NCAA Football

Bobby Johnson to Replace Archie Manning on CFP Selection Committee

The College Football Playoff selection committee will have a different look in 2015, as it was announced that former Vanderbilt and Furman head coach Bobby Johnson will replace Archie Manning.  

According to a press release from the selection committee, Manning said other commitments would make devoting the appropriate time to the College Football Playoff impossible:

It’s a great group of people and they did a wonderful job last year. But as I look ahead to the various commitments I have—to my family, numerous time obligations around the country and to other conflicting demands—I have concluded that I won’t be able to return to the committee. I particularly want to watch Peyton and Eli play, in person when I can, and it’s hard to do that when weekends are devoted to watching college games. This is not an easy choice, but it’s the right choice for Olivia and me.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock announced that Johnson would become the 13th member of the selection committee, which decides the four teams that will play for the biggest prize in college football. 

Per the release, Johnson has an extensive history in college football. In addition to his coaching days at Vanderbilt and Furman, the 64-year-old was a two-way player at Clemson from 1969-72 and was an ACC All-Academic honoree twice. 

Johnson's most recent claim to fame was being named SEC Coach of the Year in 2008 after leading Vanderbilt to a 7-6 record with a win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl. 

The inaugural College Football Playoff featured Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in the championship game to win the school's first national championship since 2002. 

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Alabama Football: Tightest Position Battles of Tide's Spring Practice

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Spring practice is officially full speed ahead at Alabama. A-Day will be here soon enough with a long summer to follow.

For now, though, the Crimson Tide are getting a good look at where they stand across the board at several positions where starting roles are up in the air.

Some are pretty much settled. Others are not.

Where are the tightest position battles taking place this spring? Let’s take a look.

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Bo Pelini Looks Super Psyched to Take This Selfie with a Fan

Sometimes amusing but mostly terrifying, Bo Pelini is the type of human you approach with your shoulders squared and your neck protected.

After going out in a blaze of defiance at Nebraska (warning: NSFW language), the cat-clutching football coach has taken over the program at Youngstown State in Ohio. Having climbed back into the saddle, Pelini now appears to be doing everything possible to endear himself to the people of the Rust Belt.

Exhibit A of Pelini's renaissance is a recent photo of the coach posing for a selfie at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The coach was apparently taking in a round of Sweet 16 games Thursday night when a fan asked him to stop for a picture.

FoxSportsOhio.com's Zac Jackson tweeted the resulting image, which is less of a selfie and more of a portrait of human apathy's murkiest depths.

Now, it is nice of Pelini to oblige fans, but let it be known—there is no clause in the selfie contract saying he has to like it.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He respects Pelini as one would a larger snapping turtle.

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Michigan Football: Jay Harbaugh's Role Key for Wolverines' Future Success

Michigan Wolverines' tight ends coach and special teams assistant Jay Harbaugh is his father's son, there's no doubting that. And just like his father and head coach, Jim Harbaugh, he has now become one of the Wolverines' vital organs. 

He's not trying to be his father, but Harbaugh approaches his job at a familiar, serious angle. After all, he's a Harbaugh and Wolverines football—or just football, for that matter—is embedded in his DNA.

Since forever ago, Harbaugh has been taught the ways of Michigan; that’s what happens when your father is a legendary Wolverines quarterback and your grandfather is Jack Harbaugh, a former defensive backs coach at Michigan.

The young Harbaugh is new to the job, but he's not new to the culture, nor is he unaware of expectations.

“All the time. Non-stop,” Harbaugh said of the Michigan “indoctrination” process. “I was just told that it was the best at everything. [I was told about] all the great players and just over the years, the great games and stuff and watching them with my dad.

“Just kind of a constant, not really over the top, but being told what a special place this was—and really, I see it now, so I get it. I get why [my dad] always told me all that stuff. I'm feeling it now, being around the people in Ann Arbor, you really get a sense of why my dad felt that way.”

There is a major cultural shift going on at Michigan. Harbaugh isn't only in the midst of the changing of the guard, he wants to have his finger on its pulse. 

 

The Install

Harbaugh, who is just 25 years old, speaks more like a seasoned vet than a "kid." He's technical. But he can also say a lot without saying much and vice versa. He's got coachspeak nailed. And sure, he was nervous during his time in front of the media Thursday—he said so—but he was pretty clear about his message.

“To get here, as we're kind of—I won't say rebuilding, we're starting something fresh and new—there's something about being there from the beginning of it rather than coming in when the team's attitude is already set,” he said.

It takes a little sifting, but the truth settles at the bottom. Like his father, Harbaugh wants to construct greatness. That was his “I want to build a permanent home” statement, almost something like the one his dad made Dec. 30.

Harbaugh wants to be at Michigan and has had the influence of his father, his grandfather and even his uncle, John, who coaches the Baltimore Ravens. That's a lot of Harbaugh in football.

The success of the hard-nosed Michigan teams, the ones that had power at every position, often boiled down to the tight end. Whether by blocking or catching passes, that position has always had a place. Lately, though, it's been lacking. 

That's where Harbaugh enters the picture.

