NCAA Football

The 40-Hour Weeks That Led to Ohio State's National Championship

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three weeks before Ohio State took the field for the first-ever College Football Playoff, Taylor Decker found himself unable to sleep.

It wasn't that the Buckeyes left tackle didn't want to. He simply didn't have time to.

Fourth-seeded Ohio State was preparing for a semifinal Sugar Bowl showdown with No. 1 Alabama, with the winner moving on to take part in the national championship. But while Decker got ready for arguably the toughest test of his college career against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense, it was another test—or tests—that kept him awake at night.

"Right at the end of the semester, we were going into finals, and we were also in bowl practice," Decker told Bleacher Report. "I had some pretty challenging classes during the season, and I had to study a lot to do well in them and do well in those final exams. There was like a three-day span where I had three or four exams and two of those three days I didn't even sleep."

Forget the national title, which the Buckeyes went on to win nearly a month later; for Decker, a junior Animal Sciences major with a minor in Business, his sleep-deprived finals week was the culmination of a 19-hour class load per week. It also happened to coincide with the final stretch of one of the most unlikely championship runs in college football history.

The NCAA limits a college football team's allowed practice time to 20 hours per week while class is in session, and like any elite program, Ohio State uses all of them. But when you take into account classes and any extra football-related activity players choose to take part in on their own, their weekly workloads often extend to 40 hours per week—if not more.

And for the Buckeyes, who started fall camp on Aug. 4 and won the national championship on Jan. 12, it was a grind that lasted nearly six months.

"It definitely gets frustrating," linebacker Joshua Perry said. "You get pissed off, you get overwhelmed and you question things. But the biggest thing that we did this year was we had a really close group of guys. So when you're feeling that way, your buddy will automatically look at your face and know what's going on."

Perry, like Decker, took on a full class load in the fall, majoring in Consumer and Family Financial Services.

Given their football responsibilities, it'd be understandable if either player—both starters and prospects for the 2016 NFL draft—opted for a less-demanding major, one that would allow them to to meet the bare minimum to maintain eligibility. That's not to say that doesn't happen—both at Ohio State and around the country—but both Decker and Perry have insisted on getting the most out of their respective scholarships.

For Perry, a 6'4", 252-pound linebacker by way of Galena, Ohio, just outside Columbus, it's a matter of optimizing his college experience. Ohio State's leading tackler on the year with 124 takedowns, Perry said that he enjoys socializing with classmates as much as he does examining "how people interact instead of how markets interact" in his core classes.

"It would be a waste of an opportunity," Perry said of the idea that he could get away with just doing what it would take to stay eligible. "It's a shame to waste an opportunity because you don't get them very often. You should take advantage of it. That's how I feel about my education."

Decker, meanwhile, has found an extra incentive to pick a major that matters. Protecting the blindside of the Buckeyes' quarterbacks throughout their national title run, the 6'7", 315-pounder is aware of his value to Ohio State and wants to make sure he's reimbursed.

"I basically view college athletes today as professionals. It's essentially our job to play football and go get an education," Decker said. "Obviously, the university makes all kinds of money off of the football team—that's just college sports, it is what it is—but why not take full advantage of the opportunity that you have to get an education so that you can live the rest of your life comfortably and happily with what you're doing?"

While both Decker and Perry have had their educations paid for with their athletic scholarships and anticipate graduating by next spring, their degrees still will have come at a price.

Between conditioning, classes, practice, film study and tutoring, days in the fall typically start early and end late. Perry says he doesn't mind his lack of free time, describing himself as a lingerer who spends every free moment he can at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, while Decker admitted that the long days took a toll on him.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tired and still am not tired every single day," Decker said. "There were days that I'd wake up at 5 [a.m.], and I don't get back to my house until 9:30 or 10:00 [p.m.]"

That's a demanding schedule in and of itself. And it doesn't even take into account the other stresses that accompanied the Buckeyes' unique 2014 campaign.

A season-ending injury to star quarterback Braxton Miller started Ohio State's 2014 season, while the final week of the regular season saw signal-caller J.T. Barrett go down with a fractured ankle and the shocking death of walk-on defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge. All the while, the Buckeyes found themselves on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff, critical injuries occurring from fall camp through the playoff.

By the time Ohio State took the field for its 15th and final game of the season, the Buckeyes had lost no fewer than 12 players to season-ending injuries.

"If we had to practice one more day, we had to go against each other," Urban Meyer said. "There was no scout team, it was over."

Despite all of the distractions football can cause before classes are even considered, Perry and Decker each stand by their decisions to pursue excellence both on and off the field. Decker even went as far to suggest there's a correlation between the two.

"We're trained on being so competitive and aggressive that I don't like to be told that I'm not doing a good job or I'm not trying or I'm not putting effort in," he said. "That's so much of what's stressed athletics-wise is competition and being the best. I know don't have the time to put as much into school as other people can with the demands that I have, but with the time that I do have, I do want to do the best I can.

"I feel like if you're the type of guy that's going to slack off in one aspect of your life, that's just the kind of person you are."

For both Decker and Perry—locks to be captains on Ohio State's 2015 team—their near six-month journey paid off, with each passing their winter exams weeks before acing their final on-field tests. With just a week to go until spring practice already, Decker admitted that he hasn't had much time to reflect on the Buckeyes' storied 2014 season—and he likely won't any time soon.

"The day we got back," Decker said of Ohio State's return from the national title game. "We had class the next day."

 

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

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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes Chasing Epic Defensive Line Haul for Class of 2016

Urban Meyer knows that winning football games is a process that starts in the trenches. 

He showcased that at Florida in January of 2007, when a defensive line led by Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss bulldozed Ohio State in a blowout victory in the BCS National Championship Game. The same was true two years later when the Gators bested Oklahoma in the title game, and it was also on display when the Buckeyes shut down Oregon to win the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Taking a glance at Ohio State's 2016 recruiting strategy, it's safe to say Meyer isn't deviating from that winning strategy.

With seven commitments already in the fold, the Buckeyes are well on their way to signing one of the nation's top recruiting classes. But it's clear that Meyer is pursuing some of the top defensive line prospects in the country, and those efforts could send a legendary wave of talent to Columbus.

In fact, that process has already begun.

On Monday, Meyer got huge news when Terrell Hall—a 4-star weak-side defensive end out of Washington, D.C.—offered his verbal pledge to the Buckeyes.

Hall, the ninth-ranked defensive end and the No. 142 recruit overall, joined 4-star defensive end Jonathon Cooper in Ohio State's budding class.

That pair alone would make any coach happy, but according to Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors, the Buckeyes are looking to add four defensive ends with their '16 class.

And the targets they have left on their board are some of the best in the country.

