NCAA Football News

Ex-Ohio State LB Mike Mitchell's Transfer to Texas Tech Huge for Kliff Kingsbury

Less than a year after arriving at Ohio State as a heralded freshman, Mike Mitchell is heading home. According to 247Sports.com reporter Taylor Hamm, the Plano, Texas, product has decided to transfer to Texas Tech:

The 6'3", 222-pound linebacker left the Buckeyes' football program in February to seek opportunities elsewhere after the spring semester.

At the time, Eleven Warriors writer Kyle Rowland reported that his father's health played a factor in the decision.

After weighing multiple options in the Lone Star State, Mitchell is the newest Red Raider.

His choice caps off a stunning turn of events for a recruit whom many expected to make an immediate impact in Columbus. Rated No. 5 nationally among outside linebackers and No. 58 overall as a prospect at Prestonwood Christian Academy, Mitchell was a marquee member of Urban Meyer's 2013 class.

He registered 337 total tackles and 22 sacks during his junior and senior high school seasons, securing scholarship offers from more than 20 teams.

Mitchell committed to Ohio State over Oregon and Texas A&M in front of a national television audience at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

On Friday, with far less fanfare, he officially moved on from the Buckeyes following a redshirt season.

Texas Tech offers Mitchell an opportunity to push the reboot button on his collegiate career, just a few hours away from his hometown. Luke Zimmerman of Land-Grant Holy Land suggests that he also considered Baylor and Texas A&M (again).

Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury adds to a growing collection of impressive incoming defenders.

It remains to be seen whether Mitchell will be receive a waiver and be ruled eligible for the 2014 season, but standard transfer rules require players to sit for a full season before returning to game action.

Texas Tech has already assembled a solid 2015 recruiting class, which is currently rated 26th nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings. Much-needed defensive help anchors the group.

The class includes 4-star Hawaii defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko and highly productive in-state linebacker D'Vonta Hinton, who tallied 329 tackles during the past two seasons.

With Mitchell's commitment and a few key pledges between now and national signing day, there's serious potential for a major influx of defensive talent in Lubbock.

Texas Tech surrendered 30 points per game in 2013, ranking 88th nationally in that category.

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.

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SEC Sets Record with $309.6 Million Payout to Teams, but Best Is Yet to Come

The final day of SEC spring meetings means it's time for Mike Slive to hand out some checks. 

No, they weren't those oversized novelty checks that Adam Sandler demanded in Happy Gilmore, but Slive did need quite a bit of room to fit all of the zeros in.

The conference announced a record revenue distribution of $309.6 million, which averages out to over $20.9 million per school. For perspective, the SEC distributed a total of $304.7 million a year ago and $165.9 million in 2009.

So what does it all mean?

 

The Numbers

According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News, that puts the SEC ahead of the Pac-12 on a per-team distribution basis. The Pac-12, which owns its own network, distributed $228,242,350 to its schools, with no school breaking the $20 million mark in fiscal year 2013, which ended on June 30, 2013, according to USA Today.

It did, however, eclipse the SEC in terms of total revenue with $334 million for 2012-13, which more than triples the $111.8 million it reported in 2010-11. But expenses, which included start-up costs associated with the Pac-12 Network, knocked down the per-team payout a bit.

The Big Ten, which doled out $298 million, didn't eclipse the SEC in terms of total distribution. But with two fewer teams, the only team to receive fewer than $23 million over the same fiscal year was Nebraska ($15,411,595), according to Mike Carmin of JCOnline.com, which joined the conference in 2011.

The Big 12 announced Friday that it will distribute approximately $212 million to its 10 teams, with eight of the 10 teams receiving approximately $23 million, and TCU and West Virginia, which joined the conference in 2012, taking home $14 million each.

The ACC's figures aren't out, but it distributed $293 million in 2012-13, according to the Kansas City Star, an average of $24.4 million per team.

 

What the Numbers Mean

Clearly the Big Ten Network is paying off big time for its members, and the Pac-12, which leads all conferences in revenue, has Pac-12 Network start-up costs and other expenses knocking down its per-team split.

The SEC doesn't have much rent (a conference official told me its rent is $1.00), and since the new SEC Network is owned by ESPN and headquartered at ESPN's previously existing campus for ESPNU in Charlotte, North Carolina, start-up costs are minimal compared to conferences that have gone down this path in the past.

That's huge for the conference, because its per-team distribution is already healthy and competing with the Big Ten (which already has an established network) and the Big 12, which only has four fewer teams.

When the SEC Network money starts rolling in, the SEC might as well establish a mint at its headquarters, because it'll be printing money.

 

The SEC's Financial Future

Instead of printing money, the SEC should just plate its offices in gold, because that's essentially what's going to happen anyway.

