NCAA Football

LSU Football: 4 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

LSU head coach Les Miles cannot wait until March 7. The date marks the first day of spring practice, which will allow Miles to evaluate his 2015 Tigers for the first time.

To the excitement of Miles, he will not have to deal with as much roster turnover as in years past. LSU only had three early entries into the NFL draft. The Tigers did also lose some major senior contributors, but they are well-equipped to fill the holes.

Spring practice will be a crucial time for players who were backups last season. They can show why they deserve to be starters or rotation players next season.

The competition will be intense on both sides of the ball as Miles and his staff will search for players they can trust.

The pressure on Miles to improve on LSU's mediocre 8-5 record is immense. Last season was the first since 2009 when the Tigers failed to win at least 10 games.

Here are four players who can help get LSU back to 10-plus wins next season. But first, they must take a major leap forward this spring.

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Miami Football: 5 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

The Miami Hurricanes must replace half of their starters from the 2014 season, and spring practice is a perfect opportunity for returning players to stake a claim at the vacated positions.

Al Golden's crew is entering its second week of spring practice, and top performers will slowly—and consistently—begin to separate themselves. The following players have some of the most favorable outlooks on the roster, but they must take advantage of their chances this spring.

One athlete listed transferred to "The U" during the offseason, while a pair of 'Canes were sidelined last year, and two more logged little meaningful action.

The expected depth chart and current injuries were the predominant factors in compiling the list.

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Michigan Football: 5 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

Spring practice starts this week for Michigan football, and head coach Jim Harbaugh will finally get to see his new team take the field. Harbaugh spent the week before practice tutoring NFL quarterback prospects and making appearances at Michigan basketball and hockey games versus archrival Ohio State.

Harbaugh continues to be a crowd favorite wherever he appears, but that popularity will wane quickly if he can't find success next season.

Michigan fans are hungry for victories—it’s been a decade since the team won or shared the Big Ten title, and with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State basking in national acclaim, patience is scarce in Ann Arbor.

These players have the most to gain as Harbaugh begins to evaluate talent for next season.

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Ohio State Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

The Ohio State coaching staff is coming off a busy week that revealed one of its top priorities for the 2016 recruiting cycle—defensive backs.

Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes sent out 10 offers, eight of which went to cornerback and safety prospects.

Here's a look at whom Meyer and Ohio State targeted on the recruiting front last week. 

 

Marlon Character, 4-Star Safety (2016)

The Buckeyes' first offer of the week went out to Marlon Character, a 4-star safety out of Atlanta. The 6'0", 170-pound defensive back has put together a solid list of offers with schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Wisconsin already in the mix. 

Ohio State will have to work hard to pull Character from the SEC, though. 247Sports is forecasting a battle between Georgia and South Carolina, with the home-state Bulldogs as the early favorites. 

The Buckeyes might be too late to the party. Last month, Character told Jake Reuse of UGASports.com that he was nearing a final decision. With the 4-star safety looking to commit early, Ohio State's chances are looking slim. 

 

Nygel Edmonds, 4-Star Cornerback (2016)

Looking to add depth at cornerback, the Buckeyes would love to add Nygel Edmonds, a 4-star cornerback from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ohio State joined schools such as Auburn, Clemson, Louisville, Miami, Penn State and Tennessee when it offered on Monday. 

At 5'11" and 181 pounds, Edmonds brings the kind of athleticism to the corner position that Meyer covets. His high school coach—Ralph Potter—explained why so many schools are throwing their hat in the ring, via Ward Gossett of TimesFreePress.com.

He's pretty much the prototype for what colleges are looking for in a corner prospect. He has all the physical tools. He's tall -- well, long -- good speed; a good cover guy. He could also play safety, and he played some wide receiver for us last year and will play more there next season. But I think corner is where folks see him at the next level.

Edmonds has already wracked up 22 offers, but his recruitment hasn't narrowed enough for any recruiting expert to predict where he'll end up. 

 

Dylan Singleton, 4-Star Cornerback (2016)

Ohio State's invasion of the SEC footprint continued on Tuesday when it offered 4-star cornerback Dylan Singleton out of Lawrenceville, Georgia. 

Rated as the No. 27 cornerback and the No. 281 prospect overall, Singleton's recruitment has really picked up recently. Georgia, Auburn and Ohio State have offered in the last three months after he entered 2015 with schools such as Duke, Georgia Tech and Kentucky vying for his pledge. 

According to Jake Rowe of 247Sports, Singleton made plans to visit Auburn and Georgia over the weekend. The Buckeyes will have some ground to make up, but with only seven offers to date, they're one of the top schools on his offer list.

 

Antwuan Jackson, 4-Star Defensive Tackle (2016)

The Buckeyes took a bit of their focus away from defensive backs to offer one of the top defensive tackles in the country in Antwuan Jackson. 

The 4-star prospect is rated the No. 56 recruit overall and the No. 10 defensive tackle nationally, and he has an offer list that's absolutely loaded with top programs. Schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame and USC have offered, and Ohio State joined the fight with an offer on Tuesday. 

According to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports, Jackson wants to make the trip north from his home in Ellenwood, Georgia, to visit the Ohio State campus.

“I’ve never been to Ohio State. I think I’ll get up there this summer," Jackson said, via Kurelic. "Ohio State has a great program for football and academics. I love how Coach [Urban] Meyer coaches.”

