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Dawson’s Top Three Excludes The SEC

Offensive lineman David Dawson from Cass Tech High School in Detroit has announced a new top three: Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Dawson, who visited Florida on Oct. 20, is also considering the Gators, Alabama and LSU. But Dawson hinted after his trip to Florida that distance from home could be a factor in his decision.

“I enjoyed the (Florida) trip, but I wouldn’t count out Michigan State and Ohio State,” Dawson told ESPN RecruitingNation at the time. “Michigan State could pull ahead when I visit.”

That visit will be this weekend when Dawson travels to East Lansing to watch Michigan State host Nebraska. Dawson, who decommitted from Michigan earlier this month, has also scheduled trips to Wisconsin (Nov. 17) and Ohio State (Nov. 24).

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Dawson Likes Florida, ‘Wouldn’t Count Out’ Others

Offensive lineman David Dawson from Cass Tech High School in Detroit took a visit to Florida last weekend to watch the Gators defeat South Carolina 44-11.

Florida made a nice impression on the former Michigan commitment, but he’s not close to choosing a school. Alabama, LSU, Michigan State and Ohio State are all still in the running.

After taking a long trip this past weekend, it appears distance from home will at least be a factor in his final decision.

“I enjoyed the (Florida) trip, but I wouldn’t count out Michigan State and Ohio State,” Dawson told ESPN RecruitingNation. “Michigan State could pull ahead when I visit.”

Dawson told ESPN he plans to visit Michigan State on Nov. 3, Ohio State on Nov. 24  and Alabama sometime in December.

Dawson is ranked the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard by ESPN.

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Safety Banks ‘Felt Comfortable’ At Vanderbilt

Safety Jalen Banks from Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Ill., committed to Vanderbilt after an official visit to Nashville last weekend.

“I just felt comfortable there,” Banks told 247Sports. “They treated me an my family like family. I get to compete in the SEC and compete with the best week in and week out and get a good education. It’s a chance to write history.”

Banks chose Vanderbilt over offers from Ole Miss, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Banks believes he could be the latest piece in Vanderbilt coach James Franklin’s plan to help the Commodores improve in the SEC.

“To be able to change the program and write history, that’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “I can start something. My commitment can lead to other commitments and next year we can have another top 10 or top 20 class and my senior year we can be competing for SEC championships and national championships.”


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Kentucky Lands Another Hoops Standout

Kentucky received a commitment Thursday from guard James Young from Rochester (Mich.) High School.

Young chose Kentucky over Kansas, Michigan State and Syracuse.

“Kentucky has always been my dream school,” Young said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Young’s announcement came one week after the Wildcats landed commitments from twin brothers Aaron and Andrew Harrison from Richmond, Texas. Young is considered the nation’s No. 5 prospect by ESPNU, which gives Kentucky three of the nation’s top five prospects in the 2013 class.

Kentucky also has a commitment from forward Derek Willis from Mt. Washington, Ky.

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Smith’s “Smile!” Speech From Hog Presser Goes Viral

John L. Smith is out there.  We all knew when Arkansas hired him as its interim coach that he’s an adrenaline junkie with an “out there” personality.

Apparently the rest of the world is just starting to notice.

In what’s being viewed by many as a sign that the coach is cracking up under the pressure of the Razorbacks’ 1-2 start, Smith demanded that the media smile before he would take questions at a presser earlier this week.

Odd?  You bet.  Painfully awkward if you were in that room staring back at the man?  Probably.

But ask a Michigan State or Louisville fan and you’ll soon hear tales of Smith’s previous bizarre actions.


UNITE: John L. Smith Demands You SMILE!!!


At, we don’t believe this shows that Smith is falling apart.  We do, however, think it provides a glimpse into what the team is seeing/hearing from Smith on a daily basis.  If the Hogs were winning, this kind of stuff would go over big.  But the Hogs aren’t winning.

So you tell me, if you were on the Titanic and Captain Edward Smith came out and provided a John L. Smith type of “Smile!” speech would you feel better?  I didn’t think so.  And I bet plenty of Razorbacks feel the same way.

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St. Louis Group Talks New SEC-Big Ten Bowl Game

At a time when college football season’s postseason appears to be in flux, one group is considering birthing a brand new bowl game.  Forget the new playoff that’s now being debated/discussed.  Forget that some school presidents have been talking about raising the win-level for bowl-eligible teams, a move which would result in a cut back in the current number of bowls.  Folks in Show-Me State want a bowl game.

According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Sports Commission is exploring the feasibility of bringing a bowl to the city.  And the group’s president, Frank Viveritos, already believes the perfect matchup would be an SEC-Big Ten showdown:


“If we were able to produce a wish-list game, that would be the one.  If the SEC is making a commitment to the University of Missouri, then this is a market we would like to help them develop for the league…

We want to get meaningful conference tie-ins.  We want to have an event that would be considered a home run for the region in every way.”