There's Auston Robertson, Indiana's top prep player and the eighth-ranked weak-side defensive end. There's Prince Sammons, a 6'8", 280-pound pass-rusher out of Cincinnati who's rated the No. 71 player nationally. Then there's Josh King, the country's 49th-best player and the fourth-ranked strong-side defensive end. 

All are high-end 4-star prospects, and all have Ohio State projected as their favorite, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions. 

But none of those prospects are higher on Ohio State's wish list than 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa.

The younger brother of current Buckeye stud Joey Bosa, Nick is one of the most highly recruited players in this year's class. With offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and others, the country's No. 10 prospect has no shortage of elite options.

None of those options seem plausible with Ohio State in the picture.

Forty-five recruiting experts have weighed in on Nick Bosa's recruitment via 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions, and all 45 expect him to wind up in Columbus. 

If Ohio State is looking to add four defensive ends, any combination of the four above would be an outrageous amount of talent for a one-year recruiting cycle.

Then there's the interior.

The Buckeyes missed out on their top defensive tackle targets in 2015—Terry Beckner Jr.Christian Wilkins and Neville Gallimore—which is why that position is one of their biggest priorities in 2016.

Ohio State is pursuing two 5-star standouts in Rashan Gary and Julian Rochester, but their chances of landing either at this point are slim. The Buckeyes just recently got into the mix for 4-star Antwuan Jackson, who, according to Bucknuts' Bill Kurelic, was excited about the offer Meyer extended and plans to visit Columbus during the summer.

But Ohio State is in best standing with two 4-star prospects in Michael Onwenu and Michael Williams.

Onwenu hails from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, a Michigan pipeline school that the Buckeyes have tapped into in recent years. Williams is a Texas product that Ohio State will have to pull from Oklahoma and the home-state Longhorns.

But the boost in recruiting that coincides with winning a national championship should help the Buckeyes land two suitable defensive tackles. 

Ohio State's only issue at this point is a lack of room in its 2016 class to take in all of these highly coveted players.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

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Overlooked, Undersized Vernon Adams Is College Football's Superstar in Waiting

“I want to earn the starting spot, earn everyone’s trust, win games, win a Pac-12 championship, hopefully a Heisman and a national championship,” Vernon Adams Jr. says. “My goals are set high.”

It wasn't always like this for the man set to replace Marcus Mariota and his Heisman Trophy at Oregon. 

Adams had a grand total of zero scholarship offers coming out of high school, but that was a long time ago. Before he (not Braxton Miller) became the biggest "free agent" in college football history.

But today, pinballing around his Washington apartment, Adams Jr. isn’t thinking about the calendar or the magnificent stage that awaits him in Eugene. For now, the 6-foot-ish quarterback who has accounted for more than 100 Eastern Washington touchdowns over the past three years is simply searching for a quiet room to give an interview while taking care of his eight-month-old son, Vernon Kash Adams III.

“I’m sorry, man,” Adams says, his words barely audible. “Can you repeat the question?”

The coos, cries and shrieks rain down after each question and before each answer. On the field, Adams has become a magician when it comes to sidestepping chaos. But right now, there is no escaping the clamor. Where dad goes, Kash follows.

This has become Adams’ life as he readies for an opportunity of a lifetime, the one he thought might never come. He is preparing for June 14, the day he will enroll at Oregon and start his new life, but at the moment, it's hard to see beyond baby bottles, final projects and the uncertainty of the months ahead. 

Adams is in college football purgatory right now, a man without a team.  Eastern Washington has banned him from working out with the Eagles, and he won't be a Duck until he can finish his graduation requirements in Cheney. Then, life will shift into the fast lane.

From there, he will have a little less than six months to learn a new offense, earn the respect of his new teammates, win the starting job, lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title, get an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and win a national title if his goals follow his desire blueprint.

These are burdens, but they’re burdens Adams will gladly welcome. Football will be a far more familiar, comforting chaos. His entire career has been an uphill climb; this next challenge is the kind he was born for.

 

The Unwanted "Playmaker"

Don't bother trying to count his tattoos; Adams lost count long ago. His arms are both sleeved, his chest covered and he has ink on his stomach and back.

It’s been a while since he’s gotten work done because his pain threshold isn’t quite where it used to be, he says, half-joking and half-serious. There isn’t much room left anyway. His body has become a canvas.

On his right forearm, Adams has a piece of art that is impossible to miss. It's a building that he grew up with,  a symbol of both where he's going and where he comes from. Adams has never played a game inside the Rose Bowl, but he wears it proudly every day. 

“I’m from Pasadena,” Adams said. “The Rose Bowl is like the biggest thing out there.”

The opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl, at least up until now, was never a possibility. Despite delivering enormous junior and senior seasons at Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills, California—a recruiting hotbed—the interest and offers from major programs never came. Coaches knew who he was but never believed in him enough to put it in writing. 

Teams were scared of his size, or more specifically, lack thereof. Although Adams is listed at 6'0" on his Eastern Washington bio, he'll be the first to tell you that this figure is inflated.

Despite his lack of size for the position, dominating every level of competition has never been an issue. Still, even with his head coach—a guy who produced NFL players Matt Moore and Kyle Boller—campaigning for him, teams didn’t budge.

“It’s probably the most frustrating thing I’ve ever dealt with as a coach,” Bishop Alemany High School head coach Dean Herrington said. “SMU was the only Division I team that gave him a look, and they decided not [to] go [with] him. Everyone else just kind of dismissed him because of his height.”

Like the coaches he tried to convince, even Herrington had reservations about how Adams’ game would fit in his own offense despite recognizing his tremendous ability.

Adams responded by scoring 68 touchdowns in his two years at the varsity level, according to MaxPreps. In the process, he showcased a college-level arm and an amazing ability to extend plays and move the pocket, both characteristics Oregon fans will fondly recognize. 

“I actually told one of my coaches that I wasn’t sure he could play for me because he ran around too much,” Herrington said. “I thought he needed to be more structured. We laugh about that to this day.”

While SMU looked at the player Herrington characterized as a “playmaker,” FCS teams Portland State and Eastern Washington were the only programs to offer him a scholarship.

Adams decided on Eastern Washington and redshirted in 2011. That season, as it turns out, would be significant moving forward. It would make it possible for him to graduate early and apply for graduate transfer.

As soon as he hit the red turf in Cheney, Washington, Adams developed into a star. In three seasons, he totaled 121 touchdowns, threw for more than 10,000 yards and put on an absolute show against Oregon State and Washington. In those Pac-12 showdowns, Adams accounted for 13 touchdowns and only one interception.

Even playing at the FCS level, Adams’ performances against quality opponents generated a buzz that resonated beyond his campus. As it turns out, this undersized quarterback could play a bit, just like his high school coach knew all along.

