NCAA Football

Kevin Sumlin Aiming for Texas A&M to Be Tougher, More Physical in 2015

There aren’t too many college football coaches who can send a loud, distinct message without saying a word, but Kevin Sumlin recently pulled it off at SEC media days.

When the Texas A&M coach walked through the front door of the Wynfrey Hotel, he was accompanied by approximately 900 pounds of players, easily making the Aggies this year's biggest contingency.

Specifically, representing the Aggies were Germain Ifedi, Mike Matthews and Julien Obioha, who are all linemen. Not making the trip were the young quarterback, any of the speedy receivers or even the pass-rusher who set the program record for sacks last season.

“It’s kind of cool, he brought the fat kids,” offensive tackle Obioha said. “That’s really, really nice.”

Although Sumlin isn’t about to ditch the spread or make major wholesale changes to the program, he does want this year’s team to develop a different personality. In short, he wants them to toughen up both mentally and physically.

“We need to be better and tougher,” Ifedi said. “Five losses is unacceptable.”

But if you look at the Aggies' recent draft history, the offensive line is where the program has really made its mark (minus Johnny Manziel). This last draft tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was the 21st selection, by the Cincinnati Bengals, and guard Jarvis Harrison was taken in the fifth round by the New York Jets.

In 2014, Jake Matthews was the sixth-overall pick, by the Atlanta Falcons, and in 2013, Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel went second to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

So that’s three straight first-round draft picks in the same number of years, and yet the Aggies still developed a reputation as not being tough enough, especially when it counted the most.

Last season Texas A&M averaged 4.6 yards per carry on just 421 attempts. This resulted in 149.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked 12th in the league. Against SEC opponents the average dropped down to just 3.8 yards per carry.

It gave up 26 sacks and was 13th out of 14 teams in turnover margin at minus-seven. Texas A&M converted 40.78 percent of its third-down opportunities, which put it in the middle of the league (73 of 179 attempts), yet the more the season progressed, the more the Aggies struggled to run for a first down on third-and-short or in goal-line situations.

“At times last year, it seemed like we didn’t have the tools together to run the ball,” Ifedi said.

Thus, Sumlin made two important additions to his coaching staff with the aim of improving the Aggies’ biggest concerns. The first was veteran SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis, who had previously had the same role at LSU and Tennessee.

The other was to hire former Wyoming coach and Utah assistant Dave Christensen as offensive line coach and run-game coordinator. His addition made nowhere near the same splash with fans as Chavis, but it could have a huge impact in this fall.

What makes Christensen such an interesting addition was that even though he was an offensive lineman himself at Washington (1980-82), he was Gary Pinkel’s offensive coordinator when Missouri adopted the spread.

While at face value Pinkel and the spread would seem to go together about as well as chocolate and anchovies, what spurred the switch were back-to-back losses to Bowling Green in 2001-02—and some coach named Urban Meyer. When Meyer moved on, Pinkel asked his replacement Gregg Brandon to teach the Tigers offensive staff the scheme.

Missouri ended up playing in the Big 12 Championship Game in both 2007 and 2008, quarterback Chase Daniel finished fourth in voting for the 2007 Heisman Trophy and Christensen was on the short list for assistant coach of the year honors including the Broyles Award. Not surprisingly it led to a head coaching opportunity, and from 2009-13 his teams went 27-35 at Wyoming with two bowl appearances.

“Schematically, I think he brings attitude and experience to the table,” Sumlin said. “It gets back to what I said. We've had to change our practice style. I think we came into the SEC with an attitude that, hey, we want to win right now, and the best way to do that is by scoring points and then building off of that with recruiting and generating excitement and doing those things. We've done that. Now let's take the next step and, from a recruiting standpoint, develop a depth standpoint that we need.

“I've said it before. The SEC is not only a line of scrimmage league. It's a line of scrimmage and depth league.”

Christensen arrived at College Station with a reputation of being as straightforward as demanding and not hesitating to be brutally honest with his players.

So his initial message would be important, and sure enough it was that the line had to be tougher and more physical.

“I think everybody bought into that,” Matthews, a senior center, said. “We understand that maybe we were a little softer than we needed to be. Being offensive linemen, you have to be really physical guys, and he’s really pushing on that.

