ESPN 300 athlete set to decide
The 11th-ranked athlete and the No. 155-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300, Ray Ray McCloud III, will announce his college decision on Monday night.
McCloud didn’t participate at Friday Night Lights but did have a chance to spend some time with current Florida player and pre-season All-SEC selection Vernon Hargreaves III, who like McCloud is also a Tampa native.
"Vernon knows I’m coming from the same place he was a few years ago,” McCloud said. "He just told me to always keep my options open until signing day because you never know what could happen as far as coaching changes. He said to just take my time with the process.”
McCloud will choose between Florida, UCLA, Clemson and Maryland on Monday but his father, Ray McCloud Jr., also added that USF has recently made an impression on his son.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp had one last chance to speak with McCloud before he makes his big decision on Monday and his message was simple.
"He said he wants me to do what I do in my home state,” McCloud said. "He wants me to be a Gator."
Four-star running back remains committed to Miami
Despite Miami signing Joseph Yearby, the No. 4-ranked running back in the country last year, and having three running backs committed this year, ESPN 300 running back Dexter Williams said he remains strong in his commitment to the Hurricanes.
“It would be a good feeling to be in the backfield with them because all of them are great backs and they can do great things,” Williams said. "Wherever you go, there's competition. You've got to beat out your competitor.”
The Florida coaching staff was hoping to changes Williams’ mind on Friday but to no avail.
"They're just saying you can get on the field here," Williams said. "We're only going to take two [running backs]. They're taking four. Just think about it."
Williams admits his own father pushes him to switch his commitment to the Gators.
"He has loved the Gators since he was little, and he wants me to be a Gator a lot," Williams laughed. "So he tells me every morning, 'Be a Gator.' When I told him I was still thinking about it, he said, 'That's the way. That's where I want you to go.'"
Coney has leader, will decide soon
Four-star linebacker Te’Von Coney sent out a tweet recently that said he would be attending the same school as his friend George Brown Jr. On Friday, Brown committed to the Gators and Coney admitted that their packaged deal will likely still happen.
"It was, like, 85 percent true,” Coney said of his tweet. "Florida is my leader right now but I’m still checking out Auburn, Tennessee, Miami and other programs but Florida is still my leader. I’ll probably make my decision soon, like within the next month or so.”
Coney admitted his visit to Gainesville strengthened the Gators chances of landing him.
“I just think Florida’s a great school,” he said. "It’s the Harvard of the South. I can get a great education, they have a great business and engineering school which are two majors I’m thinking about majoring in.
"I think they have a great program and they need linebackers right now to come in and step up and I think Will Muschamp is a great defensive coach and they are always going to have a top defense and that’s what I want to play in."
Prince likes four
ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince was one of the most impressive linemen to attend FNL and received plenty of attention from the Florida coaching staff.
After the event concluded Prince said there are four schools that are standing out right now but he’s likely to add other schools as his recruitment continues.
"Right now, the schools that really stick out to me is Maryland, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State, but I’ll probably have more schools in the mix as I take more visits,” he said.
Though he has no set dates in mind, Prince knows of three schools he would like to visit in the fall.
“This visit helped Florida out a whole lot,” Prince said. "It’s a really nice campus, I want to study sports management and that building is right next to the stadium. I’ll most likely be back for a game in the fall as well as games at Alabama and Ohio State."
James Lockhart IV announced in front of family, classmates and educators at Ennis High School that he was going to College Station and joining Kevin Sumlin's growing 2015 class. Lockhart, the top-ranked defensive end in Texas, chose the Texas A&M Aggies over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
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Texas A&M suspended cornerback Victor Davis after he was arrested and charged with shoplifting, and defensive end Gavin Stansbury, who was arrested in April, left the team for personal reasons.
At Georgia, Mark Richt dismissed yet another player a day after defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was arrested for aggravated assault.
These incidents are just the latest in what has been a troubling offseason for the SEC. With media days behind us and fall camps about to begin, we want to know which team's offseason issues will present the greatest on-field questions for this season.
Dillon Lee and Jarran Reed were both arrested for driving under the influence, Altee Tenpenny was caught with marijuana, and Kenyan Drake was arrested for disobeying a police officer. None of the players involved has been dismissed, but this is becoming both a problem and a distraction for Alabama.
Across the state, Auburn is still trying to figure out what to do with quarterback Nick Marshall. The potential Heisman Trophy contender was given a citation for possession of marijuana this month, but will he miss any time as punishment? To make matters worse, teammate Jonathon Mincy was arrested for the same thing, possession of marijuana, just two weeks prior.
