NCAA Football

UCLA Spring Game 2015: Live Score, Top Performers for Bruins

The UCLA football team will culminate its offseason period with a Spring Showcase on Saturday morning at the Rose Bowl. Jim Mora's bunch is tasked with having to replace three integral cogs from last year...

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Ryan Finley Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and More on Boise State QB

Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley, who's fighting to win the Broncos starting job, was arrested early Saturday on a pair of misdemeanor charges.

Dave Southorn of the Idaho Statesman reports the sophomore faces charges of a minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage and resisting or obstructing officers. He also notes the school is already looking into the situation:

Ryan Finley, a sophomore quarterback and the likely front-runner to obtain the Broncos' starting position in the fall, was arrested early Saturday morning in Boise on charges of a minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage and resisting or obstructing officers, both misdemeanors.

Boise State said it is aware of the arrest and will follow the student conduct policy in accordance with the situation.

Bryan Levin of KBOI provided the mugshot and booking details:

Further details about the incident that led to the arrest weren't immediately released.

Finley appeared in five games last season as the backup for Grant Hedrick. He completed just 12 of his 27 attempts (44 percent) with two touchdowns and one interception. He also had seven carries for 31 yards in limited action.

The Broncos have given him the first opportunity to win the starting job for the 2015 campaign. The second-year signal-caller worked with the first-team offense during the spring game.

Whether this situation will have any impact on his effort to earn the job is unclear. It's also unknown what type of discipline he could receive from Boise State as a result.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Spring Game 2015: Date, Start Time, TV Schedule, Live Stream and More

Fresh off a pair of 10-win seasons, head coach Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins head into their 2015 Spring Showcase in search of a new starting quarterback.

With Brett Hundley headed for the NFL, a high-profile recruiting class, including quarterback Josh Rosen, takes center stage as the Bruins transition to a new era.

As UCLA looks ahead to next season in the hopes of competing for a conference title, the defense will also break in a new defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley.

Below, let's take a look at the important info surrounding the event.

 

2015 UCLA Spring Game

When: Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Live Stream: Pac-12.com/live

 

Preview

Start with the most important feature of Saturday's event—quarterback.

Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard have experience in UCLA's spread offense, but the real attention falls on the shoulders—or arm—of the freshman Rosen.

Mora is quick to point out he took his sweet time the last time he needed to make this decision, per Dan Greenspan of The Associated Press: "We didn't decide on the starter until, gosh, like 15 practices into fall that first year."

The wait may be just as excruciating this time around, but Saturday is an important hurdle for all involved.

Neuheisel is the most experienced, featuring 39 attempts last season and two touchdowns. But Rosen seems to have a quick grasp on the offense, at least according to last year's leading receiver, Jordan Payton, as Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News captures:

If Rosen has closed the gap in such a regard, Saturday figures to be quite the battle.

The other major focal point Saturday will be the play of the offensive line. As Greenspan notes, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was suspended for potential recruiting violations.

As they say, though, the show must go on—a thought senior center Jake Brendel takes to heart. He has assumed the leadership role over the unit during spring practices, teaching technique and more to younger players.

"There is a certain way Coach Klemm likes things done," Brendel said, per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. "That's something I know very well. I just make sure try to keep the mentality the way it was when he is here."

It should go without saying the quarterback competition won't be as effective as Mora needs it to be if his protectors in the trenches suffer from Klemm's absence. Brendel's efforts and the state of the unit will be on display this weekend.

Either way, the quarterbacks face a major task against an improving defense. While Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Eric Kendricks head to the NFL, the secondary gets a shot in the arm with the return of Randall Goforth.

Goforth missed most of last season with shoulder issues, but he returns as the leader of a developing unit. David Woods of BruinReportOnline.com notes his impact so far this spring: "[Goforth] has had a very impressive spring for a guy still coming off of shoulder surgery, and if we had to guess, he's going to have a pretty big year."

As a whole, the defense will be quite the interesting storyline to watch with Bradley now in control. He crafted strong units for years at Penn State, but Pac-12 offenses are a different animal by comparison. Still, he helped improve West Virginia's unit last year in the Big 12 while acting as assistant head coach. 

Replacing Kendricks is another hurdle for Bradley, and one to watch Saturday. Sophomore Kenny Young figures to assume the void but made a point recently to tell the globe he's not just another Kendricks.

"E.K. had a certain way, but I'm not the next Eric Kendricks," Young said, per Foster. "I am the first Kenny Young, and I want to leave my legacy. That's going to be my approach the next couple years."

Young has big cleats to fill by replacing the Butkus Award winner, but he sounds up to task. A unit in transition will look to him and Goforth this weekend and beyond.

Saturday is a critical day for Mora and UCLA football. It always is to a degree, but perhaps even more so this time around with questions in need of answers on a new-look defense and at the most important position of all.

Anyone with a stake in Pac-12 football would be wise to pay attention.

 

Info courtesy of UCLABruins.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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UCLA Spring Game 2015: Date, Start Time, TV Schedule, Live Stream and More

Fresh off a pair of 10-win seasons, head coach Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins head into their 2015 Spring Showcase in search of a new starting quarterback...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Gary Pinkel, Missouri Agree on New Contract: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Missouri Tigers football coach Gary Pinkel received a new contract Friday after leading his team to two straight SEC East Division championships.

Joe Walljasper and David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune provided some details:

Pinkel came to Missouri before the 2001 season and has gone 113-66 since then, failing to make a bowl in just four of his 14 seasons.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Pinkel’s tenure has been the smooth transition from the Big 12 to the SEC. Missouri joined the SEC before the 2012 season, and Pinkel led the Tigers to the 2013 and 2014 conference title games. While his team ultimately lost to Auburn and Alabama, respectively, Missouri’s ability to contend so quickly in the perceived strongest league in the nation was notable.

Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report praised Pinkel for the news, while Jon Solomon of CBS Sports pointed out that the Tigers were simply keeping up with the arms race:

Pinkel’s new contract provides stability to the coaching situation in Missouri, which should help in recruiting moving forward. Prospects won’t have to worry about whether Pinkel will be around a few years down the road, which is important as the coaching staff builds relationships.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of sustained success in the sport, and Pinkel has built a consistent winner in the SEC East.

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Ohio State Spring Game Losers Mulch Buckeye Grove as 'Punishment'

A busy week for the Ohio State Buckeyes that involved their annual spring game and a trip to the White House to celebrate their national championship came to an end with manual labor for some members of the football team.

Since Urban Meyer took over as coach, the losers of the spring game have been required to put down mulch in Buckeye Grove, Ohio State's tribute to its All-Americans. This year, the Gray pulled out a 17-14 victory over the Scarlet.

