NCAA Football

Should Big 12 Football Add a Conference Championship Game?

The Big 12 stands alone, but it's not abundantly clear yet if this is a good thing or not. 

The Big 12 is the only one of the major conferences in college football that doesn't have a championship game at season's end. Not coincidentally, it's also the only one with a true nine-game, round-robin schedule. 

From the perspective of crowning a champion, the format is a relative breeze. If a team can get through the league either unscathed or with one loss in a wide-open year, playoff access seems like a sure thing.

Or, is it?

How much does that extra game help or hurt a team's chances? If a four-team playoff began last season (which it didn't) and Baylor and Ohio State were battling for that final spot (which they weren't), how much of a difference would the championship game make?

Or, better yet, how much would an extra game have helped 11-1 Oklahoma State in 2011, who watched Alabama and LSU play a rematch in the BCS Championship Game?

"We like our path to the playoff. I think it's a good thing we don't have our two best teams playing each other on the last date of the season," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest. "One of them's going to lose, and sometimes it's not the right one." 

As Ubben notes, of five teams ranked in the top nationally, three lost in the Big 12 title game from 1996-2010. 

College Football Playoff is about access—and, in other ways, denying that access to others—and nothing more. It's not about strength of schedule, at least to the degree it has been for the past couple of years. The ACC and SEC have decided to stay at eight conference games, basically daring the College Football Playoff selection committee to force them to change. 

The ACC also drafted NCAA legislation that would deregulate conference championship games, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. The Big 12 has since hopped on that train, supporting the legislation. Conferences must currently have divisions and 12 teams to stage such a game. If the legislation were to pass, conferences could do away with divisions or stage a championship game with only 10 members. 

"It doesn’t foretell any particular outcome for the Big 12," Bowlsby said, via Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News. "It does give us some options that weren’t available otherwise.”

That's what the Big 12 does want: Options. In today's game of college football, conferences have shown a willingness to do whatever is in their best interest for playoff access—and their interest only. 

Imagine a year when, say, Oklahoma and Texas finish first and second in the Big 12 standings, respectively. The Sooners sit at No. 5 in the national rankings and have only one loss—to the Longhorns earlier that year. 

The Longhorns also had a good year with a 10-2 record, winning their last six games. Beating that Texas team in a rematch sure would look good on the Sooners' resume, wouldn't it? What better way to prove you're playing well at season's end than to beat a team who is one of the hottest in the country?

There are rematches in conference championship games all the time. Why would the Big 12's be any different?

These are the situations that make deregulating a conference championship game enticing to the Big 12. It's not that the conference needs to exercise its options; it's that it can if it ever needed to. 

But while the Big 12 is pushing for deregulation, don't expect the conference to change its format anytime soon. Like the ACC and SEC, the Big 12 is waiting to see what the selection committee values and by how much. 

It'd be great if every conference played the same number of league games plus a championship game every year. It makes the process that much more cut-and-dry. But college football is a sport where every conference is free to make decisions as it sees fit. 

Only when the Big 12 is left out of the playoff because of a lack of a championship game will it change. It's a different starting point from the ACC and SEC, but the end result is the same: Don't change unless forced. 

In that sense, the Big 12 is just like everyone else.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Texas Football: 4 Freshmen Who Could Become Household Names in 2014

Texas football underwent a complete makeover with the hiring of head coach Charlie Strong and his staff, and with this makeover came a clean slate for the team.

The Longhorns had spring practice to prove themselves to Strong and his staff, and now the incoming freshmen will have to do the same thing.

Strong signed 23 athletes on national signing day, with three enrolling early and participating in spring practice. Of the remaining 20 signees who will come to Austin following high school graduation, here's a look at four Longhorns who could become household names in 2014.

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UCLA 5-Star QB Josh Rosen Talks Craziest Recruiting Story, Future on Wall Street

Class of 2015 5-Star quarterback Josh Rosen is the No. 1-rated pro-style QB in the country, per 247Sports, and will be playing his college ball at UCLA. Rosen was courted by most of the top programs in the nation but finally settled on the Bruins.

In the above video, Bleacher Report catches up with Rosen as he discusses coach Jim Mora's pitch, what he loves about UCLA, his future on Wall Street and an absolutely crazy recruiting pitch he received.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOSdigital.com.

 

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UCLA 5-Star QB Josh Rosen Talks Craziest Recruiting Story, Future on Wall Street

Class of 2015 5-Star quarterback Josh Rosen is the No. 1-rated pro-style QB in the country, per 247Sports , and will be playing his college ball at UCLA. Rosen was courted by most of the top programs in the nation but finally settled on the Bruins..

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Texas Football: Realistic Expectations for the Longhorns 2014 Season

The Texas Longhorns hired Charlie Strong, who overachieved at Louisville, to help them reach the expectations that they have have been unable to reach over the past four seasons. His debut season will fall short of the program's high standards but not without exhibiting progress.

“The last few years they've been knocked down," Strong told CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler. “We need to get them built back up." 

Strong inherits 13 starters from last year's 8-5 squad, which is tied with 17 other programs for 69th in the nation, according to Phil Steele. Six of those returnees come from the offensive side of the ball, with another seven on defense.

Excluded from those figures is the murky quarterback position. Already a risk due to a history of concussions, David Ash suffered a Jones fracture in his foot late in the spring that could sideline him until the fall. 

Ash's latest complication leaves Texas with sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard as the only real options at the position. Their zero combined starts and an offensive line that is replacing three starters won't make for a winning formula in the Big 12.

Fortunately, the 'Horns will be able to lean on one the conference's best running games. All-Big 12 back Malcolm Brown returns for his senior year, and Johnathan Gray is expected back from his ruptured Achilles in mid-June. Together, Brown's power and Gray's elusiveness will provide a formidable one-two punch out of the backfield.

As for the defense, the front-seven will have to do much of the heavy lifting for Strong's area of expertise. Though not the deepest group, bookend Cedric Reed and tackle Malcom Brown will lead a stout defensive line that will be tough at the point of attack.

Backing up the frontline is a truly two-deep linebacking corps, where past injuries have allowed young players to gain valuable experience. Even if Jordan Hicks goes down for a third-straight season, there is enough talent here for Strong and his staff to work with.

