NCAA Football

Texas LB Steve Edmond Rips Baylor Bears After Losing by 20 Last Season

Apparently the Texas Longhorns are still very upset about losing to an in-state rival last season.

Texas senior linebacker Steve Edmond still hasn't gotten over the fact that the Longhorns lost 30-10 to the Baylor Bears last season, and, as you can see from the quotes above, he wasn't afraid to talk some smack about them. 

The two teams will play again this year on October 4, and it sounds like Edmond will have some extra motivation for that game.

[Twitter]

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Alabama Spring Game 2014: Recap, Highlights and Analysis

Nick Saban's squad entered Saturday in rebuild mode with question marks all over the defensive unit and at quarterback with names like C.J. Mosley and AJ McCarron off to the NFL. The result was plenty of answers as White defeated Crimson, 17-13, in a defensive-minded affair from start to finish.

As is the case every year, the Crimson Tide's spring game brought in massive attendance numbers. As D.C. Reeves of The Tuscaloosa News helps to illustrate, the crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium was quite large:

The official estimated attendance was 73,506, the eighth-most in school history, per the team's official website

While the massive interest is certainly not a surprise, what should catch observers off guard is that Alabama's game is suddenly not in its typical spotlight, as CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman points out:

Why? A bit of a down year paired with a roster in serious flux. ESPN Stats & Info has the scoop:

Quarterbacks figured to be the main storyline of the day despite the arrival of Jacob Coker being delayed as he graduates from Florida State, but the defense stole the show in the first half.

Cooper Bateman was the man under center for the White, while Blake Sims captained for the Crimson. Both had no answer to the still-in-flux defense.

Tim Williams and co. controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the first half, while a rebuilding secondary looking to replace Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri, Deion Belue and John Fulton held its own against inexperienced passers.

Bateman entered the day firmly behind Sims on the depth chart, but that didn't last long, as Cliff Kirkpatrick of The Decatur Daily helps to point out:

Overall, the offense struggled to get going early. Cecil Hurt of The Tuscaloosa News has the scoop:

Those are certainly the type of numbers that could result in criticism raining down on offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, but it's important to remember he spent all of Saturday looking to somehow get the most out of two quarterbacks who likely won't be No. 1 on the depth chart at the start of the season.

Besides, it wasn't all bad as the first half rolled onward. Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh details one stunning play:

That's elite talent all around that won't be committing friendly fire by the time the season rolls around. Tony Brown has elite speed that will make him an instant contributor, and Robert Foster's elite skill set speaks for itself.

By the way, the score remained 0-0 at the half, with the real winner being Coker, as ESPN's Alex Scarborough colorfully muses:

Saban spun the offensive debacle into a positive, and he has a point, per reporter Patrick Claybon:

Fair enough. The defense kept its strong play alive in the second half and—go figure—scored the first touchdown of the game as defensive end D.J. Pettway intercepted a sloppy screen pass from Sims and returned it 29 yards to give the White a 7-0 lead.

No matter. Running back T.J. Yeldon—the leader of what is easily the team's deepest position—got his side on the board on the ensuing drive to knot things up:

He was easily the best player on the field Saturday, while Bateman and Foster stood tall as well after three quarters:

Remember how Foster got the best of Brown earlier? The freshman star got his revenge in the fourth quarter as quarterback Alec Morris—who spent the majority of the day as the punter and holder—threw a sloppy pass which Brown picked off.

A Parker McLeod interception on the ensuing drive negated the damage of Morris' mistake, however. Bateman then took the outcome of the game into his hands and capped off his brilliant day with another touchdown pass to ArDarius Stewart to make it 17-7.

The capper? Sims threw another interception, this time to Reggie Ragland. Let's allow Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News to take it away:

To be fair, Sims got one last crack at it and hit Chris Black, who did the rest of the work by eluding multiple defenders on the way to the house from 55 yards out to make it 17-13.

A tad of drama then unfolded as Sims' side recovered the onside kick. He found Amari Cooper and Black to bring the ball to the White 25-yard-line, but the game's running clock cut the comeback story short.

For his efforts, Yeldon was unsurprisingly named the player of the game:

Ditto for Pettway, who shared the honor dished out to linemen:

Jalston Fowler and Reggie Ragland took home some hardware as well:

All things considered, it's quite apparent the Crimson Tide have reloaded sufficiently on the defensive side of the football, especially with young stars like Brown appearing to have what it takes to step up at critical spots.

Offense is a different story, although the impending arrival of Coker still could change the situation. Until then, fans can take solace in the fact the team has a minimum of four quality backs who can carry the load as long as the line plays in a cohesive, effective manner.

It's easy to chalk Saturday up as a negative, but a strong defense and elite running game goes a long way in the SEC.

 

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USC Spring Game 2014: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

2014 USC Spring Game

USC is entering a new era this season with Steve Sarkisian taking over as head coach of the Trojans football team.  After the team finished 10-4 in 2013, Sark's arrival has Trojans fans hoping USC's NCAA sanctions-induced hiatus from being counted among the nation's elite programs is nearing an end.

We're breaking down all of today's major events during the 2014 USC Spring Game.  Don't forget to join the conversation below in the comments!

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USC Spring Game 2014: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

2014 USC Spring Game USC is entering a new era this season with Steve Sarkisian taking over as head coach of the Trojans football team...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Auburn Spring Game 2014: Live Game Grades and Analysis

The final whistle has blown on the Plains in Saturday's A-Day game between the Auburn Tigers' blue (starters) and white (backups) squads.

