NCAA Football

Alabama LB Dillon Lee Arrested on DUI Charges

Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee, a true junior who is competing to start on the Crimson Tide's 2014 defense, was arrested Thursday and released on $1,000 bond for driving under the influence, according to Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is aware of the arrest and issued the following statement: "I don't have all of the details at this point and will handle it appropriately once I've had a chance to review all of the information."

Lee was a 4-star recruit and the No. 101 overall player on the 247Sports Composite in 2012, checking in as one of the 10 best outside linebackers in the class. He appeared in all 13 games as a sophomore last season and recorded 16 tackles—mostly as one of the team's best coverage players on special teams.

Known as the "wild man" within the Crimson Tide's locker room, Lee's motor has earned him on-field praise from coaches and teammates alike. Saban lauded him earlier in spring practice, saying he thinks Lee "will be a really good player for us," per Michael Casagrande of AL.com.

However, for all of the good he reportedly does on the field, this is not the first time Lee has gotten in trouble off of it: He was one of two players, along with Ryan Anderson, sent home from the 2013 BCS National Championship Game after breaking curfew, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

A DUI arrest is obviously a little more serious than that.

Even without the arrest (and any potential suspension), Lee was locked and loaded in the battle to start for Alabama next season. He is capable of playing both inside and out, and that versatility should continue to help his chances, but given the depth of blue-chip recruits competing with him, every step Lee takes in the wrong direction is a big one.

We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

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10 College Football Programs Poised for a Big 2015 Recruiting Year

The 2015 recruiting year is off and running, and several programs around the country are poised to do a lot of damage on the trail. 

Some schools reside in areas that have a ton of available talent this year, while others will have a big recruiting year because they always do. A few programs have gotten a commitment from a key elite recruit, which will help them attract other great prospects to finish with a high ranking.

A Pac-12 school has a chance to make a resurrection statement this year, while a group of SEC juggernauts figure to have outstanding classes yet again. Plus, a Big Ten school has a new head coach who is already off to a terrific start.

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Have We Seen the Best of Jameis Winston Already?

Last fall, Florida State faithful and college football fans watched one of the most impressive debut seasons in college football history unfold right in front of them.

A previously unknown redshirt freshman quarterback named Jameis Winston became a household name in a matter of weeks. The supremely confident 6’4”, 228-pound signal-caller led the Seminoles to heights they hadn’t scaled in more than a decade.

Teaming with a talented offense, Winston threw for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing 66 percent of his passes.  He had a quarterback rating of 184.8, and also added 219 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Winston became the youngest player (19 years, 342 days) to win the Heisman Trophy, and a month later, he rallied the Seminoles from an 18-point deficit to defeat Auburn for the BCS National Championship.

Which begs the question: can he do it again?

The departures of two of Winston’s top targets in standout junior Kelvin Benjamin (NFL draft) and speedy senior Kenny Shaw (graduation) raise a serious question: Have we seen the best of Jameis Winston as a collegiate player?

Winston and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher don’t think so. They are working hard this spring to make sure the talented sophomore doesn’t rest on his laurels.

“You don’t want to relax,” Fisher said recently. “You can become complacent. This spring practice, we won’t be taking that mentality.”

Last fall, Florida State’s receiving corps was the envy of many a college quarterback. Junior Rashad Greene, who has excellent speed, quickness, hands and separation, caught 76 passes for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns.

The 6’5”, 240-pound Benjamin finally put it all together and became a nearly impossible matchup for opposing secondaries, catching 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns. And Shaw was almost as impressive, rolling up 54 receptions for 933 yards and six touchdowns.

With Benjamin and Shaw gone, spring practice has revolved around finding the next great receivers to wear garnet and gold. Christian Green, a 6’2”, 200-pound senior, has speed and strength and is an option to replace Benjamin, as is 6’4”, 200-pound sophomore Isaiah Jones. But both are unknown quantities.

Scooter Haggins, a 6’0”, 193-pound senior, along with the 5’7”, 178-pound sophomore Kermit Whitfield and  Bobo Wilson (5’9”, 177-pound) are battling to replace Shaw in the starting lineup.

Haggins is coming off a redshirt season after missing all of 2013 with a stress fracture in his knee. Whitfield has elite, gamebreaking speed, as he displayed with a 100-yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter against Auburn that gave the Seminoles their first lead of the game.

Florida State also has several high-profile receiver recruits arriving this fall in 5-star Ermon Lane (rated as the nation’s No. 24 overall recruit by 247Sports), 4-star Travis Rudolph (rated as the nation’s No.6 wideout)and 4-star Javon Harrison (rated as the No.16 athlete).

“It’s important that he learns a whole new group of receivers,” Fisher said. “We have to develop two or three more while also keeping a great bond with Rashad and (tight end) Nick (O’ Leary).”

For his part, Winston doesn’t appear worried about adjusting to a new group of targets and says all of his new receivers can “jump out of the gym.”

“I can spread the ball out to anybody,” he said. “That makes me smile. In our offense, it just gives us more weapons.”

Building trust, he said, is crucial.

“It’s very important for their confidence and our confidence,” he said. “We trust all the guys we go out there with. That’s why you come to Florida State, to win championships. We’ve got great players and those guys are going to be great. It’s going to be a fast adjustment to work on timing with me and them and we’re going to get this thing rolling.”