In all, that leaves Texas with potential deficiencies chiefly at quarterback, but in the secondary and along the offensive line as well. Those are three areas where underperformance could be disastrous for the 'Horns.

Given the schedule, that leaves a best-case scenario at 9-3 with the worst outcome being a 6-6 finish.

 

Schedule

As shown above, Texas will play five teams that appear in B/R's Post-Spring Top 25. How the 'Horns fare against those five teams, as well as Oklahoma State, will determine the course of their season.

UCLA and Oklahoma represent the toughest matchups, returning a majority of their starters as well as electric quarterbacks Brett Hundley and Trevor Knight. The 'Horns will get each of them in an early four-week stretch that also includes Baylor, which returns Offensive Player of the Year Bryce Petty.

Following that stretch, Texas gets a one-week break against Iowa State before facing formidable road tests at Kansas State and Texas Tech, two programs that closed 2013 as hot as anyone in the conference. The Longhorns' last big test comes against Oklahoma State, who embarrassed them at home last season by a 38-13 margin.

Although teams like Kansas, Iowa State, West Virginia and BYU all gave Texas fits last season, these are the six games that Texas absolutely must play well to win. Because, and let's face it, there's no way Strong is going to let the Cougars' Taysom Hill rush for another 259 yards.

 

Worst-Case Scenario

It's all about the quarterbacks in the Big 12. And if Texas doesn't have one, then dropping those six key games to finish 6-6 is a real possibility. 

The Longhorns have other issues. The offensive line still need sorting out after giving up four sacks to the second team in the spring game. And safeties Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner have never been sure tacklers in the open field.

All of those issues can, one way or another, be sorted out by the fall. Lacking a reliable quarterback, though, is no easy fix.

Of the past 10 recipients of the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year Award, nine have been quarterbacks according to Sports-Reference.com. Per CollegeFootballPoll.com, eight of those quarterbacks led teams either to the Big 12 championship game or the outright title, with Robert Griffin III being the lone exception in 2011. 

Now, David Ash is not the best quarterback in the conference, but he is probably closer to that distinction than Tyrone Swoopes. Though he showcased some of his awesome potential in the spring game, Swoopes still threw two picks against the second-team defense. Those are the types of growing pains that Texas will have to expect with Swoopes, whereas Shawn Watson told Burn Orange Nation's Wescott Eberts that Ash was getting a grip on the offense prior to his injury.

Here is what I feel about it, David was beginning to get it. He has really worked hard in the offseason studying and I can't beat him out of my office, he is always there. He is like my chair in my office and every time I turn around he is in it. That's good because he has worked really hard at learning what we do and most importantly he is going to know how.

The worst thing that can happen to Texas here is for Ash to either be unavailable or go down with another ailment, then Swoopes prove unable to handle starting duties. Not only would Texas lose a majority of those six key games, but the pressure would be on to throw the freshman Heard into the fire.

And if all that happens, going 6-6 would be a distinct possibility.

 

 

Best-Case Scenario

Even though this a flawed team, a consistent quarterback makes it good enough for nine regular-season victories.

Since he was the guy through much of the spring, getting David Ash back to 100 percent is the best course of action for the program. He has the most experience and is the best passer on team.

That said, don't sleep on Swoopes either. The 6'5" sophomore adds a dual-threat wrinkle to the offense that the defense has to account for on every play, and his development as a passer gives him an outrageous ceiling. The bottom line is that if the coaches didn't think they could roll with Swoopes in Ash's stead, then they would have offered Max Wittek a scholarship.

As long as either Swoopes or Ash can effectively move the ball, Charlie Strong has proven he can get the chance to turn talent into Ws. The offensive line must improve, but is in good hands with coach Joe Wickline, and cornerback Quandre Diggs can cover up some of the deficiencies in the secondary. Not to mention that Strong can run his 3-3-5 defense with a hybrid linebacker, such as incoming freshman Edwin Freeman, to make up for his lack of size at safety.

Though this team will struggle with its early-season gauntlet of UCLA, Oklahoma and Baylor, the 'Horns have the talent to steal one of those games and then handle the rest of their schedule. With Strong running the show, ending up with nine wins and three losses is more than plausible.

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Alabama Football: Fall Down 2014 NFL Draft Boards Helps Many Tiders

When it comes to the National Football League draft, the prevailing thought nowadays is that teams need to come away with at least three starters every year and fill as many needs as possible.

That potentially put former University of Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood in a difficult spot. On the one hand there was a very deep pool of wide receivers to choose from this year, but when you talk about true team needs the position is often discussed long after left tackle, defensive line, cornerback, quarterback, etc.

Nevertheless, Norwood landed with a team in which he could immediately fit in as a third or fourth receiver, the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks.

“He’s a smart guy who’s ready to play in the league right now, knows how to run routes, very, very consistent catching the football and was probably at his best off-script with A.J. McCarron,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said in a post-draft conference call with reporters this week. “You look at Seattle and where they have to excel and it’s when Russell Wilson gets outside of the pocket.

“He’s a smart receiver with a smart quarterback who likes to create when things break down. I think he’s going to become sort of a security blanket, or has a chance to become one for Russell Wilson.”

Although every player wants to be selected in the first round and get the biggest contracts, Seattle may have been be the ideal landing spot for Norwood, who was the 20th wide receiver to be selected at pick No. 123 in the fourth round.

The same holds true with many his other former Crimson Tide teammates. Even though the 2014 draft will be largely viewed as a disappointment for Alabama, with eight of its 12 combine invites selected and many not when expected, if one had sat down beforehand and attempted pick the best team for each player the list might have been very similar to where they all ended up.

Ozzie Newsome took linebacker C.J. Mosley in Baltimore. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix filled a huge need at safety for Green Bay. Arizona needs defensive linemen like Ed Stinson if it’s going to compete with Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West.

Dallas brought in punter Cody Mandell to compete with Chris Jones, who as a rookie averaged 45 yards per punt (39.1 yards net) last year. Deion Belue singed with a team that needed some depth at cornerback and only took one in the draft, Walt Aikens of Liberty in the fourth round. ESPN commentator Matt Millen said on College Football Live that he could see free agent Anthony Steen starting for the Cardinals in a couple of years.