As for Matthews’ reaction to that first position meeting, he said, “I loved that. That’s the stuff I wanted to hear.”

Since then, Christensen has told his linemen they’re the most talented group he’s ever had and the Aggies should be able to do what they want up front. He has also tweaked their approach, installing more zone-read and inside zone plays and putting a heavy emphasis on attention to detail.

The players say nothing is drastically different, maybe the hand placement on a certain block or the way someone steps, but they know those small alterations can potentially lead to much bigger things.

Like having more confidence in the running game, which can only make the Aggies offense more challenging and unpredictable.

“You want to see that look on defensive linemen’s faces… “ Ifedi said.

  

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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How Tate Martell's Commitment Shakes Up 2017 QB Recruiting Class

Less than two weeks shy of his junior season, 5-star quarterback prospect Tate Martell committed to Texas A&M on Thursday evening. 

The 5'11", 180-pound prospect picked the Aggies over fellow finalists Michigan, Washington, Alabama and USC. He'll join top-ranked 2014 quarterback recruit Kyle Allen and Texas high school legend Kyler Murray on a crowded depth chart in 2017:

Rated 12th overall in 2017 composite rankings and first among dual-threat talents, Martell is one of the most impressive players in America. He collected nearly 3,000 total yards and 45 touchdowns in 2014, leading Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas) to its sixth straight state title and national championship consideration.

He joins TCU pledge Shawn Robinson as the only 5-star quarterbacks to announce their collegiate decision in the 2016 cycle. Martell actually first committed in middle school, accepting a verbal scholarship offer from Washington before eighth grade.

Robinson and Martell boost the future fortunes of two Texas programs, while sending other coaching staffs searching elsewhere for options behind center. They have company when it comes to contemporaries who also puled the trigger on early pledges.

Danny Clark (Ohio State), Jake Allen (Florida), Sean Clifford (Penn State), Kellen Mond (Baylor), Chris Robison (Oklahoma), Bailey Hockman (Georgia), Braxton Burmeister (Arizona) and Lowell Narcisse (Auburn) are each 4-star quarterbacks in the 2017 class who already announced collegiate intentions.

Among the 22 total 4- and 5-star quarterbacks in this cycle, 10 are set to start their junior high school campaign already committed to a college team.

The situation at quarterback becomes convoluted earlier every year. If your program doesn't land a top-tier passer at least 12 months shy of national signing day, that player could be difficult to find.

Of course, each of these commitments is strictly verbal and non-binding. It's almost a guarantee at least one 2017 quarterback will change his decision before signing day because of coaching changes, depth-chart concerns or alternative opportunities that appear more ideal. 

With Martell off the board, it forces a few marquee teams to re-establish 2017 recruiting priorities. His announcement immediately impacts Alabama, Michigan and USC.

The Trojans were runner-up in this race and tugged on his heartstrings as a former Southern California resident. Martell's longstanding relationship with head coach Steve Sarkisian wasn't enough to seal the deal days after it was announced 4-star 2015 signee Ricky Town opted to leave the program midway through his first college training camp.

USC still has true freshman Sam Darnold and 4-star 2016 commit Matt Fink to provide youth at the position. Former top-rated quarterback recruit Max Browne, now a redshirt sophomore, is likely to ascend into the starting role once senior Cody Kessler departs.

Keep a close eye on Hawaiian standout Tua Tagovailoa, who also holds an offer from Oregon. He is the top-rated dual-threat quarterback who remains uncommitted, though USC could also target in-state talent such as Los Angeles-area 4-star Tristan Gebbia.

Michigan is sure to remain a team in the spotlight for quarterbacks, considering head coach Jim Harbaugh's history at the position. The new Wolverines staff is on track to sign its third 4-star quarterback since arriving, as long as Indiana product Brandon Peters remains on board.

Dylan McCaffrey is probably the most notable fallback option in Ann Arbor. The son of former Stanford and Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey threw 22 touchdowns as a sophomore, per MaxPreps, and is rated fourth nationally among pro-style passers.