The starters were in cruise control at the break as Gus Malzahn's offense has showed no signs of slowing down from last year's SEC Championship season. Auburn's first team then rested for an entire running-clock second half, as Jeremy Johnson led the offense to a pair of passing touchdowns against the third-string Tigers.

Check out the final analysis and grades of the first-team performance right here.

Blue 58, White 3, final

 

 

First-half analysis for the Auburn Tigers

Pass Offense

Malzahn has constantly said the Tigers were going to throw the ball more in 2014, and he showed it from the opening snap of A-Day.

Nick Marshall has thrown for 236 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, including a couple of fine touch passes to Sammie Coates and D'haquille Williams. Marshall struggled with his accuracy on his deep balls in the first quarter, but he has since recovered to show off how much his arm has improved this offseason.

 

Run Offense 

If you are looking for separation in the running back race, you are not going to find it in the first half of Saturday's game. The bruising Cameron Artis-Payne is just shy of the century mark in rushing yards, while speedster Corey Grant has 128 yards on just five carries.

The only negative of the day so far has been Peyton Barber, who fumbled and injured his knee on his first carry. Barber, the third player in the race, was carted off the field.

 

Pass Defense 

Secondary newcomers Derrick Moncrief and Trovon Reed have been close to some big defensive plays in the first half by playing aggressive on backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson's throws. There have been a few blown coverages that have led to easy conversions for the white offense, but the first-team secondary has been a pleasant surprise against Johnson Saturday.

 

Run Defense 

The run defense got an unfortunate boost when Barber left early with his knee injury, leaving the first team to go up against third-string running backs Patrick Lymon and Lawyer Tillman. Auburn's defense has done a great job of keeping the backs from getting into the second level, but the performance needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

 

Special Teams 

Daniel Carlson missed an early extra point in his Auburn debut but was able to follow it up with a 50-yard field goal. New punter Jimmy Hutchinson is averaging 40 yards per punt as the special teams are not going live in Saturday's game.

 

Final analysis for the Auburn Tigers

Pass Offense 

After Marshall's day ended late in the first half, Jeremy Johnson came in relief as blue-team quarterback. He started off shaky, but he found Tony Stevens for a long touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. Both quarterbacks got over some early jitters with the deep ball to have great games throwing to a first-team receiving unit that got excellent separation from the jump on Saturday.

 

Run Offense 

No one stood out at running back after Artis-Payne and Grant's departure at halftime, but the two leading candidates for the starting job excelled at A-Day.

The seniors each showed some versatility they had been talking about all spring with Artis-Payne pulling off a few open-field moves and Grant lowering his head for some contact. Although they want separation in the race, Saturday's performance was a great showcase for the "running back by committee" look for 2014.

 

Pass Defense 

Despite the impressive early performances from Moncrief and Reed, the Auburn first-team defense missed a few chances to record interceptions in this game. The Tigers still showed some weaknesses on 3rd-and-long in coverage, but there was not too much to complain about for Auburn fans.

 

Run Defense 

None of Auburn's reserve running backs were able to get into the second level all game long, thanks to an impressive performance from the run defense. Kenny Flowers was a surprise with his MVP-caliber performance, leading the blue team in tackles while also recording a sack.

 

Special Teams 

Carlson missed a 51-yard field goal in the second half after hitting a 50-yard kick in the first half. There were no slipups from Hutchinson in the punting game, as he consistently boomed 40-yard punts against a frozen punt-return team.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Bo Jackson's Advice for Jameis Winston on Playing Two Sports

AUBURN, Ala. — Former Major League Baseball and National Football League star Bo Jackson's message to Florida State quarterback and pitcher Jameis Winston was clear.

"Follow your heart."

That was the message that the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner and former Auburn running back delivered prior to the Tigers' spring game.

Jackson famously starred as a running back and outfielder for the Auburn baseball team, before enjoying a career in the NFL with the Los Angeles Raiders and in MLB with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and the California Angels (1986-94).

"More power to Jameis," he said. "He is a good kid. If he thinks he can do it, then more power to him. Trying to take it to the next level is a little bit different because of the talent pool on each side."

Winston passed for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a redshirt freshman quarterback for the Seminoles, winning the 2013 Heisman Trophy and the BCS National Championship. On the diamond, he's a relief pitcher for the 'Noles. In 13 appearances this season, he boasts a 1.56 ERA with five saves and 19 strikeouts, according to the ACC.

Jackson's heart led him to baseball and, according to The New York Times, played football for the Raiders as "a hobby."

Despite his success in both sports, Jackson cautions that, while he could play both as a pro, it's a little different for Winston playing pitcher and quarterback.

"He's going to make his living with his arm," Jackson said. "If I was Jameis, I would follow my heart, because I did the same thing. It wouldn't be right for me to say what he should do or shouldn't do."

Playing two sports this spring, including flying from Atlanta where his Seminoles were playing Georgia Tech back to Tallahassee last weekend to play in Florida State's spring game, has been exhausting to Winston this spring, according to the University Herald.

Jameis Winston Admits to Sometimes Being 'Drained' From Playing Baseball and Football; QB... http://t.co/28eGmihqQa pic.twitter.com/MtGcZpL0W9

— University Herald (@UniHerald) April 15, 2014

Jackson shares a bond with Winston. 

The former Tiger running back hails from Bessemer, Ala., and Winston's hometown of Hueytown is on the other side of I-20/59 just southwest of Birmingham.

Despite growing up in the same area, Jackson hopes to stay out of the way and let Winston blaze his own trail.

