NCAA Football

South Carolina Football: Spurrier's 4 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

South Carolina's spring practice season is in the books now. It was a fairly quiet spring, which leaves some concerns. 

Head ball coach Steve Spurrier kept the annual Garnet and Black Spring Game as a relaxing contest where younger players earned some reps, and the projected starters coasted through the motions. 

Some of the concerns with the Gamecocks were not addressed much in the spring game because these will be concerns right through the heart of the season. 

South Carolina's offense played exceptionally well in the spring game, though the defense lagged behind. Sure, the defense had to sit back in coverage and were not allowed to blitz, but the defense still struggled regardless. 

Putting aside all of the positional and unit concerns, I think the biggest concern is that the spring was fairly uneventful. 

How will South Carolina know what the concerns are and how to fix them if the spring practice season didn't bring out a lot of issues that are probably there. 

Here are head ball coach Steve Spurrier's four biggest concerns post-spring practice. 

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Texas A&M Football: QB Matt Joeckel Will Transfer from Aggies

The competition to replace Johnny Manziel as Texas A&M's starting quarterback gained a little more clarity Wednesday, with the school announcing that senior Matt Joeckel, last year's backup, will transfer out of the program.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee tweeted a quote of confirmation from head coach Kevin Sumlin, who wished Joeckel the best:

Matt is the younger brother of former Aggies tackle Luke Joeckel, who protected Manziel's blind side during his Heisman campaign in 2012 before being drafted No. 2 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When Manziel was suspended for the first half of last year's season opener against Rice, Joeckel started in his place and threw for 190 yards on 19 attempts. He was competing this spring with sophomore Kenny Hill and early enrollee Kyle Allen—the No. 1 quarterback on the 247Sports Composite—for the right to start next season.

With Joeckel's departure, Hill and Allen will now battle only each other for the job. Hill is more experienced in Sumlin's system after learning under Manziel and Joeckel last season, but he was arrested in March for underage drinking (after being found passed out in a plant) and suspended from the team, per Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com.

That leaves Allen as a realistic, if not likely, candidate to start as a true freshman this season. According to Travis Haney of ESPN.com, he has turned some heads in practice since Hill's suspension, although he does not have the gunslinger approach of A&M's previous QB:

"I have loved my four and a half years at Texas A&M," said Joeckel, per the official team website. "I am glad I had the opportunity to play for Coach Sumlin, Coach (Jake) Spavital and the rest of the coaches...and I'll always consider myself a member of the Aggie family."

Joeckel has already graduated from the Texas A&M business school and will be eligible to play in 2014, per the NCAA's transfer policy.

David Ubben of ESPN.com floated TCU as a possible destination.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Mammoth OT Prospect Greg Little Named 247Sports' No. 1 Recruit in Class of 2016

The 2016 recruiting cycle is already starting to heat up, with early offers arriving in every corner of the country. Gregory Little, a massive offensive tackle from Texas, has been identified as the nation's No. 1 sophomore player by 247Sports, according to Brian Perroni.

The 6'5.5", 282-pound prospect stars at Allen High School, a powerhouse in the Lone Star State. The Eagles have claimed two straight state titles with 4-star 2015 quarterback Kyler Murray leading the charge.

Little stepped up as a starter last season and shined in an offensive attack that featured one of the country's top dual-threat playmakers behind center and weapons all over the field.

Junior wide receiver Jalen Guyton committed to Notre Dame in March. Murray's offer sheet features Ohio State, Oregon, Clemson and Texas A&M.

Little and fellow front-line phenom Bobby Evans helped pave the way during an unbeaten 2013 campaign. Evans, a junior offensive lineman, committed to Oklahoma last summer.

The Eagles' latest coveted college commodity thrived after a freshman position switch. Little moved from tight end to tackle during spring camp, Allen offensive coordinator Jeff Fleener told 247Sports reporter Brian Perroni.

“He took to it very quickly," Fleener said. "He definitely was able to use his leverage and wingspan to his advantage where he was probably still lacking a little bit in strength, just being a sophomore.”

Little may have been physically raw, but he overpowered opponents, nonetheless. He spent his sophomore campaign clearing out his side of the field while anchored at right tackle.

Despite his immense frame at a young age, Little displays tremendous coordination and athleticism. When you project continued improvement in physique and skill during the next two years, it's easy to understand why he belongs in any discussion about the top spot in 2016 recruit rankings.

College coaches have quickly reacted, sending a steady steam of scholarships to the sophomore.