That meant the Scarlet had landscaping duty on deck.

Team Scarlet, a squad that included stars like J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott (who worked through an injured wrist) and Joey Bosa, showed up to Buckeye Grove ready to work Friday morning.

It may not have been a dream morning for the reigning national champions, but the players had fun with it. Cleveland.com's Doug Lesmerises posted the video above, and there were plenty of pictures on Twitter from the Buckeyes' busy morning.

[Cleveland.com, Twitter]

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Von Pearson, Tennessee WR Named as Suspect in Rape Investigation

Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Von Pearson was identified and named as a suspect in an ongoing rape investigation Friday.

Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News Sentinel noted the developments and passed along some updates from a report from the Knoxville Police Department:

A story from the Knoxville News Sentinel provided more details and pointed out that investigators “took statements from the victim, several witnesses...and alerted the Sexual Assault Center.” The story also makes a point that the investigation is in the early stages.

Pearson joined the Volunteers after spending two years at Feather River College and finished the 2014 season with 38 catches, 393 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions. The five touchdown catches led the team.

This isn’t the first offseason incident for the Tennessee football program. Former linebacker A.J. Johnson and current player Michael Williams pleaded innocent to aggravated rape charges in March, per the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Head coach Butch Jones suspended both players from the team when the allegations came to light.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: No 2015 Prime-Time Home Games for Wolverines, No Problem

The defending national champions, Ohio State, will be a cornerstone of the Big Ten's prime-time coverage on ESPN in 2015. The conference's other biggest blue-blood program, Michigan, is hardly found on the prime-time schedule, however. 

The conference announced seven games would be viewed in prime time on ESPN this year, the dates and times of which can be viewed below, per Kevin McGuire at CollegeFootballTalk.com

September 3 (Thursday): Minnesota vs. TCU, 9 p.m., ESPN

September 12: Michigan State vs. Oregon, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

October 17: Ohio State vs. Penn State, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

October 24: Rutgers vs. Ohio State, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

October 31: Minnesota vs. Michigan, 7 or 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

November 7: Ohio State vs. Minnesota, 7 or 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

November 7: Nebraska vs. Michigan State, 7 or 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN or ESPN2

Michigan heads to Minnesota for a prime-time game on Halloween night, but other than that, the Wolverines will play all their televised games on ESPN during the day. In comparison, Ohio State has three prime-time games, two of which are at home. 

Is it a big deal that one of the Big Ten's best brands isn't getting the premier slots on a regular basis? Hardly. 

First-year Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh is the attraction. That's Michigan's ace of spades. 

Whether the kickoff is at noon or 8 p.m., Harbaugh will be the storyline of the game. That won't change next season or the season after that, or even the season after that. 

As long as Harbaugh is in Ann Arbor, there's going to be an extra bright spotlight on the program. College football is more interesting when Michigan is better. Harbaugh is polarizing, and so, too, are the Wolverines. The better they are, the more interest there's going to be in them. 

Yes, there are benefits to night games. It garners more eyeballs on television and the atmosphere can be electric. Day games have been a Big Ten thing for decades. The Wolverines began introducing home night games over the past few seasons, the most successful of which was probably the 2011 thriller against Notre Dame. 

There were few things Michigan fans enjoyed about the Brady Hoke/Dave Brandon era, but the prime-time home slates were good enough to make one wonder what took so long to introduce them. Not having them for 2015 is a disappointment, sure. 

Considering Harbaugh has the task of rebuilding the program, you'd think Michigan would want as much exposure as possible. But it's certainly not going to make or break the season. Harbaugh is marching to the beat of his own drum, and so far it's working. There's been more attention on him than perhaps any coach in college football—even Urban Meyer at Ohio State. 

Earlier this month, Michigan announced the coaching staff would travel to nine camps across the country in the so-called "Summer Swarm Tour," which falls under the satellite camps description.

“We are excited to go across the country and teach youth football in these communities,” Harbaugh said in an email statement from the school. “This is a great way for us to continue to be ambassadors for the great game of football.”

When that was met with opposition from fellow coaches like Alabama's Nick Saban, Harbaugh responded in the best way possible: by inviting every coach to come up to Ann Arbor for a satellite camp. 

Harbaugh operates on his own terms, and it's working for Michigan. The attention is there. Now, the recruits have to follow. 

And they will, night games or not. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Alabama Football: Defense Will Carry the Tide in 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There was much more to draw from Alabama’s A-Day scrimmage than just the quarterback.

One big-picture takeaway was this: The Crimson Tide’s defense is well ahead of the offense.

Yes, while the White team—which was made up of the first-team offense—did come away with the win over the Crimson team, from top to bottom, Alabama’s defense is much deeper and more polished than its offense.

While the offense gained 301 yards on the day, it also surrendered three turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown. The second-team offense, meanwhile, was held to just 141 yards and threw four interceptions.

That’s why Alabama’s defense will be counted on to carry this team for a lot of the 2015 season.

Last year, we saw somewhat of a shift in overall philosophy.

Lane Kiffin came in and revamped this offense, setting program records for plays run, yards gained and yards per game.

In a year when Alabama had the worst showing of the Saban era on defense, its offense was able to take over and win the shootout-type games, which Crimson Tide fans were much more used to seeing from Thursday-night Big 12 games instead of right on their own home turf.

Most notably, Alabama gave up 630 yards and 44 points against Auburn in Bryant-Denny but was able to put up 539 yards and 55 points of its own in a wild Iron Bowl for the ages.

It’s hard to expect that kind of performance over a whole season from this Alabama offense.

The Crimson Tide lost nine starters from that group, and while a lot of those holes appear to have been filled, questions still linger about how effective the unit can be, especially compared to last year.

The offensive line is just about settled, while ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster should make a nice tandem at wide receiver. At running back, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake will be the top two guys, but a third running back has yet to emerge, which could determine just how successful that position can be for Alabama.

The big question, of course, is under center, where no one quarterback has exactly exuded confidence so far.

Jake Coker hasn’t shown that he can consistently lead the offense while taking care of the ball, and it’s unclear whether Saban would hand the reins to a young player like David Cornwell.

Alabama may be breaking in another transfer quarterback, should Braxton Miller decide to move from Columbus to Tuscaloosa for a year.

On defense, it’s a different story. Alabama returns most of its cast, which should be deeper at most positions after a year of growth from young players.

The defensive line will be as loaded as it's ever been, able to go six or seven deep depending on the situation. It has two solid, young middle linebackers to play next to Reggie Ragland and a wealth of edge-rushers on the outside. And in the secondary, some of the main culprits from last year’s uncharacteristically weak unit have another year under their belts and have shown major signs of improvement.

