1. If Jim Harbaugh goes to Michigan, as is expected to happen, it would be the first time the university has hired a head coach with such a high profile since it swiped Fritz Crisler from Princeton in 1938. All Crisler did in 10 seasons in Ann Arbor was slap the wings on the Wolverines’ helmet, invent platoon football, win 80 percent of his games (71-16-3) and finish with a 10-0 record in 1947. Harbaugh might not change the way everyone plays, but if he took Stanford from the brink of dropping down to FCS to making a BCS bowl, he can turn around his alma mater. The Wolverines would have much less road to travel.

2. Florida State co-offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, on Jameis Winston and the team going hot and cold: “The thing that separates Jameis from a lot of guys is [he is] unbelievably competitive. The tougher the situation, the more competitive the game, the better he plays. We’ve talked all year about starting fast and finishing strong. That proves the team has half-listened to us because we’ve finished strong. We haven’t always started fast. We’ve been in the situation where we’ve had to come back … and the guy always plays well.” And then he said, “It scares you to death as a coach to live that way.”

3. Kentucky went 2-10 in 2012 and fired its coaching staff, including Sanders. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher hired him. Sanders hasn’t lost a game since. “Sometimes, the best thing in the world to happen to you is to get fired,” Sanders said. “I had a great time at Kentucky. I told my wife several times, 'It’s time to move. It’s time to go.' I knew it was. But yet I had daughters in high school. It’s hard to leave. ... Sometimes God has to step in and say, ‘OK, you won’t go? I’m going to make you go.’ … The fact that I ended up at Florida State and won 27 straight games, getting to coach Jameis, proves that there was a higher power in control of this thing than me.”
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ESPN 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez breaks down San Francisco parting ways with Jim Harbaugh and how they will fill the coaching vacancy.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Plenty of news rolled in at the registration for the Under Armour All-America Game. The top recruits spoke about where they’re at in the process and what was new in their recruitment.

Lodge names a leader

The 47th-ranked player in the ESPN 300 DaMarkus Lodge, a former Texas A&M commit, has named a leader.

“Ole Miss is my leader because of their pro-style offense and they have some great coaches there,” Lodge said. “Coach [Grant] Heard is going to develop his receivers and after Laquon Treadwell leaves they won’t have that man, that guy and I think I could go in and take over when he leaves.”

Lodge has already visited USC and will also visit Texas in January but there is no date set for that visit quite yet. Lodge, however, said he doesn’t really have any top schools behind Ole Miss at this point.

Barnett has a top two

Offensive lineman Jalin Barnett experienced some turbulence early on in his recruitment. From narrowing things down to Arkansas and Oklahoma, to having those two schools tell him they were full at his position, Barnett has had to reconsider his top list.

Luckily for him, Mike Riley, a coach he was familiar with at Oregon State, moved to Nebraska and offered the ESPN 300 prospect within a week of his hire.

“Me and Coach Riley go way back when I met him in eighth grade. He was out at my school recruiting a few other guys that went to Nebraska,” he said. “They did really well there. I had an offer from Oregon State, they moved to Nebraska and they offered me within the first week, so I took an official visit.”

Barnett has ties to Nebraska deeper than Riley, going back to former Nebraska player Will Shields. The two attended the same high school at different times, but oddly crossed paths without knowing.

“Coach Riley and I talked about previous people that came from my high school like Will Shields. He went to my school and I actually wore his shoes when I was in middle school,” he said. “He had some old shoes laying around in the coaches’ office and my family wasn’t financially stable and I needed some shoes. They let me have them and they were my shoes.

To speak to his size, Barnett fit into the size 15 shoe as a 7th grader and now wears a giant size 18.

That visit has catapulted the Cornhuskers into his top two along with Oklahoma State, whom he plans to visit on January 16.

With the uncertainty in his recruitment early on, Barnett knows he can’t wait to make a decision. He would like to visit Oklahoma State, but says that a decision could come at any time.

“I really don’t want to wait too long because I figured out that’s not a good plan the first time around,” he said.

McBryde to take visits

ESPN 300 linebacker Richard McBryde has been committed to Auburn since July, but with signing day quickly approaching, the No. 65-ranked player in the country says he will take three official visits before signing day. McBryde will visit Auburn just a few days after the recruiting dead period ends on Jan. 16. He then will visit LSU on Jan. 23 and his final visit will be to Florida on Jan. 30. McBryde, however, still claims to be solidly committed to Auburn.

McCloud to delay enrollment

ESPN 300 athlete Ray Ray McCloud III was set to enroll at Clemson in early January, but has changed his mind and will now enroll over the summer.

