NCAA Football

Florida Football: Realistic Expectations for Gators' QB Jeff Driskel in 2014

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has been the man of the offseason. Everybody is wondering how he’s going to recover from last year’s injury, if he can adapt to new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and if he is truly ready to turn the corner and lead the Gators through a tough SEC schedule. After last year, Florida fans' patience is running thin.

But nobody has mentioned reasonable expectations for the starting quarterback.

What do you expect from Driskel this season?

Florida has question marks for wide receivers, an offensive line with no depth and a young backfield that is likely going to be asked to grow up quickly. Driskel has thrown for only 2,271 yards and has 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his career.

Given the circumstances and what we know at this very moment, here are the reasonable expectations for the Gators' starting quarterback.

 

Rushing for 500 Yards

Honestly, this expectation may be a couple hundred yards short. I expect Driskel and the Gators to run the ball a ton in this new offense. Last season, Roper ran the ball 544 times at Duke, which was good for fourth in the ACC. While this will eventually become more of a passing offense, Roper is likely to play to Driskel’s strengths early on and rely on them throughout the season simply because he’s a much better athlete than passer at this stage in his career.

For whatever reason, the offensive coordinators before Roper never used Driskel’s legs as much as they probably should have. Driskel has just seven career games with double-digit carries. Nick Marshall topped that last season alone, and Driskel is bigger than the sophomore at Auburn.

You can’t convince me that Driskel can’t be a top rushing quarterback in college football this season.

In an April interview with Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, Roper touched on Driskel’s strengths:

He has everything physically. He does have great size, but he can really run. He's a fast guy. He can start quickly. He can change direction. His top-end speed is really good for a quarterback. He has a really good arm. He's accurate. I like his throwing motion. It's fast-twitch. He possesses everything.

Notice he touched on his running ability before anything else. Driskel is extremely fast for his size and can break off multiple long runs in a single game. He ran the ball 118 times in 2012, and 28 of those touches produced 10 or more yards. There’s no reason not to allow him to call his own number more this season.

Driskel has a career high of 408 rushing yards. He should have no problem shattering that record with at least 500 yards. That would mark the most rushing yards from a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009.

 

Passing for 2,000 Yards and 15 Touchdowns

One of the main reasons Roper was hired is because he is prolific when it comes to the passing game. He likes to spread the field, throw it around and put up big numbers through the air. He’s the perfect coach for this era that seems to be breaking passing records left and right.

Let’s take a look at Roper’s passing numbers in the six seasons he was in the ACC:

The numbers to pay close attention to are the passing attempts, as Duke finished no less than third in the ACC in that department in Roper’s last five seasons. It’s clear Driskel is going to get plenty of chances to toss around the pigskin and should have little problem topping 300 passing attempts for the first time in his career. If he completes more than 60 percent of his passes like he has his last two seasons, a new career high in passing yards will be set.

Again, another number that may be a little low in the grand scheme of things, but we are talking about an offense that finished behind Texas State, Akron and Idaho last season. Florida could barely move the chains without tripping over its own shoelaces, so it simply wouldn’t be realistic to expect an outrageous season from a quarterback who hasn’t shown much in his first three years.

Is there potential to have a breakout season? Of course. Florida fans should also expect more given what they saw during the spring game. However, if everybody is being honest with themselves, a better and more efficient 2014 season from Driskel should be considered a success.

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Auburn Football: True Freshman Kalvaraz Bessent's Journey to the Plains

On Feb. 5, Kalvaraz Bessent faxed his national letter of intent to Auburn, officially committing his future plans to the Tigers.

The St. Mary's, Georgia, native was originally a commitment to in-state rival Alabama. But a few days after visiting the Plains the weekend of the 2013 Iron Bowl, he flipped his commitment from the losers of that instant classic to the winners.

Bessent, an Under Armour All-American who was rated as the No. 10 cornerback in the country, provided an immediate boost to Auburn's recruiting class.

Despite their run to the BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers allowed an average of 257.7 yards through the air in 2013—the second-worst pass defense in the SEC.

Auburn coaches saw Bessent as a player who could help turn around the secondary from day one.

"[Defensive backs coach Melvin Smith] identified [Bessent] as one of the best corners early on," head coach Gus Malzahn said on signing day. "We feel we have a guy that can help us immediately. He’s got very good ball skills and is a good cover guy."

However, just two days after Malzahn praised the incoming cornerback's potential, Bessent's future with the program was in jeopardy.

On the night of Feb. 7, Bessent was one of four people arrested and charged with two felony counts of marijuana possession following a traffic stop in nearby Nassau County, Florida.

According to AL.com's Brandon Marcello, police found more than 202 grams of marijuana, a digital scale and a .45-caliber handgun in the front passenger seat where Bessent was sitting. No one in the vehicle claimed ownership of the marijuana or the handgun.

The serious charges threatened Bessent's college football career before it even began.

"Here your son signs on a Wednesday to attend a major university on scholarship to go play football, then on Friday night, this happens," Timothy Bessent, Kalvaraz's father, told the Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington. "Of course it was a shock, the whole week of the whole ordeal, with the media exposure and everything, it was somewhat discouraging, embarrassing."

However, one week after the arrest, all charges were dropped against Bessent after the state attorney's office could not connect him to the marijuana.

A few weeks after the charges were dropped, Malzahn confirmed Bessent would join his fellow members of the 2014 signing class for summer enrollment and workouts on the Plains.

"Kalvaraz will be coming in," Malzahn said. "He will be on a probationary status when he gets here, but he will be coming in with the other signees."

According to Timothy Bessent's interview with Byington, Malzahn "didn’t lay out any specific parameters to his son’s 'probationary status' outside of doing what’s expected of him at practice and in the classroom."

