NCAA Football

Former Texas QB Chris Simms 1-on-1 with Alabama Commit QB Blake Barnett

Blake Barnett is a 5-star quarterback committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The No. 3 dual-threat QB in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, Barnett will be a great asset for Nick Saban in the future.

Bleacher Report's NFL Analyst Chris Simms had a one-on-one session with Barnett in New York City.

How do you think he will do at the next level?

Check out the video to find out.


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings. 

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The Case for Michigan Freshman Sensation Jabrill Peppers to Play Both Ways

For Brady Hoke, the scenario entering the 2014 season is pretty simple: Win, or else.

The “or else” requires no further elaboration. The upcoming campaign will drive his coaching future one way or another, whether at Michigan or elsewhere.

Pressure has started to build—fair or not—despite the university’s unwavering public support for its current head coach. He needs a successful season, or a familiar process will pitch a tent in Ann Arbor and likely be his undoing.

It’s for that reason that Hoke should count on incoming freshman Jabrill Peppers however he can, whenever he can, at whatever position(s) he believes he can handle from Day 1. Take those classic freshman protocols and abandon them entirely.

This is not your typical freshman, and more importantly, this is also not your typical situation.

Peppers, the No. 3 overall player in the class of 2014, according to 247Sports' Composite ranking, is one of the most explosive high school players to emerge in the past five years. He projects as an elite cornerback, not a label many high school corners acquire before playing their first collegiate game.

At 6 feet tall and more than 200 pounds, he already has an NFL body. He also has elite speed, something that was on display as he won another New Jersey Non-Public A state track title in the 100-meter dash.

His time of 10.52 seconds was nearly a half-second better than Minkah Fitzpatrick, an Alabama commit and the nation’s No. 42 ranked incoming recruit, according to 247Sports' Composite ranking.

He is, quite simply, a physical specimen.

“Peppers is one of the most dynamic football players I have seen at the high school level,” JC Shurburtt, the national recruiting director at 247Sports told Bleacher Report.

“He was special on defense and with the ball in his hands. There probably hasn't been a high school player I've seen with that type of versatility and skill set since Joe McKnight in the 2007 class."

The buzz is real. It’s prompted a flurry of questions regarding how Hoke will use Peppers out of the gate. Such talk will only continue as we inch toward conference media days.

Speaking with Bonnie Bernstein of Campus Insiders, Hoke offered the following on whether Peppers could assume a Charles Woodson-like role:

Jabrill is a guy that obviously we think is a very good football player. Will he get the ball in his hands, not just play defense? Maybe. We’ll see how things go. We’ll see. Believe me, I’ve got a new offensive coordinator who wants him to play tailback. We’ll see. We’ll go through it pretty well with him.

That coordinator is Doug Nussmeier. Nussmeier was paid handsomely to leave Alabama this offseason, and Hoke hopes he can revive an offense that struggled mightily—especially along the offensive line—in 2013.

Although Devin Gardner had his struggles at quarterback, particularly with turnovers, he didn’t have much help when it came to protection, and the running game didn’t do him any favors.

Such issues were evident while assessing the woeful numbers from a season ago.

Despite the carnage, there’s good news coming. (There’s also a bit of bad.)

The bad news is that the team’s top offensive lineman, Taylor Lewan, is off to the NFL. As one might expect, the issue didn’t suddenly resolve itself this spring without its most proven commodity. The offensive line struggled without Lewan, particularly in the team’s spring game, and it remains a work in progress.

The good news is it really can’t get much worse than it was a season ago. Beyond the obvious, the other, actual bit of good news is that Derrick Green—the prized running back recruit from the 2013 class—has cut weight and looked the part this offseason.

And then there’s Peppers and the spark he could provide.

His role has yet to be defined, but it has gained some clarity. Hoke announced that Peppers will likely start at nickelback, according to Nick Baumgardner at mlive.com.

Keep in mind this could change. Peppers could turn heads in fall camp and acquire a more prominent role in the secondary. Included in this role could be some touches on special teams, and that’s where things could get interesting for the freshman.

"We'll probably have him return some kicks and we'll probably have him do some kickoff returns -- just see how capable he is," Hoke told Brendan F. Quinn of mlive.com. "We think (he is) very capable."

He is, and he will be. And it likely won’t take long.

While corner feels like his permanent landing spot, few can do the things he can with the football in his hands. This play from a high school scrimmage last season served as a reminder of the sheer absurdity he’s capable of.

"I think Peppers absolutely can play both sides,” Shurburtt added on his potential. “In fact, I am not sure how wise Michigan would be if the Wolverines did not attempt to get the ball in his hands at least a few times per game. He's just such an explosive player."

It may not be the more deliberate handoffs. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Those honors should go to Green or De’Veon Smith, another promising young back who, with Green, will likely see the bulk of the traditional carries.

But given the issues with the running game, one would only assume that Peppers will be used in unique ways. He has to be. His presence alone could alter how defenses approach this team, which is an enormous advantage for a unit in desperate need of an edge.

While it’s presumptuous to assume that Peppers will come in and immediately be Percy Harvin—although that won’t stop usage comparisons given the head coach—the upside is too great to deny him for long.