“I tried to tell these guys that they were missing out on a great one,” Herrington lamented. “I think now, after Russell Wilson’s success, he would have had a lot more offers. A lot of guys missed out.”

It wasn’t until the last few months, however, that Adams got to experience the high-profile recruitment he had been waiting for.

 

“Hell Yeah, We Want Him”

When Ohio State and Oregon kicked off the 2015 national championship, Adams fully expected to be back at Eastern in 2014 and was completely comfortable doing so. To leave this place, his home, he would need an offer he couldn't refuse.

It wasn't until after the national championship that he realized such an offer was a possibility. His former high school coach, the man who pushed for his recruitment years prior, came to him with a useful bit of information. Herrington asked Adams if he was planning to graduate in June, which he was. It was at that moment Adams realized he would be able to transfer to an FBS school for his senior season.

Eastern Washington gave Adams permission to contact other schools and, almost instantly, the recruiting began. In many ways, it kicked off with a simple phone call. Herrington knew a contact at Oregon, so he decided to reach out to gauge interest and discuss the situation.

“The next thing I know I’m getting calls from people saying, ‘Hell yeah, we’d want him,” Herrington said. “It snowballed from there.”

Oregon, UCLA, Texas, Boise State and even Maryland all expressed interest in Adams, according to the player and his former coach. Adams assessed options, knowing he had little time to make a final decision. Unlike most recruiting cycles that take place over years, this one transpired in a matter of few weeks.

As more opportunities from major programs presented themselves, it still didn’t feel real.

“I didn’t think I was that good,” Adams said. “It was pretty cool.”

The pitches that never came during Adams’ senior year of high school finally arrived. After all, available quarterbacks with this kind of ability almost never appear out of thin air.

As a result of the situation, Adams listened to different voices offering up similar messages.

“The coaches were all saying that they wanted me to come in and earn the starting spot,” Adams said. “They told me that they thought I could lead them to the big game. They just told me a bunch of stuff I wanted to hear, basically.”

Although other campus trips were discussed, Oregon was the only school Adams visited. On his visit, he couldn't take his eyes off the Ducks' state-of-the-art football facilities while learning how his game would mesh with the nation's most distinguished offense. The red-carpet treatment finally came, and the Ducks made it clear they wanted him.

“Oregon really went hard,” Herrington said.

In the end, it came down to Oregon and Eastern Washington. While other coaches came in with fascinating and enticing offers, those were the only programs that garnered serious consideration at the very end. Up until the final day before he revealed his decision, Adams wasn’t sure where he would play next year.

On February 9, Adams broke the news that he was headed to Eugene.

Oregon it is! First off, I want to thank God for this amazing opportunity. I want to thank all of… http://t.co/yMkAHNt1f2

— Vernon Adams Jr. (@vadams_qb) February 9, 2015

“It’s an opportunity to play on a big stage in one of the best conferences in the nation,” Adams said. “Being a shorter quarterback, I can do what I did here over there. Winning games and being successful at Oregon can also help me accomplish my dream of either being a college coach or playing in the NFL.”

With the change of scenery, Adams may finally play in the Rose Bowl. With the College Football Playoff moving its semifinal games to the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, however, this should be considered a backup plan for now.

"Hopefully he still doesn't go there," his former coach said, half-joking and half-serious.

 

“Three More Months”

In the hours after Adams revealed he was transferring to Oregon, his phone exploded.

Like his tattoos, he lost count of all the text messages and phone calls received in the days that followed. Former NFL wideout and current ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson was one of many to reach out to offer up congratulations. Countless other current and former players followed, including Oregon wideout Bralon Addison.

Adams has since had regular conversations with Addison and other Oregon wideouts. Although he’ll be unable to work on his timing with his future teammates this spring while finishing his degree, the long-distance jelling is well underway.

These conversations will undoubtedly aid Adams once he finally arrives—on June 14—although missing spring practice is a tremendous disadvantage, one that is unavoidable given the circumstances.

“I’m stressed about it. Not having spring ball and not being over there getting time with the guys is hard for me,” Adams said. “I’m just taking it day by day, living life and doing the right things. When it comes, it comes.”

Without a strength coach to lean on, Adams is forcing himself to stay in football shape with his own personally crafted two-a-days. Each day he works out at 6 a.m, goes to class and either throws or runs in the afternoon.

“That’s the hardest part,” Adams said on working out. “It’s having the mindset and getting up to do it by yourself. But I’m putting in the time.”

In between workouts, he is deep in textbooks. His latest batch of classes involves more paper writing than ever before, which means more time in front of the computer. With so much to gain (and lose), Adams is ensuring that he is doing everything necessary to earn his degree.  Learning the Oregon offense will be easy after the grind of graduating early. 

“It’s hard on him right now,” Herrington said. “He changed majors, and he’s had to take a couple different classes this quarter. It’s overwhelmed him a bit.”

And then there’s being a dad, the most significant and overwhelming full-time job of them all. As Kash’s screams drowned out the answer to yet another question, the gravity of it all is palpable. He welcomes it all, of course, but his plate is full.

Even after Adams graduates on June 13, the stresses and anxieties won’t suddenly vanish. Getting to Oregon is only a portion of the equation; there’s still a matter of learning a new offense and playbook, meshing with teammates beyond phone calls and beating out an array of quarterbacks, many of which had the benefit of spring practice.

“Three more months,” Herrington says about his former player, as if he’s uttered these reassurances before. “Get that done, and then it’s off to Oregon. The sky is the limit there.”

On June 14, it all changes. But right now there is no time to gaze longingly at the calendar or at the sky. Before June 14, he must get to June 13—the day he graduates. Before June 13, he must get to tomorrow. It's all part of the plan.

The weight of it all is evident, although the confidence that helped shape one of the sport’s most electric talents hasn’t waned. Once a player with no Division I offers and a Rose Bowl tattoo, Adams—between shrieks, formula, papers and solo two-a-days—is now one step closer to superstardom.

 

Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Tennessee Football: Realistic Expectations for Butch Jones in 2015

It's difficult to turn on a television or radio station discussing the 2015 Southeastern Conference football season without hearing about the Tennessee Volunteers.

Everybody is talking about the talent head coach Butch Jones has stockpiled through exceptional recruiting the past two-plus seasons. There are budding skill-position stars in place, developing depth and the lines of scrimmage are improving.

Jones can feel the spotlight swinging back toward Rocky Top, and how UT handles the heat will go a long way toward determining the fate of the season.

Are the Vols built to win right now? Are there still hurdles to get over for a young team expected to start beating better teams all the while charged with playing a difficult schedule?

