Friday, February 21, 2020

Coach Pep Hamilton's culture of accountability has DC Defenders off to hot start

After a 2-0 start, the DC Defenders are the hottest team in the XFL and head coach Pep Hamilton's no-nonsense approach is one of the main reasons.
The former NFL coordinator preaches the importance of accountability and leads by example. On Tuesday, Hamilton was seen running side by side with his team post-practice.
“We are a team. Everybody will be held to a certain standard," Hamilton said. "Accountability is the foundation of teamwork. A lack of focus at times is on me, it’s on the coach. We have to come out here everyday and understand that every play can be the difference in a game.“
Quarterback Cardale Jones describes the culture Hamilton is building within the locker room as “a tough one, one that is uncomfortable. A tough hardnose blue collar culture.”  
Seeing his coach run with the team, Jones believes, sends a clear message: “We will be held accountable for our actions and everything matters. That's why we run extra after practice. We can’t get complacent as a team.”
The former Ohio State quarterback has not only become one of the faces, if not the face, of the XFL but also a leader on the Defenders, according to Hamilton.
“He’s making plays on gameday. He’s helping the team win, and the guys recognize he’s ultimately going to play a major factor into whether we win or lose a game, and he’s done his job up to this point,” Hamilton said.
Despite the hype surrounding his name, Jones humbly describes himself as “a player trying to get better each and every week.”
This week, the Defenders are aiming to go 3-0 as they head across the country for their first road game against the 0-2 Los Angeles Wildcats on Sunday. LA's record doesn't reflect the kind of team Hamilton is preparing to go up against.
“We are getting ready to play a really good LA Wildcats team," he said. "Their record is not indicative in the leadership they have in their head coach and/or in the players they have on their team. They have a really good team.”
Jones continued, “We have to be able to run the football. We have to continue to challenge ourselves and honor our technique. Doing the little things right.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Kentucky’s Vince Marrow will likely be highest-paid non-coordinator in college football this year

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For Vince Marrow of Kentucky, it paid to be wooed by Michigan State.
After an initial denial, Mel Tucker reversed course and left Colorado to become the Michigan State head coach. Not only will Tucker be doubling his salary in East Lansing, but his salary pool for assistant coaches will be nearly double what he had to work with in Boulder as well.
Marrow was one of the assistants Tucker had hoped to bring to Michigan State, wooing the longtime Kentucky coach and close friend into his new fold. Instead, he opted to eschew the chance to move to Michigan State and remain at Kentucky.
In a non-coincidental move, UK Monday released the details of a new contract agreement signed last Thursday by Marrow. Per that new deal, Marrow, who is tight ends coach while also serving as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach, will be paid $900,000 annually as part of the three-year contract. This past season, Marrow was paid $600,000 in guaranteed compensation.
With Mike Yurcich ($950,000) taking over as Texas’ offensive coordinator after spending 2019 as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and Sam Pittman ($900,000) leaving as Georgia’s offensive line to take the head job at Arkansas, Marrow is currently the highest-paid non-coordinator in college football. That statement is based on the USA Today coaches salary database.
Marrow will also have a salary on par with UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and slightly above the $875,000 set for defensive coordinator Brad White.
The 51-year-old Marrow has spent the past eight seasons at Kentucky.  He was retained when Mark Stoops took over the Wildcats in November of 2012.

7 things we learned in Week 2 of the XFL

Barry Werner

14 hrs ago

The XFL is through two weeks, there has been some good, bad, and, of course, ugly.

McGloin may not be built for this league

Matt McGloin taking on anyone and everyone around the New York Guardians may have made for great television. However, it did show the quarterback has brought an NFL attitude to the XFL. And that doesn’t work. Hard to believe Kevin Gilbride will want to keep him around. For sure, Winston Moss of the LA Wildcats would have shipped him out. In general, with a few exceptions, quarterback is the weakest position in the league.

Jones earning another NFL look

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Cardale Jones has had two solid games for the DC Defenders. P.J. Walker has made some spectacular plays. Jones was nothing short of amazing on the play below. It will be interesting to see if a solid XFL season earns Jones a look from the NFL.