Intent on developing tight ends, his mission is to fully utilize the talents of Jake Butt, Ian Bunting, A.J. Williams and the others within the group. He wants to build an "army" of dominance. 

Again, that sounds like something his father would say. 

With Harbaugh learning from an all-star cast, projecting immediate results wouldn't be out of the question. It might be a little heavy on the expectations side of things but not out of the realm of possibility.

As a quality control analyst with the Ravens, Harbaugh developed a keen sense of his surroundings. He also has extensive training in the world of film analysis, making him an ideal X's and O's guy.

He worked out for his uncle's Ravens, a team that won Super Bowl XLVII. He also worked well under coach Mike Riley at Oregon State. The Beavers went to a pair of bowl games during Harbaugh's time as an assistant. He'll do fine under his dad in Ann Arbor. 

 

Creative Recruiting

When it comes to recruiting, Harbaugh is obviously a creative catalyst.

Citing eight specific reasons, he sent an informative “go to Michigan” letter to 4-star tight end Chris Clark, who ended up choosing UCLA, and he recently sent one to the girlfriend of Nasier Upshur, a 4-star tight end out of Philadelphia.

Reaching out, harnessing Photoshop skills—which one day may involve D-line coach Greg Mattison, he joked—and finding out exactly how to relate to guys is what makes a great recruiter. 

Harbaugh has that touch. He does his homework.

But don't ask him to reveal his secrets. He won't tell. He “isn't allowed” to talk about recruiting tactics. Those are trade secrets.

As a child, he wanted to be either an agent with the FBI or CIA. Again, expressing a bit of nervousness, he laughed it off as a wisecrack, saying that he'd be “just terrible at it, just awful.”

On the contrary, he'd probably be good. He's already shown the ability to effectively and creatively target recruits in a manner they won't forget. Try to name another school that's sending letters to Upshur's sweetheart.

Taking the road less traveled, or blazing a new trail in Harbaugh's case, is the way of the recruiting world. By now, every player has seen every pitch. They've read all the "we like you a lot" letters and have the suits in the living rooms. 

Harbaugh brings something different. He mentioned that he sees through a younger lens when it comes to many things, including recruiting. His unorthodox ways could soon become common practice. At the very least, he's ahead of a possible trend. 

He's not shy to go for it all. He's been taught to do that. 

Coach Jay Harbaugh

The learning process never stops, and you tend to listen, absorb and ask questions when you're side by side guys like offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, a noted running guru, and running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley, who needs no intro.

Harbaugh is taking notes. Like his dad, he's all about attention to detail.

“It's a really good group to be a part of—guys came from all over and they're all tremendous teachers and tremendous leaders,” he said of Michigan's coaching ensemble. “So being able to see different ways of answering the same questions is really what I've enjoyed.

"Because you get very set in your ways, in terms of ‘this is how to answer that problem,’ or ‘this is the adjustment that you make,’ and you realize there's a lot more than one way to go about doing things.”

Adapting, exploring options, troubleshooting—regardless of what it's called—comes down to “finding new ways to do things,” he said. That sounds a lot like his father's mantra.

For now, Harbaugh wants to fulfill his job duties. That's it.

“No, I don't know,” he said when asked if he felt like a “big brother” type to players. “I just feel like their coach.

"Last year [with the Ravens], I was with guys who were much older than me, and I didn't feel like I was their little brother. So … I don’t know. They're fun to be around, though. I think we have a good professional relationship in terms of coach and player, and there's a good respect there. … I hope. I really like being around them. “

He said the right thing. He's 25, and they're 19, 20 and 21. Everyone knows that. Eventually, Harbaugh will probably cave in and become a big brother, uncle or mentor figure to them. It's natural in coaching. Even his dad and his uncle have evolved into such coaches.

But to take a firm stance and publicly set the line—similar to what Mattison did in regards to defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin—was a smart move.

He's a kid, but he's not a kid. Yet, he's living the dream life; that much is clear. He's coaching with his dad, a program legend, at the place Bo built. Someone pinch Harbaugh!

But here's the thing: He's not overzealous. Minus the nervousness Thursday, he appears to be settling into his role. The novelty part is cool and all, but hey, he's part of the staff and should be viewed as such.

He's not just not "Jim's kid."

He's part of a fresh approach that can help restore familiar tradition at Michigan. 

 

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

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

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Notre Dame Football: Reshuffled Coaching Staff Not Missing a Beat in Recruiting

When Tony Alford decided to leave Notre Dame and join Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Irish fans expected the worst. Notre Dame's best recruiter—the man who landed Louis Nix without a head coach even hired and had made in-roads throughout South Florida—was now going to compete against the Irish staff at another Midwestern power program. 

Just hours after landing 4-star recruit Dexter Williams, Alford was in Columbus, working for a head coach who had already won his share of battles against Notre Dame, the two most significant being assistant coaches Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton, who both left South Bend to go work for Meyer. 

But even as it looked like the sky could have been falling, the past few weeks on the recruiting trail have been fruitful. An impressive junior day netted commitments from Tony Jones Jr., Julian Love and John Shannon. 

With another big recruiting weekend coming up, Notre Dame's reshuffled coaching staff and recruiting office haven't missed a beat. 