“After Christmas and stuff I decided not to enroll early,” McCloud said. "I want to spend time with my family. Nothing’s changed. I have two months until signing day but I’m still going to sign with Clemson."

UCLA, Bama, Florida and USF are still pursuing McCloud and hope to land a visit from the four-star athlete, but McCloud says his commitment to the Tigers is solid.

“No, probably not. I don’t have plans for any officials,” McCloud said. "I’m 100 percent to Clemson.”

Holland has top school

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Jim Harbaugh addressed the media after the 49ers finished their season with a win over the Cardinals.

Michigan officials to meet Harbaugh

December, 28, 2014
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Multiple people at Michigan and in the Jim Harbaugh camp believe the former San Francisco 49ers coach will wind up as the Wolverines' next head coach, as many have reported, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Michigan has been telling its incoming recruits that it plans to have a head coach by the middle of the week, sources added.

Harbaugh and the Niners parted ways on Sunday via a mutual decision between the coach and the team.

Multiple people also insist that Harbaugh has no deal or agreement with Michigan at this time, even though Michigan officials are now in the Bay area, waiting to meet with the man they want to hire as quickly as possible. Michigan officials believe they will be taking Harbaugh and his wife to Ann Arbor with them on Monday, sources told Schefter. 

According to ESPN sources and multiple reports, some Michigan officials have indicated that the school would be introducing its new coach Tuesday at a press conference and at the 3 p.m. basketball game with Illinois.

Harbaugh has also called multiple assistant coaches to gauge their interest in joining him at Michigan, sources tell ESPN's John Clayton.

The Oakland Raiders also are expected to make what one source described as "a concerted effort" to see whether they can keep Harbaugh in the Bay area, and they will use the idea that the team is projected to be about $50 million under the salary cap next season as a drawing card, in addition to a serious offer they are prepared to make. Signs continue to point to Michigan, but NFL teams are going to have their say.

Other teams such as the Jets and Bears could also make pitches.


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Jim Harbaugh: No yes or no answer

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
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[+] EnlargeJim Harbaugh
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesJim Harbaugh has one year remaining on his five-year, $25 million deal with the Niners.

Jim Harbaugh was asked Friday if he planned on resigning as coach of the San Francisco 49ers upon completion of Sunday's season finale against the Arizona Cardinals.

"We've plowed that ground very thoroughly," Harbaugh said, referring to his not wanting to contribute to stories about his coaching future.

So is that a yes or no?

"What will happen will happen, what won't happen won't happen," Harbaugh answered with a smile.

So there's no yes or no answer?

"Correct," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh, who has one year remaining on his five-year, $25 million deal with the Niners but is purportedly on his way out of Santa Clara, reportedly has a six-year, $48 million offer from the University of Michigan to return to his alma mater and coach the Wolverines.

He also has been linked to the Oakland Raiders, who play their home games 32.4 miles north on I-880, as well as the Chicago Bears, who still have a coach in Marc Trestman.


(Read full post)


On Monday night, the Wisconsin Badgers went to Berkeley, California, to play a California team that had, on the strength of a top-25 efficiency defense and a top-five defensive rebounding rate since, quietly racked up seven straight wins and a 10-1 record. The Badgers scored 68 points in 61 possessions, shot 21-of-44 from 2, held Cal to just 38.9 percent shooting, and made a tough true road game look like a comprehensive clinic in sharp, smart basketball.

At least the Big Ten has Wisconsin going for it, which is nice. Because the rest of the Badgers' conference just keeps getting worse.

On Monday night, long after you were asleep, Nebraska fell to Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic, 66-58. That was the Cornhuskers' second loss to a team ranked outside the adjusted efficiency top 150. The first came on Dec. 10, at home, against Incarnate Word.

Earlier in the night, Purdue lost at home, 89-84 to Gardner-Webb. This was also the Boilermakers' second loss to a sub-150 outfit. The first came on Dec. 6, at home, against North Florida.

On Monday, Michigan won its first game in four tries, marking the official end of a losing streak that began with back-to-back losses on Dec. 6 and Dec. 9 to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, which it followed up with a disastrous road trip to Arizona and another, slightly more respectable home loss to SMU.

On Saturday, Michigan State became the first Big Ten team in two decades to fall to a SWAC school on its own floor, in an abysmal 71-64 defeat to Texas Southern.

On Nov. 24, Indiana lost at home to Eastern Washington. On Dec. 17, Northwestern lost at home to Central Michigan. Rutgers has lost to St. Peter's and St Francis (PA) on its own floor. The list goes on and on.

