Big 12 media days didn't get off to an optimistic start.
"The answers are sketchy," commissioner Bob Bowlsby said about the questions surrounding major college football.
Bowlsby's state of the union address was one of many headlines made during the first Big 12 media day. Bowlsby lamented the direction of major college athletics, as well as the cheating that pops up all over the country. The conference also touted its "One True Champion" motto highlighting its round-robin schedule, a departure from other power conferences.
Baylor head coach Art Briles said the Bears are the reigning conference champs but still have to act like they're on the attack. From quarterback battles to incoming players, Big 12 media days provided many questions and some, but not many, answers.
That's what the season is for.
In the meantime, here were five things that stood out from the first Big 12 media day.
The ACC Football Kickoff took place Sunday and Monday in Greensboro, North Carolina, and even though it didn't boast the excess of SEC Media Days, it did boast the defending national champions, the Florida State Seminoles.
Represented by head coach Jimbo Fisher, cornerback PJ Williams and, of course, quarterback Jameis Winston, FSU was easily the main attraction of the event. But with the fully afroed Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley (pictured above) among other non-Seminole superstars in attendance, it was not the only contingent worth seeing.
Here are some winners and losers from Greensboro.
Nebraska football fans are ready for fall. Things will get kicked off for Husker Nation with the annual fan day on Aug. 1. From there, fall camp begins, which brings a lot to look forward to for fans.
One of the most exciting aspects of fall camp is position battles. The Huskers have quite a few positions that will have players vying for open spots too.
What positions are those? Let's take a look at the five most important battles to watch during fall camp.
It may be the heart of July, but football is right around the corner. With Notre Dame opening training camp in two weeks, the long-awaited Irish season is (almost) finally here.
That means after months of speculation, we'll get our first look at the changes to Brian Kelly's football team. After a 9-4 season came up short of expectations, the Irish enter camp with plenty of talent, but need answers at some key positions.
The NFL draft plundered plenty of Notre Dame's top talent, with eight former Irish players taken. Competition to fill jobs will be fierce, especially with new coordinators on both sides of the ball.
Let's take a look at the five biggest position battles heading into fall camp.
As Myles Jack readies for his sophomore year as UCLA’s star linebacker, he is fully aware of what we’re saying. He hears the whispers of “Charles Woodson” and “Heisman," and he doesn’t run from them. He runs toward them, through them or over them, depending on the circumstances.
“If you shoot for the Heisman and you don’t get it, you really can't be disappointed,” Jack said. “It’s possible, and I’m definitely going to try and reach it.
Why not Myles Jack, who is tipping the scales at 230 pounds after playing much of his freshman season right around 215? Jack admitted that he played “light” in 2013, although it certainly didn’t appear that way. When you consider the fact that he clocked in at 4.52 in his latest 40, his potential comes into focus.
Then you remember he hasn’t celebrated his 19th birthday yet, which is a reminder of just how old you are and how much room he has to grow. And, despite the complexity of his situation, the growing will come at linebacker.
He proclaims his love for defense whenever he can, a mentality that aligns with his skill set. With his physical gifts, love of contact and a closing speed, this will be where he plays at the next level.
"Coming out of high school and a great program at Bellevue we thought he was advanced enough physically to play at UCLA," 247Sports national recruiting director JC Shurburtt said. "But we did not expect him to be at such a level to do what he does."
As one of the nation’s premier high school prospects, Jack was courted by many of the nation's best programs to play linebacker and running back. Some saw him on offense, including a handful of SEC schools that tried to lure the Washington product across the map. Others saw his future at defense.
“I wanted to play linebacker, so I cut those schools off,” Jack said on recruiting.
But he didn’t completely rule out the possibility of playing at running back at UCLA, especially as the injuries started to mount for the Bruins in 2013.
As Jack acclimated to college life and the defensive playbook, flashing glimpses of stardom at his position of choice, he was pulled out of a defensive meeting as the team readied for Arizona in a critical Pac-12 game. It was at this moment the mystique of Myles Jack started to take shape.
Jack was told that he could see some snaps at running back, and he was given one simple halfback dive to process. Although it was unique from his routine, he didn’t think much of it leading into the game. In fact, he thought the coaches were joking.
“I kind of blew them off,” Jack said, laughing as he thought back on the conversations.
The coaches, however, were not joking.
After coming off the field on defense in the second quarter against the Wildcats, Jack found out at that exact moment that these conversations leading up to the game were authentic.