Pep Hamilton has got DC going

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Don’t be surprised if an NFL team makes a move on Pep Hamilton of the Defenders after the XFL season. He is sharp and brings a great attitude to the sidelines. DC appears to be one of the top teams in the league after a couple games. Hamilton has an impressive resume. Somehow, it didn’t include head coach until this gig. Would be a great coup for the XFL to be a showcase for a coach to earn himself a shot in the big league. Oh, and Hamilton and the Defenders made a great move swindling Anthony Johnson from LA. Despite being jet-lagged, the edge rusher Edge rusher recorded 1.5 sacks and two tackles for a loss.

Olsen should retire from the NFL

Greg Olsen was under the weather Sunday when doing analysis for the St. Louis-Houston game. One never would have known it except for the Pro Bowl TE’s voice. He brings great insight to the game and is going to be a star in the broadcast booth, unlike another tight end. Olsen’s talent was in full display when he noticed the officials missed an offsides call on Houston when the St. Lous QB Jordan Ta’amu threw an interception. He has been injured frequently recently in his NFL career. Rather than putting his body through more, Olsen is primed to take a big spot in a network broadcast booth.

Andrew Luck helped out his dad

P.J. Walker has been the league’s clear-cut star through two weeks. And it helped the Houston Roughnecks immensely that Commissioner Oliver Luck’s son, Andrew, played for the Indianapolis Colts. The retired Andrew Luck tipped his dad to the talent of Walker and that is how he wound up in the XFL. Andrew Luck seems to have a future as a scout.

Los Angeles is going to be challenged

The Wildcats are 0-2 and everyone knows Los Angeles loves to back a winner. The crowd at the stadium was announced at better than 14,000, which seemed like a mirage. Empty seats were everywhere. Maybe the Wildcats and Chargers should bond and move to San Diego.

Todd Gurley also could be a scout

There was an in-game interview with Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. The Rams’ running back spoke of how he was in attendance to support former teammate Nelson Spruce. After that discussion with Molly McGrath, Spruce went on to catch a pair of TD passes. He leads the league in receiving yardage.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Vince Marrow's new contract shows dramatic increase in football spending for Kentucky

Jon Hale, Courier Journal | Published 2:04 p.m. ET Feb. 17, 2020 | Updated 2:13 p.m. ET Feb. 17, 2020

