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Considering What They’re Up Against, Kudos To Ole Miss’ Freeze And Kennedy

gfx-honest-opinionI remove my hat and tip it Ole Miss coaches Hugh Freeze and Andy Kennedy.  Those guys must be world-class salesmen.  Considering the history at their school — and the never-ending string of reminders of that history — it’s dadgum incredible that they can recruit African-American males to play for their respective squads.

You know the latest story by now, of course.  Last Sunday a statue of James Meredith — the first black student at the University of Mississippi — was found to have a noose around its neck and an old Georgia state flag — complete with the Confederate battle flag — draped over it.  Meredith rose to fame when the federal government stepped in to protect him as it pushed for the desegregation the school in 1962.

Three freshman from the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity — who happened to be Georgia natives — were booted from the fraternity before the the frat itself was suspended by it national office.  The three buffoons could face some very serious, life-altering charges if the FBI views that noose as a racial threat against black students on the Ole Miss campus.

The incident made national news from The LA Times to The New York Times.  Back came reminders of the National Guard, Governor Ross Barnett, the race riots that took place in Oxford at the time of Meredith’s enrollment.  (ESPN recently chronicled that episode in a “30 for 30″ special titled “Ghosts of Ole Miss.”)

After the long list of UM controversies come the inevitable reminders of what Ole Miss has tried to do to improve matters on its campus: no more Confederate flags at ballgames, no more Colonel Reb mascot, no more “From Dixie With Love” with its chant of “The South will rise again” before football games.

But as an editorial in The Daily Mississippian — UM’s student newspaper — stated last week, nothing seems to work:

 

“This is disgraceful.  But what makes it all the worse is that it is another disgraceful moment in a series of disgraceful moments.  We are racking them up and bolstering the stereotypes that are ingrained within the national consciousness.  And we, The Daily Mississippian, continue to write editorials about them.  The campus continues to hold candlelight vigils.  The administration continues to create committees, send apologetic emails and preach to us about our Creed.  The Alumni Association offers rewards.

But still nothing has changed.  These events continue to happen semester after semester and year after year.  All of our actions seem fruitless and impotent, leaving us broken, scared, humiliated and with burning, difficult questions: What do we do about it?  How do we stop these events from transpiring?”

 

Rather damning — and bravely honest — from the school’s newspaper, no?

Fair or not, the University of Mississippi’s history is tied to racism.  The Confederacy’s economy — everything about the Old South, for that matter — was based on slavery.  Yet the school’s athletic teams are called the Rebels in a reference to the Confederate States of America.  The school’s athletic teams often wear gray in addition to their red and navy colors.  Hell, the statue of Meredith isn’t far from a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the UM campus.

It is impossible to separate the school or its sports teams from the Confederacy and the racism that was ingrained in that institution.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Texas A&M’s Continues To Grow

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxIt didn’t seem like a big deal when Texas A&M signed one the nation’s top-ranked classes on Feb. 5.

But it should be considering where the Aggies’ recruiting was earlier this decade.

Texas A&M, which signed 21 prospects in the 2014 class, landed seven of the top 25 players in the state of Texas, according to Rivals.com. Texas, which typically signs the best in-state haul, ended up with six of the top 25 in-state players.

How quickly have things changed? Just three years ago, Texas A&M didn’t sign one of the top 25 in-state players in the 2011 class. That was former head coach Mike Sherman’s final class with the Aggies.

It’s clear coach Kevin Sumlin has made a tremendous impact on Texas A&M’s recruiting. And that’s around the country, not just inside the state of Texas.

Texas A&M went to Scottsdale, Ariz., to land quarterback Kyle Allen, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class by Rivals. Sumlin was able to convince New Orleans wide receiver Speedy Noil to turn down an offer from LSU in favor of Texas A&M.

Sumlin has quickly changed Texas A&M’s perception from a program that’s underachieving to a program that’s on the rise.

“I think we’ve been able to get over the hump … with more guys than we probably used to,” Sumlin said on signing day. “As I’ve said to the guys we’re recruiting, ‘There’s a reason why guys are coming here.’ It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of things, which has given us some momentum … Certainly in the state of Texas, we’ve really, really made some strides.”