He’s a game-changer—along with tight end Devin Funchess—who will keep opposing coordinators’ coffee makers active well after dinner. Not because of what they’ll do on their 15 to 20 touches, but because of what they can do on that one screen pass or option, that one unassuming play, that a team wasn't ready for.

For Brady Hoke, a coach teetering toward the place no coach wants to go, no scenario should be disregarded. You can’t possibly put all your hopes on one individual player—especially a non-quarterback who has yet to participate in his first collegiate practice—but the potential is too boundless to ignore. Counting on him feels appropriate.

It isn't normal to set these kinds of expectations for a player with a blank canvas, but again, Peppers requires a different protocol entirely. With desperation and necessity blending together as a critical season approaches, no avenue should go unexplored.

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Power Ranking Auburn's Positional Units for 2014

After a remarkable 12-2 season that finished with an SEC Championship and a spot in the final BCS National Championship Game, the Auburn Tigers will have a target on their backs this season.

Fortunately for the Tigers and their fans, they have the strength to handle the pressure of SEC and national-title hype.

Auburn returns eight starters from one of the nation's most potent offenses and has depth across the defensive line and linebacker units.

However, Gus Malzahn and his staff will need to see improvement from an underwhelming secondary while implementing an entirely new set of specialists.

Here is a bottom-to-top look at the Tigers' positional units, ranked by experience, performance in previous seasons and an outlook toward the near future. Returning starters are listed as top players, while projected new starters and role players are listed as question marks heading into the 2014 season. 

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Kevin Sumlin Needs to Find a 'Johnny Manziel' on Texas A&M's Defense in 2014

Two short seasons ago, there was uncertainty in College Station, Texas.

The Texas A&M Aggies were entering their new life as a member of the SEC West, fresh off a 7-6 season with a new coach and a new quarterback.

A slow transition process was inevitable. Well, until a redshirt freshman quarterback named Johnny Manziel stepped on the field and set the college football world on fire.

Fast forward two years, and it's another big season in College Station littered with high stakes and plenty of uncertainty. My B/R colleague Ben Kercheval noted earlier this month that the expectations generated from head coach Kevin Sumlin's first two seasons at the helm coupled with Texas' downward spiral into national irrelevance makes this a critical year for Texas A&M.

What would help? Finding a "Johnny Manziel" for that defense would be a huge benefit.

Manziel came along at a time in the SEC when defenses dominated. He, along with an influx of new head coaches like Sumlin, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Auburn's Gus Malzahn, helped change that. Defense doesn't win championships anymore; "just enough" defense wins championships.

Texas A&M hasn't had enough over the last two seasons.

Not even close.

Isaiah Golden looked like he could be a force in the middle of the defensive line in the second half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Duke, but he was dismissed from the team earlier this month. Linebacker Darian Claiborne led the Aggies in tackles last year, due in part to running backs continually getting to the second level. A full offseason of work could have turned him into "that guy" as well. But he was dismissed with Golden after an offseason of tumult.

Somebody has to step up, because while there are weapons all over the Aggies offense and creativity within the coaching staff to succeed no matter who's the quarterback, it's unlikely the Aggies offense will be as potent as it was with the most dynamic college football quarterback of this generation taking the snaps.

Sumlin needs to catch lighting in a bottle on the defensive side of the ball.

One potential candidate would be defensive end Myles Garrett. The No. 2 overall player in the class of 2014 has incredible burst off the edge, the size to be a force against the run and the potential to be one of the most disruptive players in the SEC once he gets his feet wet.

But when, exactly, will that be?

Julien Obioha and Gavin Stansbury are likely candidates to start at rush end and strong-side defensive end, respectively. If Garrett emerges as a force, it could allow defensive coordinator Mark Snyder to drop one of them down to defensive tackle in passing situations and let Garrett's strength—his pass-rushing ability—shine early and often.

If that happens, that would help out a secondary that, while experienced, has dealt with quite a few passes being completed on them over the last two seasons. Then, maybe, cornerback Deshazor Everett will live up to that first-team All-SEC tag Phil Steele gave him in his 2014 preview. 

They better find a star in a hurry, because as was the case in Manziel's first season at quarterback, the Aggies open with an SEC opponent: on the road Aug. 28 vs. South Carolina. 

If a new star doesn't emerge before then, it could be the start of a long season in College Station.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Why Devin Gardner Should Be Michigan's Starting Quarterback in 2014

Michigan's critical 2014 season doesn't rest solely on its quarterback, but it's a major storyline nonetheless. That said, head coach Brady Hoke wants to eliminate that story as soon as possible. 

Speaking on SiriusXM last Thursday, Hoke said he expects to know which quarterback will take the field—Devin Gardner or Shane Morris—early in fall camp (via Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com):

Even though we have a starter coming back (at quarterback), I think that's a great competition. At the end of the day, somewhere early in fall camp, I think that position will be secured by one guy.

(Someone) who will go out there and lead this offense and lead this team. But, at the same time, having the ability (to have depth) if a guy gets dinged up, or a guy isn't having the day he wants to have or we want him to have. There's an opportunity for the next guy to come in, and that's what's been great (about this).

The battle between Gardner, a senior, and Morris, a sophomore, was closely watched through the spring, with Hoke indicating (via Baumgardner) that Morris had made up ground on Gardner. But Hoke has also maintained that, if the season opener against Appalachian State were tomorrow, Gardner would likely be the choice. 