And you’d better believe that Fisher and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders pushed Winston on personal improvements this spring, too. Fisher said fundamentals are a key for Winston, and when “your mind plays fast, your arm plays fast.”

Fisher said his star has plenty to work on, and says “I think you’re always learning as a competitor in different situations.”

“It’s fundamental knowledge of our offense, the things we do and how you make decisions that create success,” he said. “You have to make reads against the coverage and blitz, press and blitz and recognize situations in the offense against a defense that will create big plays.

“Fundamentally, it’s the way he balances his body and moves in the pocket. Those are all areas where he’ll continue to grow and must continue to grow.”

Winston said Fisher is a “perfectionist,” and he and Sanders are always pushing him.

“There are things that coach Sanders brings to my attention a lot,” he said. “He’s always on coach Fisher about me. I’m always trying to get better. I’m not going to be the guy who sits back and lets things go. I’m going to get my hips up higher, get the ball up higher and I’m going to start throwing rockets.”

The possibility for off-field distractions also exists. USA Todayreported that Florida State was facing a federal civil rights investigation into its handling of rape charges against Winston. He was cleared of criminal charges in the case in December 2013. 

Opposing defensive coordinators will have a year’s worth of film to study. His receivers almost certainly won’t be up to the caliber of 2013. But if Winston regresses in 2014, it’s hard to say that it’ll be due to lack of effort on his part.

Winston was pulled in the second half of many Florida State blowouts, which may have surpressed his numbers. Depending on the closeness of FSU's games this fall, it is entirely possible that he could match or build on his 2013 numbers, despite the personnel around him.

It could be his last collegiate run: Winston has been projected as a top selection in the 2015 NFL draft, and former NFL general manager Jerry Angelo says he'd have been the top pick in the 2014 draft if he were eligible. However, Winston said in February he'd like to play two more college seasons.

None of that really matters right now, however. He's just focused on repeating last fall's success and building on it. 

“I’m going to be relentless,” he said, “in trying to lead my team to another national championship.”

 

*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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Nebraska Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Nebraska football team wrapped up spring practice on Wednesday, April 9. After four weeks of practice and 14 total practices, the team is ready to show off in the annual spring game on Saturday, April 12.

Head coach Bo Pelini has been pleased with spring practice this year. He was particularly pleased with the final few practices.

While some things will remain a mystery until the 2014 season begins, a lot has been answered for the Huskers over the short few weeks of practice.

 

News from the Week

According to Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, the Huskers had an opportunity to practice outside on Wednesday. The team has had to be indoors for most of spring practice, but was able to get outside and practice in Wednesday's 80-degree weather.

Pelini told 247Sports.com's Michael Bruntz that he doesn't expect Ameer Abdullah and Randy Gregory to play much in the spring game.

Defensive tackle Aaron Curry has a sprained neck, according to The Daily Nebraskan. He will be out for the spring game. He has been sitting out of practice with a neck brace since the injury last Saturday.

As for Marcus Newby's sprained back, Bruntz is reporting that Pelini expects the linebacker to play in the spring game. “My experience with that is that it usually settles down after a day or two,” Pelini said.

 

Important Position Battles

Quarterbacks will be protected in the pocket at the annual spring game, but the position will still have a lot of eyes on it. Tommy Armstrong is expected to be the starter and recently told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) that he's learned from his mistakes since last season.

Based on a report by the Omaha World-Herald, Armstrong seems to be finding his groove just fine in spring practice.

There are a lot of starting spots that have yet to be determined for the Blackshirts. However, defensive coordinator John Papuchis likes what he sees. As Lincoln's 1011 Sports reports, Papuchis believes the group is growing in confidence and belief in one another:

True confidence is only built when you have a great understanding of your role and responsibility. It was hard to have that swagger a year ago because guys were just learning. Now that they feel confident and comfortable with what they do, and with all of the hard work they've put in this offseason, they've earned the right to go out there, have some fun and just play. We're going to play much better when we're loose, flying around and jumping around. That's the way I want us to play, and that's the way they want to play, but you have to earn the right to get there.

As for the player he's most impressed with so far? It looks like the honor falls to Nathan Gerry. 

 

Biggest Storylines

Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star notes that Nebraska's spring game will have a different format this year. The new offense vs. defense format was confirmed by Pelini after Wednesday's practice. It will replace the usual combination of units to create two different teams.

Pelini talked a bit about the need for change:

It's the only way we're going to be able to function, and really be able to protect certain guys we want to protect. … Trying to field two teams wouldn't happen right now because we're thin at a couple positions and we don't want to put kids in a position to get hurt.

How the game will be scored has yet to be determined, but it will likely be a system that awards points for good plays.

Worried about the weather for the spring game? Don't be. At least Pelini doesn't believe fans have any reason to worry.

A statement made by the head coach following Wednesday's practice has gotten a bit of attention. As mentioned in the McKewon report, Pelini noted what he would do in response to unfavorable weather:

The weather keeps changing if you guys follow it. Every day I look, it looks like 100 percent rain, 100 percent no rain, and there’s half a sun and half of a rain cloud. I’ll just get Coach Osborne here, and he’ll part the skies, and we should be good to go.

