NCAA Football

Senior Bowl 2015: Rosters, Top Prospects for College All-Star Game

The 2015 Senior Bowl game doesn't take place until Saturday, but the most valuable action takes place in the many practices leading up, as NFL scouts get an up-close look at every single prospect.

What these players do during Saturday's game obviously will have a lasting impact, but the first and second impressions are already being made for top prospects and sleeper picks alike. The predraft season is a crazy time in which prospects see their stocks plummet and soar in the span of a few months, and it all begins with college all-star events such as the Senior Bowl.

Bleacher Report's NFL analysts Matt Miller and Matt Bowen are on hand in Mobile, Alabama, and shared their early impressions from Day 1 of practice:

This year's roster includes some notable players who move the needle, but they may have trouble translating to the NFL—such as Alabama quarterback Blake Sims or Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall. But for now, let's look at some of the top prospects in the game who should be destined for early Round 1 selections.

 

2015 Senior Bowl Information

When: Saturday, January 24 at 4 p.m. ET

Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama

TV: NFL Network

 

Note: Team rosters courtesy of the Senior Bowl official site.

 

Senior Bowl Top Prospects

La'el Collins, OT, LSU

One of the later risers among another loaded crop of offensive linemen, LSU's La'el Collins has a golden opportunity to distance himself from some fringe first-round players at his position in Mobile.

After a star-studded senior year with the Tigers that had him pancaking the SEC's best edge-rushers down after down, Collins already emerged as Miller's second-best offensive tackle on his big board and the No. 14 overall prospect. But a pair of other standout linemen in Pittsburgh's T.J. Clemmings and Colorado State's Ty Sambrailo got early second-round grades from Miller and could steal the spotlight if Collins struggles.

That's not to be expected, however. In fact, Miller noted how Collins has already gotten started dominating the field:

Seeing a player with as high of a draft stock as Collins in the Senior Bowl is truly a rare occurrence, but Mike Loyko of NEPatriotsDraft.com noted how it's certainly not hurting the LSU product's case:

Already looking the part of a can't-miss prospect, Collins just might give Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff a run for his money for the top spot at their position if he shows up the competition in Mobile.

 

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

Danny Shelton just continues to make more and more fans as he looks to stake his claim as perhaps the best interior defensive tackle in the draft class.

OK, that title may be all but secured by USC junior Leonard Williams. But nobody in Mobile can touch Shelton's impact, and he's having no problem wowing folks heading into the Senior Bowl.

The first and most striking statement Shelton made in Mobile this week was on the weight scales, weighing in at a behemoth-sized 343 pounds, as Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples noted:

Teams that have one know it, and teams that don't know it even more, but one thing is apparent in today's NFL—you need an impact nose tackle, if not a pair of impact defensive tackles, to succeed in the trenches. We see players carve out a role simply due to their size, but they don't last in the league unless they can move along with it.

Shelton certainly can move, with noticeably quick feet that make him impossible to guard one-on-one. He may not make an impact on every down, but he can surely plug up the run as Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network noted:

With every tip of the weight scales and jaw-dropping rep, Shelton is seemingly moving his way into the first half of Round 1.

 

Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami

Thanks to a weak crop of inside linebackers in this draft class and his own emergence, Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman is bound to start shooting up draft boards.

Miller only has one inside linebacker with a Round 1 grade, but Perryman comes in not far behind as the No. 3 overall player at his position and No. 43 overall. Not bad for a 5'11" player, noticeably undersized for his position.

But while he'll never be mistaken for tall, his instinct-driven play and aggressive nature coming downhill to stop the run make him a no-brainer to translate well to the next level. He tends to make people notice him often with his hard-hitting style, as told by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke, who is on hand in Mobile:

Midway through the South practice, the crowd in attendance let out a collective cheer, leading to this exchange between two scouts in front of me:

'What happened? I missed it.'

'Perryman blew somebody up. Probably happens a lot.'

For those doubting Perryman's size, look no further than a similar player selected in last year's draft—49ers linebacker Chris Borland. Also 5'11", Borland was a third-round pick in 2014 and surprised many, and he absolutely exploded as a rookie with 107 tackles despite starting the season buried on the bench.

Don't be shocked if Perryman—almost identical in size and playing style—follows in Borland's footsteps wherever he lands.

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Former College Football Coach and NFL Player Ray Nagel Dies at Age 87

Ray Nagel, who served as the head football coach at Iowa and Utah in addition to athletic director stints at Washington State and Hawaii, died last Thursday. He was 87.

His daughter, Nancy, confirmed Nagel's death to The Associated Press. Dave Reardon of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser spoke with a family friend who confirmed Nagal's health had been deteriorating since 2013 and his death was of natural causes.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Nagel was a local star before spending his collegiate days at UCLA playing halfback and quarterback. He also spent one year coaching and playing with the Chicago Cardinals of the early NFL before moving full time into coaching in 1954.

An assistant at Oklahoma and UCLA, Nagel took the head coaching position at Utah in 1958, lasting a solid eight seasons. He led the Utes to a 1964 Liberty Bowl victory and finished his tenure with a 42-39-1 record before taking the Iowa job.

At Iowa, Nagel lasted five largely unsuccessful seasons. He went 16-32-2 before being let go, never finishing better than 5-5.

After leaving the Hawkeyes, Nagel spent the remainder of his professional career in administration. He was the athletic director for Washington State from 1971-76 and then took over Hawaii's programs from 1976-1983. He also spent time with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL and was the executive director of the Hula Bowl from 1990-95.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Why the St. Louis Rams Must Draft Dorial Green-Beckham

The "Greatest Show on Turf" featured one of the most potent passing attacks in football history, but the St. Louis Rams have been inept in that department ever since. The addition of a potentially elite wide receiver, such as Dorial Green-Beckham, could help the franchise rekindle that lost aerial excitement.

The attack was fueled by two great receivers—Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt—and the drop-off was enormous after both players exited their prime years.

Between 1999 and 2006—which extends slightly beyond the "Greatest Show on Turf Era"—the Rams averaged 270.4 yards per game on average. During that stretch, the Rams never finished below fifth in the NFL in passing, and the team finished with the No. 1 passing offense for three consecutive seasons from 1999 and 2001.