Even Adrian Hubbard might be in the right spot as he’ll have the chance to challenge former first-round pick Nick Perry be the understudy at the linebacker/defensive spot to mega free-agent signee Julius Peppers. Who better to learn from? Besides, the Packers call that tweener position “elephant.”

Buffalo wanted bigger offensive linemen and took three in the draft beginning with tackle Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round. He’s expected to challenge for the starting right tackle job.

“They’re rolling the dice,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said about the Bills’ strategy, which led to taking Baylor guard Cyril Richardson in the fifth round and troubling tackle Seantrel Henderson in the seventh.

Perhaps Buffalo was hedging its bets a little considering the concern about how well Kouandjio’s knees might hold up over years, but considering his mauler potential the Bills felt that he was more than worth the risk.

“Makes sense, it really does,” McShay said. “Kouandjio is a big boy. He’s not there yet, but if he ever gets there they’re going to end up with a really good value at pick No. 44 overall. He’s long, he’s got 35 five-eighth-inch arms, 10-and-a-quarter hands. He had terrible 40 time and numbers at the combine, but if you watch him on tape he moves pretty well at almost 6'7".”

However, none of the former Alabama players may be in a better spot than McCarron in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Jason Campbell was brought in to serve as a sort of a mentor and reserves Zac Robinson and Josh Johnson have already been released.

“We thought he’d be a second-round pick, maybe a third-round pick,” Kiper said. “He goes to the perfect team.

“Andy Dalton in the playoffs is 0-3. He’s got a lot of talent on that team, the Bengals do, and they want to get to the playoffs and win a game. He’s been a good quarterback, but to be great you have to win playoff games. He has seven turnovers and one touchdown in the three playoff games.”

In addition to not being expected to jump in and start from day one, which has set back way too many quarterbacks over the years, the initial plan appears to be to have McCarron essentially redshirt a year as a No. 3 option. Cincinnati is talking contract extension with Dalton, but roughly half the league had a backup quarterback start at least one game last season.

Meanwhile, the Bengals don’t seem concerned with critics claiming that they only added another Dalton-type game manager, or reports that other teams bypassed on McCarron following his predraft interviews when he allegedly came across as “cocky.

“You know, a lot of people call me cocky,” Bengals quarterback coach Eric Zampese told reporters in Cincinnati. “I kind of like that in a quarterback.”

  

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

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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College Football Teams Whose Defense Can Carry Them to the Playoff

In the era of uptempo, no-huddle offenses, it may seem like "defense wins championships" is an outdated maxim. 

Auburn allowed 415 yards nine times, 450 yards seven times and 490 yards four times last season, and it still won the SEC title and came within 20 seconds of beating Florida State for the BCS National Championship. Welcome to 2014!

Still, although it is easy to forget, we are only three seasons removed from the Alabama-LSU national title game. A rematch of the 9-6 LSU win in the regular season, that game featured a Crimson Tide defense that didn't allow its opponent to cross midfield until midway through the fourth quarter. Defense, it seems, won a championship.

Alabama and Notre Dame met for the national title the following season after finishing Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in national scoring defense. And Florida State, the team that beat Auburn for the final BCS National Championship, finished with the No. 1 defense in the country according to Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings.

Defense is still requisite for championships, and the teams on this list could all be proof of that in 2014. This is not a list of the seven best defenses in the country, necessarily, but a list of seven defenses whose teams can realistically hope for a spot in the College Football Playoff. They all have the pedigree and balance to get there.

But the defense will do the heavy lifting.

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If SEC Network Had Hard Knocks-Style Documentary, Which Team Would Be Best Fit?

The SEC Network will hit the airwaves on Aug. 14 and will feature more than 1,000 live events and 45 football games in its first year, giving not only football fans, but fans of all SEC sports the opportunity to stay up-to-date on all of the league's teams.

But what's going to happen in the offseason?

With the exception of baseball and softball creeping into the summer, there won't be many live events to show.

So let's get creative and program a hypothetical preseason documentary similar to HBO's Hard Knocks that follows coaches and players around fall camp. 

But which team would be the guinea pig?

There are plenty to choose from, but an inside look at Alabama's fall camp would make for a tremendous reality show, thanks to head coach Nick Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin

Saban loves to control the message and only lets his assistants speak once during fall camp and once prior to a bowl game. A reality show would change that and give fans an inside look on the day-to-day lives of Saban and Kiffin as they interact with each other leading up to the season opener in Atlanta versus West Virginia.

That would be must-see TV.

Kiffin is entering his first season as Alabama's offensive coordinator, and the margin for error is nonexistent. Alabama has been in "win big, win now" mode since 2008, and the pressure associated with building and maintaining the program and the personalities that exist within would be wildly compelling.

From a personnel standpoint, Alabama's fall camp would provide plenty of intriguing storylines.

All eyes will be on Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker in fall camp after senior Blake Sims' rather uninspiring performance in the spring game. Is he as good as his reputation suggests? How will he adjust to his new program and the lofty expectations that come with it? How will his competitors at the quarterback position treat him?

There could be an entire episode devoted to his transition to T-Town.

But there's more. 

Derrick Henry rushed for 100 yards in the Sugar Bowl and emerged as a contender to steal carries away from incumbent and two-time 1,000-yard rusher T.J. Yeldon. How will that battle shake out on a practice-by-practice and carry-by-carry basis? 

Alabama has plenty of questions in the defensive backfield, particularly at cornerback. How will Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart settle on the two starters at corner? Watching the ebbs and flows of the depth chart as fall camp goes on would be wildly entertaining.

More than anything else, it would be great to see the personalities of the players when they're not buttoned up in front of the media.

Every team takes on the personality of its head coach, and Saban is the most process-oriented head coach in the country. But what's that process like? How does he get the players to buy in? What serves as motivation?

Saban probably wouldn't be thrilled with the idea of everything being caught on camera, but he's no dummy. He knows that television drives the bus and can be used as a recruiting tool. Why do you think he joined the ESPN set at the 2014 BCS National Championship Game and let ESPN broadcast from his sparkling new, $9 million, 37,000 square-foot weight room last year?

