We're slowly -- but surely -- getting closer and closer to the draft season, and the NFL Scouting Combine is just a little over the week. To hold you over, check out Thor Nystrom's multi-round mock draft with team breakdowns, and Derrik Klassen has this look at quantifying this classes quarterbacks.
Now, onto the biggest news of the week.
Michigan State tabs Tucker to take over for Dantonio
It was a bit of a bumpy search, but the Spartans have their new leader, and it's Mel Tucker.
Tucker accepted the head coaching position on Wednesday, officially replacing Mark Dantonio, who resigned two weeks earlier. He's going to get a $5.5 million salary with the Spartans; a substantial jump on the $2.5 he was making with the Buffaloes.
At first glance, this may seem like a bit of an odd choice, but it's worth keeping a few things in mind. First, the candidate field had waned because Dantonio had resigned at such a late pate on the offseason. Secondly, yes, Tucker had a 5-7 record in his first and only yea, but Tucker is better than that. Don't forget he was a defensive coordinator for Georgia, which was one of the best defenses in the country under his leadership. He also has already shown to be a quality recruiter as a head coach as well, as Colorado was able to pick up several four-star recruits in his time at the institution. Is it a sure thing? Of course not, but a sure thing wasn't coming to East Lansing in 2020. Tucker has a chance to make Michigan State a Big Ten contender.
As for Colorado, Darrin Chiaverini takes over on an interim basis, and because we are so late in the winter, he may get a chance to coach this season for the Buffaloes. That being said, there are already rumors that they've been in contact with Eric Bieniemy, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and a former Colorado star. That seems like a natural fit, but Bieniemy may want to stay in the NFL ranks.
Positive news for Shenault, Tagovailoa on injury front
Two of the best offensive players in this draft class are also two players with a checkered injury history, but both received some positive news in that regard this week.
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa recently had a CT scan on his surgically-repaired hip, and according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the results of that scan were as "positive as possible. Rapoport reports that the fracture has healed, and the range of motion of the hip is "good." He also reports that Tagovailoa will likely need another month at least of rehab before he's cleared for football activity, but that's obviously not as big of deal. This goes a long way towards keeping Tagovailoa as that second quarterback of the board in April, assuming Joe Burrow is still going first.
Colorado's Laviska Shenault isn't likely to go in the range of Tagovailoa, but he's another first-round pick, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Monday that the talented wideout will not require surgery after being diagnosed with inflammation of the pubic bone. In fact, there's a chance that the 6-foot-2, 220-pound wideout will be able to participate in the combine in Indianapolis, although that's far from a sure thing at this point. As long as there are no setbacks, Shenault will at least get a chance to have workouts with teams, and that'll be crucial in this loaded wideout class.
Recruiting for 2021 starting to heat up
The 2020 recruiting is all but over -- you'll see a few stragglers here and there, however -- and now the focus is on 2021. We're a long way away from December, but we saw a few four-star talents make their choices last week.
North Carolina received a verbal commitment from four-star 2021 WR Gavin Blackwell. Blackwell was always likely to end up with the Tar Heels, but it doesn't make it any less of a big pickup for Mack Brown and company. He's considered an electric playmaker with the football by analysts, and the 5-foot-11, 164-pound wideout is rated by 247Sports as the 16th best player at his position and the fifth best overall player in North Carolina. The 2019 campaign was an up-and-down affair for the Tar Heels, but Brown and his staff clearly have this recruiting thing down.
Fellow ACC school Miami was also able to pick up a four-star player, in their case 2021 running back Thad Franklin. Franklin is actually a recommit for the Hurricanes, as he had verbaled before backing off that pledge. With 6-foot, 215-pound size, it sounds like Franklin could be a candidate for early playing time for Miami, and the 247Sports group ranks him the 12th best running back, overall.
Florida State received a verbal commitment from four-star 2021 QB Luke Altmyer ... Former Stanford redshirt senior DL Mike Williams transferred to SMU ... LSU is hiring former Dallas Cowboys OC Scott Linehan to serve as passing-game coordinator ... LSU freshman TE Arik Gilbert has been ruled out for spring practice after undergoing shoulder surgery ... Arkansas redshirt junior RB Chase Hayden entered the NCAA transfer portal ... Oklahoma State and Nebraska scheduled a home-and-home series for the 2034 and 2035 seasons ... NC State senior G Joshua Fedd-Jackson entered the transfer portal ... Oregon confirmed that "discussions are ongoing" with HC Mario Cristobal on a long-term contract extension ... Southern Miss hired former ULM offensive coordinator Matt Kubik to serve in the same capacity ... Michigan State will retain DC Mike Tressel for the 2020 season.