Credit Mike Elston for some of that. One of Brian Kelly's original assistants in South Bend, Elston took on the role of recruiting coordinator when Alford left, a head-scratching move to some on the outside but one that has already paid dividends. 

Elston is no slouch on the recruiting trail, but he's also not seen as an equal to Alford. Earlier this week, Elston talked about the new dynamics of Notre Dame's recruiting office and explained that being a great recruiter and being a great recruiting coordinator are two very different things.  

"Typically your best recruiters, if you take and tie them down with all of the constraints that you have as a recruiting coordinator...you take your best recruiters and put them in that role, then you're limiting what they can do," Elston explained to BlueandGold.com.

"You don't have to be the best recruiter on the staff to make sure that everybody is doing what they are supposed to. It's about holding people accountable and having leadership for the people that are working under you for the recruiting department. I'm excited because I think those are my strengths. I think that I'm able to do those things. I'm excited about where the recruiting department is headed."

The new blood on the Irish coaching staff has also helped. New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford is hard at work, giving Notre Dame a much-needed coach who has recruited the West Coast. Former Irish All-American and Pro Bowl cornerback Todd Lyght is off to a fast start as well. 

Alford's replacement, former Irish star Autry Denson, has already landed his first big recruit. In getting Jones out of IMG Academy, Denson went a long way toward alleviating any concerns about recruiting the state of Florida. 

Talking to Irish247's Tom Loy, Jones Jr. laid out Denson's recruiting pitch, one based on the familiarity Notre Dame's all-time leading rusher had with the decision facing top prospects. 

"Your teacher knows math, right? So you’re going to listen to her when she teaches you math,” Jones told Irish247. “You know she will show you the right way to do it. Well, Coach Denson is from Florida. He went to Notre Dame. He dealt with the cold weather, played ball and he got his degree and he was successful in life. I’m going to listen to him. He did everything that I want to do. I want to go to Notre Dame. I want to play in the league. I want to get a degree. I’m going to listen to him because he’s done what I want."

As the Irish move forward recruiting a limited 2016 class that will likely stay in the high teens, they'll do so with a more focused back-end operation. Led by player personnel director Dave Peloquin, changes to the staff have welcomed former Irish great Ron Powlus back to South Bend. Former UCLA star Johnathan Franklin is also inside the athletic department. 

While this year's junior day was later than most, the Irish managed to pull players from 10 different states for their first recruiting weekend. They'll stay busy throughout the spring and into summer, where camps and the second edition of the Irish Invasion will remain staples. 

So, as we saw this past weekend, a change in staff hasn't slowed down Notre Dame's recruiting. It might actually help. 

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Vanderbilt QB Patton Robinette Retires Due to Concussions: Comments and Reaction

Vanderbilt quarterback Patton Robinette has become the latest football player to walk away from the sport due to fears about concussions and long-term health.  

According to Adam Sparks of The Tennessean, Robinette was the presumed starter for Vanderbilt heading into 2015 before informing coaches of his decision on Friday: 

Robinette entered last season as the Commodores' starting quarterback, and he finished spring practice as the presumed starter last week.

Robinette told Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason of his decision on Thursday and told teammates during a brief gathering Friday morning, according to a Vanderbilt news release.

Robinette's statement was also included in Sparks' report, saying it has "been tough coming to a decision that is right for my family and I, and protects my health and future."

"I've been very deliberate in coming to this decision," Robinette added. "It's difficult but I'm really excited to move forward to the next chapter of my life and really to see what the field of medicine has in store for me."

Robinette joins a list of players to walk away from football due to health concerns at a young age that includes Chris Borland, who retired after one NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers, and Michigan offensive lineman Jack Miller, who announced his decision on March 25. 

Per Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, Robinette had already made his future plans for after college football, and this decision allows him to get a jump on things:

With concussions and head injuries coming to the forefront at all levels of football in recent years, the decision by Robinette and others isn't one that's surprising. These players know the risks better than anyone on the outside because they deal with aches and pains after every game. 

Fortunately for someone like Robinette, he's developed a plan for life after football and is sticking to it. 

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Let's Take a Look at Ohio State's New CFP Championship Rings

After stomping the Oregon Ducks in January and winning the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship Game, the Ohio State Buckeyes are finally getting a hold of those fancy new rings they earned.

Buckeyes wide receivers coach Zach Smith (h/t ESPN's Darren Rovell) tweeted out images of his ring Friday morning:

The rings don't appear to feature any drastic departures from past designs. The biggest difference is the new CFP trophy, the top of which is displayed prominently on the ring's face.

I might never get used to seeing players holding up the CFP trophy instead of the Waterford Crystal Football, but a title's a title, and you don't turn down a shiny bauble cataloging your corralling of one of the most prolific offensive forces in college football.

Enjoy your rings, Buckeyes. And keep them for a while. Keeping them is good.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He still has his first Ring Pop in a glass case on the mantel.

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Nebraska Football: Who Has a Starting Role Locked Up?

Nebraska football fans have been watching spring practice closely, searching for clues as to what the team will look like under new head coach Mike Riley. And while there are many more uncertainties this year given new offensive and defensive schemes, we still have a good idea of at least a few starters for next season. Here are five players who are likely to be on the depth chart in August.

