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5 former SEC players sign deals with Nike ahead of 2018 NFL Draft

Calvin Ridley-Alabama Crimson Tide football-2018 NFL Draft-Nike

The 2018 NFL Draft is Thursday night, meaning some former SEC players will soon find out where they will head to begin their professional careers.

Some of them will have done something else by that point — signed an endorsement deal.

Five former SEC players are among a group of draft prospects to have signed a deal with Nike, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell — two from Alabama (Calvin Ridley and Anthony Averett), two from Georgia (Nick Chubb and Roquan Smith) and one from LSU (Derrius Guice).

Some of that handful could be drafted during the first round on Thursday night, especially Ridley, who is one of the top wide receivers in the class.

Here’s the full list of players who signed with Nike (SEC players in bold):

Saquon Barkley (Penn State) Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) Calvin Ridley (Alabama) Josh Allen (Wyoming) Derrius Guice (LSU) Nick Chubb (Georgia) Roquan Smith (Georgia) Denzel Ward (Ohio State) Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) D.J. Moore (Maryland) Josh Jackson (Iowa) Ronald Jones (USC) Mike Gesicki (Penn State) Deon Cain (Clemson) Josh Adams (Notre Dame) Anthony Averett (Alabama) DaeSean Hamilton (Penn State) Dante Pettis (Washington)

The post 5 former SEC players sign deals with Nike ahead of 2018 NFL Draft appeared first on SEC Country.

Arkansas could have its best in-state signing class ever in 2019

Arkansas-recruiting-razorbacks-football

SEC Country reporter Trent Shadid will answer your Arkansas Razorbacks football recruiting questions each weekday in our recruiting question of the day mailbag. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to  @SECCountryHogs, @Shadid13 or by email to Trent at Shadid13@gmail.com. To view prior answers to our questions, click here.

Recruiting Question of the Day: Thursday, April 26, 2018 How great of an instate class does this appear based on offers and how great do you want it based on possibilities you lose several? — Mark Dagenhart (@Marky_marka85) April 22, 2018

Arkansas’ 2019 in-state class has a couple elite talents in tight end Hudson Henry and wide receiver Treylon Burks. According to the 247Sports composite, Henry is the No. 47 overall prospect in the class and Burks is No. 61. It’s the first class in the past decade two Arkansas high school recruits have been rated that high in the same class.

There’s also depth in the group. Six total in-state recruits have reported at least five offers from SEC schools. I’m not exactly sure how many that stacks up compared to other classes, but I’m guessing it’s a very high amount with still eight months left until recruits can sign. Arkansas has offered all six of those players and two others from the Natural State in the class. Those eight are also the top eight recruits in the state. I view them all as definite SEC-level talents with a few more on the fringe of joining that group. One of those players — Rison athlete Malik Chavis — is already committed to the Hogs.

It’s obviously great for Arkansas to have such a strong in-state class. That’s especially true with Chad Morris going through his first full recruiting cycle with the Hogs.

However, it does make the task of signing all the top in-state talent very difficult. And that is the expectation from the majority of the Razorbacks’ fan base.

But is signing all of them even realistic? Recent history suggests not, or at least not both Henry and Burks.

The 2019 class is the fourth time in the past decade Arkansas has had two in-state recruits within the top 100 of the 247Sports composite. The Razorbacks didn’t sign both players in any of the previous three cases.

In 2011, offensive lineman Brey Cook (No. 69) joined the Razorbacks and quarterback Kiehl Frazier (No. 53) went to Auburn. Arkansas got tight end Hunter Henry (No. 80 overall) in the 2013 class, but running back Altee Tenpenny (No. 53) went to Alabama. Then in 2014, Arkansas had two top 100 defensive lineman in the state with Josh Frazier (No. 79) going to Alabama and defensive lineman Bijhon Jackson (No. 81) joining the Hogs. So, it should be considered an impressive recruiting victory if Arkansas can get both Henry and Burks.

Realistically, I think it would still be a very strong in-state class if Arkansas gets any six of those top eight that have been offered. If the Hogs sign them all, it may be the best in-state class Arkansas has ever signed.

To view prior answers to our questions, click here.

The post Arkansas could have its best in-state signing class ever in 2019 appeared first on SEC Country.

