NCAA Football

Deshaun Watson on How Elite 11 Changed His Life: 'Like a Family to Me'

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — After a year in which he burst onto the national scene in leading Clemson to a berth in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Tigers All-American quarterback Deshaun Watson has had a busy offseason.

His time is in demand, but he made sure to clear his schedule to attend the Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles last month to help Trent Dilfer and his staff as a college counselor for the event. 

His reasoning was simple.

“Elite 11 is like a family to me. It’s a fraternity,” Watson told Bleacher Report. “No matter what age you are or what position in life you are at, you can always relate to each other and talk to one another. It’s not just about learning about football. It’s learning about life and your experiences.” 

After making the Elite 11 finals in 2013, Watson noted he’s leaned on the guidance he receives from Dilfer and his staff—most of whom have been through similar experiences in their playing careers.

“Elite 11 is one of those things that prepares you for the journey you are about to go through in college and beyond,” Watson explained. “The things you are going to go through, the guys here have already done it. I always come back because it’s fun and you always learn something new from these guys.

"They have already taught me so much, and that’s why it’s always fun to come back and see everyone whenever I have a chance."

There’s another component for Watson that makes this trip special. As ESPN.com’s David M. Hale detailed, his journey to Clemson has had its share of bumps in the road. Watson has tattoos emblazoned on both forearms to remind him of the troubles in his old neighborhood he escaped. 

But that’s precisely why he feels it’s important for him to be there. He wanted to share his story with 24 quarterbacks who represent the game's future.

“I just want to try and set the example of how to balance out football, life and school,” he explained. “Being able to give back and show how I’ve been able to do things, it’s just special to be able to show them what happens when you try to do things the right way. I’m here because I want to teach these guys how to do it the right way.”

Dealing with adversity and success on and off the field was another topic he mentioned to the group. He talked of having to rehab from a torn ACL this time a year ago then emerging as a Heisman finalist by the end of the 2015 season.

“Adversity will hit you eventually, whether it’s with injuries, life in general or socially,” Watson said. “You have to be able to handle that, but you also have to be able to handle success. There’s great times when you are having success, especially at the collegiate level. You are exposed to so many things, so you are able to see more things and do things you never thought you would be able to do.

"You just have to make sure you handle those things the right way, too. One mistake could cause a lot of problems for your family, your school and your teammates. Handling success is just as tough as dealing with adversity.”

According to 4-star passer and Tigers pledge Chase Brice, Watson’s message carried a lot of weight considering his achievements on and off the field.

“To see where he’s been and the success he’s had, he shared his journey through Elite 11 last night in his confessional. He’s had so much success on the field and he’s on track to graduate in December, so for him to speak with us and teach us, it’s just been a really neat thing,” Brice said.

Watson, who figures to be a prime contender for the Heisman again this season and a potential first-round pick if he enters next year’s NFL draft, acknowledges the importance Elite 11 has had during his journey.

“The main impact Elite 11 has made on me is that it has changed the way I see things now, on and off the field. It’s changed my perspective and shown me how to approach things as I get older and experience new things. It’s had a great impact on how I play the position of quarterback and the way I go about my life socially.”

Among the things he stressed to the group were handling the pressures and responsibilities that come with playing the most important position on the field.

“It’s a different world when you play quarterback. We aren’t the regular college student on campus or even the average football player on campus,” Watson explained. “Being an Elite 11 quarterback, you represent your family, your school and all of the other guys who came before you in this fraternity. There’s only one quarterback on the field, and he’s usually the guy that is responsible for the team’s failures and successes.

"Elite 11 has taught me about the responsibilities you have as a quarterback, and how to deal with the pressures of being a leader on and off the field.”

Still, giving back is something that brings joy to the Gainesville, Georgia, native. His journey through the Elite 11 fraternity is something he speaks about with pride, and he feels that will be the case when he looks back on it after some years have passed.

“It’s going to bring me a lot of joy when I look back on it 10 years from now, when this fraternity and camp will still be going on. When I reflect on it and think about my times, it will be cool to see how the Elite 11 has continued to grow through the years.”

 

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

FBS Teams on Upset Alert vs. FCS Opponents in 2016

College football's top division split into two in the late 1970s, and ever since it's been the drive of FCS teams to show they can still compete with the big boys. They don't happen often, but whenever a lower-division team is able to knock off an FBS opponent, it's cause for celebration.

Last year saw FCS teams go 9-96 against the FBS. Though most of the victims were from the bottom of the FBS barrel—Washington State lost at home to Portland State to open the season and went on to win nine games. That was one of two FBS teams that Portland State knocked off, also beating North Texas four weeks later by a score of 66-7.

The Big Ten is eliminating games against FCS opponents and other power leagues are moving away from such matchups, but plenty still litter the 2016 schedule. All told, 49 power-conference schools and dozens of non-power teams will play at least one FCS squad this fall, and as is the case every year a few of them will end up getting felled by the little guy.

Which ones should be on the highest upset alert? We've got some likely possibilities to ponder.

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The Opening 2016: Ranking the Top 25 Recruits in Attendance

The premier showcase on the college football recruiting summer camp circuit is set to get underway next week when the The Opening kicks off at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

The event will feature more than 160 of the nation’s top recruits in the country. A majority of them are in the 2017 cycle, but a handful of elite underclassmen will also compete against one another.

Additionally, the dozen Elite 11 finalists tabbed earlier this month will all be on hand.

Overall, 75 of the nation’s top 100 overall prospects in the 247Sports composite rankings will be in attendance. 

So which players should fans be paying close attention to next week during the competition?

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10 Best Live College Football Mascots

Entertainment value is the primary reason for every sport, and mascots help enhance the experience at college football games.

But in some cases, the mascot has a storied tradition, fascinating history, unique game-day routine or, quite simply, is flat-out awesome.

The list is subjective, like any ranking of this subject would be. 

Additionally, human mascots were not considered. Yes, they are alive. But there's real people in any costume, too, and those aren't included. In other words, let's enjoy college football's best animals.

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Ranking the Top Elite 11 Alums of All Time

Since 1999, when the likes of Brock Berlin, Casey Clausen and Matt Cassel dominated the recruiting circuit, the Elite 11 quarterback competition has showcased the nation's top high school passing talent every single summer.

Next week, a dozen of the best passers in the class of 2017 will descend on Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, for this year's Elite 11 competition at The Opening recruiting combine. Hunter Johnson, Dylan McCaffrey and Tate Martell will be among those joining a truly legendary group of modern quarterbacks who are Elite 11 alumni.

But which former Elite 11 quarterbacks are the best of the best in the competition's history? Several have gone on to win Heisman Trophies, become No. 1 overall picks in the NFL draft and rack up countless records in both the college and pro levels. 

Here are the picks for the 11 best Elite 11 alumni of all time. These selections are based on a player's overall football career to date, combining accolades in both college football and the NFL into a total reflection of his success since being selected to the Elite 11.