 

Jordan Westerkamp

Wide receiver is a tricky position to handicap for Nebraska, as there are a number of talented veterans returning in 2015. De’Mornay Pierson-El is easily Nebraska’s most dangerous offensive weapon, but his size (5'9", 185 lbs) means his use will likely be limited on offense. He will most certainly play but will likely only be seen in particular packages.

Jamal Turner is another talented veteran who will very likely see the field in 2015. But even though all reports are positive, we still don’t know if he has fully recovered from the injury that cost him the bulk of last season. It’s hard to call Turner a certain starter until we know his health status.

As a result, Westerkamp is the only veteran receiver who looks set to step into the role of a starter for Nebraska. He leads all returning receivers in receptions, according to cfbstats.com, and has a history of spectacular and dramatic catches. So while there are a lot of mouths to feed in Nebraska’s receiving corps, it looks like Westerkamp will be first in line.

 

Cethan Carter

The only other pass-catcher who seems certain for the field is Carter, Nebraska’s most experienced pass-catching tight end. Under previous head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska had a maddening habit of ignoring its tight end for long stretches (call it the Mike McNeil effect).

But Riley likes to put the ball in the air, and he likes to utilize an “H-back” by putting a receiver or tight end into the backfield. Carter would be a perfect fit for the H-back role, giving him more opportunities to see the field.

 

Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine

It’s a little strange to think of the rest of Nebraska’s roster as being in flux yet having the defensive tackle position clearly locked down. But given the performance of Collins and Valentine in spring practice, that’s exactly what has happened.

Both Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald and Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star have observed how Collins and Valentine have been dominating the offensive line all throughout spring practice. Nebraska may have questions at some positions, but defensive tackle is not one of them.

 

Nate Gerry

Nebraska is loaded with talent in the secondary, so almost all of the starting back four should have intense competition. At corner, there is a possibility of Nebraska being three deep with players who could start with a less crowded secondary.

But Gerry looks to be the one certainty at safety. His play last year, after moving from linebacker after his freshman year, cemented his place as Nebraska’s most consistent defensive back. Look for him to be the one starter we know at this point in Nebraska’s talented backfield.

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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9 Juniors with the Best Shot at the Heisman Trophy in 2015

For elite college football players, their junior season is perhaps the most important. By now, they’ve likely proved their worth to their coaches and programs and achieved a prominent place on their programs' depth charts.

They’re veterans. They’re expected to carry a big load. Oh, yeah, and after this season, they’re officially eligible for the NFL draft and the payday that comes with it. 

It is no surprise that juniors have achieved a prominent place in college football and with regard to the Heisman Trophy. Three of the last five Heisman winners have been juniors, including the 2014 winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

While there are a number of talented contenders for the 2015 Heisman (here is a breakdown of the top 25 candidates by Sports On Earth's Matt Brown), juniors will play a prominent role. Here are nine juniors with the best shot at taking home the stiff-arm trophy this fall.

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Where Will 2016 QB Dominoes Fall After 4-Star KJ Costello Commits to Stanford?

Stanford claimed a crucial commitment from top-ranked California quarterback KJ Costello on Thursday afternoon.

The Santa Margarita Catholic High School junior selected Stanford from a trio of finalists that also featured USC and Michigan:

Costello, a 4-star prospect, is rated fourth nationally among pro-style passers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He was listed No. 1 among uncommitted quarterbacks in the 2016 class.

The Cardinal land one of the most coveted offensive playmakers of this cycle after opting not to sign a 2015 quarterback in February. USC and Michigan each signed a pair of players at the position last month.

"I feel like I've released a 500-pound burden off my back. I feel free," Costello told B/R's Damon Sayles. "I made possibly the biggest decision of my life. Now I'm looking forward to moving on and working as hard as I ever have before."

The 6'4", 213-pound talent tossed 23 touchdowns in 2014, completing 60 percent of pass attempts for 3,123 yards. He added 352 yards and four scores as a rusher. 

With Costello off the board, focus shifts to other top talents at the position.

As usual, it's getting late early when it comes to recruiting quarterbacks. 

Among the 25 players who warranted 4- or 5-star status in composite ratings, 10 have already announced commitments. That list includes each 5-star recruit (Jacob EasonMalik Henry and Shea Patterson), along with the top-rated, dual-threat prospect (Feleipe Franks). 

Steve Sarkisian has signed three quarterbacks in the past 13 months, while Jim Harbaugh is expected to have just one quarterback on the 2015 roster who he personally recruited out of high school. This should motivate Michigan to intensify efforts elsewhere.

Eason is the biggest prize, despite a longstanding pledge to Georgia. The Washington quarterback is less likely to land in Ann Arbor than intriguing Indiana native Brandon Peters, who recently named the Wolverines to his top-five list. 

LSU also landed in Peters' collection of favorites, despite holding a pledge from Franks. The Tigers appear adamant about securing two quarterbacks in this class, and 4-star Maryland standout Dwayne Haskins is another top target who has LSU under consideration.

