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Tavares Chase to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star WR Prospect

The Clemson Tigers added another weapon to their passing game for the 2016 season.

Wide receiver Tavares Chase, a 4-star prospect, revealed that he's headed to "Death Valley," per Paul Strelow of Rivals.com:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Chase is the 32nd-best wideout for 2016 and 137th-best player overall. The Plant City, Florida, star is also the top-ranked player committed to Clemson's '16 recruiting class so far.

ESPN.com's Derek Tyson sees Chase having a big impact for the Tigers:

While he's still far from a finished product, it's easy to see why Chase is such a highly regarded recruit. He may not be a track star in terms of speed, but he has more than enough to succeed at the FBS level. Chase's agility and acceleration will also help him create separation from his defender in tight spaces.

The area where Chase needs the most work is his route running. He's proficient enough to excel in high school, but college will be a different story.

At this time, his lack of top-end speed somewhat limits his ceiling, which could be the difference between being an All-ACC-caliber player and an All-American.

Chase will have at least one year of Deshaun Watson as his quarterback, which would give the Tigers a lethal aerial combo.

Dabo Swinney has had a lot of success at Clemson since taking over in 2008. He hasn't yet gotten the school over the top, though. Securing commitments from players like Chase will help rectify that problem.

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SEC Football: Each Team's Most Loaded Position Group for 2015

In an ideal world, every SEC team would prefer to have the same amount of balance and depth at every position, both offensively and defensively. It doesn't happen that way, though, thanks to injuries, graduation, early NFL departures and recruiting.

Instead, what more often happens is that teams end up looking OK in most areas but really good in a few others. Not surprisingly, those loaded positions tend to determine how those teams will fare.

Taking a look at the SEC rosters as they sit now, including the expected arrivals of recruits who are set to sign on Wednesday, we've identified a position group that each school can be proud of. It might not be the team's best unit, but it is the one with the least depth-related questions.

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Courtney Lark to TCU: Horned Frogs Land 4-Star WR Prospect

TCU's ascent to national relevance in 2014 is continuing to pay dividends. Courtney Lark, a 4-star receiver out of Bellaire (Texas) High School, committed to the Horned Frogs on Saturday, spurning offers from Baylor and Nebraska among others.

Gerry Hamilton of ESPN reported the news:

TCU was a bit of an upset choice given expert predictions. 247Sports' crystal ball gave Lark a 62 percent chance of committing to Baylor, with Oklahoma coming in second place at 25 percent. None of the predictions listed went TCU's direction.

Lark is considered the No. 78 recruit in the nation and 11th-best receiver in the Class of 2016, according to 247Sports composite rankings. Listed at 6'1" and 170 pounds, Lark has excellent hands and has become an increasingly solid big-play threat. He made 58 receptions for 1,138 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior.

While he'll need to bulk up to withstand Big 12 punishment, Lark is yet another coup in what's becoming a landmark class for Gary Patterson. Lark's signing moves the Horned Frogs up to No. 7 on 247Sports' Class of 2016 rankings, fifth-highest among schools with seven or fewer recruits. Patterson has inked four 4-star recruits already, double the number from his 2015 group.

With a 12-1 season in the books, a number of players returning and reinforcements like Lark on the way, the future in Fort Worth is sure looking bright.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Tennessee Football: 4 Commits Who Will Start a Game in 2015 for the Vols

The Tennessee Volunteers are on pace to welcome another top-five recruiting class Wednesday, when their non-early enrollees sign letters of intent to spend their college careers in Knoxville.

If head coach Butch Jones' impressive 2014 class was the foundation for restoring Rocky Top to its former glory, the 2015 class is the mortar that holds that foundation together.

One of the perks of being a highly rated recruit in last year's class was the sheer number of opportunities to see the field right away. In fact, players like Jalen Hurd, Von Pearson, Jashon Robertson, Derek Barnett and Ethan Wolf have all locked down starting spots heading into 2015.

However, that doesn't mean the class of 2015 will be relegated to merely providing depth next season. As good as the 2014 class is, there are still some holes in Tennessee's roster that can immediately be filled by this year's new crop of signees.

Here are four current commits or enrollees who have great chances of landing atop the depth chart in the 2015 season.

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Is Ole Miss 2015 Recruiting Class in Danger of Last-Minute Collapse?

Ole Miss managed to assemble another impressive recruiting class during the 2015 cycle, but the Rebels suddenly appear at risk of watching things unravel as national signing day nears.

Head coach Hugh Freeze, hosting a collection of prospects during the final weekend of official visits, received some disheartening news Friday evening. Leo Lewis, the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker, decommitted from Ole Miss during the first day of his stay at LSU:

The 4-star prospect, listed 63rd overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, will presumably end up with an SEC rival—signing with either the Tigers or Mississippi State.

The loss of Lewis, long considered a paramount in-state prospect, puts a damper on the program's final push toward signing day.

His departure from the Rebels' class could potentially be the first domino to fall in a series of negative developments. 

"Priority No. 1 was keeping its top 100 commits committed," wrote Riley Bevins of The Clarion-Ledger. "Priority No. 1 won't be accomplished, at least not completely."

Freeze must also face the fact that two more of his top recruits are currently being fawned over at foreign campuses. 

Drew Richmond, a Memphis product rated third nationally among offensive tackles, is spending time at Tennessee:

Fellow 4-star commit Van Jefferson, a Georgia receiver who joined the class just last week, leaped at the chance to visit Michigan following a late offer from the Wolverines:

It isn't uncommon for committed players to explore other collegiate opportunities down the stretch, but when three foundational members of a class are looking elsewhere the situation becomes a bit scary. 

Lewis has already been lost, while situations with Richmond and Jefferson seem tenuous at best.

"Jefferson had to convince his dad, who was against his son going to Ole Miss, to be on board with his decision," Bevins wrote, casting further doubt on the pass-catcher's potential of landing in Oxford.

It's worth noting that Mr. Jefferson spent eight seasons in Michigan serving as an assistant coach with the Detroit Lions. 

Tennessee, meanwhile, has never cooled on Richmond. Not even when he spurned the Volunteers for Ole Miss at his September signing day ceremony. 

He is Butch Jones' top priority at this point and would punctuate a sensational class for the rising SEC East squad.

The Rebels currently hold 17 commitments in a class rated 17th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Big additions could be on the way—notably 5-star Florida defensive end CeCe Jefferson and 4-star Texas wide receiver Damarkus Lodge—but at this juncture it's just as important to hold onto what you already have in a class.