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JC Shurburtt of 247 Sports: Nebraska Commit Kevin Dillman Is the Next Tim Tebow

Kevin Dillman, the 11th-ranked dual-threat quarterback of the 2015 class, has committed to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Dillman is originally from Sweden, but currently goes to high school in Denton, Texas.

The 6'4", 220-pound athlete is a perfect fit for the Huskers offense and Bo Pelini. Does Dillman have the skills to compete for the starting job when he arrives on campus in 2015?

Check out 247Sports.com National Recruiting Director JC Shurburtt break down what Dillman means to Nebraska and which college football legend he compares to.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital.

Player ranking from 247 Sports Composite.

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Jake Fruhmorgen Commits to Clemson: Tigers Land Massive 4-Star OL

Offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen announced his commitment to Clemson on Thursday afternoon, capping off a nationwide recruitment. The 4-star Florida prospect picked the Tigers from dozens of collegiate options, including Alabama and Florida.

Fruhmorgen, a 6'5", 280-pound junior at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., is viewed as one of the country's premier offensive tackles. He rates No. 7 nationally at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings.

His choice ultimately came down to Clemson and Florida, reports SaturdayDownSouth.com writer Brian McLaughlin. Fruhmorgen eliminated Michigan and Alabama from consideration during the late stages of a widespread decision-making process.

He holds family ties to the Crimson Tide,, but that wasn't enough to draw him to Tuscaloosa. His father, John Fruhmorgen, played at Alabama before a stint in the NFL.

Nick Saban was one of several high-profile coaches who invested significant time into recruiting the dominant blocker. His expansive offer sheet features Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Miami, Ohio State and LSU.

He helped lead Plant to the state semifinals as a junior. Fruhmorgen fueled an offensive attack that produced an average of 400 total yards per game, according to MaxPreps.

Fruhmorgen, a 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection, hails from a high school that has produced several college standouts in recent years. Wide receiver Mike Williams (USC), tight end Orson Charles (Georgia) and quarterback Aaron Murray (Georgia) are among notable alumni.

Clemson was considered the front-runner for his commitment prior to the announcement. The Tigers held 90 percent of predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, comprised of 40 expert projections.

He provides a much-needed presence in Clemson's 2015 recruiting class, which now features nine players. The Tigers have an immediate need for depth at offensive tackle, and head coach Dabo Swinney has quickly ensured that help is on the way.

Fruhmorgen joins 5-star Georgia tackle Mitch Hyatt in the class. The duo gives Clemson elite options and possible immediate solutions along the offensive front.

Meanwhile, Florida whiffs on a key in-state target. Will Muschamp and his staff will turn their attention to other offensive tackle prospects, including fellow Floridian Martez Ivey and Maryland product Isaiah Prince.

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Georgia Football: Why A.J. Turman Is the 1 Player to Watch in the Spring Game

Georgia Bulldogs running back A.J. Turman knows that he is fighting an uphill battle. The competition at running back is fierce as Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are the top two backs, while J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas proved to be worthy backups last season. Then there are newcomers Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, who are expected to do some big things this upcoming season.

So Turman has to have a good G-Day game to solidify his status on the depth chart which is also why he is the one player to watch on Saturday.

After practice this past Tuesday, Turman told Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph that he has done what he’s needed to do, but he really needs to show the rest of the world what he can do on Saturday, especially with him not having any games under his belt.

Turman had his chance to get some playing time last year due to the injuries to Gurley and Marshall. However, Turman pulled an MCL muscle during preseason practice, and that led to Green and Douglas getting the majority of snaps.

Turman did travel with the team during the early stages of the season, but the coaches decided to put the redshirt on him after the Tennessee game.

2014 marks a new year for Turman, and so far, he has been having a great start with a successful spring. What has helped Turman the most is the coaches have been taking it easy on Gurley when it comes to the workload, Marshall is still recovering from knee surgery and Green has moved from tailback to cornerback. So Turman and Douglas have gotten the bulk of carries this last two weeks.

#UGA tailback A.J. Turman is confident about his spring so far in what will be a crowded backfield in the fall (free) http://t.co/8Cpm9jAqAa

— Gentry Estes (@GentryEstes247) April 9, 2014

In the first scrimmage of spring practice, Turman struggled to get anything going as he rushed for 20 yards on 10 carries. But in the second scrimmage that took place last week, he was able to pick things up with a four-carry, 22-yard performance. Despite not having the stats to back it up in the first scrimmage, Mark Richttold Gentry Estes of 247 Sports (subscription needed) that Turman ran the ball well and did some good things.  

When asked about Turman later in the week, Richt told Emerson that he improved a lot in terms of his work ethic and he’s grabbing everyone’s attention in the effort he has made.

The G-Day is set up where Turman will get a lot of carries. So there’s a really good chance that he could really impress the coaches, players and fans on Saturday. Turman, who is now at 210 pounds, told Estes that he likes a lot of contact and likes to run between the tackles. He also told Estes he wants to be at 220 pounds before the season begins.

We know what Gurley, Marshall and Douglas can do. But Turman is an unproven player that has been doing good things since he’s arrived on campus last year. It’s time for him to show Athens why he was a top recruit last year and why Richt has given him so much praise this spring.

