NCAA Football

B/R CFB 250: Top 24 Defensive Ends

Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football, regardless of NFL potential. Through interviews with B/R Experts Matt MillerMichael FelderBarrett Sallee andAdam Kramer, authors Brian Leigh and Brian Pedersen have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the Top Defensive Ends.

 

Other CFB 250 Positions

 

There's a ton of continuity at defensive end this college football season. 

Nine of the top 20 players return from last year's CFB 250, including five members of the top 10. That is a big percentage considering how loaded defensive end was last season, when we called it "the deepest, most talented position in college football."

Scarier still is the youth at the spot, as the top three names on this list include a junior and two true sophomores.

It's a good time to be an edge-rusher.

But before we dig into that, a disclaimer: We graded the linemen who follow as college prospects, not as NFL prospects.

Targeted skills such as run defense are important at both levels, but there is a difference between college run defense and professional run defense. If a lineman can set the edge and make plays in the SEC or Big 12, it doesn't matter if he can do so in the NFC North. At least not here it doesn't. 

This is all about college performance.

 

Note: If two players finished with the same grade, a subjective call was made based on whom we would rather have on our team right now. Also, all recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

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Brady Hoke's Life After Michigan Football

The world is upside down for Brady Hoke.

In his 34 years of coaching football—whether at Grand Valley State or Western Michigan, Toledo or Ball State, San Diego State or even Michigan—this has always been his favorite time of year. Fall camp. The start of a new season. All that time, 24/7, just coaching kids.       

But Hoke's on the outside now, spending quality family time, traveling with his wife, going on 8-mile walks in the morning, working out.

"We've been able as a family to do some things we haven't been able to do," he says. "Spend time together."

This is the next phase for Hoke, life after Michigan. And yet, when you hear him say it, you get this feeling that maybe not everything has changed. So you test him. Hoke started a new gig this week on Sirius XM College Sports Nation with co-host Mark Packer. He'll be on radio twice a week. He is supposed to have some level of objectivity now, and not just carry a Michigan bias.

So you test him:

I don't believe you are capable, as a Michigan Man, of saying that Ohio State is the best team in the country.

"You know, they're an awful good football team," Hoke says. "The one thing, though, is they have to play the games. From all accounts, they're the reigning national champs and they have a good team coming back, but it will be about how they compete.

"Is that hard for me to say? No."

Um. Is what hard for you to say? The challenge was to see if you can say Ohio State is the best team.

You did not.

"They're the reigning national champs."

Let's come back to that, because the way Hoke talks now, something sounds so different from how it did last year—and yet, somehow, exactly the same. He seems so blunt and plain-talking. And I guess that's what he was doing last year, too, when he was under so much fire. But back then, it came across as defensive and maybe even a little dense. Now, those same kinds of words remind you of what Michigan liked about him in the first place.

He talks about "the day I got fired" and doesn't gloss it over or say anything about "mutually agreed upon" or anything like that. He admits he still "has sensitivity toward" being fired. But he says it without sounding bitter toward Michigan. In fact, he wishes beloved new coach Jim Harbaugh luck and thinks he'll do well right away.

He talks about his predecessor, too. Rich Rodriguez and his hurry-up offense were brought in to modernize Michigan. After three years of butting heads with fans, as well as former coach Lloyd Carr, he was run out. Rodriguez once told me it was because he wasn't a "Michigan Man." He didn't have the right style. Now, he's winning again at Arizona.

"RichRod is a heck of a football coach," Hoke says. "And the program was going in a direction that was probably going to be pretty positive for him."

RichRod would have won at Michigan? And the Michigan Man says so? But he was run off and Michigan brought back the past with Hoke, a former assistant. And after a good first year, it wasn't long before he came off looking like Fred Flintstone, playing prehistoric football.

"I'd be lying to tell you that no doubt we were disappointed to be fired," Hoke says. "But we live in an age with a 24/7 news cycle. You just want to have the chance to put the foundation together and have the opportunity."

Part of the problem for Hoke was that he couldn't sell the program, couldn't sell his direction or himself. Coaches today have a way of talking coachspeak so they sound like some sort of visionary or genius. Hoke couldn't do that. He tried, but he isn't stylish.

