NCAA Football

Texas A&M Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2015 Preview and Predictions

Remember when Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin fielded question after question during the 2012 SEC media days over whether the Aggies could compete in the SEC? All A&M did that year was win 11 games and have a Heisman-winning quarterback in Johnny Manziel.

Since then, however, A&M's win total has declined each year. Entering a pivotal year four, Sumlin finds his team projected to finish next to last in the SEC West by the media. The reality is, in a stacked division in which all the head coaches are paid handsomely, someone is still going to finish (next to) last. A&M just hopes it's not them. 

But, with a high-powered offense and potentially rejuvenated defense, there is room for the Aggies to surge. Given that A&M doesn't even leave the state of Texas—note that this includes two neutral-site games—until the seventh game of the season, the schedule sets up well, too. 

What should you expect from the Aggies in 2015? We take a look in our complete team preview. 



If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em. 

Easily, one of the biggest assistant coaching hires of the offseason was defensive coordinator John Chavis from LSU. As far as turnaround, Chavis can have a similar impact that co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham had with TCU's offense in 2014. 

Not only did Sumlin swipe one of the top defensive minds away from a divisional rival, but Chavis had the magic formula to slowing down the Aggies offense. 

There's never a doubt that A&M's offense will be prolific, but what can Chavis do for the defense right away? This is a group that finished at or near the bottom of the SEC in major categories (points per game allowed, rushing defense, passing defense). Meanwhile, LSU routinely finished near the top of the SEC in points per game allowed under Chavis. 

However, the Aggies do have plenty of young talent, such as defensive end Myles Garrett, for Chavis to work with. 

We could look back six months from now and agree that Chavis was the best assistant coaching hire of the year. 


What to Watch on Offense

The heated quarterback battle between Kyle Allen and true freshman Kyler Murray was fun while it lasted. Ultimately, though, experience prevailed for Allen, a sophomore who started the final five games of the 2014 season.  

That doesn't mean Murray, a former 5-star recruit according to 247Sports, won't see the field at some point in the season, as Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports tweets:  

With the quarterback competition settled (for now?), A&M's offense is pretty much set. The wide receivers unit is talented and deep, led by Josh Reynolds, last season's leading receiver, and sophomore sensation Speedy Noil. Ricky Seals-Jones and Christian Kirk round out the starting line, which looks to be among the best in the SEC. 

Behind the starting four is a cluster of players who should see rotational time. Don't let the depth chart—which is unofficial, by the way—fool you; the difference between second and third string here is minimal at best. As Gabe Bock of TexAgs Radio tweets, plenty of guys are competing as backups: 

With leading rusher Tra Carson back for another year and center Mike Matthews anchoring the offensive line, A&M has the pieces in place to get back to the top of the SEC in offense. 


What to Watch on Defense

It starts with Garrett, who in 2014 broke Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman sack record with 11.5 sacks. Garrett is still improving on his overall game and should be a beast again, but his freshman effort is certainly a promising sign. 

“Obviously, he's gotten stronger,” Texas A&M defensive line coach Terry Price told Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN. “He's gotten healthier. He has done a better job at the point of attack. One of the biggest things we worked on this spring and this fall is hand placement ... and he’s worked hard at it, and he’s done a better job with his hands.”

However, despite having a pass rush that ranked among the best in the conference, A&M's pass defense left much to be desired. Only two teams—South Carolina and Vanderbilt—allowed more yards per attempt. Only Kentucky and Auburn allowed more passing touchdowns, and the Aggies recorded the fewest interceptions (five) of anyone in the SEC. 

So, theoretically, there's only way to go, right? It certainly can't get much worse. 

The good news is there's an anchor in the secondary despite the losses of Deshazor Everett and Howard Matthews. Armani Watts started from Week 1 as a true freshman and immediately had an impact, leading the team with eight pass breakups. 

The run defense, however, needs serious improvement after giving up five yards per carry and 23 touchdowns last year. As coordinator and linebackers coach, this will be Chavis' biggest area of concern. There's a lot of youth on the depth chart in the middle part of that defense—not to mention there were numerous injuries in the spring. There's a legitimate question over whether the run D will be fixed completely in a year's time. But if Chavis can knock that yards-per-rush average down a full yard—or even close to a yard—it will have been a successful year. ESPN's Khan explains: 

If the Aggies are to take a big step forward on defense, the linebackers have to be both healthy and consistently effective. With teams in the SEC West that run the ball effectively, which is almost the entire division, as well as downhill run teams like Alabama, Arkansas and LSU—there's nowhere to hide. 

The overall feeling is that if A&M's defense can even be in the middle of the pack in the SEC, the offense is more than capable enough of winning games. 



Sticking with the linebacker unit, Josh Walker gets the nod here. If A&M's defense is going to turn any type of corner this year, it has to be in the run D department. As the middle linebacker, this is where Walker can shine. Walker started four games as a freshman in 2014 and played in 10 games overall before suffering a season-ending foot injury.

The job of the middle linebacker these days is no longer defined by playing in a phone booth. Going sideline to sideline is a big part of defending today's spread offense. That said, performing in run defense is still a major part of the job. With Chavis overseeing linebackers, Walker is going to be working directly under one of the best defensive minds in college football. A breakout year for Walker would be huge for A&M's defensive efforts. 