"He should experience success or failure on his own terms either way," Jackson said. "I just wish him luck. He's from my home town, so he's a homeboy." 

Now Jackson is working on a career in another form of athletics.

He was in town to kick off the third year of "Bo Bikes Bama," a charity bike ride across the state to raise money for the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund which helped the state recover from the tornadoes of April 27, 2011. In its first two years, the event has raised more than $700,000 which has helped rebuilding efforts and contributed to construction of community safe rooms.

 

Barrett Sallee is he lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand and all statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.

 


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Texas Football Spring Game 2014: Live Game Grades and Analysis

The Texas Longhorns kicked off the annual Orange-White Scrimmage on Saturday at 1 p.m. Central. The first-string offense faced the second-string defense, and the second-string offense faced the first-string defense. 

 

First-half analysis for the Texas Longhorns

Pass Offense: It was difficult to determine the best quarterback in the first half because both Tyrone Swoopes and Miles Onyegbule struggled to connect on multiple occasions. Swoopes was intercepted by walk-on defensive back Dylan Haines, and Onyegbule threw a pick-six to first-string safety Mykkele Thompson and was intercepted by Josh Turner with less than a minute left in the first half. The one positive that came from the quarterbacks was a 42-yard touchdown pass by Swoopes to Daje Johnson as time expired. Aside from that, the quarterback woes are still very present for the Longhorns.

Run Offense: The run offense was fairly nonexistent throughout the first half, but a last-minute touchdown run by Malcolm Brown helped change that. Running back Jalen Overstreet had a nice run against the first-string defense to start the game, but he was quiet for the rest of the half.

Pass Defense: The pass defense was on par throughout the first half of the game and made the quarterback issues even more apparent. The Longhorns kept the pressure on the first- and second-string offense and picked up three interceptions including a pick-six. 

Run Defense: The Longhorns run defense helped keep the running game fairly silent throughout the first half. The defense picked up a total of eight sacks against Swoopes and Onyegbule. Aside from Brown's touchdown with one minute, 24 seconds left in the half, the run defense looked decent.

 

Second-half analysis for the Texas Longhorns

Pass Offense: Swoopes looked much better in the second half compared to the first. He appeared to be more confident and in control of the game, which is a big step for a young player. The quarterback issues are still present, but seeing his progress throughout the second half could give some Texas fans hope for the future.

Run Offense: Brown took control of the run game during the second half. He finished the game with 82 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown and two receptions for 25 yards and a receiving touchdown. The running back unit was without Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron, but Brown's performance made the drop-off much less severe.

Pass Defense: The pass defense was not as good during the second half when Swoopes turned up his game, but he was performing against the second-string defense. The first team completely shut down Onyegbule, who finished the game with 60 yards passing. 

Run Defense: The first-team run defense helped hold Overstreet to only nine yards during the second half, while the second-team defense held Brown to 36 yards on eight carries. Overall, the run defense had a solid showing in the Orange-White Scrimmage.

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Alabama Football Spring Game 2014: Live Game Grades and Analysis

The Crimson Team faced the White Team during the University of Alabama’s annual A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. 

The Crimson Team had the first-unit offense and second-unit defense, while the White Team had the first-unit defense and second-team offense.

Check out the analysis and grades of the scoreless first half here:

First-half analysis for the Alabama Crimson Tide

 

Pass Offense: Senior Blake Sims got off to a rocky start by completing just one of his first five passes, with a couple of drops and nearly one interception. He was just 4-of-12 for 46 yards. Redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman showed why he’s been moving up the depth chart when he led Robert Foster away from cornerback Tony Brown for a 34-yard reception to set up the first scoring opportunity. However, Bateman then took a bad sack.

 

Run Offense: Kenyan Drake, who was ordered to go to study hall instead of Thursday’s practice, fired up the crowd with a 27-yard carry in the first quarter, and T.J. Yeldon topped it in the second quarter with a 36-yard carry.

 

Pass Defense: Amari Cooper had just one reception, while sophomore tight end O.J. Howard never had a ball thrown their way. Safety Landon Collins missed an interception. The teams combined for five sacks.

 

Run Defense: Playing with the Crimson Team (second-unit defense), ends Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen were a handful for the reserve offensive linemen, and Allen also blocked a field goal. Combined, the two teams averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.

 

Special Teams: With Alabama not having any punters on the roster until the summer, reserve quarterback Alec Morris handled the punting for both teams, and he was also the holder. Adam Griffith missed a 37-yard field goal.

 

Coaching: The vanilla play-calling didn’t help, but the three biggest concerns in the first half were quarterback, kicker and offensive line. Offensive lineman Grant Hill (knee) and linebacker Reuben Foster (aggravated stinger) both headed to the locker room with injuries. FYI, when the Frisbee dog made a catch in the end zone during halftime, the Bryant-Denny crowd finally had something to celebrate. 

 

Final analysis for the Alabama Crimson Tide

 

Pass Offense: The passing game finally started to look a little better in the fourth quarter, as both primary quarterbacks had touchdown passes, but the overall numbers still weren’t very good. Sims completed only 43.3 percent of his passes, while Bateman’s percentage was 45.8.

 

Run Offense: Yeldon finished with 95 yards on 11 carries and became the first player in Alabama history to be named the A-Day game MVP for a third time. Drake’s fumble deep in his own territory won’t help him get on the field in the fall.

 

Pass Defense: Even with both sides giving up a late receiving touchdown, the two sides combined for just six explosive plays. Cooper was limited to just three catches for 45 yards, while neither Jones nor Howard had a reception.