Since 2007, the Rams have averaged just 195.9 passing yards per game, and St. Louis' passing offense has finished no higher than 18th (2012).

Other factors have certainly contributed to the decline, but the lack of talent at the receiver position has been one of the major setbacks. In fact, if you look at the top 10 passing offenses of 2014, all of them possess at least one receiver who can be considered top-tier (other than Keenan Allen of San Diego, who had an off year and played in less than 14 full games):

  1. Indianapolis Colts: T.Y. Hilton (82 Catches, 1,345 Yards)
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown (129 Catches, 1,698 Yards)
  3. New Orleans Saints: Jimmy Graham (85 Catches, 889 Yards), Kenny Stills (63 Catches, 931 Yards)
  4. Denver Broncos: Demaryius Thomas (111 Catches, 1,619 Yards)
  5. Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones (104 Catches, 1,593 Yards)
  6. Philadelphia Eagles: Jeremy Maclin (85 Catches, 1,318 Yards)
  7. New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. (91 Catches, 1,305 Yards)
  8. Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson (98 Catches, 1,519 Yards)
  9. New England Patriots: Rob Gronkowski (82 Catches, 1,124 Yards)
  10. San Diego Chargers: Keenan Allen (77 Catches, 782 Yards)

Also, the elite quarterbacks of this league—Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck—all have at least one of the above receivers to throw to.

Top-notch quarterback play certainly makes receivers look better than they actually are, but it can be the other way around as well. Good receivers can make a middle-of-the-pack passer become a top-10 NFL quarterback.

Sam Bradford can elevate his receivers to a degree. Both Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson were solid contributors in St. Louis, but both receivers have declined since leaving the team. However, Bradford is incapable of elevating receivers the way Manning, Brady, Rodgers and Brees can.

If the Rams can move on from mediocrity and provide Bradford with a truly remarkable talent at the receiver position, such as Green-Beckham, the passing offense will surely flourish in a way we haven't seen since Holt and Bruce were wearing the horns.

 

Dorial Green-Beckham: Is His All-Pro Talent Worth the Gamble?

With Green-Beckham, the talent is hardly the biggest concern. He's impressive on the field, and no one denies that—at least, not anyone who's seen him play or knows anything about him.

It's the off-field troubles that will make teams reluctant and send Green-Beckham's draft stock into limbo. The legal concerns are both numerous and troubling.

It started off with a 2012 arrest for marijuana that resulted in a one-game suspension for Green-Beckham while with the University of Missouri, according to The Associated Press' Alan Scher Zagier (h/t The Huffington Post). Then, in 2014, Green-Beckham was arrested for another incident related to marijuana, according to USA Today, but he claimed the drugs did not belong to him, and he hasn't been charged.

Concerns with marijuana are common enough and considered minor in some cases, but Green-Beckham's final alleged off-the-field meltdown in 2014 ultimately ended his NCAA career.

According to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com), an alleged heated confrontation between Green-Beckham and his girlfriend reportedly ended with him injuring a female (a friend of the girlfriend) by giving her a two-handed shove down several stairs.

Green-Beckham was dismissed from Mizzou following the alleged incident, though no arrest was made and he wasn't charged. He transferred to Oklahoma for the 2014 season, but the NCAA never allowed him to play a down.

Given the NFL's issues with domestic abuse, the reported incident between him and his girlfriend will raise red flags and rightfully so.

Even so, some NFL team is going to overlook the off-field concerns and take a gamble on him. The Rams will have to carefully consider their options and decide if they should be that team.

While it's important for teams to take moral stands and keep things in perspective, we must also remind ourselves that this is a league of redemption and second chances. Just ask Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Tyrann Mathieu and countless others.

Though Green-Beckham has only been found guilty of trespassing (related to his first arrest on suspicion of marijuana possession), a lot will depend on his predraft interview with Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead. If they determine that Green-Beckham won't have any more off-field problems, then he deserves to be on the team's draft board.

After all, Fisher has a reputation for controlling questionable characters and getting them on the proper track.

The team drafted Janoris Jenkins in the second round of 2012, and his draft stock suffered from his own marijuana concerns. Since then, Jenkins has been a professional and hasn't caused any problems off the field. The Rams took a similar risk with Kenny Britt in free agency, and not only has Britt excelled, but he has developed into a team leader.

Green-Beckham is from Missouri. Keeping him in-state with his family and support system intact, while remaining under Fisher's watchful eye, could reignite his career in a big way.

As for his contributions on the field, there's no question that drafting Green-Beckham will immediately pay dividends, as long as he keeps his head straight. He's the rare, elite talent the Rams have been trying to pair up with Bradford for years.

It's still hard to say where the Rams should target him in the draft. There are two likely scenarios that could have Green-Beckham wearing horns:

1. If the elite and obvious selections at No. 10 overall—Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Amari Cooper—are all unavailable, it wouldn't be hard to argue that Green-Beckham is the best overall player at No. 10.

2. If Green-Beckham's stock suffers and he slips to the back end of the first round, it would not be unwise for St. Louis to trade back into the first and grab him.

Green-Beckham will have to blow teams away at the combine (not just on the field, but in the interviews as well). If that happens, he's a legitimate first-round pick and will likely be viewed as one of the best pure receiver prospects since A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

If the Rams snag a receiver of that caliber, the aerial drought we've witnessed since the end of the "Greatest Show on Turf" could come to a sudden end.

 

Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.

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Nebraska Football: It's Not About If Mike Riley Wins, It's About How

Bo Pelini never lost more than four games in one season as Nebraska's head football coach.

As the Associated Press reported back in November (via USA Today), Pelini was 66-27 during his tenure with the Huskers. It was the "highest win total for a Nebraska coach through his first seven seasons and one more than Hall of Famer Tom Osborne had."

His firing prompted questions, like the one Berry Tramel of NewsOK.com asked in December. "Why is Bo Pelini out of a job and Kirk Ferentz isn't?" That was only one question of many.

For a lot of folks, Pelini's dismissal was perplexing. How could you fire a coach who wins at least nine games every season?