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10 College Football Rivalry Games That Won't Even Be Close in 2014

College football and its ever-increasing popularity can be boiled down to its biggest draw—rivalries. Most of the memorable moments happen in these games, just ask Alabama, Notre Dame or Oklahoma what a loss in a rivalry game can do to your season. 

While the insane finishes get all of the attention, sometimes it's a blowout victory in a rivalry game that also propels a team to greatness. It wasn't until Florida State blew out Clemson and Miami (FL) in two games in a three week span that its national title dreams became cemented in reality. 

So, as 2014 inches ever closer, which rivalry games will end up as blowouts? Who could propel themselves with a statement game? 

Let's take a look at the 10 rivalry games most likely to end in a lopsided score this season. 

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Texas A&M Football: Why Speedy Noil Is the Aggies' Spring MVP

The story of the Texas A&M football team during spring practice was supposed to be the competition at quarterback to replace Johnny Manziel. Instead, the highlight of the spring was the strong play of true freshman receiver Speedy Noil. 

The No. 1 ranked wide receiver in the country in the 2014 class wasted no time in showing off his skills in College Station. Noil played quarterback, wide receiver and running back in high school but has impressed with how polished his route running is.

The 5'11", 180-pound receiver looks like a junior or senior on the field, not an 18-year-old who should be finishing the spring semester of his senior year in high school right now. He is physically ready to be an impact player in college immediately.

Noil's surprising strength was evident during a session of the Oklahoma drill in spring practice. He pancaked sophomore cornerback Tavares Garner on two of three snaps. Not exactly what you expect from a high school quarterback.

Noil led Edna Karr High School in New Orleans to a state championship as a junior and an appearance in the state finals as a senior. His explosive speed and waterbug-like elusiveness made him a force to be reckoned with on offense and special teams.

Noil has consistently been able to create separation from Aggies defensive backs and get open in practices and scrimmages. He makes tremendous ankle-breaking cuts in space and is, arguably, already the most elusive player on the Aggies roster. 

When a freshman enters a college football program, a period of transition is expected. A freshman football player has to deal with being away from home for an extended period of time, along with the new academic and athletic pressures in their life. That is why it is common for freshmen to redshirt while they acclimate to their new surroundings. 

That is not the case with Noil. He came in and immediately stakes his claim to being one of the top receivers on the roster. If the season started today, Noil would be one of the starting receivers who would take the field for the opening offensive snap. 

Because of his size and speed, Noil will be able to play in the slot and outside for the Aggies. He will also return kickoffs and may see some time returning punts. 

In Noil and sophomore receiver Laquvionte Gonzalez, the Aggies have two dynamic young receivers who need the ball in their hands. Aggies fans should expect to see Noil put in motion to receive the "push pass" that Tavon Austin made popular at West Virginia, and the Aggies ran with Gonzalez on multiple occasions in 2013.

The Aggies coaches will try to get the ball into Noil's hand in every way possible in 2014. It is one thing for a freshman to light it up during practice, and another for him to deliver when the lights are on in front of 80,000 fans.

However, Noil's athleticism is undeniable. He will be among the Aggies' leaders in receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman. Aggies fans should expect a 40-catch, 600-yard season out of him. If he does not have a special teams touchdown in 2014, that will be a monumental surprise.

Noil dominated spring practice with his athleticism and surprising polish as a wide receiver. Texas A&M fans should be excited about everything this youngster will bring to the table for the next three or four years.  

 

 

 

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What Jimbo Fisher Needs to See from Jameis Winston, 'Noles in Spring Game

With great success comes great expectations, and with great expectations come unrealistic demands; and after last year's 14-0 season and BCS national championship, that is the exact position Florida State fans find themselves in before the annual Garnet & Gold Game this weekend.

With Jameis Winston, Karlos Williams, Nick O'Leary, Rashad Greene and four of five offensive linemen returning and an influx of blue-chip skill players coming in, the offense is expected to pick up right where it left off in 2014. Starting with the spring game on Saturday afternoon, nothing other than a similar mode of success will be accepted.

This is both fair and unfair. Fair because, realistically, there is no reason the offense should be worse than last season, despite the losses of Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, Devonta Freeman and Bryan Stork. FSU fans are right to expect another dominant unit in the fall.

It's unfair to expect such quick cohesion, however, especially in the passing game. Having lost probably his two favorite targets from a season ago, Winston can (but won't) be forgiven if he struggles with things such as timing and rhythm on Saturday.

What Jimbo Fisher and the staff need to see from Winston is simple: that he cares. If he misses a couple of throws he would have made last season, there will be stories written about baseball screwing up his mechanics—but stories like that would be farcical.

We know that his arm will be fine.

All that really matters is that he comes out and plays with his normal joie de vivre. He needs to play hard but have fun; he needs to basically be...well, Jameis.

Elsewhere on the offense, it's fair to say Mario Pender needs to play well. Williams will be the starter and the closest thing to a workhorse next season, but Fisher likes to split his tailback touches evenly, as noted in this mid-February piece by David Hale of ESPN.com.

It's a shame, for the larger body of Seminoles, that sophomore Ryan Green and early enrollee Dalvin Cook Jr. suffered injuries this spring and will have to miss the scrimmage. But for Pender, a former blue-chipper himself who has the potential to contribute if he ever screws his head on straight, Saturday will be an opportune moment.