Haskins has expressed interest in announcing a commitment this spring, though we could see his recruiting seep deep into summer with Texas, Maryland, Rutgers and Ohio State among other programs in the mix. 

Ohio State and Rutgers are also going head-to-head for New Jersey product Jarrett Guarantano. The Scarlet Knights legacy listed Tennessee in his top three, creating a compelling final push in a recruitment that should be wrapped up fairly soon.

The Volunteers lost grips on a commitment from 4-star North Carolina quarterback Austin Kendall earlier this month and hosted Guarantano on campus last weekend. Butch Jones appears to be in strong position to pluck him away from Big Ten territory, while many expect Kendall to end up at Kentucky.

Auburn is another SEC squad in play for multiple passers. Jawon Pass and Woody Barrett both view the Tigers as a top choice, while Alabama also seems to be in solid standing with both dual-threats.

Decommitments will surely redefine the recruiting landscape moving forward. Last year, we saw decision reversals from Ricky Town, Blake Barnett and Brandon Wimbush dramatically alter the final stretch toward national signing day.

We've already watched Kendall and former Texas Tech commit Tristen Wallace hit the open market after early pledges on the 2016 recruiting trail. Rest assured, there are more surprises to come.

Costello put on a Stanford cap Thursday afternoon, but other coaching staffs will undoubtedly continue their pursuit of the Southern California star.

Classes can be built or broken by the quarterback who leads them. Here in early spring, the nationwide scramble for passers is already well under way.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Rahshaun Smith to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star DE Prospect

As schools increasingly adopt spread offenses and rely more and more heavily on the passing game, teams are always looking for that pass-rusher who can be a one-man wrecking crew.

Clemson may have found its man in Rahshaun Smith, who committed to the Tigers on Thursday via Spreecast on ESPN.com, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

Smith is the No. 3-ranked weak-side defensive end and sits 48th overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. The prep star out of Bradenton, Florida, is also the 11th-best player in his home state.

Since he's one of the best at his position, Smith hasn't been lacking for interest from the top teams in the country. According to 247Sports, well over 20 schools, including reigning national champion Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson, Florida State, Florida and Penn State, have offered him a scholarship.

Clemson appeared to be among the front-runners early on to secure his commitment. He and a few other recruits visited the Tigers near the end of January, per Paul Strelow of TigerIllustrated.com:

It's not hard to see what all of the fuss is about. At 6'3" and 225 pounds, Smith has great size for a defensive end/pass-rusher. He could stand to add a little bit of muscle, but his somewhat light frame allows him to be very light on his feet.

Smith is one of those defensive ends who is so quick off of the ball that by the time the offensive tackle has a chance to react, he's already collapsing the pocket. He can be a bit reliant on his speed at times, but that shouldn't prove a major hindrance when he arrives.

Although Smith is utilized best as a pass-rusher, he's intuitive enough to take good angles on the ball-carrier and stop the run.

Vic Beasley might be a good comparison. Although he's roughly an inch shorter than Smith, Beasley is another athletic pass-rusher who fell on the thinner side. It didn't stop him from accumulating over 30 sacks in his four years at Clemson.

As long as Smith can iron out some of his more technique-based issues, he should wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in another two or three years.


Recruit star ratings and rankings via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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K.J. Costello to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star QB Prospect

K.J. Costello, one of the West Coast's best prep quarterbacks, is headed to Northern California. Costello announced his verbal commitment to Stanford on Thursday, choosing the Cardinal over USC and Michigan.  

David Lombardi of ESPN reported the decision: 

Costello, a 4-star recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings, is viewed as one of the best pro-style quarterbacks in the nation. He's ranked No. 4 overall at his position and is fourth among Californians.

After struggling with turnovers as a sophomore, Costello rocketed up prospect rankings over the past year. He threw for 3,123 yards and 23 touchdowns against 10 interceptions during his junior campaign, showing a poise and confidence in the pocket not seen the year before. 

Santa Margarita Catholic, a national power that regularly produced Division I talent, is expected to have a huge 2015 with Costello at the helm.

Touted coming into his high school career, he's received offers from all over the country. He also took time to make plenty of unofficial visits, and his family ties made USC look like a solid choice. 

"It’s an hour from home, my grandparents and everybody lives right up there," Costello said, per Lindsey Thiry of The Los Angeles Times. "I've been an 'SC fan my whole life."

For most of the process, he's been expected to stay in California. 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions gave Stanford the early edge, with 70 percent of predictions going the Cardinal's way. USC, quickly rebuilding its recruiting empire, was in second place with 30 percent. Michigan, despite a strong push from Jim Harbaugh, was seen as a distant third place.

We'll have to see how the rest of Costello's recruitment plays out. A massive senior season may vault him up recruiting boards even more in the coming months; we've seen plenty of top-flight recruits change their minds when more offers come to pass.

But for now, there is reason to celebrate at Stanford. 

 

Recruit star ratings and rankings via 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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4-Star QB K.J. Costello on Committing to Stanford: 'I Feel Free'

The idea of playing college football for a contender attracted California 4-star quarterback K.J. Costello.

The idea of graduating with a degree that potentially holds greater weight, however, won him over.