Texas A&M, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Ole Miss extended offers during his first season as a starter. High-profile programs have continued to come calling for Little, as Michigan, Auburn and LSU are among his latest options.

Little, the son of former South Carolina linebacker Derrick Little, is sure to see his collegiate horizons expand in the coming months. The word is out on this dominant blocker and a bull's-eye is squarely on his back as one of America's most promising young football stars.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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The Life of a 5-Star Parent Through the Eyes of Ricky Town's Father

Seated comfortably more than 30,000 feet off the ground, Rick Town Sr. and his son Ricky Town were on their way back to Los Angeles after the latest recruiting camp trek. As they settled in for the journey home, the latest in a long line of sales pitches started without warning. This one came from an unfamiliar source.

"Ricky, we need you at Alabama," the man said with complete and utter desperation, hoping to make the most of this unexpected encounter. "I’m not joking; we need you. Sign your name here."

This was no coach or recruiter. This was a flight attendant who just so happened to work the charter flights for the Alabama football team. After he asked Ricky about the USC logo printed across his chest, he soon learned that he was speaking with one of the nation’s elite high school quarterbacks—who just so happened to be a former Crimson Tide commit—and his father.

The document he wanted Ricky to sign was a blank piece of paper, presumably some sort of impromptu national letter of intent. Ricky, 100 percent committed to USC, signed the paper with a smile as he and his father enjoyed this strange, but memorable, recruiting attempt.

"He asked us if we missed Lane Kiffin, then he showed pictures of coaches and players," Town Sr. said, laughing as he rehashed the story. "He was friendly and polite, and he did it for three-and-a-half hours. We had a blast."

Rick Town Sr. has a first-class seat to one of the most unique voyages in the sporting universe. He is the father of the nation’s No. 6 player in the class of 2015, according to 247Sports’ composite ranking. He is also a CEO of a land development company in Los Angeles—a position he has held for 15 years—and a former Division II football player.

He is remarkably sharp in both business and football, something that becomes evident after only a few minutes of conversation. It is natural but also calculated, and Town Sr. is no stranger to speaking about the process. He has spoken to parents at various recruiting camps, providing insight for others in a similar position seeking guidance.

He refers to recruiting as "the business," and also uses "Coach" to describe the various football people he is discussing. He is pro, and yet, he can’t help sounding like Charlie in the chocolate factory every now and then.

"I’ve gotten to meet Coach [Mack] Brown, Coach [Nick] Saban and other amazing coaches that are also amazing people," Town Sr. said. "My favorite part of this process, without question, has been getting to know these personalities and also seeing the storied programs and their stadiums."

The reason Town Sr. has gotten to enjoy these football palaces and become acclimated with legend after legend is that his son happens to be one of the most gifted quarterback prospects in the country.

At 6'4" and 205 pounds, Ricky Town already has the build of an NFL QB and the speed—right around the 4.6-second 40 range—of most gifted high school running backs.

Although he battled injuries during his junior season at St. Bonaventure in California, he is projected as a top-flight quarterback at the college level and perhaps beyond.

"Our analysts like Ricky Town because he's a complete quarterback," said 247Sports’ National Recruiting Director JC Shurburtt. "He has size, good arm strength and is incredibly accurate. We also value what he can do in pads in a full-speed game in a pro-style offense, which is a testament to his decision-making ability. He's a cool customer against pressure and excellent at reading defenses."

Although his physical gifts are what many will cite first, it's his mental approach that has coaches excited. 

"Ricky's football acumen is extremely high," Town Sr. said. "I know that's coming from a dad, however this and his maturity have been the biggest attraction to college offensive coordinators and head coaches."

It’s this total package that has had coaches lining up to speak to the golden-armed California wunderkind. And when they can't speak with him, chances are they're destroying the Towns' mailbox in an effort to make an impression.

They’ve been doing so for quite a while. 

"He received 125 letters on the first day colleges could send them," Town Sr. said. "He’s probably received between 7 to 10,000 letters in total. It’s unbelievable. He has boxes and boxes of them."

The road from promising high school quarterback with size to can’t-miss, 5-star prospect is one that you would think takes time. The reality of recruiting in its current form, however, is not the case.

Once word gets out, it’s out. From that point, the process takes over and the mail, text messages and phone calls begin to pour in.

"When Miami offered him, it quickly followed with UCLA," Town Sr. said. "His film really started to hit after that and he played in a couple of televised games. It was within six months that it really started to escalate."