Tennessee recruiting target Dawson Ellington names biggest takeaway from spring game, plans return trip

Tennessee-dawson ellington-vols-visit-spring game

There has been a lot made about the crowd size during the Orange and White game and if enough Tennessee fans showed up to please coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Well, one top prospect came away very impressed with the fan turnout in what is really a glorified scrimmage. The crowd size and fan support have stood out the most to class of 2020 prospect Dawson Ellington on his past two trips to Rocky Top.

“There were a lot of fans that came out to support the team, even for a spring game,” Ellington told SEC Country. “You can imagine how they’d support them during a regular- season game. I went to their homecoming last year and the fans stood out.”

Ellington is listed as an athlete because he plays both running back and cornerback so well for Marietta (Ga.) High School. His future is likely at cornerback if he were to end up joining the Vols down the line. The 5-foot-11, 184-pound Ellington seems to have the natural ball skills in the secondary that Pruitt values. Couple that with his speed and it’s easy to see why the Vols are interested.

Pruitt also has plenty of experience building championship defenses, which appeals to prospects even if they were at other schools. His excellent track record and work ethic has stood out Ellington.

“Coach Pruitt just wants to get after it,” Ellington said. “He’s going to do good things with the defense.”

Ellington has a great offer list that includes SEC powerhouses Alabama, Auburn and LSU. He’s not in any rush to make a snap decision, though. This is going to be a long process.

“There’s really no school that’s standing out right now,” Ellington said. “Just trying to take it slow.”

Tennessee will have many more chances to impress Ellington. He plans to make a return trip to Knoxville this fall for another game.

The Class of 2020 could really turn into something special for the Vols. The coaching staff is in early on a number of top prospects, and Ellington is one of them.

The post Tennessee recruiting target Dawson Ellington names biggest takeaway from spring game, plans return trip appeared first on SEC Country.

Boston city officials vote to change Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street

The City of Boston has voted to change the name of Yawkey Way.

After multiple delays, the commission voted unanimously Thursday to change the name of Yawkey Way back to its original Jersey Street.

The Red Sox organization initially petitioned the city to change the name of the street outside the ballpark from Yawkey Way back to the previous name of Jersey Street weeks ago. 

The late Tom Yawkey, former team owner, has been called racist by some, in part over the long delayed racial integration of the ball club.

Defenders of the Yawkey name believe the name change would harm the reputation of the philanthropic Yawkey Foundation.

Yawkey Foundation issued a statement shortly after the vote.

The City of Boston Public Improvement Commission has the final say over street names.

About a month ago, the commission took about two hours of heated opinions from both sides, tabling the issue for two weeks.

Two weeks ago, the Red Sox organization sent a letter standing by its petition, but asking for a delay in the vote so the public would have more time to weigh in.

Just last week, team president Sam Kennedy told sports radio station WEEI the Sox still want the street name changed. 

MORE: Officials delay vote on Yawkey Way name change

Mel Kiper’s final 2018 mock draft sees big movement for Minkah Fitzpatrick, surprise at No. 1

Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama-nfl draft-mel kiper jr

ESPN’s Mel Kiper is viewed as one of the top NFL draft experts in the country, but his latest (and final) 2018 mock draft is not ideal for Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Kiper has the Crimson Tide All-American slipping to No. 14 overall to the Green Bay Packers. Earlier in the process, Fitzpatrick was believed to be a lock for the top 10 (and could still end up there).

“Fitzpatrick has dropped a little bit because teams don’t know exactly what position he’ll play,” Kiper wrote. “He’s a tweener. He’s a really good player, and this could be the steal of the draft.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. To some teams, Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a true position. To other teams, he’s incredibly versatile — a highly attractive trait in the NFL.

The Packers would be a solid fit for Fitzpatrick, even if it’s further down the draft board than many expected. Green Bay is a solid organization with an elite quarterback and a tradition of winning — he could do far worse, even in the middle of the first round.

Kiper also has a run of Alabama players going in the middle of the first round, starting with Fitzpatrick at 14. After that, Kiper predicts Calvin Ridley at 16 (Baltimore Ravens), Da’Ron Payne (Los Angeles Chargers) at 17 and then Rashaan Evans at 28 (Pittsburgh Steelers). Kiper does not have Ronnie Harrison as a round one guy, though some still do on draft day.

Kiper’s other major surprise was moving toward the belief that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield will be Cleveland’s choice at No. 1 overall. He’s maintained Josh Allen would be the guy there for most of this process, but moved Allen down to No. 5 (Denver Broncos) in this final mock.