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Jordan Thomas Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and More on Oklahoma DB

Oklahoma junior cornerback Jordan Thomas was arrested on Thursday by the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office. 

Per the official Cleveland County Sheriff's Office website, Thomas was arrested on charges of public intoxication and assault and battery. 

The Fulmer Cup tweeted the full police report and Thomas' mugshot:  

Thomas has been in trouble with the law previously, spending a night in jail in January when an arrest warrant was issued after he didn't appear in court for traffic violations stemming from a speeding violation the previous summer. 

The 20-year-old Thomas emerged as one of Oklahoma's best defensive backs last season. He appeared in 12 of the Sooners' 13 games and finished second on the team with five interceptions and tied for second with four passes defensed. 

For his efforts on the field, Thomas was named to the All-Big 12 second team by the Associated Press. His role on the defense in 2016 figures to be more prominent after Zack Sanchez entered the NFL draft in April. 

The Sooners are not lacking for talent on either side of the ball with quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Samaje Perine back on offense. Thomas is undeniably a talented player and key member of the defense, but his off-field exploits are quickly becoming a distraction for the program.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Extra Points: Should Ole Miss Be Worried About Latest NCAA Info?

Nothing spices up SEC media days like a scandal, and the wheels of Ole Miss' NCAA scandal kept spinning this week when Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated dropped his feature on the depth and potential ramifications of the Rebels' current situation, including quotes from NCAA legal experts and former offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil's stepfather, Lindsey Miller.

In it, Miller claimed that he spoke with NCAA investigators for around 100 total hours and provided electronic communication between him and Ole Miss staffers and boosters that eventually led to impermissible payments from boosters and impermissible lodging.

Should Ole Miss be worried about this?

The answer is no. Well, at least not any more or less worried than it was last week or last month.

As Thamel noted in the story and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze stated in Destin, Florida, last month at SEC spring meetings, the program is only disputing one charge in the Notice of Allegations, and it has nothing to do with Tunsil:

There were four [allegations] that preceded my tenure at Ole Miss and there were nine that were under my watch. We’ve been as honest as we can throughout the process. [AD] Ross [Bjork] made a public statement that says many of those allegations date back to a former football staff in 2010 and the withholding and re-instatement process around Laremy Tunsil in the fall of 2015. To be exact, nine is the total for that. So [Bjork's] statement is very accurate. Of the nine that occurred under my watch, four are Level 1s. Of those four, three have zero staff involvement. One has a staff involved in it that we look forward to sharing our view of exactly what the facts are in that case when the time is appropriate. The others are secondary, or Level 2s and 3s in the new penalty structure.

As Thamel noted, three of the four Level I violations that are tied to Freeze's tenure are related to Tunsil. Keep in mind, Tunsil was suspended for seven games—more than half of the 2015 regular season, and reinstated by the NCAA in October. 

So while Miller, who is suing Tunsil for defamation of character and hoping to depose Freeze in the case, has spilled the beans, it likely won't matter, considering Ole Miss not only self-reported and self-imposed penalties tied to his portion of the case, but also that Tunsil was reinstated by the NCAA itself based on the information that Miller provided.

Ole Miss doesn't want this case—which is in the midst of its third year—to drag on any longer than it has to. The lawyers that Thamel spoke with in his story agreed that the program did what they called a "thorough job" with its self-imposed punishment—which included the loss of 11 scholarships over three years, recruiting restrictions to assistants Chris Kiffin and Maurice Harris, a fine and the disassociation of several boosters.

We're left wondering what's to come for Ole Miss.

If the one Level I violation that includes connecting players to boosters is what Ole Miss claims should be a Level II.

"The one that is serious that has a staff member involved in it, we differ on the view of it," Freeze said in Destin. "I know the facts. Hopefully we’ll be able to share that in due time."

If the NCAA is right, Ole Miss is likely looking at a few more scholarships being tacked on and/or those staff members involved receiving further discipline. 

The elephant in the room is Tunsil's draft-night debacle, which, in addition to video of him smoking a bong through a gas mask appearing on his own Twitter account, also included screenshots of electronic communication that appear to be between Tunsil and an Ole Miss football staff member arranging small payments to cover Tunsil's mother's electric bill.

Is Ole Miss that dumb?

Would it really set up a system for small payments through the football offices knowing that a similar system could already be in place through boosters—something that both the program and the NCAA agree on based on the suspension and subsequent reinstatement of Tunsil?

If you think it is, then more hits could be coming for Ole Miss. If you don't, then it likely won't get much worse than what was already self-imposed.

Either way, though, you shouldn't feel any differently about the case today than you did last week or last month. Miller has been in a rather public dispute with Tunsil, Freeze and the program ever since he was arrested (along with Tunsil) last summer for domestic violence following an altercation between the two.

That apparently will continue while Ole Miss waits to find out its NCAA fate.

 

Cause For Concern?

Phil Savage of Alabama's radio network and the Reese's Senior Bowl appeared on the Opening Drive on WJOX in Birmingham on Monday and commented on Crimson Tide quarterback Cooper Bateman—who was a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy last week in Louisiana.

"The short-to-intermediate stuff he seems to be pretty good at," Savage said (via Kevin Flaherty of 247Sports). "Anything beyond 25 yards though, the ball seems to come apart on him for whatever reason. I don’t know technically why that would happen, I’ve never worked closely enough with him to know."

That's concerning, considering Bateman is a redshirt junior whose time in the system should have helped him be a little more consistent downfield. 

What isn't concerning, though, is the progress of redshirt freshman Blake Barnett. 

Listed at 6'5", 200 pounds, the ultra-athletic California-native with a rocket arm and deceptive speed has been busy bulking up this offseason.

That's tremendous news, considering one of the two primary concerns with Barnett entering the 2016 season is his size (along with some spring turnovers, as Matt Zenitz of AL.com noted this spring). If Barnett can pack on 10-15 pounds without losing his ability to create with his speed, he should be in prime position to take the job.

At this point, if Bateman is still struggling downfield, it's unlikely that it will click. That leaves the door wide-open for Barnett, redshirt sophomore David Cornwell and true freshman Jalen Hurts. None of those three players have ever attempted a collegiate pass. 

Don't be surprised if that changes in the season opener against USC, and if Barnett gets the first snap.

 

Chubb Back In The Mix

As Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph noted, all signs are pointing to the return of running back Nick Chubb for Georgia's season-opening showdown with North Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

But what exactly will Chubb 2.0 look like?

It's unlikely that he will look the same as he did prior to tearing ligaments in his knee on his first carry of the Tennessee game in early October 2015.

Part of the reason is Sony Michel.

Michel rushed for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns in essentially two-thirds of a season as Georgia's starting running back, averaging 5.3 yards per carry in a decidedly one-dimensional offense in the process. That's what new head coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney should build on.