Like anything else, all good things come with their downsides. In the instance of Ricky, the interest led to more camps, interactions and response.

His strengths and weaknesses have been (and will continue to be) dissected. And while the feedback is both respected and appreciated, it can become difficult to process everything over the long haul.

"Imagine trying to take golf lessons from dozens of different coaches a year, each with their own ideas on how to create the perfect swing," Town Sr. said when assessing the feedback. "While you love to hear knowledgeable coaches helping your son, this can be difficult for someone who is still maturing and learning a complex position to process."

Feedback is only a part of the 5-star treatment. Interest and a newfound celebrity status is another. It’s twisted to view high school juniors as celebrities, but as recruiting becomes more a part of the national spotlight, that’s exactly what they are.

It’s not something all players (and families) are ready for, but it’s something the Towns have been ably handling from a very early stage. There’s a support system in place—a "process" to steal a Saban term—although it doesn’t hurt to be ready for everything thrown your way.

"It was really about getting him grounded and balanced early on, but he does a real good job doing that himself," Town Sr. said. "But I’d say for the past two months, he’s had to readjust because so much has gone on."

Knowing when to get involved and when Ricky should steer the ship was a balance the two learned together. While recent national signing day nightmares have shown us just how disconnected players and their parents can be—look at Alex Collins and Malik McDowell, for starters—that has not been the case here.

There’s guidance at first, as you would hope, but Town Sr. has not wanted to be the focus. In fact, his role—at least on the communication front—has mainly centered around introductions.

"Once we established a relationship, my role diminished greatly," Town Sr. said on being the point of contact between Ricky and coaches. "Having my son grow the relationships was more important than anything I could possibly say or do. It was really building the bridge and letting Ricky cross it."

When it came to actually dissecting schools and offers, however, the Towns worked together. They set up criteria—putting nearly 20 years of CEO influence to good use. They formed plans going into visits, saw what they wanted to see and tried to separate themselves from the countless salesmen they encountered.

That might sound easy, but it’s not, at least not for most. College football coaches are some of the most convincing people on the planet, and recruits—along with their families—can be charmed after a two-minute conversation. It’s a coach’s job to do so.

"So many people asked me about coaches and recruiters and if you can trust them," Town Sr. said. "I try and tell them, politely, it doesn’t really apply. You have your own criteria and agenda and it doesn’t matter if they’re telling the truth. You need to dig into their system, get beyond the recruiters to your position coach and see how you relate. But more importantly, you need to learn how you relate to the system and the culture.”

That’s where USC comes in, the ultimate fit for the Towns in every way imaginable.

When Steve Sarkisian was hired, one of the first orders of business was to pursue Ricky Town—then an Alabama commit—to come play under new leadership.

While it may seem like protocol for a new head coach to check in on one of the state’s premier prospects, a player who grew up near the program, it was more than that. This, in many ways, is when USC truly showcased everything it had to offer after moving beyond turbulent times.

"The first few times we went to USC there was a sense of instability," Town Sr. said. "We didn’t get to see the campus like normal recruiting trips and they separated the parents from the players. It just seemed unstable. When Sark got the job and they really started coming after Ricky, we got the full treatment. We saw USC for the first time."

More than just a tour of the gorgeous campus, Ricky’s visit to USC included a gauntlet of football dialogue. Ricky spent hours with the coaches in the film room going over what offense he would be running. It turned out to be a similar offense to what he runs now, which is when the fit came into focus.

"After visiting, Ricky left saying, 'Dad, I’m going to USC,'" Town Sr. said. "I asked him to wait a week, think about it, and let me know on the following Saturday what he wanted to do."

The following Saturday Ricky woke up, came out of his bedroom and eliminated all suspense before breakfast. "I’m committing to USC today," he told his father.

And so he did.

Ricky plans to graduate early and sign his financial aid agreement in August. After he plays in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he will enroll at USC in January of 2015, according to his father. The suspense is over.

Since Ricky committed to the Trojans earlier this year, the calls have subsided. The mailbox is no longer filling up, and the boxes of mail are no longer taking up more space. Rick Town Sr. is no longer introducing, processing various pitches or worrying about his son’s eventual destination. That wasn’t the case when he was committed to Alabama, although it is now.

"We were prepared for Ricky to go anywhere that was the best fit for him," Town Sr. said. "The fact that it came full circle and landed in our backyard is a true blessing."

Other schools have backed off, recognizing that the Towns—together—have found their dream school, dream coaching staff and dream fit. There’s no sense even trying, not now, not after a well-thought process took its course.