The pressure cooker is about to intensify, and while Jones knows it, he told GoVols247's Wes Rucker last week the biggest expectations come from much closer than the national media: "The internal expectations that I have for myself, for our football program, for how we need to build this, those will never be higher than my expectations. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Well ... not pressure, but expectations upon myself and my staff, and I know the staff feels the same way."

So, cutting through all the buzz and getting down to reality, what are some things that should happen this season for Tennessee to take another step forward? How can this palpable excitement surrounding the program continue to build?

Moving forward, Tennessee's success will be defined more by results than development, so it's key this year that the Vols' improvement on the field can be quantified by more wins.

That's the cost of high expectations.

Here are some sensible goals for Jones and the Vols as they inch closer to spring practice and onward toward the 2015 season.

 

Recruiting Wins Need to Translate into Win Column

Before getting to the schedule, it's important to first take a look at Tennessee's returning roster.

Yes, this is still a young team, and it may shape up to be one of the youngest in the nation a season removed from playing 25 true and redshirt freshmen. But it's extremely talented.

A study of star rankings for the players currently on the roster shows the talent heavily weighted toward the past two classes. That means most of the players expected to be stars are still going to be freshmen and sophomores.

It also means that the next couple of years could be extremely fun for UT fans.

But nobody is thinking about 2016 right now.

After the Vols rode a 4-1 finish to earn their first winning record since 2009 and capped the year with a dominant TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Iowa, results are expected now.

So, even though most of the talent on UT's roster is in the form of underclassmen, the sure sign of a payoff would be to upset a quality opponent.

Last year, Tennessee beat decent teams such as South Carolina and Iowa down the stretch, but its other wins came against Utah State, Arkansas State, Chattanooga, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. That's not exactly a murderer's row.

The Vols lost by 24 to Oklahoma, three to Georgia, one to Florida, 31 to Ole Miss, 14 to Alabama and eight to Missouri. Turning just one of those losses into a win would have changed the program's trajectory, and that needs to happen this season.

Nobody will be predicting the Vols to upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa, but there are several other opportunities to knock off good teams:

  • Oklahoma returns the trip to Knoxville, and the Vols are a much different team than the one that couldn't block the Sooners in Norman last year.
  • Again, this looks like UT's best opportunity to beat Florida for the first time in 10 years, even if the Vols must travel to the Swamp. Most UT fans will have to see it to believe it.
  • Tennessee gets a tough West draw in Arkansas, as the Hogs come to Knoxville on Oct. 3 along with their dominant running game.
  • The very next week, Georgia will bring a similar star-studded rushing attack with a green quarterback into Knoxville. The past four years, UGA has beaten the Vols by eight points or fewer.
  • Tennessee must travel to Missouri, and it gets South Carolina at home. Neither of those games will be easy, and both present opportunities to get what could be pivotal wins.

Even Alabama doesn't appear to be an insurmountable task with all the talent the Tide have to replace.

Jones has recruited well, but all those star rankings mean nothing if they don't equal wins. If UT is going to take a palpable step forward, it needs to beat better teams.

 

Improvement on Both Sides of the Ball

The strides Tennessee made offensively during the second half of 2014 were immense as the Vols found a leader in quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who did things former starter Justin Worley simply couldn't.

But lost in the excitement of the Vols getting bowl-eligible is the fact that most of that strong work, as already discussed, came against less-than-stellar competition.

The next step for UT's offense under new coordinator Mike DeBord is replicating all that second-half success against the toughest teams on the schedule.

That's why Dobbs has to take some large leaps in development. Already as the statistics show, UT was much better with him behind center. It's just going to be interesting to see how that translates against the league's best.

He'll have much more help this year. Not only do the Vols return star sophomore Jalen Hurd at running back, but UT snagged highly regarded JUCO transfer Alvin Kamara to run the ball, too.

With a wide receiving corps that suffered an unbelievable amount of injuries last year getting healthier, according to GoVols247's Rucker, Dobbs will have plenty of weapons at his disposal.

The biggest key for UT is getting improvement from its porous offensive line. A season of playing together and another year in the weight room should help, but the Vols have serious holes to fill, and they must get better quickly or it won't matter how many playmakers they've got.

Defensively, the improvements the Vols made from 2013 to 2014 were immense across the board. Coordinator John Jancek's unit carried the team at times, and displaying a propensity to get to the quarterback, they were able to wreak havoc on most of their opponents.

UT must only replace middle linebacker A.J. Johnson, nickelback Justin Coleman and defensive tackle Jordan Williams from the rotation.

With the addition of bulk in the middle of the defensive line with Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, UT should be able to boost its rush defense numbers.

If so, it would be a surprise if Tennessee didn't improve again. The Vols have talent all over the field on defense, and if those guys grow up, it could be a big season.

The development of players under Jones and his staff has been promising. Guys such as Coleman, Williams and LaDarrell McNeil struggled under the previous regime before resurrecting their careers.

If the maturation continues, the Vols could be one of the best defensive teams in the league. A realistic expectation would be to see those green youngsters grow up and become all-conference-caliber players.

 

Compete for the SEC East

Finally, it's not ludicrous to think the Vols should compete for the spot representing the East Division in the SEC Championship Game.

It's set up for somebody to take charge.

Yes, there are question marks, but who doesn't have them in the division?

Missouri has won back-to-back division titles, but the Tigers did so with offensive struggles last season. Now they have to find other pass-rushers with Shane Ray and Markus Golden heading to the NFL.

Georgia has to replace its starting quarterback as well as its two leading receivers (Chris Conley and Michael Bennett). The Bulldogs also will miss two starting linebackers and three defensive linemen.

South Carolina is riddled with question marks all over the field, and Florida must replace Dante Fowler Jr., as well as fill major holes on offense as it starts the Jim McElwain era.

Kentucky is improving as a program, but UT hung 50 on the Wildcats last year.

So, in other words, the East is there for the taking, and the national media (such as ESPN.com's KC Joyner) realize UT could have what it takes to capture it. Sure there are reasons why they won't, but it's been a long time since the Vols were even in the conversation.

The Vols have power. They have speed. They have talent at the skill positions. They have depth (even if it's unproven) on the lines.

All of the elements are there.

If Dobbs can make the leap from toolsy signal-caller to a quarterback who can make key plays against quality competition, and if the Vols can find five dependable offensive linemen and find some run-stuffers on the defensive line and at middle linebacker, they could take the next step.

Then, UT could return to its form of competing for championships for the first time in more than a decade.

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted. All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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UCLA Football: 4 Bruins Who Could Surprise Some People This Spring

With spring practice starting on March 31, fans of the UCLA football program will get a chance to see the up-and-coming members of the squad. 

There are four current members of the team possessing the capability of surprising some people this spring. The quartet in question are comprised of young, inexperienced players.