Lewis is out of the equation, and that hurts. If Jefferson and Richmond both join him by jumping off the bandwagon, the sting could become unbearable in Oxford on signing day.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Notre Dame Football: Should the Irish Run More in 2015?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — From start to finish in its 31-28 victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl, Notre Dame football featured a run-based offense directed by quarterbacks Malik Zaire and Everett Golson.

In total, the Irish rumbled 51 times for 263 yards and three touchdowns, boasting a grueling ground game against the Tigers.

For some Irish fans, it raised a recurring question: Why doesn’t Notre Dame do that—gash teams with a sustained running attack—more often? Irish head coach Brian Kelly was asked after the game if a run-heavy offense can be Notre Dame’s identity moving forward.

“We had to have a game plan for today,” he said. “We know what we have with both quarterbacks. ... We’re going to continue to utilize [Zaire’s] strength. He’s a very good runner of the football.”

The game plan certainly worked against LSU. But should Notre Dame run the ball more in 2015? Let’s start with the data.

Kelly is 34-5 in his five seasons at Notre Dame when the Irish rush for more yards than their opponent.

Before the Florida State game in October, Notre Dame had compiled a streak of 26 consecutive games in which it did not lose when it tallied at least 30 rushing attempts.

Notre Dame is 33-3 since the start of the 2002 season when it gains at least 200 rushing yards.

Compelling evidence? Maybe. But not so fast.

Of course, such rushing statistics can easily be skewed in many cases, as teams that are leading—comfortably or not—may choose to run more and milk the clock.

We’ll analyze the run-pass breakdowns of other elite teams across the country in comparison to that of Notre Dame, bearing in mind that such successful teams could be more likely to run when leading.

Of the Top 10 teams in the final AP poll, nine averaged more rushing attempts per game than Notre Dame, per CFBStats.com. Only Florida State, with Jameis Winston leading the offense, rushed less than the Irish.

Viewed through another prism, Notre Dame had a fairly even run-pass balance in 2014. The Irish ran on 49.64 percent of their plays. Eight of the Top 10 teams in the nation rushed more often than Notre Dame, per TeamRankings.com.

Again, it bears repeating that correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation here. These teams aren’t necessarily winning because they’re running more.

So sliced another way, we can consider Notre Dame’s propensity to run the ball on first down throughout the season. Running on first down could be indicative of Kelly’s commitment to the ground game on any given Saturday.

Clearly, Kelly was committed to running the ball against the Tigers, opting for the ground on more than 80 percent of the team’s first downs. Notre Dame also remained committed against Navy and piled up 218 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries. Against North Carolina too, the Irish eclipsed the 200-yard mark with a 216-yard showing to go along with four scores on the ground.

Finally, we’ll try to somewhat control the numbers here for winning and losing by large margins. For each game in 2014, we’ll compare Notre Dame’s percentage of rushing plays in the first half with that ratio for the entire game. In theory, the game plan is more likely to still be intact in the first half and the run-pass breakdown is less likely to be skewed by the score of the game.

A look at the numbers shows Notre Dame never really relied on the run against USC. And even though the Trojans put up a quick 35 points before the Irish really settled in, it’s worth noting that Notre Dame dialed up just two runs in its first 10 plays while the game remained scoreless. The Irish also went into games against Syracuse, Stanford and North Carolina with more of a pass-happy approach.

No statistic is perfect here when analyzing the rushing game, and it’s difficult to determine cause and effect with choices that have so many variables.

The shape of Notre Dame’s offense in 2015 is still to be determined. Once the quarterback position is settled, Kelly could have a better idea of his plan. Zaire certainly appeared more comfortable running the zone read in his extended work against USC and LSU, and running backs Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant will be talented juniors.

It worked against LSU. Can it work for a full season?

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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National Signing Day 2015: Top Uncommitted Recruits to Watch

As Ohio State held up the national championship trophy following the inaugural College Football Playoff, it was little wonder how it reached that mountain top—the recruiting of coach Urban Meyer

Meyer’s 2013 class alone included critical championship contributors such as Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, J.T. Barrett, Vonn Bell, Jalin Marshall, Eli Apple, Dontre Wilson and Darron Lee, among others.

Meyer and the rest of the coaches across the country understand that effective recruiting is the lifeblood of college football and the only way to build a roster capable of winning national titles. The groundwork for future championships will be built on national signing day on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

While many of the nation’s top players have already pledged their talents to various schools, there are still some uncommitted “free agents”—if you will—whom fans should keep their eyes on. Here are a few.

 

Terry Beckner Jr., DT, East St. Louis, IL

Defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. checks in as a 5-star recruit on 247Sports’ composite rankings and is considering the likes of Missouri, Ohio State, Auburn and Florida State.

Beckner may be 6’4” and 293 pounds, but he has incredible athleticism for a defensive tackle that jumps out right away when watching him play.

TJ Gaynor of Sporting News passed along his own glowing evaluation of that athleticism and playmaking ability:

One play. That's all it took. Watching Beckner Jr. sniff out a slow screen, deflect the ball out of mid-air to himself, then glide effortlessly to paydirt before delivering a nasty forearm shiver to the opposing QB all in one motion was all it took for this evaluator to see how special this powerhouse one-gap penetrator may become at the next level. This young man has been blessed with rare athletic gifts for a player of his size.

The scary thing about Beckner is the power behind that athleticism and speed. When he gets running downhill, he is nearly impossible to block and can stuff the running game up the middle with powerful hits.

Many defensive tackles are effective simply by occupying two blockers at once to open up the defensive ends on the pass rush, but Beckner is the rare talent who can occupy those two blockers and then break through them in one motion.

That type of raw skill translates well to the next level, and he already has the size to slide in to a defensive line rotation right away.

Missouri is the more local school among those interested and is the crystal ball leader in the clubhouse on his 247Sports profile. However, don’t underestimate the ability of Meyer to close on the recruiting trail or Auburn to swoop in as an SEC option that has won a national title within the past five years. 

The mere thought of Beckner and Bosa on the defensive line for the Buckeyes next year should be rather worrisome for the rest of the Big Ten.

 

Byron Cowart, DE, Seffner, FL

Byron Cowart is a 5-star defensive end on 247Sports’ composite rankings and is listed at 6’4” and 250 pounds. Florida, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn and Maryland are all among the schools interested in landing Cowart, but he appears to have narrowed the list to two schools, via Derek Tyson of ESPN.

