NCAA Football

Memphis Reportedly Looks to Join Big 12 as Part of Potential Expansion

The Memphis Tigers football program has been on the rise the past couple of seasons, and it reportedly wants to continue that ascension all the way to the Big 12.   

According to Phil Stukenborg of the Commercial Appeal, “Memphis is among several schools seeking a move to the more lucrative Power Five conference, and the Big 12 may be considering two additional programs to get to 12.”

Memphis is currently in the American Athletic Conference.

This comes after the Big 12 hired Navigate Research to study the conference’s position in the national landscape. Stukenborg noted Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced the firm’s findings, which said “adding two teams would increase the league’s chances of being in the four-team College Football Playoff by ‘4-5 percent.’”

The Tigers would apparently love to be one of those two teams because university president M. David Rudd sent a promotional publication to University of Texas president Dr. Gregory Fenves back in December that highlighted the city of Memphis’ Fortune 500 companies, other attributes of the school and the recent run from the football team that went 19-7 the last two years, per Stukenborg.

The purpose of the promotion—titled “Memphis Soul of a City”—was to raise the idea of Memphis as a Big 12 expansion candidate.

Rudd even tweeted a link showcasing the school and its athletic achievements:

Stukenborg pointed out Memphis isn’t the only program from the American Athletic Conference that is looking to join the Big 12. He listed Cincinnati, Central Florida, Connecticut and Houston as other potential candidates, as well as football independent BYU.

To the Tigers’ credit, they have quickly developed into a winning football team after a few lackluster seasons:

Head coach Justin Fuente was with the program since 2012 and was the architect behind the turnaround, but Virginia Tech hired him to replace the retired Frank Beamer. It will be up to former Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell to maintain that momentum after the Tigers hired him as Fuente’s replacement.

Memphis will also need to replace quarterback Paxton Lynch, who was selected by the Denver Broncos at No. 26 in the first round of Thursday’s NFL draft. Lynch threw for 3,776 yards and 28 touchdowns last season for the 9-4 Tigers and helped them knock off the SEC’s Ole Miss and start a perfect 8-0.

As for the Big 12, it has made the College Football Playoff one time in the system's two years of existence. Oklahoma lost to Clemson in the national semifinals last season, but there was a feeling the selection committee left the conference on the outside looking in during the 2014 campaign.

Ohio State leapfrogged both Baylor and TCU that season when the final standings were released after the Buckeyes destroyed Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The Big 12 did not have a corresponding championship game, which gave Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s team one final opportunity to showcase its talent on a national stage.

Ohio State went on to win the national championship that year, but Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder indicated that expansion from the Big 12 may be an overreaction to a unique situation involving one of the country's top programs from 2014:

While that may be the case, the possibility of joining a Power Five conference like the Big 12 would be a major opportunity for Memphis and the next step for a program on the rise.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 All-Spring Game College Football Team

Spring game statistics are, for the most part, completely uninteresting. With the way teams divide their starters and how they limit snaps in these scrimmages, not much can be gleaned from them.

Every huge performance should be looked at in its proper context, and every quiet day from a star player should be forgiven. Spring games are about entertaining fans and trying out different units and situations without giving too much away.

Still, there's no denying that a number of players across the country upped their individual stock during their respective spring games with standout performances. While those outings won't necessarily be a reflection of what's to come this fall, they can provide much-needed momentum for position battles and development.

Based on the box scores and production on the field, we've compiled a position-by-position look at the single best performances from the scrimmages to fill out an All-Spring Game Team for the 2016 offseason. Which of these top spring game performers do you see having the most success in the regular season? Shout them out in the comments below.

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4-Star DE Luiji Vilain Reveals Top Schools, Plans for Summer Commitment

Prized defensive prospect Luiji Vilain already carried a quality collection of collegiate scholarship offers before he transferred to an American high school, but he admits that the recruitment process has exploded since his arrival.

"I've had a chance to prove myself and become a lot better," the Canadian native told Bleacher Report on Sunday while attending The Opening's New Jersey regional. 

Rated No. 8 nationally among weak-side defensive ends and No. 92 overall in 247Sports composite rankings, Vilain holds nearly 30 scholarship offers. When he left Ontario last year, his options were limited to Penn State, Syracuse, Minnesota, Rutgers and South Florida.

While Vilain hasn't entirely ruled out other programs, he's currently focused on a condensed group of schools. He identified North Carolina, USC, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee as schools sitting a stride ahead of other suitors at this stage.

"All those schools have great academics and excellent coaching staffs that stand out to me," Vilain said.

The 6'4", 240-pound junior at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, joined a vast collection of competitors at the New York Jets' facilities Sunday. He believed the camp featured few contemporaries in terms of skill set, and that sentiment extends across the country.

"I think I have the best get-off out of everybody at my position," Vilain said. "I'm a technician, and that helps me a lot with pass-rushing. I can do great things against the run and cover the option, which is really important."

Now sorting through dozens of opportunities in different corners of a foreign nation, he's ready to simplify the process. Vilain plans to use upcoming campus visits and continued dialogue with coaching staffs as a method to trim his list to four or five universities by the end of May.

A final decision won't be much further down the road. He anticipates announcing a commitment before his senior season and possibly as early as June. 

Vilain is in the process of lining up trips, which he expects to occur later this month and potentially extending into the early stages of summer. Georgia, Virginia Tech and Michigan are main priorities when it comes to establishing his travel itinerary.

Vilain has been particularly impressed by the efforts of a new Georgia regime. He's consistently heard from Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart and outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer.

Prior to taking over in Athens, Smart built a highly regarded reputation as defensive coordinator at Alabama. The role he played during multiple national championship runs resonates strongly with Vilain. 

"It carries a lot of weight," he said. "I could have a chance to come in and play early for one of college football's greatest defensive coaches. He told me they don't have a lot of outside linebackers who were signed in the last class, and they had a few who were drafted."

Leonard Floyd was selected at No. 9 overall by the Chicago Bears, while Jordan Jenkins landed with the New York Jets as a third-round pick.