For example, Hoke talks now about his vacations this offseason with his wife. Paris? London? Rome? Nope.

"Well, we saw some friends," he says. "San Diego. We went down to Key West, where I'd never been before. We went to Charleston. Nashville. Nothing exotic. Most people would say that's really not traveling. For us, when you're a coach and a coach's wife, with the recruiting and everything else, that's traveling for us."

The truth is, for Hoke, there's no fully getting away, not when you've been doing the same thing for so long. Football is an itch he's dying to scratch.

So even if his days aren't about waking up first thing to spend every second, day and night, thinking about Michigan football, he can't totally disconnect. When he's working out, he says, the TV is on ESPN or maybe the Pac-12 Network, and he's trying to study up for his radio gig.

He says of Tuesday's show, his first, "It was like the first day of school for me, doing something I hadn't done before. Radio. I'm trying to be as professional and prepared as I possibly can. [Packer] told me, 'It's like you and I are at lunch at a bar talking college football. You're the expert. I may have some opinions on things, but you have the expertise of being in the locker room and coaching.'

"I still have my job today, so we're doing OK. Moving in the right direction."

But one of the first things Hoke says is that he's missing fall camp. He wants another coaching job.

He'll get another shot, though not at Michigan's level. It was a smart play to go on radio, keep his name and face out there. At the same time, he might be moving a little too fast, without enough time to get over being fired.

Hoke, who's 56, said a little break from coaching could be good for him. At the same time, it could kill him he misses it so much.

As for radio, Hoke hasn't been the smoothest talker publicly. This radio job could go either way for him. He's going to have to open up and sell bluntness the way Mike Ditka did. Tough and plain-talking. So let's start with his thoughts on Ohio State.

Again, is Ohio State the best team?

"They're reigning national champs."

Let's try it this way: Which team is the best in the country?

"Right now, they're the reigning champ," he says. "So Ohio is."

Ohio? Hoke used to leave off the "State" part when he was at Michigan. It was a way of poking fun at a place that pompously calls itself The Ohio State University.

You still didn't even say Ohio State.

"No," Hoke says. "I didn't."

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

Ohio State is college football's top-ranked team. It's the hottest bet to win the national championship and set to enter each game this fall as a double-digit favorite

Just don't tell that to Urban Meyer, and don't say a word of that to his Buckeyes.

That sentiment was made clear during Meyer's first speech to the team when Ohio State reported to fall camp.

"Our goal is not to win a national championship. Don't even talk about that," Meyer said on the Big Ten Network's Scarlet and Gray Days. "You're not gonna hear that. What you are gonna hear is 'nine strong.'"

"Nine strong" refers to the nine units that comprise the football team, and Meyer's belief is based on the theory that if Ohio State is nine units strong, it won't lose. 

But from the outside looking in, expectations for the 2015 season are sky-high, and it's easy to see why. The Buckeyes return 15 starters from their national title-winning team a season ago, and they boast the depth and schedule to make another run at this year's playoff.

Will they stumble along the way? 

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Virginia Tech Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

Now that fall camp is in full swing and every roster is beginning to take shape, it's the perfect time to start looking at opponents on a game-by-game basis for the upcoming college football season. For the Virginia Tech Hokies—who open the season on September 7 against defending national champion Ohio State—it's a fairly favorable schedule. 

Of course, predicting a full schedule before the first game is played is next to impossible. But we're going to give it our best shot.

Can the Hokies pull off a major upset two years in a row? Or will they struggle and lose to a lesser opponent—like Wake Forest—yet again?

Could this be the year Virginia finally gets the best of VT? OK, well, we're not sure about that one.

Here is a look at Virginia Tech's 2015 schedule, game-by-game, with predictions for each contest. 

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Tate Martell to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 5-Star QB Prospect

Following months of deliberation, highly touted quarterback Tate Martell has committed to Texas A&M. 

The top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2017 announced his decision via Twitter late Thursday night: 

"It was a difficult decision, but I now know exactly where I want to go," Martell said, according to Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles. "I think it's the best decision I've made so far. It's a great school, and I think I'll do well there."

