NCAA Football

New Mexico RB Crusoe Gongbay Arrested on Suspicion of Rape and Kidnapping

Crusoe Gongbay and two accomplices allegedly forced a female student into a car before proceeding to rape her, hold a gun to her head and terrorize her for multiple hours earlier this month, so say court documents related to the multiple charges facing the suspended New Mexico running back.   

In public records obtained by TMZ Sports, a woman alleges Gongbay and two other males kidnapped her at a university parking lot on April 13. The first man forced her to perform oral sex before raping her, while Gongbay and the other watched and served as accomplices. Gongbay then proceeded to do the same.

According to the allegations, Gongbay and the first accomplice were later dropped off at an unknown location. The third accomplice, yet to be identified by police, then held a gun to the female's head and forced her into oral sex before raping her again. The woman has identified two of the men, Gongbay and another male, but the third remains unknown.

Gongbay, a junior, was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree criminal sexual penetration and one count of kidnapping, according to university police records. Lieutenant Tim Stump told Joseph J. Kolb of Reuters that Gongbay was still being held in jail while awaiting $50,000 bond.

Gongbay was immediately suspended from the New Mexico football team, and his status with the university remains uncertain. 

“Due to the obvious serious nature of these charges, he has been suspended indefinitely from the team,” head coach Bob Davies said in an official statement, via Kolb.

The other identified perpetrator, Ryan Ruff, has also surrendered to police on similar charges. Ruff, 21, is being held on $100,000 bond. He is not a New Mexico student, nor does he have any known connection to the football program.

Expected to be the Lobos' starting running back as a senior, Gongbay rushed for 592 yards and six touchdowns last season. He has played an integral role in New Mexico's offense in two of his three college seasons and was one of the Mountain West Conference's most explosive backs in 2013. New Mexico went just 3-9 last season but averaged 308.8 rushing yards per game, fourth best in the country.

The allegations, if true, would undoubtedly end Gongbay's football career and put his freedom in jeopardy. Criminal sexual penetration to the second degree is a multi-layered crime that includes "force or coercion when the perpetrator is aided or abetted by one or more persons," under New Mexico law

If convicted, Gongbay faces up to nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count of criminal sexual penetration—synonymous with rape in New Mexico. It is a second-degree felony. Kidnapping is a first-degree felony in New Mexico that comes with a maximum of 18 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

There has been no preliminary hearing date set at this time. Gongbay has not commented publicly on these charges, nor is it known if he has obtained representation.  

 

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SEC Football: 5 Biggest Storylines Remaining in 2014 Offseason

April is starting to wind down, and unless you're a Kentucky or Arkansas fan, your team has already wrapped up spring practice. That means several offseason questions—including Georgia's stability at quarterback, Florida's offense and Alabama's new-look defense—have already been answered.

But several others remain, many of which will have a direct impact on the division, conference and national title races.

What are the top five offseason storylines remaining in the SEC? Our picks are in this slideshow.

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Notre Dame Football: Can Ronnie Stanley Fill Zack Martin's Shoes in 2014?

Put Ronnie Stanley in a room with Zack Martin and you might get confused. Stanley's the one that looks like the offensive lineman NFL teams covet.

But even though Notre Dame equipment manager Ryan Grooms special orders the 6'5.5", 318-pounder's size-16 cleats, the rising junior is charged with one of the biggest challenges of the offseason: Filling Zack Martin's shoes.

After four seasons of Martin earning the team's most valuable lineman award, Brian Kelly won't have his safety net in place. And while many expected an offseason of musical chairs as Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand mixed and matched line combinations, Stanley emerged as the team's starting left tackle, spending the spring getting comfortable playing a position that's been manned by Martin since Kelly first put eyes on him.

Even for a player who spent his heralded high school career playing left tackle and most of his freshman season backing up Martin, it wasn't as easy as many expected. 

"The biggest adjustment was the stance," Stanley said. "I got more comfortable at right tackle when I started playing, but it wasn't too hard to get accustomed back to left tackle."

The ease of Stanley's transition takes away one of the many variables that exist along the offensive line. It also lets the other positions slot in easier, with Steve Elmer gaining comfort at left guard while redshirt freshman Mike McGlinchey takes over Stanley's right tackle position. 

That Stanley was able to make the transition speaks to his athleticism. It was also something Kelly noticed from the start when he recruited Stanley out of Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman High School. 

"He’s extremely athletic for a big fellow," Kelly said. "He uses his arm length to his advantage. We’d like to see him continue to work on being more physical, but he’s a really good athlete.

"He was a really good basketball player too on a very talented team in high school. He kind of has that kinesthetic awareness in that he can really get his body in good position and knows where the quarterback is."

Stanley is working on adding physicality to his game, an evolutionary necessity after spending last year learning and surviving on the right side. 

"I see myself being a lot more physical than I was last season already," Stanley said earlier this spring. "I've done a lot better this spring than I did last season, making good leaps."

Those leaps are far from done. Especially if the Irish want to get the same type of line play by a group that needs to replace key pieces like Martin and Chris Watt. But Stanley, Elmer and McGlinchey represent the next big things coming through South Bend. Literally. The trio adds elite height and bulk to a line that lacked it the past few years. 

The linchpin to that group will be Stanley. After an elbow injury during his freshman season earned him a fifth year of eligibility, Stanley could put the Irish in an enviable situation of having two players at left tackle over seven seasons, incredible continuity at the offensive line's most important position. 

Stanley sounds ready for the challenge. 

"I just assume they trust in me and my abilities to take over a role like that and fill someone's shoes that was a great player right before me," Stanley said.  

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Top 10 College Football Head Coaches Who Never Played

Some think you can't know football without having played football: that you had to have stuck your hand in the dirt to understand what you're seeing when you watch others do it.

Ten FBS head coaches would beg to differ.

