Jim Harbaugh landed his first commitment as Michigan head coach on Saturday when 2015 defensive end Reuben Jones tweeted his decision for the Wolverines. Jones had decommitted from Nebraska prior to his visit and is now on board for Michigan.



New defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin used his ties to the state of Florida to go and get Jones, who is only commit No. 7 for the Wolverines in the 2015 class. Michigan has room for roughly nine more prospects and still has plenty of needs to fill, so there is still plenty of work ahead.

Jim Harbaugh’s seven-year contract at Michigan ensures him a raise to more than $6 million annually after his fifth season and an evaluation by school officials to keep his pay in line with market value, according to the document released by the school to ESPN’s Darren Rovell and other media.

Harbaugh is to earn $5 million in each of the first three years of his deal -- a $500,000 base salary and $4.5 million in additional compensation for contracted TV and radio appearances and an apparel agreement, among other items.

The contract calls for a 10 percent raise to $5.5 million in January 2018 and another 10 percent raise to $6.04 million in January 2020, pending the market-value review.

The total value of the deal is $38,069,000.

If Harbaugh leaves Michigan for other employment, he must pay the university the remaining pro-rated amount of his $2 million signing bonus. For instance, if he takes an NFL job after four years, he will owe the school $857,142.

Other terms of the contract provide Harbaugh with:
  • The joint responsibility with the athletic director to schedule games. The final decision rests with the AD.
  • The use of two automobiles.
  • $4,000 of apparel annually from Michigan’s official outfitter (currently adidas).
  • Use of a private viewing box for his family and guests at Michigan Stadium and 16 additional tickets to home games.
  • Private air travel for all recruiting purposes and up to 25 hours of additional flight time for personal travel. First-class commercial airfare for all other football-related travel.

The contract allows for a salary pool of $4-5 million for his assistant coaches, with 10 percent raises after the third and fifth years of Harbaugh’s deal.

Harbaugh’s incentives include payment of $125,000 for winning the Big Ten East Division, $250,000 for a conference title, $200,000 for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance, $300,000 for a berth in the College Football Playoff and $500,000 for a national championship.

Additionally, he will receive $50,000 if named Big Ten coach of the year, $75,000 as national coach of the year and up to $150,000 for the academic performance of his players.

The contract was dated Dec. 28, 2014, and signed by Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett and president Mark Schlissel. Harbaugh was introduced in Ann Arbor on Dec. 30.

Recruit breakdown: ATH Soso Jamabo 

January, 23, 2015
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video What he brings: Versatility. Soso Jamabo has a taller, high-cut frame lacking a compact body structure and lower center of gravity but is an impressive physical prospect. Has a big body with a lot of room for development and very good top-end speed. He's a smooth glider in the open field. Needs development as a pass-catcher in terms of route-running. Right now he's a running back exclusively who could transition easily into a full-time receiver with his natural pass-catching ability. Is a definite home-run threat. Wins on physical prowess and ball skills.


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It obviously takes talented players to put together a 29-game winning streak.

How talented? Florida State could be in rarefied air once the draft is completed in early May. With a nation-leading five early entrants in the draft, Florida State is on course to have at least 11 players selected.

If that happens, Florida State will have 29 players drafted over the last three years, more than any other team since the draft was cut down to seven rounds in 1994. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last school that had at least 29 players drafted over a three-year period was Texas, with 31 taken from 1982-84.

Only two programs have had 28 players taken since 2002: Miami (2002-04) and USC (2008-10).

Those Miami teams are widely regarded as among the best all-time at producing NFL talent. Of those 28 drafted, 15 went in the first round. Florida State will not come close to that first-round number, having had four first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 with a handful projected for 2015.

But there is an interesting debate to be had between this recent Florida State stretch that produced a national championship, 29 straight wins and potentially more overall picks, and the Miami stretch that produced a national championship, 34 straight wins and more first-round picks.

Is the 2001 Miami championship team head-and-shoulders above the 2013 Florida State championship team? That question is worth discussion.

What is not up for debate is where this Florida State group stands compared to its other talented teams. This three-year stretch blows any other in school history away. Until now, its most drafted three-year group was 22 from 1993-95.