Flight attendants, you’ve been warned.

 

Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. 

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Complete Previews for College Football's Top 15 Week 3 Spring Games

Week 3 of spring football games does not have the depth of last weekend, but it does feature just as many—if not more—name-brand programs at the top.

The Iron Bowl rivals, Alabama and Auburn, will both be in action, and none of the five most recent national title games has been without one of them. If Alabama is the closest thing we have to a current dynasty, USC was the closest thing before that—and the Trojans will play their spring game this weekend as well.

Steve Sarkisian will make his return to the home sideline at the Coliseum, which underpins a major theme of the weekend: coaching change. Besides him, two more of the five highest-profile coaching hires of the offseason—Charlie Strong at Texas and Chris Petersen at Washington—will also be making their public debuts.

So fret not about a hangover after last week's loaded schedule. This one isn't quite as good, but there will still be plenty to watch.

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Stanford Football: Will QB Kevin Hogan Have a Breakout Year in 2014?

Stanford QB Kevin Hogan led the Cardinal to a 2013 Pac-12 Championship, throwing for 2,635 yards and 20 TDs for the season. With outstanding RB Tyler Gaffney heading to the NFL, what does Hogan have to do to get his team back to the Pac-12 Championship Game and possibly a berth in the College Football Playoff?

Hogan is a standout QB in Stanford's run-first offense. Will head coach David Shaw give him the opportunity to throw more in 2014, or is it back to the ground-and-pound for the Cardinal? 

Check out Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down what to expect from Kevin Hogan in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital

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Stanford Football: Will QB Kevin Hogan Have a Breakout Year in 2014?

Stanford QB Kevin Hogan led the Cardinal to a 2013 Pac -12 Championship, throwing for 2,635 yards and 20 TDs for the season ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Heisman Winner Eric Crouch on Nebraska: Bo Pelini 'Locked In' as Head Coach

Former Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch caught up with Bleacher Report to discuss the Nebraska quarterback situation as well as head coach Bo Pelini's job security.

Sophomore QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. led the Huskers to a few huge wins in 2013, but he will be on a short leash in 2014. After impressive springs, QBs Ryker Fyfe and Johnny Stanton are ready to step in should Armstrong falter.

Check out Nebraska legend Eric Crouch break down the latest news after Nebraska's spring game with Adam Lefkoe.

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital

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Notre Dame Football: Grading Notre Dame's Post-Spring Depth Chart

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Between practices open to the media and Saturday’s spring game, we’ve had quite a few opportunities to check out the Irish in person.

We’ve been able to see a lot of different players in a variety of roles. With that in mind, it’s a good time to evaluate the current depth chart coming out of spring ball.

Just so we’re all clear on the guidelines used to grade the squad, incoming freshmen aren’t considered as of now, and neither are defensive back Cody Riggs and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels.

Our letter grades are based on the premise that a “C” is average, and that an average team is roughly around .500.

Away we go.

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Who Was Johnny Manziel Hanging out with at the Texas Rangers Game?

UPDATE: Wednesday, April 16. 10:09 a.m. ET 

Busted Coverage's Joe Kinsey reports one of their readers has identified Manziel's mystery friend as Kyndal Kyaire, a San Diego-based model and bottle service attendant at Fluxx Nightclub.

We can't verify this claim yet, but it looks convincing. 

---End of Update---

Call the Pentagon, the Mystery Team and dig up J. Edgar Hoover. There are happenings afoot in need of serious investigation.

Namely, there is an unknown female associating with Johnny Manziel, and our national security may be compromised if her identity is not discerned.

In other words, Johnny Manziel hung out with a shapely woman at a baseball game, and now we’re going to talk about it.

Joe Kinsey of Busted Coverage spotted the former Texas A&M quarterback attending Tuesday night’s Texas Rangers game with what some might consider a "new girlfriend."

They indulged in some very Johnny Football-ish poses.

We do not know who this woman is, but we do know that she is not Lauren Hanley, the FSU grad everyone determined was Manziel’s girlfriend earlier this year.

She’s also probably not Megan Fox, despite similarities.

Does anyone know who this woman is? And more importantly, what qualifies as a “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” for young superstars these days? You have to be seen in public together once? Or do you just have to hold the door for them at First Watch?

Johnny Manziel is many things, but predictable and patient he is not. Kids in their early 20s change it up often. Johnny is still figuring things out, and probably burning through potential love interests like NASCAR tires in the process.