Those strides have extended to the 2015 class.

Texas A&M has already landed seven commitments for next year’s class. All seven of those prospects reside in the state of Texas.

“It feels like home when I go down there,” 2015 defensive tackle Daylon Mack told Rivals when he committed to Texas A&M in October. “It’s just feels like the right decision in so many ways. In my heart I know it will be.”

The rest of the SEC knows it will have to battle Texas A&M for the nation’s top prospects as long as Sumlin is leading the way.

 

Bridges chooses Auburn

Auburn received a commitment this week from cornerback Tony Bridges from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Miss.

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SEC Headlines 2/12/2014

headlines-wedMichael Sam

1. Will the Michael Sam news spark negative recruiting? SEC assistant coach: “It’s a powder keg just waiting to explode,”

2. Sam texted his father last week to tell him he was gay.  Michael Sam, Sr. – “I’m old school. I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.”

3. Jason Whitlock: “Sam is riding a wave, not creating one.”

4. The story wasn’t news to many in Columbia who’ve known Sam.  ”People just knew it. ”

5. David Climer on the NFL’s decision: “We’re in uncharted territory here. Some teams will embrace the idea of drafting Sam. Others will defer.”

6. Sam gets the Sports Illustrated cover.

SEC Football

7. Assistant strength coach for Tennessee detained when he tried to intervene during the arrest of players Sunday morning. 

8. Steve Spurrier: “We don’t run into much of any negative recruiting around here as SEC coaches.” (A Big Ten school)  ”got negative a little bit…”

9. Alan Evans on the backlash from fans against his son Rashaan - who choose Alabama over Auburn. “It’s kind of disturbing to know that it’s such a thin line between love and hate.”

10. Kevin Scarbinsky: “What is wrong with you people?”

11. MrSEC: “Sadly, Tigers versus Tide takes first prize for lunacy.”

12. Five 2014 signees who could make an early impact at Alabama.

13. Five signees who could play this fall at Auburn.

14. Grading Tennessee’s class: “Coming off a 5-7 campaign, the Vols signed a class that stacks up to just about anybody in the nation.”

15. Former Kentucky defensive end Langston Newton will play for Purdue this fall.

16. Kentucky’s entire stadium will be re-ticketed as the stadium goes from about 67,000 to roughly 61,000 seats.

17. Georgia now has two two special teams coordinators. Will it make a difference? Running backs coach Bryan McClendon named recruiting coordinator.

18. Athlon Sports names the top 15 impact JUCO transfers.  Seven of them will play in the SEC this fall.

SEC Basketball

19. In town to watch Tennessee’s Jeronne Maymon last night, Wisconsin high school principal collapses in stands and dies prior to game.

20. Vanderbilt at South Carolina postponed until Thursday due to weather.  Short-handed Vanderbilt making pre-game shootaround optional

21. Reaction to the Marcus Smart incident with fan.  John Calipari tweet: “Just a friendly reminder to #BBN, we don’t root against other teams because it always comes back to haunt your team.”

22. Accentuate the positive.  Plenty of good things happening with this Kentucky basketball team.

23. Auburn hasn’t defeated Kentucky since January of 2000 – a span of 15 games.

24. Auburn junior guard KT Harrell has scored in double figures in all 21 games for the Tigers this year.

25. LSU plays at Texas A&M tonight.  Tigers need a road win.

26. How does Texas A&M 5’11″ walk-on guard Blake McDonald calm the hecklers?  He does a pre-game dunk.  “It’s pretty cool on the road when the students are heckling me before games because I’m the short white kid…”

27. Georgia at Mississippi State tonight.  Under coach Rick Ray, MSU is 0-11 in the month of February.

28. “The Southeastern Conference’s efforts to upgrade men’s basketball remain a work in progress.”

Extra

29. Snapchat gets the greenlight from the NCAA as a recruiting tool.

30. Assistant college football coach who’s packed his bags eight times in eight years.

31. Average ticket price for Duke-North Carolina tonight is cheapest in five years.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Time For 2015

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxThe end of signing day doesn’t mean the end of recruiting.