So if the SEC Network is looking for some free programming advice, fire up those cameras when Alabama starts fall camp in August. Debuting three or four episodes of an Alabama reality show on the day of the network's launch would not only be riveting for fans, it'd put even more pressure on distributors to sign carriage agreements with the channel.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.


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Jalen Christian Commits to South Carolina: What 4-Star ATH Brings to Gamecocks

South Carolina scooped up its third key offensive commitment of the month Thursday when dynamic Maryland athlete Jalen Christian joined the class. The 4-star prospect picked South Carolina over a slew of other offers, adding another threat to head coach Steve Spurrier's arsenal:

Christian, a strong candidate to line up at wide receiver in Columbia, continues an impressive recruiting streak for the Gamecocks offense.

Lorenzo Nunez, a 4-star dual-threat quarterback from Georgia, chose South Carolina from a final mix that featured Ohio State and North Carolina State on May 8. Kyle Markway, a 3-star St. Louis tight end, committed three days later.

Christian further fuels a future attack that already includes 3-star receivers Dexter Neal (Georgia) and Michael Bowman (North Carolina). The 5'10", 165-pound playmaker presents problems for opponents in the slot, much like former South Carolina standout and 2014 San Francisco 49ers draft pick Bruce Ellington.

His speed (clocked at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per 247Sports) complements a solid physical build. Christian can fight through tackles and sprint past a crowd after catching the football.

He is rated No. 10 nationally among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Christian was candid while discussing the possibility of pledging to South Carolina earlier this week.

"Getting close, real close. South Carolina is my leader," he told GoUpState.com reporter Phil Kornblut. "Everything after them is kind of canceled out. I'm still talking to my mom about everything. I guess we'll see but I'm coming close, though."

Just a few days later, Christian officially became a Gamecock.

Despite missing three games due to injury, he managed a productive junior season at Damascus High School. Christian's rushing and receiving efforts combined for approximately 1,3000 offensive yards, per GoUpState.com.

He is the ninth member of South Carolina's 2015 recruiting class, which now features five composite 4-star commits.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Jalen Christian to South Carolina: Gamecocks Land 4-Star ATH Prospect

South Carolina has officially secured the commitment of two-way star Jalen Christian on Thursday.

Willie Smith of the Greenville News broke the news:

Christian spoke with 247Sports' Ryan Bartow about his thoughts on South Carolina:

South Carolina made me feel at home. I have a great relationship with (quarterbacks) coach G.A. Mangus and (wide receivers) coach (Steve) Spurrier, Jr. I felt comfortable there. [...] South Carolina reminds me of my hometown. Everything around the town is based around the football team.

The product of Damascus High School in Damascus, Maryland, is a highly talented wide receiver/cornerback recruit. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Christian is a 4-star prospect and is listed as an athlete. He ranks 10th among all others in that category and is considered the 144th-best prospect overall and is the third-best player in the state of Maryland in the class of 2015.     

No matter which position he ultimately chooses, Christian might inevitably be limited by his size. He's listed at 5'10" and 165 pounds.

If he opts for wideout, he could get jammed at the line of scrimmage and would offer little value as a blocker on running plays. Crafty offensive coordinators would be able to find ways for Christian to thrive, though. After all, he has special skills that can make up for his smaller frame, namely his athleticism and instincts.

Should Christian go with cornerback, he could struggle against bigger, stronger wide receivers. He has decent height for a corner, but he'll still need to bulk up and add more strength.

247Sports rates Christian just a five out of 10 for size, so it's clear this is one of his primary weaknesses. However, size is only a hurdle until the player figures out a way to compensate for it and make it a non-factor, and Christian has the abilities to do so. He receives high marks for his versatility and ball skills, as well as his ability to change directions. 

Christian will be helped out by the fact that he's pretty fast. Speed and explosiveness are two of his best qualities. Offensively, he can be a home-run threat in both the passing and return games. Defensively, he'll have no trouble sticking with quick wideouts in the open field.  

No matter which side of the field Christian's playing on, he should become a solid contributor and lethal all-purpose threat.

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Former WVU QB Pat White Claims He Was Offered a Corvette to Sign with Alabama

Former West Virginia quarterback and Daphne High School football star Pat White has interjected himself into the "controversy" surrounding Alabama running back Derrick Henry and his new, lavish-looking car, "Fiona."

The issue arose Monday when Henry posted a picture of himself and Fiona on Instagram, and although there is no evidence he received any sort of impermissible benefit, speculation began to run rampant about how an unpaid college athlete could afford something so nice:

On Thursday, White commented on the story on his Facebook page, telling his followers (and the world) to "Stop pretending like you didn't know the crimson tide has been doing this for years. Still glad I turned down a Corvette to become a mountaineer."

There are a few issues with White's account of his recruitment. For one, his Rivals.com profile does not indicate that he was even offered a scholarship by Alabama when he came out of high school in 2004.

Although White was a one-time LSU commit and held an offer from Auburn, Alabama's most hated rival, it seems like the Tide would have at least offered the permissible free education before it moved onto the impermissible luxury vehicle. Right?

Online recruiting services were not back then what they are today, however, so it's possible Rivals just got that wrong. More dubious is that White was "just" a 3-star athlete, and even though Alabama, then coached by Mike Shula, did not have the same recruiting standards in 2004 as it does in 2014, it seems unlikely that it would have broken the rules to land a non-blue-chip prospect with no true position.

Still, White's comments are at least worth noting. Whether Henry did something wrong will likely never been known for sure, but now that it's gone viral, it's something folks are going to talk about.

And that's a discussion that no compliance department envies.

Which means, as Clay Travis of Fox Sports writes, that the lesson to be learned here is one that should really be more familiar:

Regardless, the lesson, as always, for college football players, don't post your new cars on Instagram. Sure, you may deserve those cars -- even if they violate NCAA rules -- given how much you're making the school, but even if the cars are entirely purchased with your own money no one is going to believe that. Not even former top football recruits from Alabama.

Alabama opens its 2014 season on Aug. 30 with a neutral-field game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It's opponent? You guessed it.