The question, though, will be whether Saban, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and the rest of the defensive coaching staff can put all of those pieces together to reduce the big plays and third-down conversions given up last year.

They showed that they can be a stout group at A-Day, at least against their own, still-a-work-in-progress offense.

And while the offense continues to come along, Alabama needs its defense to once again be the strength of its team to have success this season.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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B/R 5th Down: Nick Saban's Acting and Top CFB Social Stories of the Week

Editor's Note: The Fifth Down captures the top social college football stories of the week. Because the long, grueling offseason is underway, we'll focus on things that make us laugh, think or maybe cry, but mostly laugh. 

 

1. Let's Critique Nick Saban's Acting, Shall We?

As someone who did theatre back in high school—you can tell how serious I was about it, too, because I spelled it "theatre" and not "theater"—I feel I'm more than qualified to critique a coach's acting chops. 

So congratulations to Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, who is the first subject of 5th Down's "Film Review." Let's take a look at Saban's latest work, a Mercedes commercial with some good-not-great CGI:  

1. Delivery: Thumbs Up

I was particularly sold on the "Wooooo!" Saban gets a little flat after that, but good job with the strong start. 

2. Believability: Thumbs Down

Saban is a spokesperson, I get it. But I didn't feel the rush of being a daredevil Mercedes owner. 

3. Hair: Two Thumbs Way, Way Up

It's...it's perfect. Five stars, et cetera, et cetera. 

Overall, we'll give this commercial a solid B. Say this, though: Saban's acting chops have improved dramatically since his Ford F150 days.  

 

2. Dakota State Trojans' 'Dizzy Punt' Video is the Funniest Thing You'll Watch This Week

Earlier this month in an interview with B/R, four college football coaches talked about what they really look at during spring practices. One of the most important things for them was keeping things fun. Spring drills are tough, after all, and it's critical that players know it's still a game.

Dakota State has taken that advice to heart with its "Dizzy Punt" video. It works like this: Two coaches—Trojans head coach Josh Anderson and defensive coach Cory Miller were the victims—spun around a golf club 12 times before attempting to punt a football. 

The results were amazing and can be viewed in the video below. 

There's not much else to add. Watch the video and enjoy. However, the slow motion is a nice touch for added laughs. 

 

3. Ohio State Buckeyes Visit the White House; Hilarity Ensues 

President Barack Obama has been a busy man this week in the world of sports, hosting the Super Bowl champ New England Patriots and College Football Playoff champs Ohio State. (As a side note, Obama has jokes about deflated balls, y'all.) 

The Buckeyes' trip to the White House was anything but serious business, though.

Then, Obama recognized defensive end Joey Bosa by doing his signature shrug ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. 

We have no rooting interests here, but it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the Buckeyes won another national championship if only so that Obama could do the shrug again.   

   

4. American Hero: Kid Yells 'Roll Tide' at a Wedding

Weddings are a beautiful beginning to a lifetime of happiness. They also are the perfect opportunity to express how you really feel about something or someone. In the world of sports, no other phrase perfectly captures every situation quite like "Roll Tide!" as this 5-year-old shows:  

An email to Barstool Sports provided the context: 

I was at my girlfriends cousins wedding this weekend and they are all huge Alabama fans. As soon as they announced you may kiss the bride her 5 year old cousin screamed out “Roll Tide!!!”

This kid is an American hero. This is well understood. That said, yelling "Roll Tide" isn't quite as vogue as it used to be, say, a couple of years ago. These days, it's all about #govowels, as demonstrated by this satisfied 5th Down reader: 

Roll Tide and Go Vowels, y'all. 

 

5. I Know What Steve Spurrier Did Last Summer

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier is a favorite 'round these here parts, and we're not afraid to admit it. He's the gift of gab that keeps on giving. In this industry, all anyone really wants is a coach or player who's interesting. 

Even in the movies, this holds true. Thanks to the fine folks at Reddit CFB, we are now aware that Spurrier was the subject of a filler newspaper article from the 1997 slasher movie "I Know What You Did Last Summer." 

A bigger picture of the text clip can be found here, but below is the transcribed version: 

Tennessee's football team fell short of its lofty goals in 1996, but it didn't help that Florida coach Steve Spurrier passed around a Gator fans list of the Vols failures.

"Steve Spurrier is Steve Spurrier" said Tennessee receiver Marcus Nash as the Vols continue spring drills in preparation for the 1997 season.

"Personally, I admire Florida for what they have accomplished in their system. Steve Spurrier is a great coach, he's just a jerk."

Even when running from a hooded serial killer with a fishing hook, there's nothing quite as frightening as knowing you're on Spurrier's troll radar. 

 

6. Your Lesson of the Day: Call Jim Harbaugh Back ASAP

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh is a determined man. That's not a surprise. However, in an appearance on HBO's Real Sports, Harbaugh showed just how, um, persistent he is in every aspect of life. 

In the clip below, Harbaugh explains he called his future wife nine times after he first met her before she called him back. 

In other words, do not—do not—leave Harbaugh hanging. He will call you again and again until you get back to him. Just answer the first time and avoid the whole thing. This is especially true if you work in food delivery or car repair. I mean, that sesame chicken better have been on its way 10 minutes ago. 

On that note, if you're looking for more clips of Harbaugh's interview, the folks at Deadspin have you covered.  

 

7. If You Challenge Cardale Jones to NCAA Football, You Best Be Ready 

In case you missed it, B/R colleague Adam Kramer wrote last week about Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones and his relationship with Jared Foley, a 16-year-old boy born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Their favorite pastime? Playing NCAA Football, with Jones relentlessly beating Foley 98-35. 

We're biased, but we think it's the best thing you'll read in a long time. So here's the link againAnd again. Take 10 minutes to be amazed about the good people can do. 

Anyway, Foley apparently felt the last game was a fluke and challenged Jones to a rematch on Twitter: 

Surely, Jones will oblige. All we can say is we hope Foley's been practicing. If you come at the best, you better be ready to beat the best. 

 

8. The Subway Sandwich Monster is Back and Oh My God, It's Morphed into Marcus Mariota

For the past few years, Subway restaurants have done a brilliant job of creeping out pretty much everyone with their sandwich sculpture (or something) of pro athletes. A few years ago, Robert Griffin III was the inspiration, if you will, for the food art. This time around it's former Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota and—gahhhhhhh, sweet mother of Joseph!

Nope. Nope nope nope nope. [Closes computer window.] [Tosses computer out the window.] 