Michel proved that he can be a true No. 1 running back in difficult circumstances last year, which is what Chubb did as a true freshman in 2014 when he rushed for 1,547 yards in essentially a half-season as the true No. 1 back in Athens.

Two No. 1 running backs is better than one.

Because of Michel's impact last year and Chubb's status coming off injury, Georgia doesn't need Chubb topping 30 carries per game on a regular basis. Chubb's long-term future and Georgia's offense would be better off if both primary running backs share the responsibilities and hover around 15-20 carries per game. 

If that happens, it will take pressure off the eventual winner of the quarterback battle and land Georgia in the mix for the SEC East title.

 

Coaches, Please Be Better

Twitter is a dangerous place.

The moment you hit "send"—often without thinking about all of the short- and long-term ramifications—your reputation is in the hands of how people interpret what you said in those 140 characters. Over the course of the offseason, there have been several instances of coaches subtweeting high school prospects after missing out on their commitments or seeing them flip to other programs.

Add Oklahoma assistant inside receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy to the list of coaches who should learn to hit the "pause" button.

After losing 4-star center and Oklahoma-native Creed Humphrey to Texas A&M, Gundy sent a tweet (which was later deleted) discussing championships.

"Piece of advice to recruits," Gundy tweeted (via @DecadePlan), "It's real simple. Schools are winning championships or talking about winning championships. Do your homework."

Come on.

While Oklahoma has a Big 12 title to brag about and Texas A&M hasn't been in contention for a division title in the SEC since November 2012, coaches need to be the bigger men in this situation. Gundy, who is listed as one of Humphrey's recruiters according to 247Sports, should recognize that acting like the jilted lover in a public fashion only reflects poorly on himself and the program.

For A&M, Humphrey's commitment is huge.

Not only is he a player whom a regional recruiting rival clearly wanted, but he's a big, physical center who can help the Aggies be more physical in the trenches, as Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com noted.

According to 247Sports, the program has earned eight Class of 2017 commitments in this month alone. That includes Humphrey, 4-star quarterback Kellen Mond and 4-star linebacker Santino Marchiol.

That "College Station is crumbling" narrative seems like a bit of a stretch at this point.

 

Quick Outs

  • It appears that former LSU quarterback and 2014 starter Anthony Jennings is on the brink of landing at Louisiana-Lafayette, according to Luke Johnson of the Advocate. LSU announced his intent to transfer long ago, so this is far from breaking news. The Ragin' Cajuns are likely getting a former 4-star prospect and SEC starter, which will certainly help their chances in the Sun Belt.
  • Former South Carolina quarterback Connor Mitch announced his intent to transfer this spring and announced on Twitter this week that he will land at James Madison.
  • Former Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper appeared on a celebrity edition of Family Feud, and it didn't go well, according to a pre-released clip.

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dylan Moses' Quest to Reclaim No. 1 Ranking

The scene at The Opening Houston regional was routine for Dylan Moses. As he entered the Delmar-Tusa Athletic Complex, he immediately garnered stares from other athletes.

Media members quickly gravitated to him as he walked from one side of the field to the other. Fans whispered, "There's Dylan Moses."

For four years, that's been his life. Now attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Moses has been in the recruiting limelight since he was a middle school phenom in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Few athletes can say they hold football offers from LSU and Alabama midway through their eighth-grade years.

"Sometimes, it feels like I'm a professional athlete—but I'm not," said Moses, who put on his cleats to prepare for the Houston regional workouts as media representatives stood in line waiting their turns to chat with him.

For the longest time, Moses was considered the athlete to catch in the 2017 class, but he is now the nation's No. 2 player and the top-ranked linebacker. Moses will be in the spotlight next week, as he will travel to Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, to compete at The Opening as one of 166 of the nation's top high school athletes.

Moses is one of the few in attendance who will make the trip for the second consecutive year. And because of his No. 2 ranking, as well as him being a veteran of The Opening, expect Moses to have a target on his back. He's been the face of the 2017 class for so long, and he understands that competitors are ready to challenge him.

Luckily for the self-proclaimed perfectionist, he can be both the hunted and the hunter. As he chases the No. 1 spot, being the latter is what drives him.

 

Gunning for No. 1

Four years ago, Moses was a 6'1", 215-pound bruiser who made plays at both linebacker and running back. As a freshman at University High School in September 2013, he made national headlines by verbally committing to play college ball at LSU.

Now, he's a 6'2", 220-pound machine with 40 reported offers. He backed off his LSU pledge right before the start of his junior year to explore other options. Since then, he's been a priority get for a myriad college programs.

The initial 247Sports Top 247 in April 2015 featured Moses at the No. 1 spot in the 2017 class. The same can be said for the initial Scout 300, released in June 2015. Moses was No. 2 in the initial Rivals Top 100, released in July 2015.

The first 247Sports composite ranking—the industry-driven ranking created as a consensus from the four national recruiting sites of 247Sports, Scout.com, Rivals.com and ESPN—had Moses at No. 1 in 2015, and he kept that ranking until February 2016. Running back Najee Harris, an Alabama commit, took over the top spot and dropped Moses to No. 2. That's where the two athletes have remained in the rankings.

"That No. 1 spot is the toughest move to make every year. It's why it doesn't change very often," Barton Simmons, director of scouting for 247Sports, said. "It doesn't represent anything negative on Dylan's part. This was more about a guy who took it from him. Najee has done so much that he earned that spot."

Simmons' comments are fair, as Harris is an absolute beast at 6'3" and 226 pounds. He's a running back who can be a bully between the tackles or moonlight as a shifty scatback in the open field. Harris also has outstanding hands and runs great routes as a pass-catching option out of the backfield.

The respect is there with Moses, as both he and Harris were among the handful of underclassmen competing at The Opening last year. And as Moses prefers to perform on the field versus reading about where he ranks, all he processes is that another athlete is ranked ahead of him.

"As far as I'm concerned, I know I'm No. 1," Moses said. "I try not to pay attention to where I am in the recruiting sites. If they think I'm No. 2, only numbers and stats will speak for themselves. It's like they're trying to test me, and I love being tested."

For Moses, The Opening provides an opportunity to be tested. As a linebacker, he'll have the chance to line up against running backs like Harris, Cam Akers and USC commit Stephen Carr. He'll also have the chance to show his coverage skills against some of the nation's best wide receivers, such as Donovan Peoples-JonesJoseph LewisTee Higgins and Tyjon Lindsey.

Simmons called The Opening "the best opportunity Dylan can get in the offseason" to reclaim the top spot in the 2017 class.

"You have the best players there, and you have the chance to prove yourself," Simmons said. "There's no better opportunity in the spring or summer to do it."

Moses' quest for No. 1 would be something no linebacker has accomplished since the inception of the composite ranking. Per Simmons, former Notre Dame standout Jaylon Smith, a second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in April's NFL draft, was the closest to finishing No. 1 in his recruiting class. He was the nation's top-ranked outside linebacker but finished No. 2 in the composite rankings in 2013.