2015 Schedule


Make-or-Break Games

Last year, A&M got off to a hot start by going on the road and beating South Carolina, a team projected to win the SEC East. Once again, the Aggies will be involved in a huge Week 1 game—but this time against an out-of-conference opponent. 

If the season opener against Arizona State in Houston isn't the single biggest game of the weekend, it's right up there. The Sun Devils are a trendy Pac-12 dark horse with, like A&M, a high-powered offense. Since A&M is not ranked in either preseason poll, a win here would be a huge boost to start the season. 

Though the season opener will be one of two neutral site games, the Aggies don't actually leave the state of Texas until Oct. 24 (at Ole Miss). Playing the Rebels on the road will be part of a critical stretch for A&M. In less than a month's time, A&M gets Alabama, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Auburn. 

Finally, the season-ending game at LSU will be huge. A&M is 0-3 versus the Tigers, but two of those losses have been decided by six points or fewer. With Chavis on the other sideline, can A&M finally topple LSU? 



A&M won seven regular season games last year while going through a transition at quarterback and fielding an awful defense. With so many returning parts, the big difference is Chavis. What's he worth? One extra win? Two? That sounds reasonable, especially with a West division that could be wide open. 

The matchup against Arkansas could be tough because of how well the Hogs run the ball, and the annual game against Alabama is always huge. But I like the Aggies to pull off at least one win—be it against the Tide, Auburn or Ole Miss—that they're not supposed to. 

The SEC West looks to be ridiculously deep this year, and someone has to finish sixth. I just don't like that to be the Aggies. 


Overall Record: 9-3

Conference Record: 5-3


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of


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Top 3 QB Recruits off the Board, Which 2017 Stud Will Commit Next?

Tennessee landed top-ranked 2017 quarterback Hunter Johnson over the weekend, and Texas A&M recently scored a commitment from No. 1 dual-threat signal-caller Tate Martell.  Watch as Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report National Football Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue discuss who will be the next QB to commit in the 2017 class.

Which quarterback are you most excited to see in college?  Let us know in the comment section below!

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John Chavis' Defensive Revolution at Texas A&M Begins with 2015 Class

The Chief has a new home for the 2015 college football season. Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson and B/R College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the impact defensive coordinator and linebacker coach John Chavis could have on this Texas A&M defense.

How well do you think Chavis and the Aggies defense will do this year? Tell us in the comments below.

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How USC Stars Adoree' Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster Will Avoid Sophomore Slumps

Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith-Schuster had remarkable first years for the USC Trojans. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how these two stellar athletes can avoid sophomore slumps in 2015.  

Can Jackson and Smith-Schuster overcome potential sophomore slumps? Let us know in the comments section below.  

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How USC Stars Adoree' Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster Will Avoid Sophomore Slumps

Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith-Schuster had remarkable first years for the USC Trojans. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how these two stellar athletes can avoid sophomore slumps in 2015...

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Malik Zaire Confident He Can Be the Savior Notre Dame Has Been Waiting For

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly came to Archbishop Alter High outside of Dayton, Ohio, last year to recruit another football player to Notre Dame. He had already gotten quarterback Malik Zaire from there a year earlier.

Alter principal Lourdes Lambert saw this as a great chance. When you think of Notre Dame coaches, you think of legends: Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz. Now Kelly was coming. So Lambert asked that when Kelly arrived that someone bring him to her office so she could meet with him.

When he did, he sat down to meet her, and there were pleasantries. And then…

"I just don't know why you're not starting Malik," she remembers saying. "I don't know Everett Golson, and I'm sure he's lovely, but I just don't see why there's any debate. Malik should be starting."

"Poor man. He was caught off guard," she said.

There is something delicious about Kelly, known for his occasional bouts of hotheadedness, being called into a principal's office and chewed out for starting Golson over Zaire as if he'd been caught clapping erasers together.

But Golson would start anyway. And he started great. And then he lost his confidence, fell apart and took the team with him.

Now it's Zaire's turn.

Golson transferred to Florida State because of Zaire's footsteps, not to mention his stellar start in Notre Dame's Music City Bowl victory over LSU.

His development, the patience…to…wait…his…turn—he surely is going crazy waiting for this sentence to end—has been an issue.

Zaire now gets the most visible job in college football. Starting quarterback. Notre Dame.

Can he save the Irish?

"Oh, I have 100 percent confidence in myself to be able to handle the job," Zaire said.

And anyone who knows him knows he has been saying that since the day he signed on with the Irish.

"Everyone feels that way to some extent," said receiver Chris Brown, who calls Zaire his "little bro."

"But Malik always said it out loud."

Zaire doesn't talk like your prototypical Notre Dame quarterback. He talks a lot. About himself. He talked openly the past two years about how he should have been starting. And when you hear the things he says—like his belief that the Irish will win all their games—you expect a certain cockiness and excessive self-absorption. You expect a person who you would like to have a comeuppance. Somehow in person, though, he doesn't come off that way.

