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Greg McElroy ranks the best new defensive coordinator hires in the SEC.
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Recruiting reporters Jeremy Crabtree, Erik McKinney, Derek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren join ESPN's Phil Murphy to break down four- and five-star prospects deciding between bitter rivals.

Kyler Murray: Heart with Texas A&M

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
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Gatorade National Player of the Year and No. 1-ranked quarterback Kyler Murray has ended his recruitment and remains committed to Texas A&M.

After a nervous week for the Aggies amid Murray's unofficial visit to the Texas Longhorns nine days ago, a collective fan base and coaching staff can breathe a sigh of relief.

"Texas A&M is where my heart is at," Murray said late Thursday night. "Coach [Charlie] Strong and Texas is a great opportunity, but I felt that A&M was the place for me. Not because of my dad having played there, but just the right place for me."

The finalization for Murray came after a Thursday night in-home visit by Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital.

"It went well," Murray said. "All my questions were answered. I just can't wait to get this all over with and get back to playing ball."

Murray's decision comes three weeks after Texas A&M granted quarterback Kenny Hill his release to transfer to any school of his choice.

Hill was replaced late last season at quarterback by freshman Kyle Allen, who helped the Aggies salvage an 8-5 finish.

Murray will sign his letter of intent to Texas A&M on Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET in a ceremony at Allen High.

Murray's father, Kevin, was a two-time All-American at Texas A&M. But Kevin Murray said that mattered little in his son's decision.


(Read full post)


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National recruiting director Tom Luginbill and national recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert join ESPN's Matt Schick to break down SEC recruiting efforts with less than one week remaining before signing day.
It's been a while since Texas A&M and the University of Texas have been locked in a handful of major recruiting battles. A rivalry that was once played on the field is now playing out in high schools and living rooms with six days left until national signing day. While Longhorns fans are in a state of frenzy due to rumors and chatter, the Aggies remain the "cool school" in the Lone Star State and hold the momentum headed into the first two of five announcements that could flip that perception within the state lines.

What exactly is on the line for both programs beginning with Friday's announcements by ESPN 300 cornerbacks Holton Hill and Kris Boyd? The Longhorns' shot at starting a wave of momentum of their own, and the Aggies showinging their ability to make a late push on two prospects Texas has recruited as priorities.

Looking ahead at potential playmakers in 2015, there should be two divisions: Ohio State, and everyone else.

[+] EnlargeEzekiel Elliott
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesEzekiel Elliott is among Ohio State's many offensive weapons returning for the 2015 campaign.
Heaven help Big Ten defensive coordinators trying to plan for a team that will have the power element of Ezekiel Elliott’s running complemented by the ankle-breaking athleticism and versatility of utility types Jalin Marshall, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson. Oh, and there’s that Braxton Miller fella, should he return to OSU.

Jokes about “Big Ten speed,” or lack thereof, are hereby declared dead. They have ceased because of Urban Meyer and his staff’s recruiting.

Miller, the Buckeyes' quarterback from 2011-13, will be one of the country’s top playmakers regardless of where he plays. Most people in college football believe returning is his best option, even if it means a new, varied role.

Miller’s size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) compares well to NFL running backs such as Matt Forte, Darren McFadden and Arian Foster, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Miller, though, needs to prove to NFL teams that he can play the position without injury. Miller’s ability in space is uncanny, but I was surprised to learn that he rushed for 701 yards between the tackles in 2013 (508 outside). One more Stats & Info nugget: His 7.3 yards per carry since 2011 puts him behind only Melvin Gordon (minimum 320 carries).So, yeah, it would be highly intriguing to add Miller’s skill to the elite-level playmaking talent that’s already present.

As a redshirt freshman, Marshall was the team’s breakout playmaker in 2014. He scored eight touchdowns (six receiving, one rushing, one punt return). If something happened to Cardale Jones in the postseason, Marshall likely would have played QB, too.

Samuel, a freshman this past season, and Wilson, a sophomore, are similarly versatile. They’re the team’s primary kick returners, averaging 22.8 yards per return last season. They’re nowhere near their ceilings, either. You think new co-OC and QBs coach Tim Beck entered into a good situation?

Here are playmaker standouts from the non-Ohio State crop

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Greg McElroy predicts the SEC football athletes that will have a breakout season in 2015.
Despite making a commitment to Alabama last week, ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said Wednesday he's visiting Maryland and will give the Terps a solid look.


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SEC Network reporter Kayce Smith talks Texas A&M football with Paul Finebaum.

Recruit breakdown: DT Daylon Mack 

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
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What he brings: Daylon Mack is a compact, but thickly built and powerful defensive tackle who is capable of being a disruptive force in the trenches. He lacks some in ideal height, but built like a powder keg the five-star can quickly explode off the ball and create problems. With a quick first-step and good snap anticipation, Mack is capable of blowing up plays in the backfield, but strong and with a low center of gravity, he is tough to move and control even when blockers can get a piece of him. He may be closer to his ceiling of development than most of the five-star prospects, but is a pretty darn good player at this stage. If he can continue to refine his technique and manage his weight, he has demonstrated the tools needed to be a handful at the college level and likely can begin causing havoc soon after hitting campus.