LEXINGTON - Vince Marrow’s decision to remain at Kentucky instead of accepting a job at Michigan State will make him one of the highest-paid position coaches in college football.
Marrow’s new contract, signed on Feb. 13 and released by UK’s Office of Legal Counsel on Monday, will pay him $900,000 per year through the 2022 season. Only three football assistant coaches without an offensive or defensive coordinator title were paid at least $900,000 by public universities last year, according to a USA TODAY database.
One of those coaches, former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman, has since been hired as Arkansas’ new head coach. Another, former Ohio State quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich, was recently hired as offensive coordinator at Texas.
Per the terms of Marrow's new contract, he would owe UK $150,000 per year left on the deal if he accepts another coaching position. That buyout would be waived though if his new job was an FBS or FCS head coaching position or any NFL coaching position.
“I talked to one of the top coaches in college football last night and he said he watched all of this and said, ‘You guys have really got that thing going,’” Marrow said Saturday, one day after announcing he would stay at UK. “And, for Kentucky to make the investment to keep me here, he said, ‘You guys are really going in the right direction, it says a lot about your administration.’”
Marrow, UK's recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach and associate head coach, will be paid the same salary as offensive coordinator Eddie Gran next season. Gran’s contract calls for his salary to increase to $925,000 in 2021 and $950,00 in 2020. He will be paid slightly more than defensive coordinator Brad White, whose salary is $875,000 in 2020 then escalates to $900,000 in 2021 and $925,000 in 2022.
The raise for Marrow is the latest sign of the significant investment in football spending by UK during the Stoops era.
The Courier Journal recently reported Kentucky increased its football recruiting spending by 30.7% to $1.035 million in 2018-19, the most recent year data is available. The university opened at $45 million training facility in 2016, one year after unveiling a $120 million stadium renovation.
The USA TODAY database reveals a dramatic increase in assistant coach spending during the Stoops era.
In 2013, Stoops’ first year as head coach, the program used an assistant coach salary pool worth $2.4 million. Marrow’s salary that year was $175,000.
UK’s salary pool for the 10 full-time assistant coaches for the 2019 season was $5.15 million. (The NCAA added a 10th full-time assistant to football staffs before the 2018 season). The program has already committed $5.07 million in salaries to the eight full-time assistant coaches under contract for 2020.
A new contract for quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw’s contract has yet to be released by the university. His current deal is set to expire in June. Stoops has one opening on his staff to fill following the departure of special teams coordinator Dean Hood to Murray State.
UK awarded contract extensions to Gran, White, defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale and linebackers coach Jon Sumrall earlier this offseason. It also signed new defensive line coach Anwar Stewart to a two-year contract worth $300,000 per year.
Spending on support staff positions like the strength and conditioning staff and quality control coaches, who do not count toward the 10 full-time assistant positions, has also increased.
UK’s most recent available financial report to the NCAA listed total football staff spending at $5.7 million in 2018-19, up from $3.35 million five years earlier.
Marrow and Stoops seem likely to point to that investment in recruiting the next wave of players for the program.
Turning down a recruiting rival with deep pockets – new Michigan State coach Mel Tucker’s contract calls for a $6 million staff salary pool – can only help sway prospects from Ohio and Michigan, two states where Kentucky has found great success in recent years, as well.
“(Tucker) really wanted me, and they really made an effort, so it was hard,” Marrow said. “The last three days, yes I got a raise, but I wouldn't wish that situation on anyone, especially when it is two friends (to work for).
“Now I know how recruits feel when they're down to two schools and one day it's this school and the next day it's this school. Anything can trigger (a decision). But, I just have to say, the eight years I've spent here, they've really invested in me and it really meant something. That really played a big part. … I'm not just throwing that out. This is a really great administration to work for.”


Offensive coordinator/RBs coach Eddie Gran: $900,000
Recruiting coordinator/TE coach Vince Marrow: $900,000
Defensive coordinator/OLB coach Brad White: $875,000
Inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall: $650,000
Defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale: $500,000
Offensive line coach John Schlarman: $490,000
Wide receivers coach Michael Smith: $450,000
Defensive line coach Anwar Stewart: $300,000
Jon Hale:; Twitter: @JonHale_CJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

Nick Saban serves as advisor in Michigan State’s coach search

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Mel Tucker’s bank account might want to consider sending a thank you note to Nick Saban.
After a couple of swings and misses, Michigan State confirmed Wednesday that it had flipped Tucker away from Colorado as Mark Dantonio‘s replacement. The university, of course, utilized a search firm to help guide it through the process of finding Dantonio’s successor. They also utilized a future Hall of Famer in an unofficial capacity.
Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, the Detroit News has reported that Nick Saban served as an advisor for Michigan State in its search. The News added that Saban was a strong proponent of Tucker throughout the process.
From the report:
‘I’m very interested in Michigan State having the right person,'” Saban said in the phone call, according to the source. “And they weren’t bashful about asking Nick.
Nick Saban, of course, has a history with the Michigan State football program. From 1983-87, Saban was MSU’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Then, from 1995-99, he served as the Spartans’ head coach.
Saban and Tucker also have a working relationship that goes back decades. Tucker’s first job was as a graduate assistant for Saban at MSU from 1997-98. In 2000, he was Saban’s defensive backs coach at LSU. In 2015, Tucker was Alabama’s defensive backs coach. He also held the title of assistant head coach.
According to the News, MSU athletic director Bill Beekman confirmed that he had spoken to Nick Saban during the search.
“Mel has made a name for himself as one of the best and brightest coaches in our profession,” Saban said in a statement after Tucker’s hiring. “I believe he will do a tremendous job as head coach of the Spartans. MSU is getting a guy with infinite class and a great personality, who is smart, works hard, and does it with an incredible amount of enthusiasm and positive energy.
“Mel is a tireless recruiter who knows the game of college football and understands what it will take to be successful in East Lansing.”