The Buckeyes will have to battle in order to get Jackson out of the SEC, however. South Carolina leads the way in 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions followed by Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Georgia. 

 

Kareem Felder, 3-Star Cornerback (2016)

Ohio State fell to Virginia Tech on the field last season, so Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are hoping for a little payback on the recruiting trail after offering current Hokies commit Kareem Felder last Thursday.

The 3-star prospect is rated the No. 87 cornerback nationally and the No. 24 recruit in the state of Maryland. Felder committed to the Hokies on February 7 over offers from Boston College, Iowa, North Carolina, Rutgers and West Virginia. 

Felder is a physical corner who packs a huge punch when he lowers his shoulder. He's athletic enough to make an impact in the return game as well, boasting a versatility that makes him an attractive athlete for Meyer. 

"He's a fast kid, physical, can really cover," said Robinson, Felder's personal coach, according to Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times. "Really an all-around good player. A playmaker who has really good ball skills. I guess his biggest attribute is his physicality and his tackling as a corner."

 

Zechariah McPhearson, 4-Star Cornerback (2016)

Considering he's a 4-star cornerback from the talent-rich state of Maryland, Zechariah McPhearson has had a relatively quiet recruitment so far.

With just eight offers on the table from schools, highlighted by Boston College, Clemson and Michigan State, the 6'1", 180-pound speedster has been thrilled with the recent upswing in attention, according to Scout's Mike Wilson.

McPhearson told Charles Doss of Land-Grant Holy Land that Ohio State was really impressed with his speed.

"They mentioned my speed, and how I can produce big plays defensively with it," McPhearson said, via Doss. "They said they were really impressed with my highlight film."

Meyer loves playmaking defensive backs with speed, and McPhearson—who has been clocked running a 4.49 40-yard dash—can fly.

 

Andrew Pryts, 3-Star Safety (2016)

February has been a huge month for 3-star safety Andrew Pryts.

The 6'2", 195-pound defensive back out of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, added offers from Stanford, Alabama, Kansas State and Michigan before the Buckeyes offered on Thursday, according to his Twitter profile

Rated the No. 47 safety and the No. 678 prospect nationally, it's seems the top colleges around the country are seeing something the recruiting services have missed. With an impressive offer list that includes 14 schools—a number that's growing rapidly—it's clear Pryts is underrated and due for a rankings boost. 

Pryts has the frame to grow into an outside linebacker position similar to the way Darron Lee did for the Buckeyes a season ago. As of now, though, he's projecting to safety, and 247Sports is forecasting he'll wind up with James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions. 

 

Demetric Vance, 3-Star Wide Receiver, Safety (2016)

Over the last few years, Ohio State has made a point of disrupting Michigan's top in-state recruiting pipeline—Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

The Buckeyes have stolen the top three prospects from Cass Tech over the last two recruiting cycles, and they're looking to continue that trend in the future. They're favored to land 4-star offensive guard Michael Onwenu for the '16 class and 4-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones for 2017.

But Meyer wants more, and that became evident when the Buckeyes offered Demetric Vance. 

The 3-star prospect is a two-way player who lines up at receiver and safety for Cass Tech. He boasts offers from Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Purdue along with Ohio State.

Rated as the top safety in Michigan, that's the position he's projecting to at the next level. 247Sports' Crystal Ball pegs the Spartans as unanimous favorites, but Ohio State's recruiting success in Detroit can't be overlooked. 

 

Naquan Jones, 3-Star Defensive Tackle (2016)

Naquan Jones, a 6'4", 283-pound mauler out of Evanston, Illinois, was the second defensive tackle to receive an Ohio State offer this week.

With offers from Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin (among others), Jones is getting heavy interest from schools in the Big Ten footprint. He has a high motor and is very aggressive on the interior—a disruptive force Meyer needs after missing out on big defensive tackle targets such as Christian WilkinsNeville Gallimore and Terry Beckner Jr. in 2015.

The recruiting experts are waiting for a battle between Michigan State and Wisconsin to materialize with Notre Dame, who has yet to offer. If Brian Kelly and the Irish continue to drag their feet, the Buckeyes could establish themselves in the fight for Jones' commitment 

 

Brandon Burton, 4-Star Safety (2016)

The week's final offer went to one of the country's top prospects in Brandon Burton.

The 4-star safety out of Gardena, California, is rated the No. 76 prospect nationally and the No. 5 safety. Boasting offers from Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC, Burton is one of the most sought-after recruits in the country.

That means the Buckeyes have a lot of ground to make up in the race for his commitment. 

In Meyer's three-year tenure with the Buckeyes, he's only managed to land one prospect—Marcus Baugh—from the state of California. It's hard to pull players from the West Coast away from the Pac-12, and that challenge will be hard to overcome in the battle for Burton. USC has a 92 percent chance of landing the 4-star defensive back, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball. 

That could change, though, if the Buckeyes convince Burton to make the trip east for an official visit. 

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Aggies Football: 4 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practice

The Texas A&M Aggies have seen a lot of change on their coaching staff since the end of the regular season. There are a number of players who should benefit from those changes during spring practice and going forward.