Costello ended his recruiting process Thursday afternoon, verbally committing to Stanford and becoming the Cardinal's keystone commitment of the 2016 class. In front of friends, family, teammates and faculty at Santa Margarita Catholic, Costello delivered the much-anticipated announcement, choosing Stanford over USC and Michigan.

"I feel like I've released a 500-pound burden off my back. I feel free," Costello said. "I made possibly the biggest decision of my life. Now I'm looking forward to moving on and working as hard as I ever have before."

Costello had Stanford, USC and Michigan as his top three for several weeks entering Thursday, and while each school offered great athletic and academic resumes, he said his decision came down to comfort level with the staff and the environment. Costello was recruited by coach Mike Bloomgren (director of offense) and coach Tavita Pritchard (quarterbacks/wide receivers).

Costello always said academics would play a major role in his decision, and Stanford is statistically one of the most recognized in the country. Costello said he's interested in pursuing a degree in either business or engineering.

"At the end of the day," Costello said, "the football side is a priority on one end, but I had to look beyond football to my future. They're all great academic institutions. I just wanted to pick the best fit for me and go to a place where I can excel right way."

Costello is only the second player to commit to Stanford from the 2016 class. He joins Florida 3-star defensive tackle Bo Peek, who committed on Feb. 24. Bloomgren also recruited Peek, per 247Sports.

Stanford didn't sign a quarterback in its 2015 class, and when he arrives on campus, the battle for playing time could come down to him, 2013 signee Ryan Burns and 2014 signee Keller Chryst. Measured at The Opening Los Angeles regional at 6'4" and 216 pounds, Costello is a pro-style quarterback with a strong arm and a gunslinger's mentality.

According to 247Sports, Costello threw for more than 3,100 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior for Santa Margarita Catholic. He has thrown for nearly 5,100 yards and 41 touchdowns since his sophomore year.

Costello said that when deciding between the three finalists, he tried to give pros and cons for everything he could think of. He even considered stadium capacity and playing in front of rowdy, packed houses.

Had that been the X-factor, Michigan would have won. The Wolverines can put 115,000-plus in Michigan Stadium. USC's Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum can pack 93,000-plus, while Stanford Stadium holds a little more than 50,000.

"Walking out in front of 110,000 or 60,000, no doubt I thought that might sway my decision," he said. "But it really doesn't matter. It all sounds pretty much near the same on the field."

Stanford was the winner of a decision Costello called "one of the toughest things of my life." He said his mind would change several times with how he felt about committing.

"One week, it would be this school. The next week, it was another," Costello said. "It was a crazy decision for me. Even after the decision, I'd feel 100 percent comfortable going to any of the other two [schools], but at the end of the day, I had to make a decision that was home for me."

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Insider Buzz: Nick Saban Calls Star RB Derrick Henry 'Offseason MVP'

The Alabama Crimson Tide have entered spring practices looking to continue their recent massive success and get back to the College Football Playoff.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe was joined by B/R Alabama Lead Writer Marc Torrence to discuss all things Crimson Tide as the team holds spring practices. 

How will Alabama fare in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every Power 5 College Football Conference's Perfect Coaching Staff

Earlier this week, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated was asked in his weekly mailbag if money and the right coach could make any program into a national title contender.

Why stop there? Why not hire a perfect coaching staff? So, that's what we've done here. 

In the following slides are every Power Five conference's perfect head coach, offensive coordinator (or, as the case may be, co-coordinators) and defensive coordinator, plus a few leftovers. 

They are, after all, the ones making the big decisions. Selections were based on wins, recruiting, offensive/defensive stats and player/coach/program development. Also keep in mind that head coaches could take a coordinator's spot as well. 

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2015 Spring Game Previews for College Football's Projected Top 25

Are you ready for some (spring) football?!

While it's nothing compared to the real thing, college football's regular season is still more than five months away. Spring football is as close as we're going to get right now, and the upcoming slate of spring games will do its best to provide a modicum of excitement for the upcoming year.

Using Bleacher Report's preseason top 25 (spring practice edition) as a guideline, we've run down what to look for when watching these games as they unfold over the next month. Two schools on this list either have already finished spring ball (Baylor) or aren't having a spring game (Texas A&M), so instead we've either recapped what went on during practice or what's at stake this offseason.

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Top 2016 College Football Recruits with NFL Ties

The old adage, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" often times applies to college football recruits.

If a recruit has a famous father or is related to someone who made it to the NFL, then it's simple: All eyes on that player from start to finish. In many cases, the hype is legit. Chalk that up to genetics and a work ethic that only a professional can teach.

While there are many athletes with fathers, uncles and cousins who have played in the NFL, Bleacher Report breaks down 10 to watch as spring recruiting continues on. The list is organized by player rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

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J.T. Barrett's Surprise Early Resurgence Jumpstarts Crazy OSU QB Competition

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The main event of the most talked-about quarterback competition in college football history won't start until the summer.

But if Ohio State's Thursday practice was any indication, spring practice should make for a heck of an undercard.

Ever since the injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett paved the way for Cardale Jones to lead the Buckeyes to the national championship in January, the general thinking in Columbus was that their unprecedented quarterback battle wouldn't take place until fall camp.