The answer is simple. Pelini being fired actually had very little to do with how many wins and losses he had and everything to do with how he won and lost. That's what most fans think, at least. It also appears to be how the University of Nebraska was thinking, too, as displayed in a statement made after leaked audio of Pelini speaking with his former players surfaced, per CBSSports.com:

His habitual use of inappropriate language, and his personal and professional attacks on administrators, are antithetical to the values of our university. His behavior is consistent with a pattern of unprofessional, disrespectful behavior directed by Mr. Pelini toward the passionate fans of Nebraska, employees of the university and, most concerning, our student-athletes. This behavior is not tolerated at the University of Nebraska and, among many other concerns, played a role in his dismissal.

Nebraska's new head coach, Mike Riley, seems to be the opposite of Pelini. In fact, the national media made it clear how beloved he is when the news broke that he would be coaching the Huskers.

Riley fit athletic director Shawn Eichorst's wish list, too. After Pelini was fired, Eichorst made it clear what mattered most in the next coach.

"I want us to compete for Big Ten championships and national championships," Eichorst said, per ESPN.com. "But those pursuits are meaningless unless we do it the right way: with class, sportsmanship and integrity."

That's what Riley brings to the table. Of course he'll want to win. What coach wouldn't? The difference that Eichorst and Nebraska fans are betting on is that Riley will handle the losses differently than Pelini did.

As ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman noted, Pelini was consistent, but that wasn't all he was. "Consistent yet volatile," Sherman wrote. "It's a bad mix anywhere, especially in conservative Nebraska. "

As for Riley? He's anything but volatile. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports called him likable, approachable, smart and competent. Steve Gress of the Corvallis Gazette-Times told NET News that Riley is a "genuinely good person." Most fans feel the same.

“I think it will be good for the program,” Nebraska fan Mike Johnson told Chris Peters of the Omaha World-Herald. “We need somebody with good leadership, somebody that can recruit really good and bring some talent here.”

Nebraska also needs a coach who won't lose the big games in explosive fashion. Even if things don't go the Huskers' way, it seems unlikely Nebraska fans will find Riley on the sideline swinging his hat at a referee. That's what matters.

Ask a Nebraska fan what is most important and winning will likely be high on the list. However, doing it with class won't be far behind. For Riley, that's what it's all about.

Fans shouldn't expect a perfect season out of the new head coach, especially not right away. What fans can, and should, expect is someone to live by the words engraved on the outer walls of Memorial Stadium.

"Not the victory but the action." 

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Oregon Football: How Royce Freeman Can Enter Heisman Contention in 2015

The Oregon Ducks may have lost their Heisman Trophy winner, but there may be another contender in Oregon’s backfield next season.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon’s first ever Heisman winner, will be taking his talents to the NFL next season. Mariota, if he had chosen to return next season, would have had a chance to become the second player ever to win two Heismans.

The next Heisman contender up for the Ducks wears No. 21. His name is Royce Freeman.

As a true freshman in 2014, Freeman quickly established himself as Oregon’s most powerful running back. On the season, Freeman ran for 1,365 yards—ranked No. 27 nationally—and scored 19 touchdowns, an Oregon freshman record. In fact, Freeman’s 19 touchdowns rank No. 3 all-time at Oregon behind Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James, each of whom scored 21 touchdowns.

Oregon running backs have found tons of success in the “blur” offense, first introduced by former offensive coordinator and head coach Chip Kelly in 2007. The Ducks have ranked in the top 22 of rushing offense each of the past eight years, including seven consecutive top-10 finishes from 2007-2013. 

The only time that the Ducks didn’t finish in the top 10 in rushing offense was this past season. While that may jump out at you, remember that Oregon’s offense revolved around a Heisman-winning QB in 2014.

Now, with Mariota out of the picture, the Ducks should put more of an emphasis on the ground game. If they don’t, they may not continue to be one of the best programs in the country.

Oregon’s QB situation next season is cloudy at best. If Oregon wants to once again win the Pac-12 title and earn a berth in the College Football Playoff, the Ducks must make Royce Freeman the star of the show. 

The odds are steep, but it’s not impossible for a team to have back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners. Four schools have accomplished this feat before, though only three schools have accomplished it with two different players. 

In 1936 and 1937, Yale accomplished the feat with Larry Kelley and Clint Frank. Nine years later, Army pulled off the back-to-back with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. In 1974 and 1975, Archie Griffin of Ohio State became the first and only player to repeat as the Heisman. Lastly, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush of USC won the award in 2004 and 2005, though Bush’s award was eventually stripped and vacated by the NCAA.

So, what does Freeman need to do in order to become a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and pull off the first back-to-back in a decade?

Well, based on how running backs have won the award in the past, he’s going to need to have a season for the ages, and the Ducks are going to have to be one of the best teams in the country.

 

Heisman Running Backs

Since 1994, only six running backs have been awarded college football’s highest honor. Moreover, only two running backs have won the Heisman Trophy since the turn of the century.

It’s becoming much more difficult for running backs to win the award; however, it’s not impossible.

Here are the stats of the six running backs who have won the award over the past 20 years:

Every Heisman-winning running back since 1994 has eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark, except for Mark Ingram in 2009. What Ingram had going for him was that Alabama was undefeated and he was clearly the best player on the team.

Based on these statistics, it's reasonable to say Freeman is going to need run for around 2,000 yards and score more than 20 touchdowns, and the Ducks are going to need to be a Top Five team.

Winning the Heisman Trophy requires a little bit of luck, especially as a running back. You not only need to be on a fantastic football team, as evidenced by the record of the Heisman Trophy running backs, but you also need to be at your best in a year in which there are no quarterbacks who stand above the rest.

There have also been some running backs who’ve come close to winning the award in recent years. In fact, some of these backs have had seasons for the ages and still fallen short of winning the Heisman Trophy for one reason or another.

Here’s a look at four running backs who finished second in the Heisman voting over the past 10 seasons:

Melvin Gordon's season from 2014 clearly stands out here. Gordon lost the award for two reasons. One, his team wasn't truly in contention for a spot in the CFP, and two, there was some guy named Mariota who had one of the best seasons in college football history and happened to play on a team destined for the College Football Playoff. 