Alabama never appeared primed to land Martell, so this shouldn't be seen as much of a blow in Tuscaloosa. Head coach Nick Saban signed 5-star California quarterback Blake Barnett in February and holds a commitment from 4-star 2016 Texas dual threat Jalen Hurts.

Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin seems motivated to infuse his attack with increased mobility behind center. Martell certainly would've fit the bill there, but other options are in place.

Alabama is always selective at quarterback, but early offers went out to a small collection of 2017 prospects. Georgia recruit Jake Fromm may be the most viable candidate to land in a Crimson Tide uniform, though Saban must contend with South Carolina and Ole Miss.

Martell's commitment leaves Indiana product Hunter Johnson as the only 5-star passer who enters his junior season undecided. Tennessee and Notre Dame are top contenders.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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The Ballad of Chad Kelly's Last Chance

OXFORD, Miss. — The only thing that's certain for Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly is that this is it. This time there won't be any more "second chances," not with his checkered past.

Like it or not, Kelly is poised to become the most interesting man, or at least the most intriguing man, in the Southeastern Conference in 2015. And while his character may be up for debate, his resume is not. When it comes to football, he's always won. High school state titles, JUCO national titles—he even won the Punt, Pass & Kick competition four times.

Don't think for a moment that he couldn't do the same with Hugh Freeze's stacked Ole Miss offense. If he can just beat out reigning backup Ryan Buchanan and dual threat DeVante Kincade to start at quarterback.

Despite all the winning, Kelly is known throughout college football as "that kid who gets in trouble." Through a roller coaster six-year stretch leading up to his arrival in Oxford, his highs and lows can only be described as extreme.

It began at Red Lion High School in Pennsylvania, where Kelly was suspended for seven games as a freshman and then kicked off the team as a sophomore for reasons that were never publicly disclosed. After moving to the Buffalo area, where there is no bigger last name in football, since his uncle Jim Kelly led the Bills to four straight Super Bowls, Kelly turned things around at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute.

Not only did Kelly became the region's top quarterback prospect since Don Majkowski (who played in the NFL from 1987 to 1996) and Ron Jaworski (1973-89), but as a junior, he was named a captain of both the football and basketball teams.

"Obviously he was a phenom," said Dennis Gilbert, the Marauders' football coach whose primary job is being a full-time police officer. "To me, the thing that set him apart was his level of competitiveness. Everything was competition to him, whether it was diagramming plays or getting water, he wanted to be the first to get water.

"He's a guy who practiced the same on Monday and played in games on Friday. It didn't matter what it was, even basketball or lacrosse, he competed like crazy."

Kelly's ultra-competitive nature has proved to be both the angel and devil on his shoulder. It helped drive him to 3,050 passing yards, 991 rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns as a high school senior, but it also led to his downfall at Clemson.

It didn't culminate until after Kelly redshirted, suffered a torn ACL in the 2013 spring game and feverishly worked to get back ahead of schedule. The spark was a decision not to go for it on fourth down during the 2014 spring game, a decision the competitive Kelly just couldn't let go. He yelled and screamed and even got into Dabo Swinney's face in front of 33,000 witnesses. Shortly after, he was dismissed from the program due to a "pattern of behavior."

A few days later, Kelly was at East Mississippi Community College, located just across the Alabama border in the small town of Scooba. It's a wrong-turn destination where there's no downtown, no luxuries and no distractions.

While running a spread offense like he did in high school, Kelly passed for 3,906 yards and 47 touchdowns, and the Lions averaged 539.1 yards, including 358.8 in the air, and 55.5 points per game. While posting an undefeated record, EMCC won by scores of 83-7 and 65-7, and the final five games of the regular season saw a combined 269-0 score.

"We threw it around a good bit," offensive coordinator Marcus Wood said. "He was a dynamic player all around. Good leader for us, did a good job. He came in with a chip on his shoulder and with a lot to prove.

"He's a very heady kid, kind of your gym rat kid. All he wants to do is study tape. He's always asking questions."

And just like that, Chad Kelly's football career was back from the dead. But for how long?

After the season, LSU, Indiana and even Alabama checked him out, but Kelly had been talking to Freeze even before unpacking in Scooba. The combination of the Rebels' pass-friendly offense and the open QB spot made Ole Miss a very attractive option for Kelly, but the clincher was the relationship that started developing with the coach.

