NCAA Football

Tennessee Football: 5 Potential All-SEC Players in 2014

Inexperience and lack of depth abound the Tennessee Volunteers 2014 roster, but there are a handful of players in the mix who could earn All-SEC honors at the end of the upcoming season.

There are many reasons for Tennessee's downfall in recent years. Coaching changes. Roster attrition. Increased competition in the SEC. All of these are valid reasons, of course, but the most telling statistic comes from glancing at the lists of All-SEC teams during the past five or six years.

During the 90s and early 2000s, Tennessee players littered All-SEC and even All-American rosters, with representatives from Rocky Top filling several positions on the first and second teams.

Lately, All-SEC honors for the Volunteers have been few and far between, which is a direct reflection of the team's talent level on the field. 

However, with the influx of new talent from the 2014 recruiting class, along with the return of a familiar face and the maturation of young playmakers, Tennessee has its best chance in years to see multiple players recognized as the SEC's cream of the crop after this upcoming season.

Here are the five Tennessee players who are most likely to be named to the 2014 All-SEC team. 

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SEC Football Q&A: Can an SEC RB Win the 2014 Heisman Trophy?

It's Friday, and that means it's time to answer your SEC questions. 

Fall camp is right around the corner, which means position battles are near, unknown players are on the brink of becoming superstars and the seats of coaches are about to heat up. Thanks for your questions, and if they weren't answered this week, I'll be sure to save them for the future.

And we're off!

 

@BarrettSallee How close is the SEC to having a Heisman winning RB? Since 1960, just FOUR RB from the current SEC have won.

— Dan Vasta (@CI_StatsGuru) June 10, 2014

Those four, of course, are Alabama's Mark Ingram, Auburn's Bo Jackson, Georgia's Herschel Walker and South Carolina's George Rogers (South Carolina wasn't a member of the SEC at the time).

As far as the running back crop this year in the SEC, this is as good as it has been in a long time. Georgia's Todd Gurley, South Carolina's Mike Davis and Alabama's duo of Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon will be featured prominently on Heisman watch lists and Las Vegas odds boards this summer. All of them are not only immensely talented, but will be catalysts for their respective offenses, even if Alabama goes more by committee.

So from that perspective, the SEC is set up well. The combination of extremely talented running backs and offensive coaches who know how to feature them will allow several SEC running backs to put up gaudy numbers.

The problem is that it's also blocked by quarterbacks who are going to light up opposing defenses with video game stats. That will play well in the race to win what has become a quarterback-driven award. UCLA's Brett Hundley, Florida State's Jameis Winston, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Oregon's Marcus Mariota are just a few of the talented quarterbacks in college football who will benefit from high-profile games and video game statistics.

With that said, though, this is probably the best shot SEC running backs have had to win the Heisman since Ingram won it in 2009. It's going to be a little more of a run-heavy league in 2014, and while there are quarterbacks around the country blocking the SEC's running backs, offensive coordinators around the country are becoming more creative with their schemes, allowing quarterbacks to put up video game statistics and make it difficult for running backs to claim college football's greatest individual prize.

Simply put, if you're thinking about going to Las Vegas and placing a Heisman bet on an SEC running back this year, just send your money to me instead. I'll go buy some ribs for the smoker this weekend.

 

@BarrettSallee Who will become the number 1 running back for Auburn this year?

— Mitchell Tate (@Mitchell_Tate4) June 6, 2014

Speaking of Heisman Trophy running backs, Auburn's looking to replace a Heisman finalist from a year ago at the position.

Tre Mason is gone at Auburn and takes his 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns from 2013 with him to St. Louis to play on Sundays. In his place, seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant will get the first crack at the top spot on the depth chart, with redshirt freshman Peyton Barber and true freshman "Roc" Thomas vying to unseat them.

They won't.

While head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will give Grant—who thrived as an edge rusher last year—to win the job outright, Artis-Payne will win the "1A" role, be the feature back and thrive in that role. Grant will settle back into his role from last year as a weapon off the edge, and Barber and Thomas will be relegated to backup duties.

Whether I'm right or wrong, the running backs at Auburn will move the football. Malzahn has produced 11 1,000-yard rushers in eight college seasons, and with quarterback Nick Marshall and four offensive linemen returning, they'll move it on the ground again in 2014.

Don't be surprised if Artis-Payne—or whoever emerges as the No. 1 running back—gets some Heisman love this season.

 

@BarrettSallee Could you please compare Arkansas' and A&M's RB talent? I actually think it's comparable.

— Carlos Toraño (@catorano) June 7, 2014

Initially, people will look at this question and say "no way" and that it's not comparable.

Well, maybe not before the season. Arkansas returns sophomore Alex Collins and his 1,026 yards and junior Jonathan Williams and his 900 yards, and sophomore Korliss Marshall has big-play ability. On paper, Arkansas boasts one of the nation's top rushing attacks and is coached by a head coach in Bret Bielema who likes to feature a small village of running backs.

But after the season, it wouldn't shock me at all if Texas A&M jumps into that discussion.

Tra Carson is more than just a bruiser and will emerge as one of the top backs in the SEC now that he's likely going to be the feature back. Trey Williams is dangerous in space, Brandon Williams has a ton of upside as long as he holds on to the ball and redshirt freshman James White should provide quality depth.

Couple that with the flexibility of the offense that head coach Kevin Sumlin has demonstrated throughout his college coaching career, and you have a recipe for success.

Sumlin plays to his strengths, and with uncertainty and youth at the quarterback position whether sophomore Kenny Hill or freshman Kyle Allen wins the job, his most reliable move would be to focus more on the running backs—especially early—and allow the eventual winner at quarterback to settle in to the new role.

The gap is pretty wide between Arkansas' running backs and Texas A&M's right now, but that won't last for long once toe meets leather in 2014.

 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

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

 


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Michigan Football: Is Brady Hoke Losing the State to Michigan State

Since 1969, Michigan has dominated its in-state nemesis Michigan State by a margin of two-to-one. But in recent seasons Michigan State has turned the tide. Now with the Wolverines slated to face the Spartans in East Lansing for the second consecutive season, Brady Hoke’s squad will need a victory to compete for the Big Ten title and stop a six-year slide that began under previous coach Rich Rodriguez.

Prior to Hoke and Rodriguez, Michigan owned Michigan State—winning 77 percent of its games versus the Spartans under previous coaches Bo Schembechler (17-4), Gary Moeller (3-2) and Lloyd Carr (10-3). Michigan’s record could have been even better if not for two controversial losses in 1990 (the infamous mugging of future Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard in the end zone) and 2001 (questionable clock management).

But Michigan’s dominance of the rivalry evaporated with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez (0-3) and his eventual replacement Brady Hoke (1-2). Michigan’s sole victory since Carr’s retirement was on a 38-yard game-winning field goal as time expired in 2012. During that six-season stretch Michigan State has outscored Michigan 162-90.