It goes without saying that coach Jimbo Fisher has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail. Not only is he signing top-flight classes, he is taken the highly skilled players in those groups and developing them into professional talents at rapid-fire rates. Fisher can boast that better than just about anyone.

Here is a look at the recent three-year stretches Florida State, Miami and USC have put together in the NFL draft:

MIAMI, 2002-04

2002 draftees: 11
First round: Five -- Bryant McKinnie, Jeremy Shockey, Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed, Mike Rumph

2003 draftees: Eight
First round: Four -- Andre Johnson, Jerome McDougle, Willis McGahee, William Joseph

2004 draftees: Nine
First round: Six -- Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Vernon Carey, Vince Wilfork

USC, 2008-10

2008 draftees: 10
First round: Four -- Sedrick Ellis, Keith Rivers, Sam Baker, Lawrence Jackson

2009 draftees: 11
First round: Three -- Mark Sanchez, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews

2010 draftees: Seven
First round: None

FLORIDA STATE, 2013-15

2013 draftees: 11
First round: Three -- EJ Manuel, Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes

2014 draftees: Seven
First round: One -- Kelvin Benjamin.

2015 draftees: TBD
Most likely to be drafted: Jameis Winston, Eddie Goldman, P.J. Williams, Mario Edwards Jr., Ronald Darby, Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Karlos Williams, Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary, Tre' Jackson
What was an already big week in recruiting for Texas just got a lot more interesting. Five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, No. 6 in the ESPN 300, informed RecruitingNation that he is officially visiting the Longhorns this weekend after canceling a planned visit to Auburn earlier in the week.


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Boston College made headlines earlier in the week after casting the only vote against legislation to pay for the full cost of attendance.

Athletic director Brad Bates wants to make it clear that the Eagles will adhere to the new legislation, set to be implemented as early as August. But the university has multiple concerns about the issue, forming the basis of its "no" vote.

Among them: adding expenses to athletic departments that already are struggling to generate profits; troublesome scenarios that could lead to eliminating non-revenue sports if the increased expenses become unmanageable; and the disparity between cost of attendance figures across campuses, an issue that could ultimately lead to recruiting advantages.

"We're trying to be true to what our institutional culture is and what we believe should be how we approach intercollegiate athletics," Bates said in a recent phone interview. Bates points to the small number of athletic departments generating a profit. According to a report from the NCAA published in August 2014, that number was 20 on the FBS level.

"The rest of us are all relying on institutional subsidies and a lot of those subsidies come from student fees at many institutions," he said. "So with increased costs of higher education, we keep passing legislation that's increasing our costs. We're putting a lot of pressure on athletic departments to really seriously look into eliminating sports, which ultimately hurts student-athletes rather than helps."

Schools already have begun to eliminate sports, even before this legislation passed. According to Bates, 15 different schools have cut a total of 66 sports since 2010. UAB drew the biggest headlines of all recently, when it chose to eliminate football to save costs.

"If that's not symbolic of the strain of the cost of athletics at an institution, I'm not sure what is," Bates said.

The NCAA report showed expenses are growing at a higher rate than revenues -- despite all the cash television and sponsorship deals have generated. Just as troubling, the five Power 5 conferences had an average loss of $2.3 million. That loss climbed nearly eight times higher -- $17.6 million -- at all other FBS schools.

Now more costs will be added to the bottom line, and those costs will vary from school to school. Full cost of attendance means an additional payment for miscellaneous expenses, including travel back home. At Boston College, the average cost for these expenses is $2,200, bringing the total scholarship figure to roughly $63,000 a year.

We can use another ACC school as an example. Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock announced Thursday that the Hokies' cost of attendance per student-athlete would add roughly $2,500 more to each scholarship, costing the athletic department between $850,000-$900,000 more per year.

Bates said Boston College would be in the same ballpark. But he also noted there is flexibility in how the full cost of attendance is determined.

"It's a very complicated formula, but it allows some leeway in how you interpret it," Bates said. "Some school's gaps are less than $1,000 and some schools are over $6,000. That will be significantly exploited in recruiting."

In order to increase revenues to cover the full cost of attendance, schools will be looking at new and creative ways to bring in more money, whether through corporate sponsors, ticket sales or donor gifts. But issues will remain as long as legislation continues to pass increasing spending, at rates that exceed income.

