olympic Sports Coordinator at the University of Michigan, but he hasn't been a coordinator since 2007.

Rucker even noted Monday: "We believe…DeBord seems likely to be involved with the program going forward in some capacity. Whether DeBord will be involved as the offensive coordinator remains to be seen, but that's certainly a possibility."

Other names have been tossed around and perhaps even spoken with or vetted by UT's coaching staff, but DeBord's multi-day interview has to put him atop the list.

Despite that development, Canada matches Jones' desire for schematic fit and familiarity on the surface as well as DeBord, and there are other factors that make him a more ideal replacement for Bajakian, if for no other reason than he hasn't been out of coaching for that long.

The Knoxville News Sentinel's Dustin Dopirak notes that it's a consensus from colleagues with credible sources that Canada is a "legit candidate" for the position:

Let's take a look at why Canada should get the call.

 

Program Fit

While Tennessee has struggled offensively the past couple of seasons, finishing 104th and 93rd, respectively, per CFBStats.com, the Vols have players now in place to run a spread-option offense.

Especially with junior dual-threat Joshua Dobbs entrenched as a difference-making quarterback, UT looked poised to make a big jump after bowl practice and a 45-point outburst against Iowa.

The receiving corps is loaded, Alvin Kamara is a JUCO jewel recruited to help ease the load on Jalen Hurd in the offensive backfield and the Vols have plenty of other weapons, too. That's why replacing Bajakian isn't exactly an encouraging turn of events.

When a team hires a new guy, it runs the risk of philosophy mismatches and dissension among the coaches on staff. That's the last thing Jones needs.

Make no mistake: 2015 is a huge year for the Vols, so this is an important hire. You don't want to go changing things around at vital points of your career (see: Derek Dooley's hiring of defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri).

That's why Jones told Football Scoop Radio on ESPN radio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this week (via the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown):

For us, we're not looking for a major overhaul offensively. We're just looking to enhance our system. Going into year three and playing the inordinate amount of freshmen that we had to play last year, now they understand the system.

The thing we can't do is go backwards and spend our time installing a new offensive system. We have to be able to enhance it, continue to grow and elevate it. That's where we can spend more time on the fundamentals and the fine details of what it takes to play winning football.

Canada already runs an offense with spread elements, and he has been extremely successful recently. In his 22-year coaching career, he has been an offensive coordinator at Butler, Northern Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and N.C. State.

Most importantly, given the number of quarterbacks with the different sets of skills coming in Tennessee's 2015 recruiting class, Canada's offense has proven adaptable. Some years, he has been more spread-oriented, but he also has tailored his scheme to suit pro-style players, as noted by Dopirak:

He showcased offenses such as the one at a 2012 Wisconsin team that went to the Rose Bowl that he can be successful with a run-heavy unit, finishing 12th nationally in rushing yards.

Before that in his days at Indiana, quarterbacks Ben Chappell, Kellen Lewis and Blake Powers, held the top three spots in single-season touchdowns, yards, completions, attempts and completion percentage.

"Our offense is going to be quarterback-friendly," Canada told GoPack.com upon his hiring at State. "When you look at it, we've had running quarterbacks…we've had pure drop-back guys…we've had multiple quarterbacks who've done many things in our system. We're going to do what our players do well."

 

Track Record

First and foremost, Canada is a quarterbacks coach. Considering Bajakian was one, too, bringing him in would enable the Vols to slide through this coaching change without much of a staff shakeup.

With receivers coach Zach Azzanni a potential candidate to be Central Michigan's head coach, there could be more moves coming, anyway. But hiring Canada would ensure a seamless transition.

Not only does he coach signal-callers, he coaches them well. On top of the aforementioned work at Indiana and with star Chandler Harnish at Northern Illinois in 2011 where he finished with 4,043 yards of total offense, Canada's development of Jacoby Brissett in 2014 was astounding.

The former Florida Gators quarterback who transferred from the scrap heap of backups in Gainesville had a resurgent season. Brissett finished with 2,606 passing yards, 529 rushing yards, 26 total touchdowns and just five interceptions.

The Pack finished 8-5, and Brissett led them to a big win over Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

Canada also has groomed NFL running backs Michael "Burner" Turner and Montee Ball, who won the Doak Walker Award in 2012 while he was the coordinator. Both are physical, one-cut backs, which should suit Hurd's game.