Opinions vary from collegiate coaching staffs when it comes to projecting Vilain's ideal landing spot within a defensive unit. Those implementing a 3-4 front typically slot him into an outside linebacker role that would allow him to attack off the edge, while many programs predominately utilizing a 4-3 scheme would prefer he put his hand in the dirt as an end.

Michigan and USC are a pair of programs that envision him at defensive end.

He relished the chance to spend time with the Trojans up close and personal earlier this year. Vilain traveled to California during spring break for a seven-on-seven event and took advantage of the trip by taking a look at USC.

"It was really cool. I really like the vibe of the coaches there, and I got a great feeling from it," he said.

While he has yet to visit Ann Arbor, Vilain maintains contact with Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive line coach Greg Mattison. He hopes to further build their rapport when he pays a visit to Michigan sometime soon.

This impending stretch of campus tours may ultimately be the final time he sees several of these schools until he potentially returns on the visitors' sidelines. Vilain expressed intentions to use just one official visit this fall—to whichever school he selects before the season.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Fighting Irish's Top 2017 NFL Draft Prospects

The 2017 NFL draft will feature a few respectable Notre Dame prospects, but the Fighting Irish would need a few early declarations to match their 2016 success.

Ronnie Stanley and Jaylon Smith highlighted the elite talents from South Bend, while Will Fuller, Nick Martin and C.J. Prosise were among the first selected at their respective positions. Only Martin wasn't an underclassman, however.

That exodus left Notre Dame's roster with only a couple of NFL-caliber seniors. Unless the best draft-eligible prospects—redshirt sophomores or juniors—depart early, 2017 will be a quiet cycle for the Irish.

But if those youngsters—three of which are included on this list—forgo a final year or two of eligibility, Notre Dame will celebrate another respectable showing on Days 1 and 2.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Lanier High School in Buford, Georgia, is no stranger to seeing college football coaches from around the country showing on its campus.

After all, the Longhorns program was represented in the 2016 class by 5-star defensive tackle and eventual Auburn signee Derrick Brown.

This year, another pair of stud defenders are racking up offers at a rapid rate in 4-star linebacker Tyler Taylor and 3-star defensive end Michael Allen

Last week, SEC West power Ole Miss tendered both Taylor and Allen.

Taylor—who also netted an offer from fellow SEC juggernaut LSU last week—is a 6’1”, 213-pounder who rates as the nation’s No. 10 inside linebacker and the No. 307 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

Since February, Taylor has added more than 20 offers to his credit—with schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee among the programs involved with him in the early stages of his recruitment.

Meanwhile, Allen is a 6’6”, 241-pounder who rates as the nation’s No. 22 weak-side defensive end and the No. 340 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

Similar to Taylor, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are all in the mix with him heading into the summer.

However, the Rebels have had some success in pulling studs out of the metro Atlanta area in recent years.

Head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff will try to replicate that feat with both Taylor and Allen moving forward.

 


USC After In-State CB

One of the primary factors that have helped USC regain its footing as a Pac-12 titan has been its ability to reel in top homegrown recruits from the Golden State.

Last week, Trojans head coach Clay Helton and his staff extended an offer to prized 4-star corner and Los Angeles native Deommodore Lenoir, according to Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

The 6’1”, 180-pound Lenoir rates as the nation’s No. 8 corner and the No. 80 player overall in the 2017 cycle. He has programs such as Michigan, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA among the schools showing heavy interest in him. 

However, with the Trojans now in the mix, his recruitment may shift gears with a push from Helton and his staff to keep him close to home for his college career.

 

Texas DB Nets Trio of Offers

One rising 2017 prospect whose recruitment has picked up significant steam in the spring is 4-star safety Grant Delpit

Last week, the 6’1”, 200-pounder out of Lamar High School in Houston added to his swelling offer list when Arizona, Clemson and Florida State all tendered him. 

Delpit is another player who has added more than 20 offers since the beginning of February.

Delpit has programs such as Alabama, Baylor, Florida, LSU and Notre Dame pursuing him aggressively at this stage of his recruitment.

Among his three newest offers, the competition to pluck Delpit out of the state of Texas is sure to keep intensifying in the coming months.

 

Notre Dame Offers Top 2018 OL

Notre Dame staged a coup in its 2016 class by landing a prized pair of offensive linemen out of the state of Ohio. 

Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly and his staff are hoping to do it again in the 2018 class with offensive lineman Jackson Carman—who landed an offer from the Irish last week.

The 6’6”, 305-pounder has already landed 15 offers to date—with programs such as Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State among his early group of suitors.

As detailed by Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports, Carman is still in the learning phase of finding out about the Irish program. Still, the Irish figure to become one of the more serious threats to lure him away from the state of Ohio moving forward.

 

Best of the Rest

2017

 

2018

 

2019

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Looking Back at the College Recruitment of Every QB Selected in 2016 NFL Draft

A new crop of quarterbacks will increase competition on depth charts across the NFL in 2016. Former college standouts, ranging from No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff to late-round selections, are suddenly just months away from embarking on professional rookie seasons.

This group features 15 passers, including a few who spent high school football careers in relative obscurity when it came to recruiting attention from top-tier collegiate coaching staffs. Others in this collection commanded the spotlight at an early age and were asked to live up to immense expectations when they arrived on campus.

Here's a glimpse at the prep development for each passer picked in the 2016 NFL draft, with an eye on how each recruitment played out.

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Adam Kramer's College Football Notebook: The Great Quarterback Drought Is Here

By a show of hands, how many of you feel good about your starting quarterback heading into the loneliest part of college football's offseason?

Be honest now. There's no need to manufacture optimism. We're all friends here.

This conversation does not include you, Clemson fan raising two hands, a foot and a warm keg of Busch Light. Why don't you sit this one out as well, Oklahoma, UCLA, Ohio State and Miami fans. And heck, those sporting Notre Dame and Baylor garb have such a glut of quarterbacks that this notion is almost laughable. You are the outliers in this peculiar moment in football history.

Having a reliable quarterback is no longer the norm. It is a luxury. For further proof, peruse the post-spring football Top 25 below. Three of my top five teams are unsettled at quarterback, and nearly half of the teams featured will enter the fall with significant questions at the position.