That is not a particularly high number in proportion, given there will be 128 teams in college football next season, but it's high considering the bias some in power might give to coaches who have played the game. Doesn't it make sense that they should know better?

Sort of, I guess, but it is not a requirement for the job. In fact, the man who won last year's Walter Camp Coach of the Year award never played a down of college football, and neither did the man who upset Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

Here is how they rank from 10-1, based on whom I, in my subjective opinion (which is informed by their body of work), would want to coach my program for the next five years.

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Alabama Football: Mario Cristobal Is Nick Saban's Latest Great Recruiting Asset

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Believe it or not, the University of Alabama football program did a lot more “scoring” after last Saturday’s A-Day game than during its final scrimmage of spring football.

In the realm of recruiting, it was the equivalent of seeing a pinball machine light up.

It began with Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 5-star cornerback rated the 30th-best player in the nation by 247Sports, making his expected commitment to the Crimson Tide shortly after the 17-14 game concluded.

He was followed by two of the top prospects in South Florida, teammates Shawn Burgess-Becker and Calvin Ridley of Pompano Beach (Fla.) Monarch High School, also agreeing to attend Alabama. Ridley, a 6’2” wide receiver, is the No. 41 prospect in the nation, while Burgess-Becker, who could play safety or wide receiver, is 88th.

With all three, assistant head coach and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was considered Alabama’s point man, causing 247Sports National Recruiting Insider Ryan Bartow to call itthe best performance I've seen from a single recruiter on a non-signing day, day.”

Alabama then added the nation's top-ranked inside linebacker, Leo Lewis, from Brookhaven, Miss., and there were rumblings of a possible fifth addition, but wide receiver Jevon Durante shot down reports that he had flipped his commitment from West Virginia during an unofficial visit.

Even so, the South Florida standout might yet end up joining his 7-on-7 teammates in Tuscaloosa, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that Cristobal is leading the effort to flip him. The former Miami player and Florida International head coach (2007-2012) still has very strong ties to the talent-rich area.

In addition to recruiting for Nick Saban, he has the added advantage of having one of Alabama’s best players hail from the area.

“How would you like to follow in the footsteps of Miami Northwestern star wide receiver Amari Cooper?” is an easy and potent pitch to make.

"If you want to compete in South Florida for talent, you better have one of your best recruiters working down there,” said Barton Simmons, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “That’s the case with any program, even Alabama. Right now Alabama is not just competing in South Florida, it’s winning.

“Mario Cristobal is the primary reason for that.”

Considering Saban’s track record, though, no one should be surprised by anything the Crimson Tide does in recruiting, and the coach considers it with every major decision that he makes. A perfect example was the recent building of a new, state-of-the-art weight room, which looks better than anything being used in the National Football League.

What was wrong with the old weight room, one of the biggest in college football? Nothing.

Recruiting’s always a significant factor when adding assistant coaches as well. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Kevin Steele and Lance Thompson are all proven when it comes to recruiting, as were Mike Groh, Jeremy Pruitt and Sal Sunseri before they moved on to bigger jobs. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, Burton Burns and Billy Napier all have strong reputations as well.

After the most recent national signing day in February, Alabama was the unanimous choice among the major recruiting services for having the top class. Moreover, 247Sports has had it No. 1 every year except one (2010) since 2008.

During his initial year on Saban’s coaching staff, Cristobal’s fingerprints were all over the offensive linemen who signed, where the Crimson Tide rated first nationally as a position group.

Headlining the additions was 5-star prospect Cameron Robinson (6’6”, 335 pounds of West Monroe, La.), who enrolled early and was Alabama’s starting left tackle on A-Day. Junior college transfer Dominick Jackson, a tackle, will arrive over the summer along with tackle Ross Pierschbacher, centers JC Hassenauer and Joshua Casher, and guard Montel McBride.

As for the ongoing Class of 2015, Cristobal’s also had a hand in recruiting guards Richie Petitbon, Lester Cotton and Dallas Warmack.

"The players always mention how they love Cristobal's passion and energy,” said Charles Power, who covers recruiting for BamaOnline.com. “He is a very outgoing, but genuine approach and connects well with the players and their families. The parents love him too. They find him very easy to talk to. Multiple top players, including the state's top prospect Daron Payne, continually tell us that their relationship with Cristobal stands out.

“Don't be surprised if he continues to land top prospects at Alabama for the rest of the recruiting cycle, as several top targets, including Payne, remain on the board. He is laying the foundation that helps land the major recruits"

Consequently, for the recruiting Class of 2015, which won’t be set in stone for another 10 months, Alabama is already considered the clear program to beat. In 247’s rankings of the individual recruiters, four of the top five represent the Crimson Tide.

Atop those standings is the 43-year-old Cristobal.

“He’s been a game-changer as a recruiter at every stop he’s made, including at FIU as a head coach,” Simmons said. “Now he’s got Alabama as a disruptive presence throughout the state of Florida while he helps bring in some of the best offensive line classes in the country every year. As a guy who consistently reloads his position group but can still cherry pick elite national talent from his regions, Cristobal is a major force right now for the Tide."

  

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Oregon Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of a Pac-12 Championship

After a two-year hiatus, Oregon football aims to regain the Pac-12 Conference championship in 2014.

Returning to the perch that the Ducks occupied for three consecutive seasons from 2009 to 2011 should be arduous, however. Oregon faces challenges both externally and internally. 

The Pac-12 has become more competitive overall, coming off of the most collectively successful campaign in league history, while Oregon is itself ironing out the wrinkles that prevented it from winning the last two titles. 

 

Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com. Recruiting information culled from 247Sports.com

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Oregon Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of a Pac-12 Championship

After a two-year hiatus, Oregon football aims to regain the Pac -12 Conference championship in 2014. Returning to the perch that the Ducks occupied for three consecutive seasons from 2009 to 2011 should be arduous, however...

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How Les Miles Can Solve LSU's Passing-Game Issues Before the Start of the Season

LSU head coach Les Miles has a quarterback problem.