Currently the group is gauging how much support a bowl game would get from the city and how much money the game would have to pay out to participants.  The more money going to teams, the better the conference tie-ins.  The better the conference tie-ins, the better the media exposure and tourism revenue for St. Louis.

The city of St. Louis is also expected to bid for at least one upcoming SEC basketball tournament.  And SEC commissioner Mike Slive has recently been talking about finding new bowl partnerships for his just-expanded league.  So a St. Louis bowl tied to the Southeastern Conference seems like a natural at this point.

We also don’t believe that in the end of discussions bowl-eligibility qualifications will indeed be raised.  For every school president at Alabama or Ohio State or Oregon who knows they’ll go bowling each season, there are two from Utah State or even Mississippi State who need a six-win cut-off if they’re to rake in some extra exposure — which leads to more cash, better recruiting and better football in the long run — by going bowling each year.  That’s no knock on MSU, their own AD, Scott Stricklin, has admitted that he’s against a nine-game SEC schedule because it might knock State from future bowl games.  Would he or his boss be in favor then of raising bowl-eligibility standards?  We think not.

For that reason, we would be surprised to see the number of bowl games snipped.  A better way of handling things on that end might be to require games to hit a higher minimum payout, anyway.  Such a move would either reduce the current number of games by just a few or lead to the replacement of smaller games by larger ones.  Like, say, one in St. Louis.

If there is room for a bowl on the Mississippi, the Big Ten does make sense as an SEC foe.  Unfortunately those two leagues already have tie-ins in three other games: Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl and Gator Bowl.  For that reason, it already seems that Georgia and Michigan State, for example, have met in a Florida bowl for about nine of the last 10 years, doesn’t it?

We get that “Big Ten versus SEC” would be a better draw for the city and that’s what bowls are all about in the first place — tourism.  Cities don’t hold these games because they just like ‘em some football.

But in a perfect world, the SEC would line-up a new game with a brand new bowl partner.  St. Louis is the Gateway to the West.  Wouldn’t an SEC versus Pac-12 matchup be infinitely more interesting in a new Gateway Bowl?  Heck, even an SEC-Big 12 game would be a better compromise, possibly pitting Missouri against one of its old Big 12 rivals if things broke the right way.

But then, what the heck is ever perfect about college football’s postseason?

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Smith Says All The Right Things At Arkansas (Just As He Did At Weber State)

John L. Smith knows exactly what to say at an introductory press conference.  Having been through two of those things in the past five months it’s no surprise that he has the whole thing down to an art.

Meeting the press on his return to Arkansas yesterday — after a blink-and-you-missed-it stint at his alma mater, Weber State — Smith told Razorback fans just what they wanted to hear.  Mainly that championships are still on the table and are still the goal for this year’s bunch of Bobby Petrino-less Hogs:


“Our expectations are the same.  Nothing’s going to slow down.  In fact, we’re going to speed up.  Our expectations are that we’re going to go ahead and we’re going to battle and fight for a national title.  It was that way when I walked in the door three years ago and it’s going to continue to be that way…

Everything’s in place here.  You’ve got a good football team.  We’ve got the best fans in the world.  We’ve got great coaches.  Let’s make it a special year.”


Somebody give the Governor a harrumph!

In addition to motivating the Razorback fanbase, Smith touched on a few other topics…


* He spoke of his love of adventure and new challenges:  “If there is a door open, walk through it.  If there’s a window open, jump out of it. I guess I’ve always been a little that way.”  (Folks in Ogden can now attest to that.  Sounds like Jeff Long’s found the perfect stable, dependable replacement for a guy like Petrino.)

* He seemed eager to share some of the blame for his quick Weber State exit with his wife:  “I said, ‘This decision’s yours.  She said, ‘Here’s the deal.  You’re going back to people that love you.  You’re going back to a team that is a good football team and you have a chance to fight for a national championship.’  She said, ‘This might be the only chance you have left.’  So she said, ‘You’re going back’ and here I am.”  (Smith did not say that his wife at any point said to him, “Tough noogies to the nimrods who put their faith in you at Weber State,” but that sure seems to have been her sentiment.)

* After admitting that he’s looking for redemption — after being fired by Michigan State in 2006 — he made it clear that he feels there’s a chance he could land the Razorback job long-term:  ”We’ll have to wait and see.  Only the season is going to dictate that.”


Smith said all this while wearing a slick set of cowboy boots.  At one point he called a television personality “fat and sloppy.”  And he also intentionally mispronounced the name of Arkansas tailback Knile Davis.

It was either an oddball ending to an oddball month for Razorback football or the oddball beginning to what could be a helluva football season.  Hog fans will obviously hope for the latter.  And from purely a football sense, Long seems to have tabbed the one man for the interim gig who could calm fans, unite the players, and keep the existing assistants on his side.