Freeman faces some stiff competition next year, as the group of quarterbacks who may be in contention for the Heisman looks pretty deep. Players like TCU's Trevone Boykin, Ohio State's Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett, USC's Cody Kessler and others are more likely to get preseason Heisman buzz.

In order to win the award, a running back must unequivocally be the best player on a team that is one of the best in the nation. 

If Freeman is to be in contention for the award in 2015, the Ducks must win the Pac-12 title and earn a berth in the College Football Playoff, and he must be absolutely dominant in each and every game.

 

The Future

Freeman is a gifted, powerful runner who absolutely tore up Pac-12 defenses in 2014 once he was given the role as Oregon’s primary back.

After Oregon lost its only regular-season game to Arizona on Oct. 2, Freeman was handed the reins to the starting job. In each of the next eight games, all played against Pac-12 opponents, he registered 98 or more yards in every game, averaging over 119 yards per contest. In those eight games, he scored 11 rushing touchdowns.

However, something happened to Freeman after the Pac-12 Championship Game. While the emergence of sophomore Thomas Tyner certainly played a part in Freeman’s diminished role, it is also worth noting that Freeman, a true freshman, had never played as much football in one season as he did in 2014. Fifteen games is a lot to ask from any player, let alone a kid right out of high school.

In Oregon’s two bowl games—the Rose Bowl and CFP National Championship—Freeman only rushed for 66 yards on 22 carries, though he did score twice against Florida State.

In order to become a legitimate Heisman contender, he is going to need to find a way to have a more consistent year. He’s also going to need to save his most impactful performances for the big stage against top opponents.

There will be no shortage of national stages for him to shine on. Oregon’s 2015 schedule is littered with highly regarded opponents and nationally televised games. For starters, Oregon will travel to Michigan State on Sept. 12, their second game of the season. 

Freeman burst onto the scene last year against the Spartans, as he rushed for 89 yards on 13 carries, including two touchdowns—one of which clinched the game for the Ducks. That’s the game in which he proved he was ready for the spotlight. 

This time around, he’ll be looking to show he’s a Heisman contender.

As the season progresses, Oregon will have to face the likes of Utah, Washington, Arizona State, Stanford and USC. All five of those games will present Freeman with the opportunity to strut his stuff, especially the late-season games against the Cardinal and Trojans.

If he can carry the Ducks through that late-season gauntlet and into the Pac-12 title game, he may find himself with a ticket to New York.

The odds of Royce Freeman capturing the second Heisman Trophy in school history are likely astronomical. However, there’s little doubt he is talented enough to be considered for the award.

Freeman is going to need to put up monster numbers along the way and get a little help from other candidates around the country. If he is able to lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title and a second consecutive berth in the College Football Playoff, all bets are off.

Another Oregon Heisman run may be improbable, but it’s most certainly not impossible.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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Oregon Football: How Royce Freeman Can Enter Heisman Contention in 2015

The Oregon Ducks may have lost their Heisman Trophy winner, but there may be another contender in Oregon’s backfield next season. Marcus Mariota, Oregon’s first ever Heisman winner, will be taking his talents to the NFL next season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Clemson Football: Offseason Goals for Tigers' Offense

During former offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ tenure, the Clemson Tigers found record-breaking success offensively. During his four seasons, the Tigers put up some of the best offensive numbers in school history, including having the highest scoring offense ever at Clemson in 2012.

Now Morris is gone, so where does that leave head coach Dabo Swinney and company?

Swinney immediately promoted Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott to serve as co-offensive coordinators, and it will be Elliott who calls the plays next season. The returning cast looks almost identical to that of this season, but how much of a factor will having a new offensive coordinator have?

The Tigers were above average this season offensively, but the kind of consistency that wins championships just wasn’t there. When quarterback Deshaun Watson was in the game, the offense was clicking and firing on all cylinders, but the Tigers struggled in the regular season with him injured.

So what will it take for the Tigers offense to get back to being one of the best in the nation? Here are three things the Tigers offense should be focused on this offseason.

 

A More Efficient Run Game

The Tigers were not consistent running the football this season. Wayne Gallman came on strong late in the year—finishing with three games over 100 rushing yards—but there were games when the Tigers couldn’t get much at all going on the ground.

That has to change next season if the Tigers want to compete for a national championship. Watson has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but the offense needs a solid running game to get things going.

Swinney’s group has plenty of potential at the position, so we should see improvements. Gallman, Tyshon Dye and Adam Choice all return as sophomores, and C.J. Davidson and Zac Brooks will provide veteran leadership to the position.

A lot of the problems with the run game were due to the fact that the Tigers just didn’t have enough healthy bodies up front. The offensive line was very thin from a depth standpoint, but this unit has a chance to recover physically and improve collectively this offseason.

 

Offensive Line

Speaking of the offensive line, it has to improve before the Tigers can consistently compete with the top teams in the country. The Tigers allowed 27 sacks this season, which was tied for 68th in the nation. Watson seems to have a very high football IQ, but any quarterback will make mistakes every now and then under pressure.

If the offensive line can get a strong push for the running game and give Watson time to utilize his many weapons, this unit could be scary good in 2015.

 

Develop the Backup Quarterbacks

I’m sure this area will receive much more attention this offseason with Brandon Streeter in as the quarterbacks coach, because this was an area that needed to be better in 2014. Tucker Israel and Kelly Bryant will both enter the picture in 2015 and compete for the backup job, along with Nick Schuessler.

Watson has missed time due to injury on three different occasions since coming to Clemson, so it’s unclear how he will hold up physically next season. The Tigers will need to have all of the backups prepared, because they may be relying on one of the true freshman signal-callers at some point during the year.

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Texas Football: Why Jay Norvell Is the Right Man for the Longhorns

The Red River Rivalry has added another layer to the heated battle on the field. After Texas head coach Charlie Strong let go of wide receivers coach Les Koenning, Strong decided to choose a familiar face as his replacement: former Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell.

Norvell comes to Texas after spending seven years in Norman coaching the Sooners. And he appears to be the type of coach the Longhorns offense needs. 