According to Scott Rabalais of The Advocate, the new cable network could be worth a cool $35.7 million per team once the network reaches its full distribution goals, assuming it gets a rate of $1.30 per customer per month, and it achieves its goal of 30 million subscribers.

But how realistic is full distribution?

The SEC Network has deals in place with DISH Network, AT&T U-Verse, Google Fiber and other smaller distributors. But the bigger fish in the pond—DirecTV and Comcast—aren't on the hook yet.

Don't worry, because it'll happen. In fact, it'll surpass that number. It already has around 20 million customers thanks to the DISH and AT&T deals, and more will come with DirecTV and Comcast.

Since the network is wholly owned by ESPN, it can and will leverage its other properties, including non-sports content like the Disney Channel and Disney Junior, to force the hand of potential partners.

The SEC's future is paved in gold. Gold generated from the new cable network.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.

 

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Deon Cain to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Clemson got a big boost to its 2015 class by adding playmaking wide receiver Deon Cain.

The 4-star receiver is considered the ninth-best player at his position and the No. 76 player overall in the 2015 class, according to 247 Sports' composite rankings. He picked up offers from virtually every big school in the southeast, but he decided that he wanted to be a Tiger.

Cain was ready to make a decision right after visiting the school last month. According to Paul Strelow of TigerIllustrated.com, the Florida native explained, "I saw everything I needed to see. It was a great school."

The 6'1" player will now try to become the next in line for what has become a great school for receivers. Position coach Jeff Scott was quick to point out the recent success for Clemson on Twitter:

With good speed and outstanding agility, Cain has the ability to add to this legacy. His quickness to make plays in traffic allows him to score whenever he touches the ball, and he is certain to only get better.

As Jamie Newberg of Scout.com points out, he was a quarterback until this year:

This gives him an excellent handle of the offense, but it also means that he is quite raw at the position. Still, you can improve route running and learn how to use your body in the air; you cannot teach explosiveness or agility. 

The Tigers might go through a bit of a rebuilding year in 2014 after losing so much offensive talent, but there are still quality players on the roster. As a result, it would not be surprising to see it take some time before Cain makes an impact on the field. The good news is that he can be an all-conference performer within a few years.

In order for Clemson to remain a national powerhouse, it needs to keep getting talented players from all areas. Cain's commitment will help ensure more wins and will likely help bring in even more elite recruits in the coming months.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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4-Star WR Deon Cain Commits to Clemson, Will Be 'Superstar' in ACC

Four-star wide receiver Deon Cain has committed to play his college football at Clemson. The 6'1", 190-pound athlete has a great combination of size and speed, which makes him a serious threat at the next level.

What does Cain's commitment mean for the Tigers? Which player does he compare to?

Watch the video as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee answers these questions and breaks down the newest Clemson Tiger.

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.com

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Proving Alabama's Nick Saban Is Still College Football's Best Big-Game Coach

It’s one of those statistics that now just seems preposterous, but single-handedly demonstrates the University of Alabama’s turnaround under Nick Saban.

In 2008, when Alabama was 8-0 and en route to playing in the Southeastern Conference’s title game, it also had a losing streak in games played during the month of November spanning three seasons and nine games.

From 2003 to 2007, its record during the month was an abysmal 3-14 (17.6 winning percentage). It had lost six straight to rival Auburn and five to LSU, both series records. As a starting quarterback, senior John Parker Wilson was 0-2 against Mississippi State.

"We have a point to prove that we can finish," senior safety and co-captain Rashad Johnson said at the time.

Obviously, the Crimson Tide figured it out. Even though Alabama’s now seemingly annual national title chase came up short last year, losing at Auburn on a 100-yard return off a missed field goal as time expired, Nick Saban still has to be considered the best big-game coach in college football.

Yes, flat Alabama was beat by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl and, yes, Saban is just 8-7 in bowl games (0-3 at Michigan State and 8-4 with SEC teams).

Consider the bigger picture:

He’s 4-0 when the national title is on the line.

Saban’s 4-1 in conference championships, the lone loss in 2008 to Florida when Tim Tebow was running Urban Meyer’s offense and Saban had just one full recruiting class at Alabama. 

Over his 18-year career as a head coach, including stops at Toledo, Michigan State and LSU, Saban’s teams are 51-35 against ranked opponents (59.3 winning percentage), and 27-17 (61.6 percent) against top-10 teams. Among coaches who have faced at least 20 opponents ranked in the Top 10, only one has had a better career winning percentage: Frank Leahy. (Note: Among active coaches, Meyer is 12-5, or 70.6 percent).

Saban’s four wins against opponents ranked No. 1 is tied for the most by any coach since the Associated Press poll was created in 1936. He shares the distinction with Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson, Jack Mollenkopf and Joe Paterno, who are all in the College Football Hall of Fame. Paul W. “Bear” Bryant did it only three times.