The West Virginia Mountaineers.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT.

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ACC, Big Ten Show Power Conferences Want Non-Power Schools out of Playoff

The College Football Playoff was never explicitly designed for this purpose, but expanding the championship field from two teams to four had programs like Boise State and BYU salivating.

Finally, they surely thought, they may have a better chance to compete for a championship instead of being left out, like they were in the BCS. 

However, as Lee Corso, donned in headgear while wielding firearms, holding live animals and dropping F-bombs, would say, "Not so fast, my friend." 

Almost by the day, it's more and more obvious that the power-five conferences are trying their hardest to fortify the walls around their playoff stronghold. 

It started when the SEC announced that it would continue to play eight conference games, but mandated that one out-of-conference game per year be played against another power-five opponent. Earlier this week, word circulated that the ACC was approving a similar proposal

When it comes to College Football Playoff access, the ACC and SEC are sending one big triple-dog dare to the selection committee. If they don't have to change the status quo, why would they?

But that pales in comparison to what ESPN's Andrea Adelson and Brett McMurphy reported on Wednesday: That some ACC schools are considering future nonconference games...against other ACC opponents.

From the report: 

Because of the eight-game league schedule, non-primary crossover rivals in the Atlantic and Coastal divisions may wind up playing each other only once in an 11-year span. This prompted discussion at the spring meetings about scheduling fellow ACC teams as nonconference opponents in future seasons. Some possible future ACC "nonconference" games could pit Miami against Syracuse, Duke against NC State, and Clemson against Virginia.

The Big Ten, which still plans to play nine conference games beginning in 2016 but will eliminate games against FCS opponents, could also foresee a similar scenario in its own league. 

"That's a unique concept we could talk about more," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said, via Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. "That's a possibility." 

That last line should be emphasized. The idea of playing conference opponents as a nonconference game is just that—an idea. And, as absurd as it is, it does place a Band-Aid on a scheduling problem that arises when a conference has 14 teams (or, in the ACC's case, 14+1 with Notre Dame).

And while playing a conference opponent—say, Wake Forest or Illinois—as a nonconference game is acceptable, apparently counting BYU as a power opponent is not. 

Make no mistake. Teams from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC can still schedule BYU, Boise State or whoever else they want. BYU, in fact, has several big games scheduled in the future. It just won't count toward that requirement. That means there's less incentive to schedule those sort of teams. Conversely, BYU, which has to schedule 12 nonconference games because of football independence, could have a hard time getting a full schedule of quality opponents. 

More powerful conferences don't owe anyone else anything, but the scheduling moves are transparent. Deeming certain programs to be worthy of power five consideration is hilariously subjective, but the only thing that matters is if it falls under one of five conferences. 

As John Infante of Athleticscholarships.net tweets, the strength-of-schedule argument has become a facade. Rather, it's about keeping other programs out of the playoff under the disguise of strength of schedule. 

How good a team is or will be is a cyclical matter, but is there any chance Virginia is a better "nonconference" opponent for, say, Florida State than BYU or Boise State right now? Absolutely not. 

There's no doubt that college football is wildly entertaining. That's why it is, arguably, the second-most popular sport in America behind the NFL. 

It also operates without a commissioner, meaning everyone is free to suggest—and potentially employ—as many ridiculous ideas that benefits a select group as they please so long as it complies with NCAA rules.

In other words, college football is known to have its moments of stupidity.

Whether the nonconference scheduling idea gains traction remains to be seen. As Dan Wolken of USA Today points out, the playoff selection committee should possess enough common sense to sniff out obvious differences in schedule strength. 

If they do, teams in power conferences who try to cheat the system should be passed over accordingly.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. 

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Texas A&M Football: Realistic Expectations for the Aggies' 2014 Season

The Texas A&M football team has the month off before the start of the first summer session of school. When school starts again, the Aggies will begin preparing for a 2014 football season that will see them in the thick of the race for the SEC title. 

The Aggies recently had three players from the 2013 team selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. The loss of that kind of elite talent has led most pundits to predict that the Aggies will digress from their 9-4 record in 2013. 

The experts are failing to account for a defense that should be vastly improved after the Aggies played numerous freshmen in 2013. The defense was young and not always physically capable of standing up to SEC offenses in 2013, but that will change with a year of experience under their belt and another year in the weight room. 

The offense will be more balanced than they were in 2013 because there will be a lighter load on the quarterback. With Johnny Manziel in the NFL, the coaches will spread the ball around more and lean on their stable of talented running backs. 

The Aggies offense will not reel off five and six scoring series in a row like they did in 2013, but with an improved defense they will not have to. The 2013 version of the Aggies defense will create more pressure on opposing quarterbacks which will result in more turnovers and more offensive possessions for A&M. 

The Aggies have one of the toughest schedules in the nation again with 10 teams who played in bowls in 2013 on the 2014 lineup. This is a look at the realistic expectations for the 2014 Texas A&M football season. 

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Dwayne Lawson Commits to Miami: Hurricanes Land 4-Star QB

Miami picked up a surprising new member of its 2015 recruiting class Thursday when coveted quarterback Dwayne Lawson pledged to the Hurricanes, per 247Sports reporter Ryan Bartow.

The 4-star Tampa prospect hadn't mentioned Miami as a favorite during recent interviews, making this a decision that should turn heads across the country. Coach Al Golden lands an athlete who had several suitors in the Sunshine State and beyond.

Lawson's offer list includes Ole Miss, Michigan State, West Virginia and Louisville. In late April, he told 247Sports reporter Luke Stampini (subscription required) his top four collegiate options were Tennessee, UCF, Ohio State and Florida.

The Hurricanes, who extended an offer in February, never seemed to be at the center of his recruitment. Lawson was projected to commit to UCF by 75 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

"Main thing is whatever fits me best," he told Stampini last month. "I want to go up to a situation I can see myself playing in a system that allows me to do what I can do."

The 6'5", 210-pound Hillsborough High School playmaker enjoyed a tremendous junior campaign.

Lawson completed 114 passes for 2,120 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also flashed skills as a rusher in the open field, gaining 1,068 yards and scoring nine touchdowns on the ground.