When Michigan was beating Michigan State nearly 80 percent of the time, fans could chalk up the occasional loss to bad officiating or rough play, but for the last six seasons there’s one easy explanation—the Spartans have simply been better.

While Michigan fans can point to highly ranked recruiting classes and a BCS victory in Hoke’s first season, Michigan State can list chapter and verse its success since 2008—a .713 winning percentage, 5-1 record versus Michigan, two Big Ten championships and a Top 10 national finish last season. Michigan has a .539 winning percentage over the same period.

In 1999, Nick Saban abandoned Michigan State, irked by always being in Michigan's shadow as reported by USA Today. ”At Michigan State, we were never Number 1 [in the state],” Saban told reporters after accepting the job. “That was always Michigan. It was always, ‘UM this and that.’

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is on the verge of doing something that eluded Nick Saban— surpassing Michigan as the preeminent power in the state.

Under Hoke, Michigan has been manhandled by Michigan State 28-14 in 2011 and 29-6 in 2013. After last season’s game Hoke denied the apparent widening gap between the programs.

"I don't think there is a gap, I think they played awfully well,” said Hoke. “They executed awfully well. I don't think we did.”

If Michigan can’t find a way to win this season, the gap that Hoke denies is in danger of becoming a chasm. 

 

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.

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Will Baylor QB Bryce Petty Surpass RG3's Monster Heisman Year

The Baylor Bears relied heavily on star quarterback Bryce Petty during their 11-2 run in the 2013 season. With many offensive weapons returning to this high-powered offense, Petty has a chance to throw up some big numbers.

Petty is effective on the ground and through the air, giving him the ultimate skill set to succeed. Do you think his numbers will improve?

Watch Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss his potential.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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How Nick Marshall's Preseason Heisman Trophy Resume Compares to Other Top QBs

College football's long offseason is broken down into several specific sections, which include the final weeks of a recruiting cycle, spring practices, prospect camps, media days and the highly anticipated start of fall practices.

However, two more offseason traditions don't fit into a particular time frame and instead find a way to stretch across the spring and summer months in this age of the 24/7 news cycle: recruiting for next February's class and preseason predictions.

Some of the most popular preseason predictions for college football fans to devour and discuss are the early Heisman watch lists.

And, after a breakout 2013 season in which he helped lead his new team to an SEC Championship and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is making his way onto several of those lists.

Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis has him in his second tier of candidates, a "next level" of players "who aren’t yet stars, but have the potential to command the national spotlight." HeismanPundit.com put Marshall on its post-spring top-25 list. ESPN's Phil Steele (subscription required) has Marshall at No. 7 in his new top 10 ranking, and NFL.com's college football writer Mike Huguenin has the Auburn senior at No. 8 on his "14 in '14" list. 

After not appearing on Bovada's January board of Heisman contenders, Marshall is currently No. 10 on the board with 20-1 odds to win the 2014 trophy.

Marshall first received Heisman buzz toward the end of last season, when Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said his quarterback deserved to be mentioned in the race for a spot in New York City.

Malzahn, who has never had a returning quarterback in his collegiate coaching career, continued to be impressed with his "steadily improving" signal-caller after a much-needed set of spring practices.

"He was a lot more reactive this spring, you could tell he wouldn't have to really think hard about the progression of everything, it was just coming more natural," Malzahn said. "We're hoping it'll even be better than that in the fall."

Marshall's preseason buzz has a lot to do with his playmaking ability on the ground, a dominant aspect of his game that was on full display in his first season at Auburn:

The Tigers' effective read-option game was the basis of its offense, which ran the ball 72 percent of the time in 2013. Marshall and a talented trio of running backs led by Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason combined to create the nation's No. 1 rushing attack.

But for Auburn's offense to excel again in 2014, the Tigers are probably going to have to throw the ball more. Malzahn knows this and has talked about wanting more balance on offense since last December.

Marshall did not go through spring practice with Auburn last season and still was able to play his part in one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history.

His play through the air suffered somewhat in the first part of the season with four interceptions in four games, but he turned it around to become the nation's highest-rated quarterback for the Tigers' stretch run:

If Marshall can put together what Auburn fans hope will be 15 similar games to his final eight from last season, his Heisman stock could soar in 2014 as the star of what is expected to be one of the nation's most prolific offenses.

The senior definitely has the weapons around him to keep up that high level of play through the air and on the ground.

Mason is off to the NFL, but the smash-and-dash combo of Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant is back with the additions of redshirt freshman Peyton Barber and 5-star recruit Racean "Roc" Thomas.

All of his key receivers from 2013, including vertical threat Sammie Coates, are back, and the Tigers have added the nation's No. 1 JUCO player in D'haquille "Duke" Williams as a new target for a more balanced offense.

Four of the five starting offensive linemen from the SEC-winning squad have returned, and seniors C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse are looking to make greater impacts this season at tight end and H-back, respectively.

Those playmakers helped Marshall win Auburn's Offensive MVP award at the annual A-Day Game, where he threw for 236 yards and four touchdowns in just one half of action.

"We can get real scary," Marshall said. "We know we can run the ball. We're just focusing on throwing the ball down the field. That's the emphasis this year. " 

In addition to having an experienced unit around him and a head coach who has consistently had explosive offenses, Marshall's Heisman stock will also benefit from Auburn's preseason hype and tough schedule.

With the Tigers seemingly a lock for a top-5 preseason ranking, Marshall will be in the spotlight from the opening whistle. Nationally televised games against Arkansas, non-conference foe Kansas State and the rest of the grueling SEC slate will make it easy for voters to find Auburn's quarterback all season long.

 

Marshall vs. The Field

Twelve of the last 13 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks, and there is a high possibility another signal-caller will be lifting up the trophy in New York City this December.

How does Marshall stack up to the other talented 2014 quarterbacks on the early watch lists? Here is a quick look at the strengths of five preseason contenders and an area where Auburn's quarterback might have an advantage on them this season.

 

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The Resume: Mariota is a popular pick on many preseason Heisman lists, and Steele has him winning it in 2014. Like Marshall, Mariota has experience as a starter and a ton of returning playmakers around him in an offense that is famous for lighting up the scoreboard and the resume. Oregon is also a preseason national title contender, and a rematch of the 2010 BCS National Championship Game is definitely not out of the question for the sport's first major playoff.

Marshall's Advantage: "The Flyin' Hawaiian" struggled with consistency and mobility toward the end of the season, falling out of the Heisman spotlight after the Ducks' two late-season losses and a less-than-stellar performance against rival Oregon State. Marshall, on the other hand, played his best games of the 2013 season against top competition such as Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri.