Miles must select between sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris to be the starting quarterback. The race is so close between the two that Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron are in no rush to name the starter.

No matter who ends up winning the job, LSU must find ways to maintain the passing attack as a serious threat.

LSU threw for over 3,000 yards for the first time since 2007 last season, ranking 45th in the country in passing yards per game. The numbers could have been higher, but Cameron's balanced, pro-style offense kept passing yards per game slightly over 250.

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger's rocket arm was a spectacle. Receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were human highlight reels.

Unfortunately for Miles, the talented trio is gone. The Tigers will basically start from scratch at both positions.

Harris and Jennings showed flashes of brilliance in the spring game, but both lacked the polish of an experienced passer.

Harris was the better of the two quarterbacks. While he tallied four combined touchdowns, he was also an erratic 11-for-28. Jennings threw two interceptions returned for scores.

Nobody is expecting LSU to dominate through the air like last season, especially with the lack of experience returning at wide receiver. However, there will be times when the Tigers' young quarterbacks will need to make basic throws on early downs and tough throws in key situations.

Miles and Cameron will meticulously bring along the passing game as the season goes along. Here are a few ways they will go about doing it.

 

Running the Football

Miles has no issue with running the pigskin until his opponent wears out. Smashmouth football has been his staple in Baton Rouge.

The Tigers have no choice but to run the ball effectively. When LSU struggled to run the ball against TCU and Georgia last season, Mettenberger was still able to consistently complete difficult throws with precise accuracy.

Jennings and Harris do not have that skill set yet.

Feed Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard and incoming freshman sensation Leonard Fournette the ball and they will gain positive yardage. Miles knows this, so expect the trio to total 35 total carries in the season opener against Wisconsin.

Cameron must find ways to loosen up the defense with the run, whether it be basic, between-the-tackles carries or quarterback zone-reads.

Production in the running game loosens up the defense, which then makes the passing game easier.

 

Finding the Tight Ends

Les Miles said during spring hthat e wants to utilize tight ends more in the offense. With the way DeSean Smith performed in the spring game, that looks like an attainable goal.

"I think I can be a big-time threat," said Smith. "I can make those big-time plays to help our team win."

LSU's tight ends have combined for a paltry 28 catches and zero touchdowns over the past two seasons. That production is unacceptable.

LSU will utilize the play-action pass with a tight end running simple routes next season, which will certainly help out a young quarterback. Tight ends are bigger targets, which helps mitigate throwing inaccuracies.

If players like Smith, Dillon Gordon and Travis Dickson step up as pass-catchers, it will make the growing process much smoother for Harris or Jennings.

 

Chucking It Deep

Safeties are some of the best athletes in college football. Three of the five selected in the first round of the NFL draft in the past two seasons were from the SEC.

The key to nullifying great safety play is to keep them guessing, and the best way to do that is throwing it deep.

Last season, defensive backs facing LSU were kept honest by the mere threat of Beckham Jr. and Landry. This forced safeties to play on their heels, rendering them less effective in defending underneath passes and helping in the running game.

Jennings and Harris both throw a beautiful deep ball. Jennings' 49-yard bomb to Travin Dural won the game for the Tigers against Arkansas. Harris' high school tape showed amazing accuracy.

ESPN's Tom Luginbill said his arm is one of the best he has ever seen.

LSU will need to find a new deep option at receiver next season. Even if that is not found immediately and passes fall incomplete, Cameron must not be afraid to let it rip a few times to keep defenses honest.

 

Conclusion

The LSU passing game will struggle next season. Every young quarterback experiences growing pains early in their career. Following Mettenberger's masterful 2013 season is no easy task.

However, replacing Beckham Jr. and Landry could be a more arduous process than Mettenberger.

Travin Dural is the leading returnee at wide receiver with only seven catches. Dural's 130 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game looked fantastic, but the question remains who will step up alongside him.

There are plenty of positives for LSU looking forward, though.

LSU's receivers, as a whole, certainly progressed toward the end of spring. Also, incoming freshmen Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre have the talent to make plays right away.

The Tigers return four of five starters on the offensive line. Pass protection was shaky last season—especially on the road—but new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has been brought in to fix such issues. Any quarterback that has time to throw the football can eviscerate a defense.

The LSU offense will look different next season. The aerial attack might not be as pretty, but expect Miles and Cameron to find ways to make it be effective.

 

Stats, rankings and information provided by LSU Sports Information, 247Sports.com and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow Carter Bryant on Twitter @CarterthePower.  

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Will Braxton Miller or Marcus Mariota Be a Better Heisman Contender in 2014?

When it comes to Heisman Trophy consideration, you have to like the chances for Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Ohio State's Braxton Miller. After all, the last four Heisman winners were quarterbacks who could run and throw. 

Both were heavy favorites last year—Mariota was a longtime front-runner—until injuries derailed those hopes. With Mariota and Miller returning for another year, however, they'll undoubtedly be in the conversation again this season. 

So which one has the better chance of making it to New York by year's end and, perhaps, bring home the hardware? Early Bovada Heisman odds have Mariota as a 5-1 favorite, just behind reigning winner Jameis Winston from Florida State, with Miller right behind him at 11-2 odds (h/t Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com). 

The first thing to recognize is that both quarterbacks are going to get their stats as long as they stay healthy. Mariota compiled just under 4,400 total yards last season with 40 touchdowns, while Miller had about 1,200 fewer yards and 26 touchdowns. He also missed what basically amounted to three games. 

Additionally, both will be playing with some new faces around them this season. Developing chemistry with new starters is a major challenge within itself. Mariota loses his top two receivers from a year ago—Josh Huff (graduation) and Bralon Addison (knee injury)—as well as multipurpose threat De'Anthony Thomas (NFL draft). 