During the past two seasons, Lawson produced 5,073 total offensive yards and 48 touchdowns. He is rated No. 10 nationally among pro-style quarterback prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Miami now holds 11 commitments in the 2015 class, including three 4-star prospects. Lawson is the fourth player to pledge to the Hurricanes since April 12, joining fellow in-state standouts Dexter Williams (running back; Winter Garden), Jordan Cronkrite (athlete; Miami) and Scott Patchan (defensive end; Tampa).

The class currently rates No. 9 nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

 

Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Power Ranking College Football's Coolest New Uniforms

We've officially reached the desert of the offseason, the middle point between the end of spring football and the start of fall football where college players won't step back on the field in earnest for a few more months. 

Accordingly, there isn't much tangible news to talk about. Save the occasional injury, arrest, suspension, dismissal or transfer, news from May, June and July won't have a massive effect on the 2014 season.

So instead of talking hardcore, hand-in-the-dirt football, let us focus on the trappings of football—the uniforms.

A number of teams have unveiled jersey updates for the upcoming year—the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put together a nice slideshow compilation for your perusal—and here are five of our favorites.

 

5. Mississippi State Bulldogs

I can forgive the shameless "Hail State" branding across the front, even after being enlightened by Dan Rubenstein of SB Nation that it sounds an awful lot like "Hail Satan."

That is but a nitpicky reason to dislike the new Mississippi State uniforms, which will be worn in the season opener against Southern Miss on August 30 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Scott Field.

The cut is a nice throwback to the 1990s, and the logo on the helmet is cleaner than what the Bulldogs traditionally wear.

It wouldn't work against Texas A&M—which has almost identical helmets to the new Mississippi State ones—but for how MSU plans to use it, this jersey-helmet combo is one of the best new additions of 2014.

 

4. BYU Cougars

BYU unveiled a set of three alternate uniforms earlier this week, and although they don't mark a drastic departure from some of the Cougars' recent alternates, they are all clean and appear to look good.

The blue, in particular, finds a cool nexus between classic and modern. I'm not a huge fan of black jerseys in general, but this one I can tolerate, and the white looks sharp with the all-white gloves.

Full photos of the jerseys can be seen at the official BYU athletic website. The white uniform will be worn September 20 against Virginia, the royal uniform will be worn October 3 against Utah State, and the black uniform will be worn November 15 against UNLV.

 

3. Florida State Seminoles

The awful new logo is separate from the uniform and not taken into account for this ranking. However, in what was a neck-and-neck race with the No. 2 team on this list, it did function as a pseudo tiebreaker.

But once you get past that cartoonish excuse of a joke of a Seminole, the rest of Florida State's uniform update is nice. The stitching around the neck is a cool new update and feels appropriate for the history and culture of this program—making it a strong counterbalance for the new, yawning logo.

I am a bigger fan of the garnet-and-white outfits than the black, and not just because I am always salty on black. From the color scheme to the pattern, it feels a little too much like Arizona State for my pleasure.

But all in all, this seems like a chic new set of unis.

 

2. Miami Hurricanes

Miami still calls itself "The U," a nickname that was branded in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it was considered the pinnacle of cool in college football—sort of like Oregon is today.

It hasn't dressed like the pinnacle of cool these past few seasons, however, wearing surprisingly restrained jerseys that do not match the tenor of the program. As the team has slogged through some down years in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal and subsequent sanctions, it has felt like a zombie of its former self.

There is hope on the horizon, though, and with a team that many in Coral Gables, Florida, think might compete for an ACC title in 2014 comes a much-needed uniform update that should push Miami back into the future.

Hey, UM players? How do you feel about the jerseys you'll be wearing?

Duly noted.

 

1. Oregon Ducks

Oregon jumped the gun with these jerseys, debuting them in the Alamo Bowl victory over Texas instead of waiting for 2014 proper.

However, they are still technically new for the upcoming season, and they are exceedingly sharp. The new shade of green works well in the white uniform—the one it wore against UT—and the shoulder designs are classic Phil Knight but with a twist.

Have a look-see at both:

Also in classic Knight form, the uniform release came with all sorts of pomp and circumstance. The jerseys are dubbed the Nike Pro Combat "Mach Speed" uniform, and per their release in December 2013, here is just a few of the things they claim to do:

The uniform features an all-new chassis including the latest in lightweight fabric innovation built for maximum speed, ventilation and comfort. Drawing inspiration from some of the fastest athletes in the world, Nike has applied research and design across multiple sports to create one of the fastest uniforms on the field. Taking insights from Nike’s Swift Suit technology, the new Nike Mach Speed Football uniform fabric construction features an articulated fit to match the athlete’s motion of play. Ultimately this allows the athletes to move with the uniform fabrics, rather than against them.

Built for optimal thermoregulation, the new uniform features three distinct woven mesh fabrics. Each panel on the jersey and pant is matched specifically to the pads underneath in order to promote maximum airflow.

That's just a brief sampling, by the way. There are more supposed benefits to the uniform if you follow the link above. 

I am a skeptic of all things "jersey advantage," and I don't care if a school wants to espouse being on the vanguard of technology. So what? Looking sharp on Saturday is all that matters.

And Oregon is no stranger to looking sharp on Saturday.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Florida State Football: Realistic Expectations for Seminoles' 2014 Season

From Dallas to Dallas.

Jameis Winston said it in January and the motto has caught on. Florida State opens the 2014 season against Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas, on Aug. 30. The Seminoles, of course, would love to return to AT&T Stadium on Jan. 12, 2015.

For many FSU fans, anything short of a title would be a disappointment. Is that an unrealistic expectation? Of course. But FSU is one of about 15 programs where there is frustration any year a national title isn't earned.

But coach Jimbo Fisher refuses to call it a title defense.

"We're not defending anything,'' Fisher said in March. ''I don't want us to think in those terms. What I'm looking for is another group of hungry guys who are willing to pay the same price they did last year when they didn't know they were real good."

Now, everyone knows FSU is very good.

If FSU repeats, it's a title that was earned in the days following the Seminoles' win over Auburn in the final BCS championship game. FSU lost four players who declared early—defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, receiver Kelvin Benjamin and running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr.