Mix his stardom with the power of Tinder and it’s a small wonder Johnny Football isn’t wading through young women on stilts just to get to his car every morning.

We may never know who this young woman is to Johnny, and normally I’d say that doesn’t matter. Who cares who players date, right?

The NFL does, judging by the line of questions former UCF quarterback Blake Bortles faced at the 2014 NFL combine.

According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, Bortles went on The Dan Patrick Show and said teams asked him about his girlfriend, Lindsey Duke.

“Nothing was really that bad, I got a couple girlfriend questions,” Bortles said. “If I had one, some awkward ... if we come to town will she be there for dinner and stuff like that.”

Well, then. Sounds sensible and pertinent to me.

For one reason or another, teams are interested in who you’re seeing and what you plan to do with them. I guess it’s important to know with whom their potential superstars are associating.

You do you, Johnny. Just be prepared for the awkward girlfriend questions that follow. They're not just coming from the media these days.

  

"Why do we have to put a label on it?"

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Prices for College Football Playoff Packages Are Through the Roof

The first ever College Football Playoff will come to an end at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, next January, and you can be there in person to see history made for the small price of...oh, okay, never mind.

According to ESPN.com, which, on Tuesday, released a promotional packet from the CFP that includes various ticket packages for the national title game, it will cost a pretty penny to sit in Jerry's World for the crowning of a new national champion.

Here is a breakdown of the prices by package:

The Gold Level tickets get you somewhere between the 20-yard line and midfield. In the A package, you're sitting at either the 100 level (closest to the field) or 200 level; in the B package, you're sitting in the 300s (and still paying almost $5,400 for single occupancy).

The Black Level tickets get you somewhere between the 20-yard line and the goal line. As with the Gold tickets, the C package has you in the 100 or 200 level, while the D package has you up in the 300s. 

The White Level tickets are a little more varied.

The E package has you in the 100 or 200 levels but on the corner of an end zone; the F package has you in the 100 or 200 levels but directly behind an end zone; the G package is the same as the E but in the 300 level; and the H package puts you in the scant-used 400 level, albeit between the 20-yard line and midfield.

Of course, these packages also come with hotel accommodations, which makes the prices slightly less jarring. Still, Jerry Jones plans on raking in a whole lot of attendance money on January 12, 2015.

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Georgia Football: Mark Richt's 4 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

The Georgia Bulldogs held their annual G-Day spring game this past Saturday, but spring practice sessions didn't quite end there for head coach Mark Richt's squad.  The team was back at it Tuesday and will wrap up with its final practice Thursday.

In a season of change, most Bulldog fans have been encouraged by a few marked improvements on the defensive side of the ball (though there's still a lot of work to be done) and the poise of the offense under new full-time starter Hutson Mason.  That being said, there are still a number of concerns for the team heading into the summer months.

For Richt, these are the four biggest concerns following spring practice.

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Breaking Down Best Fit for 2015 4-Star Dual-Threat QB Lorenzo Nunez

Lorenzo Nunez, a 4-star dual-threat quarterback, will be a huge asset for whichever program lands him. The 6'4", 190-pound athlete has arm strength, playmaking ability and speed to score from anywhere on the field. 

The 2015 class is rich at the quarterback position, and Nunez is one of many stars who have the potential to become the future of a program. The Clemson Tigers are in the running, but the South Carolina Gamecocks are really pushing to land Nunez, the No. 8-ranked dual-threat QB in 2015

Check out 247 Sports National Recruiting Insider Kipp Adams break down which program is the best fit for Lorenzo Nunez. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital

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What Gus Malzhan Needs to See from QB Nick Marshall in Auburn's Spring Game

Nick Marshall's first go-round as a starting quarterback in the SEC worked out just fine last season. Just a year-and-a-half removed from being a defensive back at Georgia, the Pineview, Ga., native won the starting quarterback job at Auburn two-and-a-half weeks before the start of last season and came within 13 seconds of winning a national title.

The thought of "what could have been" eats him up.

“He beats himself up all the time,” cornerback Trovon Reed said, per AuburnTigers.com. "He says ‘We could have won, we could have won.’ I believe in him 100 percent. I know he’s going to take us back to the promised land.”

Malzahn's track record producing 1,000-yard rushers (11 in eight seasons as a college coach) likely means that the Tigers will be potent on the ground again in 2014. But if Marshall can evolve as a quarterback, this offense will be even more difficult to defend.