Perhaps what's most startling about this development is it's nothing new or surprising. We've been inching closer to this place in time—a place where quality, dependable quarterbacks are on the endangered list.

Look at the recent NFL draft for further evidence. A quarterback with a career record of 14-23 was selected first overall ahead of a quarterback from the FCS ranks with limited starts.

That's not to say Jared Goff or Carson Wentz aren't immensely gifted or worthy selections; it's simply noting that things look mighty different than they once did not long ago.

As for this upcoming season, Alabama, the favorite heading out of spring and most years these days, will once again enter the fall with a quarterback race to decide. This used to be a big deal. Now? It's almost assumed.

LSU, a team with seemingly all of the pieces in place, still has yet to solve its quarterback conundrum heading into this pivotal, talent-rich season. The rest of the SEC, with the exception of a few, have the similar question marks heading toward fall.

There are many, many others, and it's not particular to a single conference or playing style. While talents like Clemson's Deshaun Watson exist, the known commodities in this sport are shrinking.

Quarterbacks will emerge—some seemingly out of thin air—changing perceptions and expectations entirely for a few teams. Other squads expected to improve and build upon foundations won't be able to, in large part because of the starting QB's production.

As a result, a sport fueled by unpredictability feels even more so now. There was not a sudden infusion of talented quarterbacks this spring. There won't be a later infusion this fall, either.

Some will break through, just like always. Although those who are blessed with one of the rare difference-makers—Watson, Josh Rosen, Brad Kaaya, J.T. Barrett and others—should not take such treasures for granted.

After all, at some point over the next few years, you will likely know what this life is like. Those without a horse in this race should brace for a wildly entertaining season. Now that spring action has sprung, we are one step closer.

As for other spring observations, a Top 25 you will surely agree with and love, plus a look at notable moments over the past few months, let's dive right in.

 

Five Spring Football Observations

Ohio State Is Still Immensely Talented

Five Ohio State players were taken in the first round of the NFL draft, which prompted head coach Urban Meyer to say what the rest of us were thinking.

"It was a like a three-hour infomercial for our program," Meyer said of Thursday's draft, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Indeed it was, although there is another side of this equation. Just how bare are the cupboards in Columbus?

The defense has new faces, the offensive line has holes, and the offense will have to fill voids left by running back Ezekiel Elliott and wideout Michael Thomas.

But the work Meyer has done on the recruiting front is never more evident than it is right now. Players like wideout Torrance Gibson and running back Mike Weber flashed brilliance during Ohio State's spring game, which served as a reminder of just how much talent remains.

Plus, Ohio State still has Barrett under center, which cannot be overstated given all the moving pieces.

A program cannot absorb these kinds of losses—10 players selected in the first three rounds this past week—and expect the talent level to remain steady. Clearly, there will need to be adjustments.

But there's also enough here to say that this retooled Buckeyes team can (and should) anticipate competing for another Big Ten title this season.

Anything less, even in a rebuilding year, would be disappointing.

 

LSU Is Supremely Talented and Still Perplexing

No team highlights the significance of the quarterback quandary more than LSU.

Les Miles will stroll out a collection of former elite recruits next fall that will rival just about anyone's roster. This lineup also houses running back Leonard Fournette, the nation's top overall player. Even his backup, Derrius Guice, will be a superstar the moment Fournette has had enough or needs a breather.

The defense is loaded with NFL bodies and NFL skill sets. The secondary, even with personnel losses, should be one of the best in the nation.

Everything is there except for one significant thing: that quarterback.

Brandon Harris is one of the biggest wild cards in all of college football. He doesn't have to be brilliant for LSU to be good. Even average play would make this team incredibly dangerous.

"Brandon probably had a sharper scrimmage the scrimmage before, but he still threw for [227] and threw for a good percentage," Miles told ESPN.com's David Ching earlier this spring following another strong showing. "I just felt like he's kind of ready to be the quarterback."

These answers won't come from any spring scrimmage. This is something that will have to simmer a bit longer.

But given everything the Tigers have—all the pieces are in place for a run Miles so desperately needs—there is that one enormous question that is still difficult to see beyond.

 

The Pac-12 Is a Glorious Mess

Who ya got? I was asked this question on a radio interview recently regarding the Pac-12 for next season, and I could feel my body paralyze.

I thought spring might help sort these matters. Maybe Southern California would name a starting quarterback—it didn't. Maybe I'd get a better feel for Oregon—I didn't. Maybe UCLA would easily replace all of its departures and give the impression of a retooled juggernaut—nope.

What we're left with is a conference that could be won by eight or nine teams. That's not meant to be some sort of exaggeration or click-bait declaration. It's just a very real analysis of a conference that was left out of the College Football Playoff this year.

That's not to say it will happen again. Stanford should be solid, USC has a load of talent, Oregon is still more than capable, UCLA has that Rosen guy, and many others could surprise. But this feels like the most wide-open conference.

We also seem destined to watch really weird games at odd hours starting in September, which sounds lovely right now.

 

Lovie Smith at Illinois Feels…Right

No team experienced a more important spring than Illinois, which is precisely where I was for a few days to see Lovie Smith's creation up close.

It's clear the team has a long way to go. Given the timing of the early-March hiring, the playbook is still not fully implemented. The coaches are still learning the roster; the players are still getting to know the coaches. The general talent level is not where it needs to be.

They are operating on a different timeline than anyone else, and yet the excitement and enthusiasm inside a program that has been far worse than it should have been is real.

Now, Illinois isn't going to win nine games in 2016. There are some decent pieces in place on the defensive line, and Wes Lunt should be just fine at quarterback.

The most important development for Illinois this spring didn't take place on the practice field. It came when Ricky Smalling, a wide receiver 247Sports has listed as a 3-star prospect, committed to Smith.

Now, an army of 3-stars won't push Illinois back into relevancy. But these kinds of wins are the ones the Illini need more than anything. One after the next.

"We need to see the big picture," Smith said after the team's first (and only) open scrimmage in front of its fans.

There's something refreshing about seeing this team start over and this newfound optimism sitting next to it in the sidecar. It'll be fascinating to see this plan play out over the next few years.