That's when all three signal-callers would presumably be healthy, as opposed to the spring, when only Jones would be at full strength.

That thinking, however, underestimated Barrett.

While Miller stood off on the sideline, still recovering from the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that ended his 2014 season before it started in August, the battle between Jones and Barrett already appeared to be underway.

The two routinely topped each other by the throw, alternating pass attempts in the seven-on-seven drills that filled the better part of the first hour of Ohio State's fourth spring practice of 2015.

Watching Barrett in those drills, you wouldn't have even been able to tell he's still recovering from the fractured ankle that brought an end to his Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and College Football Performance Awards National Freshman of the Year-winning season in the Buckeyes' regular-season finale last November.

"That's J.T.," Ohio State left tackle Taylor Decker said after practice. "He's going to do everything he has to as far as rehab and stuff like that to get where he needs to be. That's not surprising at all to me."

Barrett's still not at full strength yet—he's only four months removed from an injury that typically takes around six months to fully recover from—but there he was, dropping back and moving side to side before pinpointing throws with the same accuracy that helped him break the Big Ten's single-season touchdown record in 2014.

Earlier this week, head coach Urban Meyer revealed the Wichita Falls, Texas native was ahead of schedule, jumpstarting a competition that wasn't supposed to start until August.

“He’s doing more than I thought,” Meyer admitted.

Barrett may have surprised Meyer, but the Ohio State head coach may be alone in that regard inside the Buckeyes' locker room.

After leading Ohio State to an 11-1 record in Miller's absence—including a gutsy double-overtime win over Penn State with a sprained MCL—Barrett earned a reputation as one of the toughest players on the Ohio State roster, an undisputed leader despite his status as an underclassman.

Barrett's leadership was again on full display on Thursday as he routinely interacted with not only the Buckeyes' wide receivers, but the other quarterbacks.

The respect for Barrett within the Ohio State program is apparent, and his speedy recovery only helping his cause.

"Nothing surprises me with J.T.," Buckeyes offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. "He's a hard worker, does everything you could possibly do mentally and physically. He's come along pretty good and it's fun to have him out there."

But as good as the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year has looked since returning to the practice field, he's far from re-cemented himself as Ohio State's starter from the fall.

In fact, Barrett still likely trails Jones as the front-runner to do just that considering Jones is fully healthy and taking the majority of the reps with the Buckeyes' first team in 11-on-11 drills. He also appears to have maintained the momentum he had previously built while winning three consecutive postseason games to end Ohio State's season.

"He's always been a confident guy himself, he's got a ton of personality," Decker said. "But you can see that he knows that he's got that ability. He knows that he can make those plays. Even though he's always had the ability, he's just got a lot of confidence right now. Even the other day when we were having a not as good practice, I think he was 9-for-10 [throwing the ball] on third downs."

For as good as Barrett looked during the hour of practice that was open to the media, Jones looked just as good, showing off both increased accuracy and his NFL-caliber arm.

After witnessing just an hour of practice, it's easy to see why Meyer said earlier this week that the thought of benching at least one of his qualified quarterbacks is already "eating" at him.

And what about Miller?

While Jones and Barrett shined on the field, the two-time Big Ten MVP stood off to the side after briefly running and stretching at the start of practice.

Earlier this week, Meyer revealed that he and his staff had pulled Miller back from activity in order to ensure he fully recovers from an injury that can take as long as a year to get back to full strength from.

According to ESPN.com's Austin Ward, Miller may have committed an NCAA violation earlier this week when he publicly endorsed supplement company AdvoCare in an Instagram photo. That could only complicate his situation, although most around the program believe it will ultimately be a non-issue.

Still, Barrett's sudden reemergence doesn't bode well for Miller's chances of reclaiming his starting spot, as he'll now have not only one, but two quarterbacks to catch up to should his shoulder recover in time for fall camp.

While it wasn't supposed to start until the summer, the Buckeyes' highly anticipated quarterback competition is already underway. It may not take its full form until the fall, but if Thursday was any indication, it will certainly live up to the hype.

"It's going to be a crazy battle at that position," Decker said. "Who knows who's going to end up winning that spot?"

Having watched Thursday's practice, it's impossible to tell at this point.

 

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

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Previewing Ohio State's Surprisingly Huge Recruiting Weekend

Ohio State is set for a huge weekend, as a number of the nation's highest-rated recruits—including No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary—will make their way to Columbus, Ohio, to visit the Buckeyes.

It will be a pivotal stretch for head coach Urban Meyer, who's looking to dethrone Nick Saban and Alabama as the king of the college football recruiting world. 

With seven commitments already in the fold for 2016, Ohio State currently boasts the nation's No. 6 recruiting class. But one glance at this week's visitor list shows that Meyer is aiming much higher. 

Here's a rundown of Ohio State's marquee recruiting weekend.

 

Winning over the Best 

The top-ranked prospect from each of the last six recruiting classes (Trent ThompsonLeonard FournetteRobert NkemdicheDorial Green-BeckhamJadeveon Clowney and Ronald Powell) have landed in the SEC, but that's a trend Meyer is hoping to stop this year.

That's why this weekend is so important.