So unless Morris transforms during summer workouts, it wouldn't be surprising to see Gardner named the starter in the early stages of preseason camp. That will allow Gardner to prepare with confidence and for the rest of the offense, which finished 87th in the nation last season, to jell. 

Make no mistake, allowing the competition to stretch through the spring was a good move by Hoke. That pushes Gardner to show that he's the runaway favorite and Morris can gain some confidence knowing he has a legitimate shot. For that matter, new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can get a good feel for both quarterbacks. 

Ultimately, the nod should go to Gardner. Otherwise, the longer the competition goes into preseason camp, the better chance Morris has of being named the starter. 

Gardner's numbers were far from terrible last season—2,960 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions—but he also had no protection. The offensive line is a major question mark again for the Wolverines, one that could easily determine the outcome of the season. 

If the offensive line is problematic again, it won't matter as much who is behind center. But, of the two, Gardner is a bit more dynamic running the ball. Expect the quarterbacks to run less in Nussmeier's offense, but with Gardner in the backfield, the threat is still there. 

"Absolutely, that's the plan," Gardner said about running the ball via Dave Dye of Fox Sports Detroit. "That's what Coach Nuss is always talking about even when we have (quarterback) read plays where I'll read the (defensive) end. It used to be if it's a question, we'll take it and go (on a keeper). Now if it's a question, we want the running back to hold the ball and to continue to run."

Gardner has the experience and athleticism to give him an edge in the competition. But as Dye also notes, Gardner has a "now or never" urgency that fits in with Michigan's attitude this season. 

Gardner is going to be a fifth-year senior. Starting August 30 against Appalachian State, it will become 'now or never' time for him.

'He's always been kind of a football junkie, but I think he's worked at it more so this spring,' Hoke said.

Gardner added: 'It's your last opportunity to make something happen, leave your stamp, part of your legacy here.'

It's not that Morris doesn't share the urgency to win, but he's still developing at the quarterback position. The Wolverines don't have a lot of time or patience right now. Morris filled in well for Gardner in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State, showing off a nice arm. He may be Michigan's quarterback of the future one day.

For now, though, Hoke has implied Gardner gives this team the best chance the win. That's what he has to go with. As Hoke said, that can always change down the road if Gardner doesn't live up to expectations. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Notre Dame Football: Over, Under Stat Projections for DaVaris Daniels in 2014

It’s been just more than a month since Irish wide receiver DaVaris Daniels was readmitted to Notre Dame:

Ready to get back to it.

— Toot Daddy Fresh™ (@DaVarisDaniels) May 30, 2014

As we discussed in our power ranking of Notre Dame’s positional units heading into 2014, Daniels provides a huge boost to the Irish receiving corps. A rising senior, Daniels possesses plenty of past experience (12 starts) and production (80 receptions and seven touchdowns).

But what is reasonable to expect from the Vernon Hills, Illinois, native this season? Without T.J. Jones, is Daniels poised to post elite, Jones-like numbers?

We’ll set over-under lines for Daniels for some of the key receiving statistics and predict if he falls short or tops the mark.

 

Receptions: 70

We’ll set the line at 70 receptions for Daniels in 2014. In three of the last four seasons since Brian Kelly took over as the head coach at Notre Dame, a Fighting Irish wide receiver has reached 70 grabs.

However, it wouldn’t be too surprising for Daniels to fall slightly short of the 70-reception plateau. There’s a deep stable of young, talented pass-catchers behind Daniels, so there likely won’t be an overreliance on the senior.

Moreover, Notre Dame’s running backs appear ready to shoulder a major offensive load, as senior Cam McDaniel and sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston combine to form a capable three-pronged attack. Their ability may result in fewer pass attempts in 2014.

For Daniels to notch 70 or 80 receptions like Jones and Michael Floyd, he’ll need to improve upon a porous catch rate, according to Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold. Arnold observes that Daniels was actually targeted two more times than Jones in 2013, but Daniels had a catch rate of less than 50 percent.

 

Receiving Yards:1,000

In three of Kelly’s four seasons in South Bend, Indiana, the Irish have had a wide receiver clip the 1,000-yard mark. And while we may not be as bullish on Daniels duplicating the reception totals of Jones and Floyd, he stands a better chance at cracking 1,000 receiving yards.

Daniels has averaged 15.4 yards per catch during his two seasons on the field with the Irish. At that rate, it would take Daniels roughly 65 receptions to amass 1,000 yards.

Those numbers appear within reach for a wide receiver who averaged 10.7 yards per target playing with quarterback Everett Golson in 2012, according to Arnold, compared to 6.7 with quarterback Tommy Rees. That 10.7 yard-per-target average is more in line with that of top receivers. Jones, for example, produced 10.2 yards per target, per Arnold.

Daniels should top 1,000 yards considering his penchant for long plays, too. The rising senior has recorded a reception of at least 20 yards in 15 of the 24 games played in his career. Daniels had touchdown grabs of 61 yards (BYU), 82 yards (Purdue) and 32 yards (twice against Temple) in 2013.

 

Receiving Touchdowns: 9

It might seem like nine touchdowns is selling Daniels short. After all, he registered seven scores as the No. 2 receiver in 2013. But it’s worth analyzing the touchdown totals of past leading receivers under Kelly.