Norvell coached three of the most talented wide receivers in recent Sooners history—Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills and Juaquin Iglesias—and coached three Big 12 championship teams.

Norvell also coached for six years in the NFL and was a part of the staff who helped lead the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2003.

The new wide receivers coach has a lot to offer the Texas Longhorns. He has experience coaching spread offense, has proved to be a successful recruiter, understands what it's like to recruit against other Texas schools and has a proven track record of developing special offensive talents.

Offensive coordinator Joe Wickline was one of the only coaches who had experience game-planning against Big 12 opponents in 2014. Adding Norvell to the mix will help the offense and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson in more ways than one.

Now the Longhorns have two veteran coaches who understand what it takes to have successful Big 12 offenses. Norvell also has experience with the no-huddle, uptempo offense that utilizes a quarterback run game. In fact, one could argue Oklahoma was one of the first Big 12 schools to run the no-huddle, uptempo offense, and that type of offense is becoming the norm in college football today.

Norvell's experience with a quarterback run game should not be overlooked. Many Texas fans expect to see freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard under center in 2015 and one of Heard's biggest upsides is his ability to run the ball.

If Heard is the answer for Texas next season, Norvell's track record coaching quarterbacks who can run the ball will most likely come in handy.

It will be interesting to see how the offense changes in Year 2 with Norvell in the mix. But one thing is certain: Change needs to happen sooner rather than later.

If anyone watched the Longhorns play in 2014, he or she would know the offense was cringe-worthy and sometimes nonexistent. That may come off as an overexaggerated statement, but it's 100 percent accurate. 

The last time the public saw the Texas offense was in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, and it was not pretty. Texas struggled to move the ball all game against Arkansas, and at one point in the fourth quarter the Longhorns had more penalty yards than total offensive yards. 

The end result was a 31-7 loss in a game where the offense only managed 57 total yards.

It's clear change needed to be made, and Norvell could be a huge addition to the Longhorns' puzzle.

Between Wickline and Norvell, the Longhorns now have two coaches who not only understand what it takes to run offenses in the Big 12, but also what it takes to win championships in the conference. The duo combines for coaching four Big 12 title teams.

There is a lot of unknown that will follow the Longhorns offense next season, but adding Norvell to the mix is a step in the right direction for the future of the Texas offense.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Is 4-Star WR Damarkus Lodge Headed to the SEC or Texas?

For the past couple of weeks, it appeared as though 4-star Texas wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge was leaning toward either Ole Miss or Texas A&M as his future college home.

Then Wednesday happened.

Lodge made an unscheduled (to the masses) unofficial visit to Texas on Wednesday. Along with him: Texas A&M quarterback commit Kyler Murray.

And just like that, Lodge has successfully achieved mind-control status over everyone following his recruiting process. On Monday, most folks thought it was down to Texas A&M and Ole Miss, now we get to add the Longhorns to the list.

So who wins? Random, mid-week recruiting trips aren't made to troll the masses.  The Texas trip means something.  Question is, what? 

What We Know:

Fact: Here's what we know as fact: Lodge decommitted from Texas A&M in September, but the Aggies never turned their backs on the four-star receiver from Cedar Hill, Texas, and what was once a rocky relationship is now seeing smooth trails.

Fact: Lodge has always been a fan of Ole Miss. He has an official visit planned to Oxford this weekend. Ole Miss is something of a second home to Lodge, as his family is from Mississippi. He lived in Mississippi through middle school. Additionally, he has a former high school teammate there in WR Quincy Adeboyejo.

Fact: Lodge did admit to having interest in Texas after Cedar Hill won its second consecutive state championship in December. Baylor also has been a player in his process, and Lodge has watched what freshman K.D. Cannon has done in such a short time with the Bears.

Lodge, however, chose not to officially visit either Big 12 school. He still has one more visit available if he chooses to take it, and he has an open date for the weekend of Jan. 30.

While the Big 12 is a great spot for a star receiver, you have to wonder if the official visits will play a role in the final decision. With that said, Texas A&M and Ole Miss are still front-runners in his process. And if we're breaking down those schools, two questions arise.

Which school fits his game best? Which school fits his personality best?

If we're going with the first question alone, Ole Miss is the place for him. Lodge is a receiver who, while humble, is highly competitive, and he wants to be the primary receiving option in an offense. The Rebels finished the year with seven players recording double-digit receptions. Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Vince Sanders, Evan Engram and Adeboyejo combined for 192 of Ole Miss' 258 receptions last season.

Compare those numbers to Texas A&M, a team that loved to spread the ball out to multiple receivers. Eighteen players recorded at least one catch for the Aggies this past season. Of those 18, Malcome Kennedy, Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil all had at least 46 receptions.

If Lodge can deal with sharing the ball, then this is where the second question comes into play. He has established friendships with quite a few Texas A&M recruits, commits and current players. He also has former high school teammates in WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez and linebacker Richard Moore, an early enrollee, in College Station. Moore was a Texas A&M decommit before recommitting just before leaving to College Station this month.

The trip to Austin for the Texas unofficial will be a topic of discussion until national signing day, but it will take a lot for the Longhorns to win the battle against Texas A&M and Ole Miss. It's definitely possible, but it won't be easy.

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Michigan Football: Can Wolverines Land 5-Star Iman Marshall?

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has made inroads with several premier prospects since his arrival, but none carry more clout than California cornerback Iman Marshall.

The 5-star recruit remains uncommitted two weeks shy of national signing day and reciprocated interest from the new Wolverines regime by traveling to Ann Arbor on Sunday for an official visit. Marshall followed up a two-day stay at Florida State with the journey north, where he was immediately greeted by the man who lured him to campus.

"Coach Harbaugh actually picked me up from the airport," he told Greg Biggins of Scout.com.

Marshall, the top-rated defensive back in 247Sports' composite rankings, is racking up frequent-flier mileage this month. Aside from trips to Michigan and Florida State, the Long Beach Poly High School standout is also set to visit LSU (Jan. 23) and Oregon (Jan. 30).