The school that has been in the news the most this offseason is Georgia. Four players were arrested in March for theft by deception. Two of those four, Taylor and Tray Matthews, were later dismissed for separate incidents. A third, Uriah LeMay, opted to transfer. Back in February, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons also was dismissed from the program following multiple violations of team rules.
At Missouri, it was three strikes and you're out for star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. The sophomore was arrested for the second time on drug-related charges in January, and after being involved in an altercation with his girlfriend in April, he was dismissed from the team. Green-Beckham has since joined Oklahoma.
Lastly, there is Texas A&M, which has not seen any decline in off-field distractions since quarterback Johnny Manziel left. Quarterback Kenny Hill was arrested in March for public intoxication. Two months later, head coach Kevin Sumlin dismissed a pair of key defenders -- Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden -- after they were arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. Then the news broke this week with Stansbury’s departure and the suspension of Davis.
- Brandon Marcello of AL.com wonders if a Nick Marshall suspension would actually hurt Auburn this fall.
- When I was little, people said my batting stance and swing made me look exactly like Frank Thomas when I stepped into the batter's box. Too bad my body never grew like Thomas' did. The super athlete that he was, Thomas actually played some football at Auburn, but he'll be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
- Alabama players are saying that freshmen cornerbacks Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey "want to be somebody great" for the Crimson Tide.
- So big, bad Nick Saban was once afraid of ... Santa Claus. He also said "Roll Tide" and took a selfie with Colin Cowherd during a "Cage Confessional" -- so my mind is officially blown.
- LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette became the first high schooler to win the Corbett Award for amateurs. The award is given to Louisiana's most outstanding male amateur athlete for the past year.
- LSU freshman defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao has been released from the hospital and will begin rehab after he punched through a window Monday.
- Despite losing Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and Bruce Ellington, South Carolina could still have a better year in 2014.
- As Tennessee looks to completely rebuild its defensive line, expect freshmen to factor into the mix up front.
- Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree says he's ready for a "freak" season in 2014.
- Another talented group is expected at Florida's annual "Friday Night Lights" camp.
- Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun writes that we still aren't sure if new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will have full reign over the Gators' offense.
- Mississippi State adds three-star athlete Mark McLaurin to its 2015 recruiting class.
- Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegram has a preseason primer for Georgia's offensive line.
- Why was Bob Stoops gigging Texas A&M and his old pal Kevin Sumlin earlier this week?
Nick Saban is the most feared man in college football recruiting, but what does the legendary Alabama Crimson Tide football coach fear?
Well, as a kid, it was none other than Santa Claus.
In the latest edition of Cage Confessionals on "Colin's New Football Show," Saban admits his childhood fear of Santa, takes a selfie with the host and wears a Luigi hat. Yes, a Luigi hat. You have to see it to believe it.
2013 overall record: 12-2
2013 SEC record: 7-1, first in the Western Division
Record all time against Alabama: 35-42-1
Last meeting: Won 34-28 in 2013
Offense: 8; Defense: 7; Kicker/punter: 0
QB Nick Marshall, RB Corey Grant, WR Sammie Coates, OL Reese Dismukes, DL Gabe Wright, DB Jonathon Mincy
RB Tre Mason, OL Greg Robinson, DB Chris Davis, DL Dee Ford
2013 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Tre Mason (1,816 yards)
Passing: Nick Marshall* (1,976, 14 TD, 6 INT)
Receiving: Sammie Coates* (902 yards)
Tackles: Cassanova McKinzy* (75)
Sacks: Dee Ford (10.5)
Interceptions: Robenson Therezie (4)
What they're saying:
“Up until last Friday, Nick [Marshall] has been a model student, teammate, and citizen. Nick made a mistake and he'll have to deal with the consequences. I'm not ready to say what those consequences are at this time, but he will deal with it. I know he's regretful and he feels very bad about it,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.
Three things to watch:
1. Marshall isn’t the only story: Lost in the aftermath of Nick Marshall’s arrest and absence from SEC media days was the fact that his ordeal wasn’t the biggest news to come out of Hoover, Alabama, last week. Instead, it was Gus Malzahn telling reporters that defensive end Carl Lawson had ACL surgery and is working to come back "toward the end of this year." Lawson is a huge loss. With a so-so secondary, the pass rush was going to be vital for Auburn. Losing Dee Ford hurt, but Lawson was a worthy replacement. Now it’s up to LaDarius Owens and Elijah Daniel. If those two can’t get to the quarterback, the back end of the defense could be exposed.