According to Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue, Martell had whittled his list of prospective schools down to Texas A&M, USC, Michigan, Alabama and Washington. 

The rising junior had previously committed to play for the Huskies before eighth grade, but he decided to decommit in January, according to USA Today's Nicole Auerbach

Although he has immaculate credentials, Martell won't be guaranteed a starting job upon arrival in College Station. 

"Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin signed 5-star quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray during the past two recruiting cycles," Donohue wrote. "Both players appear capable of commanding snaps in the coming years."

However, Martell appeared to embrace the concept of a battle back in July. 

"I love competition and that's exactly what there would be at Texas A&M if I joined those guys," Martell said, per Donohue. "I would get in there and compete, do everything I could to win the job. The best player will play no matter where you're at, so I can only control what I can do."

During his first season at the helm of Bishop Gorman High School's offense in Las Vegas, Martell completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,537 yards, 40 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also racked up 433 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.   

Now Martell will look to build on those staggering numbers as he enters his junior season with a major weight off his shoulders.

  

Player ratings and stats courtesy of 247Sports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tate Martell Commits to Texas A&M: 5-Star QB Wants to Be Different from Manziel

As one of the nation's top-ranked quarterbacks of the 2017 class, Tate Martell hears a lot being said about him. The comparisons to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel seem to be among the top, even though he wants to write his own script as a college football quarterback.

As the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback per 247Sports' composite rankings, Martell will give Texas A&M fans every shot to fully support—or renege—the comparisons to Manziel.

Martell announced Thursday evening that he has verbally committed to Texas A&M. He is the Aggies' first commit of the 2017 class and, as the No. 12 overall player in the class, is an outstanding keystone to building the future.

Martell, the quarterback for national power Bishop Gorman High School out of Las Vegas, chose Texas A&M over USC, Alabama, Michigan and Washington.

"It was a difficult decision, but I now know exactly where I want to go," Martell said. "I think it's the best decision I've made so far. It's a great school, and I think I'll do well there."

Martell said he "felt right at home" after an unofficial visit last month. He wanted to commit while on campus but deferred, choosing to make an educated decision with the guidance of his parents rather than a decision on impulse.

Listed as a dual-threat quarterback, Martell receives comparisons to Manziel because of his size and playmaking ability. Martell is 5'11" and 180 pounds and has shown spurts of being a magician on the field.

Although he has the utmost respect for Manziel, he's hoping to write his own story as an Aggie.

"It's not a bad comparison to have, being compared to a guy who won the Heisman. I'll never complain about that," said Martell, who feels his game better fits NFL quarterback Russell Wilson's than Manziel's.

"I just think I'm my own player. I feel like I have that same kind of ability [as Manziel], but I'm looking to be the first Tate Martell and not the next Johnny Manziel."

Martell was recruited by offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, as well as head coach Kevin Sumlin.

"I loved Coach Sumlin and Coach Spav. They were awesome," Martell said. "The facilities there are unreal. Everything about the school, I loved. It just felt like home to me."

The visit had to be something special considering Martell, a southern California kid, seriously considered returning to the state and playing for USC. After all, Martell once was committed as a 14-year-old eighth-grader to Washington—then coached by Steve Sarkisian, who now is the USC coach.

Martell decommitted from the Huskies in January, and some felt he would reunite himself with Sarkisian at USC when it was his turn to make a commitment. Texas A&M, however, proved to be an opportunity too good to pass up.

Part of it for Martell was the shot to be included in what's anticipated to be an electric quarterback competition. He chose a school that already has an established starter at quarterback in Kyle Allen and a freshman with tons of potential in Kyler Murray. Allen will be a senior and Murray a junior at Texas A&M when Martell arrives on campus.

"That was definitely a big thing for me," Martell said. "When I go there, the job will be open for me to compete against. I was really pleased to know that's where I could go and have that opportunity to play early if I win the job.

"I always said I wanted to play early, but I wasn't really looking at the depth chart. I just want the coaches to give me the opp to show what I can do. I want to earn it, and I know they're going to give me that opportunity there."

Martell threw for 2,537 yards and 40 touchdowns as a sophomore at Bishop Gorman. He completed 62 percent (124 of 200) of his passes and also rushed for 433 yards and five touchdowns.