 

Run Defense: The lone touchdown allowed followed a turnover, while front seven players combined to make 19 tackles for a loss. Reggie Ragland led all players with 10 tackles, while Dillon Lee made nine and Trey DePriest seven.

 

Special Teams: After starting out 0-for-2, Griffith made a 41-yard field goal that proved to be the difference. Morris ended up with 14 total punts as the offense struggled through most of the game.

 

Coaching: Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin finally got a little creative with a reverse in the second half, but for the most part the play-calling wasn’t geared to fit Sims or attack the defense. Yeldon estimated that fans saw 10 percent of the offense, but with a steak dinner on the line for both the players and coaches, things got more serious near the end.

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Auburn vs. Arkansas Season Opener to Air on SEC Network

ESPN's new SEC Network will get to broadcast the season opener of the defending conference champions. 

The Auburn athletics Twitter feed announced that the new cable channel will broadcast the Tigers' matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks on August 30. No kickoff time has been set yet. 

The announcement doesn't come as much of a surprise at this point. According to Ryan Black of the Ledger-Enquirer, the network had already announced that SEC Nation, the network's pregame show, would broadcast from the Auburn campus. 

For those unfamiliar with the SEC Network, ESPN president John Skipper and SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced a 20-year agreement to form the network in early May 2013, per Charles Odum of The Associated Press. The SEC Network will operate similarly to the Longhorn Network in that it will be under ESPN's family of networks. 

According to Odum, the network is planning to broadcast over 1,000 live events in its first year across the conference's 21 sports. That number will include approximately 45 SEC football games. 

For Auburn and Arkansas fans looking to watch their team's season kick off this fall, currently only two major television providers carry the SEC Network. They are AT&T U-Verse and Dish Network. According to the SEC Network website, the network's programming will not be available to stream on ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app. 

Auburn is coming off an appearance in the national title game, while the Razorbacks are reeling from a 3-9 season that ended with a nine-game losing streak. 

It will also be the second time that second-year head coach Gus Malzahn faces off against Bret Bielema's Razorbacks. Last season, the Tigers upended Arkansas 35-17 behind 168 rushing yards from Tre Mason. 

Expect the Tigers to be heavily favored going into their season opener, but you never truly know who the favorite is with how wild SEC football can be. 

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Auburn Spring Game 2014: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

Blue - 44

White - 3

One of the most anticipated college football spring games this season will involve the Auburn Tigers. After last season's improbable run to the national championship, many are interested in what they have in store this season.

Stay tuned for the latest updates, news and analysis on your Tigers.

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Alabama Spring Game 2014: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

Alabama fans will get their first look at the 2014 edition of the Crimson Tide during the annual A-Day spring game, which kicks off in about an hour’s time.

Nick Saban’s club returns a number of valuable contributors from last season’s 11-2 squad. However, plenty of intrigue surrounds the Tide—with issues such as finding a new starting quarterback to replace AJ McCarron and filling some holes in the secondary chief among the concerns for Saban and his staff.

How will new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin tinker with the offense, and can senior quarterback Blake Sims put an exclamation point on a strong spring in his bid to earn the starting job?

These will be only a few of the questions fans hope to find the answers to following today’s action.

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. EDT and will be televised by ESPNU.

Stay tuned to this blog for live commentary and reaction on all of the action in the Tide’s spring game.

 

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Texas Spring Game 2014: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

The Texas Longhorns kick off their Orange-White Scrimmage at 2 p.m. ET on the Longhorn Network. Tyrone Swoopes will be the first-team quarterback for the 'Horns, adding to the intrigue of the program's first spring game under new coach Charlie Strong.

Even if you are fortunate enough to have access to the game, follow this blog for live updates and analysis of what's happening with the new-look 'Horns. For those of you without LHN, stay with this page to get every bit of information you need.

Also be sure to follow the live stats page, courtesy of SidearmStats.com.

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Auburn A-Day Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

Despite the sting of losing in last season's BCS National Championship Game, the Auburn Tigers had a fantastic season in 2013. With good depth at most positions, there's no reason to believe the Tigers won't again be one of the nation's best teams.

Head coach Gus Malzahn will lead his team onto Jordan-Hare Field for Auburn's version of A-Day. That's also what the Tigers' bitter rivals in Tuscaloosa call their final spring practice.

The duel between these two programs never ends. The Alabama Crimson Tide's A-Day even takes place on the same day.

Are the Tigers and the Crimson Tide headed for another crucial and epic Iron Bowl? Here's how you can watch the Tigers' A-Day to get an early glimpse of the team.

 

When: Saturday, April 19

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

TV: ESPN at 3 p.m.

 

Players to Watch

Nick Marshall

With a year of experience as a full-time quarterback, it's not preposterous to name Marshall as a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy.

He'll never be a classic quarterback, and he probably won't play under center if he makes it to the NFL, but his athleticism and improving leadership skills make him one of the most intriguing college football players in the nation.

Watching how Marshall handles his team in the huddle at the A-Game could say a lot about what fans can expect from him this season.

 

Kris Frost

If you're looking for a potential standout on the defensive side of the ball for Auburn in 2014, look no further than Frost.

He has a nose for the ball, and the instinct necessary to make big plays.

Per Joel Erickson of Al.com, there's a plan to move Frost to weak-side linebacker, but the team will have to juggle its options. It doesn't have a ton of depth on the second level.

Erickson writes:

Ideally, Johnson wants at least one capable backup at each position inside, allowing him to lock McKinzy and Frost into one clear spot, but there's a chance the two will need to continue to cross-train at both positions to be ready when one or the other needs a rest.