Everybody can agree full cost of attendance is good, in principle. But in the excitement to get the first big piece of autonomy legislation passed, perhaps there was not as much forethought given into how, exactly, athletic departments would begin to pay for it.

"People made an assumption that this was going to pass easily and they didn't necessarily want to attract attention by voting no, but I also think there was some naivety about the integration of this policy," Bates said. "I'm not sure that everyone fully comprehended the types of issues we're talking about right now."
The end of our countdown has finally arrived. Here are the ACC's top five players of the 2014 season.

To see the full list, click here.

1. James Conner, Pittsburgh
Position: Running back
Year: Sophomore
Tough to go with anybody else at No. 1 after watching Conner bulldoze the competition en route to ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year honors. And, well, it is not every day that Tony Dorsett's long-standing school records are shattered. Conner led the league in rushing yards (1,765), rushing touchdowns (26), rushing yards per game (135.8) and scoring (156 points). His touchdown and scoring totals broke the Pitt single-season records Dorsett set in 1976. Conner had three 200-yard games and seven 100-yard games, often taking multiple defenders on his back along for a ride. He was downright dominant, and in a year of powerful backs, he deserves the No. 1 spot.

2. Jameis Winston, Florida State
Position: Quarterback
Year: Redshirt sophomore
If there is one player on this list you would take with the game on the line, it would be Winston. But this list is an evaluation of the top performances week in and week out, and Winston was simply not consistent enough to merit the top spot this year. He made too many mistakes, whether he was trying too hard with an inexperienced receiving corps or just making the wrong decisions. But those mistakes do not diminish the fact that Winston remains one of the best (and most dangerous) players in the nation. Winston ended the season with an ACC-leading 3,907 yards passing, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, all down from a year ago. But he did lead Florida State to a third straight ACC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

3. Vic Beasley, Clemson
Position: Defensive end
Year: Senior
Beasley returned to school for his senior season and was even better -- despite facing more double- and triple-teams than at any point in his career. He won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a finalist for the Bednarik and Lombardi awards after racking up a team-high 21.5 tackles for loss, a team-high 12 sacks, nine quarterback pressures, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Nobody in the ACC was better off the edge than Beasley, and he was a nightmare for many teams to block.

4. Duke Johnson, Miami
Position: Running back
Year: Junior
Johnson had the best season of his career because he was able to stay healthy and play all 13 games, finishing second behind Conner in the ACC in rushing with 1,652 yards. But Johnson led the league in all-purpose yards with 2,073, emerging as a much bigger pass-catching threat out of the backfield. When the season ended, he stood above all the other Miami greats on the career rushing and all-purpose yards lists. But maybe most impressive of all, he averaged 7.4 yards every time he touched the ball.

5. Gerod Holliman, Louisville
Position: Safety
Year: Redshirt sophomore
There were plenty of questions about the Louisville secondary heading into the season, following the loss of Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor, two of the best players on the 2013 defense. But Holliman stepped right into the starting lineup and made an immediate impact in Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme, using his athleticism to make plays all over the field. When it was over, Holliman had tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in college football.
This week, we’ve been counting down the Big 12's top 25 players of 2014.

Our countdown concludes below with Nos. 1-5:

1. Trevone Boykin, TCU (preseason rank: NR): Boykin put together one of the most stunning one-year turnarounds in Big 12 history. After finishing 2013 as a wide receiver, Boykin transformed himself into one of the top quarterbacks in the country in 2014. He threw for more than 3,900 yards and totaled 41 touchdowns while leading TCU to a 12-1 record. Boykin also finished fourth in the Heisman voting and figures to enter 2015 on the short list of Heisman favorites, especially with nine other offensive starters back for the Horned Frogs.

2. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (2): Lockett was absolutely tremendous in his final season in a K-State uniform. He topped the Big 12 with 1,515 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns while also leading the country in punt returns. Lockett finished with a flurry too, as he racked up 57 receptions and seven touchdowns in K-State’s final five games to pass his father, Kevin, as K-State’s all-time leading receiver.