Kelly needed a coach who could also provide fatherly influence. Freeze was up for the challenge and vowed to keep a closer eye on him off the field than on.

Kelly described their early conversations as having as much to do with life in general as ways to get the football to players like wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram. The coach and quarterback watch film—a lot of film—but also attend church and Bible study together.

"We both had faith in God, first of all," Kelly said. "He's pushing me on and off the field a tremendous amount. I'm just so thankful that he gave me an opportunity."

However, true to his tumultuous past, Kelly almost blew that opportunity less than two weeks after he signed to play with Freeze, when he was arrested following a 3 a.m. altercation at a downtown Buffalo bar and restaurant, according to the Buffalo News' Joseph Popiolkowski. He faced numerous charges after allegedly punching a bouncer and scuffling with police.

Kelly didn't provide any details about what his subsequent conversation with Freeze was like, only describing it as an extremely uncomfortable phone call. But when they hung up, the coach still stood behind the transfer. Freeze told Houston Sports Zone he and Kelly would "give it a go together." Kelly enrolled in January and eventually accepted a plea agreement to a non-criminal charge of disorderly conduct and 50 hours of community service.

"I've been through a lot, that I have," Kelly said about what he's learned. "You have to approach every day and try and get better on and off the field. You need to keep looking forward, don't ever look back."

So far, he's done just that.

At the urging of his coach, Kelly went on Freeze's now annual spring break mission trip to Haiti, where they and numerous other people in the Ole Miss program helped build a reservoir to provide clean drinking water for thousands of people.

Kelly also put real effort into his classes instead of just getting by, and described his offseason routine as watching film, working out, watching more film, studying and then watching even more film.

"All I can tell you is to this point I cannot be more pleased," Freeze said as training camp opened earlier this month. "The guy had a 4.0 GPA this summer, a 3.6 in the spring. One of the strength staff's favorite kids, finishes first in every drill.

"He's just like a lot of us, he's made some mistakes in the past and he's ready to move beyond them. I think he deserves that opportunity now."

Yet the coach wasn't going to just hand Kelly the starting job. It took Buchanan a year to start getting comfortable in Freeze's spread scheme, and only then did he win the job as Bo Wallace's backup last season. Just the pre-snap reads alone can take a long time to get down.

"Honestly there are about three or four things that happen in about a second, and sometimes right as I get the ball it happens in a heartbeat," said Buchanan, who ended the spring with a slight lead in the quarterback chase.

"It's who is more consistent and more comfortable [who will win the job]. It's being able to move the ball and not take the negative plays."

The opportunity is there for the taking. It's now on Kelly to earn the starting job and write the happy ending to his redemption saga.

"I'm ready to go," Kelly said.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

QB Ricky Town Adds New Dimension to Arkansas' 'Ground-and-Pound' Offense

Former 4-star quarterback Ricky Town has transferred to Arkansas, according to ESPN's Joe Schad. The No. 6 pro-style QB of the 2015 class, according to 247Sports, enrolled at USC in January but decided to transfer after fall practice started. 

What does the stud QB bring to the Arkansas Razorbacks? Watch Michael Felder break down what this means for Bret Bielema's squad. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Stock Rising for Tramonda Moore; 4-Star OT Has Nearly 20 Offers Since June

Two months ago, Tramonda Moore didn't have an FBS offer.

That's hard to believe when it's reiterated that he's 6'5", a deceptive 350 pounds and a two-way starter at offensive tackle and defensive tackle for John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City. It's also hard to believe considering Moore is a 4-star athlete—the only 4-star player in the state of Oklahoma, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

Moore picked up his first FBS offer from Oklahoma State in June. Fast-forward to now, and Moore is pushing toward 20 total offers and has the opportunity to play in the Big 12, SEC or ACC if he chooses. On Friday, Moore picked up his latest offer from Florida State.

Among the other schools that have offered: Oklahoma, Alabama, TCU, Georgia and Missouri.