There are three new coaches on staff: John Chavis is the defensive coordinator, Aaron Moorehead is the wide receiver coach and Dave Christensen is the offensive line coach. Chavis is going to coach the linebackers, so Mark Hagen will move over and coach the defensive tackles.

The coaching changes will result in a lot of opportunities for players; those who were previously backups will start over with a clean slate.

This is a look at some of the players who have the most to gain in spring practice.

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Dorial Green-Beckham: 2015 NFL Combine Results, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Depending on the perspective, Dorial Green-Beckham may have the most to gain of any wide receiver at the NFL Scouting Combine, or his fate has already been determined due to the string of issues off the field. 

Whatever happened in the past, there's no denying that Green-Beckham was going to have every team watching his workout in Indianapolis closely. The former Missouri wideout is a physical freak, as he showed during the combine workouts. 

Let's take a deeper dive into Green-Beckham's workout now that it's in the books. 

The first major test of the day for DGB was the 40-yard dash. It's not a perfect measure of what a wide receiver can do on the field, as it doesn't show separation, but teams do love to see what a player does on a straight sprint. 

Green-Beckham's best 40 time was unofficially 4.49 seconds. It wasn't the best of the day, though considering he's 6'5" and 237 pounds, there were some rave reviews like this one from Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt:

Here's what his 40-yard dash looked like, via NFL.com:

One player Green-Beckham has drawn physical comparisons to is Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Before the combine began, Albert Breer of NFL.com spoke to one AFC college scout who brought up the correlation. 

He's one of the best receivers I've ever seen. He's special. He's gigantic; he has tremendous body control, balance; he runs like a deer and can leap out of the gym and high-point the ball. He's special. It's impressive. If not for all that stuff, he'd be the best receiver to come out since Calvin Johnson.

Yet for all the physical comparisons that Green-Beckham might draw to Johnson, ESPN's Todd McShay pointed out Megatron had superior speed:

It's unfair to compare anyone to Johnson, especially before he enters the NFL, so Green-Beckham shouldn't pay attention to those kinds of things and should focus on playing to the best of his ability. 

The main question with Green-Beckham is all the baggage he brings, but NFL on Fox analyst Charles Davis notes that Oklahoma's coaching staff was high on the wide receiver's maturity last year:

Keep in mind, Green-Beckham did that without being able to play in an actual game when the NCAA denied his waiver request to play immediately after transferring.

One area where DGB did shine was in the gauntlet drill, which is when receivers catch two passes from a quick turn and run a straight line from sideline to sideline catching five passes. 

Per Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star, Green-Beckham was smooth in his actions in that particular area:

That's important because he hasn't played an actual game since the Cotton Bowl in January 2014. Teams want to see how his hands look, if he's able to make catches out in front instead of waiting for them to come into his body. 

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the 49ers were at least impressed enough to meet with Green-Beckham at the Indianapolis airport.

Overall, it was a good day for Green-Beckham. He may not be the "next Calvin Johnson," because only a very select few players can warrant praise that high. Most of them are already in the NFL.

The controversial wideout did exactly what he needed to do on the field. Green-Beckham displayed good speed, especially given his size, and showed strong hands and ease running the field during catching drills. No one questions the talent that will be on display every Sunday. 

More than any other player in this class, especially among the marquee guys, Green-Beckham will have to answer for everything that happened off the field. He's got supporters in Oklahoma, which is sure to help his case, but that may only carry him so far. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dorial Green-Beckham Impresses at Combine, but Stock Dependent on Past Concerns

No matter what former Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham does on the field during the 2015 NFL combine, his athletic performance remains secondary to the questions he has to answer about his off-the-field actions. 

There is absolutely no way to deny Green-Beckham's physical talent

He stands 6'5" and weighs 237 pounds. Comparisons are readily made to the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson, because the two are very similar physically. 

The comparison is a little over the top, though, as Detroit Lions staff writer Tim Twentyman illustrated: 

However, many were impressed with Green-Beckham's speed at his size. 

The former Missouri Tiger ran an unofficial 4.50-second 40-yard dash in his first attempt. The wide receiver bettered himself on his second run, clocking in at 4.49. 

Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen wasn't shy about the growing interest in Green-Beckham: 

Fox Sports' Joel Klatt was also blown away by the massive wide receiver's speed: 

While the Johnson comparison may be over the top, Green-Beckham is much closer to Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, who was selected seventh overall in the 2014 draft and played tremendously well as a rookie. 

If the two stood back-to-back, they would appear nearly identical. At least year's combine, Evans measured in at 6'5" and 231 pounds. He also ran an official 4.53-second 40-yard dash. 

The one major difference between the two is arm length. 

Green-Beckham's arm length is surprisingly small for a 6'5" wide receiver. His arms measured at 32.5 inches. Evans, on the other hand, has arms that are over 35 inches long. 

The wide receiver's workout went beyond an impressive 40-yard dash time, too. 

The native of Springfield, Missouri, appeared smooth and athletic with strong hands during position-specific drills, as The Kansas City Star's Terez A. Paylor noted: 

A strong workout even has some, such as NFL Network's Brian Billick, wondering if Green-Beckham can overtake the class' top three wide receivers—Alabama's Amari Cooper, Louisville's DeVante Parker and West Virginia's Kevin White:

Bleacher Report's Dan Hope even placed Green-Beckham in elite territory: 

Green-Beckham is clearly talented. He owns first-round ability. His past history, though, remains the primary concern. 