But with the BCS and creation of the four-team playoff, November has become more important than ever, especially in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division, easily the toughest in college football. Even if you took away Alabama’s three recent titles, the other West teams still have won more BCS championships than any other conference, never mind division.

By then teams are beat up, have been exposed and the season becomes a test of survival. It’s when the 2011 Crimson Tide defense, considered by many to be one of the best of all time, gave up 51 points, compared with 55 during the rest of the season, and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel had his signature win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

It’s also when the 2007 season, Saban’s first with the Crimson Tide, completely fell apart. No. 17 Alabama was a respectful 6-2 and coming off a 41-17 thrashing of Tennessee, but never recovered from the loss of five suspended players, including starting offensive linemen Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, after the university's investigation into textbook disbursement.

It lost 41-34 to No. 3 LSU, at MSU 17-12, to Louisiana Monroe 21-14 and at rival Auburn 17-10. Wilson had six of his 12 interceptions that season during the month, and no running back reached 100 rushing yards.

"The suspensions hurt us a lot," offensive lineman Mike Johnson said at the time. "All the different offensive lines we played with, I switched from right tackle to guard, but you can't put your finger on one thing. We just struggled overall as a group. We went downhill."

But that was nothing new for the Crimson Tide. Since 2003, Alabama had been 41-30 overall, meaning that nearly half the program’s losses during that time span were in November. The 2004 team was 5-3 entering the month, 8-0 in 2005 and 6-3 in 2006. Had Mike Shula gone .500, or even won back-to-back games once in the month, things might have been very different.

Instead, the 2008 Crimson Tide began a November winning streak that lasted eight games and helped lead to the 2009 national championship. It’s 16-4 (80 percent) in the month since then, 72-9 overall (88.9 percent), and captured two more crystal footballs.

Win November and anything is possible, especially this year when Alabama has to visit Tiger Stadium, Auburn is coming off playing for the national title and all three division games could be against ranked rivals.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Which School Gives 5-Star ATH Torrance Gibson Best Chance at Stardom?

2015 5-Star ATH Torrance Gibson has released his top seven schools consisting of Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Miami, and Central Florida.

Gibson is an electrifying playmaker at the quarterback position, but has also garnered attention as a wide receiver.

Bleacher Report's CFB analyst Michael Felder broke down how Gibson would fit with his top seven schools and where he believes the 5-Star prospect will have the most success.

Which school gives him the best chance at stardom?

Watch the video and find out.

 

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.com

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Notre Dame Football: Better Late Than Never for FieldTurf

A single second had been returned to the game clock. And on a perfect October afternoon in 2009, Jimmy Clausen and Charlie Weis were given one final chance to beat Pete Carroll and USC. 

On 3rd-and-goal from just inside the 5-yard line, Clausen dropped back from the shotgun and rifled a pass to Duval Kamara, just across the goal line. The throw was never close.

Kamara slipped making his cut on Notre Dame Stadium's fabled natural grass. And just like that, another fable—the Notre Dame Turf Monster—claimed one more victim.  

It's amazing to think what could've happened had Kamara not slipped. A touchdown would've sent the Irish and Trojans into overtime. An Irish victory over the No. 6 Trojans would've vaulted the Irish into the Top 15.

That Halloween day massacre of Washington State that ended up being Charlie Weis' final victory at Notre Dame's head coach? It could've had the Irish ranked in the Top 10 entering November.

Could Notre Dame still have lost four straight to Navy, Pitt, UConn and Stanford to close out the season? Sure. But let's say one or two of those coin-flip games went the Irish's way. Could you fire Weis after an 8-4 season? 

As we're reminded each year, Weis' contract was a bitter pill that's still being swallowed. But at 6-6 and after another late-season swoon, Jack Swarbrick didn't have much of a choice. 

Five years later, Swarbrick wasn't given much of a choice in this controversial decision, either. Putting an artificial surface inside the House That Rock Built was a no-brainer.

Even after replacing the sod multiple times last season, the playing surface inside one of college football's most historic stadiums was a joke. So during the Blue-Gold game televised nationally on NBCSN, Swarbrick made the announcement that FieldTurf was coming to Notre Dame Stadium.  

"We had a strong predisposition to stay with a natural grass field,” Swarbrick said in April, when the university officially released the news. "However, the reality is that in two of the last three seasons since we moved Commencement to the Stadium we have been unable to produce an acceptable playing surface.

"That, combined with the likely impacts of future construction at the Stadium, led me to conclude that we would continue to struggle to maintain a grass field that meets the expectations of our student-athletes and fans as it relates to appearance, performance and safety."