Auburn will hold its annual spring game this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and here's what to look for during the debut of "Marshall 2.0."

 

Touch

Auburn's offense wasn't complicated a year ago. They pounded the rock with a multi-dimensional rushing attack and then took the top off the defense when the time was right. Marshall's critics pointed to his lack of touch as the one thing that's limiting Malzahn from truly unleashing the full playbook. The scheme worked last year, and now the coaching staff has a firm grasp of what Marshall can do and what he needs to work on.

Touch on his intermediate routes is the most glaring issue.

He proved in his first season as starting quarterback that he's an elusive runner with track-star speed who can also launch the ball 70 yards with the flick of a wrist. But he sacrificed accuracy when he took off velocity on short and intermediate routes, which has been a point of emphasis this spring.

With 6'2", 216-pound D'haquille Williams, the top junior college wide receiver in the class of 2014, joining the team over the winter, Marshall now has another big-time option over the middle and as a deep threat. The duo of Williams and rising junior Sammie Coates will present matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.

But they'll be even more haunting if Marshall can keep the defense honest over the middle.

 

Don't Always Swing for the Fences

There's no questioning Marshall's arm strength. Whether it's on the run or in the pocket, he proved in his first season on the Plains that stretching the field isn't an issue, with 8.3 yards per attempt.

According to Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said that the goal this season is for Marshall to complete 65-70 percent of his passes after completing 59.4 percent of them in 2013.

“We track it everyday in team settings, whether that’s scrimmage or just team versus defense, 11-on-11. His completion percentage has gone up,” Lashlee said. “It’s up a little bit in 7-on-7 as well. I think that goes back to sometimes he hits the check-down. There’s nothing wrong with that. He knows where everybody is going to be.”

So what does that mean in the spring game? 

Marshall needs to make the smart decision, which isn't always the one that will result in six points. If he ignores deep options that are covered in favor of hitting his checkdowns and moving the chains on routes over the middle, it'll serve as a sign that he has progressed as a quarterback.

 

Diversify the Portfolio

Coates was Marshall's favorite target last season, and at times, it looked as if he was the only target. Coates caught 42 of Auburn's 173 completions last season and is a proven commodity as a deep threat (21.48 yards per catch). So, in the spring game, Marshall needs to spread the wealth around.

A lot of attention will be paid to the newcomer Williams, but Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray, Marcus Davis, Melvin Ray and tight end C.J. Uzomah all return and should have bigger roles as receivers in 2014. 

Get those guys some work.

Malzahn and Lashlee know what worked last year, and now's the time to expand upon that by getting other receivers involved in the game plan. 

If he can do that, this Auburn offense will be tough to stop.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

 

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Grading Penn State's Post-Spring Depth Chart

With the completion of Penn State's annual Blue-White game, head coach James Franklin has reached his first milestone as a Nittany Lion. 

While Penn State returned plenty of key contributors from the 2013 squad, there were also a fair share of newcomers who impressed during spring ball. With a new staff in place, it was a fresh start for everyone involved. 

How does each position group look after spring practice? 

Each group was assessed based on both talent and depth currently at the position. Freshmen who have yet to enroll were obviously not considered in the assessment process.

Here are the position grades for Penn State's post-spring depth chart. 

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Florida Football: Will Muschamp's Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

Now that the Florida Gators' spring practices are over and players are on their own for a few months, coach Will Muschamp has nothing but time on his hands. Some of that time will be spent recruiting. Other hours will be used up on studying film and what not. The other days will be spent worrying about the lingering issues heading into fall camp.

Like any team, Florida has its fair share of concerns that need to be addressed before the opening kickoff against Idaho. But there’s really only a couple that should keep coach up at night.

The wide receiver rotation will figure itself out. The defense has the pieces to once again be one of college football’s best. And the offensive line looked promising in the spring game for whatever that’s worth.

Sure, the Gators have other areas that need answers, but it’s these two touchy subjects that are certainly playing in the back of Muschamp’s mind every time he steps in his office.

 

Health 

 

Forget the offensive concerns, depth issues, what the schedule looks like or anything else that is occupying your mind until the regular season arrives.

Florida has got to get healthy.

The Gators entered the spring the same way they finished last season: Banged up. Running back, defensive line and linebacker, many players who are expected to be key contributors weren’t even on the field during spring ball. While Florida had a ton of issues that led to last season’s failure, having players drop like flies certainly didn’t help.