Talent will eventually trump trepidation in nearly every instance, but when that happens is in question. 

Will a team be willing to spend a first-round pick on Green-Beckham with his history? Does it make the pick easier if he starts to slide into Round 2 or 3?

Each organization will make that decision individually. 

"I think the consistent problems for [Cleveland Browns wide receiver] Josh Gordon are going to leak over and hurt his draft stock," an anonymous NFC director of personnel told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "He couldn't keep himself out of trouble, had no structure growing up and didn't take coaching at Missouri. He's tall and fast and has good hands, but he can't be trusted. Why would you take a guy like that before the third day?"

All of the physical talent in the world doesn't mean anything if that player can't stay on the field. 

Gordon led the NFL in receiving yardage during the 2013 season, but he's also been suspended numerous times and he won't play during the upcoming season as a result. 

Like Gordon, Green-Beckham was dismissed from one university before trying to unsuccessfully transfer and eventually pursuing a path to the NFL.

Green-Beckham was dismissed from the University of Missouri after a particularly disturbing allegation that involved a burglary and pushing a woman down a flight of stairs. It wasn't his only incident during his time in Columbia either. The wide receiver was arrested on drug charges at one point. He was also suspended twice by head coach Gary Pinkel before his eventual dismissal.

When asked about his past history at the combine, Green-Beckham didn't provide much on an answer. 

"All the decisions I made, I wish I could take them back," the wide receiver offered, via SI.com's Joan Niesen. "It happened. I was young. I made mistakes. I understand that.

"I know what’s at stake. I know what type of person I am, and I realize what the NFL is looking for in me as a person. I want them to know that I’m going to go out there and give it my all."

Hint: The NFL isn't worried about what you can do on the field. They're scared to death by another public relations nightmare. The league took hit after hit because of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and others. Green-Beckham isn't exactly entering the league at the best time based on his past history. 

Some team will eventually take a chance on a truly talented player, but it will only do so once it's completely comfortable with the person more so than the player. 

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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College Football Players Who Could Lose Their Starting Jobs in Spring Practice

During spring practice, some players move up the depth chart into starting positions. The most common reason for this is because the previous starters have left their programs.

Another reason is because the previous starters aren't the best options for their programs anymore. We'll take a look at a few situations in which the latter may apply.

The players in this slideshow were starters for their teams in 2014. Therefore, players who could be considered starters heading into 2015 but did not start in 2014 are not included.

If there are other cases in college football where you believe this will happen, please include them in the comments section below.

With that, here's the list.

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Ranking Every SEC Coach by Their Recruiting Skills

Ranking each SEC coach by his recruiting prowess is like ranking each All-American by his numbers: No matter which order you choose, quality candidates will place near the bottom.

Such is the curse of being the most dominant recruiting conference in the country—and maybe of all time. The SEC's average grade in the 247Sports composite team rankings (244.4) over the past four cycles is almost 35 points higher than the second-best conference (Pac-12, 209.6) and over 40 points higher than No. 3 (Big 12, 199.6).

To grade this list, then, we had to make some subjective calls. But most of it was grounded in numbers.

How have head coaches recruited at their current schools? How did they recruit before that? And almost as important, how did their current schools recruit before they got there?

Sample size was also a heavy factor, so newer head coaches have a chance to ascend as they spend more time in the SEC.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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Texas Longhorns' Aggressive 2016 Recruiting Approach Key to Landing a Top QB

In the search for a quarterback commit, the Texas Longhorns' 2015 class ended with last-minute dramatics. Head coach Charlie Strong and his staff are making sure that doesn't happen in 2016.

In the past week, the Longhorns offered a scholarship to seven quarterbacks—in-state prospects Tristen Wallace, Zach Smith and Bowman Sells; Minnesota's top-ranked player Seth Green; and the Florida trio of Feleipe FranksXavier Gaines and, most recently, Ervin Barrett.

All but Sells are 4-star prospects; Sells is a 3-star talent with a strong arm.

Texas now has offered 11 quarterbacks in the class.

The Longhorns previously offered 5-stars Malik Henry and Shea Patterson, who have committed to Florida State and Ole Miss, respectively. They also offered 4-star, in-state talent Shane Buechele and 4-star Dwayne Haskins, the No. 2 overall player from the state of Maryland.

The aggressive approach is warranted after the team watched Zach Gentry flip his commitment from Texas to Michigan and then missed out on flipping Texas A&M signee Kyler Murray.

Entering the final week of recruiting, the Longhorns only had a pledge from Matthew Merrick, who agreed to a grayshirt offer.

It was two days before signing day when Strong was able to flip Kai Locksley from Florida State. The 11th-hour scenario worked out in Texas' favor. This time.

Strong and his staff want to make sure last year doesn't happen again.

It'll be tough to flip Franks (LSU commit), Smith (Baylor), Green (Oregon) and Wallace (Texas Tech), but the coaching staff is confident it can land one of the players on its board. Additionally, Barrett, Gaines and Buechele all are uncommitted, and the Longhorns are working hard to get their pledges.

Of these names, Haskins and Buechele are two who can be intriguing as recruiting continues.

