NCAA Football

Texas A&M Recruiting: Did Kevin Sumlin Land the Next Michael Oher?

Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M football coaches landed their first commitment for the 2016 recruiting class and it was a big one, both literally and figuratively. In Patrick Hudson, the Aggies have landed the physical reincarnation of Michael Oher. 

Hudson gave a verbal pledge to Sumlin and the Aggies during the Friday Night Lights recruiting event on March 28. He is a 6'6", 320-pound offensive tackle from Silsbee, Texas. 

Hudson is the most physically impressive offensive lineman in the state of Texas and is only a sophomore. Players with his frame and athleticism do not come around very often. 

Oher gained national fame after being chronicled in Michael Lewis' book The Blind Side and the subsequent movie with the same title. He was adopted by a wealthy family and developed into a star on the football field. Oher was a blue-chip offensive tackle recruit who went on to star at Ole Miss and became a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens.

Like Oher, Hudson is a physical freak of nature. Athletes of that size who can move around that effortlessly are rare even in the NFL. Hudson is the type of athlete who can project into an NFL offensive lineman at 16 years of age. 

Recruiting is not a science, but Hudson has the type of athleticism where something would have to go terribly wrong for him to not end up in the NFL. There are no recruiting rankings out yet for 2016, but Hudson will likely rank as the top offensive tackle in Texas and the nation. 

In Hudson, the Aggies have their future right or left tackle. If needed, he could even move inside to guard. With limited experience in pass protection right now, he looks like a future right tackle. 

Hudson is a road-grader in the running game. When Oher was in high school he once blocked a player off of the field and into a fence that surrounded the field. This incident was featured prominently in the Disney movie about Oher. 

A lot of the highlights from Hudson's sophomore season resemble that movie scene. He was quite simply the most dominant run-blocker in the state of Texas as a sophomore in high school. 

In addition to his prowess on the football field, Hudson is an accomplished power lifter. He finished third in his division at the state meet in 2014 with a three-lift total of 1,690 pounds. His best lifts for the year were 640 pounds in the squat, 425 pounds in the bench press and a dead lift of 625 pounds. Those are exceptional numbers for a sophomore in high school.

Sumlin started off the Aggies' 2016 class with a bang. They added possibly the top-ranked recruit in the class and a future NFL player in Hudson. He should be an anchor for the Aggies' offensive line for years to come.  

 

 

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Which Big Ten Team Stands the Best Chance Against SEC Contenders?

At the dawn of the College Football Playoff era, the once-dominant but currently meh Big Ten is hoping for a swift turnaround and return to its former football glory.

In order to get there, it will need to prove it can compete against the best. And though the national title resides with Florida State in the ACC, and the Pac-12 could make a compelling case for the distinction, it is still widely accepted—and, in my opinion, correct—to say the SEC is the strongest conference in the country.

In order to beat the best of the SEC, a team must be able to match its physicality—especially in the trenches but also in the second level (where linebackers meet fullbacks and guards) and on the outside (where cornerbacks meet receivers). This size and strength necessity eliminates from the discussion a minority of teams in the Big Ten, leaving a smaller but predictable group of contenders at the top.

Michigan State sticks out from that list as the most "SEC-style" team, in large part thanks to the culture established by head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

The Spartans even beat Georgia, 33-30, in the Outback Bowl three seasons ago, although they also lost by 42 points to Alabama in the same game the previous year.

This current MSU team is more of a legitimate defensive force but not by much. Those old MSU teams were also quite good defensively and even better than the current team on offense. Which brings us to the second vital quality for a team that can beat an SEC contender—and the reason Michigan State, the defending conference champion, is not the horse I will choose to back in this race.

Ball control.

Even with its steady improvement at the end of last season, Michigan State finished No. 43 in Football Outsiders' offensive F/+ ratings.

When it appeared to have turned a corner for the first time during the middle of conference play, MSU regressed and put up 14 points and averaged 4.39 yards per play in a fair-weather game against Purdue.

Yuck.

You can't beat an SEC team without an offense that is capable of consistently moving the chains. A three-and-out is death-dealing against an SEC offense, because it puts the defense back on the field with minimal rest. And as every Big Ten team would be at least slightly overmatched in the trenches against Auburn, Alabama or LSU's offensive lines, a tired defense would likely be a doomed one.