2. But Marshall’s improvement is key: Marshall took off like a rocket last season, improving his passing numbers each week. But for Auburn’s offense to take the next step and become more balanced, he’ll have to take his game to the next level, specifically his work in the pocket. There’s no doubt Marshall can run the football and execute the read option. The real question is what happens when all the running lanes are clogged and he has to go through his second, third or fourth read in the passing game. Can he sit in the pocket and diagnose a defense? Can he improve his accuracy and get the ball to the open receiver? His Hail Mary pass against Georgia was spectacular, but it was a mistake throwing to Ricardo Louis. He was triple-covered while Sammie Coates was wide open in the middle of the field. Sure, it worked out, but is it really better to be lucky than good? For Marshall to be great, he’ll need to make better decisions in 2014.
3. A tougher road: Auburn didn’t breeze through the regular season to reach the SEC Championship Game last season. Going on the road at LSU and Texas A&M was a lot to handle. But if you think 2013 was hard, wait for what’s ahead. If you’re comparing Auburn’s schedule to Alabama’s (and of course you are), there’s really no comparison. Where Alabama has a flaky nonconference slate (West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, Western Carolina) and a pair of so-so crossover games (Florida, Tennessee), Auburn has a much tougher road to hoe with a Georgia and South Carolina from the East and a primetime matchup at Kansas State in mid-September. If the Iron Bowl is going to be another battle of top-5 teams, it’s going to be much more difficult for Auburn to reach the game unscathed than it is for Alabama.
Now let’s get back to football and Thursday’s lunch links.
- College football is a little over a month away, and West Virginia is “certainly going to bring it” against Alabama in the season opener.
- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has made it clear that the Razorbacks will not stray from their core beliefs and their championship goals will “never waver.”
- Freshman running back Racean Thomas is in position to help Auburn, expand role.
- Gators quarterback preview: Jeff Driskel is the guy for Florida, but how good can he be and who will back him up?
- After leading the SEC with 133 tackles a year ago, Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson is back for more.
- LSU’s Tiger Stadium is adding to its wow factor with the south end zone expansion, which should be complete next month.
- The race is on to stop and imitate Auburn as SEC coaches try and crack Gus Malzan’s code.
- With Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles both gone up front, expect South Carolina to dial up a 3-4 defense often in 2014.
- Vanderbilt is having to rebuild its secondary after losing four starters and picking up a new defensive scheme.
BRISTOL, Conn. -- Bob Stoops responded to Alabama coach Nick Saban's comments about the Sugar Bowl being a "consolation game" as quickly and decisively as the Sooners did in last season's 45-31 upset of the Tide.
"They didn't look like it was a consolation game on that first drive when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us," the Oklahoma coach said. "I've been in plenty of those [non-national title games]. We've played in a bunch of national championship games, right? ... That's a good one.
"So that means I've got a built-in excuse the next time we don't play for a national championship?"
Stoops was in Bristol Wednesday for a round of interviews.
On Tuesday, Saban, who was in Bristol, talked about the challenge of getting his team to play Oklahoma as to "try to play in a consolation game."
Stoops also discussed critics that suggest the Big 12 should add a conference title game. The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference that doesn't have a league championship game.
"Think about it: mathematically we play everybody, they [the SEC] don't play everybody," Stoops said. "For instance Texas A&M. They play eight conference games.
"They have Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana Monroe. Boy those are all a bunch of toughies, right? We have nine conference games. So if [Texas A&M] was fortunate enough to be in the SEC championship game, they would play nine conference games at the end of the day and they have all those four 'toughies' to go with it.
You, me and everyone in between has former Florida State backup Jacob Coker taking the starting job in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but Saban isn't going to make it that easy. What Saban doesn't want is an overly confident quarterback walking into his program and screwing things up, so Saban's language makes sense.
Still, we're all pretty sure that Coker will leave fall practice ahead of Blake Sims and those youngsters who duked it out during spring practice.