 

Braxton Miller, Ohio State

The Resume: The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year had season similar to Marshall's in 2013—in fact, the two quarterbacks each had 1,068 yards on the ground. Miller finished fifth in Heisman voting in 2012 and ninth in 2013. Like Malzahn, Urban Meyer likes to use a lot of zone-read in his playbook, and a dual-threat player such as Miller has all the credentials to excel once again for another national title contender.

Marshall's Advantage: Marshall missed significant time in a pair of non-conference games last season, but injuries have been a recurring issue with Miller at Ohio State. The Buckeye quarterback missed two starts last season with a sprained knee and suffered another a shoulder injury in Ohio State's Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. Miller played through the injury in the bowl game but did not participate fully this spring due to surgery on the affected shoulder.

 

Bryce Petty, Baylor

The Resume: Auburn knows how to rack up yards under Malzahn, but Baylor took it to another level in 2013. The Bears had the nation's No. 1 total offense by a wide margin, and Petty helped orchestrate the prolific attack. In addition to his 14 touchdowns on the ground, Petty had 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns and just three interceptions through the air last season. If video game-like stats are the key to winning the Heisman, Petty already has experience at compiling those.

Marshall's Advantage: Baylor returns the second-fewest starters of any college football team in 2014, and Petty is only one of five coming back from the Bears' mind-blowing offense. This Texas gunslinger does not have as much experience around him as Marshall and some of the other picks on this list, and his stock might suffer by being on a team that is not expected to be one of the top contenders for the national title this season.

 

Brett Hundley, UCLA

The Resume: Whether its with his arm or his feet, the experienced and accurate Hundley will be a leader for a team fighting to be a part of the national championship picture. The third-year starter will be the centerpiece of a squad that has a good chance of making it to the Pac-12 Championship and beyond this season. UCLA has won 19 games in two seasons under Jim Mora and returns most of the starters from last season's 10-win team.

Marshall's Advantage: In his two seasons as a starter, Hundley has not been in the top 10 nationally of any major passing category. UCLA's offense is good but not great, and Hundley might have a hard time tallying numbers comparable to Marshall and the rest of the players on this list. If that's the case, Hundley might need to lead the Bruins to a dominant, undefeated regular season to make up the difference.

 

Jameis Winston, Florida State

The Resume: This name should already be familiar to Auburn fans. Winston won the national championship and the Heisman Trophy in his redshirt freshman season, so he has at least one more season of leading the extremely talented Seminoles. Winston led the nation in yards per attempt and finished second in passing touchdowns, and he will continue to have the necessary weapons around him as Florida State looks to make it back-to-back ACC and national titles.

Marshall's Advantage: Winston's success in 2013 could be his undoing in the race for the Heisman. Anything short of another undefeated season and a berth in the playoff might not be enough for Winston to win the award against what looks to be a packed field of contenders in 2014. Marshall, on the other hand, will have the advantage of not being expected to repeat a record-setting season in order to win the Heisman.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats taken from CFBStats.com.

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USC RB Trifecta Will Put Up Monster Stats in Steve Sarkisian's No-Huddle Offense

The West Coast offense is back in Southern California, with three big running backs leading the way. The Trojans are stacked with Tre Madden, Buck Allen and Justin Davis taking control of the offensive attack.

These three have an opportunity to stack up huge numbers in the upcoming season. Which running back do you think will do the best?

Check out Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee as they discuss the USC running backs' potential.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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USC RB Trifecta Will Put Up Monster Stats in Steve Sarkisian's No-Huddle Offense

The West Coast offense is back in Southern California, with three big running backs leading the way. The Trojans are stacked with Tre Madden, Buck Allen and Justin Davis taking control of the offensive attack...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Football: Tide's Triumphs Mirrored Tuscaloosa's in Tornado Aftermath

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s amazing how fast it can all come back to you.

Maybe the reminder comes while driving down the road and suddenly seeing a gap that has yet to be rebuilt. Perhaps it’s an awful smell or when a pet hides in terror from a small storm passing through the area.

It’s been more than 1,000 days since a tornado cut through the heart of Tuscaloosa, where the horizon still has a hole that will take years if not decades to fill. Nobody who was here that day will ever forget the tragedy or how people then rallied together.

Some of them were University of Alabama athletes, including members of the football team who aided in the physical recovery and then helped as much emotionally by winning the national championship.

It was a perfect tale of triumph over tragedy, followed by the women’s golf and softball teams winning titles and the reigning national champion gymnastics team successfully defending its own. Men’s golf lost in the NCAA finals but won the next two titles, and football won another championship in 2012.

Beforehand, Alabama had only won national titles in football and gymnastics, but everything changed after the tornado, even Nick Saban.

People looked to him after the storm if for no other reason than simple inspiration, and the leader of the nation’s most successful football program became a true leader of the community. It's something those outside of Tuscaloosa will never fully understand, but by the way he responded and told his players to forget football and help others, Saban would be beloved here even without the championships.

One of the ways the coach and his wife Terry helped was to have their Nick’s Kids Foundation team up with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild a neighborhood with the 15-for-15 initiative, a house for each championship that Alabama claims.

“Because of this organization, we were able to do much more for people affected by the tornado than we ever thought we might,” Saban said at the recent golf fundraiser for Nicks’ Kids—a charity named in honor of his father that primarily helps children in need.

“Rather than put self-imposed limitations on what we can do, that made us feel like there’s more out there for us to be able to do. We’re going to continue to support the state of Alabama and the young people in the state, try to create some opportunities for them in the various ways.”

Saban changed as a person as well, though, which former Sports Illustrated writer Lars Anderson, who composed the tornado cover story that had Javier Arenas on the front of the May 23, 2011 issue, writes at length about in his upcoming book, The Storm and the Tide (due out Aug. 12).

In it, he chronicles what happened that day, how Saban and the Crimson Tide reacted and realized how they were playing for a lot more than themselves. It also follows former Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker and the families of his then-girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, and Loryn Brown, the daughter of a former Crimson Tide player. 

Anderson dedicated the book to “the memory of the 53 lives lost in the Tuscaloosa tornado, and for those who still suffer from the tragic events of April 27, 2011.” Tinker also wrote about his experiences in his book, A Season to Remember: Faith in the Midst of the Storm, and is donating all proceeds from the book's sales to charity.

After receiving an advance copy of Anderson’s book, I found the first 100 pages extremely difficult to read but can honestly say he nailed it.

For full disclosure, I lived through the tornado and am familiar with nearly every person or place Anderson wrote about. I knew Harrison, consider Tinker a friend and still get a gut-wrenching feeling whenever one of those regular reminders occurs.

Tinker, of course, has moved on and is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but a handful of his tornado teammates remain.

Anthony Orr is the last player from the recruiting class of 2009 still on the roster. From the 2010 class there’s wide receiver DeAndrew White, safety Jarrick Williams, guard Arie Kouandjio, fullback Jalston Fowler, tight end Brian Vogler, safety Nick Perry, quarterback Blake Sims, tackle Austin Shepherd and nose tackle Brandon Ivory.