National signing day came and went on Wednesday, which means one class is finished and the next one is just beginning. Except the 2015 recruiting period was already well underway.

All 14 SEC schools have at least one commitment for the 2015 class. Half of the league has five or more commitments for 2015.

It’s the latest trend as recruiting continues to speed up. Coaches continue to push for early commitments, which allows schools to recruit into the future. After all, schools are already evaluating younger players while recruiting the upcoming class.

There’s also more pressure for coaches to evaluate and send out offers. A school often stands a better chance of landing a prospect if it’s one of the first schools to offer him.

Defensive back Terry Godwin from Callaway High School in Hogansville, Ga., committed to Georgia’s 2015 class in January. The Bulldogs’ early offer gave them an advantage in their pursuit of Godwin.

“Ever since they offered me, they’ve been there since day one,” he told UGASports.com. “They’ve helped me focus on school work and the recruiting process. They’ve let me know what to look for in schools.”

Of course, prospects who commit early still have plenty of time to change their minds. Godwin admitted he still plans to visit other schools. Many other committed 2015 prospects will do the same before they sign with a school next February.

The SEC is off to a hot start with the top 2015 prospects in the country. Twenty-two of the Rivals100 prospects for next year’s class are already committed. The SEC has landed 13 of those prospects.

Here’s a look at the number of 2015 commitments for each SEC school.

Alabama – 7
Arkansas – 5
Auburn – 2
Florida – 1
Georgia – 3
Kentucky – 2
LSU – 6
Ole Miss – 4
Mississippi State – 5
Missouri – 1
South Carolina – 5
Tennessee – 7
Texas A&M – 7
Vanderbilt – 1

There’s a long way to go until the next national signing day on Feb. 4, 2015. But most of the SEC is well on its way to putting a class together.

 

Bielema: It’s the path, not the stars

Arkansas’ 2014 class finished near the bottom of the SEC rankings.

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SEC Headlines 2/6/2014

headlines-thuSEC Recruiting

1. “There’s no way for Auburn to spin this one… Losing Rashaan Evans to Alabama hurts.” Video of Auburn coaches reacting to the news.

2. Defensive tackle prospect Elisa Shaw suffered what’s believed to be a career-ending injury.  He’ll get a medical hardship scholarship from Alabama.

3. First time ever? “Less than one-third of the 2014 Alabama and Auburn football signing classes come from the state of Alabama.”

4. Stewart Mandel on Alabama: “For Saban, it’s certainly easier to entice kids to leave home when flashing four BCS championship rings.”

5. A focus at Auburn this year was on the defensive line.

6. Butch Jones on the Tennessee class: “I want to guard against all of the expectations that are going to come with this recruiting class.”

7. New Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason talks recruiting class and a little Tennessee smack.

8. One view of the LSU class: “The nation’s best prospect and perhaps the best high school player in Louisiana’s storied history will spend his college years in Baton Rouge. ”

9. Strong finish for the class at Georgia.

10. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel on recruiting rankings: “I bet we’ve been averaging being ranked somewhere in the 30s, but in the last seven years we’re eighth in the nation in winning.”

11. Key for Kentucky - winning in-state recruiting battles.

12. Big key to recruiting success at Texas A&M?  Defensive line coach Terry Price.

13. South Carolina recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier, Jr. ”Players know if they come to South Carolina, they can play at the highest level.”

14. ESPN’s Tom Luginbill: “Where I think South Carolina’s really done a nice job is readdressing defensive secondary areas as well as the defensive front seven.” Good enough for the SEC?

15. Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman on the Razorbacks class: “You know I can’t do a cartwheel. But in my mind I was doing them. And a back flip.”

16. View from Ole Miss: “There was no way this year could top the excitement of last year.”

17. Mississippi State went 1-for-2 in flipped commitments Wednesday.

18. Athlon Sports names 10 freshmen likely to make impact in 2014.  Six of the 10 are in the SEC.

19. Just how competitive is the recruiting process?  When Garrett Brumfield committed to LSU, his parents got a call from a Florida assistant coach within seven minutes.  

SEC Football

20. Georgia’s overhaul of its defensive coaching staff looks to be complete.  Mike Ekeler is coming over from Southern Cal to coach inside linebackers.