At receiver, Fisher needs to see at least one player not named "Greene" to step up and prove he will contribute in 2014.

It's not the end of the world if the spring roster isn't deep at the position, as freshmen Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph will enter the mix this fall—which should yield at least one (and maybe even two) instant-impact players. It would be a problem, however, if those guys needed to contribute in year one, instead of it being a luxury.

Names to watch on Saturday include Christian Green and Isaiah Jones on the outside and Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield, Jesus "Bobo" Wilson and Jarred "Scooter" Haggins in the slot.

On defense, Fisher can expect to see a changing of the guard, of sorts, with respect to leadership roles.

Starting at the top with new coordinator Charles Kelly, who replaces Jeremy Pruitt, and continuing through the roster now that guys such as Lamarcus Joyner, Timmy Jernigan, Telvin Smith and Christian Jones are departed, FSU's defense is looking for a new voice of command.

One candidate for the role might be sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramey, who last year became the first Seminole since Deion Sanders to start as a true freshman at cornerback (before eventually making the switch to safety and continuing to play well).

He's been moved all around the defense during camp and should continue to be in the spring game and even come fall, but it's his leadership that Fisher wants to see improve. After the Seminoles' second scrimmage, Ramsey spoke with reporters about those skills, saying he's a quiet guy by nature—a leader by example—but he knows he must improve as an oral force if this team wants to get better:

I feel like I need to step up in (the leadership) area. I'm not really a vocal person, I just go out there and do it myself. I first have to make sure I do my job—to lead by example more then I do vocally.

But after that, yeah, I feel like I should step up a little more vocally. And I feel like I do at times.

Beyond that, Fisher needs to see a group of former blue-chip recruits take the next step. That process starts on the defensive line with Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman, who played well in spots last season but are now being counted on as every-down, high-motor anchors.

The same thing goes at linebacker, actually. Terrance Smith returns, but Ukeme Eligwe and Matthew Thomas—the latter of whom was the No. 8 overall player on the 247Sports composite in 2013—must eventually, by the start of next season, turn athletic potential into consistent production to alleviate the losses of Jones and Smith.

Do they have to show that in earnest by Saturday's spring game? No. Not really. There is still time for Fisher and Kelly to drill them.

But, at the very least, Eligwe and Thomas must show some flashes.

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What Mark Richt Needs to See from QB Hutson Mason in Georgia's Spring Game

Georgia's offense isn't exactly full of holes, but the one left by former quarterback Aaron Murray is gaping.

Luckily for head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, they have a veteran to rely on.

Redshirt senior Hutson Mason will do his best "D.J. Shockley" impression and take the reigns from a legend. Shockley's one and only season as Georgia's starting quarterback in 2005 ended well, as he led the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl.

Can Mason do the same? 

With running back Todd Gurley, a host of wide receivers and a coach in Bobo who he's worked with for the last four years, Mason certainly has the foundation to do so.

But he still has work to do, and needs to show how much he's progressed between the hedges in this Saturday's spring game in Athens.

What does Richt need to see?

 

Accuracy

Mason completed 57.3 percent (43-of-75) of his passes as the starting quarterback in Georgia's final two games of the season, for 619 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. In those games, he struggled to get in the flow at times, which put his team behind the eightball.

The bright side for Richt is that Mason led his team back to a dramatic double overtime win over Georgia Tech to close out the regular season, and led his team downfield in the Gator Bowl on potential go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, before two drops in each drive sent those to screeching halts.

In an offense like Georgia's, which is predicated on establishing the run and a quarterback using play action off that, accuracy is vital. Mason needs to complete around 65 percent of his passes for Georgia to be a true national title contender.

If he can do that, then the offense will be fine. With Gurley and all those weapons around him, all he has to be is a caretaker for Georgia's offense to move the ball. If he can evolve into a difference-maker, that's a bonus.

 

Finding that Go-To Guy

Georgia has plenty of wide receivers for Mason to choose from, and he needs to find at least one that he knows he can rely on in key situations.

For Murray that player was Michael Bennett, and the senior could play the same role for Mason this season. But fellow senior Chris Conley, the speedy Reggie Davis and last year's spring superstar, Jonathon Rumph, are all vying for playing time this spring. 

Bennett and Conley are the favorites. As a junior last season, Bennett caught 41 passes for 538 yards and four touchdowns, while missing two-and-a-half games in the middle of the season with a knee injury. Conley led the Bulldogs last season with 45 catches for 651 yards and four touchdowns.

If Mason can connect with just one of those guys, then he'll be able to hit the ground running during fall camp when Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley both get back to full speed from their ACL injuries.

 

Comfort in the Pocket

Georgia has been mixing and matching some pieces along the offensive line this spring. Hopefully for Richt and Bobo, those pieces have settled in. 

David Andrews is entrenched at center and John Theus and Kolton Houston each have experience at offensive tackle. Those three need to be comfortable in the checks at the line, which are so prominent in Bobo's offense. 

At the guard spots, Watts Dantzler, Mark Beard, Greg Pyke, Brandon Kublanow and Zach DeBell all are vying for playing time, according to the Red & Black. 