Welton Coffey, Bessent's former head coach at Camden County High School, said the Auburn coaching staff were patient throughout the entire process.

"Coach Gus Malzahn handled the situation with great tact, integrity, wisdom and fairness," Coffey said. "It was an experience that we hope all young student athletes can learn from. We are glad that when all the details came out, that the charges were dropped against Kal."

Coffey declined to go into details about Bessent's arrest, which he said was a "very trying time for [Bessent], his family and the Camden County football program."

Bessent attended Auburn's A-Day Game in April and arrived on campus in May to begin training for the upcoming season.

If he is allowed to play under his probationary status, the talented cornerback could see several opportunities to play early and often for the Tigers.

With the departure of Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis, the Tigers have one returning starter—Jonathon Mincy, who is dealing with a recent drug arrest of his own—and a host of reserves with a small amount of first-team experience.

Standing at 6'0", he represents part of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's movement toward a bigger secondary.

Taller wide receivers such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin were constant threats against the Tigers last season, prompting a change in the way Auburn recruits its secondary

"If you look at this group...they have length," Malzahn said about Bessent and his fellow Auburn newcomers at defensive back. "They can run. They are good tacklers. They have very good ball skills. They will give us some versatility."

As part of that taller 2015 group of defensive backs, Bessent already has one advantage over Auburn's shorter veterans at the position.

According to his high school coach, another one of Bessent's advantages on the football field is something else that you cannot teach.

"Kalvaraz has got really good hips," Coffey said. "It's God-given. When you combine those with some good speed and ball skills like he has, that's what makes you a talented cornerback at this level."

Mincy's arrest and versatile defensive back Joshua Holsey's return from a season-ending injury have put the Tigers' cornerback rotation up for grabs.

Newcomers and veterans at the position will continue their battle for playing time in fall camp as the team sets sights on the 2014 season.

"Bessent has excellent upside at corner," 247Sports' J.C. Shurburtt said (subscription required). "I can see him contributing his first year and contending for All-Conference honors by 2015."

Although things looked bleak for a week in early February, Bessent still has the opportunity to make that type of early impact.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Miami Football: Ranking 10 Best 'Canes in BCS Era

Year after year, talented athletes don the orange and green of the Miami Hurricanes. Some players stand above the rest and only one can be the best.

In 2013, the BCS breathed its last breath, ending a stretch of college football that contained a Miami team ESPN called the best in the era.

While the program has long been considered one of the premier NFL-producing schools, these players are measured strictly on collegiate performance during the BCS' relevance.

That last part is important: The BCS existed from 1998-2013, so players will only be judged for contributions throughout the 16-year period.

 

Notes: All stats courtesy of hurricanesports.com. Any marked years signify a given player the BCS-eligible seasons spent at Miami, but complete career stats will be provided.

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How Braxton Miller's Offseason Training Will Impact Ohio State in 2014

The Ohio State football team is still a few weeks from reporting for fall camp, but Braxton Miller isn't waiting that long to get ready for the 2014 season.

Coming off a shoulder surgery that cost him all of spring practice, Miller has been working hard this offseason to improve for his final year as the Buckeyes' quarterback. 

That's good news for Ohio State.

Getting healthy was a top priority. According to Cameron Moon of The Plain Dealer, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says Miller is "not 100 percent, but he's close."

Due to offseason NCAA restrictions, Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff can't evaluate summer workouts. Despite the direction of his coaches, Miller has made great progress.

Ohio State is expected to be one of the handful of teams to make a run at major college football's first-ever playoff—an array of media publications project the Buckeyes as a top-six preseason team—but Meyer will need his quarterback at his very best for that to happen. Ohio State must replace four multiyear senior starters along its offensive line, its top rusher (Carlos Hyde) and top receiver (Corey Brown).

That puts a lot of pressure on Miller, but the dual-threat signal-caller spurned last year's NFL draft to prove he can handle it.

“I want to help this team win a Big Ten championship next year,” Miller said in January, according to an official release from the school. “Plus, I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game."

Accomplishing that takes diligence—a trait that Miller has proven to posses throughout his collegiate career. For the second consecutive offseason, he has enlisted the help of quarterback guru George Whitfield, Jr., to improve his passing game.

That kind of offseason dedication has paid off for Miller so far. In each of his three seasons, he has shown dramatic improvement in the passing game.

Those improvements aren't lost on Meyer, who's expecting big things from Miller this season.

"If he makes the same strides he made year one to year two, year two to year three and this year, year four, he could have a great year," Meyer said, according to Moon's Plain Dealer feature.

Aside from working with notable quarterback coaches, Miller is putting in extra work with his teammates. Last week—on a Friday night in the middle of the summer—Miller was in Ohio State's practice facility running drills with receiver Jalin Marshall.

Working that hard and building that kind of chemistry during the offseason pays dividends on fall Saturdays. 

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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One Commitment Every Big 12 Team Wishes It Could Get This Summer

As we head into the heat of summer, the temperature gauge on the recruiting trail in the Big 12 is starting to rise as well. 

Teams across the Midwest are trying to add depth and replace stars in the wake of the new college football era. 

One hot prospect will be outside linebacker Anthony Wheeler of Dallas, Texas. The 4-star recruit that's part of the 2015 class is targeted by both Texas and Oklahoma. 

With that, let's check out each Big 12 team's most coveted 2015 recruit heading into the summer. 

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

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12 College Football Teams Guaranteed to Struggle on Offense in 2014

In the high-scoring world of college football, to struggle offensively is a relative term.