Look, if Subway doesn't stop, other restaurants are going to start picking up on this terrifying practice. And we all know where that will lead. 

 

9. PALATE CLEANSER: Blind USC Trojans Fan Will Join Team as a Walk-On

As you may remember, ESPN's College GameDay ran a beautiful profile on USC fan Jake Olson in 2013. Olson, who is blind, has overcome his disability to play high school football as a long snapper. Before losing his sight completely, Olson was invited to hang out with the USC program by then-head coach Pete Carroll. 

Now, he's joining the USC program as a walk-on. Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times had the story: 

Steve Sarkisian, USC's football coach, wouldn't be surprised if a movie were made about Olson's journey.

Contributing to an extra point or field goal for the Trojans could be part of the story.

"Someday, he's going to snap in a game for us," Sarkisian said. "When? I don't know. But it will happen.

"When that day comes, it will be awesome."

Here's to hoping we get to see Olson realize his dream on the field at some point down the road. 

 

10. Eric LeGrand Tweets Out Another Rehab Video and Now, it's Dusty in Here

It's been a long, long time since we've heard about former Rutgers Scarlet Knights player Eric LeGrand. LeGrand, as you'll recall, was paralyzed from the neck down during a special teams play against Army in 2010. Ever since, he's been rehabbing relentlessly and providing updates on his progress.

His latest report, a 30-second video, shows him working his back muscles in his wheelchair. 

A miraculous sight, to be sure. Well done, Eric. Keep it up, and everyone is still pulling for you. 

 

11. Pictures: Michigan State Spartans Have Shiny New Threads

The alternate uniform craze has made its way to Michigan State this week, and the Spartans revealed some slick new threads and helmet design. Some pictures can be seen below, courtesy of Nike: 

It's tough to mess up the green and white combination, but the gold accents have always been a nice touch. 

  

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma State Gets Probation for Recruiting, Drug-Policy Violations

Nearly two years after a five-part Sports Illustrated investigative report revealed a number of infractions within the Oklahoma State University football program, the NCAA imposed sanctions against the school Friday.  

According to Emily James of NCAA.org, the Division I Committee on Infractions panel disciplined Oklahoma State, while the school self-imposed some punishments as well.

Per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, the sanctions include probation for one year, a limit on official recruiting visits over the next two years and the removal of the Orange Pride program from recruiting activities:

The Orange Pride program is an all-female group at Oklahoma State against which many accusations were levied in SI's report, with arguably the biggest being: "Multiple former players and Orange Pride members say that a small subset of the group had sex with recruits." In the wake of that, it has been determined that the group's involvement in recruiting was a violation.

Also, according to James, the university was fined $5,000 as well as an additional $3,500 since it violated its own drug-testing policy by allowing ineligible players to compete. OSU was fined $500 for each game in which those student-athletes participated.

Based on how significant the infractions are, NFL.com's Bryan Fischer doesn't believe the punishment fits the crime:

Although the sanctions will limit the Cowboys to some degree, they are short-term impositions that likely won't do much to damage the program.

NCAA discipline will always draw scrutiny, and this decision is the latest for fans and analysts to debate over.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Sam Hubbard Is Ohio State's Do-It-All Secret Weapon

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Every once in a while when Sam Hubbard is relaxing in his dorm room, he'll find himself flipping through the channels when he'll come across a Notre Dame lacrosse game on TV.

For the former Cincinnati Moeller lacrosse star, it's a nice break from his hectic life as an Ohio State freshman.

It's also a reminder of what could have been.

A 2013 U.S. Lacrosse All-American in 2013 and All-Ohio selection in 2012, Hubbard was at one point considered one of the best midfielders in the country, committed to play for one of the best lacrosse teams in the country, the Fighting Irish.

So as the Queen City native prepares for the second year of his college career, it shouldn't come as a surprise he finds himself emerging as a potential breakout star—although not necessarily in the sport that many once expected he would be.

Despite his immense talent on the lacrosse field, Hubbard never made it to South Bend, the lure of playing for Urban Meyer at Ohio State causing him to turn in his stick and gloves for a pair of shoulder pads. As opposed to having to beat out Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher for one of the country's top talents, Meyer had to take on one of America's fastest growing sports but still managed to come out on top in the race for the 4-star prospect's services.

"It was a lot more complicated of a decision," Hubbard said of his recruitment. "I knew I'd have to transform my body to play football. It wasn't really much of a decision, though, because it's Coach Urban Meyer. Once I sat down in his office and he told me what his vision was and how he was going to do it, I wanted to be a part of it."

In just Hubbard's first season on campus, he got to see that vision come to fruition, as he got an up-close look at the Buckeyes' run to a national title. But while Meyer had hyped Hubbard's arrival from the day he faxed in his national letter of intent in February 2014, the lacrosse star-turned-football player never got on the field, instead taking a redshirt in his freshman season.

But even as he stood on the sideline on Saturdays, Hubbard still managed to show his versatility to the Ohio State coaching staff.

Coming to Columbus after leading Moeller to a pair of Division I state championships as an All-State safety, Hubbard prepared to move to linebacker as his body continued to grow. On his signing day, he was listed at 6'6" and 230 pounds after weighing 200 pounds in high school, before moving to up to 236 pounds just prior to the start of the season.

Hubbard's time as a linebacker, however, would be short-lived, as an injury to Jeff Heuerman and the suspension of Marcus Baugh caused Meyer to move the freshman to tight end before the Buckeyes' season opener. A career-ending injury to Trey Johnson caused Hubbard to move back to the linebacker room in the middle of the season, before the Ohio State coaching staff ultimately opted to redshirt him as it figured out which position he'd play.

"It was definitely frustrating," Hubbard admitted of his constant position switches last season. "I almost lost faith a few times."

By the time the Buckeyes' bowl preparation rolled around, Hubbard would again find himself with a new position group, as his ever-growing body caused Meyer to give him a try on the defensive line. It's there the Cincinnati product appears to have found a permanent home, having spent Ohio State's entire spring practice session under the tutelage of Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

For a player who's less than two years removed from playing safety and recording interceptions in the state title game, it's been quite the transition for Hubbard, now listed at 265 pounds.

"I never had to take on a blocker in my entire life until I got here," Hubbard said. "Now I'm taking on 300-pound linemen everyday."

Despite having only played his new position for a few months, Hubbard exits the first spring session of his college career primed to play a prominent role on the OSU defense. With a starting spot opposite star defensive lineman Joey Bosa up for grabs, Hubbard has already done enough for his head coach to promise him playing time heading into his debut season.