"I would have to say, just to be honest, Auburn and Florida are my top two schools," Cowart said. "I have to keep it professional—I have to. Who knows, you see coaches and they go into the league, and when it’s time for you to get drafted, you don’t want to have a bad name."

That is great news for the Gators and Tigers.

It is often speed and pure athleticism that jumps out about defensive end prospects, especially at the high school level where faster players can simply blow past slower blockers around the edge. However, Cowart brings incredible power to the table, which helps him bull rush his way to the quarterback and levy a shattering hit when he gets there.

Don’t worry, the speed is there, too, especially for someone his size. That helps him chase ball-carriers down in the open field and make an impact against the running game when he is not pulverizing quarterbacks.

College offenses have been warned.

 

Iman Marshall, CB, Long Beach, CA

Iman Marshall is a 5-star cornerback on 247Sports’ composite rankings and checks in at 6’1” and 190 pounds. USC appears to be the heavy favorite, with Florida State just kind of hovering hoping for a late change of mind.

Ultimately, Marshall is choosing between staying close to home at USC and traveling across the country to play for Florida State. While that drastic of a move from home would be appealing to some college-aged children, Marshall has to decide for himself.

There is very little Marshall cannot do from the cornerback position. He spent much of his high school career playing on a man-to-man island, which is a critical skill at the next level that many corners are incapable of executing.

His athleticism and speed prevent him from getting burned on the fly route, and he has excellent ball skills when the pass is in the air. That could lead to some interceptions right away, especially when he uses his physicality to bracket the wide receiver and get to the pass first. 

Marshall also brings some versatility to the table and can return punts and kicks, which will likely help him see the field right away as a freshman, be it at USC or Florida State.

 

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Michigan Football: Why the Wolverines Fit 4-Star TE Chris Clark Better Than UCLA

There are a lot of good reasons for Chris Clark to choose Michigan over UCLA—roughly eight of them, actually, according to Wolverines tight end coach Jay Harbaugh.

Jay, the eldest son of Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s shiny new coach, recently sent a pitch to Clark—the No. 2-ranked tight end of 2015—outlining exactly why the prospect should take his great hands and 6’6”, 247-pound frame to Ann Arbor.

And stat.

Thanks to College Spun’s Matt Lombardi, we have a translation of that message:

1. We have used, know how to use, and will use tight ends…a lot!
2. You can wear #8 here! & 104,909 – 74,340 = 30,569 more people will see it every week if you come to the Big House.
3. We are close to Chicago / Indianapolis / Cleveland / Detroit / Madison / Milwaukee / Green Bay / Buffalo.
4. We will have a QB…A good one!
5. The is the best public school in America –> You don’t survive Avon to go anywhere but the best.
6. We have the most wins…ever.
7. We have the biggest adidas contract in the nation! –> More gear.
8. This is a very special time @ a very special place…That’s how legacies are cemented. We are both going to be a part of that! I promise you we will win & grow together. 

Jay Harbaugh brought up valid points.

Tight ends have been used with great success at Michigan—for decades, really. And if Clark so chooses, he could probably wear the No. 8—it’s up for grabs now that quarterback Russell Bellomy plans to transfer. Keith Heitzman, a tight end, also elects to play elsewhere next fall. 

Job opening. 

Plus Jake Butt just had minor knee surgery.

So yeah, the Wolverines could use a guy like Clark right about now.

Without Clark in the mix, Butt would be the obvious No. 1 choice. The 6’6”, 250-pound junior-to-be has proven worthy of a starting position—he just needs to stay healthy, or as close to it as possible.

But either way, Clark would likely challenge for top reps regardless of Butt’s status—and having two prototypical Big Ten-bruisers is certainly better than having one.

At 6’6” and 260 pounds, A.J. Williams, a senior-to-be, serves as a great blocking tool. He’s not huge on the offensive end, but he’s effective enough to take a run at big reps in 2015.

Khalid Hill tore his ACL in October but should be ready to roll this fall. Despite having just four catches for 37 yards, the 6’2”, 252-pound sophomore-to-be could present a few options next season.

Ian Bunting redshirted as a freshman in 2014, so there’s nothing on which to base him. He entered college at 6’7” and 225 pounds. He’s from Illinois. He could stand to take a few more trips through the chow line.

That’s about it when it comes to Bunting, who raps and brings about a certain level of athleticism that could, maybe one day, prompt a move outside. That would likely be dependent upon weight gain and blocking ability.

Think Devin Funchess.

With the crystal-clear No. 1 in the midst of recovery, Clark would have yet another reason to pick the Wolverines over UCLA. The Bruins are a bit more established, having competed for Pac-12 South titles for three consecutive seasons under Jim Mora, but the Wolverines offer intrigue. 

At this point, their offense is under construction, but it's under good care. 

Jay Harbaugh should have included “My dad, Jim Harbaugh (that’s my dad), is the coach here!!!” just to emphasize the next point: Jim Harbaugh is, indeed, Michigan’s coach. If that doesn’t make a recruit interested, nothing will.

Of course, once Harbaugh—who directed the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII—signed with Michigan, Clark found it in his heart to give it another chance. He dumped the Wolverines after they lost to Ohio State. They were at “rock bottom,” he tweeted Nov. 22.

But that’s all water under the bridge. The Wolverines finished at 5-7, well below expectations, and Clark wasn’t the only one to think twice. However, it’s a new era, and Harbaugh has assembled a staff that rivals any collection in the country.

Tim Drevno left USC to become Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator. They have an 11-year track record together, as Drevno served as Harbaugh’s offensive line coach in San Francisco and tight end coach at Stanford.

Jedd Fisch, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars, joined the conglomerate, too.

He’s a passing game specialist.

There could be one slight hitch, though.

Jay Harbaugh has never been a tight end coach. He’s performed film and weight room duties with the Baltimore Ravens, and he was a graduate assistant at Oregon State. He once interned with the Niners, too.

But again, there’s the influence of one Jim Harbaugh that may be too much to deny. Per MLive’s Nick Baumgardner, Clark was “blown away” by a visit from Harbaugh two weeks ago.

"It's crazy, he's really intense, and you really like that," Clark said. "He grew on me a lot. I didn't know what to think at first, I wasn't sure what he'd be like. But once I left, he really, really grew on me.

"He's the best coach I think I've sat down with. I just think he's awesome."

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Recruiting info via 247Sports. Unless otherwise noted, quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. 