In 2013 nearly half of the 126 FBS programs averaged 30 points a game or more, and scoring 20 points per game could still land you in the bottom 20 of the national rankings. And from a yardage standpoint the numbers were even more outlandish, with more than 70 teams gaining 400-plus yards per game.

But even with all those beefed-up statistics and overworked scoreboards, a number of teams will find it difficult to keep up with the Baylors and Oregons. That includes some programs that are expected to contend for division or conference titles, meaning some teams might have to (egads!) rely on defense to be successful during the 2014 season.

Whether it's because of roster attrition through graduation, early departure or transfers, changes to staff or just a poor offensive scheme, these are the 12 most notable teams that will struggle on offense in 2014.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: 10 Best Wolverine Recruits of BCS Era

Since the start of the BCS era in January of 1999, Michigan has remained a college football powerhouse. The Wolverines are always in the hunt for top talent around the country, and it has resulted in them signing some great recruits.

Former head coach Lloyd Carr signed a stud defensive back in 2001, and he got a good quarterback in 2004. 

Current head coach Brady Hoke got an elite quarterback of his own in 2013, which is the same year he signed a 5-star running back.

 

All recruiting class ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Recruiting Rankings.
All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.All stats are from Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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Nebraska Football: Why Terrell Newby Will Be Nebraska's X-Factor in 2014

Nebraska football fans know who the stars on offense are for next season—Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell, Tommy Armstrong, and other players who are household names in Big Red Country. The question becomes who will be the player to step up and make a name for himself in 2014.

A leading candidate for that role should be Terrell Newby, a sophomore I-back. Here’s why.

 

He’s Fast

You can’t coach speed. Yeah, it’s a cliche, but cliches become cliches for a reason. Newby has the kind of breakaway, game-changing speed that can terrify an opposing defense. When you have a player, particularly in the backfield, who can score from anywhere on the field if given a seam, it can change the entire structure of an opposing defense.

When he was healthy, Taylor Martinez had that kind of speed, and we saw how it could affect Nebraska’s offense. While he does not have the overall talent of Ameer Abdullah, Newby’s white-hot speed has the potential to transform Nebraska’s offense.

 

He Can Play Special Teams

If turnovers were problem No. 1 for Nebraska, a lack of production in punt returns was problem No. 1A. Nebraska averaged 3.04 yards per punt return in 2013, ranking No. 123 nationally. That means if, on every punt, Nebraska simply caught the ball and immediately fell forward, its average punt return yardage would be only slightly less than what it achieved in 2013. That’s 5.01 yards per return less than the “average” team’s punt return output last year, No. 62 Northern Illinois.

Nebraska had 23 punt returns in 2013, which averaged out to 1.77 punt returns per game (fair catches and punts out of bounds don’t count as returns). So, even if Nebraska could just get to “average” in its punt return game, that would yield an additional 8.87 yards of field position in a game in punt returns.

That may not sound like a lot, but if you look at drive statistics from last year (courtesy of FBS Drive Stats), the difference in average starting field position between the worst team and the best team in FBS football last year was 9.5 yards. Now, it’s not exactly a like-for-like comparison, but the underlying takeaway is those 8.87 yards per game of field position Nebraska gave up compared to the “average” punt returning team makes a big difference.

Enter Newby, who looks absolutely primed to make a huge difference in special teams. He has the elusiveness to make a gunner miss, and the electric speed to take a small crease and turn it into a big gain. Combine that with the fact that he is not likely to be the primary ball-carrier, meaning he will be fresh and ready to contribute on special teams, and Newby could be a big difference-maker.

The only glimpse of that we have gotten publicly was in kick return drills at the spring game, where Newby (along with Jamal Turner) looked amazing. It may not be the first thing you think of, but if Newby can jump-start Nebraska’s punt return game, that could pay massive dividends to NU’s overall performance.

 

He’s Got The Coaches’ Trust

Last year, Newby had 54 carries as a true freshman. In the Bo Pelini era, only one true freshman I-back has gotten more carries—Rex Burkhead in 2009, with 81. That means the coaches like what they see in Newby and want to get him on the field.

With another year in the program and in the weight room, that workload should only increase. Combine that with an offense that should be less quarterback-centered with the departure of Taylor Martinez, and that suggests a significantly bigger role for Newby in 2014.

If you’d like to contact Patrick, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.

Or you could also always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.

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Alabama Football Recruiting: 10 Best Tide Recruits from BCS Era

Alabama has signed an army of big-time recruits in the BCS era, which began in January 1999. This list was tough to put together, as current head coach Nick Saban has collected an exceptional amount of talent.

However, not all the players on this list were signed by Saban. A stud quarterback came to Alabama in 2001, while a highly rated offensive lineman joined to the Crimson Tide in 2006.

Yet Saban is responsible for the arrival of a 5-star receiver in 2008, plus a talented running back in 2009.

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The Opening 2014: Predicting Where All Uncommitted Recruits Will Land

With The Opening taking place on July 5-10, that means 162 outstanding recruits will be in Oregon competing against one another at Nike headquarters in Beaverton. While many prospects scheduled to be in attendance have already made their decisions, a good portion of the players at the event will be uncommitted.

Predictions are always fun, and this piece will focus on the uncommitted recruits at The Opening. A 5-star defensive tackle appears ready to announce he's following family tradition, while a 4-star receiver looks like he will be catching balls at UCLA.

Also, Texas could be the pick for a 4-star running back.

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Florida State Football: Top 5 Quarterbacks That 'Noles Will Face in 2014

The Florida State football team will face 12 teams that have good—but not elite—quarterbacks.

Every opposing quarterback on the schedule, even the ones in our top five, has a question mark. That includes the No. 1 choice, Notre Dame's Everett Golson, who isn't the most accurate passer (58.8 percent in 2012) and didn't play a snap in 2013.