In fact, he comes off as exactly what Notre Dame needs after last season's collapse: a confident leader whose main goals are (1) to win games and (2) to keep getting better until he is the best.

"Really? It's so nice to hear that," Zaire's mother, Stacy Carter, said. "I hope they all rally around him…

"Instead of him getting on their nerves. You probably heard about how he got along with his high school coach. Oh my gosh, Malik used to drive him crazy. He would do me the same way. He drove me crazy."

This is one of the trickiest, most important parts about coaching, and maybe parenting. It's a part people don't talk about much: confidence management. You have to build up some players' confidence. And you have to tear down others' so they know there are still things to learn.

"I agree 100 percent," said Notre Dame associate head coach Mike Denbrock. "You also have to find out what's real confidence and what's just talk. Malik is real confidence. And who wants to recruit a quarterback who doesn't want to be a starter from Day 1? I hope they all come in the door that way. That's not a bad thing.

"Yeah, there might be frustration when it doesn't come to fruition right off the bat. But what Malik has done with that frustration is point himself in a positive direction."

Well, not always. Zaire had an impossible time waiting. He told ND Insider's Mike Vorel this fall that he felt Golson was picked as the starter last year before any competition ever began: "It was like an unwritten thing: 'He's going to be the guy.'"

Zaire also complained about not getting reps in practice and just standing around for hours.

These are the comments that had people wondering about him.

Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis brought in top quarterback recruit Jimmy Clausen years ago, and it was a big show of ego. Clausen arrived with an escort of stretch Hummers and announced his college choice at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend. It was a show unlike what Notre Dame was used to.

You wondered from Zaire's comments if the Irish were in for a repeat.

But I don't think so. Believe it or not, Zaire's confidence doesn't come with the air of entitlement. When he's asking why he isn't starting, he's actually asking what it is that he's missing so he can work on it.

"Yes, I was upset," Zaire told Bleacher Report. "Nobody likes sitting on the bench. But it was just part of maturity for me to be able to simplify things. You don't have to know everything. Just stay consistent to the basics.

"Quieting my mind is something I've developed [through] talking with people that are great role models to me. People that keep it real with me."

One of those people is Lambert, the high school principal, who texts regularly with Zaire. She said his confidence comes from faith. Another is his high school coach, Ed Domsitz, who said that Zaire thought he should have been starting as a freshman in high school, too, even though Alter was coming off a 15-0 championship season and had its quarterback returning.

"It was a growing experience for him," Domsitz said. "I spent a good deal of time talking with him. He had come to our camp as a sixth-grader, and he was reading all these books about quarterbacking and motivation. That helped form his philosophy, his outlook. Sometimes the greatest competitors are the toughest to coach.

"He feels he has got to make it happen every week, week in and week out. I'd tell him 'Stay within yourself. Do what you do well. Understand you have a supporting cast out there.'"

This season, Mike Sanford becomes Zaire's third offensive coordinator in three years. He said that Zaire's success, and also maybe his biggest problem, is that he is so single-minded about reaching greatness.

If practice doesn't go right, Zaire might stay "out there two-and-a-half hours after to work on his throws," Sanford said. "Well, maybe not two-and-a-half hours. But he has to learn it's OK to make a few mistakes."

Brown knows Zaire can't accept that. He remembered the first time he met Zaire they went out throwing the ball around, and it wasn't going well. "I just wanted to have some reps," Brown said. "I was tired, and it was like 100 degrees. It wasn't going right. And he just wanted to keep going. There was no water out there!"

There's something to be said for the fact that Zaire is even still at Notre Dame. What we've seen more and more this fall is top recruits transferring away as soon as they realize they aren't starters. It happened at USC, where freshman quarterback Ricky Town has already left the team. Meanwhile, UCLA coach Jim Mora was publicly chewing out his freshman quarterback.

It's a new age in confidence management.

"Kids today, I think a lot of them feel like they deserve an opportunity to go out there and play right away," Denbrock said. "Some may feel their development is further down the line than it is. But there's always a place where the rubber meets the road.

"You're not going to sugarcoat anything for them. You have to be honest with them, say, 'Regardless if this is happening in the next 10 minutes, you're a valuable piece of the puzzle moving forward. Trust us as coaches to know the right time to put you out there.'"

Zaire said that he never would have left Notre Dame, that he would have considered that quitting. He figured his time would come. It just didn't happen soon enough.

Now it's here. Zaire still needs to grow up some. He said Sanford has already taught him about focusing on one thing at a time and also some technical things about his throwing base. But he is such a contrast to the fading confidence last year's team leader, Golson, was displaying.

Plus, Zaire did get evidence of his play in the bowl game.

"My confidence was always there," Zaire said. "The LSU game was just an opportunity to show other people that I'm here, too."

There might be some personality clashes with Kelly. Of course, Kelly might be patient if he doesn't want to be called back to the principal's office.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Dear Football: The 2015 Elite 11 Story | Ep. 9

Uninterrupted is a platform that allows personalities to connect with fans on a much deeper level, with insight and content not fit for other platforms, media outlets or channels.

Interested fans get a unique perspective that brings them closer than ever to the personalities they care about.