3. Bryce Petty, Baylor (1): A back injury in the opener prevented Petty from becoming a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy. But even though his numbers were slightly down from his junior season, Petty was still lethal in his second year operating the Baylor offense. He finished sixth in the country with 321 passing yards per game to go with 29 touchdown passes. Petty was especially magical in Baylor’s stunning, come-from-behind win over TCU, in which he threw 510 yards and six touchdowns to erase TCU’s 21-point fourth-quarter lead. Petty finished his Baylor career by setting a Cotton Bowl Classic record with a career-high 550 yards passing against Michigan State.

4. Malcom Brown, Texas (15): Brown was the tone-setter for Texas’ stout defense and one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in the country. With 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, Brown became the first defensive tackle to lead the Longhorns in both categories since Lombardi Award winner Tony Degrate in 1984. As a result, Brown was a consensus first-team All-American and finalist for the Outland (best interior lineman) and Nagurski (top defensive player) awards. Brown, who is married with children, is leaving Texas early for the NFL draft, where Mel Kiper Jr. projects Insiderhim to be a first-round pick.

5. Paul Dawson, TCU (NR): Dawson, who was a former high school receiver, spearheaded the TCU defense with a speculator senior season. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year teamed with Marcus Mallet to give the Horned Frogs the best linebacker tandem in the Big 12 and one of the finest in the country. Dawson led the conference with 136 tackles and tied for third in the league with four interceptions. One of those picks resulted in a game-winning touchdown return in the fourth quarter of TCU’s 37-33 win over Oklahoma. All year, Dawson was the heart and soul of a Horned Frogs unit that led the Big 12 in both total defense and scoring defense.

Season's best SEC players: Nos. 1-5

January, 23, 2015
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We've reached the end of the line in this week's SEC player ranker. Today we recap the conference's top five players from the 2014 season:

1. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
He was already a star, but Cooper shot into the stratosphere during an incredible 2014, smashing the SEC's single-season receptions record with 124 catches. Cooper won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver -- the first Alabama player to win the award -- and was a Heisman Trophy finalist while totaling 1,727 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He entered the NFL draft after that standout junior season and figures to be selected early in the first round.

2. Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Ray needed just one season as a starter to prove he has legitimate NFL star potential. Ray's blazing speed off the edge helped him emerge as one of the nation's top pass-rushers, and his 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss only back up that notion. Ray led the SEC in both of those statistical categories en route to SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, and he looks like a surefire bet to become a first-round NFL draft pick in a couple of months.

3. Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Another player who made the most of his first season as a full-time starter, Collins was easily one of the top defensive backs in the SEC. He led Alabama's defense with 103 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions, becoming a unanimous All-American in the process. Once Collins decided to enter the draft after his strong junior season, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both listed him as the top safety prospect and in the top 10 overall.

4. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Prescott was once thought of as the possible Heisman front-runner, but his star faded down the stretch as the Bulldogs lost three of their last four games. With the SEC's most dynamic dual-threat quarterback returning for 2015, Mississippi State's offense will once again cause opposing defensive coordinators to lose sleep. It's awfully difficult to prepare for a player like Prescott, who can not only run (986 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2014) but can also be an effective passer, as his 3,449 passing yards and 27 touchdown throws prove.

5. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
The other names in the top five were not big surprises, but if you had told a Georgia fan before the season that Chubb -- not Todd Gurley -- would occupy this spot, they would have certainly been shocked. This was supposed to be a season when Chubb and Sony Michel learned on the job behind the nation's best running back, but Gurley's off-the-field issues (and later, injury) thrust Chubb into the spotlight. Wow, did he ever respond. Chubb registered 30-plus carries in each of his first two starts (road wins over Missouri and Arkansas) and was nearly unstoppable in the second half of the season. He rushed for at least 100 yards in all eight games after entering the starting lineup and capped an unbelievable freshman season by rushing for 266 and two scores in a bowl win against Louisville.
Today is the day we finish our countdown of the top 25 players in the Pac-12 from 2014. Obviously, this list is subjective, and though we spent a lot of time putting it together, there was a fair amount of debate in its creation.

To check out the rest of the list, click here.

No. 1: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
Statistics: 304-445, 4,454 passing yards, 42 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions

It should come as no surprise that the Heisman Trophy winner (Maxwell Award winner, Davey O'Brien Award winner, Walter Camp Award winner, etc.) is the No. 1 player in the Pac-12 this season. He led the nation with an adjusted QBR of 90.8 (and was the only signal-caller to have better than an 86). His TD:INT ratio of 21:2 also was an FBS-best this season, as was his passer efficiency rating of 181.7. Behind a depleted and constantly adjusting offensive line, he was cool and collected and made use of a group of playmakers that really didn't have a ton of experience. On the ground, he added 135 carries for 770 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.