Of the early enrollees in 2011, linebacker Trey DePriest is the lone holdover.

That’s it, 11 players, and there’s no more talk about how they have to win to help others get over the tragedy. They can finally be free of that burden, although like with Saban they’ll never be quite the same.

Part of me wants to suggest that everyone else on the roster should be given a copy of Anderson and Tinker’s books, while the rest of me feels otherwise, that hopefully they’ll never have a clue to what it’s like to go through something so horrific. 

Perhaps that’s part of the recovery process as well.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Notre Dame Football: 4 Freshmen Who Will Challenge for Starting Jobs in Camp

While Notre Dame welcomes a group of elite recruits to South Bend this weekend for the Irish Invasion Camp, the incoming freshman class is already on campus, working with the coaching staff and Paul Longo's strength team to prepare for the upcoming season. 

Brian Kelly collected 23 signatures in the 2014 recruiting cycle, the No. 10 class in the country according to 247Sports.com. Now he's got to throw away the star rankings and get his team ready to play football. 

There are potential impact players in this group. A strong group off offensive linemen will do their best to challenge for playing time. A reloaded front seven will have opportunities to work in Brian VanGorder's new scheme. 

Entering his fifth season, Brian Kelly's depth chart is as stable as it's been at Notre Dame since the Holtz era. And while the Irish lost a ton of talent from last year's team—five players in the first three rounds of the NFL draft and eight players overall—walking into the starting lineup is probably harder than it's been since Kelly arrived in South Bend.

Still, there are opportunities. Let's take a look at the freshmen who have the best chance to win a starting job during fall camp.  

 

 

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Predicting Where LSU Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

LSU head coach Les Miles brought in his best recruiting class ever in 2014. However, national championships are not won or lost with one crop of players.

LSU finished spring practice in the top five of the team recruiting rankings for the 2015 class, but the Tigers have since dropped to seventh with their 12 commitments, which is only good for fifth in the SEC.

Miles has not had his hottest summer when it comes to reeling in commitments. His most recent commit was 3-star dual-threat quarterback Justin McMillan, which is LSU's lowest-ranked non-special teams player.

In recruiting, though, there are three golden rules to remember:

  1. It's not how a school starts, but finishes.
  2. Stars and rankings are not always accurate indicators of talent.
  3. Nothing is truly official until a prospect signs on the dotted line.

Miles knows this, which is why he and his coaching staff are not in panic mode. They feel their class will be among the best when national signing day comes around in February.

 

Top Players Currently Committed 

LSU currently has two 5-star 2015 commits in cornerback Kevin Toliver II and offensive tackle Maea Teuhema. Tigers fans should feel pretty good about both of them eventually officially signing with the Bayou Bengals.

Toliver II committed to the Tigers back in 2012, which is extremely early for a player in this class. The cover corner has the talent to play right away in defensive coordinator John Chavis' secondary.

Teuhema's older brother, Sione, was a signee in LSU's 2014 class. Both of them made a late flip from Texas right before national signing day last February. Maea and Sione are close, so expect little brother to join big brother next season.

LSU's strongest position thus far has been running back.

The Tigers did not have to look far for Baton Rouge prep stars Nick Brossette and Derrius Guice. Both backs will be much-needed, as seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee will be gone.

 

LSU Targets 

Predicting which prospects will commit—much less sign—to any school is an inexact science. However, there are some elite prospects who look like they will eventually get to commit to the Tigers.

New Orleans 5-star receiver prospect Tyron Johnson is the No. 1 prospect in the state of Louisiana. Johnson has Texas Tech, Georgia and Oklahoma State vying for his services, but there are multiple reasons why he will sign with LSU.

Xavier Lewis is the best pure cover corner prospect in the state of Louisiana. Lewis would form a formidable duo alongside Toliver II, but the Tigers are also looking at 5-star corners Iman Marshall and Kendall Sheffield.

Lewis, though, is the likeliest to commit to the Tigers. However, do not be surprised if 4-star defensive back Tarvarus McFadden commits to LSU before Lewis.

Donte Jackson is an electric playmaker that has serious potential as a returner at the college level. Jackson, like Johnson, is a New Orleans prospect that puts potential tacklers on ice skates when the ball is in his hands. Schools such as Georgia and Oregon are other potential landing spots for his services.

 

Possible Flips

Miles and the LSU coaching staff have a knack for flipping prospects late in the process. The previously mentioned Teuhema brothers and 4-star 2014 defensive tackle signee Travonte Valentine are prime examples.

LSU will look to do the same for the 2015 class.

Defensive tackle Daylon Mack is currently committed to Texas A&M. However, Shea Dixon of Geaux247.com (subscription required) reports LSU defensive line coach Brick Haley has been in constant contact with Mack in an effort to eventually get him to Baton Rouge.

Offensive tackle Jerry Tillery plays his high school football at legendary Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Dixon suggests the Notre Dame commit has been pursued heavily by first-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and prominent recruiting analysts are believing Tillery will change his mind from the Fighting Irish to the Tigers.

 

Conclusion

LSU has work to do.

The Tigers currently have a talented crop, but so do Alabama, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Auburn. Those four schools are currently ahead of the Tigers in the team rankings. Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee are also in the top 15.

Miles and the coaching staff's main focus right now is the upcoming season, but expect recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson to be busy while also coaching up the running backs.

The Tigers finished with the second-best class in 2014 and sixth-best in 2013. With Miles' recent streak of finishing strong in the spring, it is not a stretch to say LSU is a lock to finish in the top 10.

However, the bigger question would be where his 2015 class finishes among other SEC schools.

 

Recruiting rankings, stats and additional information provided by 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.

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Which College Program Will 5-Star Byron Cowart Have Best Chance at Success?

Byron Cowart is a 5-star defensive end who has the ability to play multiple positions at the collegiate level. His size and athleticism give him the ultimate advantage against offensive linemen.

With only a few schools left on his radar, it will be a huge win for whichever program he chooses. Which school do you think he will pick?

Watch College Football Analyst Michael Felder predict where this stud will land.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings from 247Sports composite.

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War Hero Daniel Rodriguez Trying to Make His Mark on Clemson Roster

CLEMSON, S.C. — Daniel Rodriguez wants to be known for football, and he is ready to work for it.

The Clemson junior receiver's road to college football is a fascinating, heartfelt story. But Rodriguez wants to tell another story, one that involves him carving out a big role on the Tigers’ on-field roster in his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility.

“I think the coaches understand I’ve made a point that when we have one-on-ones, that I don’t want to be looked at as a feel-good story,” he said. “I want to be a football player. That’s what I want to do. For me, every day I work out, every day I go to become a better football player, a better teammate. Not just a story.”