 

The Satellite Camp Saga Is Only Just Beginning

First, they were allowed. Then they were inexcusably banned. Now they're allowed again, although it's unknown for how long.

Satellite camps are the Flappy Bird of college football—a story that has garnered entirely too much attention in a small window. And now, because the sport has promised to dive into the matter further, there will likely be another round or four of this over the next 365 days.

Jim Phillips, who serves as Northwestern's athletic director and on the council for the NCAA board of directors, commented on the issue during the NCAA's announcement of the cancellation of the ban:

It's clear that the membership has differing views on this subject, and the council appreciates the board's insights into this important issue. This review will provide an opportunity to identify the most effective ways prospective student-athletes can have their academic and athletic credentials evaluated by schools across the country.

Just spit-balling here, but a "review" probably would have been a decent idea in the first place. And now, because this is something people are apparently really interested in, it will carry forward. That's not to say it's not important.

Giving high school players and non-power programs a means for exposure is a good thing, which is precisely what it does. Hopefully, they continue. But somehow, this topic has taken on a life of its own, and it doesn't seem like this is going to slow down.

 

The Best of Spring: Handing Out Super-Important Awards

Best Catch of the Spring: Jerome Baker

Meet Jerome Baker. He is one of many supremely gifted young players at Ohio State. He was 247Sports' No. 4 athlete back in 2015, which will come as no surprise when you watch him transform into Spiderman momentarily.

Baker's interception during Ohio State's spring game was one of the best plays I have ever witnessed a linebacker make. I am not afraid to say this because there are few players who have played the position who could ever complete a play like this so seamlessly.

With that full dose of hype served piping-hot, have a look at this:

 

Best Team Effort: Rutgers

The scene was set up brilliantly. Two large Rutgers football players were poised to collide in this latest rendition of the masculinity Olympics. Then, something incredible happened.

The "Running Man Challenge" is one of the latest Internet movements. It picked up steam in the sporting world when two Maryland basketball players danced to "My Boo," a song that came out when I had a real-life portable CD player. It was probably on one of your mixtapes.

Now, it's everywhere. That includes Rutgers football, which decided it was time to break away from hitting each other, at least momentarily, and enjoy the sweet, ear-seducing sounds of the mid-'90s.

 

Best Tackle: Nick Saban

Let it be known that Nick Saban also won best spring-game apparel with his power blue blazer, an upper-body shield that never has to pay for a glass of Merlot regardless of where it goes.

Saban also sacked his quarterback this spring while wearing this jacket. Blake Barnett, the redshirt freshman competing for the vacant starting spot, scrambled around the Alabama backfield only to eventually collide with the blue blazer as the play fizzled.

It was a mild collision, although Saban discussed the play when asked afterward. It is also assumed that Barnett now has magical powers.

 

Best Tweet: Boise State

No words needed, really. This is why social media was invented.

Also, I feel you, stray goose. I am excited, too.

For the millionth time, it's not a lake, dude pic.twitter.com/vcA19kNsec

— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) May 2, 2016

 

Post-Spring CFB Top 25

This is the part of the spring-football recap where I douse my computer in gasoline, light a match and merrily skip away.

Rankings, of course, fuel all Internet outrage like nothing else. They are both necessary and evil. People love them or love to hate them.

But the reality of these particular rankings is that the picture for the upcoming season is becoming a bit more visible. There is still work to be done, and changes will ultimately move things around some, but the pieces are slowly falling into place.

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Florida State
  5. Michigan
  6. Ohio State
  7. Notre Dame
  8. LSU
  9. Houston
  10. Tennessee
  11. Baylor
  12. Ole Miss
  13. Stanford
  14. TCU
  15. Louisville
  16. Michigan State
  17. USC
  18. North Carolina
  19. Iowa
  20. Washington
  21. Georgia
  22. Oklahoma State
  23. UCLA
  24. Miami
  25. South Florida

 

Parting Shot: Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

I began the offseason by discussing the slate of Week 1 games headed our way, and the excitement regarding these games has not tempered one bit.

Just look at the matchups awaiting us in Week 1. Look at them.

That slate has the potential to be one of the greatest weekends in the history of the sport—a five-day stretch with firepower unlike any we have seen in recent memory.

Perhaps best of all, we are getting closer. The start of May means the college football season is now less than four months out. The offseason has quietly scooted right along even without much to discuss.

There is still time to burn. Media days will be here before you know it. Preview-magazine season will come and go. Fall practices will breeze by.

Then it will be time to lift up the curtain. Oh, what joys await.

 

Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @KegsnEggs. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Teams That Had Highest 2016 Spring Game Attendance

Spring games offered fans one final opportunity to cheer on their favorite college football teams before the quiet portion of the offseason, and they certainly took advantage.

In addition to one school setting a new national single-game record, several programs reported their largest turnouts ever for the glorified scrimmage.

Though the Big Ten and SEC dominated the attendance numbers, a couple ACC teams sneaked into the top 10. Auburn, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma just missed the mark.

Note: All reported attendance data used was found on each school's official athletics website.

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Big Ten Football's 2016 Prime-Time Schedule Proof Ohio State's Still on Top

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When ESPN announced its slate of prime-time Big Ten games for the 2016 season on Monday, Urban Meyer likely had a hard time hiding his smile.

Ohio State will play in at least four prime-time conference games this season, with the possibility—or perhaps likelihood—that the Big Ten Network will be adding another game under the lights to the Buckeyes' 2016 slate.

Add in a Week 3 showdown at Oklahoma that will possess no shortage of national interest, and it's conceivable half of Ohio State's upcoming regular schedule will consist of night games.

Which is just the way that Meyer likes it.

"I love tradition," Meyer said in 2013 during an appearance on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer. "But I love recruiting better."

But beyond the obvious recruiting advantages of playing in a prime-time spot on a consistent basis, ESPN's choice to prop up the Buckeyes as the Big Ten's most prominent team is telling from a big-picture perspective as well.

For all the talk of Jim Harbaugh's ascent at Michigan and the reality of Michigan State having won two of the past three Big Ten titles, it's still Ohio State that finds itself as the conference's top draw, despite the departures of 16 starters from last year's team, including 12 NFL draft picks and five first-rounders.