For teams looking to try and upset FSU, this is bad news. The Seminoles are the defending champs, and the target on their backs is unmistakable. But FSU had the nation's No. 1 pass defense in 2013, allowing just 156 yards per game. And the Seminoles return a loaded secondary led by cornerbacks Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams and safeties Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews.

All of the quarterbacks have a strong supporting cast of playmakers around them. Here's a look at the top five quarterbacks that FSU will see in 2014.

 

5. Jake Heaps or Ryan Williams (Miami)

2013 stats: Ryan Williams: 22-of-32 for 369 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception. Heaps: 128-of-261 for 1,414 yards, 8 touchdowns, 10 interceptions (at Kansas).

Williams was having a strong spring until he tore the ACL in his right knee and had surgery. While it's not known when he may be able to return, he told the Miami Herald that he has had no setbacks in his recovery and hopes to be the starter going into the season. 

Heaps adds drama to the quarterback competition. The former Kansas quarterback, who graduated and is eligible to start for Miami immediately, completed just 49 percent of his passes last year. He has had an up-and-down college career, and The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter analyzed his hit-and-miss performance against Kansas State in 2013.

It's possible Miami could start both Williams and Heaps in 2014. But either quarterback, along with tailback Duke Johnson and receiver Stacy Coley, could make for a dynamic offense when FSU visits Miami on Nov. 15.

 

4. Jeff Driskel (Florida)

2013 stats: 42-of-61 for 477 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

There are many knocks on Driskel, the most notable being his alarming number of turnovers. He has thrown just 14 career touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. But he's also been less than productive: He tossed 12 TD passes in 12 starts in 2012.

Driskel played in just three games in 2013 before breaking his leg against Tennessee on Sept. 21. But offensive coordinator Brent Pease is gone and coach Will Muschamp hired Kurt Roper, a former Duke offensive coordinator, who has installed a spread offense in Gainesville.

That offense should suit Driskel's talents better, according to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee. Florida isn't deep at receiver, but Quinton Dunbar caught 40 passes for 548 yards (albeit without a touchdown) and Andre Debose is back for a sixth season after missing 2013 with injury. If healthy, Driskel and Co. will provide a much tougher challenge when the Gators play at FSU on Nov. 29.

 

3. J.W. Walsh (Oklahoma State)

2013 stats: 113-of-190 for 1,333 yards, 9 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.

Walsh hasn't won the starting job going into preseason practice, although Jake Trotter of ESPN.com writes that he appears to be the front-runner to start on Aug. 30 against FSU in Arlington, Texas. He will compete into August with Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph.

Walsh has the ability to beat defenses with his arm and feet. He threw for 135 yards and ran for 125 yards and a touchdown in a win over Mississippi State. He also had 326 passing yards in a win over Texas-San Antonio and 322 passing yards in a loss at West Virginia.

 

2. Cole Stoudt (Clemson)

2013 stats: 47-of-59 for 415 yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs.

Stoudt played mostly in mop-up situations as a backup to Tajh Boyd. But Stoudt is a senior with experience (287 college plays), and he's thrown just one interception. He has completed 72.3 percent of his passes, and coupled with the lack of mistakes, he should be an efficient quarterback despite being a first-time starter.

The 6'4'', 210-pounder won't be able to throw to Sammy Watkins (a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills), but Clemson has enough speed and talent at receiver, led by senior Adam Humphries (41 receptions, 483 yards, two touchdowns). This is a different Clemson team but not one that FSU will overlook when the teams face off in Tallahassee on Sept. 20. 

 

1. Everett Golson (Notre Dame)

2012 stats: 187-of-318 for 2,405 yards, 12 touchdowns, 6 interceptions.

Golson is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. He may be rusty early in the season after not playing in 2013 due to academic issues, but he should be warmed up by the time Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee on Oct. 18.

Mobile quarterbacks have had more success (relatively speaking) than dropback passers against FSU in recent years. Auburn's Nick Marshall threw for 217 yards and had two passing touchdowns and one rushing score against FSU (although he completed just 14 of 27 passes). Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas threw for 298 yards with a TD pass and TD run (along with two interceptions) in 2012. Both, of course, were FSU wins.

Golson is the most talented run-pass quarterback on FSU's schedule, although he's clearly not the best pure passer. One advantage: Notre Dame will employ a fast-paced offense. Still, Notre Dame has a deep receiving corps, led by DaVaris Daniels (49 receptions, 745 yards and 7 TDs).  

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats and bio information courtesy of NCAA.com and school websites. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Can Bo Pelini Recruit Well Enough to Get Nebraska into College Football Playoff?

Nebraska's last championship in football came in 1997—one year before the start of the BCS—when the Cornhuskers laid a whooping on Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, 42-17. 

But as the 1990s gave way to the 2000s, the Huskers' BCS bowl appearances began to dwindle. With the College Football Playoff era approaching this season, the Nebraska program is still solid, but it's not the championship-caliber one it once was. 

If nothing else, under head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska has been consistent. The Huskers have won either nine or 10 games per season—no more, no less—from the moment Pelini took over the program in 2008. Nebraska has even competed for three conference titles under Pelini between its time in the Big 12 and Big Ten but has yet to take home any championships. 

The question constantly facing Pelini is whether he can get Nebraska back to the days the program experienced under former coach Tom Osborne. 

What does that require? It starts, as any coach will tell you, with the Jimmys and Joes.

Coaching matters, yes. Many of the coaches who have won national championships in the BCS era (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Les Miles) are still around. Some good fortune matters, too. Alabama would have been on the outside looking in during the 2012 national championship had Iowa State not stunned Oklahoma State. Instead, the Tide got a rematch of their regular-season loss to LSU (and won 21-0). 