Whoever emerges as starters, Mason has to know that he's protected and that everybody is on the same page before the snap. A lot of that is on Andrews making the proper reads. But if Mason loses faith in his offensive line, he's going to struggle.

Richt doesn't need Mason to be a star, he needs Mason to be effective.

If he proves on spring's biggest stage that he's progressed from his limited time last year as the starter, Georgia could be in for a big season in 2014 with Mason at the helm.

 

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

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What State Court Questioning NCAA Penalties in Sandusky Case Means for PSU

With the Commonwealth Court, led by Judge Anne E. Covey, beginning to question the validity of the NCAA's consent decree, Penn State can sit in the background and watch the fight. A battle that Penn State's board of trustees considered waging in 2012 appears ready to take place without the university placed squarely in the cross hairs of controversy.

In August 2012, the board of trustees appeared poised to fire back at the NCAA, an action that would have made Penn State the football-hungry villain. Instead, the board elected to simply take the hand the NCAA dealt and move on with the sanctions.

Now, as The Morning Call reports, the Commonwealth Court might take the steps the board would not. The court voted 6-1 to uphold a law passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2013 that would require the NCAA to spend the money from the fines levied against the Nittany Lions in Pennsylvania, not distribute it to other states.

During that process, Covey looked into the language regarding the consent decree and pointed out that ordinarily the NCAA would not take action in this instance and that "the NCAA involved itself." Her ruling opened the doors for state Sen. Jake Corman to continue pushing against college athletics' governing body. As Corman told the Centre Daily Times:

"I’ve always been uncomfortable with the way the NCAA handed this consent decree on Penn State and the process they went through to do it," Corman said. "Now that (the court) brought Penn State into the case and that they’re not sure that the whole consent decree is valid or constitutional, that’s an area that wasn’t part of our original lawsuit but clearly an area we want to explore now that the court has opened the possibility to do so."

Obviously, the NCAA is on the opposite side, pushing against the ruling that is not only forcing them to keep the fines obtained from Penn State in Pennsylvania. Now, with Covey's decision, the NCAA finds itself facing another legal battle that arose out of nowhere. It is fighting to prove that the organization was within its power to levy sanctions upon the Nittany Lions program.

Meanwhile, Penn State—and all those associated with the university and the program—sits on the sidelines and watches Corman ready himself for battle against the NCAA. The Nittany Lions can hunker down, working to demonstrate compliance to the NCAA to regain lost benefits. All while hoping Corman's lawsuit strikes down the sanctions.

The most recent questioning of the consent decree does not change Penn State's footing; it simply means someone may be fighting for the university without those closer to the program being involved.

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Ex-Georgia DB Josh Harvey-Clemons Will Reportedly Transfer to Louisville

Louisville rehired a coach, Bobby Petrino, with character concerns this offseason, and that coach appears to have landed a talented safety with similar misgivings.

According to Mike Hughes of InsideTheVille.com (subscription required), the grandfather of former Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said his grandson plans on transferring to play for the Cardinals after being dismissed from UGA this offseason.

Harvey-Clemons was a 5-star recruit and the No. 20 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings in 2012, and he showed flashes of reaching that potential during his time in Athens. Recruited as an outside linebacker, he stands 6'5" (which is huge for a safety) and plays a Kam Chancellor-type role inside the box.

His occasional struggles in coverage, however, are well-documented and reared their ugly head on the Hail Mary against Auburn in 2013:

Harvey-Clemons got into all sorts of off-field trouble at Georgia, mostly for drug-related incidents. He was suspended for the 2014 Gator Bowl and first three games of next season (before being dismissed) by head coach Mark Richt for a "violation of team regulations," per Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If the reports are true, Harvey-Clemons will now reunite with former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who left Georgia to join Petrino at Louisville this offseason. The Cardinals had two of the best safeties in the country—Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith—a season ago but are stripped of similar talent on the current roster.

If he's (finally) able to figure out the best way to use Harvey-Clemons, Grantham will get a major and much-needed upgrade on the back end of his defense.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, however, Harvey-Clemons will have to sit out this season before gaining eligibility in 2015.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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2017 ATH Recruit Darnay Holmes Has NFL Genes, Talks Ohio State Visit

Ohio State welcomed intriguing Class of 2017 prospect Darnay Holmes to campus Wednesday. The Newbury Park High School (Calif.) freshman toured facilities with 7-on-7 teammate Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson Sr., forming a high-profile trio of visitors.

Holmes, a 5'11", 180-pound speedster, also comes from a family filled with football pedigree. His father, Darick Holmes, spent five seasons in the NFL as a running back with Buffalo, Green Bay and Indianapolis.

Older brother Darick Holmes Jr., a 2015 running back recruit, committed to Arizona last month. His cousin Desean Holmes is a 4-star 2015 wide receiver with offers from USC, Cal, Oklahoma and UCLA.

The trip to Columbus was the latest development in Holmes' burgeoning collegiate recruitment, as he continues to carve out a name for himself. He doesn't yet hold an offer from Ohio State but admits the program ranks highly in his eyes for several reasons.

"It has a great tradition, good academics and will always be in the national championship hunt," Holmes said.

Though an offer from head coach Urban Meyer didn't come during his visit, Holmes managed to add another collegiate option Wednesday night.