“The next thing I know, someone is grabbing me, pulling me on the field,” Jack said. “I was nervous. I just looked at the sticks, and I said to myself, ‘Myles, you can get a yard.’”
He got the yard and 28 more. The coaches responded by doing exactly what any sane football mind would have done.
Give him the ball again. And again. And a few more times.
Jack carried the ball five times before the fourth quarter, asking quarterback Brett Hundley which way he should run on each carry. Hundley, who couldn’t help but crack a smile, used his thumb to tell Jack which direction he should run. It wasn’t a perfect system, but goodness was it effective.
With the game close in the fourth quarter, Jack took his final carry on 3rd-and-2 as UCLA looked to put the game out of reach. Jack made one move to find a hole—a move you simply don’t see out of many running backs, let alone linebackers filling in—and he was gone.
For the game, Jack finished with 120 yards on six carries. He also recorded eight tackles and a fumble recovery on defense. In roughly 90 minutes, a Heisman campaign was born.
The following week, he carried the ball 13 times and scored four touchdowns against a ranked Washington team. After Washington, Jack ran for 89 yards and scored again in the Bruins’ loss to Arizona State.
All told, he carried the ball 38 times, scored seven touchdowns and averaged more than seven yards per carry for the season. His workload decreased over the final two games, and he logged only one carry in the team’s Sun Bowl win against Virginia Tech.
He did, however, find the end zone in that game, thanks to an interception he took back the other way. He also added a sack, showing off the full spectrum of ways he can impact a game.
I suppose this is the perfect time to remind you that the Pac-12’s Offensive and Defensive Freshman Player of the Year—yes, he won both—is still 18 years old. He will turn 19 a few days after UCLA opens against Virginia.
“Last year I was playing and just reacting, and it worked out,” Jack said. “But I missed out on a lot of opportunities that I would have capitalized on if I had the knowledge that I do right now.”
A lot has changed for Jack in the last year. Not just physically or his football acumen, but with his everyday life. At this time in 2013, he was relatively unknown beyond recruiting junkies, hopefully optimistic that he would see the field in some capacity.
Now, he can no longer get to class without hearing the praise from the student body. He admits he enjoys it, but he also recognizes how different things are, how much work there is still to be done and the sudden rush of expectations.
The attention isn’t just limited to the student body, either. Kennedy Polamalu, UCLA’s new running backs coach, is becoming an increasingly familiar fixture in Jack’s life. Polamalu’s resume of coached running backs includes Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and Reggie Bush for starters, and he’s been sure to remind Jack of this often.
“Every time I see him, he will recruit me to play running back,” Jack laughed. “He throws those names at me and says I could be one of those, and it’s hard to pass up. It’s an offer I can’t say no to, but one I have to say no to.”
Last season, Jack ran for UCLA out of necessity. Injuries hampered the UCLA backfield, forcing the coaches to play defenders in unfamiliar positions. Eddie Vanderdoes, the team’s monstrous defensive tackle, found the end zone against USC on a one-yard run. Holes were plugged, and the results were overwhelmingly positive.
With the backfield healthy again and options aplenty, Jack’s role has still yet to be defined. The defensive part is a given, and he’s expected to be a fixture on one of the most athletic units in the country.
But he will get carries, it’s just a matter of how many and in what capacity. Jim Mora, his head coach, has already made that clear.
.@Mike_Yam: Will Jack be on offense this year? Mora: "He’s gonna touch the ball on offense. Don’t know how many times, but he’ll touch it."— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) April 28, 2014
Whether his workload is comparable to last season or something more will depend likely on the productivity of the position early on.
“With the guys we have right now, they don’t need me. It’s really all on the coaches," Jack said. “Whenever they’re ready, I’m ready. I want to do it again if it’s possible.”
The defensive numbers will be there.
He should blow by the 77 tackles from a season ago and also add sacks and interceptions, something he proved he was capable of early on. Regardless of the fans suddenly swarming him on campus, the coaches recruiting him long after he’s committed and the columns highlighting his unique situation, he is still fine-tuning at his position.
“Right now, I’m focused on trying to become the best defensive player in the country.” Jack said.
This is where it will remain, on his job and on a team positioned for a College Football Playoff run. But if the production comes from both sides of the ball and UCLA finds itself in the Top 10 come November, a run at the Heisman could take shape.
