NCAA Football News

Damani Staley Picks South Carolina, Follows Footsteps of NFL Father Duce Staley

Roughly 20 years ago, South Carolina had a Staley whose primary objective was to score touchdowns. The Gamecocks are now preparing for a Staley who's all about preventing them.

South Carolina landed its first defensive pledge of the 2017 class Wednesday morning in Damani Staley, a 3-star outside linebacker from Ridge View High School. Staley is the son of former NFL running back Duce Staley, who played his final two years of college ball for the Gamecocks before going on to play 10 years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The younger Staley, listed on his Hudl bio at 6'2" and 215 pounds, is the fourth member of South Carolina's 2017 class. He chose South Carolina over offers from Georgia Tech and East Carolina.

And according to a local interview, the decision wasn't a difficult one, particularly after picking up the offer from the Gamecocks—his very first—on Jan. 22.

"They have been my No. 1 choice ever since they first offered me," Staley told Lou Bezjak of The State. "I always dreamed of going there since I was little."

Gamecocks fans are excited to have a legacy, as Duce Staley was impressive during his stint in a South Carolina uniform. After earning junior college All-American honors during a two-year stint at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Mississippi, he went on to rush for 1,582 yards in two seasons at South Carolina, including 1,116 yards his senior year.

Look for the younger Staley to force the exact opposite when he's on the field.

As an outside linebacker with a defensive end's mentality, Staley used his quickness and tenacity to frustrate offensive linemen and earn multiple sacks as a junior. He finished last season at Ridge View with 88 tackles and 21 sacks, according to MaxPreps.com. Add the sacks he had as a sophomore, and he has 27 entering his senior season.

Despite being only 215 pounds, Staley is quite comfortable putting his hands in the dirt and playing as a pass-rushing end. Look for him to be a reliable outside linebacker, however, in Will Muschamp's defense when he arrives on campus. Staley's pass-rushing ability and explosiveness off the line makes him a versatile option in a defensive scheme.

"I'm excited for [Staley]. He is definitely a leader and excited to see him develop," Ridge View coach Parry Parks told The State. "He has all the tools, the frame, motor and skill set. He can be special."

Staley joins a South Carolina class that includes fellow in-state prospect and 3-star tight end Will Register and junior college wide receiver Stephen Guidry, who should stretch the field at 6'4" and 190 pounds. Staley also will be reunited with a former Ridge View player in offensive tackle Dennis Daley, who currently is at Georgia Military College.

If he has the drive his father had, Staley could be one of those athletes who many will forget was a 3-star athlete out of high school. In addition to the 88 tackles and 21 sacks as a junior, Staley—who told The State that he was never pushed into playing for his father's alma mater—recorded 22 tackles for loss and had at least two sacks in a game six times.

Of his 88 tackles, 57 were unassisted. That says a lot about his tackling ability and his overall skill set.

Don't be surprised if South Carolina fans of old are one day speaking just as highly of Damani Staley as they did when Duce Staley was in uniform.

 

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

 

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Cordell Broadus, Snoop Dogg's Son, Reportedly to Return to UCLA Football Program

Cordell Broadus reportedly is returning to the UCLA football team this spring after leaving the program in August 2015, according to Tracy Pierson of Scout.com.

Broadus, the son of rapper and entertainer Snoop Dogg, will reportedly be returning for UCLA's spring practice on March 29, though he'll now be a walk-on rather than returning on a scholarship. Broadus had remained at UCLA as a student.

He quit football to pursue a filmmaking degree, per Pierson, and posted the following on Instagram on his father's birthday on October 20:   

But Broadus appeared to hint on March 3 in no uncertain terms that he would be returning to the football team:

He also posted an image to Instagram on Wednesday of a workout on a football field:

Broadus was a 4-star recruit and the 26th-ranked wide receiver in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, so his return to UCLA is potentially a major plus for the program. At 6'2" and 200 pounds, he has both good size and speed at the position and the ability to elevate above defenders to high-point the ball.

If Broadus is indeed committed once again to playing football, he should compete for playing time in 2016 and bolster the Bruins' receiving corps.

 

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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4-Star Daniel Wright Talks Favorites, Visit Plans and Timeline in Recruitment

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With more than 30 offers to his credit heading into the spring, 4-star safety Daniel Wright has his share of options to choose from as far as taking visits in the coming months.

However, the main players in his recruitment are starting to take shape.

The nation’s No. 8-ranked safety and the No. 99-ranked player overall hopes to get to a handful of schools soon. “I’m going to FSU, LSU, Clemson, Auburn and Oklahoma,” Wright told Bleacher Report.

Wright, who is the younger brother of Bucs safety and former Florida Gators star Major Wright, admits that one school is standing out to him at the moment.

“I’d say FSU is really going after me,” Wright said. “[Florida State is] a top-notch program. They are showing me what I should do if I come there and what it takes to be successful up there. I have [linebackers coach] Bill Miller, [defensive graduate assistant] Jeremiah Wilson and [head] coach Jimbo Fisher has been talking to me a lot.”