And those are just the bad loss highlights. Iowa hasn't suffered a defeat akin to any of the above, but it was blown out on its own floor by Iowa State, and it did score just 44 points in 58 possessions on a neutral court against Northern Iowa Saturday. Ohio State spent the first month of the season looking like a genuine challenger to Wisconsin; this weekend the Buckeyes were ripped apart by a previously lackluster North Carolina team. Even Illinois' Dec. 2 loss at Miami in late November looks far worse than it did at the time, now that the Hurricanes have lost three of four, including a 72-44 (!) home defeat to Eastern Kentucky.

Save Wisconsin, only Minnesota (which needed a late push to get away from Furman Monday, and which has been feasting on cupcakes for almost a month) and Maryland (which looks like a real-deal 11-1, coming off Sunday's road win at Oklahoma State) have managed to hold the line. The Wolverines and Cornhuskers have plummeted out of the national picture; Ohio State hasn't played well against a good team yet; Michigan State looks reliant on shooting; Indiana doesn't defend; Iowa is inconsistent. As a whole, the Big Ten currently ranks fourth in KenPom.com's efficiency league rankings, behind the Big 12, ACC and Big East. If that holds, 2014-15 would be the first since 2009-10 in which the Big Ten didn't finish first.

This season, the Big Ten has one team that looks as likely as any in the past decade to end the conference's 14-year national title drought. That's the good news. The bad news is almost everything else.video

U-M tweets 'Happy Birthday' message

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
12:37
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While Jim Harbaugh won't confirm or deny any contact with the University of Michigan, the Wolverines don't seem to be hiding their interest in him about their coaching vacancy.

In fact, U-M officials even took the extra step to wish "Happy Birthday" to the San Francisco 49ers' coach and former Michigan quarterback via social media Tuesday.

Harbaugh said Monday that he hasn't "participated in any of the speculation, the unnamed sources, the rumors" concerning his future as he enters this weekend's season finale against the Arizona Cardinals.

A national report over the weekend has Harbaugh being relieved of his duties within 24 to 48 hours of Sunday's game, and it has also been reported that Harbaugh has a standing offer of six years and $48 million to return to coach at his alma mater.

General manager Trent Baalke confirmed Monday on 95.7 The Game that Michigan officials have, indeed, contacted the 49ers about the 51-year-old Harbaugh.

"I think the University of Michigan, in reaching out, did handle it correctly," Baalke said. "As I look at it, guys, it's very simple: He's the head football coach of the San Francisco 49ers. ...

"Our focus is on this last game. We'll address next season after this season is over, and not until then. We'll deal with this at the end of the season. That's when we'll deal with it."


(Read full post)


Michigan hasn't been subtle in its pursuit of Jim Harbaugh for its vacant head-coaching position. The school wants Harbaugh back in Ann Arbor ... real bad.

The campaign continued Tuesday as Michigan football's official Twitter account wished Harbaugh happy birthday (Harbaugh turns 51 today). Harbaugh played quarterback at Michigan from 1983-86.

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It's hardly uncommon for teams to give birthday shoutouts on Twitter to current players, coaches, support staff and even former players and coaches. But I can't recall Michigan doing this too often, and with the Harbaugh-to-Michigan rumors heating up in the past 10 days, today's tweet was no coincidence.

Harbaugh does have another job, at least until Sunday, when the San Francisco 49ers finish their season against Arizona. The coach is expected to part ways with the 49ers -- his brother, John, the Baltimore Ravens coach, said as much Tuesday on CSN Baltimore -- and though other NFL teams are expected to pursue Jim Harbaugh, there is an increased likelihood he will return to his alma mater.

Credit Michigan for being so strong in its pursuit of Harbaugh. He is the game-changer that a stale program needs. Will it be a huge letdown if he doesn't return? Sure. But Michigan had to put forth its best possible pitch.

What might Michigan get Harbaugh for the big day? I asked my Twitter followers.

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San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's family and friends have been encouraging him to take the University of Michigan head-coaching job, but he is torn because his heart is in the NFL, according to sources close to the situation.

Harbaugh first would like to see what head-coaching opportunities come available -- and he is likely to be a top choice for a handful of teams -- before getting back to Michigan with an answer, per sources.

He also is aware of the fact that Michigan might not be able to wait for him, especially when it might not even land the coach who is believed to be the school's top choice. Plus, college football recruiting is in full swing. The longer a school waits, the more of a disadvantage it can be. It leaves both sides in a tough and delicate spot, even though they have mutual interest in each other, per sources.

Harbaugh would like to finish coaching this season, go through the players' getaway day on Dec. 29 and then make his decision as quickly as possible. As another source said, Harbaugh's agent Dave Dunn "has a good sense of realistic NFL options already."