Miller has fewer questions at receiver, but the Buckeyes' offensive line has been the subject of a lot of concern lately after losing four seniors off of last year's group. Though it's not official, Ohio State should be getting the services of former Alabama offensive lineman Chad Lindsay, according to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com. As a graduate, Lindsay will be eligible to play this year. 

That would provide a boost to the O-line, but head coach Urban Meyer has stated it's still a major question mark

Both quarterbacks will benefit from a solid stable of running backs, even though the Ducks have the edge in experience. Similarly, both signal-callers play key roles the running game. In terms of protection—a quarterback is only as good as the time he has to make plays—Mariota has the advantage. 

It's tough to examine schedules and predict with 100 percent accuracy, or even some accuracy, who's going to face better defenses since teams change from year to year. That said, both quarterbacks will face a common opponent: Michigan State. 

The Ducks get the Spartans in Week 2 (Sept. 6) and the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing on Nov. 8. Sparty loses some key contributors from last year's top-ranked defense. Theoretically, Oregon has another advantage playing them earlier in the year. Whether or not that theory holds up remains to be seen. 

There are more factors in the Heisman race than anyone can count. What kind of competition did a player face? How important is a player to his team? How does one even measure that metric? Are they a one-man show? Do they fade down the final stretch of the season?

Only Heisman voters will know the answers—and they vary from person to person. Those answers also won't be clear until the season gets underway. 

What is known is that the Heisman race has developed a trend. If you're a quarterback in a BCS/automatic qualifier/Power Five/etc. conference that plays in a stat-friendly offense, you have a good chance of being in the race. Again, that would seem to favor Mariota. 

The Heisman has turned into a glorified Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to the best quarterback. With that in mind, Mariota has a slight edge over Miller—on paper—in April. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com. 

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Notre Dame Football: Jaylon Smith Ready to Lead Defense from New Spot

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Without context, listening to Jaylon Smith chat with the media after Notre Dame’s spring game April 12, you might expect the Irish linebacker to be a middling player making a marginal position change.

“I’m blessed to be getting a lot of things thrown at me,” the sophomore said.

“When I committed here, I committed to doing anything to help the team win,” Smith later added.

Spoken like a role player merely looking to make a positive impact in a new position.

But Smith is hardly a role player, and his shift to more of an inside linebacker spot is hardly a marginal move.

“It puts arguably our best off‑the‑ball player … next to all the things that you can do defensively, and so that was really in the decision more than anything else, just to get him in a position where we can activate him at any time,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly explained after the Blue-Gold Game.

The former 5-star recruit—and the No. 2 overall player in class of 2013, according to 247Sports—stepped in as a freshman and started all 13 games in 2013 at the “Dog” linebacker position in former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s scheme. Smith shined at the drop linebacker spot, finishing third on the squad with 67 tackles and second with 6.5 tackles for loss.

Now, Smith is slotted at the “Will” linebacker position under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native now lines up more centrally among the linebackers, a shift that came about during spring practice.

Part of the change stems from VanGorder’s aggressive defense, which aims to bring more pressure from various spots on the perimeter, according to Kelly.

“We could afford to [bring] that [pressure] with other personnel,” Kelly said. “We can do it with a nickel. We can do it with somebody from the secondary, a fifth player from the secondary. So it allows us some flexibility to move [Smith] around.”

Kelly said need was another component in the decision to move Smith inside, where the head coach thinks his stud sophomore can better impact the game.

Smith said he only played inside linebacker in one game—a playoff contest—during his time at Bishop Luers High School.

“Every play starts with sight,” Smith said of adjusting to playing inside. “All my life, I’ve seen the game from an outside perspective. It’s really just getting used to reading offensive linemen from inside out, just little things like that. I’ve had 14 practices and the spring game to actually get the hang of it so it’s going good.”

Armed with the added knowledge and ability to play from an inside-out perspective, Smith becomes an even more versatile weapon for the Irish, Kelly said.

“We can move him around, and he has an understanding of how to play this defense both inside‑out and outside‑in and that he had no knowledge of going into the spring,” Kelly said. “That's a smart football player, and a guy that now is an asset to our defense in a manner that he never was before.”

Never before was he positioned in the middle of the Notre Dame defense. So too was Smith never one of the most experienced players on the defense last year.

That changes in 2014, however, as Smith and junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell are the only returning defensive players who started all 13 games a season ago. Smith is eagerly seeking more of a leadership role.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Smith said. “I’m taking that challenge on. I don’t want to be looked at as just a sophomore. I want to be a leader, on the defense, on the team.”

Spoken like a central cog with a central position in a new-look defense.

 

*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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Auburn Football: Gus Malzahn's Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

Gus Malzahn should have a lot of reasons to be confident after Auburn's 2014 spring practices.

Nick Marshall, the first returning starter at quarterback in Malzahn's collegiate coaching career, showcased his offseason improvement in the passing department with his award-winning A-Day game performance last Saturday. The dual-threat senior was more accurate in his throws and immediately made a go-to connection with former No. 1 JUCO recruit D'haquille "Duke" Williams.

Malzahn's famed hurry-up, no-huddle offense also returns two key starters at the running back position, and his offensive line will enter the 2014 season as one of the most experienced units in the country.

On the other side of the ball, the first-team Tigers showed improvement in a critical area—pass defense—by holding their backup quarterbacks to a paltry 48 yards passing at A-Day. The first-teamers only allowed three points in one of the most lopsided spring games you will ever see.

But with all those positives, the skies are not completely clear over the Plains.

With the defending SEC champions now off the practice field until the start of fall camp, let's take a look at a few concerns Malzahn and his staff should have over the long summer months.

 

Defensive health

While Auburn's high-octane offensive stars seemingly took full advantage of spring practice, their teammates on defense were not as fortunate. 

Eleven defensive players missed time this spring due to injuries, which resulted in the Tigers only having one full scrimmage before the annual A-Day game.