The Elite 11 camp brings together the top high school senior quarterbacks in the country in search of the best 11.

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Remembering Top 2015 Heisman Contenders as College Football Recruits

The annual Heisman Trophy race captivates college football fans across the country, vaulting young athletes into national stardom. Several players enter the 2015 season surrounded by sky-high expectations and aim to justify the hype when games begin.

Every award-winning campaign has its origins, back to the hometowns and high schools that ultimately shaped these standouts. Those roots are also tied to their respective recruiting processes, as Heisman hopefuls took various paths into the spotlight.

Here's a look at eight potential candidates and how they performed as young prospects. Players listed are considered the top Heisman Trophy contenders, according to

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Tom Herman's Journey from OSU's Magical Title Run to New Challenges at Houston

The sun overpowered the Dallas horizon, and Tom Herman, still drenched in emotion from the previous evening, let the light wash over him. This was a moment he was hoping for—a fitting bit of symbolism for a man stuck between day and night, for a coach saying goodbye to one tremendous opportunity and saying hello to another.

It was the culmination of something spectacular. It was the start of a magnificent journey that was too terrifyingly incredible to pass up. As the sun overtook the world in front of him, Herman readied for the biggest transition of his life. But before he did, he finally enjoyed a few moments of euphoric calm.

Hours earlier, the former Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator helped guide Ohio State to a national championship with a third-string quarterback—a triumph that has yet to truly sink in long after the confetti has been swept away. Hours later, he would embark on his new life as Houston’s head coach with the blessings, wisdom and encouragement of Urban Meyer, his old boss and grand ambassador.

Before they said their goodbyes, Meyer passed along the following words of wisdom.

“He told me to hire people you trust and let them do their job, but always understand that it’s your name on the scorecard at the end of the day,” Herman told Bleacher Report. “Make sure everybody is in alignment—speaking the same language, delivering the same message. For the four hours we have them in our facility, the message needs to be very succinct.”

After Ohio State beat Oregon in the national championship, Herman didn’t sleep. He took his family to breakfast the next morning, dropped them off at the Ohio State charter home and hit the road—where he finally rested as the car chugged toward Houston.

When he arrived that night, he briefly greeted the new staff. It was less than 24 hours after his old team won a national title.

The next day, this staff met for 14 hours to outline a plan for the program and the mad dash to national signing day. The following morning, he was in a Texas high school before 7 a.m. to recruit.

The celebration was over. In reality, it had lasted just a few magnificent hours.

“It has been like trying to take a sip of water out of a fire hose,” Herman said. “As coaches we are not averse to work or long hours, but the added hours a day coupled with the mental responsibilities of holding down both jobs took its toll. But it was an opportunity I wouldn’t trade for the world, especially with what we did at Ohio State.”

Having known Cardale Jones since his days at military school, Herman gave the third-string quarterback a crash course leading up to and after the team’s Big Ten Championship Game demolition of Wisconsin. At the same time, Herman and the coaching staff had to manage a new timeline and an entirely new postseason structure—something unfamiliar to everyone involved.

When Houston became a realistic opportunity in early December, Herman couldn’t wait for Ohio State’s season to finish. In the midst of one of the most exciting and unprecedented runs in the history of the sport, Herman approached Meyer with the news that he had been offered the job.

The conversation, according to Herman, went something like this:

Meyer: “Houston?”

Herman: “Yes, sir.”

Meyer: “Oh, well that’s a real one, isn’t it?”

Herman: “Yes, sir. That’s a pretty good one.”

That was the extent of it. With coaching roots in Texas—he started off as a wide receiver coach at Texas Lutheran in 1998—this was a natural fit. Even after he exited the state and moved to Iowa State and then Ohio State, Herman recruited in Texas.

When the Cougars administration rolled out the red carpet, ensuring extreme flexibility during the national championship run, the decision became even easier.

Meyer supported his soon-to-be-former OC at the time, asking him if he could help in any capacity. At the same time, with so much on the line, he also reminded Herman that he still had a job to finish. By the middle of December, the exhaustion of working two time-demanding jobs started to show.

"He looks like someone hit him with a bat—a good bat, though," Meyer joked in the middle of December to Zach Braziller of the New York Post. "But he's a pro. I really admire him." 

While Herman had a wonderful situation in Columbus—and a handful of inviting offers that had surfaced along the way—he was immediately attracted to the new opportunity. The message delivered his way was precisely what he wanted to hear.

"I saw the commitment to winning and upgrading their lot in life, spearheaded by the new stadium and the coaches’ pool they gave me to pay my assistants," Herman said.

"Also, let’s not forget we’re in the best high school football-playing city in America in the best high school football-playing state in America. It’s not like you can handpick your recruits and they come, but the numbers are there in the city of Houston."

After Herman was introduced, he did everything he could for Houston while navigating Ohio State’s offense. He worked a few hours per day, mainly on the phones, setting a solid recruiting foundation for when he arrived.