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Darrion Daniels to Oklahoma State: Cowboys Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Defensive tackle Darrion Daniels, one of the top 2015 prospects at his position, decided on Friday to take his talents to Oklahoma State for the next phase of his football career.

Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports noted the announcement, which was made on CBS Sports: 



The 4-star recruit is a product of Bishop Dunne High School in Dallas, possessing the size and quickness to thrive at the NCAA level. The 6'3.5", 290-pounder runs a 4.76 40-yard dash, and is the 20th-ranked player in the country at his position, per 247Sports.

Daniels took to Twitter to address the schools he turned down:

ESPN.com's Damon Sayles thinks highly of Daniels, believing the dynamic defender is deserving of his gaudy rating:

Such rare speed allows Daniels to string out running plays extremely well in addition to overpowering linemen and crashing the pocket from the inside. For someone so big and capable of overpowering his high school competition, Daniels is disciplined in creating leverage with his pad level, which only makes him harder to block.

Oklahoma State ought to be thrilled at the problems Daniels' versatility presents to future opponents.

What helps Daniels' bid to see the field early for the Cowboys is his tremendous energy and motor. If he can showcase sustained stamina make strides to improve his technique and lateral quickness, he can plug into the rotation in the trenches soon enough.

With an increased focus on football and the upside to develop diversity in his arsenal of moves against blockers, it will be fascinating to see how Daniels progresses in the coming years.



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4-Star DT Darrion Daniels Can Take the Big 12 by Storm in 2015

If you ever want to make Darrion Daniels smile, whisper two words to him.

"You can't."

No better two words will make Daniels grin with sarcasm. Consider the words as instant motivation. To Daniels, there's a special satisfaction when he proves his critics wrong.

So when Daniels shocked the recruiting world by verbally committing to Oklahoma State during an announcement on CBS Sports Network, consider that his way of silently addressing the critics. Daniels chose the Cowboys over offers from Oklahoma, Iowa and Texas Tech—the school his father, Tony Daniels, attended and excelled as a defensive end in the 1990s.

He's heard that he can't win at Oklahoma State. Challenge accepted.

"As I was making up my mind, people would say, 'Go to Oklahoma; they'd take you to the league' or, 'Go to Iowa; they'll take you to the league,'" Daniels said. "Or they'd say, 'Go to [Texas] Tech; your father went there.'

"No one's ever told me, 'Go to Oklahoma State.' I want to go to Oklahoma State and break that status quo."

His younger brother, 2017 lineman Damion Daniels, provided the news via social media. Big brother is on a senior retreat with his school:

Darrion Daniels became Oklahoma State's 18th overall commit. He also became the team's highest-rated commit, according to the 247Sports composite ratings. The 6'4", 290-pound lineman is listed nationally as the 20th-ranked defensive tackle.

Daniels, who said any of his four finalists would have been a great choice, was recruited to Oklahoma State by safeties coach Tim Duffie and defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements. Duffie and Tony Daniels were teammates at Texas Tech.

Which brings up the question: Why not follow dad's footsteps? Daniels said he talked with his father about the process, and in short, the decision was all his.

"He told me not to tell him; he wanted it to be a surprise," Daniels said. "He told me to keep it to myself. He wanted me to make the decision for myself."

Daniels established himself as a run-stopper at Bishop Dunne High School in Dallas. He loves to shoot the gap and disrupt run plays, and when healthy, he plays with a high motor. Daniels had to deal with minor injuries throughout the 2014 season and still muscled his way through his competition, keeping himself a player to watch as he helped his team win a state championship.

Daniels weighed all options with the help of the official visits. He first visited Oklahoma the weekend of Oct. 17, then visited Texas Tech the weekend of Oct. 31. Oklahoma State hosted Daniels the weekend of Nov. 14. Iowa had Daniels' fourth and final visit last weekend. He chose not to do a fifth visit.

"First off, all four school had so many similarities," Daniels said. "The one thing that was important to me that they all had was that I could get early playing time. The thing that kept getting to me was remembering how I always had to prove myself against the best. I always heard I wasn't good enough.

"I feel like I can really prove myself at Oklahoma State. When people say you're going to lose, I want to prove to them that I can win. I know it's going to be a fight when I get there. It's a fight I'm not afraid of losing, but I know I hate being second.

"I want to make Oklahoma State D-Line U. I want to be the guy to start the trend."

The confidence of Daniels is something that attracted the Oklahoma State coaching staff. Daniels finished his senior year with a state title, despite his team being an underdog to win it all in its classification for most of the 2014 season.

Additionally, Daniels is going to graduate at 17—he turned 17 last month—and he currently has a 3.15 grade-point average.

Daniels' mission upon arrival in Stillwater: Play to win, improve as a player and make Oklahoma State a household name nationally.

"As a player, I work hard, and I believe that me working hard motivates my team to work hard," Daniels said. "I believe I have a light, but it doesn't shine on me. I want to shine on my teammates. I give 110 percent in everything I do."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon on Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Iowa's Tevaun Smith Breaks Odell Beckham Jr.'s 1-Handed Catch Record

Apparently New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. isn't the only one who can make one-handed catches with ease.

Iowa Hawkeyes wideout Tevaun Smith attempted to break Beckham Jr.'s record of one-handed catches in a minute. Beckham had set the world record with 33 one-handed snags on Thursday.

Unfortunately for Beckham Jr., that record didn't last long.

Smith broke the world record by catching 41 passes with only one hand. You can see all 41 in the video above.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Oregon Football: Is Vernon Adams or Braxton Miller Better Transfer Candidate?

It’s one of the most talked about questions in college football: Who will replace Marcus Mariota as Oregon’s starting quarterback?

The answer to that question likely lies outside of Oregon’s current roster.

While the Ducks currently have five quarterbacks on their roster, the starting QB for Oregon on Sept. 5 isn’t yet enrolled at the university. 

The most likely candidate, at this point, to be Oregon’s QB next season is Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams Jr. The other main transfer candidate is Ohio State’s Braxton Miller.

Adams, a three-year starter at Eastern Washington, is visiting Eugene this weekend, according to The Oregonian’s Jen Beyrle, and has a scholarship offer from Oregon, according to Jim Allen of the Spokesman-Review.

Meanwhile, Ohio State’s Miller has indicated he will remain at Ohio State, though it’s certainly possible he could change his mind given the fact that he’ll be competing with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones for the Buckeyes’ QB job.

It’s looking more and more like Adams will be the guy for the Ducks. But is Adams a better fit for the Ducks than Miller, and should the Ducks wait on Miller before committing to Adams? 