Most of those injuries came on the defensive line. Senior LaDarius Owens, a potential replacement for Dee Ford at defensive end, missed the entire spring schedule with a broken foot. Sophomore standouts Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson each struggled with injuries during camp, and Lawson did not even dress for A-Day.

Some played through the pain—Star Robenson Therezie participated fully despite having a cast on his broken hand—but others were not able to see the field for valuable offseason training this spring.

Although Malzahn said Saturday that he expects all injured players to be fully healthy by fall camp, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told the AL.com's Brandon Marcello earlier this month that the injuries made for "a herky-jerky spring as far as really improving" as an entire defense.

The injuries might not be long term for the Tigers, but will the missed spring practice time set the defense back? Only time will tell.

 

Special teams

The Tigers are replacing every major starter in the special teams unit this season, from longtime kicker Cody Parkey to holder Ryan White.

Auburn's two true redshirt freshmen specialists, kicker Daniel Carlson and punter Jimmy Hutchinson, had mixed Jordan-Hare Stadium debuts at A-Day.

Carlson was 2-of-3 on field goals, hitting a 50-yard kick but missing a 51-yard kick. But the freshman also badly hooked an extra-point try, something those familiar with the program are not used to seeing after the Cody Parkey years.

Malzahn has said debuting two new specialists this season would be a concern, but he was impressed with Carlson's long-range skills at A-Day.

"He is a freshman," Malzahn said. "He is young but has a big leg."

The Tigers did not go live on special teams, which means all of Hutchinson's punts were fair caught. Each of the freshman's punts went more than 40 yards, but it will be tough to get a good read on him in game action until Auburn's season opener against Arkansas.

With two highly rated freshmen and a new holder in Jonathan Wallace, Auburn's special teams will be a work in progress throughout the 2014 season. The Tigers have talent in these positions, but inexperience will definitely be a concern for a unit that was so reliable in Auburn's run to the SEC title.

 

Peyton Barber

Redshirt freshman running back Peyton Barber was one of the most talked-about Auburn players heading into A-Day. After a full 2013 season and a 2014 spring of impressing coaches and teammates at practice, fans were anxious to see Barber's first in-game action at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Unfortunately, Barber only lasted one play Saturday.

The young running back fumbled the ball on an 11-yard run after a hit from first-team middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and suffered a high ankle sprain at the end of the run.

Malzahn said Barber "should be OK" after he left the annual spring game early, but it was a disappointing break for a player who had many fans, coaches and fellow players excited.

"It was kinda hard to take," fellow running back Corey Grant said after A-Day. "Before the game, that was one guy we really wanted to see perform today. He's been working his butt off the entire spring."

Barber did not get a chance to prove his worth in the running back battle because of the injury. Although he should be fully recovered by the start of fall practice, the setback could affect Auburn's running back rotation this season.

 

Replacing Jay Prosch

While Auburn's coaching staff said throughout the spring that the team's position battles most likely would not be resolved until the fall, the H-back battle is still the murkiest heading into the summer.

Shon Coleman looks like he will be the starter at left tackle after his extended first-team work in the last few weeks of spring, and the running back-by-committee system seems to be the leader in the clubhouse after Auburn's A-Day game.

However, there is no clear-cut favorite as to who will replace Jay Prosch at H-back. Prosch's position might be the toughest to fill, as the powerhouse blocker was a key factor in Auburn's massive running success last season.

Brandon Fulse got the start with the first-team Blue squad at A-Day, but the former tight end did not particularly stand out at the position. Prosch's backup last season, former walk-on linebacker Gage Batten, also received some work Saturday and is still a leading candidate for the job.

H-back proved to be one of the most important positions on Auburn's offensive depth chart last season. While there was never going to be a starter named at the end of spring camp, this race could go right down to the wire in fall camp.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Oklahoma Football Recruiting: Du'Vonta Lampkin Decommits from Sooners

Oklahoma suffered another decommitment Tuesday night when Texas defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin announced he plans to explore other collegiate options:

The 6'3", 291-pound Houston product pointed out that Oklahoma remains his No. 1 option, but there are a substantial amount of squads ready to challenge the Sooners. He's been stacking up scholarship offers in recent months and visited an April spring practice at Texas A&M.

Lampkin, a 3-star prospect at Cypress Falls High School, pledged to Oklahoma last November, and recent expectations suggested he could be an eventual early enrollee in Norman, according to 247Sports (subscription required). His recruitment process exploded after a productive junior season.

Offers quickly poured in from Baylor, Michigan, LSU, Texas, Missouri and Mississippi State. The chance to expand recruiting horizons and analyze other possible campus destinations caused his decision to decommit.

He received an offer from Texas Tech on Wednesday.

Lampkin is rated No. 21 nationally among defensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's the second lineman to exit Oklahoma's 2015 class in a week.

The Sooners saw 4-star Oklahoma City offensive guard Josh Wariboko decommit last Wednesday. He is rated No. 3 nationally at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Oklahoma has lost more commitments in the past week than it's gained since early January.

Dallas safety Jamile Johnson joined the class in February and is still the program's sole pledge since in-state defensive tackle Marquise Overton committed on Jan. 3. Texas offensive tackle Bobby Evans is the only other member of an Oklahoma recruiting haul that has suddenly dwindled to three players.

The Sooners have struggled to land pledges from junior prospects despite finishing the 2013 season with a scintillating Sugar Bowl victory over defending national champion Alabama. Oklahoma's 2015 class now rates No. 39 nationally and No. 7 in the Big 12 Conference, per 247Sports' composite team rankings.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Michigan Football: 3 Things Standing in the Way of a Big Ten Championship

Michigan has 42 Big Ten championships, the most of any team in the league (Ohio State is No. 2 with 34). However, the Wolverines haven't claimed the top of the standings in 10 years, and their past six seasons have been especially unbearable. 

Team 135's mission in life is to end the drought and give Brady Hoke his first taste of conference supremacy. Now entering his fourth season, Hoke's been a bystander, not a participant, as Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State continue to perch at the peak. 