"It's all kinda jumped out of nowhere with Oklahoma State and then Oklahoma," Moore said. "I was surprised when Alabama offered, then Georgia, then Missouri...it's been crazy, but I'm blessed to know I have the opportunity to play at a major college.

"I can't say I expected this, but my family and friends always say to keep working and keep grinding. They push me to work hard in the weight room and the classroom. I know the coaches want to see my work ethic and what you do when nobody's watching. I know I have to be better than good."

Ranked as the nation's No. 32 offensive tackle, Moore has the skills to play offensive tackle, offensive guard and defensive tackle at the next level. Moore said he has a preference to play tackle in college, but he is open to playing anywhere on the line in an effort to see early playing time.

"I know at defensive tackle, I can move around and make a lot of plays," Moore said, "but a lot of coaches say my career is at left tackle. I want to play left tackle at the next level."

At 350 pounds, Moore definitely has the mass to play tackle or guard. He's a streamlined 350-pounder, which makes him look closer to 310, and he has very strong legs that are huge. Moore bench presses 405 and squats 585.

The national hearsay on Moore didn't skyrocket until after he competed at a one-day camp at Alabama last month. He was offered a scholarship after the camp and has seen his stock rise ever since.

Friday's Florida State offer is huge, as he called Florida State a "dream school" as a kid.

Still, Moore said he doesn't plan on making a verbal commitment until national signing day. Weighing all of his options is a priority, and he said he doesn't want to make any decisions before first taking all of his official visits. A decision on signing day also gives him a chance to focus on his senior year at John Marshall.

"I've talked to my family and friends, and I'm going to take my time with everything," he said. "I really want to look at the depth at my position. I don't want to go somewhere where there are 10 or 12 guys already there. I want to go somewhere where I can get on the field immediately and be an impact on offense."

As for upcoming official visits, Moore said he is still in the process of finalizing the five schools. He doesn't have a clear favorite, but he said every school that has offered has a shot.

And what is Moore looking for in a winning program?

"I'm looking at the coaching staff. My position coach, can I relate with him?" he said. "How many players have been to the league? What is that program's winning percentage? I'll be looking at stuff like that.

"I also will be looking at depth, the players and just being around the campus. I want to see myself being there for the next four to five years. You want to see yourself comfortable, and I want to be able to be comfortable in finding a university."

Consider it all due diligence for someone who has watched his recruiting hit race car speeds in only a few weeks.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ricky Town Transfers to Arkansas: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Quarterback Ricky Town was once a highly regarded member of the USC Trojans' 2015 recruiting class, but he transferred to Arkansas Friday, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.

Town was a 4-star recruit and rated as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the 2015 class, per 247Sports’ composite rankings. He verbally committed to Alabama during the recruitment process, but eventually elected to enroll early at USC. Alas, he is now a member of the Razorbacks as their potential quarterback of the future.

The California native chose to stay close to home at USC, but the fact that the Trojans also brought in fellow quarterback Sam Darnold in the same recruiting class likely contributed to Town’s decision to transfer.

Garry Paskwietz of WeAreSC.com (h/t ESPN.com) commented on the youngster’s decision to leave USC and look for a new school:

For a young man like Ricky who grew up as an USC fan, it appears from the outside looking in as if he didn't give himself a chance to live out that part of his dream…

And at a school such as USC, Town not only found himself with another good quarterback in his own class but good quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart and more scheduled to arrive in the coming years.

It's also understandable if a big-time quarterback has at least one eye on a future professional career where the money being thrown around is substantial.

There didn’t appear to be any ill will within the USC program when Town elected to leave even though there was a chance he could develop into a future star under center. Coach Steve Sarkisian understood Town made an individual decision with his future in mind, per Paskwietz:

Everybody approaches it differently. It takes a certain type of make-up to envision three or four years down the road, it's not always about what is happening right now. Cody [Kessler] is a good example of that, he was third string once and now he's on the cover of every magazine in America. But hey, I transferred when I was in college so I don't judge anybody for staying or leaving, you have to make the decision that's in your best interest.

USC’s loss is Arkansas' gain because Town has the makeup to be a collegiate star and eventual NFL quarterback.