But, really, recruiting is the important foundation.

It is also an inexact science, but there are two trends in recent years that indicated a program had a shot at a championship-caliber roster: home state and class rankings. 

The first is obvious. The more high school players per state, typically the more talent there is. In 2013, Football Study Hall broke down where college football players came from by percentage (from 2008-13). Not surprisingly, Texas, Florida and California were the big three. Georgia, Ohio, Alabama and Louisiana came next. Rust Belt states Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan rounded out the top 10. 

Lo and behold, every national champion from 2008-13 came from one of those states. Furthermore, blue-blood programs like Alabama and Ohio State are located near other recruiting hot beds like Georgia and Pennsylvania, respectively, as well. 

Not to mention, these programs recruit nationally. 

Nebraska, meanwhile, ranked 38th in the distribution of recruits. With homegrown players harder to find, the Huskers make a living feeding out of states like Florida, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois and California. Nebraska recruited Texas far more heavily when it was in the Big 12, but that pipeline has largely dried up with the program's move to the Big Ten. 

If a program has to look elsewhere for players, it can be hard to land a top recruiting class. Sure, Nebraska has shiny first-class facilities and a top-tier tradition/atmosphere. But, as Matt Brown of Sports on Earth wrote in February, that only does so much: 

That storied history is not for nothing, but the further Nebraska is removed from that success, the less it matters. Nebraska's best claim aside from its history is its status as the only game in town, the sports team for almost everyone in the state. But that can go only so far. 

In the last five years, the Huskers have just one top-20 class—the No. 16 class in 2011—and no top-10 classes, according to 247Sports. Twice, in 2010 and '14, Nebraska finished outside the top 25. 

Now look at Florida State's, Alabama's and Auburn's classes from the five years leading up to their national championships. The difference speaks for itself. 

These rankings are all from one site, but it does provide a snapshot into how programs are recruiting. Not surprisingly, it usually reflects the state of the program. 

B/R colleague Michael Felder wrote in February that there's no such thing as an "average" recruiting class among the power-five conferences. Either a class is filled with quality additions or disappointments that will get a coach canned. That logic certainly applies to Nebraska. The Huskers' recruiting efforts have been mostly good—just not great. 

Which is all fine if a program is content winning nine and 10 games a season. Most, in fact, would love nothing more than to have that. But if a program wants to hoist a championship trophy, it can't have a top-20 class once in a while. Not without a lot of work cut out for it. 

Based on recent national champions, Pelini has a lot of work to do as a coach if he's going to overcome Nebraska's natural recruiting disadvantages. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports

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Alabama Football: Why O.J. Howard Will Be Team's X-Factor In 2014

On a team loaded with freakish talents at the skill positions, sophomore tight end O.J. Howard might be the key for Alabama’s chances to make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff this fall.

Sure, Nick Saban is used to having freakish running backs and wide receivers—and this year will be no different with the likes of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper leading a loaded group of skill talent.

However, since his arrival in Tuscaloosa seven years ago, he’s never had a talent like Howard at the tight end spot.

Late last season, Saban commented on just how bright the former 5-star recruit’s future appears to be.

"To have a tight end like him that is certainly a threat in the passing game, either vertically, horizontally or play-action passes is really a tremendous asset for us," Saban told Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "He's really matured a lot as a player and is becoming a better blocker and a good all-around player. I think that guy's going to be an outstanding tight end for us."

After showing glimpses of his potential by snaring 14 passes for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a true freshman, Howard is on the verge of breaking out in 2014, as detailed by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread.

At 6’6”, 237 pounds and blessed with breakaway speed, Howard is a valued weapon who can help create a smooth transition for the new parts involved with the offense.

Specifically, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and projected starting quarterback Jacob Coker will love the spoils that come with having a game-breaking talent like Howard at tight end.

He’s versatile enough to be flexed out wide as a receiver in certain sets, and he’s quick and physical enough to exploit mismatches against linebackers or safeties in the middle of the field.

With teams having to respect the Tide’s bruising running game, and be mindful of a receiving unit that could be the deepest segment of pass-catchers fielded by the Tide in Saban’s tenure, Howard brings a new dimension that gives defenses an almost impossible task in stopping the Tide.

Another area where Howard could make a big difference is in the red zone. Considering Alabama converted only four touchdowns out of 10 combined red zone trips in its last two games—both of which were losses—Howard’s ability to create mismatches will benefit Kiffin and his troops greatly in 2014.

The 2014 edition of the Tide are loaded for another national title run. Similar to their recent title teams, familiar elements such as a physical defense and an unrivaled complement of talented rushers are present.

However, after years of tight ends being relegated as sixth offensive linemen in its offense, Howard’s continued development may just be the difference in getting Alabama back to college football’s mountaintop.

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Nebraska Football: Offense, Not Defense, Must Be Huskers' 2015 Recruiting Focus

Nebraska has gotten off to a strong start recruiting the class of 2015 prospects.

In fact, the Huskers ranked No. 14 on 247Sports.com's team rankings list for 2015 back in late February. That ranking even surged to No. 9 by the end of April.

Things are a bit different now, though.

The Huskers currently sit at No. 29 on 247Sports.com's list. Dave Miller of NationalFootballPost.com, on the other hand, has higher expectations for Nebraska. He currently has the Huskers ranked No. 12 in his early prediction.

Reading Miller's take on Nebraska, it's clear what ranks the Huskers so high: the recruits on defense. He specifically mentions twin defensive tackles Carlos and Khalil Davis, as well as cornerback Eric Lee, as the major strengths of the current 2015 class.