Two of the four athletes in question were out all of last year with serious injuries. One played sparingly as a true freshman last year, and another is vying for a significant starting position. 

This piece will look at four Bruins with the potential to each make a name for themselves during the upcoming spring practice period. 

 

 

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: 4 Bruins Who Could Surprise Some People This Spring

With spring practice starting on March 31, fans of the UCLA football program will get a chance to see the up-and-coming members of the squad. There are four current members of the team possessing the capability of surprising some people this spring...

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Nebraska Football: 3 Cornhuskers Who Could Surprise People This Spring

Nebraska football fans have seen the calendar turn to March and are looking at the roster to see who might be the stars of 2015. The arrival of new head coach Mike Riley makes it hard to look at anyone as a guaranteed starter, although there are some players who fans can be pretty sure will have big roles.

Here are three players whom Nebraska fans might not have at the top of their minds, but who could make huge names for themselves this spring.

 

Jamal Turner

Over the last few years, few Cornhuskers have offered more upside than Turner. After converting from quarterback before his freshman year, Turner held out the promise of an electric, game-changing receiver.

But that promise never materialized. Turner struggled to learn the position during his freshman and sophomore years. And seemingly every time it looked like things were turning around for Turner, injuries derailed his progress.

Now, with a medical hardship year and Riley’s history of producing wide receivers, Turner has the chance to finally claim the glory that has eluded him throughout his career in Lincoln.

 

Charles Jackson

Last year, it looked like everything was ready to come together for Jackson. A freak athlete, Jackson looked like he had finally shown enough discipline and gained the coaches’ trust. He looked set to be the starting nickelback and make his mark on the Blackshirts.

Then an injury in spring practice cost him the 2014 season.

Now, with his rehab completed, Jackson is ready to compete in a crowded defensive secondary for a starting job. Whether he ends up at safety, corner or nickelback, Jackson has the chance to finally make his mark.

 

Cethan Carter

If there’s any position group that looks to benefit from Nebraska’s coaching change, it’s the tight ends. Under Bo Pelini, talented offensive tight ends like Mike McNeill, Kyler Reed and Carter were left to wither on the vine. No tight end has notched more than 442 receiving yards for Nebraska since McNeill in 2008.

Of course, we don’t know what Nebraska’s offense will look like next year under Riley. But Breakdown Sports does a great job of describing how the tight end has been important in Riley’s offense in the past. Take a look at how the tight end usage between Nebraska and Riley’s Oregon State compares:

Year

Rec – NU

Rec – OSU

Diff

Yards – NU

Yards – OSU

Diff 

TD – NU

TD – OSU

Diff 

2010

45

37

8

803

451

352

9

7

2

2011

29

43

-14

446

334

112

1

3

-2

2012

48

52

-4

651

558

93

5

4

1

2013

22

91

-69

279

924

-645

1

11

-10

2014

10

55

-45

145

582

-437

3

3

0

Pay attention to the differential. In each of the three statistical categories, the differential goes from being in Nebraska’s favor in 2010 to being decidedly in Oregon State’s favor by 2014. It’s fair to expect Riley’s arrival to help Nebraska’s tight end production—and that should mean a huge opportunity for Carter.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Meet 4-Star Matt Farniok, Small-Town Star with Big-Time Football Lineage

As the nation's top-ranked player in South Dakota, 4-star offensive lineman Matt Farniok is the first to admit there isn't much to do where he lives.

The state's tourist attractions that many outsiders learn about—Mount Rushmore in Keystone and the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, for example—are a few hours from Farniok's hometown of Sioux Falls. And even with Sioux Falls being the largest city in South Dakota, Farniok said the highlights of a good weekend normally involve hanging out with friends.

This leaves Farniok with plenty of time to perfect his craft as a versatile lineman. And with the respected football lineage set before him, spending that quality time to get better is encouraged. Almost mandatory.

Farniok is the third of four brothers preparing to go through the buzzsaw that is the college football recruiting process. With double-digit offers, Farniok is following his older brothers, Tom and Derek, who are offensive linemen on the FBS level.

Add in his father, Brad, and his uncle, Bob Reeves, who both played college football, and it's easy to see that there's pressure to excel.

Or is there?

"I don't know if it's pressure, but I know I want to do well like them," said Matt, a 6'6", 315-pound lineman who can play guard or tackle at the next level. "We've all got the same mentality of getting it done and doing it right. That's all I want to do, do it right."

Tom Farniok (6'4", 301 lbs) just finished his senior year with Iowa State and was an all-Big 12 center. Derek Farniok (6'9", 329 lbs) just completed his redshirt junior year for the Sooners and played in all 13 games.

Brad was a lineman for St. Cloud State in Minnesota in the 1980s. Reeves was a two-sport athlete in the 1980s at South Dakota State. He played tight end in football and was a standout pitcher in baseball.

And for those keeping score, the youngest brother, 2018's Will Farniok, is an up-and-coming interior lineman. Matt is expecting to be varsity teammates with his younger brother in the fall.

With so much talent in one family, it's easy to assume competition is high among the males. Matt said he's been able to get along with the tutelage of his older brothers, whom he considers his "other coaches," as well as with noteworthy advice from his father.

Two words: Stay mean.

"He told me, 'You're not out there to make friends on the field,'" Matt said. "'You're out there to win.'"

As a lineman at Sioux Falls' Washington High School, Farniok has been an impressive prospect—so impressive that he now has offers from Michigan State, Florida State, Nebraska, Stanford, Arizona State, Iowa and others.

Oh, and he has an Iowa State offer, as well, just in case he wanted to follow in his oldest brother's footsteps. Oklahoma is showing interest but hasn't offered, according to 247Sports. Farniok said a decision shouldn't be expected until after spring when he's had a chance to do more research and take some campus visits.

Farniok said that he hasn't ruled out attending one of his brother's programs, but he added that he has plenty of time to make the educated decision that's best for him. It's that attitude, along with his play on the field, that made Tom call Matt the chosen one of sorts.

In a story that ran in November, Tom told Stu Whitney of the Argus Leader that Matt is the best of the four brothers. He called his little brother "a freak of nature."

"He walks into our locker room [at Iowa State], and he looks like he belongs there," Tom told Whitney. "He's by far the best out of all of us. Genetically, we got it pretty good, but he absolutely hit the jackpot."

Matt said he laughed when he read the story. He knows the no-nonsense Tom, someone who refuses to let his little brother slack with strength and conditioning. He also knows Derek, someone who isn't as strict but still demands excellence.

"They've been really helpful," Matt said. "They'll watch my game film and give me feedback on what's good and what I need to work with.

"I think Tom's a little more edgy most of the time. Derek can reel it back some and be calmer. But they both push me."