Martell said he's looking into attending home games against Alabama on Oct. 17 and South Carolina on Oct. 31. He added that he's looking to join the program with the aspirations of leading the Aggies to multiple SEC championships and at least one national title.

"I don't think I'll change my decision," he said. "This is where I want to be."

 

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

Tennessee Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

Now that Tennessee has been in the throes of fall camp for a couple of weeks, everybody has a better idea of the Volunteers' strengths and weaknesses.

Though offensive line issues persist, there have been flashes of talented players emerging as coach Butch Jones and his staff look for the best five linemen. 

Pretty much every other position has offered reasons for optimism.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs, runners Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara and a veteran-laden defense are expected to lead Tennessee back into the conference conversation.

Freshman phenom Darrin Kirkland Jr. has blossomed in the past week to battle Kenny Bynum and Colton Jumper at middle linebacker. The youth at defensive tackle is coming into its own to provide depth at the position. A few young receivers are making their presence felt as some banged-up upperclassmen heal.

The Vols don't have enough depth yet across the board, but if they can stay healthy, there are many reasons to be excited about the upcoming slate of games.

Much is expected of UT as numerous publications are predicting the Vols to finish in the top 25 and battle for the SEC East crown with favorite Georgia.

There are a few detractors, of course, who aren't buying into the hype just yet. But with talent all over the field, the Vols are one of the nation's most intriguing teams.

Will that talent win out, or are the questions along the offensive front too great to overcome? Let's take a look at the latest and greatest game-by-game prediction as the opening kick draws near.

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Alabama's Defense Will Be the Best in the Nation in 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Cam Robinson’s eyes got wide when he was asked about the University of Alabama defense on Wednesday evening, and not just a little wide but wide wide.

Robinson started every game for the Crimson Tide at left tackle in 2014 and faced nearly every top pass-rusher and defensive end the Southeastern Conference had to offer. But what he’s seeing now from his own teammates is different.

“Our defensive front seven is unbelievable, man,” he said. “I always told myself never to downplay anyone we play, but I tell myself that I play against the best competition in practice every day.”

There are a lot of players in college football, in the SEC especially, who could say something about the high level of talent on their own teams. Although with this, there’s no reason to doubt Robinson.

From the tea leaves in Tuscaloosa to Nick Saban’s press conferences, all the signs are there for the Crimson Tide to have another a top-notch defense—if not the best in the nation.

That standard is almost never a stretch, especially since Alabama clearly held the moniker in 2011 and 2012 when it won back-to-back national championships.

On paper it was pretty good last year: No. 12 nationally in total defense having yielded 328.4 yards per game and third in the SEC behind LSU and Arkansas. Only Ole Miss and LSU were better in scoring defense, and Alabama was No. 30 in passing defense.

Just don’t mention that to the Crimson Tide. Not a day has gone by during this calendar year that the players haven’t heard about the end of last season: giving up 537 offensive yards and 42 points to Ohio State (although it had an interception return for a touchdown) and 630 yards and 44 points to Auburn.

“We should have put 60 on them,” Tigers coach Gus Malzahn recently told ESPN’s Chris Low, a statement that will be wallpapered in the Alabama locker room on Thanksgiving week.

It was the most yards ever accumulated against an Alabama defense, which earlier in the season had shut down another spread team, 59-0, Texas A&M.

“First thing attributable to that was quarterback play against us in those games,” defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said. “You’re talking about complete opposites. No offense to the Texas A&M guy, but he didn’t play very well against us, and we played better, executed better, against them.

“Now those other two teams had something Texas A&M didn’t have, which is a dominant, physical running game. Make no mistake about it now. Auburn and Ohio State are not spread football teams, as much as y’all call them spread. They run the ball at you with power, they run counters and they are very physical. The combination of that and giving up big plays is what got us.”

So it was back to the drawing board because as senior linebacker Reggie Ragland put it: “We’re not allowed to have a bad season.” And when it comes to the Crimson Tide defense, good is not good enough.

Assistant coaches Mel Tucker and Tosh Lupoi were added, and coaches placed a higher priority turnovers, third downs and big plays, all of which appears to be working.