21. Randy Shannon is now the senior associate head coach at Arkansas.  Search continues for a defensive coordinator.

22. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel expected to be ready for spring practice. Running back Matt Jones had another surgery this week.

Coaches Talk Recruiting Classes

23. Will Muschamp on the Florida class.

24. Kevin Sumlin on the Texas A&M class.

25. Derek Mason on the Vanderbilt class.

26. Gus Malzahn on the Auburn class.

27. Butch Jones on the Tennessee class

SEC Basketball

28. Chris Walker’s long road to Florida.  Abandoned by his biological parents, raised by his grandmother until she died when he was 12.

29. LSU point guard Anthony Hickey’s role has changed with this year’s team.

Extra

30. Welcome to Russia.  Surveillance video in the shower?

31. USA Today mock draft.  Johnny Manziel goes No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans.

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Alabama’s Saban Explains The Decline In Signing Day Suspense

gfx-they-said-it4Speaking with ESPN this morning, Nick Saban admitted that while there “is some suspense involved” today, there clearly isn’t as much as there used to be.  Alabama’s coach explained why:

 

“I think the way recruiting’s set up now guys make decisions early, which is helpful.  Most of the guys know what they’re gonna do today, which is also helpful to us being able to manage the numbers and get the best players.”

 

Asked about his ability to land 5-star prospects, Saban ignored the question and spoke only of how top-rated guys will have to come in and get to work like everyone else.

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SEC Headlines 2/4/2013

headlines-tueSEC Football

1. Analysts responded to AJ McCarron’s claim that Alabama players had “entitlement” after being highly-ranked recruits.

2. Alabama has continued to make in-state prospects a priority even as its national reach has grown.

3. Auburn will play a Thursday night road game against Kansas State. That spells trouble for Auburn, writes Kevin Scarbinsky.

4. Has the recruiting media industry hit a bubble with fans? The CEO of one major outlet believes so.

5. What happens to the hats of schools not picked by recruits? John Talty is on the case.

6. Former Georgia tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith is headed to play at Alabama.

7. Tennessee director of football operations Brad Pendergrass announced he’s resigning his position.

8. Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham allowed police to search his cell phone a week after he was arrested.

9. The SEC is still No. 1 in recruiting as signing day is less than 24 hours away.

SEC Basketball

10. Arkansas has reinstated suspended players Alandise Harris and Michael Qualls.

11. LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant picked up SEC player of the week honors after a 52-point, 18-rebound week.

12. Ole Miss is looking to pick up some quality wins. A victory over Kentucky tonight would certainly help.

13. Kentucky is preparing for Marshall Henderson, who should put up plenty of shots in Rupp Arena.

14. Kentucky could try some zone defense. Assistant Orlando Antigua: “Uh, we’ve been working on it a lot. That’s all I’ll give you.”

15. Mississippi State is one of five SEC teams that are winless on the road this season.

16. Florida freshman Chris Walker will make his college debut tonight when the Gators host Missouri.

17. Missouri is preparing to take on a veteran team as it travels to Florida.

18. Vanderbilt will try to limit Tennessee’s Jordan McRae when the two teams play Wednesday night.

Extra

19. An economic expert from the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit doesn’t believe college athletes are employees.

20. Dennis Dodd looks at the one-sided pact known as the National Letter of Intent.

21. No. 1 Syracuse survived Monday night with a 61-55 win over Notre Dame.

22. It took three overtimes for Iowa State to beat Oklahoma State on Monday night.

23. The NCAA has cleared Washington and former assistant football coach Tosh Lupoi.

24. A record 111.5 million people watched the Super Bowl on Sunday.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Elam Chooses In-State Kentucky

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxKentucky received the news it had been waiting for on Thursday when defensive tackle Matt Elam from John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky., announced his commitment to the Wildcats.

Elam chose Kentucky over Alabama.

“The whole time I was just struggling to pick a school,” he said, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. “It’s hard to turn down Alabama, and it’s crazy that I did. But I feel my heart is at the University of Kentucky — that was the main thing.”