"We're not going to change our standards, and that was a message all week to our players," Meyer said following the Buckeyes' spring game last month. "We certainly don't lower our standards just because a player moves on—that's not what this place is all about."

The schedule-makers—or more accurately, TV executives—seem to agree, giving the Buckeyes twice as many prime-time games in the Big Ten portion of their schedule as any other team in the conference. Harbaugh may dominate the conversation during college football's offseason, but the Wolverines will only be featured twice in prime-time play during their conference slate, matching Wisconsin and Nebraska for the second-most nighttime Big Ten games in the coming year.

It is worth noting that Michigan previously declined to host night games at Michigan Stadium in the coming season. But at the moment, no other team in the league will play more than once at night in conference play, including Michigan State, who was shut out of ESPN's prime-time slate.

Ohio State, meanwhile, will not only play in four nighttime games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN 2, but will do so in four consecutive weeks. The Buckeyes will travel to Wisconsin on Oct. 15 and Penn State on Oct. 22, before hosting Northwestern and Nebraska under the lights of Ohio Stadium in consecutive weeks.

This isn't a mere matter of Ohio State possessing a large alumni base and thus, a large following—although it certainly can lay claim to both. But since Meyer arrived in Columbus in 2012, the Buckeyes have become the standard in the conference with a combined 50-4 record, including 2014's College Football Playoff championship.

That's been reflected in Ohio State's scheduling, which has seen a steady increase in prime-time games with each passing year of the Meyer era.

In 2012, the Buckeyes took part in three nighttime kickoffs, the same number they played the year prior to Meyer's arrival. Meyer's second season at Ohio State saw four prime-time tilts, and 2014 brought five night games, before adding three more in the postseason.

Last season, the Buckeyes took part in four night games, as a backloaded schedule likely prevented them from adding one more.

With just ESPN's portion of the conference schedule having been announced, Ohio State has already matched that total from a year ago and will likely add one, if not two, more.

That's just fine with Meyer, who has touted the recruiting advantages of night games since taking over as the Buckeyes head coach.

"As much respect as I have for the traditionalist, I want that 18-year-old to walk out of the stadium saying, 'Wow, I have to be there,'" Meyer said. "I don't want them to have to get up at four in the morning to drive to our games."

The results have spoken for themselves, with Meyer strategically making his biggest recruiting weekends of the year ones where the Buckeyes happen to be hosting night games. With over-capacity crowds, alternate uniforms and celebrity sightings helping turn Ohio State's prime-time tilts into must-see events, Meyer has landed four top-seven nationally ranked recruiting classes since 2012.

It also hasn't hurt that more times than not, the who's who list of prospects in attendance have witnessed a Buckeyes victory.

"We had a bunch of recruits in that locker room afterwards," Meyer said following a win over Nebraska in 2012, his first nighttime victory as Ohio State's head coach. "So you would start talking about future, you know, that's the name of the game, is go out and recruit new players and continue and build and keep going."

In four years, Meyer has done just that, as evidenced by ESPN's decision to place the Buckeyes at the forefront of the conference in the coming year.

Michigan State may be the defending champs, but the Buckeyes remain the team to beat as there's no debate who the Big Ten's most prominent team will be entering 2016.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football Q&A: Is Les Miles or Gus Malzahn on the Hotter Seat?

The month of September is going to be wild in the SEC.

Not only are there some stellar out-of-conference matchups to help gauge the conference against the rest of the college football world, the three SEC West coaches on the hottest seats in the conference—Auburn's Gus Malzahn, LSU's Les Miles and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin—all play critical games that could determine their careers at their respective schools.

Malzahn and Miles will square off on Sept. 24 on the Plains in the second SEC game of the season for each. 

How will that game impact the loser? Who's on the hotter seat? Those questions and more are addressed in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.

 

Without question, it's Miles.

That's not to say that Malzahn isn't fighting for his job too, because he is. But let's not forget what happened late last November when Miles was essentially on his way out of Baton Rouge before a late meeting during the regular-season finale against Texas A&M (or, if we're being honest about things, Jimbo Fisher saying "no") kept Miles around for one more shot at success.

On top of that, LSU has received an enormous amount of hype this offseason thanks to the return of stud running back Leonard Fournette, the presence of new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and a medium-sized village of returning stars on defense who passed on the draft to return to school.

ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) tabbed LSU as not only the SEC favorite, but the best team in the nation. Sporting News has the Tigers inked in at the No. 12 spot. Here at Bleacher Report, we have them at No. 5 after spring practice. 

That's a lot of pressure for a coach who was almost fired last year, chose to re-sign offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, returns a quarterback in Brandon Harris who struggled to stretch the field and whose stubbornness to even attempt to open up the offense and take pressure off of the running game has been a part of the offensive philosophy for a decade. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban hired Lane Kiffin to run his offense prior to the 2014 season because he recognized that, in this day and age, sometimes you have to win football games 38-35. It's not that Miles hasn't accomplished the same thing, it's that he hasn't tried. 

Unless that changes—and it doesn't appear that it has—the combination of sky-high expectations and a stubborn philosophy will earn him a pink slip.

For Malzahn, there's a little more wiggle room. 

As long as the offense improves to the point where it isn't a liability, Auburn is competitive against a brutally tough schedule that pits the Tigers against both participants in last year's College Football Playoff National Championship and the defense takes strides behind a front four that can rotate nine or 10 potential stars, Malzahn should be fine. 

An 8-4 season—provided those four losses aren't embarrassing blowouts or come against teams that the Tigers have no business losing to—Malzahn should be fine. Miles likely has to hit that 10-win mark at the very least, and a win over Alabama—something Miles hasn't done since November 2011—would help.

A lot has gone right for Miles over the offseason, including Aranda's presence, a solid recruiting class and the uncharacteristic return of several draft-eligible stars like corner Tre'Davious White and linebacker Kendell Beckwith. None of that has addressed the real problem—the offensive philosophy. If that doesn't change, all of that goodwill will evaporate quickly. 

Of course, the game between the two in Week 4 will set the tone for the future of both programs.

 

No.