Growing pains? Yes. Things not going as planned? That too. 

"But this is MichiganFerGodSakes." 

There are a few obstacles hindering progress. The following issues are among the most pressing. 

 

Taking Charge

Don't feel bad for thinking that Hoke doesn't have 100 percent control of the program.

You're not alone. 

Athletic Director Dave Brandon is hands-on, although he's insisted that Hoke is the man calling the shots. However, after the firing of Al Borges and subsequent hiring of Doug Nussmeier, legions of maize and blue fans began to question leadership. 

It wasn't the first time, and it probably won't be the last.

Michigan's football coach should be more than a figurehead. History and tradition make up vital parts of the Wolverines program, but there comes a time when the present and future must be the focus. The guy holding the job today should be A1. 

That doesn't always seem to be the case. 

Parody Twitter accounts such as @CoachBrandonAD only highlight the disdain and restless nature of the Wolverines' fanbase, which is growing tired of the jokes, excuses and "my-bads." 

Brandon was a part of three league-champion teams under Bo Schembechler. He has the lineage and the bloodline. In March of 2010, he grabbed the reins of the athletic department, giving hope for brighter days and the eventual return of the "victors." 

Still waiting. Brandon has a great business mind. He knows how to run a department. 

But let Hoke and his staff do their job. And if that doesn't work, hire personnel who can handle the load. An AD shouldn't make more football-related headlines than the coaches. 

Back in November, Brandon had to remind the public who wore the pants, via press release on MGoBlue.com.

Brady Hoke is our coach and will be leading our football program well into the future. There is no question about it. Brady has done a great job rebuilding the program and reshaping the culture to the level it was under coaches Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Anyone making efforts to stir up a coaching controversy at Michigan is ill-informed and is likely promoting a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of Michigan Football.

No coaching controversy. Not yet. No personal agendas, either. Just perception. Hoke often appears as a second fiddle. 

 

Getting Beaten 

Tough up front hasn't been a trademark of Michigan, not lately. The offensive line has been the topic of hot discussion for two years. The Wolverines haven't had a reliable center since David Molk, and they're losing two senior left tackles. 

And other than a select few, not many youngsters have experience in the trenches. They'll be called upon this fall, that's for certain. 

You've heard this one before: Devin Gardner was sacked 34 times in 2013. Repeat: Devin Gardner was sacked 34 times in 2013. 

O-lines like that don't serve as foundations for championship-caliber teams. They just don't. 

 

Negative Headlines

Every team deals with not-so-positive publicity. It goes with the territory. Regardless of what school they attend, athletes aren't perfect role models and choirboys. Nope. They're human and they make mistakes. 

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, a few of their own have been subject of media (and sometimes legal) scrutiny. 

Graham Glasgow is the most recent offender. On March 20, he was temporarily suspended for violations of team rules. Hoke hit Glasgow with a spring vacation and announced that he'd sit out during the home opener vs. Appalachian State.

On April 23, Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press reported that Glasgow will be charged on May 19 with drunken driving. 

Connect the dots.

Before that, Taylor Lewan, following the 42-41 loss to Ohio State, was accused of fighting a Buckeyes fan in Ann Arbor. He was scheduled to appear in court this month, but his arraignment was pushed back to May 19, per ESPN

That's a little more than a week later than the 2014 NFL Draft. 

Before that, there was Brendan Gibbons, a kicker who was accused of sexually assaulting a female student in 2009. Words have been few and far between. The silence certainly doesn't bode well for Michigan, either. 

Students protested the handling of the case, per MLive.com.

Unfortunately, these types of incidents happen at major universities everywhere. It's not a Michigan problem, it's a problem in general. 

But the Wolverines could certainly do without the nonsense. 

 

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

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Joe Paterno Statue Reportedly Being Planned for Downtown State College

According to Jessica Tully of OnwardState.com, a group unaffiliated with Penn State University is planning to finance a new statue of former head coach Joe Paterno, who had his old statue on Porter Road torn down in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and his subsequent firing from the program.

Ted Sebastianelli, a former president of the Penn State Football Letterman's Club and one of the organizers of the group behind this project, said the following, per Tully:

There’s been some level of frustration among Penn Staters with what happened with the statue at the stadium. We wanted to come up with a way to honor Joe for all that he did for the State College community. It wasn’t just the university he impacted — it was the whole town.

Paterno is no longer the winningest head coach in FBS history, as 111 of his 409 victories were later vacated. He coached the Nittany Lions for 45 seasons between 1966 and 2011 before being fired for allegedly not reporting what he knew about Sandusky's sexual misconduct when Sandusky was an assistant coach.

Board vice chair John Surma said this back in November 2011 regarding Paterno's firing, via ESPN.com:

The university is much larger than its athletic teams. The Penn State board of trustees tonight decided it is in the best interest of the university to have a change in leadership to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing.

The new statue—which is currently billed as "Joe's Bench"—will cost about $300,000 to build. Sebastianelli and his group plan to raise the money through Kickstarter and place the statue outside the Tavern Restaurant in State College, Pa.

"As alumni groups come back every summer to celebrate reunions, they migrate to the Tavern," Sebastianelli said, according to Tully. "They can sit and reflect on the bench. It really will be a wonderful addition to the community."

This is obviously a gray moral area for most, as it is hard to reconcile how much Paterno meant to PSU without having gone there and experienced it firsthand. Still, his alleged actions (or inactions) are hard for most to forgive, which will lead to sarcastic disapproval of a new statue like that of The Big Lead's Jason McIntrye:

According to Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com, the proceeds of a documentary called The Local Joe will also be used to fund the project.

For more information, you can check on the project's page on Facebook. We'll keep you updated if the university responds.