"Sam Hubbard's going to be in the rotation," Meyer asserted following last Saturday's spring game.

Hubbard's strong showing in the exhibition only helped his cause in his quest for playing time, as he recorded four tackles, a fumble recovery, two pass breakups and two sacks—although sacks in a spring game are a relative stat. Nevertheless, he hardly looked like a safety playing on the defensive line, and he appeared worthy of the "protege" label Bosa slapped on him earlier in the spring.

"I was excited. I've been waiting a long time for it," Hubbard said of his spring game debut. "It was just a great feeling to get out there and show what I can do."

With fellow defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes also coming on strong, Hubbard is going to need to continue on his upward trajectory in order to fully take advantage of the attention that opposing offensive lines will undoubtedly pay to Bosa in the upcoming season. But at the very least, he finally knows which position he'll be playing in a sport he just committed to playing two years ago.

And as for the college lacrosse career that could have been?

"I miss it," he admitted. "Notre Dame's No. 1 in the country."

Then again, for the time being, so is Ohio State football.

"It's hard to miss it when you're at a place like this, doing what we're doing," the new defensive lineman conceded.

 

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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More Than a Name and a Mullet: OL Rowdy Frederick Enjoying Rise in Recruiting

Rowdy Frederick gets it. His play on the field, although good enough, won't be the first thing that others are instantly attracted to.

His first name is Rowdy. It's not a nickname. His first name really is Rowdy.

And yes, his hair is, well, his hair. He's one of the few high school players nationwide who rock the mullet. Proudly.

When people reach out to the rising 2016 prospect, those two topics are normally the conversation starters. More often than his name is his flowing brown hair—called by USA Today's Cam Smith "the best hair in all of football, regardless of level."

"I don't mind, but I'd rather be known for my play than my hair," Frederick said. "I plan on being known for both one day."

Slowly with time, the 6'5", 320-pound offensive lineman from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is showing the world that he's more than a unique first name and daring hairstyle that could get him an instant cult following.

Watch Frederick with a helmet on, and you can see that he can play the game of football. Very well.

 

Marketing 101

Broken Arrow is located in the northeastern part of Oklahoma. It is the home to one of the largest high schools in the state. It's also home to Rowdy Frederick, a 3-star offensive lineman with a 5-star workman's attitude.

So how did Frederick get his first name? He takes pride in being named after an old Clint Eastwood character.

"When he was growing up, my dad's favorite show was Rawhide," Frederick said, referring to the old CBS western television series featuring Eastwood as Rowdy Yates. "He said his first born son was going to be named Rowdy.

"People never believe me when I tell them that's my real name. If you think about it, it's kind of a funny story how I got it."

Frederick's name is courtesy of his father. The hair, however, was his idea alone.

In short, Frederick thought the mullet "was a cool hairstyle." It's been his trademark as a high school student.

"I know it was big back in the day. My uncle used to rock one, and my dad used to rock one," he said. "Plus, it's different; it makes me stand out. Aside from me being the size I am, it gives me another way for people to see me."

Consider his hair a recruiting marketing tool of sorts. Frederick's mullet draws him to coaches. His physical play as an offensive lineman wins them over. His friendly personality happens to be a welcome bonus.

"They'll talk to me about what I can do for their programs," he said of interested coaches. "Then after the conversation, they'll bring up the hair or the name. I get it all the time."

 

Game over everything

Rowdy Frederick's numbers in the weight room are impressive. He bench presses 380 pounds, squats 620 and power cleans 335. His fastest 40-yard dash is 5.22 seconds. On the field, he can line up at either tackle or guard, but he's projected to be a guard in college.

Recruiting is starting to escalate for the big lineman, as he has FBS offers from Tulsa and Texas Tech (he also has a junior college offer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, Oklahoma). Frederick is receiving heavy interest from Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and the two Big 12 in-state schools, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Frederick will be in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this weekend for the Razorbacks' annual Red-White spring game. If an offer from Arkansas comes on Saturday, so be it. If not, Frederick said he is fortunate to have two FBS programs to choose from.

Tulsa was his first offer, which he picked up the day before national signing day in February. He added the Texas Tech offer earlier this month. Additionally, he's made unofficial visits to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

"I like the new offense Tulsa is bringing in this year," Frederick said. "They're going to be very fast-paced. Honestly, I think they'll just gas people with it. I like that style of football. Coach Monty [Philip Montgomery] is coming from Baylor, and he's a great guy. He'll turn that program around for sure.

"I like Texas Tech because I have family in Lubbock. I remember going to games there when I was little. I remember the atmosphere; it was a great experience. They have a great offense. It's fast-paced and no-huddle, and it's more Air Raid."

Frederick said he's happy with his offers, but he is keeping all options open and won't make any decisions until before the start of his senior year. He said a commitment could come in either late July or early August.

Frederick added that while all schools are being considered, following in the footsteps of his great uncle is something he's thought about. Don Kenney played left tackle at Oklahoma in the 1950s and just missed the 1955 and 1956 seasons, when the Sooners won back-to-back national championships.

Wherever Frederick plays, however, he wants to leave his legacy. He said he has a lot to offer at the next level—and a lot to show the schools pondering taking a chance on him.

"I want them to see that as big as I am, I can still move," he said. "At the same time, I'm powerful and can knock people off the ball. I like getting pancakes [blocks]. I want them to see that I'm able to move and agile but at the same time strong enough to play college football."

 

Keeping it '110'

For Rowdy Frederick, there's no such thing as "giving 100 percent."

"Nah," he said. "Make that 110 percent."

Frederick has had his ups and downs in high school, from losing his starting spot as a sophomore for one reason to losing his starting spot as a junior for another reason.

As a sophomore, Frederick started five games, but he went from a full-time starter to a part-time starter midway through the season. Frederick said he wasn't managing his weight, which was affecting his quickness and lateral movement.

"I was 345 [pounds]," Frederick said. "I got down to 316 before this past season."

As a junior, Frederick was ready to show off his leaner, trimmer self; however, a dislocated shoulder sidelined him during part of the 2014 season.

The shoulder injury could be a reason why recruiting started so slowly for Frederick. He was injured during Broken Arrow's first scrimmage of the year, and he rotated as a starter for the first part of the season.

"I didn't get to start a full game until the fourth game of the season," Frederick said. "I think some of the coaches were wondering if injuries would sideline me."

Now completely healthy, Frederick has a primary objective to not only compete with the best offensive linemen in the country but also bypass a few of them.

With that, he's expecting a few more offers to come.

"It's been a steady incline, so that's good," he said. "I wouldn't mind it going a little faster, but I think it's at the point of where I can handle it."