Moses is in the same situation, but playing phenomenally at The Opening or in the regular season could separate him and once again put him atop the 2017 class. He will play linebacker for a team that, on paper, is one of the most talented, heavily recruited teams in the country.

"The best shot for him is when he dons the pads for IMG and plays national-level competition and gets to eat up ball-carriers," Simmons said. "It's going to be fun to see him go out and compete, because I know he's hungry."

 

'The hype is real with him'

In April, Moses announced a top five of Texas, Alabama, UCLA, LSU and USC. On June 16, he tweeted that every school "will have a chance" until his final decision scheduled for December.

Moses told Sports Illustrated in May that he's been focused on spring training and adjusting to the culture at IMG. He plans on being an early enrollee at the college of his choice.

On Monday night, Moses announced his official visit plans:

The winning school will get a playmaker at both the inside and outside linebacker positions. Moses has the size, lateral movement and strength to play middle linebacker, but it's his speed and instincts that project to outside linebacker.

Tight end Tre' McKitty, a teammate with 32 reported offers who will also be joining Moses in Oregon for The Opening, immediately noticed Moses' talent upon his arrival to IMG. McKitty has seen Moses' work ethic and has been excited about the competitive practices with him on the other side of the ball.

"The hype is real with him. That dude's a man, for real," McKitty said. "He's an animal out there. He's fast, and he's strong."

Moses added: "Every time I step in that weight room at IMG, and every time I step on the field, it just drives me even more to become the best of the best. That's what's been driving me my whole process, ever since I was in the eighth grade when I first got this attention."

Moses' junior stats further support his argument for the top spot. Per The Advocate, he had 104 tackles and two forced fumbles for University High—and that was done with him sidelined with injuries for two games. Moses was also voted the defensive MVP of his district before announcing he was transferring to IMG in January.

Kevin Wright is preparing for his second season as the head coach at IMG. Since his arrival from Baton Rouge, Moses has been impressive on and off the field, and the ceiling remains high for an elite-level athlete who trains as if he's someone looking to prove his worth.

"The thing about Dylan that's intriguing [is] he's an in-the-box guy that has the speed, athleticism, strength and size to play all over the field," Wright said. "I can see him potentially as a 'Mike' [middle] linebacker in the days where Mike doesn't have to look like Dick Butkus. Nowadays, the Mike has to be a big, fast guy and not just a bruiser.

"He has a lot of athletic ability. I think he can be an every-down guy who's not a liability in coverage. That's something not easy to find with a player with all those attributes; when you find him, you know he can be special."

 

Finding his niche

For some, it may be hard to believe Moses' recruiting stardom began four years ago. On July 15, 2012, he received his first offer from LSU. Seven months later, Alabama gave him an offer. From there, offers from Ole Miss, Florida, UCLA, Florida State and Nebraska followed.

Fast-forward to now, and Moses is in a position to write his own ticket.

"My philosophy is easy: I want to make sure I do what I have to do, stay focused and keep working hard," Moses said. "I want to stay close to God and keep praying to him. As far as the recruiting process, it's going to take care of itself."

Ask him about his favorite player, and he'll talk about Ryan Shazier, an inside linebacker and former Ohio State standout who is entering his third year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Moses is a fan of Shazier's sideline-to-sideline speed, his ability to make plays in open space and his aggressive nature.

He will have his chance to be a premier linebacker and have similar success. If all works out, Moses also could have some college success a la Myles Jack, a Jacksonville Jaguars rookie linebacker who saw time at running back in college at UCLA.

Once considered a potential running back recruit, Moses is hoping to get an offensive package or two in college. Long term, however, Moses will thrive as a linebacker.

"I know he likes being on the field as much as possible, but he's a natural at linebacker," said Michael Fletcher, linebackers coach at The Opening. "It seems like he just has more fun attacking people. He really embraces the coaching there, and you can tell he's gravitating to that side of the ball.

"He can play both, but as a linebacker, he can be special. He's the hunter instead of being the hunted."

Wright said Moses' football IQ and businesslike manner on the field meshes well, but it's his humility that makes him stand out. Wright described him as "unassuming," someone who doesn't act like a player who's been in the recruiting spotlight for four years.

"I kind of wish he'd be a little more vocal at times," Wright said, "but he is who he is, and with how hard he works, the kids follow that. He's not a rah-rah guy or does a lot of talking. He's about action, and he's very focused on being the best he could be. He's a very driven young man."

December will be a huge month for one lucky school. Moses said he's looking to play at a college where he can have a great relationship with teammates and coaches and a place that will prepare him to be a force in the pros.

But as he focuses on the upcoming season with IMG and his future college plans, the No. 2 player ranking will always hold a place in the back of his mind. 

"Nobody plays to be No. 2," Moses said. "You play to be No. 1."

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Creed Humphrey to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star Center Prospect

Creed Humphrey, a 4-star center from Shawnee High in Oklahoma, committed to Texas A&M on Wednesday.

He released the following statement on Twitter: 

Humphrey, who stands 6'4" and weighs 301 pounds, is considered the No. 3 center, the No. 4 prospect from the state of Oklahoma and the No. 300 player in the class of 2017, according to 247Sports.

Greg Powers of Scout.com broke down Humphrey's game:

While rated as a center Humphrey is big enough and powerful enough to be considered as an option to play either guard position in college as well. He is quick off the ball and very powerful at the point of attack. Once he gets his hands on you it is pretty much over as he plays with balance and leverage giving him even more of an advantage because he is usually so much stronger than the man across from him. On tape, Humphrey is very effective as a run blocker and he generates a lot of strength from his lower body, which allows him to finish blocks with authority.

That combination of versatility and power should make him a valuable addition to the Aggies offensive line down the road. 

And his commitment continues what has been an excellent recruiting class for the program, which ranks No. 7 in 247Sports' composite rankings. Humphrey will join fellow 4-star recruit Grayson Reed (offensive tackle) and 3-star additions Carson Green (tackle) and Adrian Wolford (tackle) in a strong offensive line class

The Aggies are expected to have two seniors on the offensive line for the 2016 season—Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor—which means there will be openings immediately for Texas A&M next season.

While more experienced players will be expected to fill those voids, the Aggies' young crop of offensive linemen could make a quick impact if they impress heading into the 2017 season.

 

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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The Opening 2016: Each Top 25 Team's Most Important Target at Beaverton

College football recruiting is a never-ending process, but there are some key moments in the timeline that all fans should pay attention to. The most notable of these are national signing day, which isn't until February, and the summer showcase known as The Opening.

The weeklong event at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, set to begin July 5, will feature a who's who of the top prospects from the 2017 recruiting class. A fair number of these players have already committed, but quite a few remain undecided and thus will be closely monitored by coaches.