Make no mistake: Rodriguez’s story is already impressive.

Rodriguez, 26, joined the Army in Jan. 2007 and served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan over 18 months. While in Afghanistan, he was involved in the Battle of Kamdesh, one of the bloodiest battles of the Afghan war, where 38 U.S. troops battled 300 Taliban insurgents. Eight U.S. soldiers died; 22 were wounded. Rodriguez had shrapnel wounds to his neck and right leg, and he earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his efforts.

He walked on at Clemson (the Army is paying for his education via the G.I. Bill) and became an immediate fan favorite, earning ovations every time he touched the ball—which has mostly come on special teams.

Now, though, Rodriguez wants more. That is why he gets up in the mornings for punishing workouts, sweating alongside the Tigers’ young, talented receiving corps.

His life story has been immortalized in a book: Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept, which is due out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Oct. 7.

When Rodriguez’s story is made into a movie (the film rights have been acquired by Sony’s TriStar Productions), it could end with his first career touchdown, scored Nov. 23, 2013 against The Citadel—on Military Appreciation Day, no less.

However, Rodriguez hopes that is only the beginning.

"I’ve really tried to establish and separate myself from the 'feel-good-story Daniel' to the 'football player Daniel,'" he said. "I think I have made a mark. I think I did open some eyes, having more skill than (coaches) probably thought I had. I think I am a playmaker. I think I have the ability to contribute on this team, down in and down out." 

Last fall, he carved out a small role behind talented receivers such as high NFL draft picks Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, making seven catches for 20 yards and a touchdown on 73 offensive snaps. He also had five punt returns for 31 yards.

“I felt I could have made it last year, but you have a guy like Sammy Watkins, he's a horse,” Rodriguez said. “Playing behind him, seeing what he can do, you learn from the guys around you. And when it’s your time, your number gets called, you just make the most of it.”

Rodriguez doesn't dabble in delusions of grandeur. He has made a place for himself on Clemson’s roster as a backup receiver and someone who can play any special teams position, a dependable, solid tackler who can always be counted on.

“I don’t have all the intangibles of a Sammy Watkins, a 6’5” Martavis Bryant, that type of receiver, but at the same time my knowledge is there, my commitment is there, and I hope the trust is there with the coaches that if they need me I’ll be there,” he said.

Just being on the roster doesn’t satisfy Rodriguez.

“I think that’s been my biggest chip here,” he said. “At the beginning I was so appreciative of the opportunity, just to have a chance to play that I was making a note to the coaches that I didn’t want a charity case. I’ve tried very hard to establish myself as a role player, a leader, someone who is dependable.”

This summer, Rodriguez (who stands 5’8”, 175 pounds), has been working closely with senior receiver Adam Humphries, listed at 5’11”, 190 pounds.

Humphries is helping his fellow smaller receiver make the most of what he has.

“He’s not the biggest guy,” Humphries said. “He’s got to use what he’s blessed with to maximize his potential. And I’m not the biggest guy either, so I try to help him with speed and keeping your legs underneath you, being physical with your hands and using what you have the best you can. He’s been doing a good job this summer, he’s got to keep working. He can make a huge impact. He’s just got to continue to get confidence that we can throw him out on the field and get the job done.”

Make no mistake: Rodriguez is well aware of his place on the Tigers roster. Versatility, not 5-star talent or speed, is his calling card.

“I think that’s my niche,” he said. “Special teams, I know every single receiver position, the coaches can put me in any position at receiver, those are the details I have. Like I said, my attributes aren’t to throw the ball up for a corner jump ball at the 8-yard line.

“For me, it’s using what I have to my advantage. That’s my knowledge of the game, my quickness, just to have any edge I can. Just to make my mark on special teams, it’s worth it. Anytime I can go on the field, I’ll go on the field and give it my all. Wherever they want me, I’ll go.”

Coaches have taken notice of Rodriguez’s drive, too.

“Daniel is so much more mature coming in here,” Clemson head strength and conditioning coach Joey Batson said. “His life experience is a lot different than any of us. They look to him for leadership and maturity. His drive challenges guys. He doesn’t challenge them personally, but he’s out front being a role model.”

He’s already a role model, but this fall, Rodriguez wants more. So every day he works, sweats and strives, hoping to take the next step in an already amazing story.

“This year we’ll have some talented receivers coming in, but hopefully my seniority will give me the upper edge,” he said. “I think I’ll have the opportunity to get some snaps going into this year.”

 

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

Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football: Why Kelvin Taylor Should Be Considered a Heisman Dark Horse

While this whole offseason for the Florida Gators has been about getting better and putting last year’s nightmare to bed, it’s time to focus on something positive. Florida will have a chance to produce its fourth Heisman winner if running back Kelvin Taylor has the season many expect.

Only a sophomore and flying under the radar due to Florida’s offensive issues last season, nobody in their right mind would consider any running back for the Gators a candidate for the most prestigious award in college football.

But don’t be surprised if that’s the case once we get the season underway.

 

Expect the Unexpected 

Back in the days college football had to know who you were before the season began for you to have a chance to win the Heisman.

Matt Leinart had already thrown for more than 3,500 yards and 38 touchdowns the year before he won the award. Reggie Bush was making jaws drop way before his final season at USC. Ricky Williams had 4,155 career rushing yards and 45 touchdowns before he walked away with the hardware as a senior.

How about the last four winners?

Cam Newton had just 12 career pass attempts and was more known for his off-the-field issues at Florida before his first season at Auburn. Robert Griffin III had some buzz, but very few took him seriously considering he played for a Baylor program that had not won double-digit games since 1980. The last two winners (Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston) were freshmen, and the last thing anybody was thinking was a Heisman trophy.

Gone are the days where you have to already be a college football superstar.

Now, you just have to show up, help your team win and put together an off-the-wall individual season. There’s enough TV time, highlight videos and coverage to go around that builds the case for said player nowadays.

Taylor has just as good a shot as any player entering this college football season.

 

If Last Season Was a Sign of Things to Come...

Taylor only received six carries through his first five games and then eventually was thrown into the starting role due to various injuries to other backs. Even then, he only had 20 or more carries in three games and finished with only 111 touches for 508 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged a decent 4.58 yards per carry and scored three of his four touchdowns in his final four games.

A stat that was really impressive is that Taylor averaged five yards per carry against AP-ranked teams, which was higher than his average against any other group of teams. It was clear he was just getting comfortable with the speed of the game.

But what if Taylor sees a typical starter’s workload this season?

One thing that may prevent Taylor from having any shot at the Heisman is the fact offensive coordinator Kurt Roper typically isn’t a one-running-back coach. In fact, no player ran the ball more than 120 times a season in his career at Duke. He likes to keep guys fresh and use nearly the entire backfield.