While we might have it all figured out for the Crimson Tide, competition will take place next month to see who starts the opener against West Virginia on Aug. 30. And that's not the only QB battle that we'll be diving into in the coming weeks. Other teams are trying to sort things out under center heading into fall camp:
Patrick Towles vs. Drew Barker vs. Reese Phillips vs. Maxwell Smith: Coming out of spring, Towles, a redshirt sophomore, had a slight lead over everyone. He's an impressive athlete and has matured considerably since his arrival on campus. Phillips and Barker have yet to take snaps with the Wildcats in a real game, but that won't stop the coaches from throwing them in on Day 1 of the season. Barker arrived with a ton of hype and is clearly the future of the position. Smith, the quarterback with the most experience on the roster, is finally throwing again after undergoing extensive shoulder surgery before the spring. If he's healthy, he'll compete, but it looks like this really is a three-horse race right now. Advantage: Towles
Anthony Jennings vs. Brandon Harris: Jennings ended last season with mixed reviews after replacing an injured Zach Mettenberger. And his spring got even tougher with the emergence of Harris, a true freshman. Both are incredibly inexperienced, but have that dual-threat quality that will help either this fall, as they try to run this offense. Harris really impressed his coaches and teammates this spring, and many think he might have a slight advantage. Coach Les Miles raved about him at SEC media days and praised his throwing ability, something Jennings has to work more on going forward. Advantage: Harris
Justin Worley vs. Josh Dobbs vs. Nathan Peterman: Worley is the old soul around the football complex. The senior had an up-and-down 2013 season that included thumb surgery, but left spring with a bit more confidence. Dobbs has the athleticism and upside to be a stud, but he has to get more comfortable in the pocket and mature as a passer. Peterman had limited reps this spring, causing some to think he would transfer, but he'll compete this fall for the starting job. Honestly, it's a murky situation at quarterback, but a complete overhaul of the offensive line might make it tough for any quarterback to succeed in 2014. Advantage: Worley
Kenny Hill vs. Kyle Allen: Hill's arrest during the spring perked a lot of ears in the Allen camp, but this race is far from over. While Hill is still looking to regain trust, he has more experience than Allen, a true freshman, and knows the Aggies' offense better to this point. Both are athletic guys, but you'll see a little more running out of Hill. Allen has the potential to be a star with his throwing ability and awareness in the pocket, and might be little more polished than Hill in that category. Sumlin isn't the kind of coach who wants to shuffle his quarterbacks, a la Steve Spurrier, but he won't be afraid to play both guys this fall if he has to. Advantage: Push
Patton Robinette vs. Johnny McCrary vs. Stephen Rivers vs. Wade Freebeck: During the spring, we thought this was going to come down to Robinette and McCrary. Robinette has the only game experience on the roster at quarterback, but McCrary is a big, physical player who can make plays with his arm and legs. He might be the most athletic of the bunch and is viewed as an exciting up-and-comer. But when Rivers transferred from LSU, things changed. He only has one year to compete, and his coaches are raving about him. Coach Derek Mason also likes that he's gotten bigger since his arrival. As for Freebeck, Mason calls him "phenomenal" and is intrigued by his size. He's grown two inches (6-foot-5 now) and is up to 217 pounds. Advantage: Push
So which schools scored with recruits for the best food, top facilities, greatest campus atmosphere and coolest uniforms?
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HOOVER, Ala. -- For better or worse, Nick Saban has a reputation. And after four decades of coaching, it's not likely to change.
He's gruff. He's demanding. He's hard-nosed, unrelenting and oftentimes furious.
He is, according to a survey conducted by ESPN, the most-intimidating coach in college football. Of the 58 recruits who responded to a survey, 22 selected Saban as the most intimidating coach they've spoken with. The next-highest on the list was Urban Meyer, who was selected only seven times.
What's maybe more telling: Among the 66 recruits who answered the question, "Of all the head coaches you've spoken with, who was the easiest to talk with?" none said Saban.
Amari Cooper gets it. He was once a highly sought-after recruit from South Florida, a Miami Hurricanes fan with no particular ties to the SEC or Alabama. He looked at Saban from afar and didn't know what to think of him. He'd heard secondhand stories and assumed that the man he'd meet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, would live up to his unflattering reputation.
Then one day the promising young receiver went to camp at Alabama and made a name for himself. It was hot, Cooper recalled, but he was doing everything he could to show the coaching staff what he was capable of.
"[Saban] saw me run a route against a DB in one-on-ones and he looked to be surprised," he said. "He came up to me and shook my hand, started smiling and after that I went up to his office and talked to him and he offered me a scholarship."
Cooper accepted. Now he's a junior All-SEC receiver for the Crimson Tide. Now he understands the perception of Saban and how it doesn't quite match reality.
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Stoops Talks Sugar Bowl Win
6:00 PM ET Texas A&M South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State Ole Miss 9:15 PM ET Temple Vanderbilt
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