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Texas Football Recruiting: In-State DT Bryce English Decommits from Longhorns

The Texas Longhorns lost a longtime pledge Wednesday morning when in-state defensive tackle Bryce English decommitted. DeSoto High School head coach Claude Mathis told 247Sports' Jeff Howe that his star junior has reopened the recruitment process:

English, a 5'10.5", 315-pound prospect, initially committed to Texas last March as a sophomore. He provided a disruptive interior presence during DeSoto's postseason push to state semifinal action.

English earned All-Area honors from The Dallas Morning News after a campaign that featured 76 tackles, including 12 for loss. He was a menace in the offensive backfield, racking up six sacks and three forced fumbles.

Howe reports LSU and Notre Dame are among the teams that have also shown interest in English.

His departure leaves Texas with two committed carryovers from the Mack Brown regime. Dallas running back Jordan Stevenson and offensive guard Patrick Vahe both pledged to a different coaching staff than the one currently in place in Austin.

First-year head coach Charlie Strong has secured seven 2015 commitments since his arrival, but he's left with a noticeable need along the defensive front. Charles Omenihu, a 3-star defensive end who committed in February, is the lone incoming defensive lineman at this point.

The Longhorns were left with a hole on the offensive line in February when 5-star tackle Maea Teuhema flipped his commitment to LSU. He followed his brother, former 2014 Texas defensive end pledge Sione Teuhema, to Baton Rouge.

LSU also ended up with San Antonio defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao last signing day. He's another impact defender who decommitted from the Longhorns late in 2013, leaving the new staff searching for interior playmakers in the 2015 class.

Texas has extended offers to several defensive tackles, including in-state targets Darrion Daniels (Dallas) and Du'Vonta Lampkin, who decommitted from Oklahoma on Tuesday.

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Alden Hill's Transfer Opens the Door for Tennessee Frosh RB Jalen Hurd

When 5-star running back Jalen Hurd enrolled at Tennessee in January, he already had the weight of Vol Nation on his shoulders.

The 6'3", 221-pounder from Hendersonville, Tenn., missed nearly all of his senior season at Beech High School with a shoulder injury, but he was still expected to hit the ground running in spring practice.

He obliged. 

Hurd capped off a stellar spring with 66 rushing yards, 27 receiving yards and one touchdown in Tennessee's spring game, according to stats released by Tennessee. It laid a solid foundation for Hurd, whose top priority now is getting into game shape.

"Jalen continues to progress," head coach Butch Jones said in quotes released following the spring game. "I thought he had some hard earned yards today. I thought he dropped his pad level, but again, him understanding too that football rewards those who are in great shape. Our running backs have to be able to carry the ball three, four, five, six, seven times in a row."

He already was slated to be a contributor for this offense. Now that's more of a necessity because one of his mates in the backfield is moving on.

Alden Hill, a 6'2", 221-pound rising sophomore from Alliance, Ohio announced on Instagram Tuesday evening that he is transferring from the Vols' football program.

"As of today I am I'm sad to say I am no longer a Tennessee Vol," Hill wrote in the post. "I have decided to move on for my best interest and find a new home. I have loved Tennessee and the entire Big Orange family. I thank the coaches and the fans for my time here and will always remember my time spent at Tennessee, my first true love."

Hill only had 10 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown last year, but he rushed for 101 yards in last season's spring game, according to Brendan F. Quinn and Evan Woodbery of GoVolsXtra.com.

Buried on the depth chart, Hill wasn't going to see much playing time in 2014 as a feature back. But his size and experience could have earned him some short-yardage and goal-line carries. 

It appears that Hurd's strong spring earned him that responsibility right out of the gate, which means he'll hit the ground running as a big part of Tennessee's offense when toe meets leather on Aug. 31 versus Utah State.

It's just the beginning, though.

Once Hurd picks up the protection schemes, which is typically the last piece of the puzzle for any freshman running back, he has everything it takes to overtake Marlin Lane atop the Vols depth chart at running back and become a superstar in the SEC.

He has the power, vision and speed to be a star. Now the backfield isn't as crowded as it was during spring practice, which means the door is open even further for Hurd to become a star sooner rather than later.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports and all college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.


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Chad Lindsay Will Give Ohio State Help Where Buckeyes Need It Most

Protecting quarterback Braxton Miller is a top priority for Ohio State in 2014. The Buckeyes reportedly just got reinforcement on that front. 

It hasn't been confirmed by the school yet, but former Alabama offensive lineman Chad Lindsay informed CBSports.com's Jeremy Fowler on Tuesday that he's transferring to Ohio State. 

"It's done. Go Buckeyes!" Lindsay texted Fowler. 

In a time when graduate transfers have a free-agency feel to them, Lindsay provides Ohio State an immediate upgrade to a position hit hard by turnover. The Buckeyes return just one starter—tackle Taylor Decker—after losing four seniors from last year. The only other assured starter is right guard Pat Elflein.

Though Lindsay only started four games for the Tide at center, all last year, he has plenty of playing experience as a backup during his time in Tuscaloosa. That should give him an edge as he competes for playing time during preseason camp, as experience is something that is generally lacking for the Buckeyes in the trenches. 

Last year's senior-laden group helped the team finish fifth nationally in rushing (308.6 yards per game) and set school records in points scored (637), touchdowns (87) and touchdown passes (38), per Ohio State's website

"The buzz around Tuscaloosa is Alabama did not want to lose Lindsay and had considered starting him at center while moving Ryan Kelly to left tackle," Fowler wrote. "That's no longer an option, and Ohio State makes a nice move on the all-powerful transfer wire."

With Lindsay unofficially in the lineup, the Buckeyes would have three solid players up front. Even psychologically, that's an improvement. 

As head coach Urban Meyer attempts to piece together the O-line, he made it clear it was the biggest area of concern. Thus, protecting Miller, who has had his fair share of injuries, is a concern as well. 

"We’ve had the luxury of having a very good offensive line the last two years, and (with four starters gone), you were hoping some guys would step up," Meyer said before the Buckeyes spring game, via Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch. "Some guys have gotten better, but not to the point where I (could) tell you who the starting offensive line is."