Using Bleacher Report's most recent Top 25 as a guide, we've identified the top target that each school will be keeping its eye on during The Opening. These are the players programs will be regularly checking in on to see how they perform but also to make sure the recruits know those schools are still interested.

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Laremy Tunsil's Stepfather Speaks on Alleged Ole Miss Violations in SI Exclusive

Lindsey Miller, the estranged stepfather of Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, spoke with Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel about alleged recruiting violations the Ole Miss Rebels committed during Tunsil's time with the school. 

"It's like that movie Blue Chips with Nick Nolte, with Shaquille O'Neal in it," Miller said. "It really is."

Thamel outlined some of the allegations Miller has made to the NCAA regarding Ole Miss:

During a recent meeting with SI, Miller detailed the extent of the extra benefits that he claims Tunsil and his family received. Miller, a first-hand witness and aggrieved party, says he laid everything out for the NCAA during more than 100 hours of interviews. Among the things Miller says he told the NCAA: Ole Miss had an intricate system in which the school arranged for Tunsil and his family through boosters to get loans, money and free lodging at hotels and residences around Oxford, Miss. He claims he told the NCAA of benefits that spanned nearly three years.

Included among them: Miller says he told the NCAA that he and Desiree Polingo—Tunsil's mother and Miller's now-estranged wife—moved from Lake City, Fla., to the Oxford area in 2014 along with Miller's two sons from a prior relationship thanks in part to financial assistance from Ole Miss coaches and boosters.

Tunsil's mother, Desiree Polingo, provided a statement to Thamel through her lawyer: "[Miller] continued receiving his pension, child support and military benefits. Why he keeps telling people that Ole Miss promised us something or did something wrong is beyond me, and frankly makes me very angry."

Last October, the NCAA suspended Tunsil for seven games after finding he accepted impermissible benefits. On the night of the 2016 NFL draft, the details of Tunsil's college life in Oxford, Mississippi, were again thrust into the national spotlight.

Somebody hacked into Tunsil's Instagram account and posted a text correspondence that appeared to be between he and John Miller, Ole Miss' assistant athletic director for football operations. Busted Coverage posted screenshots of the Instagram posts (Warning: screenshots contain NSFW language) :

After initially denying he had ever accepted money from an Ole Miss coach, Tunsil reversed course and said, "I'd have to say yeah," per Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger.

Lindsey Miller is currently in the process of suing Tunsil, alleging defamation of character, assault and battery and emotional distress stemming from an incident in June 2015.

Oxford authorities arrested Tunsil on charges of domestic violence. A source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that Tunsil punched Miller after Miller shoved Polingo. Tunsil and Miller agreed to drop the charges last August.

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10 Best Defensive Coordinators in College Football

Games are won on the field, but part of that equation is the impact of defensive coordinators. They're calling the shots, picking the right coverages and blitzes to stall an opponent's drive.

Hanging on to these coaches is not easy. Many eventually move to leading roles. Others, however, seem content to remain coordinators for most of, if not all of, their careers.

Factors used to determine the 10 best in college football include a coach's overall success, aided by total and scoring defense, S&P+ defensive ratings and red-zone numbers. Recent and projected performance in 2016 were given extra weight.

Only current coordinators were eligible for a spot, so Kirby Smart, D.J. Durkin and Will Muschamp simply receive a mention here.

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The Opening 2016: 10 Sleeper Recruits to Watch in Beaverton

There are a few athletes—running back Najee Harris, linebacker Dylan Moses and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, for example—who many expect to have dominating performances at The Opening next week in Beaverton, Oregon. And while that may occur, there will be those athletes at the upcoming high school showcase who improve their national recruiting stock with accelerated play.

Calling athletes who qualified for The Opening "sleepers" can be processed oxymoronically, but it isn't totally off-base to say that the event will have its surprise performers. There are 166 athletes headed to Nike World Headquarters, and not everybody is a 5-star or high-4-star target. There will be opportunities for some to take the pedestal that other elite-level targets are used to.

Here are 10 athletes attending The Opening who may not receive the fanfare of some national blue-chippers. These 10, however, could be major storylines once The Opening comes to a conclusion. Only one of the 10 players is ranked in the top 300 of the 247Sports Composite rankings. Another player isn't even ranked in the top 800.

 

All names are listed in alphabetical order.

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Patrick Hudson to Texas: Longhorns Land Former 4-Star Baylor OT

Coveted offensive lineman Patrick Hudson is reportedly set to play college football at Texas.

Matt Hladik of College Spun passed along the former Baylor commit's decision Wednesday. Gerry Hamilton of ESPN.com also confirmed the news.

Hudson is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 50 overall prospect in the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also checks in as the second-ranked offensive guard and the seventh-ranked player from the state of Texas. 

John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald previously reported the Silsbee High School standout was one of five Baylor freshmen who were released from their national letters of intent after the firing of head coach Art Briles following the school's sexual assault scandal.

The decision quickly forced Hudson back into the recruiting spotlight. It's not a situation he enjoys, as he explained to Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles last November.

"What's my life like? I think it's like being everyone else," Hudson said. "I wake up like you do. I go to sleep like you do. There's nothing new to the story. I try not to make anything bigger than it is."

Alas, a player with his type of natural talent and upside is hard to ignore. The lineman, who's capable of playing either guard or tackle, checks in at 6'5 ½" and 325 pounds with impressive athleticism for his size and a budding mean streak that every coach loves from his players up front.

The College Spun report noted Hudson became the fourth player previously committed to Baylor to join the Longhorns. The others are brothers Devin and Donovan Duvernay and J.P. Urquidez.

Hudson is a massive addition at this stage of the recruiting process for Texas. Signing a highly rated player with 2016 eligibility this close to the season is an unexpected coup. The Longhorns now rank seventh in this year's incoming class rankings, according to 247Sports.

Hudson could make a quick impact depending on how well he performs during his initial practices. While most of the line is likely set, there's still a chance projected left guard Brandon Hodges could lose his spot if someone else shines leading into the season.

More likely, the team's latest addition will play a reserve role as a freshman before trying to compete for the starting right tackle job next year. The line's only senior, Kent Perkins, moves on after this year.

 

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Michigan Extends Scholarship Offer to 8th Grade QB Sol-Jay Maiava

A general guideline to follow when building a college football roster is to sign a quarterback in every recruiting cycle. Well, Jim Harbaugh is already thinking about Michigan football's 2020 class.

Sol-Jay Maiava—an eighth-grader from Laie, Hawaii—tweeted that he received a scholarship offer from the Wolverines.

Harbaugh and his staff are roaming the country on a much-discussed tour of satellite camps. After spending a few days in California last week, Harbaugh made it to Hawaii and found Maiava.

On his Twitter account, Maiava lists himself as a 6'1", 170-pound dual-threat quarterback capable of running a 4.7-second 40-yard dash.

The 247Sports database currently shows no offers for Michigan in 2020, so Maiava is the first prospect to receive the opportunity.