And if that means using his name and his hair to serve as an icebreaker of sorts, then consider it done.

Particularly the hair.

"I think the mullet helps, but I can be a dominant player with or without the hair," he said. "I hope the mullet makes a comeback, though."

 

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

 

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Cardale Jones Will Buy Any Game Necessary in Order to Keep Beating Young OSU Fan

Cardale Jones is vicious. Some might call him savage.

The Ohio State Buckeyes’ national championship-winning quarterback indiscriminately napalmed some of the best defenses in college football this past season, but his exploits on the field seem humane compared to his handling of opponents on the sticks. 

This is to say that Jones is an avid gamer and takes about as many prisoners on the PS4 as the Spartans took at Thermopylae. He is in no way messing around when he picks up the controller.

We learned this much about Jones earlier in January when he visited a young Ohio State fan named Jared Foley in the hospital. The two took pictures and talked of life, and somewhere in the mix Jones dropped a scorched-earth beatdown on the 16-year-old heart surgery survivor in NCAA Football 14. 

Jones carpet-bombed Foley 98-35, and now Foley wants a rematch with the quarterback in a game where he has a chance to win.

Foley reached out over Twitter on Thursday night to ask if Jones was ready to mix it up. The quarterback responded hesitantly. He wanted to know for certain that the young gun was ready for an additional serving of the ruckus.

They eventually came to terms on a workaround—Jones would buy and practice up in NHL 2K15. The quarterback doesn’t get down with this ice-puck stuff, but he’ll do it if it means establishing total dominance over Foley’s soul.

Ah, friendship—beautiful, borderline-sadistic friendship.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He used to bring NCAA Football 07 to school just to clown on freshmen.

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Which Incoming Freshman Will Make Biggest Impact Week 1 in College Football?

There are many incoming freshmen ready to make an impact in Week 1 of the college football season. While true freshmen seeing playing time right off the bat is rare, these studs are more than ready to contribute to their teams. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss which incoming freshmen will make an immediate impact in Week 1 of the college football season. 

Which one of these players will come in and make a statement? Check out the video and let us know! 

Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Which 2016 Recruits Are Most Likely to Flip?

Recruiting is not an exact science. The top high school football players in the country are still young and prone to occasionally changing their minds.

Stephen Nelson is joined by Bleacher Report Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles to discuss the 2016 recruits most likely to flip to different schools. 

Which recruits will flip this season? Check out the video and let us know!

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Michigan Football: Projecting Where Wolverines NFL Draft Prospects Will Land

Devin Funchess, Frank Clark, Jake Ryan and Devin Gardner each have enough athletic talent to play in the NFL. Beginning on April 30, the former Michigan standouts will find out if pro teams feel the same way regarding their potential.

They’ll either hear their names called at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, or they’ll be forced to hunt down a camp date, make a team and break into the league as undrafted rookies.

Funchess and Clark should be the first two selected, but don’t sleep on Ryan—he may end up floating around somewhere in the middle to late rounds. Depending on who’s shopping, he could be quite a steal at linebacker.

Gardner’s future in the NFL isn’t at quarterback; it’s at wide receiver. The fifth-year senior wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he’s had several offseason workouts and should find a job at the next level. Despite his struggles at Michigan, Gardner is an incredible athlete with above-average intelligence. For him, it’s a matter of correcting durability issues and becoming a better leader on the field.

During his senior year, he often appeared frustrated and looked as if he didn't always have control of the offense, which is a quarterback's main objective. 

Where will the Wolverines land? It's all a game of speculation at this point. Their destinations, along with those of the rest of this year’s draft class, have been debated and discussed for weeks. Experts from every corner of the sports media world have offered predictions. Pundits have submitted their picks, too.

Using mock drafts from CBS and Walter Football, this piece will take a few (hopefully lucky) guesses as to where Funchess, Clark, Ryan and Gardner will land in the 2015 draft.

 

Funchess

In its latest mock draft, Walter Football has Funchess going to the New Orleans Saints at No. 75 or to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 90 overall. Those picks are in the third round, not the late first or second as many had predicted prior to the combine. 

CBS experts vary in their predictions, but they’re saying Funchess could go to the Cleveland Browns (Rang, No. 19), the Kansas City Chiefs (Brugler, No. 49) or the New England Patriots (Prisco, No. 32). 

At first glance and given their offensive play-calling, the Saints seem like a good fit for Funchess, who could be asked to replicate what former start tight end Jimmy Graham had done before signing with the Seattle Seahawks this past offseason.

Then again, playing for the Patriots could be a great fit for Funchess. The Patriots need a tight end, and playing alongside a future Hall of Fame quarterback would only accentuate Funchess’ skills. Funchess is also used to colder climates—he’s from Michigan and has played in late-November games at The Big House.

According to Zach Eisendrath of Michigan’s athletic department, Funchess ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash during his pro day workouts in Ann Arbor. Funchess wasn’t a star during the NFL combine, but his boosted 40 could be enough for teams to snag him in the late first round or second round.

Plus there’s the size factor. At 6’5” and roughly 235 pounds, Funchess has the frame to become a prime downfield option. Partnering with Drew Brees in New Orleans or Tom Brady, a Michigan alum, in New England, would be an excellent way to start a career for Funchess.

Prediction: New Orleans at No. 75 seems sensible. So does Baltimore at No. 90. However, given CBS' predictions, it's difficult to see Funchess slipping beyond the first 50 or 60 picks. The Saints have the No. 44 pick, which could be used to acquire the versatile TE/WR. But that's if he is available. Prisco's call of Patriots at No. 32 could come true, too. 

 

Clark

(Insert Oakland Raiders joke here.)

A set of regrettable, disrespectful acts away from the field overshadowed Clark’s standout senior year at Michigan. If not for a domestic violence charge, which has since been reduced to a disorderly conduct charge following a plea agreement, the former Wolverines defensive end may be a bonafide second-rounder.

At 6’2” and 277 pounds, he’s built well for the next level. His exemplary showing at the NFL combine proved his athleticism beyond a shadow of a doubt. One look at his 4.79-second 40-yard dash or 38.5-inch vertical leap says it all: Clark is quick and nimble.

He’s strong, too. He put up 19 reps of 225 pounds.

Walter Football projects Clark going to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 99 overall. The Bengals could use help in their pass-rushing attack, and Clark, a native of Ohio, could be the right fit. Although the third round seems a bit high, it is indeed possible.

Again, Clark impressed at the combine. That’ll be worth something come draft day.

CBS experts didn’t post picks on Clark, but the site says that the defensive end is a fourth-rounder. There are plenty of ends in this draft, and there isn’t much about Clark—other than disciplinary issues—that sets him apart from the pack. CBS ranks him No. 13 at the position.