While it wouldn’t be surprising for Daniels to record double-digit touchdowns given the aforementioned proclivity for big plays, the Irish have a capable group of pass-catchers to steal some red-zone targets. Tight end Ben Koyack (6’5”) and wide receiver Corey Robinson (6’4.5”) present longer options than Daniels (6’1.5”).

Seven different Notre Dame players hauled in touchdown grabs last season, up from five in each of the previous two seasons. The Irish appear willing to spread the wealth around again in 2014.

Still, touchdowns are a fickle statistic. Daniels could very well explode for 12, as Floyd did in 2010, or be limited to four, as Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert were in 2012 during the run to the BCS National Championship Game.

 

All statistics are from UND.com unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Should More College Football Programs Offer 4-Year Scholarships to Recruits?

On the surface, it sounds revolutionary. A major step forward in the welfare of college football players.

Last week, Southern California sent ripples across the college football landscape when it announced that it would begin offering guaranteed four-year scholarships to football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball players, as reported by Everett Cook for the Los Angeles Times.

"In taking this action, USC hopes to help lead the effort to refocus on student-athlete welfare on and off the field," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement.

The Big Ten followed suit by issuing a statement reaffirming its stance on offering four-year scholarships, which it actually adopted in 2012.

As recently as 2010, all NCAA scholarships were renewed on a year-by-year basis before legislation passed allowed (but did not require) programs to offer four-year scholarships.

Does it matter? Should more college football programs offer four-year scholarships to recruits? Is it the wave of the future or simply a good public relations gesture that covers up a larger problem?

One prominent college football recruiting analyst says the ripple is just that. A ripple.

“The Big Ten will sell it to every kid, and if parents bring it up, they’ll brag about it a lot,” said Kipp Adams, a 247Sports national recruiting insider with a focus on Southeastern recruiting. “But I think it’s a leaf in the wind. I don’t see it being a big deal in recruiting.”

As Ed O’Bannon’s landmark antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA wraps up arguments, player welfare has become a hot topic, along with topics like player payments and paying “full cost of attendance.”

Four-year scholarships are a natural step. The Big Ten, for example, will guarantee its scholarships even if players are no longer able to compete or if they leave early for a professional career. League institutions will also cover “full cost of a college education, as defined by the federal government” and feature improved medical insurance.

Adams, who is based in the Atlanta area and has spent eight years as a recruiting analyst, says the topic hasn’t registered much with the prospects he speaks with on a regular basis.

“Maybe one or two kids mentioned it the week it came out, but I never heard it mentioned as a factor in a decision,” he said. “It’s had little to no effect.”

Ten of the 14 current SEC schools supported the four-year scholarship proposal when it narrowly survived an override proposal in 2012. Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M did not, although Alabama coach Nick Saban later said that his program would offer four-year scholarships.

However, according to a 2013 report by the Chronicle Of Higher Education, only six programs (Florida, Ohio State, N.C. State, Michigan State, Arizona State and Auburn) had offered at least 24 four-year scholarships in the most recent academic year.

Do those promises really matter? Adams thinks programs will find plenty of other ways to manage their rosters.

“If the coach doesn’t want you anymore, doesn’t think you’re up to the part, they’ll switch your position, tell you you’ll never see the field, bury you on the depth chart,” he said. “There’s always the medical disqualification, although the SEC has an oversight committee that makes sure they’re all medically proper decisions.

“There’s always the ‘violation of team rules’, and it’s such a vague rule. They can make life miserable for you, and say if you’re tardy for two team study halls, they’ll say you’re off the team, changing times so you don’t even know when the study hall is. They’ll practice you at different times other than the rest of the team, tell them they’ll never see the field. Kids will transfer on their own.”

SEC coaches, Adams says, have plenty to sell beyond four-year scholarships.

“They’ll make sure to put it in the back of any prospect’s mind,” he said. “They’ll talk about production, the NFL, the quality of education, the assistance they’ll give kids and graduation rate, and that’s all they need to push to guys,” he said.

"College coaches are recruiters as much as coaches and they’re really good at their job. If parents bring it up, they’ll go to the retention rate, graduation rates, NFL rates and hammer that home. (Parents) will forget why they brought it up. That’s why they’re great at their jobs, why they get paid the salaries they do.”

If anything, the scholarships will only expand the gap between college football’s “haves” (the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) and its “have-nots” (everyone else).

It is another opportunity for big-time programs to flex their financial muscles and take advantage of the huge television contracts they’ve signed.

Four-year scholarships are also excellent public relations and a way to show the general public that major programs care about student-athletes.

However, even if guaranteed scholarships gain major acceptance across college football, there’s no denying that coaches will still find a way to prune their rosters of the unwanted, one way or another.

More programs should offer four-year scholarships, but that doesn’t mean that college football will be fundamentally changed.

 *Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.

*Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

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Ohio State Football: Why Dontre Wilson Will Be Buckeyes' X-Factor in 2014

Ohio State's offense has operated at a record-breaking pace under Urban Meyer, but with Dontre Wilson in a featured role, the Buckeyes could be even more explosive in 2014.

The 5'10", 185-pound blazer out of DeSoto, Texas, is primed for a breakout year after a quiet freshman season.