Before anyone anoints Maiava a future superstar or labels the quarterback an overrated bust, though, please consider he's in eighth grade. We have no idea what will happen over the next four years.

The cautionary tale of David Sills is important to remember.

As a seventh-grader in 2010, he verbally committed to USC. Hype and praise followed before Sills ultimately became a 3-star prospect, flipped to West Virginia, converted to wide receiver last season and recently decided to transfer.

Expectations are both dangerous and unfair, especially for someone who can't even legally drive a car.

Maiava—as well as Jesus Machado, Harrison Bailey and Drew Pyne—have already picked up power-conference offers before sitting through a single high school class.

Besides, nothing about this scholarship offer is binding.

"Until you sign on signing day, these really don't count," Dennis Marroquin, Machado's coach, told Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer. "You still need great academics all four years of high school. You have to pass your tests. There's so much more to it. You don't just get some verbals and all of the sudden you made it. It's a process."

Harbaugh certainly believes Maiava is talented and has tremendous potential. More than anything, however, an offer is meant to spark some loyalty to Michigan.

Let Maiava and the others be kids. Let him enjoy this amazing accomplishment. Let him develop as a young quarterback.

But you can be sure Harbaugh and the Wolverines are watching.

[MLive]

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Winners and Losers of June on the 2017 College Football Recruiting Trail

College football recruiting has now hit its latest dead period, and things will be mostly quiet on the trail for the next few weeks as the calendar creeps closer to the 2016 season.

That impending dead period made for a flurry of activity all across the country, from commitments to flips and satellite camps to traditional on-campus contact.

With major summer combines and school practices coming up, more and more recruits started narrowing down their choices or going ahead with their pledges during the month of June.

Between the camp circuits and the calendar crunch, a lot of moves were made. Teams caught fire with monster stretches of commitments and jumped up in the 247Sports composite team rankings. However, there were a few schools that were on the wrong end of the frenzy in June.

Here are a handful of winner and loser schools on the 2017 college football recruiting trail during the month of June. But, remember—it's still early, so fortune can change quickly between now and the stretch run of the cycle. That should give hope to fans of the teams who were on the losing end and cautious celebration for those coming off a great month.

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Why John Franklin III Needs to Be Auburn's Starting QB from Day 1

"We're going to name somebody. Hopefully sooner rather than later once we start fall camp."

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in May at the College Football Hall of Fame that he was going to stay true to his roots and not let his three-man quarterback battle linger into the season.

That race—which features last season's opening day starter Jeremy Johnson, last season's backup-turned-starter and former Elite 11 MVP Sean White and former junior college backup John Franklin III—was three-wide heading into the back stretch of the offseason when spring practice ended.

Once fall camp starts, somebody needs to separate from the pack.

It needs to be Franklin.

The former Florida State and East Mississippi Community College signal-caller threw for 733 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 451 and nine scores in a backup role behind Wyatt Roberts for EMCC last year, and he has the jets to be a major weapon in an offense that needs a dynamic running threat from the quarterback spot.

Malzahn has had the most success as a college head or assistant coach when he gets running production from his quarterback.

Since taking over as Auburn's offensive coordinator prior to the 2009 season, Malzahn is 44-10 (.815) in seasons in which his primary starting quarterback rushes for more than 400 yards on the season. In seasons in which the primary starting quarterback doesn't top 400 rushing yards, Malzahn is 23-16 (.590).

Even in 2014, when Auburn finished 8-5 with a mobile quarterback in Nick Marshall taking the snaps, it was in the thick of the national title race before the wheels came off in an early November home loss to Texas A&M.

Auburn needs wheels under center, and Franklin can provide those wheels, as he showed on Twitter earlier this spring when Auburn's players ran the 40-yard dash:

The biggest concern with Franklin is his weight.

He's listed at 186 right now, but said after the spring game that he wants to bulk up just a bit prior to the season in order to take the pounding that comes with being a dual-threat quarterback in the SEC.

"I got here [in January], and I was 170," Franklin said after the spring game. "So I've put on about about 15 pounds. I'm going to continue to gain weight. That's not a real concern of mine. The one thing I have [that others don't] is that I can run away from people.

"I want to get within 190 to 195. This is the biggest I've ever been. As long as I keep my speed and am able to move with the weight, I'm fine. It's going to come. I'm not really worried about it too much. I've been small all of my life, and it hasn't bothered me yet."

If Franklin can get to 195 pounds and keep that 4.28 speed—which was recorded after spring practice concluded—intact, he should be the starting quarterback for the Auburn Tigers in the season opener against Clemson and beyond.

There's a massive difference between 195 pounds and 170. While Franklin's ideal weight isn't close to where Marshall was when he took the snaps on the Plains (he was a well-put-together 210), it's still big enough for Franklin to be effective as long as he learns how to protect himself when danger is closing in.

As ESPN Insider's Phil Steele told The Opening Drive on WJOX in Birmingham, Malzahn needs to roll the dice and go with Franklin—the least experienced of the trio contending for the job:

Johnson doesn't have Franklin's wheels and isn't the bruiser that former Tiger Cam Newton was between the tackles. White is a prototypical dropback passer who, while talented, isn't a threat to take off on the ground.

What's more, it's imperative for the Tigers to get off to a great start in the opener versus Clemson and in Week 3 against Texas A&M. Auburn's offense is essentially an open book with Johnson or White at the helm. By going old-school and using a similar offense to the one Malzahn was successful with in 2013 and 2014 with a mobile quarterback, it will be difficult for the early-season opponents to properly prepare for what Franklin brings to the table.

The element of the unknown at quarterback can work in Malzahn's favor.

Franklin is Auburn's best shot to be an SEC West contender thanks to his playmaking ability on the edge, which will serve as a complement to the ability of running back Jovon Robinson to soften up defenses between the tackles. 

If he can develop just one or two aspects of his passing game and at least become a threat deep, he can help lead the program back into contention. 

If Auburn wants to make a big splash, Malzahn needs to go with Franklin.

 

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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How the Most Underrated QB Fought His Way to Elite 11

Through 48 hours of Elite 11 finals action, Tommy DeVito felt like he was on the cusp of a personal breakthrough.

The 6'2", 185-pound New Jersey quarterback, considered a 3-star prospect and competing alongside 23 positional contemporaries from June 3 to 5 in Redondo Beach, California, knew he was perhaps one strong performance away from pulling off a surprise.

DeVito, who arrived at the event rated No. 76 nationally among pro-style passers in the class of 2017's composite rankings, needed to ace one last challenge—a mentally demanding series of seven-on-seven reps—to earn one of 12 invitations to The Opening, an elite invite-only July showcase held at Nike's world headquarters.

“I studied my playbook all night before seven-on-seven, then woke up and studied more during breakfast," DeVito told Bleacher Report. "I kept telling myself, over and over again, to take it one breath and one throw at a time.”