First, let’s start with Miller. A couple of weeks back Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee explained that Miller could be the perfect fit in Eugene:

As a graduate, he can transfer now if he can find a home, and simply getting mental reps during spring practice would help not only him but also the younger players who get actual first-team reps.

Mariota stepped in as a redshirt freshman in place of Darron Thomas, and the offense didn't miss a beat. Thomas stepped in as a sophomore for Jeremiah Masoli and led the Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season. 

It's a great system that's designed for simplicity, speed and efficiency—all of which would benefit Miller as he recovers from his shoulder injury.

While Miller’s shoulder injury is certainly a concern, his familiarity with the spread elements used at Ohio State would benefit him if he chose to transfer to Oregon.

Moreover, Miller is the most experience QB Oregon could bring into the program and has faced elite competition at Ohio State, something Adams lacks.

From 2011-2013, Miller played in 36 games as the Buckeyes quarterback. In those games, Miller completed 59.3 percent of his passes, threw 52 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and had a QB rating of 146.7, a rating which improved every season.

While Miller is certainly a solid passer, his best attribute is his running ability. Over his three seasons as QB, Miller ran for 3,054 yards and scored 32 touchdowns.

What can’t be overlooked here is how successful Miller was in terms of leading his team to victory. Over his past two seasons as QB for the Buckeyes—with Urban Meyer as his head coach—Miller led Ohio State to a 24-2 record and had a perfect regular-season record within the Big Ten.

There’s no doubt that Miller is a great player and, if healthy, would give the Ducks a fantastic chance of sustaining their recent string of success.

That being said, the other man in the race may be just as capable, even if he’s not a known commodity.

Vernon Adams Jr. first made national headlines in the first game of the 2013 when his FCS Eastern Washington team stunned Oregon State 49-46 in Corvallis.

In that game, Adams torched the Beavers for 411 yards passing, 107 yards rushing and six touchdowns—four passing, two rushing.

Despite the fact that Adams is only 6’0” and 200 pounds, the junior quarterback is a handful. Last season Adams was the MVP of the Big Sky Conference and Walter Payton Award runner-up—an award given to the top player in the FCS—despite the fact that he missed four games with a broken foot.

Adams is 28-6 as a starter for Eastern Washington and has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions in those 34 games. While Adams is an elusive rusher—he’s rushed for 1,232 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career—he’s not as dynamic as someone like Miller or Mariota.

While Adams’ performance against Oregon State was incredibly impressive, the game Oregon fans will want to look at took place against the Washington Huskies early in 2014.

Against a Washington defense that featured some of the best defenders in college football—Danny Shelton, Shaq Thompson, Andrew Hudson and Hau’oli Kikaha to name a few—Adams was 31 of 46 for 475 yards and seven touchdown passes.

Yes, you read that correctly……seven!

For the sake of comparison, Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, went 24 of 33 for 336 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskies in a 45-20 victory.

Yes, Oregon beat Washington and Eastern Washington didn’t. That being said, Adams outperformed Mariota against a common opponent. More impressively, he did it on the road.

We know that Adams isn’t going to be a better college QB than Mariota. That’s nearly impossible. But given his performances against Pac-12 defenses, and Oregon rivals, it seems like the Adams-Oregon connection is a match made in heaven.

Bleacher Report’s Ben Kercheval believes Adams could succeed wildly in Eugene:

As a small-stature quarterback, Adams had to prove he can play at a high level despite his size. He's done just that; Adams is one of the few big names outside of the FBS level—or outside the Power Five conferences, for that matter. 

Adams can play. Oregon is, at the very least, interested in what Adams can bring. This could be a beautiful marriage, even if it's the most unlikely kind. 

While it could be a beautiful marriage, there are some slight concerns about bringing in Adams, most notably his arrival date.

Adams is set to graduate from Eastern Washington in June, meaning he wouldn’t be able to join Oregon until the summer. Oregon’s offensive system has similarities to the one Adams has run at Eastern Washington, but it’s definitely not identical. It’s going to take some time for Adams to catch up.

That being said, Adams would be walking into an offense with the best group of skill position players in the entire country. Moreover, Oregon’s offense is incredibly friendly to quarterbacks.

Both Adams and Miller would be an upgrade over Oregon’s current quarterbacks. No offense to Jeff Lockie, Morgan Mahalak, Travis Waller, Ty Griffin and Taylor Alie, but Adams and Miller have proved themselves to be dynamic quarterbacks over the past couple of seasons.

If Oregon wants to get back into a position to make a run at a College Football Playoff spot in 2015, the Ducks are going to need to bring in a quarterback from the outside.

Head coach Mark Helfrich told Stephen Alexander of the Portland Tribune earlier this month he would consider a transfer quarterback if it was the “right guy, right fit.” 

Helfrich doesn’t need to look much further. The right guy will be in his office this weekend.

Braxton Miller is the bigger name, but Vernon Adams Jr. is the better fit.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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Oregon Football: Is Vernon Adams or Braxton Miller Better Transfer Candidate?

It’s one of the most talked about questions in college football: Who will replace Marcus Mariota as Oregon’s starting quarterback? The answer to that question likely lies outside of Oregon’s current roster...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ohio State Football: Managing the Offseason Key to Defending Its Title in 2015

With its first College Football Playoff Championship in hand, the Ohio State Buckeyes have suddenly gone from hunter to prey. Few took the Buckeyes seriously before the playoff. Now every team will be gunning for them.

Head coach Urban Meyer has built a culture of excellence partly rooted in adapting to change and overcoming adversity. These qualities were on full display this year.

Losing Braxton Miller before the season, Noah Spence declared permanently ineligible and J.T Barrett’s injury were torpedoes that could have brought down the ship. Instead, the team banded together and went on a magical run to capture the championship.

Next up is defending its title. Repeating is always difficult, but the Buckeyes are assembled to make a sustaining run over the next few years. Can the team maintain the intensity needed to do it?

If there is an issue, Meyer only has to point to his arch nemesis to fuel his players’ motivation. Alabama was the last team to repeat, winning back-to-back BCS Championships in 2011 and 2012. The initial chase might be accomplished, but repeating as champions will put Ohio State in rare company.

Meyer’s challenges in maintaining improvement with the team are significant despite the abundance of riches within the program. With core players returning and the coaching staff remaining the same outside of new co-offensive coordinator Tim Beck, the Buckeyes' continuity looks promising. To make it back to the playoff, here are four areas Ohio State must manage during the offseason.