The results of the hard work have been respectable. Farniok is the nation's No. 16 offensive tackle and the No. 160 player overall nationally. He's a self-described "greedy" person when it comes to success. If he gets an offer, he's working harder to earn another.

Farniok will test his skills in May at The Opening regional in Oakland, California. While he's in California, Farniok said he'd like to visit Stanford if the opportunity presents itself.

When it comes to family matters, Farniok is next up on the college football circuit. Playing at or above the level of his brothers is a goal, but being the best Matt Farniok possible is the top priority.

"I just love playing the game," he said. "You can stick me wherever you want on the field, as long as I'm playing. I know around the nation, there are people better or just as good. I just want to do whatever I can to make sure I outwork them."

And if that means Tom's prediction of Matt being the best Farniok comes to fruition, then so be it.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BYU Football: 4 Cougars Who Could Surprise People This Spring

BYU officially kicked off its spring practices on Monday, which means football season is on its way. With only six months until the opening game at Nebraska, the Cougars are in full swing with their preseason preparation.

But with several returning stars, including quarterback Taysom Hill, receiving the spotlight, a handful Cougars may go unnoticed throughout the first few days of practice. Among those could be role players or potential starters who are waiting for their chance in spring to impress the coaches.

So, what players could end up surprising people this spring? Read on to find out.

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Michigan Football: Spring Is Crucial Time for Jim Harbaugh's Recruiting

Ordinarily, a team’s spring game is one thing and recruiting is another. Typically, the two aren’t even closely associated. However, that way of thinking may not necessarily apply to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh this season.

Given Michigan’s beyond-basic, anti-spring game in 2014, not to mention the subsequent 5-7 face plant in the fall, an impressive showing by the Wolverines on April 4 at The Big House in Ann Arbor could end up serving as the ultimate recruiting tool during the upcoming contact period.

There’d be a whole lot of chest-beating going on if Harbaugh, who’s just two months into his new gig, managed to put anything that closely resembled the Michigan of old on the field next month—a whole lot.

Fans would notice; so would the media and, more importantly, Harbaugh’s class of 2016 targets. Of course, performance and progression this fall will likely determine whether the Wolverines secure top picks such as 4-star quarterback K.J. Costello, 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary or 5-star offensive tackle Ben Brederson.

At the moment, they’re each “warm” for Michigan, per 247Sports. But a Harbaugh-ed, throwback-inspired, back-to-work attitude in the coming weeks could spike their temperatures. They could become “warmer” if the methods of Harbaugh’s staff are quickly and successfully installed.

With that said, there are a couple of guys who need to be wowed.  Costello, via Anthony Broome of Maize ‘N Brew, could be one of them. Costello wants to visit soon, but he’s also considering Stanford and USC. His choice could, in theory, be partially based upon what he sees during the spring game and what he hears about the Wolverines’ spring practices.

An improved offensive line and re-energized group of receivers could entice the 6’4”, 213-pound big-armed Californian to travel east to see what Harbaugh has to offer.

Conversely, a poor spring game and/or workouts filled with the same old, same old—a struggling line and discombobulated offensive scheme—could easily prompt the country’s No. 4-ranked pro-styler  to erase Michigan from his list.

There’d be no sense in escalating talks with the school if the program wasn’t moving forward.

The lack of real, measurable and visible progress on both sides of the ball this fall could translate into a lack of high-end signees in February 2016. The rebuild is under way, and the pressure is now on Harbaugh’s staff to immediately change the attitude and demeanor of a program that was once the choice destination for many of the nation’s most talented preps.

This year’s spring game has the potential to be more than just a spring game—it could be the grand preview everyone’s anticipated since Harbaugh’s introduction on Dec. 30.

 

The Idea                                                                                                                                  

Rewind to the 2014 spring game, which was a disappointing televised pitch-and-catch session that provided little, if any, perspective on what to expect from Team 134. It took a few games this past fall before the general public realized that the Wolverines simply weren’t “there” and wouldn’t be for at least another year or two.

Now let’s say that former coach Brady Hoke had put on an exemplary display—that could have rekindled interest from previous targets such as 5-star receiver George Campbell and 5-star running back Damien Harris.

Campbell severed ties in December 2013 and Harris turned away in January 2014. Only they know for sure, but it’s not crazy to think that a constructive, optimism-filled spring game could have caught their attention and inspired a new view of the Wolverines.

Or maybe an impressive spring game would have kept Shaun Crawford, a 4-star defensive back, from saying goodbye shortly after in May.

Again, only they know. But again, the “what ifs” are too strong to ignore.

Now flip that to this year. Another laughable spring game could cause the Wolverines to fall out of favor with the undecided crowd. The guys who were once “warm” or “warmer” could go ice cold. Worse yet, it could cause some players to cancel visits or decommit altogether.

Perception matters, especially to impressionable young men. 

 

Execution

Per NCAA.org, the next evaluation period begins April 15—or roughly 10 days after Harbaugh’s spring game—and ends on May 31. As mentioned above, having the opportunity to brag about a quick turnaround and successful spring session would be worth its weight in gold on the recruiting trail.

A coach who has positive news probably stands a better chance with a recruit than one who doesn’t. Coaches only have two permissible dates with prospects during the upcoming evaluation period, so striking while the iron’s hot should be the goal for Harbaugh, who has the hot hand, the shiny revamped staff and pro pedigree needed to capitalize on what could be six of the most important weeks of the year.  

 

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

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information came courtesy of 247Sports.

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Jim Harbaugh Already Making Huge Impact on 2016 Recruiting Class

The impact of the Jim Harbaugh hire at Michigan was expected to have an effect on recruiting, but it seems it's already being felt on the recruiting trail, as Harbaugh and Michigan seem to be the talk of a couple of top recruits. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the recruits that have been talking about Michigan the most. 

How good can Michigan's 2016 class be?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Harbaugh Helps Motorist, Lauds 'Judge Judy' Extension, Is an American Hero

Judging by a recent flurry of Harb News, Jim Harbaugh appears to be having one of the most prolific Tuesdays since ILoveMakkonen entered the public conscious.

In the span of 10 minutes, I became aware of two occurrences involving the Michigan Wolverines head coach—the first being his childlike joy over the renewal of his favorite television show, and the second being his encounter with a wrecked Michigan motorist on Tuesday afternoon.

We'll start with the motorist, whom Harbaugh reportedly helped extricate from her vehicle on Interstate 94 near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

WDIV-TV's Halston Herrera tweeted out details of the incident. Harbaugh was reportedly driving with a member of his staff when he saw a wrecked SUV and pulled over to assist. 