The front seven is the strength of the unit and has so much talent and depth across the board that coaches can tailor their approach to counter each week’s opponent, which considering the league’s offensive diversity, is really saying something. It begins with A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen up front, but the players talk about having a pack mentality and attacking in waves.

“It’s not really like an individual thing,” senior defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said.

Among the linebackers, there’s Ragland, Reuben Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton at the other interior spot, and Dillon Lee can play almost anywhere. Denzel Devall and Ryan Anderson are the primary outside linebackers, while Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans appear poised for big seasons as pass-rushers.

Where Alabama has been most vulnerable the past couple of years has been in the secondary, especially cornerback, where the well of top-end recruits dried up around the time of Dee Milliner’s early departure in 2013. That drought is over, though, as the Crimson Tide again have quality depth.

In addition to All-SEC selection Cyrus Jones, Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown are looking to make their mark. Maurice Smith and Anthony Averett appear to be a lot more comfortable, and true freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick has arguably been the surprise of training camp.

Finally, at safety, what Smart called “probably the biggest concern we have,” Alabama has had to replace Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams.

Moving Eddie Jackson to strong safety appears to be paying off, with another converted cornerback, Geno Smith, at free safety. They’ve combined to play in 57 games, while Laurence Jones and Ronnie Harrison are thought to be the next wave.

“A lot better,” Saban said about the secondary after last Saturday’s scrimmage. “I like the way the group plays. Having Eddie and Geno at safety makes us a little more athletic, with a little more speed and a little more range on the field.”

He then noted that the defense had made a lot of interceptions, “and that was a good thing.”

Although the Alabama players and coaches would love nothing more than to see a statistical repeat of 2011, it’s probably not realistic considering the way the game has changed with hurry-up offenses executing run-pass-option plays as fast as they can. Regardless, Saban hasn’t changed the defense’s goal of yielding 13 points or less every game.

Even if Alabama doesn’t meet that, it might still be No. 1 in total and scoring defense.

“I just think we have to be hungry at all times,” Jones said “We’re going to be one of the most well-prepared teams and secondary in the country week in and week out. I just think as long as we get our personal attitude under control and knowing what we’re going out there to do, coming out there with that chip on our shoulder, I think the sky is the limit for us.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Predictions: Picking the Winner of Each Power Five Conference

With the college football season nearly upon us, it seems like a great time to make some predictions. Last season, all four participants in the College Football Playoff were champions of Power Five conferences, and this year could produce a similar outcome.

This article will serve as a breakdown of each Power Five conference—and each division—to make the most logical prediction heading into the season. There will undoubtedly be some contention with each pick, and at this time of the season, that's exactly the point of making predictions. So please let us know where we got it wrong and why we're not taking your team seriously enough.

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Auburn Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

The 2015 Auburn football season is almost upon the Plains as head coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers look to erase the disappointing memories of last year's 8-5 record.

Auburn is a mixed bag of established talent, exciting potential and alarming areas—and one can find each of those on both sides of the ball.

Jeremy Johnson looks to be the real deal at quarterback alongside star receiver Duke Williams, a veteran offensive line and a star-studded backfield. But how the new starters adjust to the spotlight remains to be seen.

New coordinator Will Muschamp has brought a lot of promise to the Auburn defense, which is boosted by the return of pass-rushing specialist Carl Lawson, the linebacker duo of Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost and several starters in the secondary. However, depth is a huge issue for those defensive backs, who have given up big plays left and right since Malzahn took over.

Auburn has been a tough team to read for many media outlets this offseason, with predictions ranging from SEC champion and national title contender to another middle-of-the-road finish in the SEC. Here are my game-by-game predictions for what should be a must-see season of Auburn football.

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Which SEC School Is the New Leader for 2016 4-Star WR Kyle Davis?

The race to land coveted 4-star wide receiver Kyle Davis is down to a trio of SEC powers.

According to Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover, Davis named Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee as his three leaders, with one unnamed program in that group currently occupying his No. 1 spot. 

"I can't say who, but yeah,” Davis told Neibuhr about his current favorite. “They went up to No. 1. Just a little [ahead of the others]. It was just the connection I have with the coaches. We have a great relationship, and that's important to me." 