Given the fact that this is Jones' offensive scheme, it's a viable question whether the head coach would hand over the reins to an assistant like Canada. At North Carolina State, Canada handles quarterbacks and calls all the offensive plays for Dave Doeren, a defensive-minded coach who probably doesn't meddle too much.

During Canada's one season in Madison, there was a reported "power struggle" between him and then-Badgers coach Bret Bielema. However, according to the Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Mulhern, once Bielema handed over control to Canada, the Badgers thrived:

Numerous UW sources said Canada's decision to stand up to Bielema was a significant factor in the offensive outburst that followed. The Badgers amassed 640 yards, including 539 on the ground, in the 70-31 victory over Nebraska.

Jones' handprints are all over this program, and this scheme—his scheme—has been successful everywhere he has been. Will he just hand everything over?

An experienced coach such as Canada would probably demand control. He has earned that right.

Jones should give it to him, if what he really said about "enhancing" the Vols' offense holds water.

 

Intangibles

Three other characteristics make Canada an attractive commodity for Tennessee's football program.

  • Experience—In Canada's 22-year coaching career, he has been an offensive coordinator at five different programs. It's hard not to be impressed by that type of resume. He has coached for a long time, led an offense for a long time and has experienced success. He would bring a level of expertise to the staff that Bajakian didn't have, where he has had to adapt and diversify his scheme to different players for different coaches.
  • Familiarity—The "Butch Jones Coaching Tree" doesn't have as many branches as others, but he does like to have a background with his assistants. That loyalty and familiarity is a big reason why he has tried to keep most of his staff in tact. While Jones and Canada have never coached together, Canada did coach with Zach Azzanni at Wisconsin and defensive line coach Steve Stripling at Indiana, so there's some overlap. Since Canada coached in the MAC a long time, there's no doubt Jones (a former Central Michigan head coach) has plenty of familiar references.
  • Salary—While money shouldn't be an option at a place like Tennessee, the bottom line is the athletic department still isn't that far removed from operating in the red. Athletic director Dave Hart probably doesn't want to break the bank for a coordinator, which leads to candidates such as Arizona State's Mike Norvell (who makes $900,000) being out of the question. Canada makes $500,000 at N.C. State, according to 247Sports, which puts him in UT's price range. Bajakian made $480,000, and with the increased salary pool for assistants that came along with Jones' recent raise, the Vols would be able to give Canada a bit more money than he's currently making.

So, would Canada be interested? The Vols need to vet him and his agent and find out. Considering how long he's been in the business, it may appeal to the competitor in him to come and coach in the nation's top conference.

The Vols are an up-and-coming program, the weapons at the disposal of the new coordinator have to make the job appealing, and the continuity and stability that is now prevalent in the program have to be attractive.

Tennessee is on the prowl for an innovative coordinator, one who can enhance the position. Or, as Jones told Volquest.com's John Brice:

"I want him to come in and manage and develop the offense. To have an individual that's an expert at multiple positions. First and foremost, the quarterback position, but an individual with a proven track record of success, who's coached at all different levels."

That fits Canada to a "T." He has coached a long time, overseen every position on that side of the ball other than the offensive line, and he has a long history of making his players successful within the framework of his scheme. 

That's why Jones needs to make him the next offensive coordinator at UT.

 

All statistical information gathered from CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted. 

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Carlos Strickland to Cal: Bears Land 4-Star WR Prospect

California's passing game was just upgraded, as wide receiver prospect Carlos Strickland has decided to commit to the school.

Greg Powers of Scout.com tweeted the news:

Eldridge Massington, a freshman wide receiver for UCLA this past season, congratulated Strickland on his decision on Twitter: 

Strickland is a 4-star prospect from Skyline High in Dallas, Texas, according to 247Sports. The ranking site lists him as the No. 144 prospect in the country, the No. 20 player from the state of Texas and the No. 16 wide receiver.

Standing at 6'5" and weighing 194 pounds, Strickland registered 84 receptions for 1,770 and 27 touchdowns in the past three seasons, including an impressive 15 touchdown receptions this past season.