Despite not being a destination on his official visit itinerary, USC remains the perceived favorite to sign Marshall. He is projected to pick the Trojans by 98 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Steve Sarkisian and company have welcomed him to the university frequently during this recruiting cycle, including multiple game-day visits last fall. USC views Marshall as an integral part of a final push that could also include commitments from fellow 5-star targets Rasheem Green (defensive tackle) and Osa Masina (linebacker).

However, he told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports he's still considering "everyone" in the aftermath of his time in Ann Arbor.

Although he appeared to lose interest in Michigan as things deteriorated in 2014, the Harbaugh hiring immediately piqued his interest.

"Coach Harbaugh going to Michigan is a game-changer," he told Allen Trieu of The Detroit News. "Obviously, he knows what it takes to get to the highest level. He has changed Stanford and the 49ers around."

Even before Harbaugh entered the mix, Marshall respected the program.

"The legacy of that team is known, and a degree from Michigan can take you places," he told me last summer.

He paid homage to that legacy Monday, posing in front of a photo that features legendary Wolverines defensive back Charles Woodson. Marshall donned the same Michigan jersey—No. 2—that the Heisman Trophy winner wore during his college career:

He also gained insight into the future of Michigan's defensive backs. Marshall discussed a possible pairing with top-ranked 2014 cornerback Jabrill Peppers, according to Biggins.

He was telling me what a great secondary we could have if I went there. He said he's actually moving to safety this year and the opportunity to come compete for a starting spot is wide open. I know nothing is ever given to you, especially at a place like Michigan but just knowing there's an opportunity there is all I'm asking for.

The opportunity is certainly there for the taking at Michigan.

Harbaugh understands he needs to boost a class that currently includes just six commitments and rates 95th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. A pledge from a player of Marshall's caliber would serve strong notice that things are on the upswing for the Wolverines.

Based on his admiration for Harbaugh and his willingness to spend time on campus halfway across the country from home, Michigan is suddenly a legitimate contender to swipe Marshall away from the West Coast.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Things That Must Change for the Vols to Improve in 2015

After making and winning a January bowl game this past season, Tennessee football enters the 2015 offseason with high aspirations.

With the amount of talent head coach Butch Jones is assembling in Knoxville, it's no surprise that expectations are quickly increasing for a team that just ended a streak of four losing seasons in a row.

While most pegged the year the Vols would return to national relevance as 2016, the offense's explosive potential, as well the defense's surprising turnaround, make 2015 look like just as good of a year as any for Tennessee to make noise in the SEC.

But if the Vols want to return to Atlanta for their first conference championship game since 2007, this young team needs to improve in a few key areas. Make no mistake: Tennessee will be a much better team in 2015 than it was in 2014, but the Vols aren't out of the woods just yet.

Here are five things the Vols need to improve before the 2015 season kicks off that could mean the difference between hoping for bowl eligibility in late November and comfortably reaching it before the leaves are finished changing colors in the Smoky Mountains. 

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Oregon Fan Pays Up on CFP National Championship Bet, Gets Ohio State Tattoo

Like many college football fans around the country, this Oregon fan was pretty confident that his Ducks would beat the Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff National Championship. He was so confident that he bet on his team.

That bet didn't turn out too well for him, and he has a tattoo to prove it.

Ohio State ran all over Oregon on its way to a 42-20 victory. As the Buckeyes pulled away in the fourth quarter, this fan was dealing with the realization that he would have to get an Ohio State tattoo to make good on his bet.

The fan appears to be pretty bitter after getting inked:

Lesson learned. Never bet against a team that received a pep talk from Tim Tebow.

[Twitter]

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ESPN Sues Notre Dame over Police Records: Latest Details and Reaction

After refusing to release campus police records late last year, the University of Notre Dame is the subject of a lawsuit filed by ESPN.

According to Margaret Fosmoe of The South Bend Tribune, ESPN filed the suit on behalf of reporter Paula Lavigne, who was denied access to the records in September and November. ESPN is accusing Notre Dame of violating Indiana public record laws.

Per Fosmoe, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt recently suggested that Notre Dame didn't have the right to withhold records.

The police force is established by the governing body of a private institution, but their powers come from the state of Indiana. I am not comfortable saying an organization can hide behind the cloak of secrecy when they have the power to arrest and create criminal records and exercise the state's police powers.

The university, however, does not believe that its campus police force falls under the state jurisdiction, according to Erin Blasko of The South Bend Tribune:

While no court date has been set, Fosmoe is reporting that ESPN is seeking the right to view Notre Dame's police records and also asking that the university be forced to pay a civil penalty and court fees.

It is unclear which side the court will ultimately agree with, but this could prove to be a major decision for media outlets and colleges.

Depending upon the result, it is possible that a new precedent could be set regarding the confidentiality of campus police records.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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LSU Football: Tigers Desperately Need to Strengthen Depth at Defensive Line

LSU head coach Les Miles had to act. 

Miles has seen his defensive line struggle the past two seasons. The Tigers' annual domination in the trenches had faded, so he made the decision to replace defensive line coach Brick Haley with Louisiana legend Ed Orgeron. 

The Tigers once struck fear into their opponents with names like Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Sam Montgomery. But this is no longer the case. Orgeron will need to work arduously to get LSU's defensive line back among the nation's elite. 

The biggest sign of the decline has been sack totals. LSU's defensive line only raked in 15.5 sacks in 2013 and 13.5 in 2014. 

The Tigers have struggled to put pressure on the quarterback with only four rushers. This forced former defensive coordinator John Chavis to blitz frequently to create havoc in the backfield. 

Starting defensive end duo Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter combined for a paltry 5.5 sacks last season. Thirteen SEC players had more than that alone. 

LSU's rushing defense has also taken a hit. It has declined by at least 10 yards per game in every season since 2011, which was the last time the Tigers made the SEC Championship Game.

Despite Rasco and Hunter's poor pass-rushing acumen, they were great run defenders. Their hustle in chasing down ball-carriers for tacklers was an underrated aspect of their game. 

Unfortunately for Miles, Rasco's eligibility has been used up and Hunter, a junior, decided to declare for the NFL draft. He is now left with huge holes at both defensive end slots. 