More than six months later, Herman has done more than lay the groundwork for success. A string of successful recruiting grabs has shocked the expected timeline of the program. As of the middle of August, Houston had the nation’s No. 29 recruiting class and the No. 1 class in the American Athletic Conference, according to 247Sports. Last season the Cougars finished with the No. 90-ranked class; they were No. 76 the year before.

There is still a long time before any of this becomes official, although securing verbal commitments from elite players has altered the way the program has been perceived, especially from an outsider’s perspective.

Inside Houston’s walls, the players who are adjusting to their new head coach can feel a pulse unique from recent history. They haven’t held back from sharing their excitement.

"When you’re able to make some of the splashes that we have early on, it enhances your brand," Herman said. "One of the things I’m noticing is that our own players are looking at us and telling us we’re doing a great job recruiting. Well, yeah. What did you think we were, a bunch of slappies?"

As part of his recruiting pitch, Herman has refused to put his past behind him. In fact, in many cases, he’ll quite literally throw it right in the faces of anyone willing to listen. His championship rings from Ohio State are featured prominently in his office.

Take a step into Herman’s quarters and you’ll likely find yourself at the coffee table not long after you survey the room. Placed strategically in the center of the coffee table is the buffet of Ohio State bling Herman acquired over the past few seasons, headlined by his national championship ring.

"Whenever a recruit comes in and sits down, it’s literally the first thing they see," Herman said. "Trust me, their eyes gravitate toward it."

The prestige that traveled with him isn’t the only Ohio State influence to come along. Herman believes that the offense you watched power past Alabama and Oregon late last year will be similar to the one he runs in Houston.

It will take time to get all the necessary pieces in place to accomplish this goal, but he does not plan to veer away from what helped land him the job in the first place.

"We’re not going to stray from our core values or beliefs," Herman said about the offense while cycling through the uniqueness of some of the Ohio State teams he led during his tenure. "It will be very similar. I don’t know what it will look like at the end, but we’ll put our guys in the best position to succeed."

The next part is perhaps the most important. It’s finding a way to bottle everything he helped build at his last job and bringing it over. It’s igniting the indefinable—team camaraderie that is difficult to find even in the most successful places.

It’s unreasonable to expect Houston to consistently attract the type of talent the Buckeyes had to work with. And yet, perhaps more significant than any star power is the way a coach can get his players to buy into one another.

"One of the neatest things I saw with the team at Ohio State—and we preach about it all the time as coaches—is that the team genuinely played for the happiness, success and rings on the finger for the guy next to them," Herman said. "The results speak for themselves. When you play for the guy next to you, that’s when you win championships."


Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Odds Greyson Lambert Beats out Brice Ramsey for Georgia Starting QB Job

Georgia's three-man quarterback battle appears to be down to two.

According to Seth Emerson of and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Faton Bauta has been relegated to third on the depth chart, leaving redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey and Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert as the two remaining options for head coach Mark Richt.

Emerson noted that Ramsey and Lambert have been rotating with the first and second teams during the media viewing period over the last two practices, while Bauta was running with the threes. That rotation had been even up to this point in fall camp.

That's enormous, and it's about all Georgia fans should have expected during fall camp due to Lambert's late arrival from Virginia in late July and a slightly tweaked pro-style system under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer that demands players to learn much quicker than under former coordinator Mike Bobo.

What are the odds Lambert beats out Ramsey for the starting job?

I'd say Ramsey still has a slight edge on the former Cavalier. We'll go with Ramsey at 3-1 and Lambert close behind at 5-1. It's very close—I won't give Richt what he truly wants.

"I'd like to know and have peace," he said on Saturday. "I'm looking for some peace."

The rubber will truly meet the road over the next few weeks now that they're splitting first-team reps between the two of them rather than three.

Lambert's biggest asset is the experience he gained while serving as the starting quarterback in Charlottesville. No, the stat line isn't exactly Heisman-worthy. He tossed 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over the last two seasons, but he did light up Florida State with 220 yards and three touchdowns late last year in Tallahassee—not too shabby.

But can he adapt to the system—which demands a quick learner—in only a month?

That work with Schottenheimer this spring is what Ramsey has working in his favor, and unless Lambert wows the coaching staff over the next week leading up to the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, it will likely be what earns Ramsey first-team snaps in the opener.

With that said, though, how long will Ramsey have a hold on the starting job?

It's not like Georgia has a daunting schedule out of the gate, with the Warhawks at home followed by a road trip to Vanderbilt in Week 2. Ramsey will likely "win" the starting job, but it'll likely be more like winning the first spin of a roulette wheel at a casino. Ramsey might win the first spin, but that doesn't mean he's going to leave the casino with a pocket full of cash.

Whoever wins the job, Georgia has to find a way to stretch the field. 

With maulers up front and a deep running back corps led by superstar Nick Chubb, the eventual winner of the quarterback competition will have to keep defenses honest, pose a threat deep and prevent opposing defenses from bringing eight or nine in the box to slow down the running game. Georgia managed just 34 passing plays of 20 or more yards a year ago, which was the fourth-worst mark in the conference.

The first two games will likely be auditions for the two remaining contenders, with Ramsey going in as the leader while Richt and Schottenheimer find out which one is the best gamer. Ramsey has the arm strength and familiarity of the offense to get the first shot, but the underdog—Lambert—will still have a chance.