Kurt Roper’s adjustments and the improvement of Jeff Driskel don’t matter much if half the team’s starters are holding a clipboard on the sidelines. Granted, it’s not that serious yet, but remember last season? Florida’s injury list was longer than many rappers' arrest records.

Forget how the team looked during the spring game. A successful offseason is having a team that’s 100 percent healthy when the games actually matter. This is the top priority with everything else taking a backseat.

 

Getting Driskel Comfortable 

 

You just can’t escape it. Like it or not, this season is going to come down to whether or not Driskel can take his game to another level under Roper.

Driskel looked OK in the spring game, completing 18 of 32 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Remember, that was his first game-like action since suffering a season-ending injury early last year. However, timing was clearly off and he still had trouble hitting open receivers.

Instead of hitting an open receiver down the sideline, the ball sailed out of bounds a couple of times. A few passes were thrown behind receivers or in the dirt, and the lone touchdown pass was due to Demarcus Robinson making a sweet move to shake a defender in the open field.

It’s fair to say backup Skyler Mornhinweg was the sharper quarterback of the two, but that’s for a different time and place.

While it’s way too early to bail on Driskel, and he’s sure to improve spending more time with the new offensive coordinator, there’s still a lot of progress that needs to be made between now and August.

If the players can get through these next few months without breaking any bones and Driskel irons out a few wrinkles, everything else for the Gators will fall into place for a bounce-back season. 

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Breaking Down Stephon Tuitt's Foot Injury, Jones Fracture and NFL Draft Stock

Last February, a broken foot prevented former University of Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt from participating in the NFL Scouting Combine.

According to NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, doctors diagnosed a Jones fracture in his left foot during combine medical exams and, as a result, did not clear him to participate. At the time, Jeremiah's source projected a six-to-eight week recovery following surgery.

If such a timeline holds true, Tuitt may be returning to action very soon. However, even "small" Jones fractures require precise management and are at significant risk of complications, and as such, a six-to-eight week recovery may prove optimistic.

A closer look at the injury and its relevant anatomy shows why.

Within the foot, dozens of bones, ligaments and muscles coordinate the numerous complex motions of the toes, foot and ankle.

When an outside force applies too much stress to one of those structures, it incurs damage. Muscles and ligaments tear, and bones fracture.

A Jones fracture involves the fifth metatarsal—or the bone that connects the base of the little toe to the bones that make up the heel. Specifically, the break occurs in the proximal portion of the bone—or the part closest to the heel.

In football, an athlete may sustain a Jones fracture when a hit forces the front of the foot to suddenly and sharply turn inward while the toes are pointed downward.

Like all fractures, the amount of fracture displacement—or how much the broken pieces are misaligned—looms large when determining the proper treatment course. Additionally, the precise location of the fracture can also guide therapy, and in a Jones fracture, differences of mere millimeters can significantly alter management.

According to Dr. Adam Bitterman—an orthopedic surgery resident physician based in New York—it comes down to blood flow.

"A true Jones fracture occurs at the junction of the metaphysis and diaphysis (of the fifth metatarsal)," Bitterman explained. "Because this zone is a watershed area, meaning the vascular supply may be limited, it is prone to nonunion, and surgical treatment is indicated."

The term "diaphysis" describes the long, central part of a bone, and the "epiphysis" refers to the end of the bone. The "metaphysis" lies in between the two.

As Bitterman mentions, the point where the metaphysis meets the diaphysis does not carry a very robust blood supply—relative to other surrounding areas, at least. As a result, Jones fractures may not always heal well, as it's blood that transports the body's healing and repair cells to injury sites. In fact, in a significant number of cases, nonunion—where the broken bone does not heal back together—can occur.

That's where surgery comes in.

"Elite athletes choose surgery to limit the chances of nonunion by enhancing fracture fixation," Bitterman went on. "Surgical treatment is via intermedullary screw fixation. The athlete will remain non-weightbearing for approximately six to eight weeks."

In other words, by using a metal screw to secure one end of the broken bone to the other, a surgeon can fix the fractured metatarsal into place while it heals. The athlete must then avoid bearing weight on the foot, which could stress the healing bone and deter healing.

Bitterman added that in addition to minimizing the chance of a poor outcome, surgery sometimes allows earlier return to sport than nonoperative treatment. That said, he emphasized that even with surgery, radiographic images such as X-rays must demonstrate union of the broken bone before an athlete can safely return to play.

With that in mind, Tuitt and his medical team are surely proceeding with a conservative mindset. Fortunately, at this point, he is likely well on his way to recovery. Even better, no news of complications yet exists.