 

Building Depth

Quality depth at quarterback saved the 2014 season. The team was fortunate to stay healthy in most other positions too, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. This is a testament to Assistant Athletic Director Mickey Marotti’s strength and conditioning program, but luck on injuries generally runs out.

Navigating through another 15-game season and facing a considerably stiffer Big Ten schedule requires building a two-deep roster where the drop-off is minimal between starters and backup players.

The good news is Meyer has another top-10 recruiting class coming in this summer. So the potential is there to have at least three elite-level players competing at every position. That’s an incredible advantage which should frighten the rest of the Big Ten.

 

Finding a Deep-Threat Receiver

Devin Smith’s graduation leaves a huge void in the vertical-passing game. His impact on Meyer’s offense cannot be overstated. Defenses had to account for Smith going deep that opened up highways for Ezekiel Elliott, Jalin Marshall, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. The luxury of balance makes this offense lethal, and this is why Meyer’s top priority in the spring will be improving the receiving corps.

Replacing Smith won’t be easy. Having his speed is one thing. Having his unique ability to control his body in space and making split-second adjustments to catch passes is exceptional. There are plenty of receivers on the roster, most of them young and unproven. Someone needs to step up.

If healthy, expect freshmen Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell to be leading candidates. Dixon, a 5’11”, 200-pound receiver out of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has the tools, but his knees have not cooperated. He took a medical redshirt in September.

Campbell (6’0”, 180 lbs) was a football and track star at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. He redshirted this year while gaining experience playing on the scout team. His season ended in December with surgery on his shoulder. Campbell runs the 40 in 4.41 seconds, so he’s has Smith’s speed. Only question is whether or not he can use it to get open like Smith.

One off-the-wall idea might be to push Marshall out to receiver and slide Miller into the halfback role. This leaves Dontre Wilson out in the cold on offense, but he could become a full-time return man, which seems to be his natural role anyway. Having Miller, Marshall, Elliott and Jones on the field at the same time will cause nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.

Whatever decision Meyer makes, he has plenty of options. It will be exciting to see how he utilizes all the talent.

 

Discipline

Offseason investments pay off in the regular season. Players maintaining their hunger over the next eight months will be vital to their success in the fall. Complacency is the enemy. Getting to the top required an exhaustive amount of time and effort. Staying on top will take even more devotion.

All signs point in the right direction as Meyer’s determination and tireless work ethic are embedded in foundation of this team. When asked about 2015 after the Oregon game, Elliott said:

We've just got to stay a hungry team. We're losing some great seniors, but we have a lot of great young players that will step up, and this year was just a great year to learn a lot of things, and I think we'll be the same team next year, as long as we stay humble, we grind hard in the offseason, don't let our heads get too big, I think we'll be here next year.

Equally important is discipline off the field. The players must maintain their grades, stay out of trouble with the law and comply with NCAA rules. No coach is void of dealing with these issues, but a quiet offseason with no unnecessary distractions will go a long way in helping the team prepare for the upcoming season.

 

Ignoring the Hype

Playing at Ohio State already brings a tremendous amount of exposure to the players. The spotlight will be intense in the spring and summer. The players may want to turn off the TV and ignore social media because the attention, good and bad, will be plastered to the point of nausea.

There is little doubt that the line between buying into the hype and playing with confidence is thin. The team has to avoid entitlement while maintaining its swagger. Meyer is a master at pushing his team, and he has a lot of tricks in his bag to keep the team focused.

If there is concern, he should show them Florida’s 31-30 loss to Mississippi in 2008 in the Swamp. No team touched the Gators after the loss, but it showed even the best team is vulnerable if it does not play well every week.

At the very least, Meyer should remind his players that the team up north should be vastly improved under new coach Jim Harbaugh, and Michigan State is seeking revenge. That should keep them focused. 

 

Analysis

Beyond some of the clear priorities of getting bigger, stronger, faster and smarter this offseason, it will be interesting to see how Meyer 2.0 manages himself. Can he avoid the personal mistakes he made after the 2008 season by maintaining a healthy work/life balance?

For a man known for his tremendous attention to detail, there’s hope that he’ll remember the details in the agreement he made with his family before accepting the job at Ohio State. Otherwise burnout could derail the team’s progression.

Over the next eight months, the team is going to be under the microscope. The most obvious issue will be how Meyer works through the quarterback dilemma. He might buy some time with Barrett and Miller still rehabbing injuries, but the time will come when two players will have to deal with some level of disappointment.

Of course, the media will explode during this period, but more important is how the team responds. Will loyalties divide the locker room, or will the team maintain its cohesion? My bet is it bonds this team even tighter than it already is. The players trust Meyer and his staff to make the right decisions for the team. This is just part of the deal when you play at a school where there is elite-level talent at every position.

Despite the buzz circling the quarterbacks, the team has 219 days to devote to getting healthier and better. Building depth, finding some receivers and avoiding any off-the-field issues are priorities. Meyer just pulled off a minor miracle in willing this team to a championship. If the offseason goes as planned, the Buckeyes will repeat.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Notre Dame's 5 Signing-Day Priorities

With just days to go before national signing day, Brian Kelly and his coaching staff are making their final moves before returning to South Bend, Indiana, and waiting for the fax machine to ring. 

Years of work identifying and building relationships with recruits will come down to Wednesday, when Kelly will announce a 2015 recruiting class that—almost by accident—grew to become one of the best groups in the country. 

Right now, Notre Dame has 22 verbal commitments, with four early enrollees already on campus. If all goes according to the plan on Wednesday, it should end the day with a full 25. 

But before we get there, let's look at the five signing-day priorities for Notre Dame as it moves into the 2015 season. 

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New 4-Star CB Commits Holton Hill, Kris Boyd Immediately Boost Texas' Secondary

When it comes to Charlie Strong, the old adage remains true: Defense wins championships.

The defensive side of the ball was a consistent issue with the Texas Longhorns during the 2014 season, but Strong, preparing for his second season as head coach, is making defense a priority in the 2015 class. He already has 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson on campus as an early enrollee, and Friday afternoon, Strong received two 4-star cornerback commitments from Holton Hill and Kris Boyd.

The two made their commitments public on a local Time Warner Cable show in Austin.

The in-state prospects, commits Nos. 25 and 26, give the Longhorns an impressive secondary class. Hill, No. 80 in the 247Sports Composite ratings, and Boyd, No. 98, join 4-star cornerback Davante Davis, 4-star safety DeShon Elliott and 3-star safety Jamile Johnson Jr.