And that's not a knock against Brandon Harris. Maybe he has, and maybe he hasn't. But I'm not one to put too much weight into spring game stats, and closed practices during the rest of spring limit the sample size that we use to judge teams.

Harris' spring game stats were decent—11-of-16 for 106 yards—but don't do much in convincing me that he can consistently hit those deep passes downfield to take pressure off of Fournette.

It's not so much a Harris problem as it is a Miles problem.

Miles has been infatuated with dual-threat quarterbacks since he signed Ryan Perrilloux prior to the 2005 season, and he has never used them properly when they ascended to the starting quarterback role. He wants to run a pro-style offense that uses the athleticism of quarterbacks to help make something out of nothing when protection breaks down.

That's not to say that LSU needs to run zone read all day long. Harris hasn't shown the ability to make proper reads in that department, and the roster isn't built run a hybrid spread-power scheme all day and night. But mixing a little more spread elements—more than the traditional three-wide sets or two-back power formations they typically use—would go a long way toward helping Harris.

 

As long as it doesn't evolve into something more than just Laremy Tunsil and the other items included in the notice of allegations, no, it won't be a distraction.

The outside world wants to label Ole Miss as dirty and the program as being out of control, but Tunsil isn't there anymore, any potential punishment—whether it's a slap on the wrist or potentially crippling—would likely come in the form of scholarship losses and football players and coaches generally live in a bubble while in the complex preparing for the season.

Scandal or not, the Rebels still have a proven offensive system, a stud dual-threat quarterback in Chad Kelly who should be a Heisman Trophy contender, a loaded wide receiving corps that can pick up the slack left from Laquon Treadwell's departure and a defense that has had success in the face of roster attrition in the past.

As long as those aspects of Ole Miss still exist, they'll be contenders in the offseason. Sure, there might be a coach or two, or some players, who have to take time out of their days to talk to the NCAA or the compliance department. But it's the offseason, and this is when players have the most time on their hands.

The Tunsil mess won't be a distraction to the 2016 Rebels. Whether it impacts the future teams through scholarship reductions, though, remains to be seen.

 

As much as I wish that he could be considered one of the best linebackers in the country, if Vanderbilt struggles to hit .500, the national perception of top-tier players around the country is impacted by a team's overall success or failure.

That's unfair to Cunningham, because he already should be considered one of the best linebackers in the country. For a defense that finished fourth in the nation in red-zone touchdown defense (38.78 percent) and sixth in third-down defense (28.16 percent), Cunningham was a stud in 2015. He led the Commodores in tackles (103), tackles for loss (16.5), sacks (4.5), forced fumbles (four) and earned first-team All-SEC honors from the coaches.

He was noticeably absent from most All-American teams, though, despite the other first-team linebackers—Alabama's Reggie Ragland and Missouri's Kentrell Brothers—appearing on the AP's first and second teams, respectively. 

Cunningham pays a mortgage in the opposition's backfield, and he was not only one of the best linebackers in the country last year, he was one of the best overall players.

If Vandy is a nonfactor, though, he won't get the credit he deserves.

That's a shame.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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What New Alabama QB Commit Tua Tagovailoa Brings to Crimson Tide

Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class received a major boost on Monday evening when 4-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa announced his commitment to the Crimson Tide.

The 6’1”, 210-pounder chose the Tide over programs such as Ole Miss, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC among others.

Tagovailoa rates as the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat passer and the No. 58 player overall in the 2017 cycle. 

As a sophomore at St. Louis High School in Honolulu—the same prep program that produced former Heisman Trophy winner and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota—Tagovailoa accounted for 3,159 yards of total offense and threw 33 touchdown passes with only three interceptions.

The top overall prospect from the state of Hawaii visited the Capstone on a swing into SEC territory last month, and his visit made a lasting impression, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports:

First off the biggest thing was their faith over there, what they believe in is kind of the same thing I believe in. The Southern hospitality is very great. I want to look at that because that’s where I’m going to be living. You have to look at the community and the people around you. I feel that’s the biggest thing that was there, and the football is always going to be good at Alabama.

Adding his commitment is huge for the Tide’s 2017 class—which now sits with nine commitments and is gaining steam toward landing a seventh straight top-rated class.

It’s also another signal to the strength of head coach Nick Saban’s recruiting prowess.

Saban hasn’t had any trouble casting a wide net around the nation in his search for top talent, but heading off the mainland to snag an elite quarterback was something he had yet to do in his career at Alabama. Furthermore, the Tide offered him on March 8, and he's on their commit list less than two months later. 

Tagovailoa’s pledge also continues a recent trend for the Tide in landing quarterbacks who are comfortable making plays with their arms and legs.

Since offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama signed Blake Barnett in the 2015 class and Jalen Hurts in the 2016 cycle. Similar to his penchant for celebrating touchdowns in the middle of a play, Kiffin's tweet hours before Tagovailoa committed gave Tide fans a hint that good news was coming soon.

With an explosive talent such as Tagovailoa now in the fold, Alabama’s depth chart at the most critical position on the field is stacked with blue-chip talents for the foreseeable future.

That is a scary thought for teams in the SEC and those around the country hoping to catch up to the trophy-collecting juggernaut that Saban and his staff have constructed in Tuscaloosa.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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Khalan Laborn Tweets Top 8: 4-Star APB Breaks Down His Finalists

In exactly one month, 4-star all-purpose back Khalan Laborn is planning on announcing his college intentions. As the world waits for the expected June 3 verbal commitment, Laborn decided to make public the schools he considers finalists.

Laborn, the nation's No. 2 all-purpose back and No. 40 player overall in the 2017 class, released his top eight via social media Tuesday morning. The list is ACC and SEC heavy, including Virginia Tech, Florida State, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Auburn. The list also features Big Ten power Ohio State.

Laborn, who played last season at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, said he chose his top eight over a list of 28 offers.

"It wasn't that hard," Laborn said of the selection process. "I had to really think where I could fit and where would be my best fit, honestly."

The good news for the schools that didn't make the cut—or the programs that are still considering offering—is that the list isn't a rock-solid one. Laborn said there may be room for one or two schools to sneak in the race late.