Frost's versatility to play inside or outside could shine through in the spring practice. It'll make him all the more valuable through the season.

 

D'haquille Williams

If there was something the Auburn offense was missing in 2013, it was a legitimate possession receiver. With Williams coming back to the team in 2014, that shouldn't be a problem.

Williams' presence is part of the reason Marshall is listed here as a potential candidate for the Heisman Trophy. 

Williams' speed, hands and agility gives the offense a dynamic it didn't have last year. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who spoke with Brandon Marcello of AL.com, noted how the offense needed Williams' talents, saying, "You can tell why we needed him and why we wanted him. He's got God-given abilities that are really good, and I think he'll really add value to our wide receiving corps."

Seeing him on the field should bring a smile to Auburn fans who are pining for a more-balanced offense.

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USC Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

Can the USC Trojans return to the top of the Pac-12 in 2014? A 10-4 record is cause for celebration in some college football worlds, but not in So Cal. 

That's especially the case when you consider the Trojans dropped three conference games. Can new head coach Steve Sarkisian help restore the Trojans to their past glory?

The spring game might give fans some indication. Here's how you can watch:

 

When: Saturday, April 19 at 4 p.m.

Where: Los Angeles Coliseum

TV: Pac-12 Network

 

Players to Watch

Cody Kessler, QB

At USC, the conversation almost always starts with the quarterback position. Because Sarkisian recently named Kessler the starter, the junior will be the center of attention at the spring game.

Sarkisian discusses the decision and other things in a postpractice interview posted by USC Athletics.

Kessler had been battling redshirt freshman Max Browne for the coveted spot, but Browne will have to wait for his day in the sun. Kessler's experience likely weighed heavy in Sarkisian's decision. Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports agrees.

The decision was probably not a hard one to make for the new USC head coach. Kessler played in all 14 games for USC last season (USC played a 13th regular season game at Hawaii, thus allowing them to play 14 games without playing in a conference championship game) and he led the Trojans with 2,967 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

Kessler came into the spring as the No. 1 guy, and has held on to the spot leading up to this final practice of the season.

 

George Farmer

Kessler's primary weapons in the passing game are also going to get their share of attention. Nelson Agholor is clearly the No. 1 guy heading into the season, but Farmer has a chance to make some noise if he can stay healthy.

This time last year, Farmer tore his ACL and MCL in noncontact drills.

If he can remain on the field, he could give the Trojans an unexpected option through the air.

 

Delvon Simmons

At 6'6", 300 pounds, Simmons is a potential monster in the middle for the Trojans defense. He transferred from Texas Tech and could make an immediate impact in the trenches.

Last season, USC's defense was 14th in the nation against the run. If Simmons can make his presence felt, the unit could improve even more against their opponent's ground game.

 

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Alabama Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

In Tuscaloosa, Ala. the last spring practice for the Alabama Crimson Tide is called the A-Game. As the Tide gear up for the 2014 season, all eyes will be focused on Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.

The spring game gives fans one of their first opportunities to gauge the level of loss created by graduating seniors and early entries into the NFL draft.

Will maturation and another stellar recruiting class fill the gaps? The A-Game may be the first indication.

Here's how you can watch.

 

When: Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m. ET

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TV: ESPNU

 

Players to Watch

Tony Brown

Perhaps the weakest part of Alabama's defense in 2013 was its secondary—at least by Bama's lofty standards. Last season was the first since 2010 the team didn't rank in the top 10 in the nation in pass defense.

Specifically, its cornerbacks lacked the man-to-man coverage skills to handle the SEC's best receivers.

This season could be another tough one for the unit, unless the freshman Brown and others are able to step up.

With sophomore cornerback Eddie Jackson tearing his ACL in an earlier practice, the team will need Brown to grow up quickly. He could play his way into a starting role.

The A-Game will give him a great opportunity to shine.

 

Blake Sims

A.J. McCarron might have been overrated to some, but he was extremely valuable to Alabama. Over the last two years, no one worried about the quarterback position at Alabama. That's not the case heading into the 2014 season.

Before the spring sessions began, it would have been difficult to find a Bama fan that was high on Sims as the starting quarterback for this season. But he's looked good in practice thus far.

Florida State transfer Jacob Coker likely had his eyes on the starting spot in Tuscaloosa. Sims' performances early in the process suggest he's not ready to concede to the newcomer.

Jon Cooper of Saturday Down South wrote:

Blake Sims isn’t going to just hand the job to incoming FSU transfer Jacob Coker.

Sims continued to separate himself in Alabama’s spring quarterback race with another impressive performance during Saturday’s scrimmage. Nick Saban said Sims ‘showed a lot of command’ on the day.

If Sims can continue his sharp play at the A-Game, he may lock up the starter's role.

 

Cameron D. Robinson

We always tell our children to aim high. That's exactly what Robinson is doing. The 6'6" 320-pound beast of an offensive lineman tweeted this earlier in the week:

By many accounts, Robinson is the top-rated offensive lineman in the country heading into the 2014 season. So pining for the top honor given to an interior lineman isn't impractical.

But it is bold.

Folks will be watching Robinson's performance at the A-Game, as well as throughout the season to see if he can reach his goal.

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USC Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

Can the USC Trojans return to the top of the Pac -12 in 2014? A 10-4 record is cause for celebration in some college football worlds, but not in So Cal. That's especially the case when you consider the Trojans dropped three conference games...

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Michigan Football: What Will Be Justice Hayes' Role in 2014 Offense?

Justice Hayes wasn’t supposed to get lost in the shuffle.