Meyer recruited Wilson to bring speed and playmaking ability to a group of skill-position players that desperately needed it. The former 4-star all-purpose back piled up 2,645 yards of total offense and 46 touchdowns as a high school senior—showcasing the versatility the Buckeyes coveted.

Wilson committed to Ohio State in February 2013 and flashed his potential during fall camp, but when the season kicked off, his opportunities were limited.

Meyer had one of the best pairs in college football with Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. With that pair sharing a backfield, Wilson was used mainly as a decoy to distract the defense away from the real action.

“I just didn’t feel like I was that involved,” Wilson said, according to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper. “Basically most of the plays I was pretty much just faking and fly sweeping and the defense would bite and we would throw it downfield."

He still found ways to produce.

Wilson rushed for 250 yards and hauled in 22 receptions for 210 yards to complement three total touchdowns. On most occasions, Ohio State would move him around pre-snap to take a defender out of the box. A few times a game, however, Miller found him in space.

The Buckeyes will need much more from him this year.

Ohio State must replace its leading rusher in Hyde, who ran for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns in just 11 games. The Buckeyes also need someone to step up in place of Corey Brown, who graduated after leading the team in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons.

Replacing that production can't be put on the shoulders of one player, but the coaching staff is turning its attention to Wilson in order to reshape the team's offensive identity.

Last year, the Buckeyes leaned on Hyde and four senior starters along the offensive line to grind things out on the ground. This year, the Buckeyes are strongest on the perimeter, where speed abounds.

With that speed, Meyer is implementing new wrinkles to the offense, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.

As bad as we want an offensive line like we had last year, it’s going to take a while to develop that. I think at some point because we recruited well and our line coach that it’ll happen. But we’re going to have to lean on some perimeter ways of getting first downs, where last year when you rush for 300-plus yards a game it’s because that offensive line was so good. We have other weapons, but it will have a different taste to it than last year.

Wilson, who won the starting H-back position during spring practice, is ready to become Ohio State's most lethal weapon. Wide receivers coach Zach Smith feels that he's ready for that role.

"That's what our offense does - gets the ball to great players," Smith said, via Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "Dontre will hopefully fit that mold because he has the ability to be a great player and he is taking strides toward that."

 

All stats via NCAA.com. All recruiting information per 247Sports.com.

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

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College Football's Top QB-RB-WR Combinations for 2014 Season

The concept of the "Big Three" is more familiar to basketball fans than it is to football fans, but that doesn't mean the latter can't incorporate it.

Although some teams' two best players play the same position, though, the greatest "Big Threes" are the ones like the San Antonio Spurs': evenly balanced at different spots. Having Tony Parker at point guard, Manu Ginobili/Kawhi Leonard on the wing and Tim Duncan in the post is the basketball equivalent of having a quality performer at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

That got us thinking about the best offensive "Big Threes" in college football. Based solely on their top QB, RB and WR—not their depth at those positions—which teams are best set up for success in 2014?

The "in 2014" is an operative part of that sentence. This is a projection of how each unit will perform next season, not a forecast toward the following years. LSU and Texas A&M, for example, have a couple of blue-chip true freshmen being counted on at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. That might make them dangerous in 2015 and 2016, but next season it is more likely to result in growing pains.

Also bear in mind that the quarterback position, by virtue of being the most important on the field, was weighted more heavily than running back and wide receiver. A great quarterback can compensate for a merely decent supporting cast in a way that a great supporting cast cannot compensate for a merely decent quarterback.

Ultimately, the guiding principle for this list was: Assuming you know nothing about your team's defense, offensive line, coaching staff or depth, which triad of players would you feel more comfortable starting a team with from scratch for the upcoming season?

Sound off below, and let me know where you disagree.

 

Note: Unless otherwise cited, all recruiting information courtesy of the 247Sports composite rankings in 201120122013 and 2014.

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Georgia Football: Why Leonard Floyd Will Be the Bulldogs' X-Factor in 2014

Georgia’s struggles on defense in 2013 were just as well-documented as the attrition that has plagued the unit’s secondary this offseason.

That degree of negative sentiment is in direct conflict with the optimism surrounding the arrival of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, and the end result is a general uneasiness concerning the defense.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, rising sophomore Leonard Floyd is braced for impact in 2014 and if the season goes as many experts anticipate, Floyd will prove to be the Dawgs’ X-factor this season.

 

Fantastic Freshman

Floyd arrived in Athens last summer as the nation’s fifth-best prep school product, according to the 247Sports Composite. It didn’t take long for his size and athleticism to catch the eye of coaches and fans alike. In fact, he registered his first of eight starts in the season opener at Clemson.

When his productive freshman campaign was complete, he’d tallied 55 total tackles (including 6.5 sacks), intercepted one pass and forced two fumbles. Not surprisingly, he was selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team.

 

Breakout Season Ahead

Now, Floyd is preparing to have an even bigger sophomore campaign, and his new defensive coordinator may enable him to do so. While Pruitt’s arrival has been hailed as a coup for a defensive secondary in desperate need of relief, his new scheme will also benefit players like Floyd.

“I love it,” Floyd told Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald about Pruitt’s new system. “[I] Don’t have to think as much. All I’ve got to do is think about rushing.”