“I’m all about shooting for the stars,” Jack said.
After all, why not?
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With fewer than six weeks before the start of another season of college football, Division IA teams all over the nation are busy preparing for what could be an historic run towards a berth in the first ever four-team playoff format for this year’s National Championship.
It is obvious that certain teams, such as the defending champion Florida State Seminoles, have much better odds to make it into that field of four. However, most likely, the top contenders will first have to successfully win their respective conference title to be considered for a bid.
Doc’s Sports has recently updated its NCAA football futures odds for all five of the major conferences in Division IA, and at the top of that list are the betting odds to win the ACC. Florida State ran through the ACC last season with a perfect 8-0 record in conference play and a lopsided 45-7 victory over Duke in the title game as a 30-point favorite. This was all part of an overall record of 14-0 that culminated with a stirring 34-31 victory over Auburn as a 10.5-point favorite to win the final BCS title game.
This was the Seminoles second straight ACC title, so it should come as no surprise that they have been listed as prohibitive 4-11 favorites to make it three in a row. Head coach Jimbo Fisher is well known for his ability to attract some of the best high school talent in the nation to his football program, but he struck gold when quarterback Jameis Winston came to Tallahassee.
Last year in his first season as a starter, Winston took college football by storm, becoming the second straight redshirt freshman to win the sport’s most prestigious award: the Heisman Trophy (Winston is the favorite to win this season’s Heisman as well). The year before, former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first-ever freshman to win the Heisman as college football’s most outstanding player, and Winston wasted little time continuing this trend by winning it last year.
Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 66.9 percent of his 384 attempts. While he rushed for only 219 yards on 88 carries, he still proved to be a dual threat whenever the ball was in his hands.
Along with Winston, Florida State remains stacked on both sides of the ball with an offense that was ranked second in the nation in scoring in 2013 with 51.6 points a game complementing a defense that was first in the nation in points allowed (12.1).
The big question sports bettors have when it comes to the 2014 ACC title is if there is any other team that has a legitimate shot at derailing this Florida State machine.
The closest team when it comes to futures odds is Clemson as a 10-1 second favorite. Both teams play in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, so that means the Tigers will most likely have to beat the Seminoles in a head-to-head matchup on Saturday, Sept. 20 in Tallahassee. Last season in Clemson, the Tigers were 4.5-point underdogs at home in a 51-14 beatdown that ended their run at earning a spot in December’s conference title game. Clemson is expected to take a step backwards this season after losing its dynamic quarterback Tajh Boyd to the NFL.
The next two favorites on the ACC futures odds list are Miami and Virginia Tech at 12-1. Of the two teams, the best value in these odds is probably with the Hokies for the simple reason that they do not have to face Florida State in the regular season. If they can get past Miami at home on Thursday, Oct. 23, this could set up a meeting with the Seminoles in the ACC title game as Coastal Division champs. In a winner-take-all format such as a conference title game, anything can happen, but it will be a stretch at best considering that Virginia Tech has gone 9-7 in the ACC the past two seasons.
The Hurricanes will get a shot at taking down their bitter in-state rivals on Saturday, Nov. 15 in the friendly confines of Sun Life Stadium. Last season they lost to Florida State 41-14 as 21.5-point road underdogs.
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Perennial Pac-12 contender Oregon heads into the 2014 season with one of the conference's most veteran first strings. Only UCLA returns more starters than the Ducks.
Still, plenty of a positional competitions will play out when Oregon opens preseason camp in just a few weeks.
Roles crucial to the Ducks' pursuit of a Pac-12 championship and berth in the first College Football Playoff are up for grabs on both sides of the ball. Head coach Mark Helfrich and his staff face some important questions when filling out the depth chart this fall.
Everyone—even the best head coaches in America—could stand to improve. Especially as the game of college football evolves, the figures involved with it must adapt.
The 10 best coaches in America is obviously a subjective list to build. A handful of great options had to be left off—including the last two national runners-up. The only reason this was done was for longevity purposes. Winning national championships or enjoying sustainable success were given precedence over most things.
Apologies to all who were omitted.
Sound off below, and let me know where you disagree.
If Leonard Fournette doesn't have a big head after hearing his coach and teammates rave about him at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, he's the most humble man in the world.
Praise was everywhere.
Head coach Les Miles compared the true freshman from New Orleans to legendary NBA star Michael Jordan.