Team Jack fundraiser set for Feb. 22

·         Feb 14, 2020

Former Husker and current New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead addresses the audience at a previous Team Jack Gala while his wife Danielle looks on.

This seventh annual Team Jack Gala will feature speaker Amy Robach, ABC News’ 20/20 co-anchor and cancer thriver, Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel ballroom, 333 S. 13th St.

Former Husker football players such as Rex Burkhead, Jeremiah Sirles, Kenny Bell, Jordan Westerkamp, Brent Qvale and Zach Sterup will also be part of the program.

The event begins at 5 p.m. with a social hour, followed by a 6:30 p.m. dinner and program. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, an exclusive VIP reception, and live and silent auctions. Cocktail attire suggested.

Event proceeds benefit the Team Jack Foundation for pediatric brain cancer research. For information on tickets, tables and sponsorships, see or call 402-925-2120

Bohls: Texas’ new offensive boss Yurcich is well-traveled and very well-regarded

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich answers questions from the local news media on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Posted February 14th, 2020

Mike Yurcich has been around the block a time or two.
This after not always being in the neighborhood of major college football. Not to be harsh, but most wouldn’t call his previous stops at Shippensburg University or Edinboro or Saint Francis the epicenter of the sport.
But Texas’ new offensive coordinator cut his teeth at the smaller divisions and has gone from relative obscurity to high-profile visibility almost in the blink of an eye after toiling for 14 years at three different schools following a career as a three-year starting quarterback for California University of Pennsylvania.
No wonder Yurcich sounds so grateful to continue to be a top coach at the highest level since 2013.
He’s been an offensive coordinator at two big-time Power Five programs for the last seven seasons and contributed in prolific manner to both units that have been among the best in the nation.
In short, he’s crushed it. And that makes him an incredibly strong hire by Tom Herman, who reshaped almost his entire coaching staff this offseason.

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich answers questions from the local news media on Tuesday. He was one of seven new UT assistant coaches who were introduced. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

“I’m glad to be part of this unbelievable tradition,” Yurcich said at Tuesday’s press conference where the seven new assistants were introduced. “I’m honored to be here.”
Know that he’s a deeply passionate coach, one who was described by those who know him as both “very guarded” but also a “world-class” developer of quarterbacks.
He’s a 44-year-old Ohioan whose wife, Julie, was an All-America cross-country runner. He runs “only when chased by snakes or wolves.” He should fit in well here because he loves his music, especially on game days when he alternates between Phil Collins and Metallica. He’s very intelligent, smart enough to earn a psychology degree from college as well as a school counseling license.
And he’s quickly gotten up to speed as he’s already watched every UT offensive snap of last season and is breaking down tape and poring over little details like snap counts and specific running plays.
“He’s a self-starter,” Herman said.

Mike Yurcich spent several seasons as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before moving to Ohio State. (Bruce Waterfield/Oklahoma State Athletics)

He had to have been to get where he is. Yurcich comes to Austin after a one-year stint at Ohio State where he was the quarterbacks coach but didn’t call the plays, and before that six seasons at Oklahoma State. 
Not bad for a guy who OSU’s Mike Gundy plucked out of a Division II program at Shippensburg in south central Pennsylvania where he was making $52,000 a year. While there, Yurcich helped head coach Mark Maciejewski create an 11-2 team that earned the Red Raiders their first playoff win in 20 years and led the nation with 530 yards of offense a game.
Gundy found Yurcich on the Internet and had trouble tracking him down, but he was hot on the trail of this budding star after growing weary of having his play-callers using OSU as a steppingstone to better gigs. So after losing Todd Monken and Larry Fedora to head coaching jobs at Southern Miss, one after the other, and Dana Holgorsen to the top job at West Virginia, Gundy was out to find a talented hire who might stay for more than a pinch of Red Bull.

Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, left, stands beside coach Mike Gundy during an OSU football practice in 2018. (Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman)
Through a lot of trial and error, he finally found him at Shippensburg, fell in love with Yurcich’s offensive mind and offered him a three-year deal in Stillwater for the incredible sum of $400,000 a year.
Talk about an instant upgrade.
Herman hopes for the same after hiring him for a reported $1.7 million to run the Texas offense and improve a unit that toggled between brilliant against LSU and Utah at either ends of the season and borderline pathetic against Baylor and Iowa State. Despite talent that included a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,200-yard receiver and a pair of running backs who both topped 600 yards rushing and showed great promise, the Longhorns frustrated their fans and eventually cost Tim Beck his job.
Yurcich already has an advantage over Beck in that the latter had his play-calling duties taken away by Herman for the bulk of the last two seasons. Yurcich admitted he left Ohio State to do that and said calling plays “gets me off.” Hopefully, an aroused Longhorn Nation can say the same next fall.
For a man who worked at the lower rungs of college football, Yurcich’s rise through the ranks at Oklahoma State and for one season at College Football Playoff semifinalist Ohio State has been tremendously successful. Gundy loves the guy, but for reasons known only to the Mullet Man, he declined to be interviewed about his former assistant as is the Cowboys head coach’s custom.
On the surface, this might even look like a lateral move for Yurcich, except for the fact that he didn’t get to call plays in Columbus. On Tuesday, he talked about his career journey to Texas like a holy pilgrimage and conceded the allure of coaching a quarterback with the skill set and football IQ of Sam Ehlinger enticed him.

Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck talks with quarterback Sam Ehlinger during warmups before the 2018 TCU game. (Nick Wagner/American-Statesman)
“Sam’s a hell of a player,” Yurcich said. “He’s a big part of why I chose this position. He’s a proven winner. There’s a lot of football IQ going on there. He can get you out of bad plays. He’s the total package.”
Hopefully, the same can be said for Yurcich. Part of his roots in Stillwater should serve him well.
“Having coached in the Big 12, it gives you perspective on the enormity of what Texas football is,” he said. “The football played here at the high school level is unmatched. To coach quarterbacks and call plays is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime, and I’m not going to pass that up.”
His familiarity with the Big 12 should keep him in good stead. He understands that some Saturdays might take 50 points to win, and even that might not be enough. He knows it’s a league where Oklahoma can have back-to-back Heisman winners and first picks of the NFL draft and where Patrick Mahomes never won a bowl game or a conference title at Texas Tech but seems to have done all right for himself at the next level.
Yurcich remains a humble sort who counts his blessings. He made note of his wife unpacking boxes back home. He speaks easily and compared coaching football to dealing with boulders and pebbles.
“You want to move the boulders and not mess with the pebbles,” he said, assuming he means not to sweat the same stuff from outside. “Coach Gundy seemed to move the boulders. His ability to prioritize is uncanny, and he treats his players and coaches very well.”
Yurcich wasn’t always hailed as a genius in Stillwater, particularly when the team was beset by quarterback injuries — he once had five play over two seasons — and lagging offensive line play. But that spoke more to a dubious fan base he had yet to convince.
Ultimately he stayed the course, won over the fans and, along with Gundy, consistently produced top-10 offenses that kept Oklahoma State among the top programs and made himself a finalist for the Broyles Award in 2016 as one of the nation’s top assistants.
While there, he raised the level of such quarterbacks as outstanding dual-threat J.W. Walsh and 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers starter Mason Rudolph as well as current XFL backup Taylor Cornelius, whom Yurcich molded from a fifth-year senior walk-on into a highly productive quarterback who ranked sixth nationally in passing with 32 touchdowns.
“His quarterback development speaks for itself,” Herman said, noting Ohio State’s Justin Fields was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy last December.
His offenses are known for being big on up-tempo, and he very much wants to incorporate a strong dose of running into what will remain a power spread attack that relies on downhill running as well as a passing game that stretches the field. He rarely had the benefit of a strong offensive line at Oklahoma State — one year the Cowboys allowed 40 sacks — and didn’t have great runners until Justice Hill and Chuba Hubbard came along.
“Tempo is a big thing with him,” Herman said. “It’s a little more advanced. But you definitely want a fresh set of eyes and a better way of doing things.”
That said, Herman’s reluctant to suggest this will be Yurcich’s or Herman’s offense even though Yurcich will accommodate the players and try to adapt to the Texas terminology.
Asked if Yurcich will have free rein to put his stamp on the offense, Herman said, “That’s a bit of a misnomer to fans or reporters. When you hire a new coordinator on either side of the ball, they don’t just come in and drop a binder on the desk and say this is my offense.”
Yurcich said the Longhorns offense is very similar to the Buckeyes, which isn’t all that surprising since Herman once filled his role in Columbus under Urban Meyer. And that sounds appealing.
“Every year we’re going to morph,” Yurcich said. “You have to adapt your system to the personnel. We will tweak. We will add and delete. We want to get the guys to play fast, so there’s no hesitation and they’ll know our offensive schemes better than the other team knows their defensive schemes. You have to adapt your system to the personnel.”
And the well-traveled Yurcich knows all about adapting. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Michigan State to hire Mel Tucker, Colorado coach and former Nick Saban assistant