Looking at the Huskers' 10 commits, the team's defense is shaping up nicely.

As for the offense, there is definitely some work that still has to be done. That's especially true with the loss of some key potential players.

In the last couple of months, Nebraska has lost Monte Harrison (recruited in the 2014 class) to Major League Baseball. The team also lost Damore'ea Stringfellow and Spencer Tears. While Tears has not committed anywhere else as of now, Stringfellow selected Mississippi over Nebraska.

With the loss of Harrison, Stringfellow and Tears, the wide receiver position could be in trouble come 2015.

The Huskers have quite a few offers out for the position, but currently nothing set in stone. This will be a primary position that head coach Bo Pelini and his staff will have to focus on.

Additionally, Nebraska has made it clear that the team can never have too many running backs.

With Ameer Abdullah graduating after the 2014 season, it's not a bad idea to continue securing the future of the position. Marquise Doherty of Kansas City, Missouri, is high on the Huskers' target list right now, while Pelini has already secured a commit from New Orleans native Kendall Bussey.

It also never hurts to recruit heavily for the offensive line. With so many injuries in 2013, players had to step up quickly to fill in.

Nebraska currently has commitments from tackle Christian Gaylord and guard Michael Decker.

In addition to the current 10 commits, the Huskers will be looking to secure a class of 18-20 players. Looking at the list now, it's obvious Nebraska needs to put some focus on the offense. If Pelini does not, there could be serious weaknesses come 2015—especially at the wide receiver position.

Needless to say, there's a lot of pressure riding on the 2015 class for Pelini. Fans are hoping for a highly ranked class.

Hopefully, that includes a fair amount of offensive recruits, too.

 

Unless otherwise noted, recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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What Each SEC Team Needs to Do to Finish with a Better Record in 2014

Every single SEC team has something it needs to improve on in 2014.

For some, it's tweaking something small in order to take that next step toward a championship-caliber team. Others must solve myriad issues just to get back to a bowl game.

Then there are those who just have to find a way to replace stars they lost to the NFL.

Coaches' jobs depend on fixing these shortfalls, and several teams won't make it into the postseason if these issues aren't addressed.

No matter how good every fan thinks his favorite team is, there's always something they'd like to see improved. No team is perfect, and after a run of dominance throughout the league, the SEC is rife with question marks heading into the season.

Let's take a look at what every SEC team needs to address to finish with a better record in 2014.

Begin Slideshow

14 College Football Players Who Will Reach Elite Status in 2014

The leap from very good to great is a difficult transition for a player to make, but it is among the most important things in college football. It replenishes the sport with stars after each year's NFL draft and gives new faces to teams to market.

There is a small difference between this list and a normal "all-breakout" team. On this list, many (but not all) players have already broken out. They have proved themselves capable of becoming productive players but have yet become consistently great ones.

No one on this list was considered among the top five or 10 players at his position last season. Most weren't even in the top 20 or 30. In fact, as a guiding rule in constructing this list, I did not include a single player who made his all-conference first or second team.

By the end of the 2014 season, however, these players could—and arguably should—be considered among the very best at their respective positions. Based on their physical attributes, performances in the past and play during spring practice, there is reason to believe they will make the nebulous leap.

I've only included 14 players—two for every position group on the field—so plenty of qualified candidates did not make the cut. I feel the most confident in backing these players, but there are arguments to be made in so many different directions.

Chime in below, and let me know whom you would have included.

Begin Slideshow

Dorial Green-Beckham to Oklahoma: Latest Details and Reaction to Transfer

Dorial Green-Beckham was one of the more dangerous wide receivers in college football in 2013 for Missouri. But after being dismissed from the team, he has decided to transfer to Oklahoma. 

SoonerSports.com confirmed the news Thursday:

Head coach Bob Stoops announced that wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has joined the University of Oklahoma football roster. Under NCAA rules, Green-Beckham can immediately enroll in classes and begin team activities. He would be eligible to compete in games for the Sooners beginning in 2015.

'We are pleased to welcome Dorial to the University of Oklahoma, where he is excited to continue his education and resume his playing career,' Stoops said. 'Dorial understands the privilege and responsibilities of representing the Oklahoma Football program. He is a talented young man who is eager to get to work with the rest of our team in the classroom and on the field.'

Green-Beckham shared his comments on the situation:

I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma. There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started. OU is a great program and I feel privileged to be part of it. The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team. I also want to thank Coach Gary Pinkel and the University of Missouri.

Sooners co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell posted this message and picture of Green-Beckham:

Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri in April after an incident in which a female student at the University claimed he pushed her down several stairs while trying to get into an apartment to see his girlfriend. He also had had two marijuana-related arrests before that incident, and was suspended a game for the second arrest in October of 2012.   

He was suspended from the team initially before the decision came down to dismiss him altogether. 

On the field, Green-Beckham was excellent for Missouri in 2013, catching 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. Had he been eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, he certainly would have declared. He wasn't, however, which perhaps explains his transfer to Oklahoma. 

That remains true even if he never plays for the team, per Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report:

Green-Beckham can practice with the squad, however, so even if he never steps on the field for the Sooners he can use the next year to stay in football shape, practice, continue to fine-tune his craft and take classes. In that regard, the transfer makes far more sense than simply waiting a year for the draft without joining another program. 

And perhaps he has decided that he will come back for a senior season, though that seems unlikely. There's little doubt that Green-Beckham has NFL talent. The questions teams will have for him in a year, however, will be about his character and behavior. 

A year in Oklahoma out of the spotlight might be just what he needs to start rebuilding his reputation.

 

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How Dorial Green-Beckham Impacts Oklahoma's Offense

The "marginal interest" between Oklahoma and former standout Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, as first reported by Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman, turned out to be far more than marginal after all. 

Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com reported Thursday morning that Green-Beckham was on campus visiting with Sooners coaches. Other reporters like Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman picked up on the news, and soon the story turned into a stakeout of sorts outside OU's practice facilities. 

A short while later, Oklahoma announced Green-Beckham was officially a member of the team. In an email statement, Green-Beckham said he would make the most of his new opportunity:

I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma. There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started. OU is a great program and I feel privileged to be part of it. The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team. I also want to thank Coach Gary Pinkel and the University of Missouri.

The whole story led to some confusion, voiced by John Infante of AthleticScholarships.net, as to whether Green-Beckham was even allowed to meet with OU coaches at all, given that it's a dead period. 

However, Infante later explained that there are loopholes to this dead period, the most likely of which is the following: 

Second is if Green-Beckham signed a financial aid agreement with Oklahoma. Then dead periods do not apply. And because Green-Beckham is not a midyear enrollee intending to graduate high school early, this interpretation does not apply. So Oklahoma is not at risk for a violation of the letter of intent restrictions if Green-Beckham does not ultimately enroll at OU.

Now that Green-Beckham is a member of the Sooners, the question is whether he plays this year or next. The wideout would need a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible this season since this would still be considered a transfer.

Green Beckham was involved in two previous drug-related incidents at Missouri, as well as an alleged assault incident that ultimately led to his dismissal. How that would translate into a "hardship" worthy of a waiver remains to be seen.

(Hint: it doesn't.)

In theory, Green-Beckham could practice with the Sooners this year if he doesn't receive a waiver and bolt for the NFL next spring. However, that would defeat the purpose of bringing Green-Beckham on to begin with, and that may not sit well with NFL teams who want to see that he's matured. 

According to ESPN's Joe Schad, Green-Beckham was admitted to Oklahoma under a zero-tolerance policy: 

Regardless of whether Green-Beckham sees the field this year or next, he brings a legitimate playmaker to the passing game—which, as it so happens, Oklahoma needs.

 

As a sophomore for the Tigers, the former No. 1 overall recruit of 2012 caught 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. That's nearly 300 yards more than Oklahoma's leading returning receiver, Sterling Shepard. And at 6'6" and 225 pounds, Green-Beckham has about eight inches and 30 pounds on Shepard. In short, Green-Beckham would give the Sooners another weapon in the downfield/red-zone department. 

With the departures of Jalen Saunders, Jaz Reynolds and Lacoltan Bester, the wide receiver group was Oklahoma's biggest question mark on offense. Adding Green-Beckham would take some pressure off of quarterback Trevor Knight as he continues to develop as a passer. 

 

Green-Beckham could be viewed as the so-called "missing piece" for an Oklahoma program with College Football Playoff aspirations. Even if he doesn't play until next year, he'll still be a part of a young offense that has a lot of talent and room to grow at the skill positions.

They key for Green-Beckham—and Oklahoma's coaches have undoubtedly told him this—is to keep himself in line. Talent is often awarded second, third and fourth chances, and Green-Beckham is as talented as they come. So there's a good chance he's getting another shot at a program that recruited him out of high school. 

If he blows this opportunity, he could start running out of good ones. But if Green-Beckham cleans up his act, he can be an important part in what could be another championship run in Norman.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com

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Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Brandon Harris Speaks, Herschel's Huge Workout

Brandon Harris Speaks

It's not often that we hear from freshmen at LSU, but when they get out of the confines of Baton Rouge, it presents more opportunity for them to speak their minds in front of live microphones or, in this case, a television camera.

Harris showed up at former LSU running back Jacob Hester's camp, and KTBS in Shreveport got his thoughts on his ongoing battle with sophomore Anthony Jennings for the top spot on the depth chart at quarterback.

"I want him to put who he feels like gives us the best chance to win the national championship on the field," Harris said. "If that's me, I'm going to take it and take full advantage of it, be thankful for the opportunity and play as hard as I can. If it's Anthony, I'm going to be very supportive of him. That's how you handle the situation. Competition brings out the best in everybody, it doesn't build enemies."

That maturity is refreshing, especially from a true freshman.

If he wins the job, he'd be the first true freshman starting quarterback to ever start a season as the Tigers quarterback. His performance this spring, which culminated with a game in which he completed 11-of-28 passes for 195 yards, tossed three touchdowns, rushed for 77 yards and scored once on the ground, should have drawn him close to Jennings, if not put him ahead. 

If he's as good as Hester and the rest of the former players in the video claim he is, he should run away with the job early in fall camp.

 

Smart Sounds off on All Things CFB

As much of a shock as it was for Harris to step in front of the camera, it was also a treat to catch Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart in front of a live mic.

Smart joined The Front Row on WCNN 680 The Fan in Atlanta and covered myriad topics including his future as a head coach—if and when he decides to move on from Tuscaloosa. We already touched on why his patience is refreshing earlier this week, but what else was discussed?

  • Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton were nightmares to prepare for (not breaking news, but still noteworthy). Former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden was no slouch, either.
  • Defensive end Marcell Dareus, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and defensive backs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Javier Arenas were some of the top players he has coached in Tuscaloosa.
  • Linebacker Trey DePriest could become a star.
  • Starting two true freshmen at cornerback, which could happen if Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey shine in fall camp, isn't ideal.
  • Jeremy Pruitt is a great coach and teacher and a solid hire for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Head coach Nick Saban's "one voice" policy makes sense, and there's no reason to change it. But it is nice when his assistants speak, even if all they do is provide a slightly different tone to the party line.

 

From Punchline to Power?

