Why Michigan and Florida get a pass for the Class of 2015

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With National Signing Day coming up on Wednesday, Florida finally added its first four-star recruit to the Class of 2015 Monday evening. Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett gave Florida head coach Jim McElwain a nice recruiting victory over in-state rivals Florida State and Miami.

Florida State is already well ahead of the Gators so there is no sleep lost by Jimbo Fisher in Tallahassee over missing on one more four-star player when 13 are already lined up. Being a year removed from a national championship and coming off another ACC title and berth in the first College Football Playoff helps, and Florida’s downward trend under Will Muschamp made for a rough situation McElwain walked into when named the new head coach in Gainesville. It is for this reason McElwain gets a pass on whatever happens with Florida’s Class of 2015 when the faxes start coming in on Wednesday morning.

McElwain took over a sinking ship at Florida, and with only a short period of time to work with it is very difficult to turn things around enough to make up for the damage that has been done. Coaches need a full recruiting cycle to really do what they can on the recruiting trail. By the time McElwain took over at Florida, SEC rivals and ACC recruiting pitches have been spoon-fed to recruits more than enough times to make anything McElwain could have possibly done to have any real lasting impact.

Recruiting in Florida is extremely competitive, and McElwain stepped to the plate with a whiffle bat in the bottom of the ninth inning and two outs in Game Seven of the World Series.

Florida will finish near the bottom of the SEC when the final recruiting rankings are assembled, but the real work for McElwain will be done in the Class of 2016, with a full recruiting calendar at his disposal.

McElwain’s situation is not a unique one. This happens every season around college football when the coaching carousel spins. If any coach can get the same kind of free pass in 2015, it is new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh’s hiring was received favorably by just about everybody around college football, but it is far from a quick fix some might have had you thinking it was in the heat of the moment.

Like McElwain at Florida, Harbaugh inherited a rough situation in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s recruiting success had been trending downward in the final years under Brady Hoke and the Wolverines were likely expected to bring in a relatively smaller class in 2015 regardless of the coaching situation. Most of this is beyond Harbaugh’s control, and it will take a plan to restructure the recruiting plans for Michigan moving forward.

Michigan is also lagging in the Big Ten recruiting rankings, and they may not move up much in the coming days. But this should not be a sign that Michigan is done as a football program. Both Michigan and Florida should have big bounceback recruiting seasons in 2016, and this will be when we can see just what kind of impact coaches like Harbaugh and McElwain can have on their respective programs. So cut them some slack when you look at the rankings for the Class of 2015.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”