That preparation paid off for the rising senior from Garden State powerhouse Don Bosco Prep. He consistently delivered darts, located receivers in stride and didn't leave much room for debate Sunday evening in the Elite 11 coaches' meeting, where the list of 24 contenders was cut in half.

“He was exceptional," said head coach and Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer, who drew comparisons between DeVito and Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers.

When the newest members of Elite 11's storied fraternity were announced via B/R a day later, DeVito was a slam-dunk choice. He'll head to Beaverton, Oregon, for The Opening showcase July 5-10, joining an Elite 11 fraternity that features Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff.

“Every year, there’s always a couple kids who come in with a chip on their shoulder," Elite 11 coach Yogi Roth said during the B/R broadcast. "Usually if they ball out the chip falls off, but, no, he stacked it and stacked it and stacked it, and kept ripping it. He’s like ‘I’m proving to you that I’m the dude and I don’t care if nobody believes in me.’”

Despite a successful first season as starter at Don Bosco, an ensuing verbal commitment to Syracuse University and validation in Los Angeles, DeVito should still be able to muster motivation from that chip moving forward. On June 6—the day he learned his fate for The Opening—DeVito carried a composite ranking of No. 121 among all quarterbacks and No. 1,626 overall in the 2017 recruiting class.

“It doesn’t faze me but, yes, it definitely motivates me to show that I shouldn’t be ranked so low," he said while walking off the field following final drills in Southern California. "I try not to let rankings affect me at all, but it does stay in the back of my head and pushes me to compete at a high level.”

If you were to strip away names from shirts and disregard preconceived notions about the two dozen quarterbacks who attended Elite 11 finals, it would be difficult to view DeVito as anything less than a top-10 field general.

“For me, he was one of the biggest mysteries coming into [Elite 11 finals], but he checked all the boxes for me," Student Sports president Brian Stumpf said during the selection special. "From the combine interview to the pro-day workout, and then taking the playbook—which is completely different than what he runs at his high school—and taking it to the field [Sunday] and acing the seven-on-seven competition.”

Don Bosco offensive coordinator Mike Teel, who led Rutgers University to three bowl victories as the Scarlet Knights' starting quarterback, was proud of his young protege. However, unlike most Elite 11 observers, he anticipated DeVito's inclusion in the upper echelon.

“That’s what I expected," he said. "I’ve been around a bunch of quarterbacks at different levels of college football, and you don’t really see many players like Tommy. He’s a talented, talented kid.”

While the rest of America had an opportunity to further evaluate DeVito at Elite 11 finals, Teel spent last season witnessing consistent development up close. A former Don Bosco quarterback himself, the 30-year-old play-caller admits DeVito's role is unlike most you'll find in high school football.

“I think Tommy, maybe more than any quarterback in the program, had expectations that were almost unreachable," Teel said. "Before last season, we hadn’t won a state championship in three years. That’s the first span like that since 2002, when I was in school.

"It’s as close to a college quarterback job as anywhere else at this level because the TV cameras are there and we’re flying in planes to face the best teams in the country. He was at the center of that, and he did a great job of handling adversity the right way.”

The Ironmen, led by longtime head coach Greg Toal, play a national schedule. During his first season behind center as Don Bosco's starter in 2015, Devito encountered talent-laden heavyweights such as Archbishop Rummel (Louisiana), St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia), Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati) and Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). 

The team lost three games before Halloween, dropping its road matchup at national title contender Bishop Gorman, and a pair of narrow in-state clashes against St. Joseph (Montvale) Regional and Paramus Catholic, where No. 1 overall 2016 recruit Rashan Gary anchored the defensive front.

Don Bosco would later avenge the St. Joseph defeat in a state championship showdown. DeVito delivered two touchdown tosses in a 21-10 victory that halted the team's title drought and earned him a place in program lore.

The emerging junior catalyst helped fuel a season-ending five-game win streak while taking ownership of a revamped offensive attack. Teel became coordinator in late May 2015, leaving him limited time to work with Don Bosco's latest gunslinger.

“It was a sprint for all of us. I changed the entire system and terminology for what we did on offense," he said. "So this is a kid playing the toughest schedule in the country, trying to prepare for that competition each week and attempting to learn an entirely new system. We all had our growing pains early on.”

Teel didn't ask DeVito to dominate during his first fall as a starter, as he tallied 1,689 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions, per Syracuse.com's Stephen Bailey (via NJ.com's Braulio Perez). But dynamics changed during the crucial regular-season finale against fellow New Jersey football factory DePaul Catholic.

Missing multiple offensive linemen against a defensive unit featuring Michigan signee Michael Dwumfour and Nebraska enrollee Quayshon Alexander, Don Bosco struggled to establish an offensive rhythm.

"We had a tough time running the football, and at halftime we’re down [by nine points], so I went up to him and said 'You’re going to win us this game. Let’s go,'" Teel said.

DeVito fueled a 34-26 comeback victory with two second-half touchdown passes and connected for three total scores in the contest, effectively alleviating any apprehension Teel may have felt about opening things up for his young quarterback during postseason efforts.

"He went out there in the second half and methodically threw the ball all over their defense, which had some very talented players," Teel said. "That was really the turning point for him. He was ready to take over games and be a dominant player.”

Less than a month later, DeVito became a state champion, and a flurry of scholarship offers followed in February. He pledged to new Syracuse head coach Dino Babers in April after weighing alternative opportunities at Rutgers, Temple, Boston College and Maryland.

“It’s a high-paced, high-scoring offense with that staff," DeVito said. "Syracuse is less than four hours away from home, so it’s not too far for family and friends to come watch games.”

Long before he warranted attention from Babers, Teel or Dilfer, Devito worked arduously with personal quarterback coach Leon Clarke, who also helped develop 2015 Elite 11 finalist and Tennessee Volunteers newcomer Jarrett Guarantano.

The two first met when DeVito was just six years old, when he became Clarke's youngest client ever. At that time, he was simply looking to take snaps for his flag football squad.

As their relationship grew, the craft of quarterbacking became an obsession for DeVito. Clarke gradually commanded more from his student, and that's exactly what he got each time he raised the bar.

“It goes back to having countless repetitions and doing them right," Clarke said. "I can recall those hot summer days where this kid would put in 60 minutes of literally just drops. I would put a hula-hoop on the ground and make him throw from inside it to teach him how to develop a base and center of gravity. All those little things became almost indigenous to him.”

Elements of his approach as a passer progressively became more polished, setting the stage for a scintillating Elite 11 finals performance. This sharpness extends beyond the pocket, evidenced to DeVito during the three-day span more than ever before.

“When we were on the beach at six in the morning, running through the ocean and challenging ourselves, I realized my mental toughness is pretty good among some of the other Elite 11 guys. I was proud of that," he said.