"He expects himself to be something very special," Miles said. "I think if you look at Michael Jordan, he could not have been coached to be Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan accepted the role of expecting him to be better than any. I think he has a quiet confidence there that will benefit him, and I think we will always have an opportunity to play at that spot, the running backs that are fresh."
As if that wasn't enough pressure on Fournette's shoulder's, Terrence Magee—a guy who plays the same position as Fournette and is at risk of losing playing time to the No. 1 overall player in the 2014 recruiting class—went even bigger in terms of football skills, saying that he has the chance to be the best ever at LSU.
No pressure, kid.
While Fournette was the talk of the town—or hotel—when LSU made the rounds, one freshman who wasn't talked about as much as Fournette or quarterback Brandon Harris could have the biggest impact on the 2014 Tigers.
Wide receiver Malachi Dupre.
The 6'3", 188-pound former 5-star prospect from New Orleans was one of several true freshmen that Miles expects to have a big impact on the 2014 Tigers.
"We're a team that will expect some of these freshmen to come in and play," he said. "Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre, C.J. (Clifton) Garrett and Brandon Harris, to name four freshmen that we would expect to have great impact on our season."
Dupre is going to have the biggest.
It's no secret that LSU is thin at wide receiver after Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. left for the NFL, but the amount of inexperience outside is staggering. Travin Dural—the Tigers' leading returning receiver—had only seven catches last year for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
With Magee and senior Kenny Hilliard in the backfield with Fournette, running back is the most stable skill position in the LSU offense, despite the loss of Jeremy Hill. Teams will undoubtedly stack the box and force either Harris or sophomore Anthony Jennings—both of whom are unproven quarterbacks—to beat them through the air.
It's up to Dupre to help them out.
He doesn't have to do it all himself. Dural has potential, John Diarse and Avery Peterson have potential, and there are other options coming in with the freshman class, including Trey Quinn.
Dupre is the one with the most upside and needs to at least present a downfield threat outside to keep opposing defenses honest. If he can, that will open the door just a little bit more for those running backs and take a little pressure off the quarterback.
If Fournette doesn't live up to the hype, Magee and Hilliard can pick up the slack. They're proven backs who can certainly serve, at the very least, as capable insurance policies. If Harris doesn't shine, Jennings can take the snaps.
Wide receiver is the least stable of all of the skill positions on LSU's offense, which makes Dupre the most important freshman on the roster.
He's got the talent and the size to be a superstar, and if he proves it right off the bat, it will help ease the transition for whoever wins the quarterback job and keep defenses honest against Fournette and the rest of the running backs.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
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Even before the approximately 100 media members had time to ask the first of many questions at ACC Kickoff, Jameis Winston had one himself.
"How does it feel to have an ACC team come in here with a national championship?" the Florida State quarterback said, according to 247Sports' Tim Linafelt. "Can we get the ACC a round of applause? Finally, we took it away from the SEC. It's a blessing."
The Hueytown, Alabama, native, who grew up just a short drive from Alabama and Auburn, delivered quite the punch to the SEC's gut on Jan. 6, leading a final-minute rally as Florida State defeated Auburn 34-31 to win the national title. FSU's win halted the SEC's streak of seven straight national titles.
And it was also quite the punchline as Winston was just getting warmed up on Sunday afternoon. The media is there to do a job, ask questions—often tough ones. But Winston handled all of them with ease. He said all the right things and gave us a look at a new, more mature person.
His 2013 season will go down as one of the best of any freshman in college football history. He threw for a school-record 40 touchdown passes, capturing a Heisman Trophy at 19 and winning a national title on the day he turned 20.
But off the field, Winston has frequently found his way into the headlines.
In November 2013, he was investigated for sexual assault but not arrested or charged by State Attorney Willie Meggs. And in April, Winston was cited—but not arrested—for stealing $32 in seafood from a Publix supermarket near FSU's campus. The two-sport star was suspended for three baseball games in May while he served 20 hours of community service.
Winston wasn't asked directly about the sexual assault investigation, The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter wrote. But Porter said Winston did address the citation:
I don't go into detail, but I did fix it and I've learned from my mistakes. Like I always say, the leadership I've gained from my past mistakes has gotten better. I learned what it really takes to be a leader and everybody's going to be watching you. You have to do the right thing.