Georgia has long been considered the odds-on favorite to land Davis since the 6’2”, 218-pounder backed off an initial commitment to South Carolina earlier this year. 

However, both the Tigers and the Volunteers have been pushing hard for the nation’s No. 4 wideout and No. 45 player overall in the 2016 class.

Which school has a leg up on him in the final weeks leading up to his planned announcement Oct. 23? 

That’s tough to say, as Davis acknowledged to Niebuhr that he has great relationships with the coaches at each of his three finalists.

His latest visit was last weekend to Tennessee, where he took in a Volunteers practice. It was his second trip to Knoxville in the last month, as he made it to campus last month for the Vols' Orange Carpet Day event, according to Wes Rucker of GoVols247.

“I enjoyed it all. Everything. Every little thing about it,” Davis told Rucker about that visit. “I mean, every time I go up to a school, they roll out … well, in this case, they roll out an orange carpet. But it was great, man.”

He last visited Auburn back in May for the Tigers' Big Cat Weekend, but he admits that former Tigers star Sammie Coates and current standout Duke Williams are receivers whom he is fond of.

In fact, as Niebuhr detailed, part of the Tigers' pitch to him is to eventually take over the role that Williams is currently occupying. 

However, Davis also has plenty of connections to the Bulldogs program, which is located less than an hour away from his hometown of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

As noted by Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, his mother has developed a strong bond with Georgia assistants Thomas Brown and Bryan McClendon.

Additionally, Davis—who told Bleacher Report at The Opening that he plans to major in sports medicine with a minor in mass communication—said that the Bulldogs' plan for him academically is a big part of why he’s interested in staying close to home for college.

“They accommodate my academic aspect of what I want to do,” Davis said. “That’s why they are one of my front-runners.”

Davis, who was named MVP of the seven-on-seven tournament at The Opening, is one of the top offensive playmakers in the 2016 class who remains uncommitted. 

As such, his recruitment is likely to be a battle until he commits and then enrolls early at the school of his choice.

Though he admitted to Niebuhr that the gap between the three schools is very small, it’s hard to imagine Davis leaving his home state when it comes time for him to make his final decision.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Best Value Bets for 2015 Heisman Trophy

A shrewd bettor looks for value, and this certainly comes into play with the Heisman Trophy race. The trouble is, all of the offseason hype lauded on top contenders has caused their odds to shrink significantly.

Front-runner Trevone Boykin of TCU is a 9-2 favorite to win the Heisman, according to Odds Shark, while Ohio State stars Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett come in at 7-1 and 9-1, respectively.

Those are good odds if you're looking for a sure thing but not if you're trying to land a big score. Instead, it's necessary to go a little further down the list and identify players who might win but don't have the kind of odds that make it seem possible.

Jameis Winston was listed at 33-1 prior to making his collegiate debut in 2013, but after putting up a huge performance against Pittsburgh in his first game, he improved to 10-1. Three months later, he'd won the Heisman as an overwhelming 1-8 favorite.

Who are some potential value bets to take a flier on for 2015? Follow along, and we'll give you some suggestions.

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Texas Football: Does Charlie Strong Need to Name Starting QB Before Notre Dame?

The gap between Texas quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard appears to have opened back up. Or at the very least, the battle between the two isn't any tighter now than it was in the spring.

That appears to be the vibe coming out of Longhorn preseason practices this week. According to Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman, head coach Charlie Strong admitted there was a gap between Swoopes and Heard:

If that's indeed the case, it's a matter of time before Strong must name Swoopes the starter for Week 1 against Notre Dame—that is, if he hasn't already. Unofficially, Swoopes exited spring practices as the front-runner and entered preseason camp as the No. 1 guy.

Basically, he's been the presumed starter in an open competition from spring to August.

But even if it's in private, even if Strong never tips his hand to the media, establishing a definitive No. 1 and No. 2 is important for the offense's development.

It doesn't mean that the pecking order has to, or will, stay as is over time—Strong told reporters earlier this summer that Swoopes and Heard will play against Notre Dame—but giving the No. 1 guy a chance to build chemistry and leadership with his teammates in practice is critical.