Walter Football has the Cleveland Browns selecting a defensive end with the No. 77 pick. They may decide to test their luck with Clark, a hometown kid with immense potential. Or maybe not. There was the whole fiasco with Johnny Manziel, a troubled pick from a year ago.

Drafting Clark will be a slight gamble for any team, but Clark should go somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.

Prediction: Walter Football’s call of Clark at No. 99 to Cincinnati makes sense. Being selected No. 77 overall seems like too much of a stretch, and No. 99 overall is already at the limit of sensibility. For broad purposes, let’s say that Clark is destined for an AFC North/East team. His cold-weather experience may appeal to teams in the division.

 

Ryan

Ryan didn’t have the superstar ending to his career, but make no mistake about it—when healthy, he played as well as any Michigan linebacker has in recent memory. His dedication and leadership made him an invaluable asset, even while he was sidelined with an ACL injury during most of his junior year.

At 6’2” and 240 pounds, Ryan, who played mostly in the middle during college, projects as an outside linebacker in the NFL. He’s coming off four years of defensive coaching from Greg Mattison, which should help his draft stock to an extent. Mattison coached with the Baltimore Ravens and had developed several stars during his three seasons as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator.

Ryan’s respectable showing at the NFL combine should also play a role on draft day. He ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash and put up 20 bench reps of 225 pounds. Like Clark, he’s quick, strong and nimble.

And like Clark, he’s from Ohio.

Walter Football has the Cleveland Browns selecting Ryan at No. 156 overall, which falls in line with consensus fourth-to-fifth-round projections from everyone else.

CBS experts didn’t post predictions on Ryan, but the site says that Ryan, its No. 15 OLB of the draft, is a fifth- or sixth-rounder.

Prediction: The Philadelphia Eagles could take Ryan at No. 145. According to Walter Football, they’re looking to take a linebacker. That pick would make sense in a couple of ways. First, Eagles coach Chip Kelly runs a fast team, and Ryan would fit well into a fast, physical defense. Second, it’s cold in Philadelphia, which wouldn’t be an issue—Ryan knows all about the cold weather. He’s was raised in it.

Green Bay picks at No. 166. If Ryan still had the hair, he’d be perfect for the Packers, who, with Clay Matthews, already have a long-haired linebacker. And it doesn’t get much colder than it does during a late-December Sunday in Green Bay.

 

Gardner

At first, he was a quarterback, one who had the tools necessary to guide the Wolverines to the promised land. That didn’t pan out for Gardner, who was then moved to wide receiver before eventually being pegged as a quarterback…again.

This time, in the eyes of NFL scouts, Gardner is considered a receiver. Well, by most anyway.

The 6’4”, 216-pound Michigan native has worked out with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions, among others.

“My dream is to play football in the NFL, so that’s what I’m going to do,” said Gardner, via Mark Synder of the Detroit Free Press. “If a team wants me to play quarterback, I’ll play quarterback. If you want me to be a scout-team quarterback when I’m a receiver, I’ll do that. I’m pretty sure it’s openly known that I’ll do whatever to help the team.”

In all likelihood, Gardner’s willingness to fill any role necessary for team success will be the kicker on draft day—or during signing periods, as CBS experts don’t see him being selected during the seven-round festivities.

Neither does Walter Football, which didn’t predict beyond the sixth round.

Prediction: Being invited for a workout is a great sign. And fortunately for Gardner, there are still teams that view him as a quarterback. His versatility is enough to get him paid. He will play on Sundays this season, and the Steelers, Patriots, Chiefs and Lions could each use him in some capacity.

Gardner could use a guy such as Mike Tomlin, a hard-nosed yet modern coach. The Steelers have used multidimensional quarterbacks in the past, so that’s a plus for Gardner. See Kordell Stewart for reference of that.

While Gardner won’t dethrone Big Ben Roethlisberger, he could end up becoming one of the two-time Super Bowl champion’s favorite targets. Pittsburgh would be ideal for Gardner, who could mesh well within a system that's conducive for rapid development. 

 

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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10 Upsets That Would Ruin the 2015 College Football Season

Upsets are a part of every college football season. On a quiet Saturday, they tend to come out of nowhere, forcing fans to hunt down a channel they didn’t even know existed to watch a top team sweat out a victory it never imagined would be so difficult.

Upsets are fun to watch, but they have a way of robbing a season of some of its magic. Before every season, we mark the calendar with the season’s biggest games—games that decide conference titles and push teams toward the College Football Playoff. Athlon Sports' Braden Gall took a look at the top 25 games of the 2015 season. An ill-timed upset can ruin the atmosphere surrounding those games.

This isn’t to say upsets aren’t meaningful, but at the wrong time, they can rob a much-anticipated game of its luster. Here’s a look at the 10 college football upsets that would ruin the 2015 season. Of course, if your team is the one doing the upsetting, you’re likely to disagree. That’s fine.

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Ohio State Football: Projecting Buckeyes' Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

From top to bottom, Ohio State's roster may boast more talent than any team in the country.

The Buckeyes are absolutely loaded after four recruiting cycles with head coach Urban Meyer at the helm, boasting three championship-caliber quarterbacks and first-round NFL draft prospects on both sides of the ball.

It's not just raw talent, either. The Buckeyes' national championship-winning team in 2014 is returning 15 starters for the team's title defense this season.

But with key players such as Devin Smith, Michael Bennett and Doran Grant moving on to the NFL, Meyer spent much of spring camp looking for young players to step up.

Who made the jump and earned a spot in Ohio State's two-deep rotation coming out of spring?

 

Offense 

Ohio State's depth chart can't be brought up without first mentioning the all-encompassing quarterback battle.

But the three-horse race between Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller got off to an uneven start as the two injured signal-callers work their way back from the surgeries that ended their 2014 seasons. That left Jones as the only healthy option through spring camp, giving him an inside track on landing the starting spot this fall.

Whoever wins the quarterback job will be working with a revamped group of wide receivers.

The departures of Smith and Evan Spencer left the Buckeyes with a big void on the perimeter, but the return of players such as Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall will provide some familiarity.

A few wideouts had a breakout spring.

Noah Brown was a guy Meyer consistently raved about, and he should factor into the Buckeyes offense in a big way this fall. Corey Smith capped a solid offseason with the spring game's best performance, hauling in six catches for 174 yards, with touchdowns of 58 and 37 yards.