It should make for an interesting early-season battle before the Bulldogs host South Carolina in Week 3.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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10 Bold Predictions for 1st Month of 2015 College Football Season

It’s almost here. We’re just over a week away from the much-anticipated opening of the 2015 college football season, where coaches and players hope months of preparation and work will pay off with glory, victories and national acclaim. It’s the best time of the year because everyone is 0-0 and no one has absorbed a bad loss yet.

That’s about to change, of course. College football is wonderful because of its unpredictability. Who would have pegged Florida State or Ohio State as the last two national champions outside of Tallahassee or Columbus? And while the Buckeyes are the clear favorite to repeat as national champions, history tells us a challenger will come seemingly out of nowhere and emerge on the national scene.

We just don’t know who it is yet.

As we move into September, we’re sure to see surprises across college football, whether they take the form of teams thriving or struggling or an unexpected player emerging in a prominent role. Here are 10 bold predictions for the first month of the college football season.

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Big Ten Football: Storylines That Will Define the Season

With Michigan's season opener against Utah taking place next Thursday night, we are nearly one week away from the start of Big Ten football. And with Wisconsin taking on Alabama and Ohio State facing Virginia Tech, the conference should dominate the headlines of college football's opening weekend.

That would be par for the course for the Big Ten in 2015, a year which has already seen the league capture the first-ever College Football Playoff championship and hire one of the sport's most high-profile coaches. In fact, it's hard to remember a year where the conference has possessed this much hype heading into a season.

From Piscataway, New Jersey, to Lincoln, Nebraska, and every Big Ten stop in between, the league is buzzing with anticipation as the 2015 season approaches. With that in mind, let's take a look at the top storylines that will define the league in the upcoming year.

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Bleacher Report's Preseason 2015 College Football Award Predictions

We're a little more than a week away from the start of the 2015 season, when every team in play is hoping to have a shot at a division, conference or national championship. The players have their own goals as well, and for some of them, that involves picking up some fancy trophies in December.

College football has more than a dozen national awards that are doled out based on individual performance throughout the season, most notably the Heisman Trophy. Each has its own group of voters who pick the recipients, but Bleacher Report's college football staff has decided to take on the task of picking every award winner.

Our predictions are based on votes cast by 19 members of our staff: writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Justin Ferguson, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh; video experts Michael Felder and Sean McManus; and editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Eric Yates. The top vote-getter for each award is our choice, while the second-highest is the runner-up.

Some of our experts have also provided some insight as to why they chose a certain player to win the award over others.

Check out our predictions for 16 of college football's biggest postseason awards for 2015—then give us your thoughts in the comments section. 

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B/R CFB 250: Top 20 Safeties

Bleacher Report's CFB 250 is an annual ranking of the best players in college football, regardless of NFL potential. Through interviews with B/R experts Matt MillerMichael FelderBarrett Sallee and Adam Kramer, authors Brian Leigh and Brian Pedersen have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list to 250 and sorted by position. Today, we present the Top Safeties.


Other CFB 250 Positions


Three of the top five safeties return from last year's CFB 250, but only one returns at the same position.

Last year's No. 2 safety, Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, has returned to his former position at cornerback, while last year's No. 3 safety, Su'a Cravens of USC, has moved full-time to linebacker.

Those movements deplete the position and turn a strong year of safeties into a dubious one. Only one of last year's top 10 players returns to patrol centerfield. There is talent and potential to replace those lost players, but a lot of it is young and hard to count on.

The players on this list will have to grow up, and fast.

But before we dig into that, a disclaimer: The safeties who follow were graded as college prospects, not as NFL prospects.

Targeted skills such as run defense are important at both levels, but there is a difference between a college run defense and professional run defense. If a safety can set the edge and make plays in the SEC or the Big 12, it doesn't matter if he can set the edge and make plays in the NFC North—at least not here.

This is all about college performance.


Note: If two players finished with the same grade, a subjective call was made based on whom we would rather have on our team right now. Also, all recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

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Daniel Tosh Rips Nick Saban with Segment on 'Tosh.0'

Note: This video contains NSFW language.

Daniel Tosh doesn't like anyone, really. His brand of comedy—which has been wildly successful in recent years—pretty much boils down to ripping people apart.

His most recent victim? Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

During a segment on Tuesday's episode of Tosh.0, the comedian mocked the unauthorized biography that Saban recently discredited. Tosh hit on everything with a mock children's reading, including Saban's height, family and coaching history in the NFL.

It should be noted that Tosh is a Miami Dolphins fan, which might clear things up a bit. (Saban lasted just two years as the Dolphi head coach before leaving for Alabama.)

Even the kids joined in, though. Ouch.

[Comedy Central, h/t College Spun]

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Jalen Mills Injury: Updates on LSU Star's Recovery from Ankle Surgery

LSU Tigers free safety Jalen Mills has undergone surgery to address an ankle injury he suffered in practice August 19.

Continue for updates.

Mills Undergoes Ankle Surgery Tuesday, August 25

Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today reported Mills has undergone a procedure, leaving the Tigers secondary without its senior leader.