For now, Laborn is excited about his eight schools and said they all hold equal weight. Playing in the ACC would keep him close to home, and playing where family and friends can watch is something that intrigues him. Florida State and Virginia Tech are two schools considered early favorites in his process, and Laborn's 247Sports Crystal Ball has prognosticators sold on him ultimately choosing the Seminoles.

"Virginia Tech is an in-state school. I feel real comfortable there, and I get along with all the players," Laborn said. "Florida State is in Florida, where my other half of my family is. I love the campus and get along with the coaches. FSU also produces good players.

"North Carolina, I've been on campus plenty of times. I felt comfortable there. I get along with the coaches and players very well. My cousin, Marquise Williams, also told me good things about them."

While playing in the ACC is an option, the SEC is a place where Laborn feels he can become an impact player. He also likes how the conference consistently has a representative competing for a national championship.

"I've heard good things about [Florida]," he said. "I had a family member, Jonathan Bullard, play for them, and he's told me some good things about them. With Tennessee, I didn't like them at first, but when I got on campus and met the players and coaches, my whole mindset changed."

Laborn continued: "Alabama is a powerhouse program. They're known for winning and have produced great running backs. Auburn also has a great program and is known for winning."

The one school to keep an eye on is the lone Big Ten representative. Laborn said he would prefer staying close to home to play football, but the prestige of Ohio State and playing for coach Urban Meyer is something that makes the Buckeyes a strong contender.

Laborn has taken several unofficial visits, with the most visits to Florida State and Virginia Tech. He said his solo trip to Ohio State definitely was memorable.

"It's the only up-north team I looked into," Laborn said of Ohio State. "They have a good history of running backs coming from there and going into the NFL. I took one visit, and I immediately wanted to come back."

Although June 3 is the anticipated announcement date, Laborn said he wouldn't have a problem postponing the date to a later time. The winning program will get a standout who rushed for at least 100 yards in 11 of 13 games for Ocean Lakes.

Laborn finished his junior season with 2,228 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. He also averaged nearly 11 yards per carry.

Laborn's hoping to put up similar numbers at the next level for one lucky school.

"What I am looking for in a winning school," he said, "is a great coaching staff and teammates that are like family."

 

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 via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Tua Tagovailoa to Alabama: Crimson Tide Land 4-Star QB Prospect

Finding a quarterback is the goal for every football team, so head coach Nick Saban is thrilled that Tua Tagovailoa announced his commitment to the Alabama Crimson Tide on KHON2 News on Monday night.

“I chose Alabama first and foremost because they put God first,” Tagovailoa said, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. “Alabama has Southern hospitality just like Hawaii. Plus I love the atmosphere there. I can see myself there.”

Another reason for Coach Saban to be ecstatic about landing Tagovailoa is because he possesses unique abilities as a dual-threat quarterback. 

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Tagovailoa is the top-ranked player from the state of Hawaii, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback and the 58th-best player overall in the 2017 class, amounting to his 4-star prospect rating. 

Football is a game built on throwing from the pocket, but there's been a slight shift to incorporate more running and athleticism under center. Cam Newton won the NFL MVP award for the 2015 season—six years after winning the Heisman Trophy.

Running quarterbacks have always been more prevalent in the college game, though that's hardly all Tagovailoa is capable of doing:

There are certain areas where Tagovailoa is lacking—notably his small stature at 6'1", 210 pounds—but ESPN's Recruiting Nation scouting report noted he has enough arm talent to overcome his diminutive size: "Legit dual-threat quarterback who is a passer first. Comfortable from under center or the shotgun. Confident in the pocket—can get rid of it quickly or scan the field." 

Being able to stand in the pocket and make throws, even when the pressure is bearing down, is atop the list of things a quarterback must do. Tagovailoa is already skilled in that area and will only get better with a college coaching staff.

Combine that with his ability to move out of the pocket, and Tagovailoa could be a superstar in the making. He's going to need time to hone his skills before reaching that ceiling. When he does, though, the college football community will be on high alert.

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Lou Holtz Endorses Donald Trump for President In Twitter Post

Former ESPN college football analyst and national champion coach Lou Holtz announced Monday he is endorsing Donald Trump's presidential campaign for the 2016 election.

Trump posted a video on Twitter where Holtz pledges his support:

Holtz isn't the only sports celebrity to throw his weight behind Trump's bid to get into the Oval Office.

Per Business Insider, other prominent public figures such as Mike Tyson, Terrell Owens, Mike Ditka, Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman are supporting Trump to be the 45th commander in chief.

Holtz has long been active in politics and even serves on the board of directors of Nuverra Environmental Solutions alongside former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle. In August 2009, Holtz was considering running for a seat in Congress as a Republican.

Although he ultimately didn't do it, Holtz is a known Republican Party supporter who apparently sees Trump as the best solution within the GOP to headline the United States' executive branch for at least four years.

The New York Times' most recent update on the Republican primaries from Monday had Trump in the lead to earn the Republican presidential nomination. Trump has 956 delegates—well ahead of Ted Cruz (546)—and needs a total of 1,237 to win.

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Michigan Football: Wolverines' Top 2017 NFL Draft Prospects

The 2017 NFL draft is merely a distant blip on the radar right now, but the Michigan football program has an excellent chance to be considered a pipeline for next year's list of selections.

Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod wrote that 2016 will be the Wolverines' last quiet draft under Harbaugh. It sure was unassuming, since only Graham Glasgow, Willie Henry and Jake Rudock were picked.

But after seeing just three players selected, Michigan's attention now turns to the double-digit players likely headed for the professional level.

The following list focuses on Michigan's five best prospects for 2017, starting with No. 5. Potential draft position—not exclusively a perceived stock—was a key factor in determining the order.

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Lowell Narcisse to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star QB Prospect

LSU potentially found its quarterback of the future Monday, securing the commitment of Lowell Narcisse:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Narcisse is the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class and the No. 108 overall prospect. He's also the fifth-best player in the state of Louisiana.   