Both athletes had long lists of schools to choose from. Boyd chose the Longhorns over offers from Texas A&M, Baylor, Florida State and Alabama. Hill chose the Longhorns over offers from Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU, Florida State and Baylor.

Hill and Boyd are similar in that they are cover cornerbacks. Both are physical off the ball and make it difficult for receivers to get off the line. Boyd, at 6'0" and 185 pounds, plays with a mean streak at times, and Hill, at 6'2" and 184 pounds, has the size and versatility to play either cornerback or safety.

Texas' 2014 depth chart, courtesy of OurLads, included two seniors in the secondary in Quandre Diggs and Mykkele Thompson. Hill and Boyd are talented enough—as are Davis, Elliott and Johnson—to see playing time early in their college careers.

Both Hill and Boyd showed their talents at The Opening, an invite-only camp for the nation's top recruits, last summer in Oregon.

Strong has high expectations for his defense in 2015. This past season, the Longhorns allowed an average of 23.8 points (2.4 points more than their offense) and 348.5 yards per game (11.2 yards more than their offense). Part of the lack of success involved fourth-quarter play. Texas allowed nearly 40 percent of its cumulative points in the final quarter.

Hill and Boyd are sure to not only add depth to the secondary but also help the defense keep those numbers low with solid play. Both are talented enough to compete for a starting spot next season.

Texas currently has a solid balance with its class—13 defensive commits and 13 offensive commits. Of the Longhorns' defensive pledges, seven are classified as at least 4-star prospects.

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst with Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' Composite ratings. Follow Damon on Twitter: @Damon Sayles

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Bryce Love to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star RB Prospect

Running back Bryce Love is one of the fastest recruits in the country, and he will bring his blazing speed to Stanford after committing today, per Rivals.com's Adam Friedman.

Love is a four-star prospect from Wake Forest, North Carolina, and 247Sports rates him as the No. 233 overall recruit and sixth-best all-purpose back in the nation.

While Love can do a little bit of everything, there is no question that his jets represent his greatest asset. He runs the 40-yard dash as fast as almost anyone and compares favorably to current Cincinnati Bengals star Giovani Bernard to boot, according to Ross Martin of 247Sports:

Love is certainly an eye-catching prospect, which is why so many teams were hoping to land him.

Per Chad Simmons of Scout.com, he already had in excess of 20 offers in the early stages of 2014:

The interest only grew from that point forward with Tennessee, Stanford, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, East Carolina and NC State emerging as the top options, according to 247Sports.

Despite having such a varied list of suitors, Love was still very much undecided in early January, per Tim Stevens of the News & Observer.

"All of them are about even right now," Love said.

Love was eventually able to sift through the offers and settle on a final choice. He certainly can't be faulted for taking as long as he did since the running back position is often difficult to gauge at the collegiate level in terms of playing time.

Many schools carry large stables of rushers, and it can be tough to break into the rotation.

Love has an advantage, though, since he possesses speed that few others can match. He is a true change-of-pace guy who will undoubtedly be a weapon.

With that said, it is fair to question if he can be a bell-cow back in college. He is very slight for his position at just 5'10" and 180 pounds, according to 247Sports.

He figures to take a beating, and it is unknown if he has the mass needed to remain durable.

Love may very well view that as a challenge, though, and his high school track record suggests that he is up to it.

No matter how Love is ultimately utilized, he is a rare talent who will keep opposing defenses on their heels.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Ohio State Commit Eric Glover-Williams is Urban Meyer's Next Star

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In today's day and age of 24/7 recruiting and scholarship offers going out before a player's freshman year, it's not unique for a prospect to arrive on campus with his own nickname already.

What is rare, however, is for that player to have earned it.

But that's exactly what Eric Glover-Williams will do in four months when he finally makes his way to Ohio State after nearly a two-year commitment to the Buckeyes. The Canton (Ohio) McKinley product first made headlines at Ohio State's annual Friday Night Lights camp in the summer of 2013, donning a Superman t-shirt that would give him his moniker among the OSU fanbase.

It wasn't just Glover-Williams' apparel that created his alias though, as his play on that night inside of Ohio Stadium backed up the hype. The 5'11", 165-pound athlete stole the show at the Buckeyes' yearly recruiting showcase, routinely matching up with—and getting the better of—2014 Ohio State commit Damon Webb.

Glover-Williams had already been on the Buckeyes' radar, with Urban Meyer offering the Hall of Fame City native a scholarship following the conclusion of his sophomore season. But from that point forward, landing "Superman" became a priority for the Ohio State coaching staff, even though he wouldn't be able to sign his national letter of intent for nearly another two years.

That didn't deter Meyer from putting a full-court press on Glover-Williams (also known as "EGW), selling him on becoming the face of the Buckeyes' program. On Aug. 25, 2013, the consensus 4-star prospect took Meyer up on his offer, becoming OSU's first commitment of its 2015 class.

There's been some bumps along the way for Glover-Williams leading up to his long-awaited signing day, most notably a fight that led to a school suspension and left his scholarship offer from OSU in doubt. As he prepares to sign his national letter of intent on Wednesday, questions about EGW remain—most of which pertain to his presence on the football field.

But it's not a matter of if Glover-Williams will make an instant impact in his college career, as opposed to where?

During his career at storied Canton McKinley, Glover-Williams was a jack of all trades, playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back for the Bulldogs. There doesn't seem to be a consensus on what position Glover-Williams will start his college career at, with 247Sports.com listing him as a cornerback, Rivals.com calling him an athlete and Scout.com projecting him to play running back.

Given the plethora of playmakers Ohio State already possesses for the upcoming season, defensive back may seem to make the most sense for Glover-Williams—at least for now.

"He will go to OSU as a corner," ElevenWarriors.com Director of Recruiting Jeremy Birmingham told Bleacher Report. "Long term, I think he moves to offense. He's too good with the ball in his hands."

Glover-Williams proved that throughout his senior season, primarily playing running back and totaling 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. He also added another two scores on a 100-yard interception return and punt return—a feat he'd duplicate in the Under Armour All-American Game.

As evidenced above, Glover-Williams possesses the "quick twitch" that Meyer so desperately covets in his athletes. Given his versatility, it's not hard to imagine Glover-Williams fitting right in at the Buckeyes' H-Back position, the same role Percy Harvin starred in at Florida and Jalin Marshall is thriving in now.