"I'm still harboring personal feelings that we can get him back sooner rather than later," said LSU head coach Les Miles regarding Mills' situation, per Guilbeau.

Mills made the transition from cornerback to safety in 2014 and thrived as a first-team All-SEC selection. It will be difficult for the Tigers to replace Mills on the back end while he recovers, but at least Miles offered an update with a silver lining regarding Mills' recovery timeline.

Junior Rickey Jefferson is the next man up to fill in for Mills ahead of the Associated Press No. 14 Tigers' season opener September 5 against McNeese State in Baton Rouge. LSU's depth is immediately being tested at a key position with Jefferson, who's converted to defense during college after playing mostly receiver in high school.

It will be interesting to see how the Tigers' core adjusts in the aftermath of former defensive coordinator John Chavis' departure for Texas A&M. 

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Heisman Trophy Betting Odds: Boykin, Elliott Lead College Football Props

Will college football’s best quarterback win the Heisman Trophy for the sixth year in a row? That’s the key question bettors have to ask themselves before they wager on the 2015 winner based on past history and the latest betting odds.

The two co-favorites are senior quarterback Trevone Boykin of the TCU Horned Frogs and junior running back Ezekiel Elliott of the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes at 5-1 at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

Boykin was one of the most electrifying players in the country last year, passing for 3,901 yards and rushing for 707 more to go along with 41 combined touchdowns through the air and on the ground.

The All-American signal caller saw his Horned Frogs fall just short of earning a berth in the College Football Playoff last season and leads one of the top contenders to win the title in 2015-16 at 13-2 odds.

The favorite to win the national championship are the Buckeyes at +260 (bet $100 to win $260) behind Elliott and quarterbacks J.T. Barrett (9-1 odds to win the Heisman) and Cardale Jones (14-1). The starting quarterback job is still up for grabs, as Jones stepped in late in the year when Barrett suffered a season-ending ankle injury.

Former starting quarterback Braxton Miller (33-1) was in the mix as well before he switched positions to wide receiver. But it was Elliott who exploded onto the scene during the team’s title run, finishing with 1,878 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, with 696 and eight, respectively, coming in the last three games.

The last running back to win the Heisman was Mark Ingram of the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2009, and prior to that it was Ron Dayne of the Wisconsin Badgers in 1999. Reggie Bush of the USC Trojans initially won it in 2005 before it was taken away because he was found guilty of taking improper benefits while in school.

A couple of other running backs worth a look as dark-horse picks on the odds to win the Heisman are sophomores Nick Chubb (12-1) of the Georgia Bulldogs and Leonard Fournette (12-1) of the LSU Tigers. Both players have the advantage of playing in the SEC and will be the best players for their respective schools in 2015.

Chubb takes over full-time for the departed Todd Gurley, while Fournette should be primed for a breakthrough year after heading to LSU as the top recruit in the nation a season ago as a freshman.

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Ohio State Football: Can Buckeyes Rediscover Defensive Dominance?

Ohio State's defense hit rock bottom at the end of the 2013 season, and head coach Urban Meyer knew something needed to change.

The Buckeyes defense had given up an average of 38.7 points and 539 yards to the team's three final opponents—Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson—while dropping its last two games of the year. Those losses halted a historic 24-game winning streak and cost Ohio State a chance to play Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game.

That prompted Meyer to shake things up.

After former co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers left for James Madison and former defensive line coach Mike Vrabel jumped to the NFL, Meyer wanted to find replacements who would bring the aggressiveness and spark back to Ohio State's defense.

That's what brought new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash (formerly at Arkansas) and defensive line coach Larry Johnson (Penn State) to Columbus.

Ash was tasked with leading the charge in a defensive overhaul. Instead of running the conservative zone schemes that defenses picked apart in 2012 and 2013, Ash installed his aggressive 4-3 scheme with quarters coverage in the secondary.

The 2014 defense made a huge leap, which was instrumental in the Buckeyes' run to (and through) the first-ever College Football Playoff.

And Ash said that this year's defense is vastly improved.

"Words can't even describe how far we've come. It's a completely different unit," Ash said on Monday, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "Each player is better, each unit is better, the overall Silver Bullet defense is better."

That's big news for the Buckeyes, who showed glimpses of dominance during their postseason run.

It started in the Big Ten title game, when the defense was facing a stiff challenge in Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon—the nation's leading rusher and eventual Heisman Trophy runner-up.  The Buckeyes stepped up in a big way, holding Gordon to 76 yards on 26 carries while blanking the Badgers 59-0.

Against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the Buckeyes harassed quarterback Blake Sims into one of his worst performances of the year, forcing him to throw a career-high three interceptions. They also limited Amari Cooper, who finished third in the Heisman race, to his second-worst yardage output of the season as they advanced to the national title game.

Against Oregon and its brutally efficient offense, Ohio State was at its best. The Ducks came into the game averaging 47.2 points per game, but the Buckeyes held them to a season-low 20 points while effectively limiting Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.

Instead of the defense collapsing in the pivotal three-game home stretch of the season, it thrived, and the result was a national title.