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Malzahn leads list of best playcallers 

January, 28, 2015
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This week, I asked a few coaches what constituted a good playcaller. Balance was one consistent element, both in terms of run and pass calls as well as taking shots downfield. Creating and leveraging mismatches, finding space for playmakers, was another.

Another characteristic -- confidence -- was a bit more abstract. Coaches said a proper playcaller has to take control of a game rather than allowing a defensive coordinator to get the upper hand.

It’s a chess game in the gladiator arena, and one coach said “bravado” is required.

“Always be on the attack,” he said, “regardless of down, distance, score or time of the game.”

Here are 10 playcallers -- coordinators and head coaches -- who most embody those elements.

1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn head coach
Even though the Auburn offense is built on the same few basic run plays, Malzahn continues to frustrate defensive coordinators.

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SEC morning links

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
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1. I hate to start the day off with this, but it needs to be addressed. Two ex-Vanderbilt football players were convicted of rape Wednesday, and two more are still awaiting trial. It’s a black eye for the school, for the conference and for college football. The verdict likely gave some closure to the victim, but this is not going away anytime soon for the Commodores football program. Is it fair for head coach Derek Mason who took over after the incident occurred? No, but he’s the one who will have to deal with the consequences. One can only hope that the culture has changed under Mason's watch. And maybe all this will send a message to other student-athletes. Here’s to not having to address these types of issues as often in college football.

2. On a different note, we are officially one week from national signing day. Who’s ready? ESPNU will have wall-to-wall coverage next Wednesday with more than 15 live commitments and reporters on different college campuses across the country. There’s plenty of intrigue with six of the top 10 players in the ESPN 300 still uncommitted, and some believe Auburn, Florida and USC will make the most noise on signing day. The biggest name to watch will be five-star quarterback Kyler Murray, who is in the middle of a Lone Star recruiting battle for the ages. Will he stick with his current Texas A&M commitment or will he flip to the Longhorns and go play for head coach Charlie Strong? We’ll have to wait and see.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

Official visits, unofficial visits, in home visits and everything else one can possibly think of is happening with one week until national signing day, Feb. 4. As expected, Twitter is abuzz right now with information flowing constantly all day and night.

Here is a look at some highlights from Tuesday.

@HamiltonESPN: ESPN300 five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson headed to Florida on Tuesday afternoon for an unofficial following a trip to Ole Miss and Alabama over the weekend. In a recruitment that could go a number of different directions, the Rebels and Gators are the best bets to be standing on national signing day unless Auburn can pull the upset. Jefferson is scheduled to visit LSU this weekend, followed by a national signing day announcement live on ESPN.

@HamiltonESPN: Nick Saban was in South Florida on Tuesday, and one of his stops was Coconut Creek High. The reason is simple -- Coconut Creek is home to a trio of ESPN Junior 300 prospects, including top cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who has an Alabama offer.

Kyler Murray isn't the only high-profile Texan who will shape the future of Lone Star State recruiting, as ESPN 300 defensive backs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill will announce their decisions together Friday.


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The fever pitch in the state of Texas on the recruiting trail hasn’t been felt since the 2003-04 recruitment of Adrian Peterson, or even prior. Starting on Friday, it will be the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies duking it out for supremacy in the Lone Star State. A cycle that started with Texas A&M being the "cool school" in the state and seemingly winning every big battle has gotten a lot more interesting after last Wednesday’s unofficial visit to Texas by Texas A&M quarterback commitment Kyler Murray and receiver DaMarkus Lodge.

With what could be a recruiting windfall for either the Aggies or Longhorns, and momentum for the 2016 class and beyond, here are the eight most important recruits remaining in the balance in the Lone Star State.

Kris Boyd, CB, Gilmer High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 241


Boyd is set to announce Friday, along with good buddy and fellow ESPN 300 cornerback Holton Hill. Boyd has dwindled his list to Texas and Texas A&M, where he officially visited the past two weekends. If either the Longhorns or Aggies are to start an overwhelming wave of momentum Friday, it could lead to a near historic finish for the winning school. Boyd played for head coach Jeff Traylor at Gilmer, whose son is a walk-on quarterback at Texas A&M. Boyd is also the cousin of former Gilmer and Texas standout Curtis Brown.

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Holton Hill, CB, Houston Lamar High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 152


As mentioned above, Hill will announce on Friday. Though a Texas A&M official visit over the weekend seemingly put the Aggies in the race, Texas and LSU were the overwhelming favorites headed into the visit, with the closest-to-home Longhorns considered to be the front-runner. Like Boyd, if either Texas or Texas A&M gets both of the ESPN 300 cornerbacks, it could start a tidal wave come National Signing Day. Hill visited LSU on Dec. 5 before Texas and Texas A&M the past two weekends, respectively.

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Chris Warren III, RB, Rockwall High
ESPN 300 ranking: No. 102


What looked like a Texas vs. Washington battle has possibly changed with Texas A&M offering recently. In fact, add this to the list of battles between the two rivals if Warren visits College Station before heading to Washington on Jan. 30. Warren is the load-carrying big back who could be a running-game changer for any program. This is likely one of at least four National Signing Day decisions that will have all state of Texas fans closely following, with the Longhorns considered the favorite heading into the final two official visits. Warren made an official visit to Texas Tech over the weekend.

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Greg McElroy ranks the best new defensive coordinator hires in the SEC.
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