Both have great arms and solid footwork. Haskins is a great athlete who focuses on being technically sound. He also throws well on the run. Buechele loves to extend plays by running out of the pocket and giving extra effort. He is the son of former pro baseball infielder Steve Buechele, so he understands poise and letting the game come to him.

The Longhorns under Strong seem to have everything going at every position except for quarterback. Tyrone Swoopes threw for only 57 yards in a Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas in December. He threw for more than 2,400 yards and 13 touchdowns last season but also had 11 interceptions.

Will Texas fans see Swoopes again as the starter? Or does 2015 begin with the era of redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, who, according to Chris Hummer of 247Sports, is ready to accept the responsibilities of being a starter?

Whatever the case, look for the team to build depth at the position. The 2016 class will need a reliable quarterback, and there are plenty of names out there. The good news for Texas fans: The Longhorns coaches are on the prowl.

It's just a matter of Texas landing one. Or flipping one.

 

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

 

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3 Alabama Players Who Can Help Themselves the Most at the 2015 NFL Combine

You probably already know all of the big names in Alabama’s 2015 NFL draft class.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper, safety Landon Collins and running back T.J. Yeldon all decided to forgo their senior seasons to enter the draft and should be the first three Alabama players off the board.

CBSSports.com expects Cooper and Collins to go in the first round, while Yeldon is projected as a second- or third-round pick. Those three are at the NFL Scouting Combine this week and will likely solidify their standing as some of the top players in the draft.

But there are eight other former Crimson Tide players in Indianapolis this weekend who aren’t necessarily slam-dunk prospects.

There’s a lot of room for growth for several Alabama players. Here are three who can make a big difference in their draft stock with strong showings.

 

Blake Sims

There isn’t much doubt in the top two. Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota are a cut above the rest in this year’s quarterback class.

The rest is a little convoluted.

UCLA product Brett Hundley is probably the No. 3 quarterback, though after a little bit of a drop-off. Then there’s a group that includes Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson.

Simply put, Sims can make some moves.

The biggest concern with Sims is obviously his size. He stands 6'0" tall, and while that isn’t a death knell for quarterbacks anymore, it still doesn’t help.

Otherwise, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com mentioned some of his weaknesses like accuracy and decision-making.

If Sims can impress scouts when he throws, he could make a team with a mid-round quarterback need rethink its pick. He isn’t going to overtake Winston or Mariota, but he can still make things interesting after those two are off the board.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean notes he’s not lacking for confidence either:

 

Austin Shepherd

Shepherd may suffer from the curse of the tweener.

With an arm length of 32.875 inches, he isn’t quite long enough to be an elite tackle, where he played in college. But at 315 pounds, he may be a little too small to be a guard.

Right now, Zierlein pegs him as “an NFL backup with the potential to become a starter.” Shepherd can show that he can be a starter this week.

So far, Draft Breakdown's Joe Marino suggests he hasn’t exactly impressed:

Still, Shepherd is relishing his role as one of the draft’s more unknown prospects.

“You just have to go out there and show what you’re made of,” Shepherd said Wednesday, according to Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star. “There’s really no pressure. You just have to go out and perform and get someone to notice you. Just one team has to call your name so get someone to notice you and call your name.”

 

DeAndrew White

White was a valuable weapon at Alabama.

He benefited from playing next to a superstar wideout in Cooper and could make defenses pay when they keyed too heavily on No. 9.

But a season-ending knee injury in 2012 is giving NFL teams pause over whether he will be able to make the jump to the next level and be an effective player there.

At 5’11”, White’s size won’t help him stand out in the least. Therefore, displaying his speed will be key.

"I just have to go out there and show what I can do," White said, according to AL.com’s Michael Casagrande. "People might think I can't run or I can't do this, I can't do that. I guess we'll see. I don't have anything to say back to it. Just watch the film."

The 40-yard dash can be an overrated event, with teams putting too much stock into how slow or how fast a guy runs (see: Raiders, Oakland). For White, however, it will be critical in his evaluation.

His speed made him a track star in high school. Now, he needs to prove that it can help him carve out a successful career in the NFL.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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5 Nonconference Home-and-Home Series College Football Fans Want to See

Yes, it's a couple of months late, but you have another Christmas gift. Surprise, it's a handful of exciting nonconference college football games!

OK, not really. I don't have that kind of scheduling power.

But it is the offseason, which means we're counting down the days to actual football and wondering what life would be like if we could craft the perfect games. That got us thinking about the nonconference games we'd love to see.

Which five nonconference home-and-home games would pique the most interest from fans everywhere? The answers are in the following slides. 

Note: These selections are matchups that cannot already be scheduled as home-and-homes, as recorded by FBSchedules.com.

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2016 Recruits Who Are Better Than Their 2015 Counterparts

Each college football recruiting class carries a unique identity.

Sure, the same powerhouse programs produce an abundance of talent on an annual basis and certain states consistently cultivate more prospects than others, but it's important to press the reboot button every year before scouting a new crop of recruits.

We began extensive 2016 film study early in the cycle and have continued to monitor America's next wave of playmakers through their junior campaigns. As usual, certain standouts seem to trump positional counterparts of the past cycle, while others don't quite measure up to the same standard. 

Based on their progression to this point, here's a look at the top-rated 2016 players who seem to set the bar higher than premier positional predecessors of the 2015 class. 