By Bruce Feldman Feb 11, 2020

Colorado coach Mel Tucker and Michigan State have agreed in principle to make him the new head football coach at MSU, people with knowledge of the matter told The Athletic on Tuesday night. After the 48-year-old Cleveland native turned down initial interest late last week, MSU power brokers came back repeatedly to Tucker’s reps with an offer that was impossible to ignore.
People with knowledge of Tucker’s deal with the Spartans said it doubles his Colorado coaching salary pool (which was $3.15 million in 2019), includes a substantial increase to the Michigan State strength and conditioning staff budget and program resources and will more than double Tucker’s Colorado salary, which is around $2.7 million.
On Feb. 7, while Tucker was on a Colorado donor tour, his name surfaced in a Detroit Free Press report that the Spartans planned to interview him for the Michigan State vacancy. Tucker discussed the initial MSU conversations with Colorado AD Rick George, according to people familiar with the matter.  Tucker’s tour was about raising funds for the Buffs program, so on Saturday he tried to quell speculation by telling Buffs donors that he was committed to doing his job there. On Monday, after Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell — a strong candidate for the MSU job — announced he was staying with the Bearcats, the Spartans circled back to Tucker’s reps with an offer not just for the head coach but for his staff and for the program that he felt he needed to compete for national titles.
“My understanding is that Coach Tucker was completely transparent with CU’s Rick George, from MSU’s first contact until their last push today,” a person with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic on Tuesday night.
The hiring of Tucker by Michigan State away from Colorado is another example that speaks to the widening gulf in resources between the SEC/Big Ten and the rest of college football thanks in large part to a growing revenue gap, a topic The Athletic addressed two weeks ago.
The former Wisconsin defensive back began his coaching career at Michigan State on Nick Saban’s staff in the late 1990s. In the wake of Mark Dantonio stepping down after 13 seasons at Michigan State, Tucker has had several influential Spartan power brokers pushing for him to be the next coach to take over the program.
Tucker has been on national championship-winning staffs at Ohio State and Alabama and spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Georgia before taking over at Colorado in 2019. He led the Buffs to two Top 25 wins in his debut 5-7 season. The Buffaloes’ recently signed recruiting class was ranked No. 7 in the Pac-12 by 247Sports — CU’s highest-ranked group since joining the conference in 2011.
Tucker’s roots in the Big Ten are significant. His parents and brother still live in Ohio, and Tucker was part of the first recruiting class at Wisconsin for coach Barry Alvarez. He was a member of the Badgers’ 1993 Big Ten champion team that beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl. At Ohio State, he recruited four players who would eventually become NFL first-round draft picks and the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Troy Smith.
(Photo: Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

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