But for one reason or another, the redshirt junior has yet to make a true impact for Michigan, much less earn a prominent role on the field.

Credit him, though. His somewhat slow start with the Wolverines hasn’t been due to a lack of effort. As a whole, the program has been in a slump. Personnel use has been a team-wide issue, not a Hayes-specific problem.

Regardless of his team’s disposition, the 5’10,” 190-pound former Grand Blanc star running back earns constant praise for his work ethic, attitude and performance during practice.

But that’s practice, not the game.

If those weekday and spring snaps fail to yield wins and production on Saturday, all of the “practice praise” in the world means nothing. Hayes is far too athletic to be handcuffed and limited to cameos. He’s so much more than a No. 3 or 4 back on the depth chart, far more valuable than a part-time shift worker.

That’s the common perception.

But the reality is this: He is a No. 3 or 4 backfield option—and he’s behind a pair of sophomores, at that. He is a part-timer, to no fault of his own.

In all likelihood, he’s waiting to show off the speed and agility that earned 4-star status from Rivals in 2010 (No. 3 RB). That same bejeweled skill set attracted attention from Notre Dame, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Iowa, among others.

And that same tell-your-neighbor playmaking ability continues to rule discussion when breaking down the potential of Hayes, who originally pledged to the Irish before opting for Ann Arbor.

The following is Rivals analyst Barry Every’s scouting report on Hayes:

On the Hoof: Hayes is built like a big cornerback. He has wide shoulders and is very well proportioned. I also think he has the ability to gain another 15 pounds. His body structure is reminiscent of Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick. 

Needs Improvement: He will need to add some more strength and size in order to make yards after contact at the next level. He could work on his balance. He needs to keep his feet moving, making it harder to bring him down. 

Most Impressive: Very, very quick back with good speed and ball skills. Hayes is very versatile and could player defensive back, wide receiver or running back at the next level. He is a high-character kid that possesses serious leadership skills. 

Conclusion: This kid will work hard and learn the playbook before most other incoming freshmen in his class. He has the ability to be a punt returner and a gunner on all kicks. He adds instant speed and will be hard to keep off the field.

In hindsight, Every's analysis holds true today...all except the "will be hard to keep him off the field" part. That's been easy for Brady Hoke. Keeping Hayes on the field is the challenge. 

 

Absence of Reps

Recruiting cycles have put Hayes further behind schedule. At one time, he was viewed as a potential No. 1 back. Then Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith arrived. Drake Johnson came to town. The field got blurry.

And in some cases, the same happened to judgment. Instead of using Hayes, Michigan continued to rely upon flawed logic and stale legs. 

Through it all, Hayes has remained on the quest for a major role. Once again raved about during the offseason, this year could be his year. The Wolverines just granted release to Thomas Rawls, lightening the huddle by one, and Johnson is coming off an ACL injury. 

And honestly, Green and Smith have done just enough to earn favorite status.

Doug Nussmeier is the new sheriff in town, taking over for Al Borges, who didn't quite have a grasp on Hayes 101. Nussmeier runs a true pro-set, but it's doubtful that he'll deny capable bodies. Hayes can run with anyone on his team. 

Nussmeier could be on the hunt for fresh faces.

Reps are seemingly ripe for the picking. 

 

Reps, How? 

Unless Green and Smith fail miserably, there is little chance of Hayes overtaking one or both of them in the backfield. The sophomores showed the downhill style that'll lead the Wolverines to the promised land.

Hayes simply isn't physical enough to be an every-down back in a traditional setup. 

That's why he'll be moved around on a constant basis. One play at the slot, and the next in some weird flex thing. Hayes is in line to gain yards in just about every way possible—except that of a prototype Michigan runner. 

Hayes can catch. Tally a few there. He has experience doing so; he played the X-factor while tearing up high school fields in Michigan. He'd run for a few touchdowns, catch a couple, possibly return a kick and call it a night.

He truly dominated Flint-area prep competition for a solid two years. It's a wonder that he hasn't done the same thus far in college. 

 

Scenarios

Nussmeier is a run-it-down-your-throat kind of guy. Of course, that was much easier to do with NFL, Jr. O-liners blocking for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Michigan's offensive front is in the midst of change, looking to replace two bookend tackles and plug in a center. 

Porous lines don't promote running the ball up the middle, at least not at Nussmeiers' former rate in Tuscaloosa. That being said, Hayes could come in handy as a trick-back, finding a niche as a bubble-screen option or toss candidate. 

Hayes runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. The wings on the line just have to learn to hold blocks for more than a second or two. Michigan needs a sustained push in the trenches. The toss play fits the bill either way. 

Why? 

Here's why: The toss/sweep caters to Hayes' quickness. It can be used as a safety net for lines struggling to hold their own. Conversely, the play produces much better results when given time to develop. 

Six one way, half of a dozen the other. Give the ball to Hayes on a 3rd-and-short. Trick the defense by showing a short-run look with Green or Smith before dumping off the ball to him. 

He's fast. Pick up on that yet?

Returns?

He's a bigger Dennis Norfleet with better hands.

Norfleet may have a slight edge in the wheels department, but Hayes flies. Norfleet was criticized for bobbling punts in 2013. Hayes has always been a slot option. Michigan should use his hands in some capacity instead of designating him for a position he rarely mans. 

Sounds good, right?

It's a little different on Saturdays, though. 

 

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

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Under-the-Radar 2014 NFL Draft Prospects

The 2014 NFL Draft is growing closer and closer. The biggest names are endlessly talked about, and athletes are excited to attend and walk across that stage when their names are called May 8.