No. 2: Arizona LB Scooby Wright
Statistics: 163 total tackles, 29 TFL, 14 sacks, 6 forced fumbles

Wright -- the Bronko Nagurski Award winner and the Lombardi Award winner -- led the conference with 163 total tackles (99 solo, 64 assisted) while averaging a sack per game. He also forced a Pac-12-best six fumbles. Wright is the only member of this season's top five who will return in 2015, making him the early front-runner for the No. 1 spot after the 2015 season.

No. 3: Utah DE Nate Orchard
Statistics: 84 tackles, 21 TFL, 18.5 sacks, 2 QBH

There might not be another player in the Pac-12 who made as big of a jump on defense as Orchard did. As a junior he registered 50 total tackles, including nine tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. His tackles for loss and sack numbers more than doubled over the past season as he faced even stiffer competition. The Utah defense became one of the biggest storylines of the season, thanks in large part to Orchard and his pass-rushing ability. With the Utes offense struggling and becoming more one-dimensional (due to injury) as the season went on, the defense became even more important and Orchard continued to step up. His presence will be sorely missed by Kyle Whittingham, but his mark on the Utah program is one that will last a very long time.

No. 4: USC DE Leonard Williams
Statistics: 80 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 1 interception, 1 QBH

Williams, one of the nation's top NFL draft prospects, had a terrific junior season at USC. He missed some time due to injury but was still one of the most feared defensive players in a league stocked full of quarterback talent. He has the talent to play anywhere on the defensive line, which will make his pro career an interesting one, but his college career was one that won't be forgotten soon. Williams tallied 218 tackles, including 36.5 for loss, with 21 sacks.

No. 5: Washington LB Shaq Thompson
Statistics: 61 carries, 456 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns | 81 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 interception

This winter, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player, and rightfully so. He was a playmaker on both the offensive and the defensive side of the ball for the Huskies. He scored six touchdowns -- two rushing, one interception return and three fumble returns. Thompson finished the year as a first-team All-American, as well as becoming the first player to become a double honoree as a first-team All-Pac-12 player on both defense and special teams. Filling Thompson's shoes is going to be one tough task for Chris Petersen. It's pretty rare that one player can fill so many needs, but Petersen will now have to look for someone (or, to be realistic, two to three someones) to do the work that Thompson did alone.
We've been counting down the top 25 players from the 2014 Big Ten season all week, and now we have reached the summit.

Like Chris Rock, we're ready to deliver a top 5. These are the best of the best from the year that was.

No. 1: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

This one was pretty easy. Gordon won the Doak Walker Award, was the Big Ten's offensive player of the year and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. He amassed 2,587 rushing yards -- second most ever by an FBS player, behind only Barry Sanders -- and 32 total touchdowns while picking up 7.5 yards per carry. We'll never forget his epic 408-yard performance in just three quarters on Nov. 15 against Nebraska, even if that single-game record stood for only one week. It was the year of the running back in the Big Ten, and Gordon was the king of the class.

No. 2: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The Big Ten's defensive player of the year, Bosa led the league with 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss while also forcing four fumbles. He could change or even win games with his pass-rushing prowess, as he showed in overtime at Penn State. He was a finalist for the Bednarik and Ted Hendricks awards and the Lombardi Trophy, and he's a good bet to win a major award as a junior in 2015. How does he combine so much speed, power and personality in one package?

No. 3: Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana

If the Hoosiers had been a better team, or if Coleman had more help from his passing game, then perhaps his 2014 season would be discussed in the same kinds of hushed tones we reserve for Gordon. Make no mistake, though: Coleman's season was also one for the ages, as he ran for a school-record 2,036 yards (in two fewer games than Gordon) and averaged 7.5 yards per carry (the same as Gordon). He had five games of at least 190 yards rushing, including a 228-yard, three-touchdown tour de force at Ohio State late in the year.