For a player whose greatest physical attributes are speed, explosiveness and an ability to use length to create leverage, focusing on chasing the quarterback has to be a welcomed change. And now Floyd, who will line up at both defensive end and his typical outside linebacker post, will get to do just that. 2014 will bring less dropping into coverage and more chasing the passer for Floyd.

 

Great Expectations

Apparently the promise Floyd showed as a freshman and his newly simplified (but more aggressive) role under Pruitt has captured the attention of a number of experts and their preseason award lists.

Athlon Sports named Floyd to its All-SEC second team as an outside linebacker. Meanwhile, prognostication guru Phil Steele named Floyd as a Preseason All-America selection, according to GeorgiaDogs.com.

Such high praise is likely not a surprise from his teammates. Fellow linebacker Amarlo Herrera told Seth Emerson of Macon’s The Telegraph simply, “Floyd, he’s so fast, and so athletic.”

Defensive end Ray Drew offered more detail to Weiszer, saying, “Leonard Floyd is a man. He’s awesome. Violence off the ball with his hands. For an offensive lineman, he’s a nightmare. He’s quick, he’s powerful. He’s a presence off the edge, great in this defense.”

 

Great for This Defense

The hope, of course, is that Floyd isn’t merely great in this defense but that he is great for this defense.

The woes of the secondary will remain a factor until on-field performance proves otherwise. For the time being, one full-time starter (Damian Swann) returns to a mediocre secondary that will be looking to fill vacancies with veterans who failed to take ownership of starting spots in years past and green newcomers.

To be sure, the tutelage of Pruitt and the simplification of the scheme will help, but the defense’s weakness will be in the secondary.

If Floyd can develop into one of the nation’s most elite pass-rushers, some pressure will be taken off the fragile defensive backfield. If he can terrorize quarterbacks with relentless pursuit and consistently collapse pockets with his potent combination of size, speed and tenacity, he will give the secondary time to develop.

For a Georgia team with very few questions on offense and a plethora of talent returning in the front seven of the defense, development of the secondary could make or break the entire 2014 campaign. Ironically, it could be up a hybrid linebacker/defensive end who enables that to happen.

A lot hinges on Leonard Floyd this season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Gators Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

The Florida Gators are just one of many teams that have benefited greatly off of true freshmen making an impact right away. Last season, Vernon Hargreaves and Kelvin Taylor made a splash as starters. The year before that, Dante Fowler and Matt Jones picked up a few starts and helped the Gators win games.

You can only expect the same thing to take place this season with another solid recruiting class stepping on campus. Florida has two defensive backs and a handful of offensive players who are sure to see the field early and often.

Here are a few Florida freshmen who have a good chance to start at least one game this season.

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Miami Football: Incoming Freshmen Likely to See Most Playing Time in 2014

The Miami Hurricanes added a top recruiting class in February, and a handful of those signed prospects will earn a significant role during the 2014 regular season.

Thanks to one 5-star and 11 4-stars, per 247Sports, Miami's collective talent at each position is rising. But which incoming freshmen are likely to see the most playing time in 2014?

After taking into account the current depth chart, the caliber of each player and their respective readiness, four scholarship athletes and one wild-card walk-on came to the forefront.

Without further ado, let's get to it.

 

Joe Yearby, Running Back

It's no secret the Hurricanes are breaking in a new quarterback, and it's equally as obvious Miami is relying on Duke Johnson to be the key player. But he can't do everything all game long.

Fortunately, Joe Yearby is available to fill in for the superstar running back. Considering he still has not officially toppled backup Gus Edwards, though, his role is not perfectly clear.

According to Matt Porter of ThePalm Beach Post, Yearby's ideal situation is being used as a "change-of-pace scatback to complement Duke (all-around force) and Gus [Edwards] (short-yardage bruiser). If he's the uppercut you throw every few series, you're in good shape."

As seen in the accompanying video, Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer believes Yearby will rush for 500 yards this season. Reaching that mark is largely dependent on Yearby receiving around 10 carries per game, which is not a far-fetched number.

Yearby is the safest bet to receive the most playing time as a freshman.

 

Kc McDermott, Offensive Tackle

Immediately following his commitment, offensive lineman Kc McDermott was pegged as a potential four-year starter. Seantrel Henderson's departure created a void at right tackle, so Taylor Gadbois and the younger McDermott were the top perceived options.

While the post-spring depth chart listed him as Ereck Flowers' backup at left tackle, McDermott should not be locked in to that side. Project lineman Sonny Odogwu was the second-stringer behind Gadbois, but McDermott is the more polished player.

"He can play both and likely will," Porter said. "UM rotates linemen often and I'm not convinced Odogwu's ready to be a regular."

If anything happens to an offensive lineman—especially Swiss army knife reserve Alex Gall—McDermott will be an integral part of the rotation.

 

Chad Thomas, Defensive End

Though relatively obvious considering he is the first 5-star signee since Anthony Chickillo in 2011, Chad Thomas will have opportunities to showcase his abilities.

According to David Lake of 247Sports (subscription required), Chick is impressed with the way his counterpart arrived on campus with a desire to learn:

Chad has been awesome," Chickillo said of his play this summer. "He wants to learn and asks a ton of questions. He is working hard and trying to get his weight up. He is going to be a good player. He is quick, he has some good moves and he is going to be good. The thing I like most about Chad is that he is not saying much. You get guys that come in and sometimes they talk a lot. He is not like that. He is willing to learn and he asks a lot of questions.