Fans won't get to see Ohio State's offense at full strength until the season opener against Navy. Miller, tight end Jeff Heuerman and receiver Evan Spencer, all major pieces of the offense, were hampered by injuries this spring. Similarly, fans (and Meyer) won't know what to expect from the O-line until they line up together in actual game play. 

O-line may still be the weakest area for the Buckeyes offense this year, but with Lindsay, that group is at least getting much-needed help. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Sammie Coates Will Be Monster Deep Threat for Auburn Tigers

Sammie Coates had an incredibly productive season in 2013, catching 42 passes for 902 yards. Look for him to have an even better 2014. The star receiver will benefit greatly from Nick Marshall's improved passing skills. 

The Auburn Tigers have a lot of weapons on offense, but Coates will stand out due to his ability to pull in the long ball and create yards after the catch. D'haquille Williamsthe No. 1 JUCO transfer in the 2014 class, according to 247Sports—will be joining the Tigers receiving corps as well. He may steal red-zone targets from Coates. 

Watch Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down what to expect from Sammie Coates in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

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What Mark Dantonio Must See from Michigan State Defense in Spartans Spring Game

Michigan State wraps up spring ball on April 26, and for head coach Mark Dantonio, the final spring session will be about the defense continuing to show growth. The Spartans are replacing key pieces and while the new faces have exhibited flashes, Saturday's showcase will be a chance to continue to improve under the eyes of plenty of Sparty fans.

Dantonio's team stands as the reigning Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions, following a magical 2013 campaign in which the Green and White piled up 13 wins. The backbone of that effort was the defense that finished near the top of every major defensive category.

Saturday's defense will not be that same unit. Linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen are gone. Defensive backs Isaiah Lewis and Darqueze Dennard are also taking the next step in their football careers. Reserve linebacker Kyler Elsworth, who had a stellar game replacing Bullough in the Rose Bowl, is no longer a part of the team.

2014 is not 2013, something plenty at Michigan State have acknowledged. As Connor Cook told CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman, relaying the words of coach Ken Mannie:

It's 2014. We don't wanna feel like we've made it now. It's the ultimate goal at Michigan State to win the Rose Bowl, but we're all not walking around campus like, Oh yeah, we've made it now?' We want to continue to stay hungry, continue to stay focused. We've pushed that aside. We're not still relishing the victory.

And for this defense, a unit replacing plenty of key pieces in the back seven, there certainly is no time to live in a moment created in January.

Growth, especially up front, has been a constant for the Michigan State defense throughout spring. Shilique Calhoun is the returning anchor, but both Demetrius Cooper and Lawrence Thomas have shown that the defensive end position will be an area of true strength in 2014. Cooper, a player Michigan State stuck with despite serious injuries in high school as MLive.com reported, has added weight and finds himself sitting behind Calhoun on the depth chart

Thomas, a 2011 signee, was a 4-star inside linebacker according to 247Sports, weighing 244 pounds. He now sits behind Marcus Rush on the depth chart as a 294-pound defensive end. That comes after redshirting in 2011, playing as a fullback for much of 2012 and settling at end while working to get healthy in 2013.  As safety Kurtis Drummond told the Detroit Free Press, Thomas is "an animal" at the position.

Monsters up front are going to be a plus for Michigan State, and seeing that growth in the spring game should help ease the worry about the defense in East Lansing. Pressure on the edge, coupled with a rotation that should keep bodies fresh, means the line should help the back end as the secondary replaces Lewis and Dennard.

Saturday will be about Darian Hicks, Jermaine Edmondson, Ezra Robinson and Arjen Colquhoun showing the drop-off at the corner spot will not be crippling. Dennard was one of the nation's best at the position, and as the capable Trae Waynes moves into that spot, the field corner position must be capably manned.

The corners make this defense go and the replacement options will be on display to show just how ready they are to step in and play. Each of the listed players—Hicks, Edmondson, Robinson and Colquhoun—has game experience, and Saturday will be about pushing for more time.

Which leads to the major area to watch in the spring game: linebackers. Taiwan Jones slides over from star to Mike. Darien Harris steps into the starting lineup, and folks will get a chance to see him and Jones operate. Ed Davis, expected to be the starter at Sam in the fall, is out for spring, which means reserves Riley Bullough, Shane Jones and Sean Harrington will be filling in his stead.

Replacing Max Bullough and Denicos Allen is the hardest thing this Spartans defense, and this Spartans team, has to do for the 2014 campaign. Allen was a dynamic playmaker who could run, understand how to get pressure and be a terror for offenses. Bullough was a Steady Eddie performer whose primary role was to be the true quarterback of the defense, directing traffic as offenses shifted and helping solve riddles to ensure defensive success.

Jones has the physical skills to replace Bullough, but to continue the defensive success folks in East Lansing have grown accustomed to, the senior has to emerge as a vocal force of leadership. That part is not easy and that part will be what coaches are watching for, as the team takes the field for the spring game.

Dantonio, and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, understand this unit is a work in progress, and it has to continue to show growth. Up front that means growing into a rotation that can stop the run and consistently get pressure. In the secondary, growth is most notably about filling Dennard's absence.

And for those linebackers, it comes down to growing into bigger roles and, most importantly, finding a way to communicate to get the defense functioning as a unit.

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Why USC's Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III Could Be Top Safety Duo in Country

The USC Trojans are under new leadership, as former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has taken over at the helm. The Trojans have plenty of talent all over the field, including two stud safeties in sophomores Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III.

Cravens got plenty of reps last season, and McQuay III will get even more playing time this season as safety Dion Bailey heads for the NFL.

Why should this dynamic duo be considered one of the best safety combos in the country?

Watch as B/R's Michael Felder breaks down why Cravens and McQuay III will be so valuable to the Trojans this season.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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