And while Glover-Williams still has some bulking up to do before potentially taking a pounding in the Big Ten, his scat-back like ability could still add a new dynamic to the Ohio State offense. Meyer has long been a fan of using both power and speed at his skill positions, and Glover-Williams certainly possesses plenty of the latter.

"He's small, but strong. He rarely gets his squarely because he's so elusive and has great vision," Birmingham said. "If I had to pick one player he reminds me of with the ball in his hands, it would be [former Kansas City Chief kick-returner] Dante Hall."

Whether the Buckeyes coaching staff agrees remains to be seen, but it won't be too long until Ohio State has its new Superman on the field. And regardless of what position he ends up at, it's already easy to see where his powers will ultimately take him.

"He could stay at corner and be an amazing kick or punt returner," Birmingham admitted. "At some point, he'll make an impact in a position to score points."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Breaking Down Early 2015 Heisman Trophy Odds

Friday marked the first major tentpole of the college football offseason: the release of next year's Heisman Trophy odds.

Updates to these odds will arrive in spring and summer, but for now we have the first official look at how the top players in the country are valued, per online betting outpost Bovada.

David Hale of ESPN.com tweeted the full list, which can also be seen below, along with four major takeaways.

Note: Bovada erroneously listed Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson at 22-to-1. Robinson declared early for the NFL draft and has thus been excluded from our list.

 

Handicapping Ohio State

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, the MVP of the College Football Playoff, was deemed the early favorite at 6-to-1. He rushed for 696 yards and eight touchdowns in the final three games of the season behind a line that returns all five starters.

But Elliott is not a heavy favorite. Last year's January Heisman odds had five players at 6-to-1 or better: Jameis Winston (2/1), Marcus Mariota (3/1), Braxton Miller (11/2), T.J. Yeldon (5/1) and Bryce Petty (6/1). Elliott would have placed outside the top four.

Also of note from Columbus: Cardale Jones (14/1) and J.T. Barrett (16/1) both appear high on the list, although Jones has the slight edge. They and the aforementioned Miller, who is 18-to-1 after missing last season with a shoulder injury, will compete for the job this offseason.

Does this mean sportsbooks value Jones as the favorite to start? Not exactly. Odds are made to draw even, high-money action on as many sides as possible. Doing that requires pandering to public perspective. Jones is not necessarily who sportsbooks think will start; he's who sportsbooks think most people think will start.

Barrett beat Jones out of fall camp last season and won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He fractured his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan, opening the door for Jones to play hero against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

They and Miller, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 and 2012, are all worthy options, although Jones is the only one healthy enough to participate in spring practice.

Expect these odds to shift based on how he looks in camp.

 

Year of the Running Back? 

Thirteen of the past 15, eight of the past nine and each of the past five Heisman winners have been quarterbacks. Statistically, they have a far greater chance of winning the award than running backs.

And yet, six of the top 10 listed players are running backs: Elliott, Leonard Fournette (LSU), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Paul Perkins (UCLA), Derrick Henry (Alabama) and Samaje Perine (Oklahoma).

Three more running backs—Corey Clement (Wisconsin), D.J. Foster (Arizona State) and Royce Freeman (Oregon)—cracked the top 16, while Dalvin Cook (Florida State), James Conner (Pittsburgh), Nick Wilson (Arizona) and Jalen Hurd (Tennessee) appeared further down the list.

In short, 2015 looks like the year of the running back...which is scary since, by all indications, 2016 will be better.

Of the 13 listed running backs, only Foster is a rising senior. Five are rising juniors and seven (!!!) are rising sophomores.

 

Where's the Value?

Scoop up Baylor quarterback Seth Russell at 33-to-1 while you can; it won't be long before his odds shrink to 20-to-1 or lower.

There are two reasons Russell fell as low as he did: (1) because he hasn't proved himself as a full-time starter, and (2) because blue-chip incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham is after his job.

To that first point: Yeah...but so what? Nick Florence backed up Robert Griffin III before leading the country in passing yards in 2012, and Bryce Petty backed up Florence before finishing No. 2 in the country in passer rating in 2013. Baylor backups learn the system for multiple seasons, and then they come in and post huge numbers.

To that second point: Refer to the previous sentence. Art Briles wants to start a seasoned backup, not a true freshman. No matter how much talent Stidham, the No. 38 overall player on the 247Sports composite rankings, possesses, starting a teenager under center is not Briles' M.O. Russell would have to implode for that to happen.

On 85 throws last season, Russell averaged 9.5 yards per attempt with eight touchdowns and one interception. The competition wasn't great, but this offense is basically quarterback-proof.

Russell has an All-American left tackle (Spencer Drango), a pair of All-Big 12-caliber receivers (KD Cannon and Corey Coleman) and plays for a team that returns 17 starters and ranked No. 3 on the offseason rankings at Bleacher Report, ESPN and Fox Sports.

Team Success plus Huge Numbers is a winning Heisman formula.

Russell is in a good spot for both.

 

Unlisted...For Now

Three notable omissions who are sure to gain hype this offseason:

  • QB Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
  • QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
  • QB Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

Johnson in particular strikes a chord. Like Russell, he has backed up a Heisman candidate the past two seasons but has always shown well when he's played. Unlike Russell, that sample of playing time includes a start against a conference opponent.

Johnson played the first half of the 2014 opener against Arkansas when Nick Marshall was suspended for a marijuana citation. He led the Tigers to touchdowns on their first three possessions, each drive going for 75 yards or more (and the third going for 98). He finished 12-of-16 passing with 243 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

"We feel like he could start for most teams in college football," head coach Gus Malzahn told reporters after the game. "I think everybody saw that tonight."

Hackenberg and Dobbs are prodigious talents who ended last season with big bowl performances. Hackenberg had 371 passing yards and four touchdowns in a win over Boston College, and Dobbs posted an adjusted QBR of 92.5 (out of 100) in a win over Iowa, per ESPN.com.

Any or all of them could crack the odds board this summer.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35

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The 7 SEC Defensive Players Who Will Explode in 2015

Defense doesn't win championships anymore. "Just enough" defense does. Finding the next superstar on defense is the first step for teams to find enough to get into the College Football Playoff mix.

Defensive stars like former Missouri defensive end Shane Ray, Alabama safety Landon Collins, Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson and Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers have moved on, but there's a new crop of defenders just waiting to make a mark in the SEC.

Who will step up and become the breakout star defenders in the SEC in 2015? Our top seven based on talent and opportunity are in this slideshow. 

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