“You heard it from ESPN’s Adam Schefter this morning,” Kiper wrote. “Baker to Cleveland is all the talk. Josh Allen isn’t helped by the offensive tweets that surfaced overnight. Mayfield could be ready to compete with Tyrod Taylor immediately.”

The NFL Draft is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET from Arlington, Texas.

 

The post Mel Kiper’s final 2018 mock draft sees big movement for Minkah Fitzpatrick, surprise at No. 1 appeared first on SEC Country.

2018 NFL Draft: 5 things to know about Florida DB Duke Dawson

Florida-Florida Gators-Florida football-NFL Draft-Duke Dawson

While much of the buzz in Gainesville, Fla., leading up to the NFL Draft has centered on projected first-round pick Taven Bryan and polarizing wide receiver Antonio Callaway, the Gators have another standout expected to hear his name called this week.

Defensive back Duke Dawson played at a high level during his time at Florida, working at both cornerback and nickel, and is projected as a mid-round pick this week.

The 2018 NFL Draft starts with the first round Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and can be seen on NFL Network, Fox, ESPN and ESPN2. The draft continues with the second and third rounds Friday and the final four rounds on Saturday.

Here are 5 things to know about Dawson as a draft prospect:

1. Duke Dawson made a good decision returning for his senior season

Dawson could have left after his junior year and likely would have landed with an NFL opportunity, but he only improved his draft stock by returning for a fourth season at Florida.

He worked between cornerback and nickel, starting all 11 games and finishing with 34 tackles, 4 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), 9 pass breakups and 2 tackles for loss as a senior.

He was tabbed a first-team All-SEC selection by the conference’s coaches and second-team All-SEC by the AP.

2. Duke Dawson scored 3 defensive touchdowns for the Gators

For his four-year collegiate career, Dawson finished with 6 interceptions, 3 returned for touchdown, 23 pass breakups and 82 total tackles.

He wasted no time finding the end zone, scoring on a pick-6 as a freshman in the 2014 season opener against Eastern Michigan.

He repeated the act as a junior against Arkansas and again in the 2017 season opener against Michigan.

Only Brandon Spikes (4 INT returns for TD) had more pick-6s in Florida history.

3. Duke Dawson would be the second player from his high school to reach the NFL

Dawson attended Dixie County High School in Cross City, Fla., which until now has produced only one NFL player  — former Green Bay Packers safety Nick Collins.

Collins played for the Packers from 2005-11, reaching three Pro Bowls and helping the team win Super Bowl XLV.

4. Duke Dawson ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL combine

Dawson measured in at 5-foot-11, 197 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and posted 15 reps on the bench press.

He tied for 11th among cornerbacks at the combine with that time and tied for 12th in the bench press.

“It was just a dream come true to go the combine and be in all those rooms with head coaches that I’ve been watching since I’ve been able to play the game of football,” Dawson said of the experience. “I wasn’t nervous. I was just going in there and being myself just talking about life and talking about football.”

5. Duke Dawson ready to become latest Florida defensive back to head to the NFL

Florida prides itself on its “DBU” moniker, and with good reason. Since 2010 the Gators have had 11 defensive backs selected in the NFL draft (not counting undrafted free agents).

If Dawson is selected, he would become the sixth Gators defensive back drafted since 2016.

Here’s the list going back to 2010:

  • cornerback Joe Haden (first round, 2010)
  • safety Major Wright (third round, 2010)
  • safety Ahmad Black (fifth round, 2011)
  • safety Matt Elam (first round, 2013)
  • safety Josh Evans (sixth round, 2013)
  • cornerback Jaylen Watkins (fourth round, 2014)
  • cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (first round, 2016)
  • safety Keanu Neal (first round, 2016)
  • safety Marcus Maye (second round, 2017)
  • cornerback Quincy Wilson (second round, 2017)
  • cornerback Jalen “Teez” Tabor (second round, 2017)

“It’s a tradition,” Dawson said. “You have guys who’ve been in the league, who are in the league now. You’ve always been close to those guys, you can always get feedback from those guys. It’s just a thing that we carry. It’s a passion we carry.”

A CBSSports.com mock draft projects Dawson to be selected 69th overall, early in the third round, by the New York Giants. An NFL.com mock draft has him going in the third round, No. 90 overall, to the Atlanta Falcons.  Drafttek.com has Dawson going 102nd overall, in the fourth round, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The post 2018 NFL Draft: 5 things to know about Florida DB Duke Dawson appeared first on SEC Country.

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