Only time will tell how much Winston has learned from his mistakes. But it appears he's disappointed in himself—and that should make him a better person. And, as the Tallahassee Democrat's Corey Clark points out, FSU sports information officials were there if needed to put a halt to any questions or assist Winston. But "there were never any tense moments," Clark wrote.
He was also asked about one of college football's hot topics, the payment of student-athletes. In the wake of an effort by Northwestern football players to unionize, Winston said (via 247Sports) that he didn't feel a need to be paid while playing college athletics.
We're blessed to get a free education. That's the most important thing. My job as a Florida State Seminole is to be a good student first and then an athlete second. That scholarship that we get every year, that's enough money for me.
Winston spent time talking about football and FSU's outlook for 2014. He told The Post that he has been focusing on his throwing mechanics, specifically "working on my hips." And while FSU loses five starters on each side of the ball, Winston told reporters that "the most important thing is we got our offensive line back."
After winning the Heisman as a freshman, Winston's numbers from 2013 will be compared to his 2014 stats as well as those of other stars in college football this season. Winston is aiming to become the first back-to-back Heisman winner since Ohio State running back Archie Griffin in 1974 and '75.
In response to a question about a Heisman repeat, Winston said: "I want to be a two-time national championship quarterback."
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.
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The Alabama Crimson Tide have a few positions to fill coming into the 2014 season.
Star QB AJ McCarron has taken his talents to the NFL, leaving Nick Saban looking for the next stud in Tuscaloosa. The secondary is also searching for weapons, with some young talent ready to have an impact immediately. Who do you think will start for the Crimson Tide?
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Brady Hoke enters his fourth season with a roster finally stocked with his own recruits. Looking to erase last season’s 7-6 finish, Hoke can eagerly expect a defense that is deep, talented and about to get better with the addition of top recruit Jabrill Peppers.
The offense is another story: Graduation has taken a heavy toll, and key players need to be replaced as Doug Nussmeier looks to install his new system.
Here are the top position battles as Michigan looks to rebound and compete for the Big Ten title.
All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department web site.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.
The last few days of July can only mean one thing: We are only a few weeks away from the return of college football.
In Auburn, the countdown is on for the start of fall camp and the final stretch of the offseason. The defending SEC champions sorted some things out during a productive spring slate of practices, but there is still some sorting out to do before opening day against Arkansas.
Head coach Gus Malzahn did not release an official post-spring depth chart like he did last season, so there is still some mystery surrounding the replacements for several departed stars from Auburn's 2013 championship campaign.
Before the release of my pre-fall camp depth chart later this week, here is a look at what I consider to be the five biggest position battles that are still raging on the Plains.
LSU head coach Les Miles is going through a major media swing. Miles went to SEC media days last week and is going through the ESPN "car wash" Monday. He is a joy to watch whenever he is behind a microphone, as his affable personality captivates the college football world.
But that means little on the football field.
Miles' real work begins in fall practice. The season opener against Wisconsin is just over a month away, and he still has difficult decisions to make at key positions.
Here are some of the key battles for starting roles that will determined over the next few weeks.
As USC heads into its final practice camp before the start of the 2014 college football season, it does so still looking to answer several questions regarding the identity of many of its starting positional players.
Though depth issues remain as an ugly reminder of their recently completed punishment due to the NCAA-mandated sanctions, the Trojans will still be able to sport a solid two-deep for their new head coach, Steve Sarkisian, to choose from when appointing those who will start for the men of Troy this year.
Indeed, it is those battles in this fall camp that will determine who gets the starting nod, and that is the subject of this slideshow.
With many starting positions still up in the air, it is imperative that those players who hope to start put their best foot forward in these final 15 practice sessions.
But who will those players be?
That remains to be seen, but here are seven positional battles you should keep your eye on…
Uncertainty still abounds at many positions for the Notre Dame football team with fall camp rapidly approaching.
Let’s take a look at our projected depth chart, predicting how things stand right now before camp begins. The focus here will be on identifying the starters and listing the key backups, not necessarily guessing at which specific side a defensive end profiles, for example.
One overriding theme from this exercise is just how unproven yet talented the Irish are in many spots. The development from the summer and into the fall will determine how quickly the Irish adjust to their relative inexperience.
For players still recovering from injuries, we’ll decide their place on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, it may not be reasonable to expect an injured player to be ready for first-team reps during fall camp.
Also, it’s worth noting these are our predictions as we head into fall camp. Even if we expect, say, a freshman to shine in August, that won’t be reflected in the ordering.