 

Prospects listed are No. 1 at their respective position in 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Predicting the Top 20 Defenses of the 2015 College Football Season

Does defense really win championships?

Reigning national champion Ohio State finished 19th in total defense last season, while semifinalist Alabama was 12th overall. The other playoff teams, Florida State and Oregon, finished 63rd and 89th, respectively.

Unlike a strong offense, which seems to be easier to maintain, keeping together a consistent defensive unit from one year to the next is much tougher. Only seven schools that finished the 2014 season ranked in the top 20 in total defense were also at that level in 2013, but six of those finished in the top 20 in 2012 as well.

Being able to sustain a strong defense, year in and year out, can go a long way toward ensuring long-term success. But can the programs that have managed to do so the last few years continue with this trend, or are they in line for a setback next season? And who will take their place among the top 20 defenses in college football?

Click through for our predictions on the 20 best defenses in 2015.

 

NOTE: Number of starters returning is based on whether teams list 11 or 12 starting positions, because of lineup variation, on Ourlads.com.

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Odds on Where Monster 5-Star DT Rashan Gary Lands at Next Level

Rashan Gary, a 5-star defensive tackle, per 247Sports' composite rankings, is still searching for the college of his dreams. The talented defender from New Jersey has offers from all of the top programs, but where will he go?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer handicaps the odds on where he will land in the video above. 

Where will Gary play at the next level? Check out the video, and let us know! 

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CFB Bracketology: Which 2015 Class Will Have Biggest Impact This Season?

The brackets aren't just for college basketball anymore. College football is putting the top eight classes from this past recruiting cycle and pitting them against one another. 

Adam Lefkoe sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder to break down which school got the best class for its needs in 2015.

Who got the best class based on its immediate needs for 2015?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Why JT Barrett Has Medical Advantage over Braxton Miller in Ohio State QB Battle

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With three high-profile players each at different points in their college careers vying for one starting spot, Ohio State's star-studded quarterback competition isn't going away anytime soon.

In fact, it's even made its way to the NFL Scouting Combine.

Former Buckeyes in attendance have been asked who they think will start for their alma mater next season—Jeff Heuerman no-answered, while Devin Smith predicted Cardale Jones—and Braxton Miller's personal quarterback coach, George Whitfield, has been making the media rounds. 

Speaking to Dave Briggs of The Toledo Blade, Whitfield propped up his client, proclaiming that if he were healthy, Miller would be one of the top quarterbacks at the combine this year.

“There have been very talented guys and very prolific guys. Jameis [Winston] has been very prolific and Marcus [Mariota] is very talented," Whitfield told Briggs. "But Braxton is a super hero.”

The only problem with that is Miller's not healthy at the moment, still working his way back from a torn labrum suffered in his throwing shoulder last August. Whitfield, however, claims Miller's not far off, proclaiming the two-time Big Ten MVP will be full-go by the start of the summer and prepared to play quarterback for the Buckeyes.

That's good news for Miller, but despite Whitfield's optimism, it hardly settles who will be starting at quarterback for Ohio State come Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech. In fact, the only member of the Buckeyes' "Magnificent Three" who's yet to be mentioned here yet—redshirt sophomore-to-be J.T. Barrett—could very well be the one who's on the field in Blacksburg next fall.

With nearly six months to go until Ohio State's season opener, how does the most talked-about quarterback competition in the country stack up? Here's a look at where each competitor stands.

 

J.T. Barrett

The case for

Like Miller, Barrett's status remains up in the air as he deals with an injury, although the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year's health issue isn't nearly severe as his predecessor's.

Fracturing his ankle in the Buckeyes' regular-season finale against Michigan last year, Barrett has been out of commission for the past three months, having the screws stemming from surgery removed this past week. That's a positive sign for Barrett's progress, although he'll likely be limited at best come spring practice.

Nevertheless, Barrett is expected to be full-go by the start of the summer, which was enough time a year ago for him to surpass Jones on the Ohio State depth chart before Miller's injury. Even with little-to-no on-field activity in the spring, fall camp should be plenty of time for Barrett to show that he's back in his freshman season form.

And what a season it was.

Rewriting the Buckeyes' record book while leading Ohio State to an 11-1 record and the Big Ten Championship Game, Barrett showed a strong command of the OSU offense as a true dual-threat quarterback.

As a result of his stellar campaign, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native earned honors as the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, Big Ten Freshman of the Year, CFPA National Freshman of the Year, third-team AP All-American as well as a fifth-place Heisman Trophy finish.

Should Barrett's health progress as expected, he simply may be the Buckeyes' best option from a talent standpoint. It also wouldn't hurt that as the youngest of OSU's three competing quarterbacks, Urban Meyer knows that he could continue building with Barrett in the future. 

 

The case against

Or maybe Barrett's age could come back to bite him.

Despite coming off the best statistical season by an Ohio State quarterback, the 6'1", 225-pound Barrett has become somewhat of an afterthought in the upcoming signal-caller derby. Some of that has to do with the fact that regardless of who plays for the Buckeyes in 2015, Barrett seems to be a lock to be OSU's starter in 2016.

And while that could work in his favor, it could just as well work against him, as Meyer may be apt to go with either Miller or Jones, each of whom will presumably leave the Buckeyes program the following year.