But as one Michigan source wondered Friday, "If he wants to stay in the NFL, who will pay him $8 million per year?" -- an indication that the Wolverines are prepared to go hard after Harbaugh.

There is an undisputed emotional connection for Harbaugh, who played at Michigan, is an iconic figure there and has been hearing from family and friends about returning as the prodigal son. Harbaugh's father, Jack, is influential with his son and has made it known that he likes and admires Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett, whom he got to know in the mid-1970s, when he was coaching the defensive backs at Michigan while Hackett was playing center at the school.


(Read full post)


Roundtable: Favorite B1G moment

December, 19, 2014
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Every day this week, before the bowl season kicks off, our Big Ten panel of experts weighed in on different topics related to the regular season.

Our final question of the week: What was your favorite Big Ten moment of the season?

Brian Bennett: Take a bow, Melvin

[+] EnlargeMelvin Gordon
AP Photo/Morry GashNeither sleet nor snow could stop Melvin Gordon against Nebraska.
If there's one moment that I'll forever remember from the 2014 Big Ten season, it happened at Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 15. That was the day Melvin Gordon went off the hinges, running for a then-record 408 yards vs. Nebraska. He averaged a ludicrous 16.3 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns in the most unstoppable individual performance you're ever likely to see. Best of all, Gordon capped his day with a 26-yard touchdown run that gave him the record on the final play of the third quarter. Snow had begun to fall, and Gordon sealed the record with a little bow in the back of the end zone. His record somehow lasted only one week, but the memories will persevere forever.

Josh Moyer: Penn State fans celebrating the end of the postseason ban

It wasn’t the most important Big Ten moment of the 2014 season, but it’s still one I’ve never quite seen before – and probably never will again. After the NCAA announced the elimination of the bowl ban, along with other sanction reductions, PSU fans spilled into the streets of downtown Happy Valley and celebrated as if they just knocked off the top team in the nation. Two years of anger and frustration gave way to unbridled joy. Thousands sprinted to different venues on campus and just chanted, screamed and sang. Some even crowd-surfed on mattresses at the last stop. I’ve seen big fan celebrations before, but never for something that happened off the field. It was quite a sight.

Mitch Sherman: Mark Dantonio's answer to the Michigan disrespect

The seeds were planted long before Oct. 25, but when Michigan linebacker Joe Bolden drove a stake into the turf at Spartan Stadium, Michigan State reached its boiling point. It's rare that we get to see the reserved Dantonio stick out his chest, but the Spartans punctuated a 35-11 win over U-M with a Jeremy Langford touchdown run in the final 30 seconds. That was a message in response not just to the pregame stake-planting but years of disrespect. "I felt like we needed to put a stake in them at that point," Dantonio said after the game, also referencing the "little brother stuff" that has long brewed in this series. It was a great subplot, of which Michigan coach Brady Hoke, fittingly, was "not fully aware."

Austin Ward: Anthony Schlegel's takedown of a fan on the field

Leaving the stands and running on the field is pointless, dumb and dangerous right from the start. In case anybody had overlooked that last part, Ohio State assistant and former linebacker Anthony Schlegel offered a reminder that would have made The Rock proud. After a student had the bright idea to step on the turf at the Horseshoe during a September game against Cincinnati, he compounded it by getting a bit too close to the Ohio State sideline, where Schlegel popped out to plant him in the ground with an unforgettable body slam. The lesson, as always, is to stay in the seats.

Dan Murphy: Michigan-Ohio State moment of sportsmanship

Maybe it's all this Christmas music that has me feeling sappy, but the moment that keeps coming to mind (other than Melvin Gordon's insane performance against Nebraska) was shortly after J.T. Barrett's season-ending injury against the Wolverines. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner made his way on to the field and offered some support to Barrett, who was still laid out on his back as trainers worked on his leg. At that point, it was the fourth quarter of a one-touchdown game between bitter rivals with a lot on the line -- a potential playoff berth for the Buckeyes and a last-ditch effort to save their coaching staff for the Wolverines. One of the worst moments of the year (Barrett's injury) was quickly followed by a great one. The quarterback's show of genuine solidarity was a reminder that these guys are human beings. Gardner fell short of expectations on the field this season, but it's far more appropriate that college football's lasting image of him will be that moment of sympathy.