He and Johnson Jr. each received offers from Louisville. His scholarship list also includes Arizona, UCLA, Tennessee and Utah.

Holmes visits Clemson on Thursday with the Johnsons, presenting another opportunity to expand his horizons as a young prospect.

He departed Columbus with a strong indication of how Meyer conducts things at Ohio State.

"He's a great coach," Holmes said. "He tells players how he feels, doesn't sugar coat it. Very hyped practice."

Expect his recruitment to expand moving forward, with physical maturity and family genes playing pivotal factors in heavy college interest. His athleticism sets the stage for progression at a variety of positions, particularly defensive back and receiver.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to B/R's Adam Donaldson for his contributions to this story.

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. Opens Up on Ohio State Visit: 'It's a Good Fit for Me'

Keyshawn Johnson Jr. is just a freshman, but a flurry of early scholarship offers have quickly accelerated his recruiting process. The Southern California wide receiver spent Wednesday at Ohio State with his father, former NFL Pro Bowler Keyshawn Johnson Sr.

They watched Buckeyes coaches and players go about their business on the practice field and in meetings. It gave Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer an opportunity to showcase his program for the suddenly coveted Mission Viejo High School standout.

"I loved the atmosphere," Johnson Jr. told Bleacher Report. "It's a good fit for me."

His father also approved.

"Urban Meyer is a guy you can trust with your kid," he said.

Johnson Sr., who finished his professional career with 814 receptions for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns, played for Super Bowl champions Bill Parcells and Jon Gruden during an 11-year stay in the NFL. His admiration for Meyer was apparent after the visit to Columbus.

"Urban Meyer is a kind of guy I could play for," he said. "If you can't play for Urban Meyer, Ohio State isn't for you."

Johnson Jr. didn't play varsity football last season for the Diablos, though he turned heads at the freshman level and also participates in the 7-on-7 circuit. He was accompanied Wednesday by Darnay Holmes, a fellow California prospect on Team 19, which features Johnson Sr. as a coach.

Offers have poured in for Johnson Jr. in recent weeks. Ohio State, Florida State, SMU, Utah, Arizona State, Tennessee, Miami, West Virginia and UCLA each extended scholarships since March 20, making him one of the hottest Class of 2017 targets.

The 6'1", 180-pound playmaker added Louisville to that list Wednesday night, when both he and Holmes received offers from the Cardinals. As his collegiate opportunities continue to mount, Johnson Jr. views Ohio State as a strong option.

He was particularly impressed by the way Meyer orchestrates practice.

"He's very straightforward. Tells you if you're good, tells you if you're bad," he said. "What impressed me the most was how hard they worked, how hyped they were. Not a lot of other schools like that, that I have visited."

Johnson Jr., who recently spent time at Arizona and Arizona State, is slated to visit Clemson Thursday. An offer from the Tigers could be in the cards.

There's a long road ahead for the receiver in his recruitment. Multiple seasons with Mission Viejo's varsity football squad separate Johnson Jr. from signing day 2017 and a college career.

His father starred during two seasons at USC before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 1996 NFL draft. Johnson Sr. is now an established television analyst on ESPN.

The father-son duo are sure to spend substantial time on campuses across the country in coming years. Their Ohio State visit provided an early highlight.

"I was impressed with Ohio State's coaching staff, Urban Meyer, and Buckeye Nation," Johnson Sr. said.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to B/R's Adam Donaldson for his contributions to story.

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Complete Previews for Week Two of College Football Spring Games

Welcome to the heart of the spring football season.

This weekend features by far the most spring games of any on the calendar with 54, including 30 of the 64 teams from power conferences (31 of 65 if you count Notre Dame) and 20 of the 39 teams that finished last season with nine or more wins.

To further illustrate the point, take a look at this: Last weekend, we previewed the 12 best games on the schedule and ended up including SMU and Bowling Green. This weekend, we're previewing the 20 best games but ended up omitting West Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, N.C. State and Central Florida, among many, many other quality programs.

The weekend is really that stacked.

Among those playing are the last two national title game participants from outside the state of Alabama, the reigning Sugar Bowl champion, the prohibitive Big Ten favorite and perhaps the best head coach who switched programs this offseason.

It's weird to say this in April, and it's admittedly wishful thinking, but we might be in store for an awesome weekend of football.

Begin Slideshow

Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones Wise to Narrow QB Race in Spring

Tennessee will hold its spring game on Saturday, and apparently the quarterback race is narrowing leading into the event.

Head coach Butch Jonestold B/R last week that he hoped to narrow the quarterback competition among senior Justin Worley, sophomore Joshua Dobbs, sophomore Nathan Peterman and redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson to two before the end of spring practice.

Now, apparently, we know those two.

Butch Jones told reporters (via: Tennessee's Twitter account) on Thursday that Worley and Ferguson have been receiving more reps than Dobbs and Peterman, and that the reps will continue to be divided that way.

JONES (on QBs):We are balancing repetitions. Justin & Riley have taken more reps and they will continue to. Nate & Josh continue to progress

— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) April 10, 2014

It's a great move for Tennessee, because Jones couldn't afford to follow the same path as he did last season when the four-man battle lasted all the way to the final week of fall camp. Worley received more first-team snaps than the others as fall camp went on, but it was still a four-man battle that lasted far too long. That battle took snaps away from Worley, and he clearly was unsure of himself when the season started.