Add in that Jones will see a majority—if not all—of the first-team reps this spring, and there's certainly a compelling case that the nation champion-winning quarterback could build an insurmountable lead on Barrett and Miller.

While he may be the best blend of what both Jones and Miller and bring to the table, Barrett's relative youth could certainly relegate him back to again waiting his turn. It's hard to imagine a player of his caliber sitting on the bench after the season he just enjoyed, but that's just how crazy the quarterback situation in Columbus is at the moment.

 

Braxton Miller

The case for

As Whitfield said, Miller is a "super hero." And while that might be a bit of hyperbole on his part, Miller's stats sure do seem super human.

Prior to last year's season-ending injury, Miller was poised to break nearly every Ohio State career passing record and could very well have finished second in career rushing. In three seasons, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native has accumulated 8,346 total yards and 84 total touchdowns, earning two Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year awards, two Chicago Tribune Silver Footballs and a 2012 fifth-place Heisman finish in the process.

On a Buckeyes team that went 24-2 from 2012-2013, Miller was the best player and the only reliable offensive weapon in Ohio State's undefeated 2012 campaign.

And although Miller's on-field accomplishments speak for themselves, you could also make the case that Meyer owes it to the fifth-year senior to get him back on the field, if healthy.

After all, Miller originally injured his shoulder attempting to lead the Buckeyes to an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson at the end of the 2013 season and re-injured it rushing back for the 2014 campaign. When healthy a year ago, Miller's status as OSU's starter was never in question.

"Braxton is our quarterback," Meyer said on Sept. 29, a statement he would later go back on. "To be fair to Braxton, [he's the] Big Ten Player of the Year."

If truly back at full strength, there are few players in the country as electrifying as Miller. And the Buckeyes may just owe it to him to let him try to prove it once again. 

 

The case against

While what Whitfield says about Miller's recovery sounds good in theory, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

According to Meyer, the originally planned recovery time for Miller was close to 12 months. And while each injury heals at its own respective rate, extra caution was to be taken with Miller this time around considering his shoulder was initially re-injured while rehabbing from an injury.

Add it all up and it's hard to imagine Miller really being 100 percent by the start of June as Whitfield claims. It's also worth noting Whitfield's biases could very well be in play here, as he is Miller's paid personal trainer.

Given that Miller has gone the longest without playing, is dealing with the most serious injury for a quarterback and likely will be the last one at full strength, the odds seem to be stacked against Miller. If he truly is a super hero, as Whitfield claims, this summer may be the time to show it.

 

Cardale Jones

The case for

The most recent of Ohio State's highly hyped trio to play, Jones has momentum on his side. And as Meyer often likes to tout, in college football, momentum is everything.

Leading Ohio State to wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in the national championship game, Jones stepped up in Barrett's absence when it mattered most.

More than that, he added a new dynamic to the Buckeyes offense, his cannon of an arm providing a consistent downfield threat while opening lanes for running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 200-plus yards in each of Jones' three starts.

"All three of those guys are very good deep ball throwers," Meyer said of his quarterbacks. "But Cardale is the first guy I've had, I want to say since [former Utah quarterback] Alex [Smith] that is up there that can high-low a pass over the top of a defensive line and that's rare. That's hard to find those guys."

At 6'5" and 250 pounds, Jones isn't as elusive of a runner as Miller or Barrett, but he did show a power running style that gained critical yards throughout the Buckeyes' postseason run. Jones was so impressive in his three starts that many thought he would enter this year's NFL draft, where some projected him to be a first-round pick.

"It's everybody's dream and goal when they play football or any collegiate sport to make it to the next level," Jones said. "But at my point in my career, I feel like it's best for me to go back to school, and one of the most important things for me to do is to graduate. When I make that decision to play in the NFL, I want to be done with school."

Ohio State's undisputed No. 1 quarterback heading into spring practice, Jones insists Meyer didn't promise him a starting role upon his return. But it's hard to imagine that he isn't aware that with his current head start, he could build an insurmountable lead on his two talented teammates. 

 

The case against

While Jones' three starts were certainly impressive and came on college football's biggest stage, they still were just three starts.

Between himself, Miller and Barrett, Jones has by far the smallest resume and may have ultimately benefited from not having any extensive film for opponents to study. While that shouldn't necessarily be held against Jones in his quest to hold on to his starting spot, it may give him a shorter leash than Barrett and Miller.

With so much unknown about Jones still, it remains possible his three standout games could prove to be an aberration. Even more likely, while talented, he could still be beaten out by one or both of the players who used to sit ahead of him on the OSU depth chart.

Of course, the Buckeyes' quarterback competition still contains questions about all three competitors, and until they are answered, this conversation will continue. But with nearly six months to go until the season opener, it continues to take shape, Whitfield's update on Miller being just the latest twist.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Nebraska Football: Position-by-Position Grades for the 2015 Recruiting Class

Nebraska Cornhuskers football fans have now had a couple of weeks to digest the 2015 recruiting class and see how it fits into the overall roster makeup—with great thanks to the Omaha World-Herald. We’ve already looked at the Super Six of this class, but now it's time to take a step back and see how the class as a whole looks, position by position.

The overall class grade for each position will consider two factors. First, it will look at how much raw talent was brought in at each position. Second, it will look at the team's needs at each position and how the incoming class fills those needs.