Nevertheless, as the draft inches closer, NFL medical staffs will certainly continue to pay very close attention to the former Fighting Irish lineman's medicals, and any sign of poor healing—or a setback in his rehab—will undoubtedly affect his medical grade.

After all, when a high draft pick rides in the balance—and possibly millions of dollars—a medical risk-versus-reward analysis may carry more weight than any other element of Tuitt's draft portfolio.

 

Dr. Dave Siebert is a resident physician at the University of Washington who plans to pursue fellowship training in Primary Care (non-operative) Sports Medicine. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Kelcy Quarles and Victor Hampton Face Police Questioning over Nightclub Incident

Former South Carolina football stars Victor Hampton and Kelcy Quarles are reportedly wanted by the New York Police Department for questioning in connection with a nightclub beating. 

According to NYPD Lieutenant John Grimpel, via Jeremy Turnage of WIS News 10, the victim, who has facial fractures and was reportedly struck with a hookah pipe, claimed he was attacked by Hampton and Quarles at Greenhouse nightclub in downtown New York on April 11. 

For now, no charges have been filed, but detectives want to talk to everyone who was in the VIP room, where the alleged incident occurred. 

In a separate incident later that night, another former Gamecock player, Chaz Sutton, was stabbed in the shoulder by someone from behind. The wound was minor. 

Both Hampton and Quarles, who were in New York for a magazine shoot with ESPN, have hopes of being selected in the upcoming NFL draft. 

Quarles, a 22-year-old defensive tackle, is 6'3", 297 pounds and drew particular interest from the Chicago Bears during March's draft combine, per NFL.com. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 10 player at his position, projecting him to be drafted in the second or third round. 

Hampton, also 22, is rated by CBS Sports as the 16th-best cornerback and potentially looking at a second- or third-day selection. He has been attempting to shed a negative reputation as a player with a checkered past, which he recently discussed in an interview with WIS News, via WorldNow.com's Joe Gorchow:

"It's kind of rough because people put me on a reputation or labeled me at a young age before I really even knew exactly what was going on," he said. 

We won't know how this incident will truly affect the duo's draft stock until more details are discovered, but this certainly isn't going to put Hampton and Quarles in a positive light during the most important time of their lives. 

 

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USC Football: Cody Kessler Starting QB, Why It Was the Right Choice

USC's most important position battle has finally been decided, with head coach Steve Sarkisian announcing on Tuesday who will be the Trojans' signal-caller in 2014:

Sark addressed the media after Tuesday's practice in USC's final week of spring camp. Last Saturday, the head coach had backed off from saying he would name a starting quarterback soon, but clearly, things have changed in Troy. 

While this ruling comes as no surpriseKessler started nearly all of USC's games in 2013, giving him a significant advantage over his main challenger, Max BrowneSark's decision to name a quarterback early is the right choice not only for the fans' sake, but also for that of the quarterbacks themselves:

Last season, the Trojans struggled to have an identity in the early weeks of the season because they didn't know who their true quarterback was. As we know, things came together in the end, but it was an unnecessarily bumpy start.

Having Kessler know in April that he will be starting in August gives him the confidence to know he can lead the Trojans yet again, and it gives the rest of the team and the coaches a focal point around which to build. 

It's important that Sarkisian, already facing all the challenges inherent to being a new head coach, makes his first offseason as seamless as possible. Naming a quarterback before the spring game helps accomplish that goal, and it's the right move considering the training wheels are still on the uptempo offense.

All that said, Sark left the door open for Browne to still have an opportunity to change things come the fall:

Even if a battle reopens, it's likely that Kessler starts on August 30, and that prevents a cloud of uncertainty from hanging over USC through the offseason. 

For Browne, it means another year of sitting on the sidelines, but when it was his turn to address the media, he made it clear that he intends for those sidelines to remain cardinal and gold:

Quarterback competitions are nothing new at USC, with former Trojan stars like Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez and John David Booty all having gone through them. For Browne, this is just another stepping stone:

Coach Sarkisian will certainly continue to push and challenge Kessler through this final week of spring camp, and now that he knows he's won the job, we can expect that Kessler's performance on Saturday will be even further evidence that Sark made the right choice.  

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USC Football: Cody Kessler Starting QB, Why It Was the Right Choice

USC's most important position battle has finally been decided, with head coach Steve Sarkisian announcing on Tuesday who will be the Trojans' signal-caller in 2014: ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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