The H-back position will be one to watch in the fall. Dontre Wilson's lingering foot injury prevented him from suiting up this spring, which opened the door for Curtis Samuel to get his feet wet on the perimeter. According to The Lantern's Tim Moody, it was a role he thrived in, and he was so good that Meyer proclaimed he would see significant action this fall.

Marshall moved around quite a bit this spring, but his most natural fit in this offense is in the slot, so Wilson will need to fight for his spot come fall.

The offensive line is in great shape with four of five starters returning. Left Tackle Taylor Decker anchors what could end up being the country's best O-line, but Meyer is most concerned about his depth up front.

"The area (of worry) is the offensive line. That's the problem," Meyer said, according to Ryan Cooper of The Lantern. "And once again, not the starters, because I feel good (about them). ... I'm very alarmed by the second group of offensive linemen right now."

As long as the first unit stays healthy, though, it'll pave the way for running back Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield.

The rising junior sat out of spring as he recovered from minor wrist surgery, but he showed what he was capable of in the last three games of the 2014 season, running for 696 yards and eight touchdowns during Ohio State's surprising run through the postseason.

 

Defense

Arguably Ohio State's stiffest challenge this offseason is finding a replacement for Michael Bennett, the disruptive defensive tackle who secured the middle of the Buckeyes' D-line for the last two years.

His departure allowed Adolphus Washington to slide over to the the 3-technique, his natural position, while Tommy Schutt stepped into the nose tackle role.

Joey Bosa returns to terrorize opposing offensive lines this season, but one of the biggest storylines of the spring was the emergence of Tyquan Lewis at weak-side defensive end.

At linebacker, Raekwon McMillan—dubbed "The Chosen One" by his teammates—is ready to take over at middle linebacker full-time. He'll join Darron Lee and Joshua Perry in what should be one of the strongest linebacker units in the country.

The secondary returns three of its four starters, but the lone vacancy is a big one with the departure of Grant, the senior cornerback who guarded every team's best receiver last season.

The battle for that spot was fierce, but TheOzone.net's Tony Gerdeman reports that by the end of spring, redshirt sophomore Gareon Conley gained the edge over Damon Webb.

Conley is coming off a disappointing season—he was exposed by Connor Cook and Michigan State—but cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs is challenging his young defensive back.

"When he trots out there Sept. 7 (against Virginia Tech), he's gotta know they’re coming to get you," Coombs said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "There’s no safety net. We’re walking the rope without a net and we’ve gotta go play.”

 

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

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What Arkansas Must Do in the Spring Game to Prove It's a Contender

The last cycle of spring games in the SEC is perhaps the most interesting, with Arkansas and Tennessee—two programs on the rise—hitting the field on Saturday.

For Bret Bielema's Razorbacks, it's a chance to prove to the college football world that the Hogs are no fluke, and the final month-plus of the season in which they shut out LSU and Ole Miss—and held Texas to a shanked pitching wedge worth of offense in the bowl game—has become the norm.

That's easier said than done, though.

What must Arkansas show during the Red and White Game to prove it's a contender?

 

Pressure Up Front

Arkansas is best known for its tremendous running game led by Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and one of the toughest offensive lines in the country. While that helped, it was not the catalyst for last season's stretch run.

The defense, however, was.

Bielema and defensive coordinator Robb Smith knew they had to deal with the graduation of defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Martrell Spaight, but defensive tackle Darius Philon's decision to jump early came as a bit of a shock.

Who's going to replace them, and can Smith find the same production?

JaMichael Winston started last season opposite Flowers, and players like Tevin Beanum and Deatrich Wise Jr. all have emerged this spring as potential forces off the edge. In the middle, Taiwan Johnson started opposite Philon, Bijhon Jackson has the ability to be a monster and DeMarcus Hodge is a veteran who knows what to expect playing a part in the rotation.

"Going into fall camp, there's going to be great competition at every spot," defensive line coach Rory Segrest said, according to Tom Murphy of ArkansasOnline.com. "We've got guys nipping at each other's heels."

Competition during practice is great, but it has to translate to success on the field. The defensive front for Arkansas goes up against one of the best offensive lines in the country on a daily basis, and if it can get consistent pressure on Saturday, it'd be a huge statement.

Typically, defenses are ahead of offenses. But since Arkansas returns nearly everybody on the offensive side of the ball, it should be the exception, not the rule. If quarterback Brandon Allen is running for his life and Williams and Collins are searching for holes, that would be good news for Bielema, Smith and the Hogs' outlook in 2015.

 

The Threat of a Downfield Attack

Allen isn't going to be Peyton Manning, nor is he going to be Jameis Winston on the field. All he has to do is pose the threat and look like them from time to time.

Arkansas isn't going to evolve into Baylor and sling it all over the field under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos, but the former Central Michigan head coach has produced 3,000-yard passers in four of the last five seasons. During Bielema's head coaching career, he's had just one quarterback break that mark (Russell Wilson in 2011 at Wisconsin).

If Enos can swing the pendulum ever so slightly and at least have Allen—who's a proven game-manager (20 touchdowns, five interceptions in 2014)—pose a slight threat of being a difference-maker who can stay healthy, the Arkansas offense is going to be tough to beat. 

"I think he's going to be bigger, faster and stronger," Bielema told Bleacher Report in January. "I know that may not seem to carry a lot of weight with quarterbacks, but it does. He'll be more physical and allow him to take those hits through a 12-game season."

So far, so good, according to Bielema (via Josh Bertaccini of 92.1 in Fayetteville):

With leading receiver Keon Hatcher back and tight end Hunter Henry's presence as a true mismatch at Allen's disposal, the opportunity is there for Arkansas to open things up just a little bit. After all, a slight tinker from Enos will go a long way toward keeping the defense honest and taking pressure off of the running game.

 

Secondary a Strength?

Arkansas finished fifth in the SEC in pass defense last year (208.8 yards per game), and the pressure generated up front was a big help.

What will that pass defense do for an encore, especially if that pressure isn't replicated consistently up front?

There are plenty of talented players for Smith to rely on, including veteran safety Rohan Gaines and talented youngsters Josh Liddell, De'Andre Coley and versatile freshman Santos Ramirez—who can play pretty much anywhere. At corner, Jared Collins and Henre' Toliver return to lock down each side of the field.

How will they look?

Getting pressure is key, but replicating the success of last season will be more difficult for the secondary if that pressure isn't consistent. 

Can they apply pressure if a quarterback has time? Can they force more than 12 interceptions? 

A little success can go a long way for an Arkansas defense that, if opportunistic, can dramatically change the way games are played. One or two key turnovers can turn into long, sustained drives for the offense and put the Hogs in a much better position to make a run at winning big games in 2015.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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