Additionally, Wright has been studying one former Seminoles star defensive back closely in the offseason.

“Jalen Ramsey is one of the top defensive backs I’ve been studying. He reminds me of myself since he did both track and football. It’s nice to be able to relate to him,” Wright said.

While the ‘Noles are in the driver's seat, Wright isn’t in any hurry to make a decision.

He plans to take his official visits and then decide either at the Under Armour All-America Game or wait until national signing day.

Aside from Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame are two programs he feels will net official visits from him in the fall. 

Regardless of when he decides and where he lands, Wright noted that his brother equipped him with the proper knowledge necessary to handle a process that can get crazy at times.

“He just told me how fast-paced it can be, so I have to slow it down and take my time with it. It’s about managing your time and doing the right thing. I just want to build on the advice he gave me,” Wright said.

When it comes to making a decision, there’s one key factor he will be looking for in the program he eventually lands with.

“In a winning program, you need a family and chemistry,” Wright explained. “You have to have that bond on and off the field to build a championship team. That’s what it takes and that’s what I’m looking for.”

 

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

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College Football's Top 25 QBs Entering 2016 Spring Practice

Quarterback play remains the single most important aspect of any offense in college football. Without an effective passer, it's hard to succeed in today's era of uptempo attacks and prolific scoring.

Thankfully, the game is as loaded as ever with great quarterbacks, even after a good number of the best from the 2015 season have moved on.

We've ranked the 25 best quarterbacks in college football as spring practice gets underway across the country. These players are ranked based on their past performance and expected impact this fall when the games begin. Think we've got it wrong or missed someone? Let us know in the comments section.

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College Football Coaches with Most Job Security

Job security is not what it used to be in today's world of college football, where falling just short of expectations or one bad season can lead to a quick firing.

After a season in which Georgia dismissed Mark Richt after averaging nearly 10 wins per year, the sense of job security is changing across the country. 

Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin find themselves on the hot seat just a couple of years removed from huge seasons. LSU's Les Miles was almost on his way out late last year. Penn State's James Franklin and Texas' Charlie Strong both face a crucial 2016 for their futures.

But on the other side, a handful of college football's best coaches can enjoy a strong sense of security heading into the 2016 season. Thanks to consistent success and long contract extensions, there are those who won't have to sweat that much even if their teams dip in quality this fall.

Here are the college football head coaches who have the most job security right now—a "Secure 16." These selections were based on longevity, records and contract lengths with their current schools. Some, such as the ones in the above photograph, are all too obvious, while others are underrated for what they've built at their respective programs.

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Michigan Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2016 Schedule

An early look at Michigan football's 2016 schedule bodes well for the Wolverines' hopes of competing for a national title.

Overall, Jim Harbaugh's team has a manageable slate that begins against a trio of favorable nonconference opponents in Hawaii, UCF and Colorado.

The competition level steadily rises as the year progresses, however. As of now, Michigan's three toughest games come after a bye week on Oct. 15 and are each on the road.

If the Wolverines ultimately reach the College Football Playoff, they'll certainly have earned it following the difficult final five outings of the regular season.

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Why Lovie Smith Will Be the Big Ten West's Jim Harbaugh

Despite all of the excitement in Champaign that accompanied his hiring, it didn't take long for the elephant in the room to make an appearance during Lovie Smith's introductory press conference as Illinois' new head coach on Monday.

Smith wasn't on Twitter—at least not yet.

And in the college football world in 2016, that's a problem for the Fighting Illini head coach, who now must use publicity—and not his team owner's checkbook—as his primary recruiting tool.

"It's a misnomer that I'm some old guy that doesn't know what's going on," Smith asserted.

While it didn't take long for the 57-year-old to send his first tweet, it wasn't hard to figure out what his message will be.

Recruiting—at least in an official capacity—hasn't been one of Smith's responsibilities since 1995, but his two-decade absence from the college ranks could ultimately work to his advantage. Pitching his career in the NFL, where he spent 11 seasons as a head coach, Smith will attempt to sell his pro football experience as a means to preparing prospects for professional football.

"Lovie is going to be a great recruiter," Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said, referencing Smith's NFL experience. "There’s not a living room in America that’s not going to open up their doors to Lovie Smith and his coaching staff."

It's not a new strategy, and it's one that's already worked well for the likes of Nick Saban, Pete Carroll and Jim Mora. Most recently, Jim Harbaugh has capitalized on his four seasons on the sideline of the San Francisco 49ers by signing the nation's fifth-ranked recruiting class at Michigan.

And while the Illinois program doesn't possess the same pedigree from which Alabama, USC, UCLA or the Wolverines benefit, Smith's success and tenure at the professional level supersedes that of his pro-to-college predecessors. The former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach's .506 winning percentage was better than both Saban's, Carroll's and Mora's before their returns to the college ranks, and his 11 seasons as a head coach in the NFL nearly tripled Harbaugh's tenure in San Francisco.

Only seven coaches in history have served as the head coach in a Super Bowl before making the move to the college sidelines. Along with Harbaugh, Smith now becomes the second one still active as a head coach to do so.