For Irish fans that take pride in the throwback experience inside Notre Dame Stadium, seeing the game take place on FieldTurf could take some getting used to. But then again, not seeing the home team slip and slide when trying to cut upfield or make a tackle could help ease the pain. 

For years, Notre Dame tried using its poor field conditions to its advantage. When Florida State came to town in 1993 for the Game of the Century, Bobby Bowden wondered if the groundskeeper got lost.

In 2005, when Weis nearly beat the Trojans, there were more complaints about the grass, and it was blamed for USC kickoff returner Desmond Reed's ACL tear. 

"I stood on it and I can tell you, if it was your backyard, the Homeowners Association would send you a citation," SI.com's Stewart Mandel wrote after the game

But as the Irish have upgraded their athleticism and personnel, too often it's been the home team that's suffered. Five seasons into the Brian Kelly era, the speed on the Irish roster is as good as it has ever been, turning the natural grass surface into a handicap. 

Just as crippling, the difficulties of keeping the playing field in acceptable condition has lessened the Irish's home field advantage.

Lukewarm crowd support has long been a complaint among the Irish faithful looking at the donors sitting on their hands in the gold seats. But too often, Notre Dame players feel like visitors in their own stadium, unable to practice in the stadium other than pregame walkthroughs. 

"It’s really about getting a surface where there’s some consistency week‑in and week‑out for our players," Kelly said after the Blue-Gold game. "I think today was an indication. We can’t even practice out there.

"We want to be able to get out there with our team. We want some safety issues to be not part of the equation. I think everybody is in agreement. If we can get the best surface there in grass, we’d love to have that. We just haven’t been able to get to that. This is my fifth year here at Notre Dame and we haven’t been able to get to that."

The Irish have been practicing on FieldTurf since the LaBar Practice Complex was built in 2008. Their indoor practices at the Loftus Center have been on the same surface. Matching the playing field with a surface the team practices on daily only makes sense. 

It's been no secret that Kelly has been a proponent of FieldTurf. But after Swarbrick and Notre Dame's brass toured college and professional facilities learning about their options, the only logical one was to install a synthetic surface. 

It may not have been soon enough to help Weis finally beat Pete Carroll, but it'll help Kelly and the Irish continue to improve their home field advantage in South Bend.  

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Follow @KeithArnold on Twitter. 

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Doesn't Look Like Texas A&M Recruiters Will Give Charlie Strong Much of a Chance

One of the biggest priorities for first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong is to take back the state of Texas on the recruiting trail. 

Texas A&M would like a word about that. And the word is "no." 

(Or, "YESSIR." Either way.)

On Thursday, the Aggies landed a verbal commitment from 4-star wide receiver Kemah Siverand of Cypress Ridge High School in Houston, Texas. That pledge came one day after 5-star dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray, the No. 1 prospect at that position in the country, verbally committed to A&M. 

As always, this is the time to point out that verbal commitments don't mean a thing until pen meets paper meets fax machine next February. Still, Murray's family ties to A&M should mean his verbal is solid. With that likely being the case, Murray is one of the influential cornerstones of the Aggies' 2015 class. 

Consider this blurb from Dave Behr of the Austin American-Statesman about A&M's recent string of recruiting news: 

Wednesday’s announcement by Murray seemed to be the catalyst for Siverand to make his decision public. News of Siverand’s intention to declare Thursday broke shortly after Murray committed, and this came just one day after Siverand released a top 18, which included Texas, Texas Tech and TCU among other national power programs.

Murray’s decision also seems to have affected A&M’s top overall recruit, Gladewater defensive tackle Daylon Mack. The five-star prospect tweeted Thursday, 'I have cancelled my summer visits,' after weeks of speculation he might open his recruitment.

With eight whole months until signing day, A&M already has a pair of 5-star commits—Murray and Mack—and the No. 4 class in the country. Nine of A&M's 13 commits are one of the top 50 players in the state. 

Yes, things are bound to change (for better or worse) between now and then, but A&M has shown no signs of slowing down on the recruiting trail. A&M is heavily in the running for three other top-10 in-state players: linebacker Malik Jefferson, cornerback Kendall Sheffield and wide receiver Damarkus Lodge

The last time a school reeled in five of Texas' top 10 players was in 2012 when the Longhorns signed running back Johnathan Gray, defensive tackle Malcom Brown, tackle Kennedy Estelle, guard Curtis Riser and receiver Cayleb Jones. 

It's not that Texas isn't in the running for top-tier prospects for the '15 class—Sheffield is also high on the Horns—or that Strong is bound for a disappointing class. Texas can't control what A&M does. The only thing the Horns can do is go out and win. Do that and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Horns pick up the momentum they've lost on the recruiting trail. 

But there's no denying A&M has the momentum in Texas at the moment. When you have momentum, the last thing you want to do is give it up. 

Especially to Texas. 

 

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

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