Right as preseason camp was about to get underway, I wrote that playing Swoopes and Heard against Notre Dame could work if the competition between them was tight. Sometimes, a good way to break the tie is to put both players into live situations and see how they react.

Strong may still do that, and that's okay.

With that said, all signs indicate that Swoopes is the guy who will get first crack at the Irish defense. If reports are any indication, he's earned that chance. The junior took a ton of criticism last season and sometimes deservedly so.

However, based on tweets by Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News and Horns247, it sounds like Swoopes has taken that criticism to heart and used it become a better quarterback and leader:

One of the purposes of preseason camp is to see if there's any growth—or decline—from the spring. To hear Strong and Co. talk about Swoopes, it's easy to decipher that he's the one taking the steps forward.

During Big 12 media days in July, Strong and senior running back Johnathan Gray talked often about Swoopes for questions relating to the quarterback competition. On the other hand, Heard was usually only brought up when asked about specifically.

USA Today's Dan Wolken suggested that Heard has all the confidence in the world—and that's a good thing—but as noted by Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, the takeaway from media days and practices is that Swoopes still has the edge:

What probably worries fans is that it's unclear if Swoopes truly improved during the offseason or if Heard is not living up to expectations.

We tend to vividly remember the most recent thing that happened, and the lasting memory of Swoopes from 2014 was him throwing for 57 yards in abysmal loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl. Before that, he threw four interceptions in a season-ending loss to TCU.

There was also a time, though, when Swoopes played well against Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. That gets brought up significantly less often.

Fans clamoring for change and improvement are understandably hesitant to give Swoopes any sort of due, but the reality is players can get better. They do all the time. If they didn't, we wouldn't have TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin as a preseason Heisman Trophy contender.

That's not to compare Swoopes to Boykin in any way, but if Swoopes has earned the trust of his teammates and coaching staff, then he deserves a chance to go out and prove them right. It doesn't mean he will, but he should at least have the opportunity.

Otherwise, what's the point of working?

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. Stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

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4-Star RB Devwah Whaley Taking His Time, Finalizing Big 12, SEC Official Visits

As the nation's No. 4 running back, Devwah Whaley has a set plan for his college future.

After announcing his top five in June, Whaley said he will focus on taking two official visits during the regular season and three visits after the season. A silent commit will come before the end of the year, and a verbal commitment will come during the Under Armour All-America Game in January.

For Whaley, it's a step-by-step process, one that he wants to make sure he follows.

"At this point, I'm just taking everything day by day," said Whaley, a 6'0", 205-pound back from Beaumont, Texas. "I'm going through the process and enjoying it. I don't want to rush anything or commit too early. The main thing is that my mom and coaches aren't stressed. When I commit, I want to make sure it's the right decision for me."

The 4-star talent confirmed that Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia and Oklahoma will receive the official visits, and his early thoughts are that Oklahoma and Georgia will get the first two visits. Whaley said he'll take the Georgia visit the weekend of Sept. 18. He hasn't set a date for Oklahoma.

Whaley said both schools are places where he can see himself doing well.

"I felt like when I went on those visits, everything stood out," he said. "The coaching staff, the environment, the players...I really got a feel for everything that was important to me. You want to be comfortable wherever you go; it's got to be a home away from home, and I think Oklahoma and Georgia both were like that."

It's no secret that Whaley wants to play for a team with a run-oriented offense. He rushed for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior and more than doubled his totals from his sophomore year (557 yards, five touchdowns). Whaley is a north-south runner who has low-4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

Oklahoma rushed for 261.2 yards, and Georgia rushed for 257.8 yards a game last season, which ranked them No. 11 and No. 12, respectively, among FBS teams nationally. Arkansas ranked No. 26 averaging 218 yards a game. Texas A&M (149.9 yards per game) and Texas (137.4) ranked No. 84 and No. 101, respectively.

Although running the ball is a priority, Whaley is quick to remind all that he's not a one-dimensional back. He is, however, a strong advocate for having a successful offense via an effective ground game.

"Playing football, you have to run the ball well. That's the name of the game," he said. "But a lot of schools find me to be complete back. I'm able to run and catch the ball. I like to block. I'm just a downhill type of back who plays with size and power."