No. 4: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

How would Barrett's 2014 campaign have looked if he hadn't broken his ankle against Michigan in the season finale? Would the Buckeyes still have won the national title? It's a great debate. But what can't be argued is how remarkable Barrett's year was. Thrust into the starting job after Braxton Miller's shoulder injury in late August, the redshirt freshman broke just about every school record and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He accounted for 45 total touchdowns, led the Big Ten in total offense and pass efficiency, and rode the most famous scooter in Ohio State postseason history.

No. 5: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

The Cotton Bowl win over Baylor summed up Cook in a nutshell. After a terrible interception and a couple of errant throws through the end zone, he calmly delivered the game-winning, 10-yard strike with 17 seconds left. Cook isn't always perfect, but there are few quarterbacks you'd take ahead of him with the game on the line. He threw for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2014, and the Spartans couldn't be happier that he will return as a senior to lead this fall.
They didn't sneak up on us.

Anyone who tracked the Big Ten's summer buzz -- or reviewed the list of players attending preseason media days in Chicago -- noticed the league's surplus of standout running backs.

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon had spurned the NFL, and a potential first-round draft selection, for a run at the Heisman Trophy and a national championship. Gordon's good friend Ameer Abdullah also was back for one final season at Nebraska, where he had been among the nation's most productive players. Indiana football might not have held your attention, but Tevin Coleman's 7.3 yards-per-carry average certainly did.

[+] EnlargeMelvin Gordon
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsIn many years, Doak Walker Award winner Melvin Gordon would have taken home the Heisman Trophy.
Michigan State's Jeremy Langford and Minnesota's David Cobb had been workhorses in 2013 -- combining for 529 carries -- and were back for more. Almost every team had a player capable of logging 1,000 rush yards.

"In this league," Cobb told ESPN.com's Austin Ward in August, "there's a good running back on every team."

Turned out, Cobb was underselling himself and his fellow backs. Most Big Ten teams had great, if not elite, running backs.

The numbers back it up: 2014 was easily the best season for running backs in Big Ten history.

The league produced six 1,500-yard rushers -- no other conference had more than three (no other Power 5 league had more than two). According to research from the Big Ten office, until 2014 the league never had more than three 1,500-yard rushers in the same season. Although a 12-game regular season, a championship game and the College Football Playoff provide more opportunities, Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott was the only back who needed the extra contests to reach -- and ultimately far eclipse -- 1,500 yards.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, no FBS conference has had even five 1,500-yard rushers since at least 1996.

The Big Ten produced the nation's top three rushers in Gordon, Coleman and Elliott. It had all three finalists for the Doak Walker Award in Gordon (who won), Coleman and Abdullah. Gordon was a Heisman finalist and likely would have won the award in any other year, as Marcus Mariota's numbers were overwhelming. Coleman and Gordon were consensus All-Americans, and Elliott earned offensive MVP honors in both the Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl, and in the national championship game.

So much star power eclipsed the consistency of players such as Cobb and Langford, the emergence of Northwestern freshman Justin Jackson, the speed threat of Purdue's Akeem Hunt, or the versatility of Illinois' Josh Ferguson.

Go ahead. Try to find a more productive season at running back -- for any league -- in college football history.

But what stands out about the Year of the Big Ten Running Back was that it occurred in stanzas. Just when one star back broke from the pack, another would seize the spotlight.

Let's take a quick look back:

Act 1: Fear Ameer

Abdullah and Georgia's Todd Gurley were the nation's best backs in the first month of the season. The Nebraska senior opened with a 232-yard performance against Florida Atlantic, and finished September with consecutive 200-yard efforts against Miami and Illinois. Abdullah finished with just 54 rush yards against FCS McNeese State but delivered one of the season's most memorable plays -- a 58-yard run after catch through McNeese State defenders with 20 seconds left that secured a Cornhuskers win.

Although Coleman also had a strong start and other Big Ten backs had their moments, Abdullah put himself in the Heisman talk with 833 rush yards and eight touchdowns by the end of September.

Act 2: Melvin makes his move

It was a bizarre start for Gordon: a huge first half (plus one play) against LSU, followed by a mysterious absence, followed by a 17-carry, 38-yard clunker against Western Illinois. Goodbye, Heisman? Hardly.