Harbaugh aided the vehicle's passenger—a 73-year-old woman, according to ClickOnDetroit.com—and kept her warm with coats as they tried to help the driver and waited for emergency responders. The passenger and driver were taken to the hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to ClickOnDetroit.com.

The Detroit Free Press' Mark Snyder tweeted that the University of Michigan has confirmed Harbaugh stopping at the scene of the accident.

Incredibly, this was the first of two huge wins for Jim, who later tweeted out his excitement over Judge Judy being renewed through 2020.

Note the time stamp of Harbaugh's tweet. It was sent out shortly after the drama on the highway.

So we're clear, an hour after helping a distressed older woman from succumbing to exposure, Harbaugh took to Twitter to blast out his congratulations to Judge Judith Sheindlin. 

No social media self-congratulating. No pictures from the scene. Not even a humble brag that he's #blessed to have been able to help. That part of the day was over, and Harbaugh's attention had turned to this Judge Judy—his raison d'etre—and this landmark moment in cable programming history.

And why not? It was a huge deal!

According to ESPN's Darren Rovell, Sheindlin received a six-year contract extension from CBS on Tuesday potentially worth $280 million. Michael Jordan had it all wrong, guys. Forget sneakers and championships—daytime television is the real honey pot. 

In any case, today is Harbaugh's day, and in honor of his work as a good Samaritan and his favorite show being renewed, here's video of Jim and his father, Jack, sitting front row and soaking in the wisdom at a taping of Judge Judy.

I'd say, "Never change, Jim," but I'm not convinced that's even possible.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He would pay thousands for a guided tour of Jim Harbaugh's mind.

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Will Miami Hold on to Top Ranked Recruiting Class in 2016?

The Miami Hurricanes have jumped out to an early lead with their 2016 recruiting class, per 247Sports' 2016 team rankings. The Hurricanes had a little trouble keeping recruits in 2015, but they are looking to right the ship. 

Watch Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson sit down with 247Sports Recruiting Analyst JC Shurburtt to discuss who could take the top spot from Miami. 

Who will have the best 2016 recruiting class?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which College Football Conference's 2014 All-Star Team Would Win in a Playoff?

The debate over which college football conference is best is one that has dominated message boards, sports radio and talking-head shows for years, and it seems to be one that will never reach a firm resolution. But that's because they've been doing it all wrong.

Instead of comparing leagues based on the strengths (and weaknesses) of their teams, why not rate them according to their best players?

This is the offseason, when us college football junkies get so loopy because of gridiron withdrawal that any discussion that puts the sport back in focus is worthwhile. That makes it the perfect time to kick around what would happen if each Power Five conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) put together an all-star team and met on the field to decide who was truly the best.

SIDE NOTE: If something like this were to ever come about—and with college football moving more and more toward a pay-to-play sport, it's not impossible—it would no doubt bring in huge ratings and be well-attended. It would also be the closest thing college's top players would get to being in the pros before actually suiting up for the NFL, making such an event like a warm-up for the next step in their careers.

For now, though, we're sticking to hypotheticals and putting the focus on what's most important: Who would win if all five power conferences fielded an all-star team and they battled it out in a playoff?

Click through to see how we'd make this happen and who would come out on top.

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Columbus Zoo Names Newborn Penguin After Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott

After Ezekiel Elliott carried the Ohio State Buckeyes to a national championship earlier this year, the Columbus Zoo has found an awesome way to honor the running back. 

The zoo has named a newborn Humboldt penguin after the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship Offensive MVP:

Elliott ran for 696 yards and eight touchdowns in the postseason. Given that Ohio State fans love their Buckeyes, this penguin probably is going to be one of many newborns named "Ezekiel" or "Zeke" in Columbus this year. 

[Columbus Zoo, h/t Dr. Saturday]

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Darion Anderson Talks Commitment to Georgia, Playing with No. 1 QB Jacob Eason

Georgia nabbed an in-state commitment Monday night from Darion Anderson, less than two weeks after extending a scholarship to the wide receiver:

Anderson added an offer from the Bulldogs on Feb. 21 while attending a junior day event. The Houston County High School standout didn't wait long to weigh an opportunity in Athens, announcing his pledge just nine days later.

"It's a big honor for me and my family," Anderson said. 

He also holds reported offers from Wake Forest, Boston College, Kentucky and Cincinnati. The Bearcats were viewed as Georgia's primary competitor as Anderson closed in on a decision. 

The 6'1", 170-pound prospect is rated 64th nationally among wide receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He was named Georgia's Region 2-AAAAA Player of the Year last season.

Anderson caught 55 passes for 1,262 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2014, per Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He fills a position of need for Bulldogs coach Mark Richt, who suffered late decommitments from 2015 receiver recruits Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) and Darius Slayton (Auburn).

Anderson is already looking forward to the possibility of running routes for top-rated 2016 quarterback Jacob Eason. The 5-star Washington product committed to Georgia last summer and grades out as one of the premier players at his position this decade.

"I think it would be great to play with him," Anderson said. "He's a big playmaker and a good athlete from what I've seen."

Anderson added he may soon reach out to Eason on social media, in order to "get to know him a little".

The 6'5", 205-pound passer, who threw for 5,770 yards and 55 scores during the past two seasons, could help attract multiple top-tier talents at receiver as this cycle progresses.

Anderson believes there's an opportunity for 2016 prospects to compete for immediate roles in Georgia's rotation of pass targets.

"They give freshmen a chance to make plays and I like that," he said.

That sentiment was certainly apparent in the Bulldogs' 2014 offensive attack, which featured true freshman tight end Jeb Blazevich and relied heavily on newcomer Nick Chubb (1,547 rushing yards). Fellow freshman rusher Sony Michel also made an impact on the ground, gaining 410 yards and five touchdowns.

That formidable duo will enter their junior seasons at Georgia when Anderson and Eason are set to arrive on campus.

"Things open up a lot more (for the passing game) when you have running backs like that," Anderson said.

Bulldogs assistant Mike Lilly served as his primary recruiter. Despite some key offseason staff departures—notably offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and receivers coach Tony Ball—Anderson isn't expecting significant changes from what the Bulldogs have done in recent years.

"I had a chance to meet the new coaches during my junior day visit," he said. "I think the offense is going to stay the same."

Anderson is the seventh player to join Georgia's 2016 recruiting class. The group currently rates seventh nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.

 

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn Pro Day 2015: Recap, Reaction for Nick Marshall, Sammie Coates and More

Auburn welcomed 21 former football players to its annual pro day on Tuesday.

Seven former Tigers attended the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but the other 14 received their first chance to perform in front of assembled NFL scouts.

And scouts were not the only ones who showed:

Running back Corey Grant, who did not receive an invite to the NFL combine, seized the spotlight in a crucial workout.