Whaley showed his combo skills last month at Georgia's Dawg Night camp. In addition to running well, he also showed that he had good hands in passing situations. It was a chance for Whaley to get in some rare camp time, as he hasn't competed in many camp settings during the spring or summer.

Whaley said he will use the next few weeks to finalize his official visit schedule and also prepare for his senior year at Beaumont Central. He said he will continue to research his top five, as he prepares to make a public announcement in January—and a private announcement weeks before that.

"I know what I'm looking for," Whaley said. "Academics are important; I know I'll need something to fall back on. Being able to come in and play right away also is a big impact.

"Wherever I go, I want to win games and compete for a national title. Going to the NFL is a goal, so I want to go to the place that'll help me get there, as well as help me become a better man and football player."

 

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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SEC Football: Biggest Remaining Position Battles in Fall Camp

Here we are, two weeks from the start of the college football season, and several key position battles around the SEC are still unsettled.

From Alabama's quarterbacks to Auburn's running backs to Georgia's defensive line, starting spots are still up for grabs on some of the highest-profile teams in the country.

Which position battles are the biggest? Our picks based on scheme, preseason ranking and number of contenders are in this slideshow.

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Big Ten Football: Biggest Remaining Position Battles in Fall Camp

Little by little, we're inching closer to the start of the 2015 college football season. Now is around the time in preseason camps when coaches will begin to establish pecking orders in open position battles. Ideally, there's a clear two-deep by Week 1, but realistically that's not always the case. 

For the Big Ten, there are some important position battles that remain unanswered. From high-profile quarterback battles at Ohio State and Michigan to establishing an offensive line at Wisconsin, we take a look at the most important competitions that have yet to be sorted out (and perhaps won't be for some time). 

Selections were made on incoming and returning players, the impact of any departing players/attrition and the overall position situation (e.g., offensive line, linebackers).  

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The Best College Football Game of Every Week of 2015 Season

With so many teams and so few places in the national title picture, college football has high-stakes games seemingly every single week.

On any given college football Saturday, multiple championship races are twisting and turning through nationally televised clashes and surprising upsets. Big games are always on the cards.

As fans continue to count down the days—maybe even the hours—until the return of college football, let's take a journey through the 2015 schedule and find the best-looking matchup for each weekend of the season.

These games were chosen by the potential championship stakes, overall quality of the teams and recent history between the two sides. Each week also has a pair of honorable mention games that will undoubtedly be big-time matchups.

Which games do you think will be the biggest ones in each week of the season? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Dear Football: The 2015 Elite 11 Story | Ep. 4

Uninterrupted is a platform that allows personalities to connect with fans on a much deeper level, with insight and content not fit for other platforms, media outlets or channels.

Interested fans get a unique perspective that brings them closer than ever to the personalities they care about.

The Elite 11 Camp brings together the top high school senior quarterbacks in the country in search of the best 11.

Warning: Video contains profanity.

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Uninterrupted: Ben Simmons Tells LSU Football Coach Les Miles He Can Play WR

After hearing that LSU football coach Les Miles wants him to suit up for his team this fall, Tigers basketball star Ben Simmons made it known that he can play wideout.

But he isn't a fan of wearing a helmet.

Last week, per Jerit Roser of the Times-Picayune, Miles said there'd be a spot on his squad for Simmons if the basketball player can prove that he can catch. Assuming that's the case, the coach believes his system would allow the 6'10" Simmons to set the NCAA record for touchdowns.

Word got back to Simmons that Miles is interested in getting him on the field on Saturdays. In his Uninterrupted video, the freshman responded to the football coach by saying that he could line up at receiver.

Uninterrupted is a platform that allows personalities to connect with fans on a much deeper level, with insight and content not fit for other platforms, media outlets or channels.

Interested fans get a unique perspective that brings them closer than ever to the personalities they care about.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will LSU's Star RB Leonard Fournette Suffer a Sophomore Slump?

Running back Leonard Fournette had a stellar first year as a true freshman for the LSU Tigers. Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson and College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee predict whether Fournette can maintain that success during the 2015 season.

How do you think Leonard Fournette will perform this year? Hit the comment section below.

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