As of this moment, it appears Thomas will likely be a third-down edge-rushing specialist similar to how Tyriq McCord was utilized in 2012.

"I think he can be a steady third-down contributor in year one," Porter said. "Ideally, he'd be making the coaches think about giving him full-time duty by the end of the season."

Thomas has a sky-high ceiling, but his translatable skill set is relatively limited in 2014. Of course, if he disrupts quarterbacks a few times during 10-15 snaps per game, that's when the coaches will be forced to find Thomas more playing time.

And that's exactly the vision Miami fans have hoped for since Thomas' commitment.

 

Juwon Young, Linebacker

Arriving at "The U" as an early enrollee at a depleted position, Juwon Young was in excellent shape to make an impression.

Playing behind Denzel Perryman, however, is both a blessing and a curse, since the senior will not leave the field often. Additionally, Young must beat out redshirt sophomore JaWand Blue for the second-string role.

Granted, the freshman may essentially play by default because Miami really only has those three inside linebackers. With that being said, Porter believes the linebacker could use some seasoning.

"I don't think he's ready yet," Porter said. "Good size, but looked rawer than expected and had a lot of hard coaching this spring."

Like Jermaine Grace in 2013, Young figures to play special teams and see limited meaningful snaps. But that certainly doesn't mean the game experience is worthless.

 

Wild Card: Jonathan Semerene, Kicker

Don't knock the specialists, man.

In the accompanying video, Jonathan Semerene blasted a 70-yard field goal. I hardly care there was a noticeable tailwind—that is an absolute bomb. Matt Goudis is heavily favored to retain his job as the starting place-kicker, but Semerene is clearly capable of challenging the junior.

The Cypress Bay product is an overlooked contender for the currently wide-open competition at punter. And if his rocket leg transfers from field goals to punts, he'll definitely be a legitimate choice to contribute as a true freshman.

 

Notes: All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Why Jabrill Peppers Will Be the Wolverines' X-Factor in 2014

Incoming freshman Jabrill Peppers will make a major impact this season, but it might not be on defense. As Michigan fights to claw back into Big Ten title contention, Peppers’ talents my take him in the footsteps of the Wolverine he most hopes to emulate—Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson.

Taking stock of Michigan’s roster shows that the defense is stocked and primed to be the strength of the team. Peppers has the potential to work his way into the defensive backfield rotation—Brady Hoke has mentioned that he’ll probably begin at nickelback, but Michigan has time to work him in.

His speed and explosiveness also make him a prime candidate to be a kick returner on special teams. But special teams aren’t an area of great need for the Wolverines. Dennis Norfleet (40 kickoff returns for 938 yards averaging 23.4 yards per return) will start the season handling returns.

In the wake of last season’s 7-6 finish, Hoke realized that a serious change was needed to reboot his offense. Within a matter of days, Al Borges was replaced as offensive coordinator with Doug Nussmeier, formerly of Alabama. Peppers' abilities may also be needed to jump-start the offense.

Hoke acknowledged on signing day that besides playing defense and returning kicks, “there might be a plan for him [Peppers] to play on offense.” He recently told Bonnie Bernstein of Campus Insiders that Nussmeier has designs on Peppers playing running back.

But that really doesn’t fill a need for Michigan, either. The team is strong at running back with Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith battling for the top position on the depth chart. If recent transfer Ty Isaac ends up being eligible, the team will have three 4-star recruits vying for carries.

The place where Michigan really needs help (well, besides at offensive line) is at receiver. Devin Funchess returns, but with the injury to tight end Jake Butt, there’s a serious lack of experienced targets for quarterback Devin Gardner.

Freshman wide receiver Freddy Canteen has emerged as a presumptive starter during spring practice, but after him, the competition is wide open.

It’s just the opportunity a 5-star athlete with great hands and explosive running ability could take advantage of to help his team.

It makes perfect sense—defensive backs are tasked with shadowing receivers and shutting them down.

What better position on offense for Peppers than the one he’ll play against every day in practice? Reps at receiver might even help him improve at defensive back.

When it came time for Charles Woodson to play offense, he made the biggest impact at receiver (25 receptions for 402 yards and three touchdowns) but didn’t play both ways until he had full a season of defense under his belt.

With the depth that Michigan has on defense and special teams, Peppers might have the best opportunity to shine first on offense while helping his team compete for the Big Ten title.

Wherever he plays—offense, defense or special teams—Peppers is the ultimate X-factor for this season. His bravado during the recruiting process and video highlights have set the stage.

 

All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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.

Follow @PCallihan.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every SEC Football Team's Biggest Recruiting Flop from BCS Era

New recruits promote optimism during the spring and summer around every SEC football team for good reason—the new crop of players represents a future with limitless possibilities.

Numerous high-profile prospects enroll with enormous expectations.

Those with 5-star status attached to their name show up as future conquering heroes.

Often, those players pan out to be superstars.

Players like Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Cam Newton (when signing with Auburn) in recent years all arrived on campus with 5-star profiles.

That trio represents the vast majority of elite prospects who meet expectations.

There are, however, many more players who never quite live up to the considerable hype for myriad reasons.