However, it’s fair to say Roper hasn’t had a back as talented as Taylor and may change his style a bit. If so, Taylor’s chances at the hardware improve dramatically.

Taking Taylor’s average of 4.6 and multiplying that by 215 carries, we end up with 989 yards. Not Heisman numbers, but there’s reason to believe he can bump that average up with ease. This is the same back who averaged 5.2 yards against LSU, a team that had the third-best run defense in the SEC.

Taylor also moved the chains on nearly 25 percent of his carries and had five runs produce 20 or more yards.

Another thing to consider is Florida had zero offensive production with Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg at quarterback, so defenses were selling out completely to stop the run.

Taylor still rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina. Now, he’ll be in an offense that spreads the field and makes it difficult for opposing defenses to focus on one thing or player. It’ll also force defenders to tackle Taylor in space.

Good luck with that.

We just saw Tre Mason put up ridiculous numbers in a spread offense and receive an invite to New York. Granted, Taylor won’t receive over 300 carries, but he does have the talent and has shown his potential in a sample size last season.

Don’t rule it out.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How BCS Era Turned the Heisman Trophy into Glorified QB Award

This year will mark the 80th anniversary of the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college football. The honor is meant to go to "an individual designated as the outstanding college football player in the United States," as it says on the Heisman website.

We don't know how old that text is, but a more modern description might as well say "the best quarterback, unless none of them are any good" since that's what the Heisman seems to have become: another trophy for the top college passer.

It hasn't always been this way.

Running backs are still the most common winner since the first trophy was awarded in 1935, taking home the honor 39 times, with quarterbacks getting the second-most awards at 33. But 19 of those QB wins have come since 1984, when Boston College's Doug Flutie ended a streak of 12 straight Heismans won by rushers.

It's been even more lopsided since the BCS era began in 1998.

While Texas' Ricky Williams and Wisconsin's Ron Dayne won as running backs those first two years, after that it's been almost exclusively quarterbacks.

Only Reggie Bush (2005) and Mark Ingram (in 2009) have prevented the last 15 years from completely morphing the Heisman into the Davey O'Brien Award—an honor that's specifically for quarterbacks—and only Bush's came in a year when there were legitimately solid Heisman contenders who threw the ball.

(Worth noting: Bush's Heisman was vacated by the Heisman Trust in 2010, a side effect of NCAA violations against USC for impermissible benefits received by Bush during his time in school. Because of that, technically, quarterbacks claimed every Heisman from 2000-2008.)

And it's not even that quarterbacks just happen to be finishing first in the Heisman balloting. That position pretty much has stuffed the ballot box to the point that 65 percent of the players to finish in the top five in any given year since 1998 have all hailed from the same position, as the chart below shows.

How did this happen? A few theories deserve to be discussed.

First there's the concept that the running back position has been devalued. This would lend itself to a trickle-down effect from the NFL, where teams aren't going out of their way to draft running backs early—this past draft saw the first rusher go late in the second round, the second year in a row without a first-round pick used on that position.

Running backs have never been the marquee choice in the draft, and it's been 19 years since Ki-Jana Carter went No. 1 overall, but even current and former pro players are acknowledging the position just doesn't have the sizzle it had before. Former NFL great LaDanian Tomlinson said so much to The Sporting News' David Steele:

Think of the kid who’s starting out playing football now—kids want to play wide receiver. Back in the day, you wanted to play running back because you wanted the ball … That’s going to be the norm from now on.

With the best young athletes looking to be in a position other than running back, it stands to reason that the best rushers in college won't end up being good enough to be considered the top overall player in the country.

But a better explanation might be one that involves the past dictating the future.

Since the Heisman quarterback dominance began in 2000, predictions related to who would win the award have been heavily skewed toward passers.

While other positions get thrown into early "watch lists" and running backs, wide receivers and even a few defensive players get mentioned each year as contenders, by and large the majority of players who get early hype for the Heisman are quarterbacks.

Don't believe it? Then check out the preseason Heisman short lists from The Sporting News, NFL.com, The National Football Post (via Yahoo Sports), HeismanPundit.com and Sports Illustrated for the 2014 season, to name a few. The majority of the "contenders," "front-runners" or "favorites," depending on how they're being categorized, are quarterbacks.

And while reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and UCLA's Brett Hundley appear on all of them, the emphasis on quarterbacks is prevalent. So much so that Jacob Coker—who backed up E.J. Manuel and Winston at Florida State, hardly ever playing, and is now in a competition to win the starting job at Alabama after transferring—is on Sports Illustrated's list of potential Heisman candidates.

Even Chris Huston, author of the Heisman Pundit website, limited his 25-person watch list to players who have actually achieved something in college.

These early lists aren't meant to be considered gospel, as breakouts can (and will) emerge as the 2014 season progresses. But odds are most of those who get added to the roster of legitimate contenders will be quarterbacks, something we must resign ourselves to accepting as the Heisman moves closer and closer to being a quarterback-only award.

It's almost like we enter each year assuming that a quarterback will win the Heisman, because that's how it's been lately and nothing indicates that should change. The BCS era is to blame for this, especially if you look at how games have been played during that time span.

Bleacher Report's Amy Daughters compared offensive stats from before the BCS and during, and it wasn't surprising to see that the numbers have gone way up. And even less startling was how much quarterbacks had to do with the offensive boom.

The number of 3,000-yard quarterbacks doubled from 1987 to 1997 and then tripled from the beginning of the BCS until 2007 ... Proving that the bar is being pushed up even further is the fact that there were zero 4,000-yard passers in 1987 and 1997, but there were six in 2007 and nine in 2013.

At the same time, running back production increased at only a fraction of the rate of quarterback output.

Is there any sign this will stop? The BCS era has come and gone, with the College Football Playoff replacing it and giving us our first legitimate tournament to determine a national champion. But that new system isn't likely to have an effect on the Heisman and who it's handed down to, since the CFP games all occur weeks after voting is over and the trophy is locked away in the winner's trophy case.

Not a fan of the Heisman being a glorified quarterback award? As long as college football continues to trend toward passers being as important as they are, it's not likely to change.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Is Tight End the Bulldog's Weak Link on Offense?

The offense for the Georgia Bulldogs has been strong the last two seasons, and despite losing Aaron Murray, they have a chance to be just as strong in 2014.

Hutson Mason has proved he can take control of the offense when needed. The running backs for Georgia led by Todd Gurley are reliable and have the ability to run past and over defenders. The receivers have speed, and they also have good hands. The offensive line does have question marks, but they are a group that can take over a game if they are all on the same page.

But if there’s one position on offense that’s a question mark, it would have to be the tight end position because the depth and the experience are not there.

The position took a big blow this week when Hunter Atkinson decided to quit football according to Gentry Estes of 247 Sports. Atkinson did not play a down for the Bulldogs because he was a newly signed player.