Adam Rittenberg: Bust a move, Coach Kill

I'm tempted to go with Gordon in the snow against Nebraska, especially since I was there to witness history, but Jerry Kill gets my vote for his "old age" dance moves after Minnesota wins. Minnesota's rise under Kill has been one of the best Big Ten story lines in the past two seasons. Many wondered early in 2013 if Kill's coaching days soon would end because of his struggle with epilepsy, particularly seizures on game day. But the coach has his condition under control and continues to show why he's one of the best at getting the most out of his teams. You couldn't help but smile seeing Kill enjoy the wins by dancing in the locker room, surrounded by his joyous players. Those moments never get old.

Big Ten morning links

December, 19, 2014
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Bowl season is a tricky time for coaches to motivate players.

“You can grind guys up if you occupy them too much mentally,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said this week.

Read more from Fitzgerald and others Friday on ESPN.com about motivation in bowl season. His Wildcats, sitting home this month, would trade places with any of the 10 Big Ten bowl teams. And with that wonderful time of year to start on Saturday -- the first Big Ten bowl game is still a week away -- it makes sense to look at the factors motivating conference teams.

Here’s a ranking of Big Ten teams with the most for which to play in the postseason:

Ohio State (Allstate Sugar Bowl, vs. Alabama, Jan. 1): A clear leader in this category as the Big Ten representative in the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes carry the weight of the league on their shoulders. What else is new? Ohio State is flagship program of the Big Ten under Urban Meyer, who had a lot to say Thursday about his team's daunting task against the Crimson Tide.

Michigan State (Goodyear Cotton Bowl, vs. Baylor, Jan. 1): The Spartans lost to a pair of playoff teams, yet they're largely forgotten nationally. A business trip to Texas to face Baylor, the next best thing to a playoff opponent, offers a chance for MSU to finish on a high note nearly equal last year's Rose Bowl win.

Minnesota (Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, vs. Missouri, Jan. 1): A victory in Orlando would give the Golden Gophers a nine-win season for the first time since 2003 and the second time in more than a century, and it would represent the school's best two-year run in over 50 years. It won't come easy against the two-time SEC East champ. The Gophers must run the ball effectively, their bread and butter, now and in the future.

Penn State (New Era Pinstripe Bowl, vs. Boston College, Dec. 27): The Nittany Lions, exposed in the second half of this season for a lack of overall talent, can end on a high note in this much-awaited return to the postseason after a two-year bowl ban. A visit to New York against a regional recruiting rival heightens the stakes.

Rutgers (Quick Lane Bowl, vs. North Carolina, Dec. 26): The Scarlet Knights exceeded expectations to make it this far. After an inspiring comeback win over fellow Big Ten newcomer Maryland to close the regular season, confidence is high, though the uncertain injury status of star receiver Leonte Carroo threatens to put a damper on the excitement around this bowl trip.

Wisconsin (Outback Bowl, vs. Auburn, Jan. 1): Motivated by the embarrassment of a 59-point loss in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers got knocked down another step by the surprise departure of Gary Andersen. But the return of Paul Chryst has boosted the spirits of players, who will look to impress their new coach as he observes in Tampa. Against Auburn's multi-faceted offense, Wisconsin must use everything at its disposal, including QB Tanner McEvoy on the defensive side.

Nebraska (National University Holiday Bowl, vs. USC, Dec. 27): The Cornhuskers are also playing to catch the eye of a new coach, as Mike Riley figures to watch closely. Riley's new staff will start fresh though, so what happens in San Diego stays in San Diego. Still, Nebraska players, amid a dramatic exit from their former coach that has sparked more debate, want to provide a fond farewell for their old staff of assistant coaches.

Illinois (Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 26): With victories over Penn State and Northwestern to get bowl eligible, Illinois has won simply by making it this far. No marquee opponent awaits, and Dallas isn't exactly a winter paradise, though maybe the man of the hour, QB Reilly O'Toole, can rally the Fighting Illini once again.

Maryland (Foster Farms Bowl, vs. Stanford, Dec. 30): Did the Terrapins run out of gas in the second half against Rutgers? It was a long season, packed with several highlights, in Maryland's first season of Big Ten play. But a visit to face Stanford, which is coming off four consecutive major bowls, near its home turf, looks like another significant challenge for Randy Edsall's team.

Iowa (TaxSlayer Bowl, vs. Tennesssee, Jan. 2): The Hawkeyes need someone to step up, a habitual practice in the postseason, or they face a dull ending to a disappointing season that set up well in Iowa City.

Around the rest of the league:
If Jim Harbaugh takes the Michigan job, it could shake up the recruiting race in the Big Ten. Plus, Paul Chryst’s hiring at Wisconsin makes a lot of sense.


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ESPN 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez breaks down San Francisco parting ways with Jim Harbaugh and how they will fill the coaching vacancy.
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