Along with quarterback recruit Ross Bowers, Strickland will be expected to dramatically improve Cal's passing game over the next four years. His size and ability to go up and get the ball should make him a dangerous weapon in the red zone, and he'll be expected to compete for a starting job immediately.

In other words, it's a good day for the Bears. They'll be hoping Strickland develops into a special player, and the talent is in place to suggest he just might.

 

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Carlos Strickland to Cal: Bears Land 4-Star WR Prospect

California's passing game was just upgraded, as wide receiver prospect Carlos Strickland has decided to commit to the school. Greg Powers of Scout...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA Football: Bruins' 5 Most Underrated Recruits of 2015

The recruiting season for the UCLA football 2015 class is coming down to the wire. 

Jim Mora and his staff have about one more week to make their pitches before national signing day on Feb 4. As it currently stands, the Bruins have 16 public commitments. There are also a handful of prospects considering the program at this time. 

This piece will take a look at the five most underrated recruits for UCLA in 2015. This includes four committed prospects and one athlete currently uncommitted. 

Prospects will be listed alphabetically. Much of their appearance on the list is due to overall upside and current rankings as prospects.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Bruins' 5 Most Underrated Recruits of 2015

The recruiting season for the UCLA football 2015 class is coming down to the wire. Jim Mora and his staff have about one more week to make their pitches before national signing day on Feb 4...

Begin Slideshow

Former Vanderbilt Football Players Found Guilty on Rape Charges

Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg, two of the former Vanderbilt football players charged with raping a female student in June 2013, were found guilty on all charges by a Nashville jury on Tuesday.

According to a report from The Tennessean—which contains graphic descriptions of the charges—the jury found Batey and Vandenburg guilty on a total of 16 charges. Batey, 21, was charged on five felony counts of aggravated rape and two of aggravated sexual battery. Vandenburg, 21, was found guilty on those same charges plus an evidence tampering count and unlawful photography.           

Four Vanderbilt football players were initially charged with sexual assault in August 2013.  Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, the other two men implicated, are yet to stand trial. The Tennessean report notes a total of five players and two others have been charged with varying levels of involvement and the attempted cover-up. Chris Boyd pleaded guilty to helping the cover-up in 2013 and was sentenced to probation.    

Prosecutors alleged the players sexually assaulted the victim while she was passed out and recorded video and took pictures of the attack. An ABC News report indicated footage showed the woman, who was intoxicated, being carried back to a dorm room where the assault took place.   

Each of the players involved were kicked off the football team in 2013. Batey and Vandenburg are scheduled for sentencing in March. No date for the trials of Banks and McKenzie has been set.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Tennessee Football: The Vols' Most Underrated Recruits of 2015

On Feb. 4, 2015, Butch Jones will put the finishing touches on his third recruiting class as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.

While Jones's first class, assembled in the final two months before national signing day in 2013, produced standout stars like Cam Sutton, Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennesse's 2014 class proved that Jones is an elite recruiter. 

Now, he's on the verge of repeating his success and perhaps even surpassing it with the Vols' 2015 class.

Of Tennessee's star-studded group of 28 recruits, 10 are already on campus and learning the ropes of life in the SEC. The rest will arrive in the early part of the summer and begin preparing for the upcoming season.

The Vols' 2015 class is ranked so highly due to the number of 4-star and 5-star recruits who pledged to spend their college careers on Rocky Top, but they aren't the only ones who have a chance to make an impact on their team.

Here are five of Tennessee's most underrated recruits of the 2015 class and the reasons why they could be big-time players for the Vols in the near future. 

 

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Underrated 2015 College Football Recruits on the Rise

The clock is winding down on the 2015 recruiting class, but a few prospects have quietly emerged as prospects who are underrated in the eyes of recruiting services.

In the case of some prospects, a big senior year caused their offer lists to swell, while others were simply discovered late in the process.

One running back, a trio of standouts who will line up in the secondary and a defensive tackle highlight this year’s crop of late risers.

Which 2015 recruits have emerged this season as standout prospects?

*Players listed in alphabetical order.

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking the 10 Greatest College Football QBs of All Time

What makes for a great college quarterback?

Is it based on awards won? Titles claimed? Victories achieved? Statistics compiled? Yes, all of those things and so much more.