#UGA really liked Hunter Atkinson as a tight end and possibly a o-lineman depending on how he grew. Dawgs down to 4 scholarship TEs & Hicks

— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) June 18, 2014

Regardless, that leaves the Bulldogs with only three scholarship players, and they are Jay Rome, Jordan Davis and Jeb Blazevich, who is also a newly signed player.

So based on where the position is right now, the tight end position is a weak link on offense, but that could change during the early stages of the season if Rome turns out to be the player the coaches have hoped for.

Rome missed all of spring practice because he had to have a screw surgically inserted in his left foot.

Last year, Rome was a backup for Arthur Lynch, who was an All-SEC tight end. And while Lynch did a lot of good for the Bulldogs during his career, Rome has the potential to be a better overall player than Lynch because he’s bigger, stronger and faster.

But his issue with his foot has been ongoing, and the coaches don’t want to rush him back on the field because of it.

And this is also why the Bulldogs have made Quayvon Hicks as a hybrid tight end. Hicks’ natural position is fullback, but he has the hands and the blocking skills to be out on the edge as well.

Davis and Blazevich are in the same boat. Davis has a year on Blazevich, but both have not played a down for the Bulldogs.

Davis will see some action, but he will need one more year to be the dual-threat tight end the Bulldogs need in order to run their pro-style offense. Blazevich could redshirt, but it will depend on how Hicks comes along in his hybrid role.

The tight end position is normally a strength for the Bulldogs nearly every year. And the talent is there this season for it to be a strength again.

But the injury concerns of Rome and the zero experience of the other three tight ends on the roster make the position the weakest one on offense.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: What Each Potential Starting Quarterback Means to 'Canes

The Miami Hurricanes are approaching an intense four-man battle for the starting quarterback position during the 2014 season.

Boasting a veteran in Ryan Williams, a pair of 4-star freshmen in Kevin Olsen and Brad Kaaya and a former 5-star in Jake Heaps, Miami is loaded with talent. 

Whether Al Golden chooses Williams, Heaps or one of the young guns matters not, because the 'Canes offense will be in capable hands no matter where they turn.

Except for not really: The Miami quarterback situation is simply a mess. Being capable is not necessarily a sufficient quality of, well, quality.

But ultimately, it just doesn't matter what problems the Hurricanes face: They have to find the best option to guide the 2014 team, and each player brings advantages and disadvantages of his own.

 

Ryan Williams

Looking back to late March, it was relatively clear Williams would not be beaten out by anyone, even an unforeseen mid-summer transfer.

But then, the one-time transfer suffered a knee injury that nearly derailed his hopes for the upcoming season. One surgery and three months later, Williams' return is now a matter of when rather than if it will.

Williams is not extremely mobile and does not have an overly powerful arm, but he makes sharp decisions, gets the ball out quickly and throws accurate passes.

According to Christopher Stock of 247Sports (subscription required), Williams said pre-spring:

I've been working on my hands in the pocket and getting the ball ready to throw faster so there's less time between thinking I want to throw this and actually getting the ball out and it gives the DBs less time to react to the ball.

And with receivers like Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis cutting across the middle, the potential for yards after catch is high. Williams is the type of quarterback who won't light up a box score, but he would be the most consistent under center.

If his knee allows it, that is.

Though he may start practicing shortly before the season-opener, Williams' football readiness will be an issue. The best-case scenario for the senior is to be available for Arkansas State on Sept. 13 and shake off any rust before Miami heads to Nebraska the following week.

Williams is the safest option for the Hurricanes, but Golden and offensive coordinator James Coley need him to be healthy. Otherwise, Plans B, C and D really start to gain traction.

 

Kevin Olsen

Following Williams' injury, the heavily recruited, now-redshirt freshman Olsen was the best choice to replace the anticipated starter. Then the spring game happened, and he looked exactly like what a young second-string quarterback usually does: not very good.

The glorified scrimmage raised two major questions. First, what is Olsen missing in his development? Second, is it his fault, is it on the coaches or does he just need more time?

In fairness, not every prospect should be pushed to take over as the full-time starter during their second year of college. As it pertains to Olsen, so much hype has been brought on the brother of a former Miami star, which might have generated unfair expectations.

But Heaps' transfer consequently brought a third query: if the coaching staff is comfortable relying on Olsen.

The freshman's arm talent has been lauded, and the spring game certainly backed it up.

However, the accuracy and decision-making was not present, save for his connection with Lewis. Again, Olsen's limited reps as the backup for the majority of spring factor in here.

Anyway, barring a major letdown in the fall, I'm still on board with Olsen making a few spot-starts until Williams is full-go.

Plus, if he shows significant improvement, it's better to continue starting a younger talent over a veteran and give him more early game experience.

But if the coaches cannot trust Olsen, the quarterback situation gets even trickier.

 

Jake Heaps

A top-three quarterback in his class according to 247Sports, Heaps initially headed to BYU for two seasons before transferring to Kansas. But after his fall from grace late in 2013, the journeyman searched for a greener pasture and believes he has found one in South Florida.

Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval asks if Heaps, who will be surrounded by a plethora of playmakers, can make the Hurricanes an ACC contender.

Let's answer the question this way: Any quarterback who avoids being the principal reason Miami loses will do just that.

The trouble, of course, is deciding whether or not Heaps is a game manager. Over three collegiate seasons at BYU and Kansas, Heaps has completed 54.8 percent of his passes, tossing 32 touchdowns to 27 interceptions.

Per Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post: "[Heaps] has a sense of humor about his past struggles. When I started a question by telling him I had watched tape of his Kansas games, he cut in with, 'Mixed reviews, I'm sure.'"

While a Jayhawk, including his transfer 2012 season, Kansas wide receivers caught three touchdowns. That's it. Three, during two years—24 games of football.

Quite obviously, Heaps wasn't getting much help on the outside, but he now has Coley, Lewis, Phillip Dorsett, Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters as the targets. Those receivers are definitely upgrades over Andrew Turzilli, Rodriguez Coleman and Justin McCay.

 

Brad Kaaya

Starting Kaaya as a true freshman is an appealing prospect, with visions of an immediate four-year starter and sugar plums dancing in our heads.

But that's not necessarily what is best for the program. Unless Kaaya proves himself worthy of the starting job and retains the position over the entire campaign, the 4-star quarterback should take a redshirt season.

Yes, if Kaaya deserves the No. 1 role, by all means, give it to the prospective star. But Miami cannot misuse or rush the development of who many consider the quarterback of the future—including themselves.

For example, take the University of Michigan in 2013. The Wolverines fought through a frustrating season with Devin Gardner at the helm, yet only sparingly used highly touted Shane Morris and burnt his redshirt.

Where Michigan could be visualizing at least three years of the left-hander under center after Gardner graduates, it instead wasted an entire year of Morris' eligibility for essentially one game.