Auburn staff clocked him at a 4.18 40 last offseason, but staff-clocked times mean nothing. Scouts wanted to watch him run in person and clock him for themselves before deciding on his draft stock.

Turns out he's as fast as advertised.

Scouts reported different times for Grant's two attempts—some as low as 4.19—but all of those were unofficial.

According Knox Bardeen of FoxSports.com, Grant said his official time was 4.26:

UAB receiver J.J. Nelson ran the fastest 40 at the combine (4.28). By his own account, Grant ran faster; and he smoked the combine's fastest running back (Jeremy Langford, 4.42) by more than .15 seconds.

But Grant impressed outside the 40, too. More than just a speed demon, he proved he's one of the stronger and most athletic backs in the class with a 37" vertical jump, a 10'7" broad jump and 22 bench reps of 225 pounds.

His vertical would have placed No. 7 among combine running backs; his broad jump would have placed No. 2; and his bench-press would have placed No. 10. Had Grant received the invite to Indianapolis, he likely would have made himself some money.

Hopefully this wasn't too late.

Nick Marshall was one of pro day's main attractions, even though he also worked out at the combine. The two-year starting quarterback posted huge numbers in Gus Malzhan's offense, but questions about his size (6'1") and arm strength have led to calls for a position change.

He can't make himself grow taller, but Marshall did the best he could to answer those questions Tuesday. Notably, he weighed in at 217 pounds—10 pounds heavier than his weigh-in at the combine:

As expected, Marshall worked out at multiple positions. He started the workout at quarterback before moving into drills for defensive backs—the position he played at Georgia before his dismissal in 2012.

Malzahn made the following case for Marshall to stay behind center, per Michael Davis Smith of Pro Football Talk:

I know he can be a quarterback at the next level. It needs to be in the right system. You’re talking about a guy that’s probably one of the best zone-read quarterbacks in the history of college football. He’s got a unique skill set. He broke the school record against the most talented defense we faced last year [passing for 456 yards against Alabama]. So he’s got the ability, he’s got the knack to win games, when the game’s on the line, that very few quarterbacks have. So I believe he can play quarterback in the right system.

The workout provided no insight into where Marshall will actually play; he looked fine running drills at both spots, and different teams will peg him at different positions subjectively.

Reading the tea leaves, it seems likely he ends up on defense. But if the right coach drafts him (*cough* Chip Kelly), who knows?

Sammie Coates followed an underwhelming combine with an underwhelming start to pro day. Drops plagued his entire career at Auburn, and they've plagued his predraft workouts too:

Fortunately, Coates rebounded from that drop and had a solid rest of his workout.

"I felt great," he said afterward, per Bryan Matthews of Rivals.com. "I went out there to show I could run a route and show I could catch with my hands. That was my whole goal coming into today."

Coates also piqued the interest of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, which means he has to be doing something right. The Pats are famous for thinking they can fix people, and with Coates' raw tools, it's no surprise they put him through a ringer.

Any other standouts? Sure.

Let's shoot through them rapid fire:

  1. Defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker, an underclassman starter whose later years were marred by injury, did 41 bench reps at 225 pounds, per Andy Staples of SI.com. Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers led the combine with 37 reps. Northwestern State's Deon Simon led the defensive tackles with 35.
  2. Linebacker/Defensive back Robinson Therezie ran an unofficial 4.45 40, per the live thread at 247Sports. He also put up 19 bench reps. He is obviously undersized (5.9.5", 205 lbs), but some team is going to take a flier on him. And it will likely be happy it did.
  3. Defensive back Brandon King, who spent the second half of 2014 at linebacker, posted a 38" vertical and ran a 40 in the 4.4s, per Jason Caldwell of Scout.com. He weighed in at 6'2", 217 pounds, which is great size for a safety but too small for a linebacker. However, that 40 time makes a move back to safety plausible.

That's about the lot of it. Sound off below and let us know where you think each Tiger will be drafted.

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SEC Football Media Days 2015: Dates, Schedule, TV Info and More

The SEC has not won a national title in college football since 2012, and the SEC West took a beating in last year’s bowl lineup. Its quest back to the top begins July 13-16 at Kickoff '15 media days.  

SECSports.com broke the news: “The Southeastern Conference announced today Kickoff '15, its annual football media days, will be held July 13-16, remaining at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The event will continue to be four days in 2015.”

This will be the first year that ESPN brings the still relatively new SEC Network to the event, and live coverage will be available all four days.

Here is a look at the schedule, marking which coaches will appear on which days:

 

Incredibly, the SEC media days drew more than 1,200 attendees the last two seasons, which is a testament to the passion that drives the league’s fanbases all year. Whether it is a brisk autumn evening in Death Valley at LSU or a balmy summer afternoon in the Wynfrey Hotel, SEC football is sure to make waves.

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Laquon Treadwell Injury: Updates on Ole Miss Star's Leg and Recovery

Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is expected to participate in the Rebels' spring practice after break despite his ongoing recovery from a broken leg and dislocated ankle suffered last season against the Auburn Tigers.

Continue for updates.  

Freeze Says Treadwell Will Return After Spring Break Tuesday, March 3

Updating reporters on the status of Treadwell and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said both would participate in spring practice, per Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

Treadwell, a rising junior, suffered a graphic left leg injury while making a reception near the goal line in the Rebels' 35-31 loss to Auburn last November. The score would have put Ole Miss ahead with under two minutes remaining, but Treadwell fumbled because of the injury. He was initially expected to miss four months, putting his return after spring break well within that time frame.

Before going down with the injury, Treadwell was Ole Miss' leading receiver with 48 grabs for 632 yards and five touchdowns. He made a team-high 72 receptions as a freshman.

With Freeze expecting him back for spring practice, there is little reason to think Treadwell will have any trouble coming back and re-establishing himself as the Rebels' top option in 2015.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Denzel Nkemdiche Injury: Updates on Ole Miss LB's Ankle and Recovery

Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche's 2014 season reached a premature conclusion, but the Ole Miss star appears poised to be a key part of the Rebels' defense during the upcoming campaign.   

Continue for updates.

Nkemdiche Ready to Return to FieldTuesday, March 3

A broken ankle forced Nkemdiche to sit out the final five games last season; however, the senior star is already healthy enough to return.

According to Hugh Kellenberger of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze revealed that the veteran linebacker is prepared to take part in spring football immediately:

The Rebels ranked No. 1 in the country defensively last season as they allowed just 16 points per game. Nkemdiche was a big part of that, and it is no coincidence that TCU gashed Ole Miss for 42 points in the Chick-fil-A Bowl without him in the lineup.   

If the Rebels are going to be a factor in the SEC this season, then Nkemdiche and the defense will once again have to perform at an elite level in 2015.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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