Beginning with a 253-yard performance against Bowling Green, Gordon posted 10 consecutive games of 100 or more rush yards, five 200-yard performances and seven games with multiple rushing touchdowns. By the end of October, he had returned to the national awards races.

[+] EnlargeTevin Coleman
AP Photo/Darron CummingsTevin Coleman's monster performances were hard to miss, even if Indiana was otherwise struggling.
Act 3: Coleman gets his due

It's always hard to get noticed on a struggling team, but when a player consistently puts up numbers like Coleman, he commands attention. Coleman averaged at least 6.9 yards per carry in six of his first seven games, including 14.5 yards per rush in a 219-yard effort at Iowa. Although his 307-yard explosion at Rutgers was overshadowed by Gordon's record-setting day against Nebraska, he earned national respect by running for 228 yards and three touchdowns at Ohio State in a game that Indiana led in the third quarter.

Coleman averaged 197.3 rush yards in road games, barely trailing Gordon (198 ypg) for the national lead.

Act 4: What about the other guys?

Cobb and Langford lacked the flash of Gordon, Coleman or Abdullah, but their consistency, durability and production eventually became impossible to ignore. Cobb logged five performances of 145 rush yards or more and recorded 30 or more carries in four consecutive games. Langford started slowly but ended the season with 10 consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, a team record. He ended his career with 15 consecutive 100-yard performances in Big Ten games, the longest such streak for any FBS player in regular-season conference games since at least 1996.

Elliott also surfaced with 154 yards at Michigan State, the first of many big-stage performances he would deliver down the stretch.

Act 5: Gordon's Heisman move

Some felt Mariota had the Heisman locked up by early November. Gordon made them reconsider. After a ho-hum 205-yard effort at Purdue, Gordon gashed Nebraska for an NCAA-record 408 rush yards as snow fell at Camp Randall Stadium. His milestone, compiled in just three quarters, lasted just one week as Oklahoma's Samaje Perine broke the record, but Gordon made the Heisman a two-man race again. He followed up with 200 yards at Iowa and a workmanlike 151 against Minnesota as Wisconsin won the Big Ten West Division.

Gordon fell shy of the Heisman but won the Doak Walker Award and secured a place as one of the great -- and perhaps the greatest -- Wisconsin back.

Act 6: Riding the E Train to a championship

The Year of the Big Ten Back was supposed to end with Gordon, but Elliott provided a surprise addendum. It started with 220 rush yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in Ohio State's 59-0 stomping of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Elliott then followed with 230 yards and two scores on 20 carries in the Playoff semifinal against Alabama at the Sugar Bowl, including a Crimson Tide-taming 85-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

He ended with an even better performance -- 246 rush yards and four touchdowns -- as "ZEEEEEKE!" cheers reverberated throughout AT&T Stadium in Ohio State's national title win against Oregon.

The final carry for a Big Ten back this season: Elliott's 1-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds to play, providing a fitting exclamation point.

Daily Social Roundup: CeCe Jefferson stays busy 

January, 23, 2015
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Thursday saw activity on social media throughout the country, with coaches on the road, schools collecting commitments and No. 9 overall prospect CeCe Jefferson receiving a visit from one of his finalists.


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In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will be looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and count down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Jameis Winston, No. 14 in 2012 class

Winston came out of Hueytown High in Alabama as a highly coveted quarterback by the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Stanford, UCLA and many others. He signed with Florida State due in large part to a strong bond with lead recruiter and then-Seminoles assistant Dameyune Craig over home-state Alabama. Winston was part of a Florida State top-5 class that included Mario Edwards Jr., Eddie Goldman, P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby and Roberto Aguayo, among others.

After redshirting in 2012, Winston won the starting job over current Alabama backup Jacob Coker. He then put together one of the very best freshman seasons in history, leading Florida State to the BCS National Championship and a perfect 14-0 record. After passing for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, Winston racked up the honors: 2013 Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Award, Manning Award, Archie Griffin Award, AP Player of the Year, consensus All-American and first-team All-ACC. Winston also doubled as a baseball player for the Seminoles as a right fielder and relief pitcher.

As a third-year sophomore, the numbers took a dip but the wins continued. Florida State finished the regular season undefeated before losing to Oregon in the first-ever College Football Playoff semifinals. Winston finished the season with 3,907 passing yards and 25 TDs to go with 18 INTs. Winston was named All-ACC first-team for a second time following the season.