Look, the Hurricanes are not winning a national championship in the 2014 season. They are not making the inaugural College Football Playoff. They will probably not earn the ACC crown.

Rely on the veterans, let Kaaya immerse himself in the Miami playbook and build for the future. Because it certainly can be brighter, for longer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Five 2015 Defensive Recruits with Most to Prove This Summer

As the summer arrives, many recruits will be busy at various camps and seven-on-seven events over the next few months. Looking at the 2015 class, a few defensive prospects will be looking to shake some slight knocks on their skill sets.

A 5-star defensive end must prove he is strong enough not to be considered a one-trick pony, while a 4-star cornerback has to show he is more than just an explosive athlete.

Also, a mysterious 4-star defensive lineman needs to prove he doesn't just dominate weak competition.

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Every Pac-12 Football Team's Ace 2015 Recruiter

The Pac-12 is not just about sunshine and throwing the football. Its recruiting trail is fiercely competitive, with the state of California serving as the main source of talent for the conference.

Each head coach in the Pac-12 must assemble his coaching staff with a great balance of on-field tutors and skilled recruiters. Each staff in the league has at least one ace recruiter, and they're starting to shine in 2015 recruiting.

UCLA's offensive line coach is a respected recruiter on the trail. A former Pac-12 head coach is doing well recruiting for Utah, plus California's running backs coach has already lured a powerful runner to Berkeley.

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.

 

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Mark Emmert's O'Bannon Trial Comments Tell CFB Fans What They Already Know

Boise State will never win a college football national championship, and we’re completely at peace with this. In fact, fine Idaho inhabitants—even the extreme blue-blooders—have grown to accept this very notion, despite the handful of close calls that nearly debunked this logic in the past decade.

This is not meant to be a jab at one of the more exciting and successful little giants of our lifetime. It’s also not a Boise problem. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

It’s simply acknowledging the truth: College athletics aren’t fair to all of its members—it’s never been fair—and the notion that paying players beyond cost of attendance would somehow destroy the competitive fairness of the sport ignores the fact that it was never fair to begin with.

NCAA president Mark Emmert took the stand at the Ed O’Bannon trial on Thursday with the intention of convincing U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken otherwise. It’s her opinion that matters; not ours, the public’s, the jury’s (there isn't one) or the endless stream of Twitter jokes that poured out with each and every response.

It’s up to Wilken to rule in favor of the NCAA and its current model, or the plaintiffs, a decision that could rock the foundation of collegiate athletics as we know it.

While Emmert’s hours on the stand brought up a wealth of fascinating talking points, from the definition of amateurism, to a trip down NCAA history lane, to his own salary, his position regarding the current competitive state of collegiate athletics—and what it could become—certainly stood out.

His stance is pretty clear and predictable, as outlined by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach: If you allow schools to pay the players, the rich (aka the schools with seemingly unlimited resources) will get richer and separate themselves from the masses.

Emmert says paying players would destroy competitive balance, another pro-competitive benefit

— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) June 19, 2014

He continued, according to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples, by saying that paying players would drastically alter the recruiting process.

Emmert says if payment is allowed, players would choose colleges based on amount of payment.

— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) June 19, 2014

Although this is a deep dive down the doomsday rabbit hole, it’s also a distinct possibility that this could become a reality. After all, there’s a rather significant trial taking place that could prompt this movement. (There will also be other trials to come regardless of this ruling, but the process has begun.

It is extreme, but it also makes some sense on the surface. For further proof of what a free market can generate, look no further than professional free agency. Perhaps, if all barriers were removed, this is what we’d be left with.

It’s not this part of Emmert’s claim that is necessarily incorrect, as assumption-heavy as it might be. It’s assuming that collegiate athletics—with a strong focus on college football—were somehow fair to begin with.

There are various ways to convey what you already know: that certain teams with certain means will be more attractive to players, coaches, fans and success than other places. Nothing conveys this more than tangible results.

Over the past 77 years—stretching back to the leather-helmeted 1930s—only 27 teams have finished No. 1 in the final AP Poll. The lack of representation at the top is both startling and somehow not the least bit surprising.

This top-heavy trend was around well before television contracts changed the sport entirely, although the gap has widened exponentially thanks to networks and other media endeavors for major teams and conferences.

Texas and Alabama combined to generate nearly $310 million in revenue in 2013, according to USA Today. For comparison’s sake, Iowa State and Cincinnati—No. 50 and 51 on this list—generated less than $125 million in revenue.

Alabama has certainly put this money to good use. The Tide only recently put the final touches on its new $9 million weight room. It even added a waterfall to its training area, in case you weren’t aware by now.

Oregon has taken its football success and connections with Nike (and more specifically, Nike co-founder Phil Knight) and parlayed that into a gorgeous, $68 million, 145,000-foot football operations building.

Clemson has strategically decided to put its football success back into coaching salaries. After giving Dabo Swinney a much-deserved raise, the Tigers also reworked the contracts of the staff. Payroll for Clemson assistants will now total more than $4 million per season, while Swinney will take home more than $3 million himself.

Staffs at major programs are larger, recruiting budgets have grown exponentially, and the money generated by the sport is poured back into the machines to produce more. This is not simply common procedure at Alabama, Oregon and Clemson; it’s common practice for the select revenue-rich teams in a favorable situation.

While these tactics aren’t as direct as handing over a check to a “student-athlete” based on his/her physical worth, they’re still a byproduct of a system that is built on money and resources. The more you have, the more things you can do to your football program—and your athletic program in general—to further increase the gap between those that have and those that don’t.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. It’s business.

Programs are choosing to spend their fortunes, which is both admirable and intelligent. The fact that there are vast differences between teams is both accepted and acknowledged when you sign up for this.

Well, at least for most.

Emmert’s stance on paying players comes as no surprise given his current predicament. It's what his bosses (the schools) pay him to do. At the most critical hour, with fortunes in the balance, he is simply doing his job.

In his defense, there is likely an intelligent argument to be made—a checklist to be crafted—as to why paying players is ultimately not the answer. Or, at the very least, why the slow destruction of amateurism should come with guidelines.

Basing this argument around a competitive balance that simply does not exist in this world, however, is a taxing way to establish an argument. There is none, really.

That ship sailed long ago.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Football: 10 Current Tigers Who Have Outplayed Their Recruiting Rankings

Clemson has become one of the top recruiting schools in the nation lately, but the Tigers have shown with the guys on this list that a star rating is merely just a number.

Recruiting rankings are very useful for fans to gauge a prospect's potential, but so many times prospects are ranked lower than what they deserve.

It goes to show how well a player can become once he is around certain coaches, and for these 12 guys, it's been no different.

Note: For Shaq Lawson and Isaiah Battle, their original high school rankings were used. Both became ranked higher after a year of prep school, but the rankings before prep school were used in this article.

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