 

All measurables and rankings from 247Sports.

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2016 Recruits Most Likely to Turn Down the SEC

Many in the college football world say the SEC is the most talked-about conference of the Power Five.

With seven of the last nine championships, the conference has reason to proclaim itself as college football's elite conference. But those national titles, the bowl victories and the multiple success stories don't always mean a recruit is an automatic get.

Ohio State, a Big Ten school and the defending national champion, will support that—as would Oregon, a Pac-12 school and the national runner-up. And don't forget TCU, which made its case as a Big 12 powerhouse.

And then there's last year's champion, Florida State, an ACC representative. And let's not forget Boise State, which quietly does its thing in the Mountain West Conference only to dazzle fans with bowl-game performances—particularly the Fiesta Bowl.

Recruits have their choices of where they want to play college football, and while the SEC is still an attractive conference, it definitely has its competition. Many elite players in the class of 2016 could end up playing football in other conferences.

Here are 10 5-star recruits to keep an eye on.

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Which College Football Conference Will Be the Best in 2015?

The SEC is the safest bet to rule college football next season, no matter how deep the Pac-12, how top-heavy the Big Ten and Big 12 or how underrated the ACC.

Why? Because in college football, past results predict future performance. The relationship isn't causal, but there is a strong correlation (.76) between the five-year F/+ program ratings at Football Outsiders and how a team fares the next season.

This concept can be extended to conferences—or at least it can in theory—so we've collated the average F/+ ratings from 2010 to 2014 and sorted by league.

The higher the F/+ rating, the better that conference has been than the FBS average (0.0). The next four columns show the percentage of each conference that falls in the top quartile, second quartile, third quartile and bottom quartile among Power Five teams:

Statistically, the SEC has been roughly twice as good as the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 the past five seasons.

The Big 12 has been comparable, especially with regard to distribution, but its top-tier teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU) have been far worse than those of the SEC (Alabama, LSU, Georgia).

Why is this important? Again, because as strange as it feels, looking backward is a big part of looking forward. It might even be the biggest part. Football Outsiders elaborates on this point:

The strongest indicator of how a college football team will perform in the upcoming season is their performance in recent seasons.

It may seem strange because graduation enforces constant player turnover, but college football teams are actually much more consistent from year to year than NFL teams. Thanks in large part to consistency in recruiting, teams can be expected to play within a reasonable range of their baseline program expectations each season. Our Program F/+ ratings, which represent a rolling five-year period of play-by-play and drive efficiency data, have an extremely strong (.76) correlation with the next year’s F/+ rating.

If you disregard advanced stats, that's fine; you're well within your rights. And at least you have Charles Barkley in your corner! But in many ways you're arguing that two and two make five.

The SEC has been the best conference since 2010—and not by an insignificant margin—which gives it the best chance to be the best conference in 2015. Is it guaranteed? No. But it's probable.

And that's not even where the argument ends.

After past performance, the next strongest indicator of success is recruiting. How much talent has each conference signed?

Here's a look at the four-year recruiting averages, courtesy of the 247Sports composite rankings:

The validity of star ratings is a popular argument, but again, as Matt Hinton of Football Study Hall explained last February, the numbers suggest they matter. They matter a lot.

There are obvious exceptions (Oregon, Michigan State, et al.), but in general the teams that recruit better play better.

"Arguably, [Alabama has] the greatest collection of football players ever assembled for a college team if the recruiting services are correct," South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said ;at SEC media days last summer. "And they're pretty much correct."

But even if you're dubious of recruiting rankings, the margin by which the SEC dominates should mean something. The table above is persuasive, but here are some additional fun facts:

  1. Seven SEC teams (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M and Tennessee) land in the top 13. No other conference boasts more than two. The Big Ten and Big 12 boast one apiece.
  2. TCU and Arizona would be the No. 13 recruiting school in the SEC. Wisconsin and Georgia Tech would rank last. All four won either their division or their conference last season. 
  3. The No. 11 SEC recruiting school (Arkansas) would be No. 3 in the Big Ten and Big 12, No. 4 in the ACC and No. 5 in the Pac-12.

The extent of the SEC's talent advantage can be argued, but the existence of said advantage cannot. Or at least it can't be argued rationally.

This year, unlike previous years, the SEC combines that talent advantage with coaching stability, too. Twelve of 14 teams (86 percent) have head coaches entering at least their third seasons.

No other league has more.

In the past, predicting the SEC to be the best league in America was so obvious you didn't need to write it. It was like saying after the 2013 NBA Finals that LeBron James was the best player in basketball.

That the Big Ten (Ohio State) and ACC (Florida State) won the past two national titles has stained the SEC's luster, but it hasn't changed reality. Predicting the SEC to be the best league next season is like saying LeBron James is still the best player in basketball: no longer accepted as fact, but still almost definitely true.

Earlier this offseason, I collated the way-too-early rankings from multiple media outlets. The consensus had 10 SEC teams (Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M) inside the top 28.

For emphasis: Ten inside the top 28!

It's not blind faith or SEC BIAS! informing those opinions, either. It's logic derived from some form of the numbers above.

The SEC has played like the best conference and recruited like the best conference, which gives it the best chance to stay the best conference, even if it didn't (and doesn't) win the national title.

Sometimes simple answers are the best.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35.

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