Winston finished his two years as a starter with a 27-1 record. He passed for 7,964 yards and 65 TDs with 28 interceptions.

Following the season, Winston chose to forgo his remaining eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL draft. He is a first-round projection, and that includes the possibility of going No. 1 overall.

Honorable mention: Devon Kennard, No. 14 in 2009 class. Kennard picked USC out of Desert Vista High in Phoenix, Arizona, over offers from many of the nation's best. He played defensive end and linebacker for the Trojans before being drafted in the fifth round, No. 174 overall, by the New York Giants. Jalen Ramsey, No. 14 in 2013 class, is a first-team All-ACC and second-team All-American defensive back for Florida State. He is expected to be highly drafted in the 2016 or 2017 NFL draft.
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When Maryland announced its plans for a $155 million upgrade to its football facilities, recruits took notice. The plans call for a renovation to Cole Field House, construction of an indoor practice facility and integration between academics and athletics.

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
Tony Quinn/Icon SMIRandy Edsall has made upgrading facilities a key measure in his recruiting approach.
Coach Randy Edsall called the move a game-changer for the program, especially in terms of recruiting.

“With these kids it shows that the university is making a commitment to football. It shows that there’s a commitment here to make the student-athlete the best it can be,” Edsall said. “It shows with the other things we have that we’re heading in the right direction and you’ve got everything here. You’ve got the quality education, Big Ten football and now you can train and develop yourself with the state-of-the-art facilities that aren’t going to be any better anywhere else in the country.”

Edsall has been talking about adding new facilities since he was hired at Maryland. Coming from UConn and seeing the impact the new facilities had on their athletics and recruiting, Edsall knew it was imperative for the Terps to upgrade the facilities to compete with bigger programs and a bigger, wealthier league.

The upgrades became that much more important when Maryland joined the Big Ten as Maryland is currently without an indoor practice facility, which most conference programs have. Edsall also believes the weight room isn’t big enough and the current training room doesn’t meet the needs of the student-athletes in terms of preventative measures and rehabilitation.

Local recruits and Maryland targets were clamoring for the upgrades almost as much as Edsall. The prospects echoed Edsall’s thoughts on how the facilities can help the athletes, and they recognize the new additions will help the Terps on the recruiting trail.

Dwayne Haskins, a Potomac, Maryland prospect, is the No. 26 prospect in the 2016 class. He is a big target for the Terps, and as the No. 2-ranked pocket-passer in the class, Haskins could help change the future of the program.

Haskins has scholarship offers from nearly every big program in the country. That means he knows what everyone else has to offer and is excited that Maryland will be catching up.

“It does help out because the in-state kids are used to going to Texas and Florida and seeing those facilities, then coming home and seeing the smaller weight room compared to those bigger schools,” he said. “So with them getting the new facilities, it definitely gives that look that people want and makes it more comparable to other schools. Now that the facilities are there, it makes it easier to pitch the school to recruits.”

Linebacker Keandre Jones is an ESPN Junior 300 prospect who committed to Maryland in December, shortly after the facilities upgrade was approved. Jones said the facilities played a big part in his decision to stay home and choose Maryland over some of the other big offers he had.

Prospects are quick to recognize that while the upgrades and new plans are exciting and nice, and they are part of the decision process, they don’t necessarily make the decision for them. While it helps even the playing field for Maryland with bigger schools and gets the Terps into the conversation, it will only be part of the decision.

That’s where Edsall is hoping that their plans stick out and put them in a different category with their recruiting targets. Not only are there plans to upgrade the athletic side, but Edsall says Maryland will integrate academics into the facilities.

A big part of Maryland’s recruiting pitch includes academics and opportunities after college. Edsall believes the new facilities will only enhance that pitch and the school’s commitment to academics.

“... We’re going to encompass the dining facility, academics, the locker room, weight room, all those things, but now you’re encompassing [Maryland’s] academy of innovation and entrepreneurship within this,” he said. “That really states that here at Maryland it’s all about the student-athlete, not just the athlete. You go out and sell this and show the prospective student-athletes that you’re recruiting, and you’re giving them an opportunity where at other places it’s not happening.”

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