Gary, the No. 1-ranked player for the class of 2016, will be in town to take in the sights on Saturday. Predictably, his offer list is stacked with the premier programs around the country, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Notre Dame and USC.  

As of right now, Ohio State's chances of landing the 6'4", 290-pound defensive tackle (who can run a reported 4.74 40-yard dash) are slim. According to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions, the Buckeyes only have a 4 percent chance of earning his verbal pledge. 

That could change with a good visit, though. 

The Buckeyes certainly have plenty to sell. After winning the first-ever College Football Playoff, a trip to the trophy room would leave a lasting impression.

But beyond that, the Buckeyes have a huge need at defensive tackle after missing out on their top three targets—Christian Wilkins, Neville Gallimore and Terry Beckner Jr.—in 2015. And when you combine that with the loss of Michael Bennett and the pending departures of Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt, the Buckeyes can offer Gary an opportunity to make an impact immediately.

If Meyer can't sell Gary on that this weekend, it will be hard to make up the ground he needs to cover in order to land the Paramus, New Jersey, standout. 

 

More New Jersey Standouts

When defensive line coach Larry Johnson left Penn State to take the same position on Ohio State's staff, it was only a matter of time before the Buckeyes invaded talent-rich states such as New Jersey on the recruiting front.

Johnson, who spent 18 years recruiting the Northeast for the Nittany Lions, brought his invaluable connections with him to Ohio State, and Meyer is reaping the benefits. 

The Buckeyes are already making a strong push in The Garden State. Their top 2016 commitment—5-star running back Kareem Walker—hails from De Paul Catholic High School in Wayne, New Jersey.

In addition to Gary, the Buckeyes will host a trio of talented Jersey prospects. 

Two talented wideouts in Ahmir Mitchell and Brad Hawkins will get the red-carpet treatment from wide receivers coach Zach Smith. Mitchell, rated the country's sixth-best athlete, and Hawkins, the 34th-ranked receiver, hold offers from the Buckeyes.

Mitchell is the key. According to 247Sports' Crystal Ball, the Buckeyes are in a battle with home-state Rutgers, which holds a 67-33 percent edge. Pulling the dynamic 6'2", 190-pound athlete away from home will be a challenge, but Meyer has a golden opportunity to impress Mitchell this weekend. 

And then there's Ron Johnson, the talented and highly coveted 4-star defensive end.

The Buckeyes already have commitments from a pair of outstanding pass-rushers in Terrell Hall and Jonathon Cooper, and they expect to land 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa in the coming months. Whether Johnson would like to join such a crowded group remains to be seen, but it may be a moot point anyway, as he's a heavy lean to Penn State. 

 

Ohio State's Next Great Quarterback?

Much was made of Ohio State's crowded quarterback room when 2015 signal-callers Torrance Gibson and Joe Burrow—both of whom were 4-star prospects—signed on as Buckeyes in February.

Ohio State isn't worried about having too many good options, though, because it's going after a pair of elite 2016 quarterbacks. 

Jarrett Guarantano, a New Jersey pro-style quarterback who's considering Tennessee and Rutgers alongside Ohio State, is one. The other is Tristen Wallace, a 4-star standout who's rated as the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country.

The latter will be on campus for a visit this weekend. 

Walllace is making the trip north from DeSoto, Texas, with his parents and teammate Kadarrian Nixon, a 2017 wide receiver target who's also drawing interest from Ohio State. Both play for DeSoto High School, Dontre Wilson's alma mater, and Nixon offered some positive insight to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports.

If Ohio State offers me [a scholarship] I would commit,” Nixon said, via Kurelic. “Ohio State produces athletes. They know what to do with guys. They knew what to do with Dontre.”

The 5'8", 170-pound wideout also offered his thoughts on Wallace.

“He doesn’t say [too much about committing],” Nixon said. “But he might commit.”

Will that happen if the Buckeyes wow Wallace and his parents this weekend?

 

Representing the Buckeye State

A recruiting event at Ohio State wouldn't be complete without some homegrown talent.

Demario McCall (running back) and Luke Farrell (tight end), both 4-star prospects, will be on campus this weekend—and both are unanimous picks to eventually land with the Buckeyes, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions. 

Will either pull the trigger this weekend?

Neither has a set announcement date right now, but according to Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors, McCall is one of the most likely candidates to announce his Ohio State commitment sooner rather than later.

Despite already having George Hill and Kareem Walker in the fold for 2016, Ohio State has never slowed down in their recruitment, and there doesn't seem to be any reason to suspect that's going to change.

...

The Buckeyes were hoping McCall would be in the class by now, but they're not going to push him since they realize their current power position.

Farrell's decision isn't expected anytime soon, but the Buckeyes are sitting pretty in pole position for their top tight end target. 

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

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Urban Meyer Not Pleased with OSU's Sloppy Practice; Resting Starters for Season

Is there trouble in paradise? The Ohio State Buckeyes are in the early stages of spring practice, and head coach Urban Meyer is not exactly happy with how his players are performing so far. 

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe was joined by Bleacher Report Big 10 Lead Writer Ben Axelrod to discuss what is happening in Columbus. 

How will Ohio State fare in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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