Win, win and win.

Still, I want to toss a little credit in the direction of the Razorback fanbase today.  While they’ll be cheering wildly for Smith to capture a conference and/or national crown this fall — as they should, he’s the coach of their football program after all — most seem to realize that he pulled a pretty cruel stunt on the administration, assistants and players at Weber State.  The defense of Smith’s actions has been muted at best.  And that is probably for the best.  Defending the way in which he nuked his alma mater would have just given Hog fans a reputation for being blind to all but their own their own school’s issues.

As it stands, it appears that most Hog backers are for Smith to succeed… even though they know he didn’t bathe himself in glory by departing Ogden, Utah as he did.

Kudos to them.  Best of luck to him.

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John L. Smith Will Coach Arkansas

Former Razorbacks assistant John L. Smith is headed back to Arkansas to replace fired football coach Bobby Petrino.   Smith spent three years as the special teams coach in Fayetteville.  Smith, who’s leaving Weber State, gets a one-year deal.

Smith has a 132-86 record as a head coach at Michigan State, Louisville, Idaho and Utah State.

He’ll be introduced as the new coach at Arkansas on Tuesday.

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SEC Coaching Rumors

Just a quick pre-weekend check of the scuttlebutt floating around regarding potential SEC coaching moves.  We’ll start where things are in the most flux:

* Despite reports out of Miami last night, multiple reports from Tennessee have said former Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon has not been hired as the Vols’ new defensive coordinator.  In fact, some believe Shannon and Derek Dooley have not yet spoken.  Normally we would say there’s too much smoke involved for their not to be some fire, but as we noted the other day, Shannon is coordinator equivalent of Jon Gruden.  When a job comes open, he’s immediately listed on internet sites as Candidate #1. 

Clemson’s Kevin Steele — despite his unit’s one horrible showing in the Orange Bowl — is believed to be a candidate as is Baylor’s Phil Bennett.  They’re just bowl games, but Steele’s group allowed 70 points to West Virginia and Bennett’s crew gave up 56 to Washington.  Bennett would give Tennessee some recruiting ties to the Lone Star State.

* Texas A&M reportedly interviewed Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi earlier this week.  The Spartans — despite allowing 30 points to Georgia in the Outback Bowl — had a Top 5 defense in 2012. 

Kevin Sumlin is also expected to offer a job to Stanford special teams coordinator Brian Polian.

* Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson — once rumored to be a candidate at A&M — will reportedly stay at Mississippi State.

* is reporting that “sources close to the program” have told them that South Carolina will interview Ron West for the job of linebackers coach and Randy Jordan for the job coaching the Gamecocks’ running backs.

Jordan has been on Mike Sherman’s staff at Texas A&M since 2008.  Grabbing him might signal that Carolina wants to start making some inroads into the fertile Texas recruiting grounds.  Ron West as the linebackers coach under Ron Zook at Illinois the past two years.  But he also has ties inside the Palmetto State from the 10 seasons he spent on Clemson’s staff from 1999 through 2008.

* Scuttlebutt from Auburn suggests the Tigers might’ve turned their attention from defensive coordinator Mark Stoops — who’s getting a raise at Florida State — to Seminoles’ assistant head coach for defense and linebackers coach Greg Hudson.  Prior to joining FSU’s staff, Hudson had been the defensive coordinator at East Carolina.

* Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease is rumored to be under consideration for the same position at Auburn, Alabama, and Florida.  Pease has SEC experience as he served at Kentucky in 2001 and 2002.

Speaking of the Gators, Hays Carlyon of The Florida Times-Union reports that Jacksonville head coach and former UF quarterback Kerwin Bell is a candidate for the quarterbacks coach position on Will Muschamp’s staff and not the offensive coordinator slot.

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UGA’s McGarity Says Negativity Blocks Success

To the 25 or so folks who emailed Georgia AD Greg McGarity after the Bulldogs’ Outback Bowl loss, the top Dawg has a message for you:

“What is important is for people to know that Mark Richt is our football coach, and he and his staff and these players spend so much time in an effort to bring championship football to Georgia. … The more negative people become, the more it distracts you from being successful.”

McGarity said he received about 50 emails after UGA’s 33-30 overtime loss to Michigan State and “about half” of those came from people complaining about coaching decisions. 

“Anytime you lose a game, especially one as gut-wrenching as that one was, people get frustrated and they vent in various ways,” he said.  “If the game was lopsided, if we had lost 42-0 or something, then there would be some concerns.  But to point the finger at a player or a coach or offense or defense or special teams is a waste of time.  That was a true team loss.  There are plenty of second-guessers out there, but there are so many what-ifs on either side it could have gone either way.”

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