We've just completed our fifth straight season in which a quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy, the award given to college football's top player. Three of those passers played for (or won) a national title that same season and along the way won a slew of games and put up huge numbers.

But which one is the best of the best? Not just of the last five years, but in college history?

We've come up with our list of the 10 best ever, ranked by their overall performance and impact on the game. Click through to see our ranking criteria as well as who made the cut.

Begin Slideshow

Odds 5-Star CeCe Jefferson Commits to Florida, Alabama, Auburn, LSU or Ole Miss

Once thought to be a lock to the home-standing Florida Gators, 5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson will have Gator Nation and fanbases such as Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss sweating out his decision on national signing day.

He's taken visits to all of his finalists except LSU, which will host the talented pass-rusher this weekend, and Florida—where he's visited unofficially numerous times over the last year.

Can another SEC foe pry him from landing anywhere other than Gainesville?

Let's break down his options and assess each team's odds at landing one of the top prospects from the Sunshine State.

 

Odds for playing at Alabama or LSU: 10-1

Over the years, both Nick Saban and Les Miles have made a habit of winning recruiting battles in which they were considered long shots.

According to BamaOnline, Jefferson stopped in Tuscaloosa prior to and following his official visit to Ole Miss last weekend. 

Jefferson is versatile enough to play defensive end or outside linebacker in the Tide's scheme—which makes him a valued target for Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

The fact that he's been to Tuscaloosa several times—along with Saban's penchant for pulling studs late in the cycle in recent years—means that the Tide can't be counted out.

LSU will take a swing at Jefferson this weekend, with new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron—both of whom have been ace recruiters throughout their careers—getting a chance to make their best pitch to the U.S. Army All-American.

The Tigers will have to replace both starters at defensive end next fall, which can appeal to a talent like Jefferson, who hopes to find the field early.

Overall, both Alabama and LSU are quietly lurking and hoping to make a late surge and steal one of the nation's top defensive players in the 2015 class.

 

Odds for playing at Florida: 6-1

As JC Shurburtt of 247Sports notes, one coach who was involved in Jefferson's recruitment felt that he would ultimately be a Gator in the end.

However, with the arrival of new head coach Jim McElwain, Jefferson hasn't had the chance to develop the type of bond he had with the previous coaching staff, as his father, Leo Jefferson, told Luke Stampini of GatorBait.

"I don't know him, this is my first time meeting him," the elder Jefferson told Stampini. "I've talked to him on the phone several times, but basically it's my first time physically seeing him."

It's still tough to count the Gators out because of the fact that they have been his longtime favorite, and the campus is located close to his home in Glen St. Mary, Florida. 

Time will tell if McElwain and his staff can find a way to lure him to Gainesville in the end.

 

Odds for playing at Auburn: 5-1

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has recruited Jefferson vigorously for the last few years, dating back to his days as the head coach at Florida.

His arrival on the Plains has given the Tigers a surge in their pursuit of Jefferson—who visited Auburn on the weekend of Jan. 16.

As Jefferson admitted to Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover, the Tigers coaching staff has made an impression on the nation's No. 2 strong-side defensive end:

The coaching staff. Like I said, I got that family feel with them. They've been recruiting me hard the past four years. And I know what I'm getting if I come here. That's mainly what sticks out. I know I'm going to be taken care of. Surrounded by good players. It's a good town. It's country like my hometown so it's great.

Given that Auburn is heavily pursuing other top targets from the state of Florida, such as 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart, 5-star offensive lineman Martez Ivey and 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland, Jefferson could potentially be a part of a large migration of talent heading north to the Plains on signing day.

 

Odds for playing at Ole Miss: 3-1

Jefferson made the long trek to Oxford, Mississippi, last weekend to visit Ole Miss unofficially.

Considering he had already used an official visit to see the Rebels last October, his return trip in the late stages of his recruitment is a strong signal of his interest in the Rebels program.

Jefferson made waves in late December when he named the Rebels his leader. While that may have been initially met with some skepticism, there's a growing sentiment that Hugh Freeze and his staff sit in great position for him.

As noted by Stampini, the Rebels have made a furious push for Jefferson and could even be the team to beat heading down the stretch.

Freeze was able to land former prized recruit Laremy Tunsil out of the grasp of Florida two years ago, and he's hoping history repeats itself with Jefferson on national signing day.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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