 

Players Coming Back

Orgeron will have his hands full developing his defensive ends next season. 

Tashawn Bower returns with the most experience. Bower played in all 13 games as the first replacement off the bench for either Rasco or Hunter. He raked in only 16 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.

Deondre Clark and Sione Teuhema played sparingly and had little impact in 2014 as true freshmen. Clark managed nine tackles, all assisted, in 12 games. Teuhema's two sacks came against Sam Houston State in garbage time. 

Bower, Clark and Teuhema all have the potential to be solid contributors next season, especially under Orgeron's tutelage. LSU is also hopeful Lewis Neal and M.J. Patterson can provide some depth.

As of right now, defensive end looks to be LSU's weakest position on defense. But defensive tackle is a different story. 

The Tigers will return the starting duo of Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux. After a rough start to the season, the duo gradually got better and finished with a combined 82 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. Now they must take their game to the next level. 

Quentin Thomas was slated to be the starter alongside LaCouture in 2014, but a preseason injury limited him to only 11 tackles in nine games played. A healthy Thomas will make the position deeper next season. 

The biggest defensive duds, though, also came at defensive tackle. Preseason hype built up the names of Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain. The trio rarely played meaningful snaps and combined for only 20 games played and 13 tackles.

Herron, Gilmore and Bain all have the measurables to be SEC-caliber defensive tackles, as do redshirt freshman from the 2014 class Travonte Valentine and Trey Lealaimatafao. If Orgeron can get at least one of these five to be a decent contributor, it would boost the depth at defensive tackle. 

 

Reinforcements Coming?

Orgeron and new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's elite recruiting reputation will be put to the task in the next few weeks. They both know they need some help in their defensive front seven. 

LSU's 2015 class is ranked No. 10 overall in 247Sports' composite rankings despite only having 17 commitments. The biggest holes currently are at linebacker and along the defensive line, where the Tigers only have one commitment.

LSU will take a massive step back if 3-star defensive end Isaiah Washington is the only lineman Miles can get. Orgeron has been looking to change that on the recruiting trail. 

The biggest name on Orgeron's radar has been defensive end CeCe Jefferson. "Coach O" has visited Jefferson in South Florida multiple times, including once with Miles at the 5-star prospect's home, per Shea Dixon of Geaux247

Orgeron's efforts paid off. Jefferson plans to make an official visit the weekend before national signing day, per Dixon. He is also being heavily recruited by Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida and Auburn. 

Orgeron has also visited defensive end prospects Arden Key, Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. and Byron Cowart, per Dixon. Any one of the three would be massive additions to the Tigers. 

LSU is hoping for the best when it comes to defensive tackle. The explosive 5-star Daylon Mack once considered the Tigers a finalist for his services, but the departure of Chavis and the demotion of Haley changed his tone.  

There is a chance LSU walks away with no defensive tackle commitments. The Tigers are probably not as desperate there as they are at defensive end, but it would still be a disappointment. 

 

Conclusion

The Tigers' problem up front in recent years has not necessarily been talent. LSU has had some good players. But speed and strength mean little when they are not coached and developed properly.

Haley was an awesome motivator and solid recruiter, but he was also a below-average coach. LSU's defensive line consistently played with sloppy technique under his leadership. This was clearly evident in pass rushing.

There is no excuse for a player of Hunter's caliber to have only 1.5 sacks in 2014, especially considering the high volume of snaps he played. Bryan Broaddus, a scout and analyst for DallasCowboys.com, said his form was awful: 

@ColtManis: @BryanBroaddus how's hunter the DE from LSU?” Going to need a ton of technique work. Stands straight up off snap.

— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) January 18, 2015

Orgeron, who has coached players such as Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy, cannot and will not let potential be wasted. Fundamentals are as important as athleticism in the trenches. 

Miles knows he needs better defensive line play if he wants to get back to Atlanta in early December. If Orgeron can deliver, the Tigers will be tough to beat in the SEC West.

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSUsports.net. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter at @CarterthePower.

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Ricky Town vs. Josh Rosen: Did USC or UCLA Get the Better QB?

Josh Rosen and Ricky Town, two of the best high school quarterbacks in the land, will be taking their talents to the college level. Rosen will be under center at UCLA this fall, while Town is headed to USC.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses which school got the right man.

Who will have a better career? Check out the video, and let us know!

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Ricky Town vs. Josh Rosen: Did USC or UCLA Get the Better QB?

Josh Rosen and Ricky Town , two of the best high school quarterbacks in the land, will be taking their talents to the college level. Rosen will be under center at UCLA this fall, while Town is headed to USC...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Is Georgia's Mark Richt Really Deserving of Contract Extension and Raise?

The rich keep getting richer, and in the case of Georgia head coach Mark Richt, about $800,000 richer per year.

Georgia announced on Wednesday that Richt received a two-year contract extension (through 2019) that will pay the veteran head coach of the Bulldogs $4 million per year—up from the $3.2 million per year he made under his old contract.

"I appreciate the confidence that [athletic director] Greg McGarity has in the direction of our football program and how we represent the University of Georgia," Richt said in the statement. "Our staff has an outstanding work ethic and we are committed to the development of our student-athletes on and off the field."

This comes on the heels of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt getting bumped from $850,000 per year to $1.3 million early in January, and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer signing on the dotted line for a cool $950,000 per year—quite a bit more than the $575,000 per year former offensive coordinator (and current Colorado State head coach) Mike Bobo was making in Athens last year.

All told, Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph reports Georgia's assistant coaches will make $4.45 million in 2015—$1.23 million more than they made last year.

That sound you hear is Georgia stepping up to the big-boy table.

The sudden cash injection comes less than a month after Richt was the subject of rampant retirement rumors to the point where he was asked about them in the postgame press conference following Georgia's 37-14 win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl.

Coincidence?

Maybe, but it sounds more like a game of hardball.

Richt is very deserving of his raise.

He's led the program to a 136-48 record since taking over for Jim Donnan prior to the 2001 season. He led the Bulldogs to two SEC titles, their only five SEC East titles and within an eyelash of a BCS National Championship Game berth in the 32-28 loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game.