His footwork in the pocket immediately jumps out on film because he can evade pressure, plant and fire downfield with his quick release all in one fluid motion. He also boasts a strong arm that will help him beat cornerbacks in single coverage once he eventually sees the field.

Town probably won’t run for 100 yards a game, but he boasts impressive accuracy when throwing on the move and will keep drives alive with his ability to evade pass-rushers.

While Town will need to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, starting quarterback Brandon Allen is a senior, meaning Town will have an excellent chance to earn the starting gig as a redshirt freshman. Given that there isn't a current frontrunner to earn the position once Allen graduates, Town may have chosen Arkansas in part with the knowledge that he could potentially be starting next season.

From a pure talent perspective, Town is a future star in the making. Now all he has to do is prove it on the field for his new school.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 High School Games Featuring Must-See Recruit Matchups

The 2015 high school football season starts across America in upcoming weeks. Most programs begin competition by Labor Day weekend, embarking on long journeys in search of state championships.

Many of last fall's most dominant high school players are now on college campuses, which sets the stage for a new crop of star prospects to rise to prominence. A highly competitive recruiting landscape also includes a wave of unknown underclassmen who are aiming to claim their piece of the national spotlight.

A fresh slate of high-profile games features several showdowns between elite playmakers on both sides of the ball. Here's a look at some of the marquee matchups to monitor, highlighted by athletes determined to someday make an immense impact in college and beyond.

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Dear Football: The 2015 Elite 11 Story

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

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Inexperienced Georgia Defense Push Dawgs to Top of SEC East?

The Georgia Bulldogs are gearing up for the upcoming 2015 season, but a young Bulldogs defense has to mature quickly to carry its weight on the gridiron. Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson and College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discuss the Dawgs' readiness come this September.

How well do you think the Bulldogs defense will do this year? Hit up the comments section below.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Best Ways to Use Jabrill Peppers on Offense

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is considering using Jabrill Peppers in all three facets of the game, and the sophomore could bring much-needed versatility to the Wolverines offense.

Peppers can line up in multiple positions and fill a variety of roles, something he showed during his high school days. Consequently, Peppers can be more than a gadget player who only enters in specific formations.

That being said, Harbaugh has not committed to using Peppers on offense. Per MLive's Nick Baumgardner, the first-year coach said he's exploring the option.

If Harbaugh ultimately elects that it's a solid choice, he should be looking at a few particular ways to utilize Peppers.

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Georgia Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

The 2015 season is rapidly approaching, and the Georgia Bulldogs have a lot of work to do between now and the season opener.

When the Bulldogs start the 2015 season, they will be expected to win the SEC East and have a shot at making the College Football Playoff. But we all know the SEC is a gauntlet and only the strong survive. Georgia has the talent to win the East and the conference, but they will have to play consistent football week in and week out. If they can do that, they will be a relevant team in December and January.

Here are game-by-game predictions for the Bulldogs' 2015 season.

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Can a 2-Quarterback System Really Work in College Football?

This month, a dominant theme has emerged across college football. From Alabama to Oregon, Ohio State to Oklahoma, it has pervaded numerous prominent Power Five programs.

“Who’s going to be the quarterback?”

Fans and reporters have asked that question plenty over the past few months, no matter which program they’re following. Consider this: With two weeks left before the 2015 season begins, Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, South Carolina and UCLA are all looking for new starting quarterbacks, and none have true clarity (at least not that coaches are willing to speak about).

In case you’re counting, that’s all four of 2014’s College Football Playoff teams and six programs (Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma) with national titles since 2000. In other words, these aren’t bottom-of the-barrel programs. They’re the creme de la creme of college football, and even they’re facing uncertainty.

Some programs will resolve their quarterback scenarios before the season begins, but others will let it play out. Which begs the question: Will we see a true two-quarterback system this fall, and can it work?

While an old, hoary football cliche states, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback,” it isn’t necessarily true. In recent years, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer have found success with a dual-quarterback system.

Can it work in college football? Let’s examine.

Let’s make one thing clear: The ideal situation for any college football team is having one quarterback take the reins and prove himself a capable leader. Iowa’s season fell apart last year largely because that didn’t happen.