On this day, however, only 32 names will be called. As excited as everyone is to see who their favorite teams take on that first day, what is even more important are those next six rounds featuring 224 more players who can help build the teams of the NFL.

Every year there are hidden gems in the middle rounds who make huge impacts. Do I have to be the millionth person to bring up when Tom Brady was selected? No? Good, you get it. Now, let’s take a look at a few of the gems who will be hiding in this year’s class.

……Oh, and about that Tom Brady thing,

 

Shayne Skov: inside linebacker, Stanford

Shayne Skov is one of the more interesting prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft. Off the field, Frank Cooney of CBS Sports said, “What you get is a well-educated, but complicated, multi-lingual, multi-faceted guy who has described himself as ‘half-white, half-black and half Mexican.’” This is due to his white father, black mother and his Mexican football heritage.

His family moved from California to Guadalajara, Mexico when Skov was only 12 years old. At age 13 Skov was on his first American football team in Mexico.

This made Skov culturally diverse, and it also made him the hard-hitting football player that he is today. Kevin Armstrong of Sports Illustrated described the football playing conditions for Skov as such,

Without resources for upkeep, the practice field had no grass and was hardened into compact dirt littered with shards of glass and pebbles. Reflective of the macho culture, coaches encouraged hitting. ‘Those were the hardest practices I've been through,’ said Shayne.

Skov would have likely been a first-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft had it not been for an unfortunate knee injury that sidelined him for the 2011 season.

Shayne has appeared to have lost a step in his game since then and, despite rebounding strong in 2013 from a not-so-great 2012 season, his draft stock has taken a hit. Many experts are projecting Shayne will be a third or fourth round pick.

He may have lost a step as far as chasing down plays along the edges, but he could still be an ideal 3-4 middle linebacker in the NFL. He is one of the smartest and most instinctive players in this year’s class.

Skov is strong and reacts very quickly to the direction a play is developing. He tends to be upright and could use some coaching with his block-shedding technique, but he has the potential to be a dangerous pass-rusher.

One more aspect of Skov’s that he could clean up is at the point of attack. He is a great tackler but will sometimes take the wrong angle and has, on too many occasions, had to make tackles with one arm.

 

As, Bleacher Report’s own Matt Miller says in the video above, Skov draws comparisons to a player such as Jon Beason. With the right system, Shayne Skov could make an immediate impact for an NFL team.

 

Colt Lyerla: tight end, Notre Dame

Colt Lyerla is a tremendously athletic tight end and one of the most talented players in the draft. He is so good, in fact, that last April, Chris Burk of Sports Illustrated had him in the first round of his mock draft.

Unfortunately talent will only bring you so far if you are unable to accept your responsibilities, which Colt failed to do in 2013. It was a very bad year for the young man, and his life appeared to be on a downwards spiral.

The issues began in April when Lyerla took to Twitter, defending conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

Next he began to have troubles with his team. According to an ESPN report, he missed Oregon's game against Tennessee due to an illness, then was suspended when the team faced Colorado. Ultimately Lyerla decided to quit the team in early October.

Later that month he was arrested for unlawful possession of cocaine and interfering with a police officer.

Lyerla found his biggest problems in college, but even in high school there were signs that his mind was not always in the right place. According to Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian, “Sometime he partied too much. At times his priorities were out of whack. It was a struggle to stay focused when he had virtual free rein at home. His grades suffered. He missed weeks of school at a time.”

There is no excuse for the offenses Lyerla committed, and this has caused his draft stock to plummet. This, like so many athletes who come from troubled backgrounds, is Lyerla’s last opportunity to turn things around and make something of himself.

Has Colt Lyerla learned his lesson? It at least sounds like it. In a quote from Sports Illustrated, Lyerla said,

As much as I hate to say it, I think some of the mishaps that happened and me getting in trouble probably is the best thing that’s happened to me. Because it really put me at a point in place and gave me time to self-reflect, and just helped me realize exactly what I want out of life and what I need to do to get it.

 

If we can pick up Colt Lyerla in a late round, Chicago will fall in love with him. Played with him. Tone setter, great hands, freak athlete

— Kyle Long (@Ky1eLong) February 6, 2014

 

Lyerla has current NFL stars backing him, as seen in the above Tweet. He is a tremendous talent but holds in a lot of pain from his past. Some of us need everything to be on the line in order for us to see what we want out of life. Everything is now on the line for Lyerla. As a potential day three selection, provided that he stays out of trouble, Lyerla will be an absolute steal.

 

Garrett Gilbert: quarterback, Southern Methodist

Garrett Gilbert is a name that may sound familiar. You know, THE Garrett Gilbert. He led the National Championship game in passing during the 2009 season. Still nothing? Do you call yourself a football fan?

Alright, I am kidding. Not about him leading the game in passing, but that his performance was memorable. He really only threw for 186 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. To his credit, he was a freshman, playing the most he ever had in a college game—and it was in the National Championship against Alabama.

Garrett Gilbert was one of the top quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school. He decided to go to the University of Texas, where he would back up Colt McCoy during his freshman year and jump into the driver’s seat as a sophomore.

On January 7, 2010 McCoy had led the Longhorns to the National Championship against the Crimson Tide. In the first quarter, however, after McCoy had thrown only two passes, he was struck by Marcell Dareus. He injured his right shoulder on the play, and the driver’s seat became Gilbert’s long before he was ready. 