Today I examine the SEC’s biggest recruiting "flops" during the BCS era.

Players who never qualified or enrolled in school won’t be considered for this list because they weren’t true “flops.”

To be considered a “flop,” a player must have arrived on campus with expectations and failed to come close to meeting them.

Because Rivals recruiting rankings didn’t really become an institution until 2002, only players who signed in 2002 or later will be considered.

Furthermore, since Texas A&M and Missouri have yet to put an entire signing class through their careers, those two programs have been left out of this review.

Here is the list.

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Power Ranking Tennessee Football's Positional Units for 2014

A year ago, a Tennessee football team rife with seniors struggled to finish 5-7, and those seniors closed their careers with a third bowl-less season. Talent gaps glared at positions all over the field.

Many of those needs have been addressed by coach Butch Jones through recruiting, but you rarely fix flaws with freshmen. Instead, Jones' 32-player recruiting class has to be the first step on the path to progression.

There are still plenty of questions across the roster, and answers have to be found in first-year players. Others who've barely played key roles on Rocky Top now must become leaders.

"We had to be extremely careful this past year in trying to fix all our ills, all our deficiencies in one recruiting class," Jones told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview earlier this spring. "We're not going to be able to do that. It takes time to develop that.

"The only way you can address that is develop your current players and keep recruiting. We have needs across the board at every single position in this (2015) class still."

There will be fewer younger teams across the nation than UT. Even the perceived positions of strength hinge on hope.

Let's look at the Volunteers position-by-position and break down where Jones will have to lean for production and the areas where smoke and mirrors may be his two biggest weapons.

The rankings are based on observing the star talent each position unit has as well as depth and overall potential of the group.

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The 10 Best College Football Trick Plays of the BCS Era

Who doesn't love a good trick play every now and then?

Seeing a college football team execute a preplanned bit of deception to perfection is one of the many great pleasures of the game. For all the work teams do to game-plan each others' tendencies and capitalize on weaknesses, every now and then some trickery is needed to spice things up and pull off a big play.

They don't always work, but when they do, it's a great time for all—well, except for those getting tricked.

Over the 16-year span of the now-retired BCS era, we were witness to some of the greatest trick plays in college football history. Not all of them determined the final outcome of the game, but each holds its own special place in the annals of the team that pulled it off.

Here's our look at the 10 best trick plays from college football's BCS era.

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Every Big Ten Team's Biggest Recruiting Flop from BCS Era

In hindsight, it's always easy to identify mistakes.  Head college football coaches, however, often don't have the luxury of waiting around to see a player develop.  In today's cut-throat world of college football recruiting, coaches are under enormous pressure to get verbal commitments from top prospects as early as possible.  That mindset inevitably leads to recruits who don't live up to the hype.

Here, we'll look back at the Big Ten football players who earned that coveted scholarship, only to see their premature "Big Man On Campus" status fizzle away seemingly overnight.  To qualify, the recruit must have been considered at least a "highly touted" 3-star recruit.  All 4- and 5-star recruits are eligible.

The player must also have been recruited by a Big Ten program.  Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, many members of the first Big Ten recruiting class in Lincoln are still on campus.  It would be unfair to call them flops until they've exhausted their eligibility.  But that still leaves us with 11 teams, each wishing it had a do-over when it comes to these recruits.

Here is our list of the biggest recruit flop from each Big Ten team during the BCS era.

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Texas Football: Future Longhorns to Watch in the Opening

Patrick Vahe has dropped out of The Opening, leaving the Longhorns without a commit in attendance. However, there are three expected commits that are worth monitoring at Nike's prestigious event.

Receivers Ryan Newsome and John Burt join defensive back Holton Hill as the only attendees that are considered Texas leans at this stage of the process. Both Newsome's and Hill's Crystal Ball predictions peg them as future Longhorns, while Burt recently told 247Sports.com's Luke Stampini (subscription required) that Texas leads the pack.

There are 162 recruits attending this event, and not a one is committed to Texas. Even if all three of these guys eventually commit, that's still not an impressive number.

As always, a lot can change by signing day. But for now, these are the only three participants that fans should get excited about.

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Winners and Losers of June on the 2015 College Football Recruiting Trail

July is just about here, which means a reflection of the month of June in recruiting would be a wise thing to do. The sixth month of the year featured several twists and turns, as it kept everyone on his toes.

While July figures to be another exciting month on the recruiting trail, several programs were affected by June's developments.

An SEC program lost out on a prized 4-star receiver, while a Big 12 school scored a commitment from a 4-star running back. Also, a Big Ten team used June to come alive on the recruiting trail.

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Future Georgia Bulldogs Players to Watch in 'The Opening'

With the 2014 season around the corner, there has been plenty of talk about the incoming freshmen that are looking to make an impact.

However, college fans should also take notice of the rising high school seniors because they will be playing on Saturdays for their favorite team before they know it.

The Bulldogs have their share of 2015 commitments and a few of them have been selected to take part in the “The Opening” which is a four-day camp being held at the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. This event will include training, coaching and a 7-on-7 competition.

Some of the notable current and former NFL players to make an appearance at The Opening are Aaron Rodgers, Jerry Rice, Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman.

Here’s a look at the future Bulldogs to watch in the The Opening.

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