Coach Kirk Ferentz favored Jake Rudock, a steady but unspectacular leader, but C.J. Beathard and his big arm caught fans’ eyes by leading the Hawkeyes to a comeback win at Pitt when Rudock went down with an injury and a road win at Purdue with Rudock sidelined.

That discontent bubbled under the surface until Beathard’s father was quoted before the TaxSlayer Bowl that his son would consider a transfer if he didn’t start the game. He did, and although Iowa lost to Tennessee, Rudock left the program shortly afterward and wound up at Michigan as a graduate transfer (where he is battling Shane Morris for a starting role).

Ideally, you’d have a situation like the one Alabama faced a year ago. Senior Blake Sims and junior Jake Coker battled throughout preseason, and after Sims started the opener against West Virginia, he steadily separated himself from Coker. He earned the job for good with a 445-yard, four-touchdown effort against Florida and led the Crimson Tide to an SEC title and College Football Playoff berth.

That said, two-quarterback systems can and do work. Spurrier is famous for shuttling quarterbacks in game by game, series by series and even down by down throughout his career at Florida and South Carolina.

Two years ago, starter Connor Shaw played in every game, while backup Dylan Thompson completed at least one pass in eight games. Shaw was the clear No. 1, but Thompson saw time when necessary. And South Carolina won 11 games.

During Florida’s 2006 national title season, senior Chris Leak was the starter, but then-freshman Tim Tebow played a significant role with packages designed for him to run and make things happen. The arrangement worked fine: The Gators won the BCS national title.

However, they aren’t always palatable to those involved. This month, sophomore J.T. Barrett and junior Cardale Jones are battling in one of the most fascinating quarterback competitions in recent memory.

Last fall, Barrett stepped in for an injured Braxton Miller and led the Buckeyes to the brink of the College Football Playoff before suffering a season-ending broken ankle against Michigan. Jones took over and won the Big Ten title game and a pair of playoff games to clinch Ohio State’s first national title since 2002.

Miller has moved to H-back, leaving the two younger players to battle it out. There has been no publicized separation as of yet, and while their situation is different than the one faced by Leak and Tebow nine years ago, Barrett and Jones were asked about a two-quarterback system.

Unsurprisingly, they didn’t care for it.

Barrett told Eric Seger of ElevenWarriors.com that the offense's efficiency would suffer, and he said he had experience with the concept in high school:

We would switch every series. As a quarterback, it's kind of rough to do being that you can't get a real vibe off the defense and how they're trying to play us. They're not playing a quarterback as an individual, they're playing the offense. With that, it was hard at times, or more difficult at times, so I don't think it would be the best idea.

Jones agreed, telling Seger, “A two-quarterback system, I run three plays and run off the field, and he runs a drive or something like that, I don't know how well that would work as far as rhythm."

A two-quarterback system isn’t for everyone. If you have two players who have similar skills, it might prevent them from building a rhythm and create discontent in the locker room. If the season isn’t successful, pressure could build on the coach to pick a quarterback and stay with him, which could foment further discord (especially from the unlucky quarterback).

Former Ohio State quarterback Stanley Jackson, who was part of a two-QB system in 1996, told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com that the system "can bite you."

In that case, it’s better to hope a quarterback emerges and stick with him until he gives you reason to think otherwise.

However, if you have a pair of quarterbacks whose skills complement each other (much like Leak and Tebow's case), they can create matchup issues for defenses and give an offense life, sparking success.

Two-quarterback systems won’t take college football by storm overnight. But in the right situation, they can carry a team higher than it might have risen with one player under center.

Just remember that when the next prominent coach embraces the two-headed monster. It’s not as bad as you think.

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B/R CFB 250: Top 24 Defensive Ends

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

 

Other CFB 250 Positions

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all about college performance.

 

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

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Brady Hoke's Life After Michigan Football

The world is upside down for Brady Hoke.

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

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

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

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

So you test him:

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

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

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

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

You did not.

"They're the reigning national champs."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, is Ohio State the best team?

"They're reigning national champs."

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

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

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

You still didn't even say Ohio State.

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

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will they stumble along the way? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

Player ratings and stats courtesy of 247Sports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

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

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

Pretty much every other position has offered reasons for optimism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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