The Texas Longhorns lost that game 21-37. Despite Gilbert’s rough game, the expectations for him began to grow rapidly. He was one of the preseason Heisman Trophy candidates going into his sophomore season. He even ranked ahead of current NFL QB’s Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder and Matt Barkley.

Unfortunately, he disappointed during his sophomore year, throwing only 10 touchdowns along with 17 interceptions. He was on the team for a third year but in October, 2011 he was released from his scholarship and transferred to Southern Methodist University.

Another disappointing season awaited him in 2012 with SMU, but there was progress. This time he was a bit more balanced, throwing 15 touchdowns as well as 15 interceptions.

I suppose no one should be breaking out four years after they played in the national championship, but this was the case for Gilbert in 2013. His passer rating this season was 136.2; he threw for 21 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

He has been one of the lower rated quarterbacks by most draft analysts but with an impressive pro day, he has people turning the tape back on. Gil Brandt of NFL Media had the following to say, “When all is said and done, I think he'll end up being a mid-round draft pick, maybe even as early as the third round.”

He is a bit raw as a passer, but he has ideal size at 6’4”, 220 pounds. He is also a great athlete who can extend a pocket or break through gaps when a play opens up. Pocket presence is the best attribute I have seen in Gilbert, and that is extremely important at the next level.

He would be an ideal candidate to back up one of the veterans in the league such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. If that situation does play out, let us only hope that Gilbert’s first experience as an NFL QB is not in a Super Bowl.

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Michigan Football: Exclusive Tour of $9 Million Renovation to Schembechler Hall

The University of Michigan recently finished a $9 million renovation to Schembechler Hall, which was originally approved and described in 2012 , per a University of Michigan press release

The project added approximately 7,000 square feet to the home of Michigan football and renovated approximately 7,000 square feet of the facility.

The exterior was updated to match the facade at Glick Field House—the team's indoor practice facility. The interior included an overhaul of the Towsley Museum, adding an area to honor the Michigan Football Legends, as well as new exhibit, office and recruiting spaces.

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Complete Scouting Report for 5-Star CB Iman Marshall

Iman Marshall belongs in any discussion about the best collegiate cornerback prospects we've seen in recent years. The Long Beach, Calif., product dominates at the position and is being recruited accordingly.

His scholarship offer list covers coast-to-coast conference powers. Florida State, Oregon, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Stanford are just a few of many programs clamoring for a commitment from the 6'1", 190-pound junior.

He has already spent significant time on campus at nearby USC and UCLA.

Marshall made highlight plays throughout a journey to the Southern California semifinals last season. He starred at wide receiver and cornerback, collecting 64 tackles and an interception, but his most impressive accomplishment didn't show up in the stat sheet.

The Long Beach Poly High School standout didn't surrender a single reception against league opponents, earning area defensive player of the year honors in the process. The team featured a dominant secondary with 5-star 2014 USC signee John Smith also lined up in the defensive backfield.

Marshall is a player college football fans need to know due to his potential to contribute immediately on campus. His high-profile recruitment will continue to command attention until he nails down a final decision.

We broke down the game film to analyze elements that make Marshall such an impressive prospect, providing a closer look at his skill set and strengths.

Positives

Marshall is adaptable to various defensive schemes, displaying superior athleticism and a legitimate understanding of how offensive plays develop. The downfield awareness he regularly shows off is well beyond his years and takes pressure of the safeties behind him.

His backpedal is precise and smooth, enabling Marshall to fluidly react and attack near the line of scrimmage. He drops downfield with effortless strides and shadows his target in coverage.

Marshall may surrender space to larger receivers, but this simply serves as bait. He dares the quarterback to challenge his closing speed and ability to acrobatically adjust in mid-air.

There isn't a matchup "type" that truly scares you when Marshall is charged with the task. He's rangy and physical enough to withstand the pressures of contending with taller pass targets while exhibiting elite agility that enables him to mirror even the slipperiest receivers.

While his explosiveness stands out on tape, patience is perhaps the separating factor when you measure Marshall against America's other top-rated defensive backs.

He appears nuanced in his approach to intermediate pass coverage and refuses to wear down even when a play is designed to take him out of the equation.

He simply shuts down his side of the field in pass coverage. From snap to whistle, Marshall makes it a point to blanket his target with no signs of undisciplined play.

His game is balanced because of an ability to dissect and dismantle rushing lanes. Marshall is a willing run defender who fires toward the football and finishes tackles through the torso.

He doesn't get swallowed up by blocks like several of his cornerback contemporaries. Instead, Marshall maintains low pad level and fights to disengage during his pursuit.

 

Negatives

Finding issues in the approach of a player like Marshall requires some serious nitpicking. He's such a nuanced defender and leaves little room from major refinement at the next level.

There are times when he walks a fine line between providing physical coverage and drawing a penalty. It's not that he'll have to sacrifice more space in college, but it may be a matter of Marshall being more succinct with hand placement at the line of scrimmage and limiting slight grabs downfield.

You'd hate for Marshall to inhibit his aggressiveness, but his tenacity does sometimes create unwanted separation when a receiver pulls off a polished double move. Still, he stands to be even more consistent in deep coverage by scaling back just slightly in his quest to cut off routes.

 

Projection

Marshall is a plug-and-play prospect who should compete for significant playing time as a true freshman in 2015. The necessary size, speed and skills are in place to provide rapid ascension on whichever college depth chart he encounters.

There's also a strong chance he'll draw serious looks on special teams as a kick returner and cover man.

He has plenty of options to consider before signing day, but give a slight edge to USC. Marshall has a strong rapport with the program and could reunite with Long Beach teammate John Smith as a Trojan.

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