By narrowing it down now, it makes it more likely that both Worley and Ferguson will be as prepared as possible for that opener on Sunday, Aug. 31 versus Utah State.

Who's got the edge?

Jones was very complimentary of both in our conversation last week.

"Justin Worley has really improved greatly, from leadership to his ability to make all of the throws, particularly the deep balls," he said. "It's been great to get Riley Ferguson getting a volume of repetition. You know, Riley has an innate ability to create plays. I've been very encouraged."

Worley completed 55.6 percent of his passes last season (109-for-196), for 1,239 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions; but he was lost for the season in late October when he suffered a thumb injury versus Alabama.

Jones' comments last week suggest that he's comfortable with what Worley brings to the table, but thinks that Ferguson has more upside. 

For Ferguson, a former 3-star prospect from Matthews, N.C., getting a higher proportion of reps is huge for his development. If he can develop the consistency that Jones is looking for, he'll likely win the job. 

Can he do it?

That remains to be seen.

But now he has the chance, and it's more than the "one-in-a-million" chance Lloyd Christmas had in Dumb and Dumber.

 

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

 


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Will the Ohio State Buckeyes Land 5-Stars Christian Kirk and Torrance Gibson?

Ohio State landed one of the top 2014 recruiting classes and are already rolling on the 2015 class. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are heavily recruiting the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson and the No. 3 wide receiver Christian Krik

Both Gibson and Kirk have amazing playmaking abilities and are just the kind of athletes that Meyer favors. Gibson has the potential to take over the starting QB role for Braxton Miller in 2015, while Kirk would have an immediate impact on any offense. 

Check out Bill Kurelic from Bucknuts.com break down the latest on Urban Meyer's recruitment of 5-stars Torrance Gibson and Christian Kirk. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital.

Player rankings from 247 Sports Composite

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Ole Miss Insider: OT Laremy Tunsil Most Physically Gifted in Rebel History

The Ole Miss Rebels are gearing up for what should be a very productive fall. Laden with talent all over the field, head coach Hugh Freeze is building a powerhouse down in Oxford, Miss.

Bleacher Report spoke with Ole Miss Spirit's Ben Garrett, who broke down which Rebel early enrollee has been must impressive this spring, the running back situation heading into the fall, and just how good sophomore OT Laremy Tunsil truly is.

What did he have to say about QB Bo Wallace?

Watch the video, and get all your Ole Miss insight heading into next season.

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

 

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Missouri's Recruiting Roll Proves It Can Stay in the SEC East Discussion

If Missouri's magical run to the SEC East title wasn't enough, it's now recruiting like an SEC big boy too.

The Tigers have been on a recruiting roll in April, securing commitments of three 4-star prospects in the class of 2015.

The most recent prospect to commit to the Tigers is Drew Lock, a 6'5", 195-pound pro-style quarterback from Lee's Summit, Mo. Rated as the fifth-best prospect in the class, Lock has a big arm, is accurate downfield and can make throws on the run. He completed 199 of 331 passes for 3,062 yards, 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior for Lee's Summit Senior High School, and chose the Tigers over Tennessee and Ole Miss.

Staying close to home was important for Lock.

"My parents and grandparents would obviously cheer for me, but I do not think they would cheer for the school as well," he told 247Sports.com's Kipp Adams. "Going to Missouri, they would be cheering for me, but at the same time they would already want Missouri to win so bad.”

He's the icing on the April recruiting cake so far for Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel.

On Tuesday, Missouri got the commitment of a weapon for Lock to use in the future—4-star running back Natereace Strong. At 6'1", 210 pounds, Strong has the size to take the pounding between the tackles but is dangerous enough to be a weapon in space in that Missouri offense. The East St. Louis, Ill., native is rated as the nation's No. 14 running back and chose the Tigers over Florida State, Michigan State, Ohio State and others.

Earlier this month, Pinkel got the commitment of 6'4", 297-pound guard AJ Harris of Stilwell, Kan. Harris, the nation's 19th-ranked guard, had offers from Arkansas, Ohio State, Nebraska and others. 

This recent roll is a great sign for Missouri. Three likely contributors have committed to the program from three separate states, all in Missouri's region.

What does it mean? It means Missouri's success is resonating a bit.

The Tigers' run to the SEC Championship Game seemingly came out of nowhere, and they didn't have time to feel the recruiting effect from that in the recently completed cycle. The class of 2015, however, is a different story.

Those kids now know Missouri not as the "other expansion team" in the SEC; they know it as a champion. That's a big draw and could push Missouri over the top for kids within the region, especially if they want to move on to the NFL.

The SEC more than doubled its closest competitor in players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft, according to CBSSports.com's Chip Patterson. In that draft, either division would have led FBS conferences in players drafted. 

Is Missouri where it needs to be from a recruiting standpoint?

No. 

They're currently ninth in the SEC and 23rd in the country in the updated 247Sports team recruiting rankings. But it has a division title in its trophy case, a new identity in the nation's toughest football conference and momentum in the living room. 

That will go a long way towards keeping the program competitive in the SEC East.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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