But a large group of players decided they were returning to pursue back-to-back titles, including receiver Rashad Greene, left tackle Cameron Erving, tight end Nick O'Leary and tailback Karlos Williams.

FSU certainly has holes to fill, losing five starters on offense and five on defense.

Losing a 1,000-yard rusher (Freeman), a 1,000-yard receiver (Benjamin), an All-American defensive back (Lamarcus Joyner), the team's best defensive lineman (Jernigan) and the team's leading tackler (linebacker Telvin Smith) would be tough to overcome at most programs.

But this is where depth built from FSU's stellar recruiting classes comes in. Fisher has an answer for nearly every loss. 

At running back, Williams is the likely starter after enjoying a breakout junior season following his September move from safety. He will lead a deep group of backs, which includes Mario Pender, Ryan Green and early enrollee Dalvin Cook (Florida's Mr. Football in 2013).

Wide receiver is easily the biggest question mark going into 2014, especially after losing Benjamin and Kenny Shaw from last year's team.

If healthy, senior Scooter Haggins could see playing time in Shaw's old slot position. But Winston and Fisher are pleased with the development of rising sophomores Kermit Whitfield, Jesus Wilson and Isaiah Jones. Plus FSU welcomes a five-star receiver (Travis Rudolph) and a four-star receiver (Ermon Lane) this fall.

At defensive tackle, Eddie Goldman will start at one spot and either Desmond Hollin or Nile Lawrence-Stample will take over the other.

FSU lost Smith and Christian Jones at linebacker, but the unit is loaded with players who gained experience as backups last season. Reggie Northrup, E.J. Levenberry, Ukeme Eligwe and Ro'Derrick Hoskins will fight for starting jobs alongside rising junior Terrance Smith.

Defensive back is FSU's deepest unit on either offense or defense.

While the Seminoles lose Joyner and safety Terrence Brooks, they could still feature a starting group of Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews, Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams. The group will be even better if senior Tyler Hunter is able to have an impact after missing most of 2013 with a neck injury. Fisher also raved about early enrollee Trey Marshall's versatility this spring.

Every college football team has to deal with roster turnover each year. Between graduation and early NFL draft entries, it's impossible to avoid. But FSU has a returning Heisman Trophy winner in Winston, plenty of playmakers on offense and a defensive backfield that may be the nation's best.

The Seminoles' schedule is certainly more challenging this time than it was in 2013.

FSU trades in nonconference matchups with Nevada, Idaho and Bethune-Cookman for Oklahoma State, The Citadel and Notre Dame (Florida, of course, remains a long-term, out-of-conference opponent). The ACC Atlantic also got tougher when Maryland was replaced with Louisville.

On the other hand, the 2014 schedule sets FSU up well to make another run.

The FSU-Oklahoma State game looked like a great matchup when it was scheduled in 2012. But Oklahoma State loses 29 seniors and returns just nine starters.

FSU also has an open date before hosting Clemson on Sept. 20. The Tigers just lost star wideout Sammy Watkins to the draft and will be breaking in a new quarterback.

A wild card is Notre Dame, which plays at FSU on Oct. 18. Will the Irish take a step forward now that Everett Golson is back? FSU's season will likely hinge on how it fares against Notre Dame. 

Even if FSU enters November with an 8-0 record, the Seminoles will play Virginia, at Miami, Boston College and Florida in consecutive weeks.

Since 1994, three teams have been able to repeat as national champs: Nebraska (94-95), USC (2003-04) and Alabama (2011-12). Barring injuries, FSU has a very good chance to end the season in Dallas and join that club.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter

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Georgia Football: Todd Gurley Is 'Without Question' Best RB in Country

After a stellar freshman campaign, Georgia running back Todd Gurley had a disappointing 2013, rushing for only 989 yards and dealing with injuries that limited him to just 10 games. Will Gurley return to form after recovering from injuries?

With Gurley expected to bounce back, where does that leave junior RB Keith Marshall? Can he be the Bulldogs' Option 1B at running back, or will he be limited to mop-up duty?

Check out Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down what to expect from Georgia's running backs in 2014. 

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Jovon Robinson Commits to Auburn: Spotlight Will Shine Bright on No. 1 JUCO RB

The Jovon Robinson saga has now come full circle.

Robinson, a one-time Auburn commit in the Class of 2012 and the No. 1 junior college running back in the class of 2015, according to 247Sports.com, re-committed to the Tigers, according to Justin Hokanson of AuburnSports.com.

"I have taken visits and evaluated every school that offered me the opportunity to be a part of their program, and after careful thought and consideration, I have chosen to verbally commit to Auburn University," Robinson told Hokanson.

Robinson had 272 carries for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2013 for Georgia Military College. According to Hokanson, he will graduate in December and enroll at Auburn in January.

He's a huge addition. The Tigers will boast a backfield in 2015 that could consist of 4-star Robinson, fellow Class of 2015 4-star athlete Kerryon Johnson, former 5-star and incoming freshman Roc Thomas and current redshirt freshman Peyton Barber.

That's scary for opposing defensive coordinators and gives head coach Gus Malzahn even more options in his scheme, which thrives with a multidimensional running attack.

Robinson better be prepared, though, because he will be the most polarizing player not only on that roster, but perhaps even in the SEC.

Let's flash back to the summer of 2012.

Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik was entering what would be his final season as Auburn's head coach, and despite the Cam Newton investigation being officially put to bed in October 2011, rumors and assumptions of impropriety continued to swirl around the program.

Robinson's situation only added to them.

The former star at Wooddale High School in Memphis, Tennessee, signed with Auburn and participated early in fall camp before being ruled ineligible on Aug. 17, according to Charles Goldberg, then of AL.com. The NCAA found that at least one of Robinson's high school grades was changed and that he wouldn't be eligible without the grade change.

The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported in August 2012 that a Wooddale counselor resigned after admitting to changing the grade from a 70 to a 76, admitting that someone told her to do it but not naming that individual. Since Robinson signed with Auburn, dots were connected after, according to the same report, Auburn initiated the initial investigation by Memphis City Schools when it inquired to the principal about transcripts that didn't match.