Georgia got good news this week, as junior college transfer corner Shattle Fenteng was cleared academically and will complete his transfer from Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, according to Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

That's big news because Fenteng—the third-best junior college cornerback in last year's recruiting class—will join a Georgia defensive backfield that has quite a bit of personnel uncertainty.

Damian Swann and Sheldon Dawson are likely to get the nod as Georgia's starting cornerbacks, but Fenteng gives new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt just one more option to consider as he attempts to fix that inconsistent secondary.

 

The SEC's Third-String Sleeper

Everybody knows about the Arkansas dynamic duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams at running back, but don't sleep on the third man up.

Korliss Marshall had a great spring game with 99 yards and two touchdowns and will serve as the home run hitter in this Hogs' offense.

"Marshall is one of the most explosive players who I've ever coached," head coach Bret Bielema told B/R. "We got a monster there that kind of reminds me of a time when I was at Wisconsin, when we had a trio of players who went on to have NFL careers in John Clay, James White and Montee Ball."

If Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen can simply pose a threat through the air, the Arkansas running game could be one of the SEC's best—even if the season doesn't go as planned.

 

Must-See TV

The SEC Network has built a pretty solid staff so far, but specific programming news has been noticeably absent. It covered both bases this week when it announced that Dari Nowkhah will host a daily, weeknight show at 6 p.m. ET called SEC Now.

This shouldn't be a shock.

This kind of show was a natural, and Nowkhah was the natural choice. He has experience with ESPN on ESPNU, knows the conference and is entertaining on camera.

Who will join him on set? There may be a revolving door of analysts with him, but he'll be the face of the show, which is a great decision for the new network.

 

Nothing to See Here

Clay Travis of FoxSports.com reported this week that the SEC Network was nearing a deal with Comcast to carry the new 24-hour cable channel upon its launch on Aug. 14. It's just another sign that the dominoes are beginning to fall.

The SEC Network already has major carriage deals with AT&T U-verse, DISH Network, Google Fiber and several other smaller carriers, which, as we reported in early March, makes it more successful than the Big Ten Network the day it launched in 2007.

Everybody calm down and take a deep breath. It'll be OK.

If you don't have the SEC Network and want it, you will be able to get it when it hits the air—most likely on your current carrier. These carriage discussions are all started at different times, often on purpose to put pressure on other carriers within the market.

ESPN, which wholly owns the SEC Network, already used its other Disney properties to work out a deal with DISH. That's the beauty of the format of the SEC Network. If it needs to leverage Disney Junior or some other non-sports network to get the leverage it wants, it can. It will.

I have DirecTV. DirecTV doesn't have a carriage deal with the SEC Network yet. I need the SEC Network to do my job. I'm not worried.

 

Freak

Former Georgia running back Herschel Walker told TMZ he does 750-1,500 push-ups and 3,500 sit-ups every day. At age 52. EVERY DAY.

Related: My dedication to keeping my New Year's resolution to get shape seems much less significant now.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted, stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Dorial Green-Beckham Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding WR

Updates from Thursday, July 3

Oklahoma announced that Dorial Green-Beckham has joined the program. The release specifies that Green-Beckham is not eligible to play until 2015.

Head coach Bob Stoops discussed Green-Beckham's arrival in the announcement.

We are pleased to welcome Dorial to the University of Oklahoma, where he is excited to continue his education and resume his playing career. Dorial understands the privilege and responsibilities of representing the Oklahoma Football program. He is a talented young man who is eager to get to work with the rest of our team in the classroom and on the field.

Green-Beckham also commented in the team's release:

I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma. There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started. OU is a great program and I feel privileged to be part of it. The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team. I also want to thank Coach Gary Pinkel and the University of Missouri.

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report weighed in on the news of the transfer:

Original Text

Dorial Green-Beckham's football career might be back on track "Sooner" rather than later.    

The former Missouri wideout was spotted in Norman visiting the Oklahoma campus, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey snapped a photo of Green-Beckham outside the Barry Switzer Center with Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jay Norvell and recruiting director Cale Gundy:

There was some confusion about whether this kind of visit is permissible during a "dead period," during which contact in-person with potential recruits is explicitly prohibited. Athnet's John Infante explained how Green-Beckham might be a special case:

First is if Green-Beckham is not actually "meeting" with the Oklahoma coaches. The dead period does not prevent Green-Beckham from being on Oklahoma’s campus. It also does not prevent the coaches from calling him or taking his phone calls. Picture Green-Beckham strolling around the OU campus while chatting on the phone with the coaching staff. That is permissible.

Second is if Green-Beckham signed a financial aid agreement with Oklahoma. Then dead periods do not apply. And because Green-Beckham is not a midyear enrollee intending to graduate high school early, this interpretation does not apply. So Oklahoma is not at risk for a violation of the letter of intent restrictions if Green-Beckham does not ultimately enroll at OU.

Kersey indicated that Green-Beckham signed the financial-aid agreement:

Missouri dismissed the would-be junior in April while he was being investigated for shoving a woman "down at least four stairs," per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. Prior to that, he also had two marijuana-related arrests.

Because of the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Tigers, Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that he'd be surprised if Green-Beckham is granted a waiver allowing him to forgo the one-year transfer rule:

As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted, that would mean the wide receiver is eyeing the 2016 NFL draft rather than 2015:

Green-Beckham had a breakout sophomore season. His numbers jumped from 28 receptions for 395 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 to 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. On talent alone, he'd be a great addition to the Sooners offense.

Putting him together with Trevor Knight would give Oklahoma a great one-two punch in the passing game come 2015. If he can stay out of trouble, bringing Green-Beckham into the fold would be well worth the wait.

That's a big if, however, so this situation will be very interesting to follow as more information develops.

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