As good as Sparty looked on offense against Stanford, that sample was just one game. Over the course of the past few seasons—the more adequate sample—two Big Ten offenses from the table above have stood out with capable-enough defenses behind them to boot.

Wisconsin and Ohio State are both traditionally good programs with NFL talent along the lines and offensive systems that could give an SEC team trouble. The recent history of pitting them against SEC foes is unfavorable—Wisconsin having lost most recently against South Carolina in the 2014 Outback Bowl—but the Badgers will get a shot for revenge against LSU in Arlington during the first week of next season.

If forced to choose between the two, I would ignore Ohio State's recent program history against the SEC—see: the 2007 and 2008 BCS National Championship Games—and focus instead on the new era of Buckeyes football before us. Specifically, I would focus on the presence of head coach Urban Meyer.

From 2005-2010, Meyer led the Florida Gators, one of the SEC's own, to a 65-15 record, three 13-win seasons and two national titles. He once hung 51 points on a Les Miles-John Chavis LSU defense and beat Alabama in the conference championship in the same year. He knows the conference from the inside and is well-versed at how to beat it.

Meyer admitted the SEC's dominance in a recent interview with Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, but he lauded the league for its parity more than its top-heaviness.

"The SEC is so unique because there are just so many," said Meyer, who does think some other conferences are (slowly) gaining ground. "I don't know if you'll ever catch them top to bottom. The talent down there—there are so many players."

Meyer's claims are undoubtedly true—Ole Miss finished sixth in the SEC West, for example, and might have contended for a league title in the Big 12 and ACC—but he knows that the gap has closed between the Alabamas of the world and the Ohio States. Having slain each SEC blue blood at least once and recruited just as well in Columbus as he did in Gainesville, why shouldn't he beat the best?

To go with Meyer's scheme, the Buckeyes have a senior QB in Braxton Miller who is capable of keeping the chains moving with his arm and his feet.

On the other side of the ball, a defensive line with Joey Bosa and Noah Spence could give any offensive line, even that of Auburn, headaches for 60 full minutes.

The Buckeyes secondary is a weakness, but this might be the year that they can mask that against the powers of the SEC. Almost every contender is breaking in a new quarterback, and the primary one that isn't (Auburn) trots out a converted defensive back at QB and had 11 or less completions in eight different games last season.

I'm not sure I would pick any Big Ten team to compete against the best SEC teams next season. I'm not sure I would pick only one. That's the beauty of talking college football in April: Anything can still reasonably happen. Especially at the start of an important new era, we can tear up the record books and look straightaway toward the future.

Will the Big Ten become a national contender in the first few years of the College Football Playoff? Your guess is as good as mine.

If it does, though, Ohio State should be the team at the vanguard.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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UW's Damore'ea Stringfellow Reportedly Will Be Charged with Misdemeanor Assault

Washington wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow is expected to face charges of misdemeanor assault and malicious mischief in connection with two separate incidents on the night of the Super Bowl.

Adam Jude of The Seattle Times reports Stringfellow was identified as the suspect by a woman who was struck and had her camera damaged during a melee near campus as well as a man who was assaulted after telling two men he was a Seattle Seahawks fan.   

The report also notes quarterback Cyler Miles is not expected to face charges after being previously linked to the situation. Official word from prosecutors is expected soon as both players remain suspended from the team, per Jude:

The prosecutor's office released a statement on Monday evening saying that an announcement would be made "shortly."

Both players remained suspended from the team as of late Monday afternoon, with the Huskies set to resume spring practices Tuesday morning.

The female victim told police that a male "had attempted to rip a video camera from her hands and then knocked her out." The extent of the damage done to a camera lens and the cost to replace it will decide the level of the malicious mischief charge, according to the report.

It also notes the second victim replied "something like, 'Yeah of course, are you Broncos fans?'" when the two men asked him if he was a Seahawks supporter. The man who was assaulted worked with a friend to identify the attacker based on roster photos for the Huskies.

Washington has not provided an update on the suspensions based on the information.

Stringfellow showed promise as a freshman. He caught 20 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown while playing a rotational role in the offense. A bigger role was likely on the horizon next season following multiple departures in the passing game.

Now his status is very much up in the air as the legal process runs its course. The last comments on the matter came from new head coach Chris Petersen in early March. Jude provided his brief remarks: "I have nothing new to report on that. We’ll just let that play out and see how it goes."

If the report is accurate and charges are filed in the near future, the next step in the process for Stringfellow should then become available.

 

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