That's not to say that Smith will win national championships in Champaign as Saban's done at Alabama and Carroll did at USC, or even that he'll put the Fighting Illini on the same trajectory both Michigan and UCLA appear to be on under the direction of their pro-caliber head coaches. But their success in selling NFL experience bodes well for Smith, who claims he won't have to knock off much rust on the recruiting trail.

"I’ve been recruiting and selling every year I’ve been a football coach, selling the way we’re going to win football games, asking free agents to come on board. And recruiting is just that," said Smith. "You go into homes, and people will trust you or they won’t, try to get them to buy into what you believe. And I feel like I can do that."

Smith doesn't have much of an official recruiting track record to fall back on, although in his last season coaching in college, he helped lure star defensive back Gary Berry to Ohio State in what many considered at the time to be the nation's top class. In the NFL, however, Smith did prove to be quite the "recruiter," consistently signing top-level free agents including Julius Peppers, Tim Jennings and Robert Garza during his nine seasons with the Bears and Josh McCown and Michael Johnson in his two-year stint with the Bucs.

In particular, Smith's tenure in Chicago should help bolster his recruiting efforts, as he spent nearly a decade in the spotlight of the city he plans on making Illinois' top recruiting region.

"When you’re in the state, you follow your professional football team in the state," Smith said of his time with the Bears. "I think most of them know who I am, and I think they will feel pretty good about [us] once we get our program in place and what it’ll look like."

Like Harbaugh, Smith should also benefit from a diverse set of potential recruiting pipelines that not only includes the Midwest but his home state of Texas and also Florida, thanks to his two years in Tampa Bay. Even for recruits too young to remember Smith's Super Bowl trip at the end of the 2006 season, his role in the development of first-overall pick Jameis Winston will be just another weapon in what's beginning to look like a war chest of recruiting assets.

With a boost in salary that will pay his assistants the third-highest salary pool in the Big Ten behind Michigan and Ohio State, Smith already appears to be eyeing an NFL-caliber staff, just as Harbaugh did when he arrived in Ann Arbor 14 months ago.

According to The Champaign Room, the new Fighting Illini coach has targeted several NFL assistants for his staff, including former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman, 49ers assistant Hardy Nickerson and Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Luke Butkus.

As for Twitter, Smith's crossed that off his list off as well, creating an account, following prospects and sending his fist tweet.

He may not display the same personality Harbaugh does in 140 characters or fewer, but the core of their approaches will very much be the same as each tries to sell an NFL background that sets them apart from the rest of the Big Ten.

With that will likely come rumors of Smith one day making a return back to the pros with each annual NFL coaching carousel. Smith, however, has already asserted that this is the start of the "third quarter" in his coaching career, as he attempts to become the Big Ten West's—and perhaps eventually, college football's—premier pros-to-prep head coach.

"I signed a six-year contract," Smith said. "I’m not going anywhere."

 

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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5-Star Tedarrell Slaton Breaks Down Recruitment, Talks Bond with Jim Harbaugh

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It’s no secret that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has made the talent-rich state of Florida a top priority in the Wolverines’ recruiting efforts.

One player he has targeted in the 2017 cycle is 5-star offensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton from American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The 6’4 ½”, 338-pounder, who rates as the nation’s No. 6 offensive tackle and the No. 22 player overall in the 2017 class, admits that the Wolverines are the school coming after him the hardest.

“I want to say Michigan,” Slaton told Bleacher Report. “I talked to Coach Harbaugh last night on Twitter. It was good. We talked about me getting back up there to get the full experience.”

Slaton said there’s something about Harbaugh and his approach that makes him feel very comfortable with the direction the Wolverines program is headed.

“[Harbaugh is] a nice dude. I like him. His demeanor sets him apart with a lot of things. He says a lot with his body language. He’s just a fun guy to talk to,” Slaton said.

With the spring and summer months usually earmarked as times to take visits, Slaton and his teammates at American Heritage figure to have a busy schedule.

First up will be a bus tour Slaton and his teammates take to a number of different schools—although when and where they visit is still to be determined.

“We have this big college tour coming up where our offensive coordinator [at AHHS] takes most of our OL and some of our skill players and we drive and visit different colleges,” Slaton explained. I have no idea [which schools we are visiting yet].”

However, there are a handful of schools he hopes to get to before his senior season begins with the Patriots.

“I want to visit Alabama and Ole Miss. I want to go back to Michigan so that I can get the full tour compared to what I had last time. I want to go see Virginia Tech,” he said.

In-state powers Florida, Florida State and Miami also figure to be in the mix with Slaton in the coming months.

While he doesn’t have a timeline in mind for making a decision, Slaton has one clear thing he’s looking for in a program he eventually commits to. 

“I want to see how the coaching staff brings me in. I just want to see the way they process things and handle certain situations,” Slaton said. "Here, my coaches [at American Heritage], they handle things a different way. They handle each kid differently. They never do the same thing with different kids. When its game time, they stay calm. They know how to approach things in a way that relates to the entire team.

"That’s what I’m looking for at the next level.”

 

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

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