Elam became a main target for Kentucky’s coaching staff early in the recruiting process. The Wildcats knew keeping him from leaving the state would be difficult.

“Coach Stoops is doing something right,” John Hardin coach Chad Lewis told the Herald Leader. “He can’t build this program in one year. The way the program was … it was on a downhill slide.

“It’s going to take some time to rebuild it. The way to rebuild a program is to recruit the best players, and you have to go after the best players. When you land these type of kids, your program’s going to change.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has certainly helped improve the Wildcats’ recruiting. Kentucky has 27 commitments for the 2014 class, which is ranked No. 13 in the nation by Rivals.com.

Elam’s commitment means Kentucky has landed three of the state’s top five prospects for 2014. He believes that will be a key in Stoops’ attempt to turn the program around.

“I feel like that’s one of the main reasons why I stayed is just to help out my home-state program, because to have a good program you need great players,” Elam said. “And it has to start with those in-state kids just to be the cornerstone of that. So I feel like me and Drew, we stayed home, and I feel like we’re definitely gonna help out Coach Stoops and the UK program.”

 

Humphrey chooses Alabama

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey from Hoover (Ala.) High School announced his commitment to Alabama this week.

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Reports Suggest Vandy’s Williams Searching High And Low For New Coach

Binoculars-300x197Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams is apparently leaving no stone unturned in his search for a replacement for James Franklin.  Just three weeks from signing day, Vandy’s AD is up against the clock and an ex-coach who’s attempting to flip the kids he’d recruited to Nashville to his new home at Penn State.

So can Williams really afford to take his time on this hire and interview numerous candidates?  With National Signing Day fast approaching?

You bet he can.  And he should.  For all the worrying about a recruiting class, finding the right head coach is a hundred times more important.  The right head coach can win with the talent his predecessor left behind (as Franklin did with the redshirt juniors and seniors Bobby Johnson and Robbie Caldwell left him).  The right coach can recruit well and eventually make up for one disappointing class.

Reportedly, at least three candidates appear on Williams’ interview list:  Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.  Many view Mason as the favorite to land the job as he’s already a college recruiter and he’s already worked at a school with somewhat strict admission policies.

Others on Williams’ list appear to be Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.  Offensive line coach Herb Hand is the leading internal candidate for the job.

We believe the Commodores should reach out to former Rutgers and NFL coach Greg Schiano.

Meanwhile, reports claim that Vanderbilt secondary coach George Barlow is expected be named cornerbacks coach at NC State.  In other words, the man Williams eventually hires will have to basically piece together an entire staff.  One more reason Williams should worry more about finding the right head coach than salvaging a single recruiting class.

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Franklin Defends His Decision To Swing Vandy Commits To Penn State

gfx - they said itYesterday, James Franklin appeared on Dan Patrick’s national radio show.  He was asked about his decision to try and lure a number of Vanderbilt commits into following him to Penn State.  His response?

 

“I don’t know what the rules are, there.  I know that I’ve been sitting in living rooms with families and kids and selling them on a dream and selling them on a vision and our relationship.  A lot of people say that the kids should commit to a school, not a coach, but the reality is, they do (commit to coaches).  Families and kids want to make sure their kids is being taken care of.  It’s about the relationship aspect.

My responsibility is to do everything in my power to make sure I put a team together that can help Penn State be successful.  The people I’ve been recruiting for the last two years that I know inside and out, know the type of men they are, type of families they come from, that’s going to happen.  My job right now is to everything I possibly can to help Penn State be successful.”

 

In other words, “Thanks for the millions; now kiss off, Vandy.”  Hey, at least he’s honest.

Those comments remind this writer of all the times Vanderbilt fans defended Franklin against our charges that he was a loudmouth and that he could be jerkish, even Kiffinesque at times.  I remember the many times an email or comment came in this site’s direction claiming that we “must be fans of some school that’s scared of Franklin.”

Uh, no, we just thought Franklin — a great recruiter and a good coach — was all about Franklin and not Vanderbilt.  Now those who defended him so vociferously simply because he was wearing their school colors at the time are beginning to understand what we saw from an objective point of view.  Great recruiter, good coach, jerkish.

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