Mental toughness is a required trait for the leader who issues orders in his offensive huddle, and Elite 11 competition has a way of separating studs from the pack. DeVito contended with quarterbacks carrying significantly higher ratings (the top nine prospects in composite rankings attended) and far more lengthy recruitments (fellow finalist Tate Martell received his first offer in seventh grade and has spent time committed to Washington, Texas A&M and Ohio State) but never looked out of his element.

“He really balled out. These people are really sleeping on him," Alabama quarterback commit Mac Jones said. "That kid can play, and from the personality side of things, he was definitely one of the easier guys to talk with out there. I think his recruitment might explode. I don’t know if he’ll stick with Syracuse or not, but he should get some big-time offers soon.”

LSU pledge Myles Brennan, another Elite 11 finalist who will join DeVito at The Opening, shared a similar sentiment.

“It’s really not all about the rankings and the stars that you have. It’s about buying into the process," he said. "Coming in, Tommy had obviously worked tremendous amounts just to get to L.A. He came out to prove it, and he did. He definitely earned that spot.”

DeVito, who qualified for Elite 11 finals with his efforts at a New Jersey regional camp in May, cherished the validation that accompanied his advancement to the next phase of competition.

"The weight dropped off my back, and I was so excited for them to call my name. My mom, dad and girlfriend were crying tears of joy," he said.

Just four months removed from his first Power Five offer, DeVito isn't content quite yet. He'll head to Oregon as the lowest-rated offensive recruit in a collection of talent that includes 166 total invited athletes.

"Obviously right now you can scrutinize the rankings, and maybe everybody has Tommy too low right now, but the ranking that will be remembered is the one in February," 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong said. "He's going to have a shot to continue to climb because he's on our radar now, where he wasn't really on the radar before his junior year.

"I knew who he was because I know his quarterback coach, but there was still no varsity tape, so you've just got to put him on your watch list."

A post-Elite 11 finals bump on that list indicates plenty of heads have already been turned during this process. DeVito has surged 1,011 spots since those three days in Los Angeles, sitting at No. 615 overall and No. 26 among pro-style passers.

“Everything for Tommy has been time," Clarke said. "It wasn’t about yelling from the top of a mountain for recruiting attention, and so many young players are quick to want publicity when they’re not ready for it. He’s done things the right way, waited his turn for an opportunity at Bosco, then went out [to Elite 11 finals] and made a statement.”

If DeVito can state his case in Beaverton as convincingly as he laid things on the line in Los Angeles, historic Elite 11 MVP honors aren't out of the question. Given his championship pedigree at one of America's premier high school programs and a magnificent June showing on the West Coast, expect him to carry the mindset of alpha dog rather than underdog.

"People get used to the ‘big-time’ names at quarterback early in the recruiting process, and they stick with those names without necessarily looking at other guys. Hopefully that’s going to change after what I’ve tried to do," DeVito said. “I’ve been training for this moment since I was six years old. To be able to make it to this point means all the hard work, all the long summer days have truly paid off.

"Now it’s time to prove that again."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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Tennessee Football Recruiting: 5 Players Who Could Make or Break Vols' Class

As the race to fill the final eight or so spots remaining in Tennessee's 2017 recruiting class heats up, there are a lot of huge names on head coach Butch Jones' big board.

That's excellent news for the Volunteers as their current class of 17 isn't too high on star power despite being ranked 10th by the 247Sports composite team rankings. There are just two 4-star prospects already in the fold for Jones and Co., as many players are taking a wait-and-see approach to whether UT can win big.

The Vols are expected to compete for championships in 2016, and if they do, their recruiting class could wind up being extremely impressive. 

When you toss in all the star power Tennessee is firmly in the mix for, it's easy to see why there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the ceiling of this class. A lot can change between now and June, and the fact is, a lot of movement will happen on both sides.

Players will decommit and look elsewhere, as 4-star receiver KD Nixon elected to do Sunday night, backing off his commitment from the Vols, per 247Sports' Ryan Bartow. Also, some of the players currently in Tennessee's class will be recruited over if better players elect to jump on board.

It's the nature of the game of recruiting.

But, regardless of how many spots are available, there are a handful of guys who'll have a spot no matter what. Tennessee is recruiting a slew of those players, and some such as in-state defensive back JaCoby Stevens may wind up being a long shot.

Taking into consideration where the Vols currently stand with some prospects, proximity to campus and just how prominent UT is in its recruitments, let's take a look at five players who could make or break the class.

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How The Opening Finals Will Shape Ohio State's Future Passing Attack

Ohio State fans could be looking at the future of the Buckeyes' passing attack when The Opening Finals kick off on July 8.

The event—which is Nike's signature high school football camp—annually draws the nation's top high school talent to Beaverton, Oregon, for a series of physical tests to determine the top overall athlete in the country.

But the camp also holds a competitive seven-on-seven competition, and that's where Ohio State's future could be on display.

Four teams are set to compete against one another, and Team Alpha Pro will be led by quarterback Tate Martell, a 5'10 ½", 203-pound blue chip out of Las Vegas.

Rated a 4-star standout and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback for the class of 2017, Martell is one of the country's most productive signal-callers, combining to throw for 5,145 yards and 72 touchdowns (against just eight interceptions) while running for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons.

He's one of the most electrifying players in this year's recruiting cycle, and he announced his intention to bring that playmaking ability to Columbus when he committed to the Buckeyes earlier this month.

Martell will put those skills on display during the highly anticipated seven-on-seven tournament, where fate may be smiling upon head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. Because lining up on the perimeter for Team Alpha Pro will be Ohio State's top wide receiver targets—5-stars Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes.

And it's not a leap to assume that Martell will be working hard to establish a chemistry with the 5-star pair on the field while trying to nudge them toward Ohio State off it.

In fact, that's a fair assumption to make because the prized quarterback is already recruiting both for Ohio State via Twitter.

Landing Lindsey would be an absolute coup for the Buckeyes. During the 2016 recruiting cycle, Ohio State signed Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, the No. 10- and No. 12-ranked receivers, respectively. Both are big (Mack is 6'2", Victor is 6'4") outside receivers who use their length and range to punish a secondary.

Lindsey, a 5'8 ½" blazer from Corona, California, is an ideal slot receiver who can wreak havoc working over the middle of a defense while also having the speed to burn it deep. He'd fit in seamlessly with what Ohio State already has in its wide receiver room.

At 6'3", Grimes falls more into a similar mold to Mack and Victor, but the standout from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boasts 4.4 speed that would be a invaluable to the Buckeyes' passing attack. He has the long-range speed to grow into a role similar to the one Devin Smith had for Ohio State's national title-winning team. 

With Lindsey and Grimes bringing a unique set of strengths to the field, it'll be easy for Ohio State fans to see why Meyer is recruiting the pair so hard.

And with Martell as their quarterback at The Opening Finals in two weeks, it should be easy for that 5-star tandem to see themselves suiting up for the Buckeyes next year.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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