The St. James, Louisiana, native had a junior year to forget. He suffered not one but two knee injuries, which limited him to just three games. Based on his numbers as a freshman and sophomore, per MaxPreps, it's easy to see why Narcisse has attracted interest from a number of top schools:

As is the case with many mobile quarterbacks, Narcisse's accuracy is an issue at this stage of his career. He received a 6-of-10 grade from 247Sports in that category, but he did earn an 8-of-10 for arm strength. His throwing motion, captured by ESPN.com's Derek Tyson, is reminiscent of Michael Vick's or Tim Tebow's:

Like Vick was in his days at Virginia Tech, Narcisse is capable of wreaking havoc in the open field when he tucks the ball and starts scrambling:

Narcisse originally committed to Auburn but backed out in January. In his statement to the media, per Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com, he cited a desire to weigh all of his options before making his final decision:

Dual-threat quarterbacks Cam Newton and Nick Marshall both thrived under Gus Malzahn at Auburn. The former won a Heisman Trophy and a national title, and the latter led the team to the title game, where it lost to Florida State in the closing seconds.

Narcisse will hope to recreate similar success at LSU. The Tigers offense is tailor-made for him.

He could make an immediate impact on the Tigers, but redshirting might be the best strategy since it would allow him to work on his mechanics in a pressure-free atmosphere. Both Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston benefited from taking a year off before stepping foot on the field for meaningful game action.

The St. James High School standout will be able to get far at the next level based on his supreme athleticism. Improving as a passer will help him become a special player in the FBS.

LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron runs a pro-style system, which may actually be best for Narcisse's football future and can maximize his potential if he can polish up as a passer.

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Alabama Football: Crimson Tide's Top 2017 NFL Draft Prospects

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The numbers are simply staggering.

Since 2008, when Nick Saban was coming off his first season with the University of Alabama football team and the Crimson Tide didn’t have a player picked in the National Football League’s annual draft, the program has had 55 selections.

That’s more than an entire NFL team in the fall, when the roster limit is just 53.

Of them, 18 players went in the first round and 12 in the second, including five last weekend. If the rosters hold, just five teams won’t have at least one former Crimson Tide player participating in training camp—the Bears, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers and Steelers.

Keep that in mind with the following statement: Alabama could have its best draft ever in 2017, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Yes, better than 2011 and 2012 when it enjoyed four first-round selections in back-to-back years, and Alabama might finally top its long-standing record of 10 draft picks in 1945, when teams were desperate to fill rosters due to World War II. The Crimson Tide’s final selection that year was made in the 32nd round.

Before getting to Alabama’s top-10 draft prospects for next year, consider that the list doesn’t include, defensive lineman Dakota Ball, kicker Adam Griffith, jack-of-all-trades defensive back Maurice Smith or long snapper Cole Mazza, who are all seniors.

It also doesn’t include numerous promising juniors like cornerback Tony Brown, wide receiver Robert Foster, linebacker Rashaan Evans, linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, punter JK Scott or wide receiver ArDarius Stewart.

The potential is for something like Ohio State accomplished this year, with five first-round selections and 12 players overall.

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Multiple Auburn Football Players Arrested on Marijuana Possession Charges

Four members of the Auburn football team—defensive end Byron Cowart, defensive back Carlton Davis, wideout Ryan Davis and defensive back Jeremiah Dinson, all of whom are sophomores—were arrested Saturday night on charges of second-degree marijuana possession, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News

"I am aware of the situation, and we will handle this matter appropriately," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement.

Citing Alabama Code, Green reported the arrested players could be fined up to $6,000 and sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail.

All four saw the field in their freshman season. Carlton Davis was the top performer, registering 56 total tackles and leading the Tigers with three interceptions. Dinson and Cowart had 15 and six total tackles, respectively. Ryan Davis carried the ball twice for 20 yards in two games.

The quartet helped form a 2015 recruiting class that sat eighth nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Here's where each player ranked individually, per 247Sports:

Much will be expected of Cowart in particular next year. Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee believes he is in line to have a big season:

At 6'3", 277 pounds, Cowart has the size to be a force against the run, but also the speed to be either a force off the edge or someone who drops down inside in obvious pass-rushing situations to get more speed on the field.

He finished last year with just six tackles playing more of a backup role under former coordinator Will Muschamp, but should elevate to the top of the depth chart as a sophomore and reach the potential that made him a 5-star prospect 13 months ago.

In June 2014, police in Abbeville, Alabama, arrested then-Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy on second-degree marijuana possession. Malzahn kept him out of the starting lineup for the Tigers' 2014 season opener, but Mincy did play in the game. A similar punishment could be in store for the four players arrested over the weekend.

Auburn opens the 2016 season on Sept. 3 at home against the Clemson Tigers.

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Top 10 Former 5-Star Recruits Selected in the 2016 NFL Draft

The 2016 NFL draft is in the history books, and it was one dominated by recruits who made the transition to college with sterling credentials.

In fact, the 2013 class was heavily represented in the first two rounds of the draft, with 13 5-star prospects among the first 63 overall selections.

A trio of Ole Miss signees in defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, receiver Laquon Treadwell and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil—each ranked among the nation’s top 15 players overall in that class—were three of five such prospects to go in the first round.

Additionally, one standout in the 2012 class took a long road to finding himself among one of the first 40 players selected in this year’s draft.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 former 5-star recruits chosen in the 2016 NFL draft.

*Players listed in the order they were drafted.

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Auburn Football: Tigers' Top 2017 NFL Draft Prospects

AUBURN, Ala. — The 2016 NFL draft was the quietest one for Auburn so far in the Gus Malzahn era, with only three players—offensive tackle Shon Coleman, wide receiver Ricardo Louis and defensive back Blake Countess—hearing their names called this past weekend.

Expect the Tigers to roar even louder in 2017, especially in the early rounds.

With the 2016 draft in the books, outlets across the Internet are already putting out their early projections for the 2017 class. Here at Bleacher Report, the way-too-early projections include a certain Auburn pass-rusher near the top spot on the entire board. 

Let's take a look at the Tigers' top five NFL draft prospects for 2017. While several of them could still have eligibility for the 2017 college football season, they are already predicted to come out early and join the likes of Coleman, Louis and Countess at the next level.

Tell us which Tiger you think could make the biggest climb up 2017 NFL draft boards this year and where you want to see these top prospects land next spring in the comments below.

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