Does he have his shortcomings? Yes.

Georgia does suffer inexplicable losses nearly every season, including the 38-20 loss to Florida in 2014, a 35-7 blowout while undefeated to South Carolina in 2012 and a 16-12 home loss to the South Carolina (which finished 6-6) in 2007 that kept Georgia out of the SEC Championship Game (and possibly the national title game).

But Richt also deserves the credit for getting the program to where it is right now.

Prior to his arrival, Georgia was known for wildly underachieving on the national scale with players who never materialized into superstars until they left.

That still happens at times now, but the program is more known for being on the brink than being an afterthought.

Is the former more frustrating at times?

Surely, it is, but Richt gives Georgia a puncher's chance, and that's all anybody can ask for.

He rededicated himself to recruiting in 2011 after a two down years on the field. Since that "dream team," Georgia has finished 11th or better in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings every year and has the nation's sixth-best class coming in as of Wednesday.

With Richt, Georgia has a chance. Without him, nobody knows.

That stability is important and a big reason why Richt is worth the money.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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2015 Defensive Recruits Who Will Have Huge, Instant Impact Freshman Seasons

Defense wins championships. It's a phrase uttered all over the sports world, football included. And on the defensive side of things, these recruits are some of the best and will make immediate impacts for their respective programs. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer dish out which 2015 recruit they believe will make the biggest impact at their school.

Which of these defensive studs do you think will make the biggest splash?

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Alabama Football: Breaking Down Crimson Tide's 2015 Senior Bowl Participants

As college football coaches hit the road for last recruiting, and the week before Super Bowl week progresses, the football world’s eyes are on Mobile, Alabama, this week for the 2015 Senior Bowl.

The annual college All-Star Game for players who graduated from college draws a hoard of NFL coaches and scouts to get a look at players who could have previously been overlooked by teams.

It’s an important step in the NFL draft process, and one that can be a jumping-off point for some lesser-known prospects’ NFL careers.

Alabama has four now-former players going through the process this week. Let’s take a closer look at each, some initial impressions out of Mobile and what their pro prospects look like right now.

 

Jalston Fowler

Fowler’s done just about everything at Alabama—blocking, running the ball, catching passes out of the backfield. That kind of well-rounded skill set could be good news at the next level, per NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread:

In 2014, Fowler played mostly fullback in Lane Kiffin’s offense and shone doing a lot of those things, eventually being named a team captain. He is playing running back at the Senior Bowl and is already impressing with his technique.

Bleacher Report’s Sanjay Kirpalani has already seen some of that in Mobile:

While fullback is becoming sort of a dying breed in the NFL, with the general philosophical shift to a wide-open passing attack, Fowler could carve out a nice, long career if he can continue to succeed in pass protection.

CBSSports.com has Fowler as the top fullback in this year’s draft with a fourth- to fifth-round projection. If Fowler keeps impressing this week, that number could start to rise.

 

Austin Shepherd

Shepherd has been a right tackle just about his whole career at Alabama. He was a two-year starter on that side of the line to finish his career and was one of the Crimson Tide’s most consistent linemen.

That could be changing a little bit for Shepherd at the next level.

BamaOnline.com’s Charlie Potter reports that Shepherd has been playing a different spot on the line:

Shepherd hasn’t played guard since his sophomore year of high school, he told AL.com’s Michael Casagrande.

"When you're a tackle, you're by yourself," Shepherd said, per Casagrande. "You're in a wide open space and you kinda control yourself. When you're at guard, you're in a little box. You pretty much have bumpers on each side of you."

Maybe this is just an experiment. CBSSports.com and NFL.com both list Shepherd as a tackle, with CBSSports ranking him No. 13 at the position. But things could change for Shepherd this week.

 

Arie Kouandjio

Kouandjio will undoubtedly be compared to his brother, Cyrus, which is understandable. But they are two different players.

Cyrus was more of a pass-protecting tackle, whereas Arie is a more powerful run-blocker. His measurements on the first day were a little surprising, but in a positive way:

Bleacher Report’s Jeff Risdon actually thinks Arie looks a little better than his brother at this point in the process:

The comparisons between the Kouandjios make sense. But Arie will try to avoid one fate his brother suffered, with a late slide down the draft board that saw him not taken until the second round.

CBSSports.com has tabbed Arie as the No. 3 guard in this class with a second-round grade.

 

Blake Sims

Sims wants to play quarterback, even though he played running back his first two years in Tuscaloosa. But he showed in his one season as a starter that he has what it takes to lead an offense through the SEC.

Still, questions about his size, specifically his height, will follow him. And some of those fears were confirmed at the Senior Bowl’s weigh-in:

But Sims will do what he can to show that he can follow in the footsteps of quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, shorter quarterbacks who have succeeded in the NFL.

Per the Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Jones, Sims is on his way to doing that right now:

He still has a long way to go, though. CBSSports currently ranks him the No. 8 quarterback, with a sixth- or seventh-round projection.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Projecting 2015 College Football Freshman All-American Team

Projecting the 2015 Freshman All-America Team is a difficult assignment, and not just because it's January. That statement would hold true at any place on the calendar.

Last year's team, for example, featured nine former 5-star recruits: Leonard Fournette, Myles Garrett, Cam Robinson, Quin Blanding, Adoree' Jackson, KD Cannon, Malik McDowell, Mackensie Alexander and Nick Chubb. But it also featured Ja'Von Rolland-Jones of Arkansas State, who in high school ranked outside the Top 2,800.

Obviously, these predictions can't all be correct. They can't account for all of those out-of-nowhere seasons, those overlooked recruits at smaller schools. They can't account for injuries, either.

What they can do is nail as many of the usual suspects as possible. To do that, we've considered not just the skill of next year's freshmen, but the opportunity each prospect has for playing time.

Christian Kirk, for example, is my favorite wide receiver in the class. I love the way he plays, and I don't think he has a steep learning curve. He is good enough to make this team, but he's playing at Texas A&M next season, which means he's fighting for targets against Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds, Edward Pope and Ricky Seals-Jones.

He didn't make the team for that reason.

Sound off below and let us know where you agree/disagree.

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