It was one of the most polarizing stories of the 2012 offseason, and regardless of what happened, fans of other SEC schools have long memories when it comes to scandal.

Had Robinson committed elsewhere, the grade story would likely disappear forever and be viewed as a small blip on the radar. But at Auburn, it will be different, even if it shouldn't be. The grade change that cost him his eligibility out of high school will be brought up if and when he is made available to the media, and opposing fans will undoubtedly let him hear about it when the Tigers go on the road. 

That will be the nature of the beast, whether Robinson likes it or not.

He has all the talent in the world, and as we saw last season, Malzahn knows how to get the most out of his running backs.

He also has a backstory that will shine a bright spotlight on him throughout his Auburn career.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information, junior college stats and rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.

 


 

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No. 1 Overall JUCO Recruit Jovon Robinson Commits to Auburn Tigers

Jovon Robinson is headed to Auburn…again.

Nearly two years after being ruled ineligible during his freshman training camp, the talented running back has renewed his commitment to the Tigers. Robinson, now the nation's No. 1 overall junior college recruit, described his decision to Rivals.com reporter Justin Hokanson.

"After careful thought and consideration, I have chosen to verbally commit to Auburn University," he told Hokanson.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native was a headline member of Auburn's 2012 class. Robinson, then rated No. 11 nationally among high school running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, arrived on campus with lofty expectations in place.

However, he never made it to opening kickoff.

An investigation into charges of a fraudulent academic transcript at Wooddale High School led to Robinson's abrupt departure and the resignation of his former guidance counselor.

The development left Auburn searching elsewhere for offensive help and placed the heralded playmaker on an uncertain path.

"I was prepared to play in the SEC as a freshman, to maybe be the face of Auburn University, and in a moment it was like I was being snatched from my ultimate dream," Robinson told AL.com reporter Matt Scalici in April 2013.

After spending a season away from football, Robinson returned to the field with ferocity at Georgia Military College last fall. He rushed for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns, setting NJCAA records in both categories.

His dominant JUCO performance earned him another mountain of scholarship offers. Robinson visited campuses at Louisville, Auburn and Alabama this spring.

Robinson is the 14th commitment in Auburn's 2015 class. The group rates No. 3 nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

He walks into a different situation with the Tigers this time around—Robinson is more physically mature, Gene Chizik is no longer the head coach—but another opportunity to make an immediate impact awaits. His shot at redemption occurs with a familiar face in charge.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was the team's offensive coordinator during the earliest stages of Robinson's high school recruiting process.

"Two of the best people connecting again," he told Hokanson. "I shocked the world, he shocked the world, so what can we not do?"

Auburn fans will finally find out in 2015.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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If Max Wittek Doesn't Land at Texas, Who Starts at QB for Longhorns?

Texas' quarterback situation is anything but a sure thing. Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that one of the surest things of the offseason has become suddenly unsure. 

USC quarterback transfer Max Wittek has, as far as anyone is concerned, been a virtual lock to come to Texas for months. He's taken multiple visits and would add to a position that needs competition.

However, multiple reports surfaced Wednesday that Wittek-to-Texas may be falling through.

Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman reported that Texas was "backing away" from Wittek for undisclosed reasons. Joe Schad of ESPN.com added that Wittek is not expected to transfer to Texas because an "off-the-field circumstance could possibly lead to a delay in Wittek's graduation and gaining immediate eligibility."

For what it's worth, Wittek told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports that he's unaware of any change with Texas. Wittek still plans to select a school later this month. 

Whatever the story is, there now appears to be a very real chance that Wittek doesn't land in Austin. So where does first-year head coach Charlie Strong turn? He basically has three options: Incumbent starter, though oft-injured, David Ash, sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard. 

Let's start with Heard, since he has the least likely chance of being named the Week 1 starter against North Texas. Heard is a highly touted 4-star recruit, per 247Sports composite rankings, but he joins the team later this summer. That means he'll only have preseason camp to prove to the coaches that he's the guy. 

That's a lot to ask of anyone who is still getting acclimated to the team and college life. There's a lot of physical and mental maturation that usually takes precedence over everything else during that time. 

"He's going to have a chance because he is going to be out there," Strong said of Heard, via Bleacher Report's Taylor Gaspar. "But the thing is that the guys who are here now know the system, and Jerrod has to come in and learn the system when he gets here in June."

Swoopes is a more likely option to start in Week 1 for the Longhorns than Heard, but he's also shown that he has a long ways to go in his development. 

Swoopes struggled in limited action as a freshman last season, completing just five of 13 passes for 26 yards. Considered a rushing threat, Swoopes still only averaged 2.8 yards per carry outside of his season-long 26-yard run in the Alamo Bowl loss to Oregon.

Because Ash was held out of the final stretch of spring with a fractured foot, Swoopes was thrust into a first-team role in time for the Horns' spring game. Swoopes started slow—quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson said, per ESPN's Max Olson, that Swoopes had "a little deer-in-the-headlights look"—but improved as the game went on. 

There's no doubt Swoopes, at 6'4", 245 pounds, has the physical tools to be a successful quarterback. He just has to show in the offseason that he's made significant progress in understanding the playbook and the position. 

Otherwise, first-team reps won't be given to him in preseason camp like they were toward the end of spring.

Rather, Ash could emerge as the first-team quarterback early in preseason practices. (He'll have recovered from his foot injury by then.) Ash has the most experience and he's shown flashes of being a top-tier signal-caller. His problem has been staying healthy—he missed most of last season with a concussion—and consequently, consistency. 

However, Strong praised Ash earlier this spring for stepping up in a way a No. 1 quarterback should. From Gaspar's previous article: 

You would have never known that he had the injury by just how well he has been practicing and the way he has been carrying himself. I wouldn't say that he is the clear No. 1, but he has established himself. He did a great job learning the offense and terminology and wanting to lead the team.

Unless Swoopes makes major progress this summer and/or Ash regresses, the redshirt junior probably gives Texas the best chance to win heading into Week 1. 

Of course, no one has run away with the job yet, meaning August will be a critical month for all three quarterbacks. 

And if Texas has shown us anything, it's that the quarterback spot is no sure thing.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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