"I think our defense from the last three games was the best I've ever witnessed," Meyer said, via Seger. "Obviously we had some growing pains because we grew up the secondary and changed dramatically what we were doing. Very systematic approach."

But with seven defensive starters back, those growing pains should be a thing of the past, and the Buckeyes could be primed to dominate defensively. After watching the unit falter during his first two years in Columbus, Ohio State's head coach is excited for the upcoming season.

"I love where we're at," Meyer said, via Seger.


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

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Justin Scott-Wesley, Georgia WR, Reportedly Retiring Due to Injuries

Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley has been plagued by injuries over the past two seasons, and after the fifth-year senior sustained a right knee injury in practice Aug. 17, his collegiate playing career appears to be over.

According to the Athens Banner-Herald's Marc Weiszer, Scott-Wesley told his high school coach "he was done playing," after re-injuring his right knee. 

"I’m not sure we’ll see Justin for awhile, if at all," Georgia head coach Mark Richt told reporters Aug. 22, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Seth Emerson

The wideout appeared in just five games during the 2013 season due to a torn ACL. Last year, Scott-Wesley was limited as he battled an ankle injury, which left him with a grand total of three receptions for 52 yards and a score. He also underwent surgery for a torn meniscus back in July, per the Athens Banner-Herald's Fletcher Page.  

Scott-Wesley posted a photo on Instagram Tuesday afternoon indicating he could be evolving into a coach now that his playing career has been cast in doubt: 

Over the course of his career in Athens, Scott-Wesley racked up 25 catches for 498 yards and four touchdowns, with a career-long reception of 85 yards during the 2013 campaign.

Sans Scott-Wesley, Georgia will turn to senior Malcolm Mitchell and sophomore Isaiah McKenzie as its primary playmakers on the outside. McKenzie is still a work in progress, though, as he notched just six catches for 67 yards as a freshman while primarily serving as a punt and kick returner. 

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Notre Dame Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2015 Preview and Predictions

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With an experienced corps of returning starters looking to wash away the bitter taste of a 2014 regular season that rolled off the rails, Notre Dame football begins 2015 with high expectations.

The Irish are ranked 11th in the preseason AP poll, their highest ranking since the 2006 squad opened the year second in the country.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly begins his sixth season in South Bend and said this year’s squad is faster, more athletic and deeper than the 2012 group that finished the regular season 12-0 and fell to Alabama in the national title game. Throughout the fall, Kelly has praised the overall leadership, too, lauding the deepest stable of leaders he’s had during his tenure.

How good can Notre Dame be?

Let’s break down the Irish heading into 2015.



At this time last year, Irish fans were still waiting to see how Notre Dame would replace its two coordinators, as Chuck Martin left for the head-coaching job at Miami (Ohio), and Bob Diaco took the lead gig at UConn.

While the turnover this year isn’t as high up the ranks, Notre Dame still deals with a slew of staff shuffles.

Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur left after one season to take the same role with the Atlanta Falcons. Running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Alford is now the assistant head coach and running backs coach for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks is now at Oklahoma. Longtime assistant coach Bob Elliott, who tutored the outside linebackers in 2014, is now a special assistant to Kelly and has recently focused on defending the option.

Notre Dame dipped into its own history books to replace Alford and Cooks, hiring all-time leading rusher Autry Denson to coach the backs and two-time consensus All-American cornerback Todd Lyght to coach the secondary. Mike Elston, who had been the defensive line coach, moves to handle the linebackers and adds the title of recruiting coordinator, while veteran assistant Keith Gilmore joins the staff as the defensive line coach.

Most notably, Kelly brought in 32-year old Mike Sanford as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, giving Mike Denbrock the title of associate head coach.

Sanford will coach from the press box, Kelly said Friday, but the Irish have still yet to announce who will handle the play-calling chores. Last week, Kelly said that every day has been an affirmation of what he hoped he’d get in Sanford. When it comes to the quarterbacks, in particular, Kelly said Sanford has eliminated the gray area when it comes to keys and progressions for Malik Zaire, DeShone Kizer, Brandon Wimbush and company.

“I just think that's central to having a great communication base with your quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “If they don't see it through the same lens that you do, there is miscommunication, and that's been cleared up where it's easy communication now with the quarterbacks as to how did you get across the board on your reads if you didn't start with the right movement key, and Mike's done a great job there.”

In Alford and Cooks, Notre Dame lost two of its best recruiters. Cooks found success in Texas, while Alford consistently lured top talent from Florida. In the immediate aftermath, their prowess could be difficult to replicate

Defensively, the Irish benefit from a return to health (with the exception of fall casualties Jarron Jones and Shaun Crawford). But Notre Dame also has a full year of experience in defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s system, a blitz-heavy, pro-style approach with multiple looks.


What to Watch for on Offense

Surprise, surprise. We’ll begin with Zaire.

The redshirt sophomore stepped into the undisputed (minus one @NDFootball tweet) No. 1 quarterback job when Everett Golson elected to use his fifth year at Florida State.

Zaire’s career numbers include one start, 21 completions, 35 attempts, 266 yards and one passing touchdown. His ledger also includes a win over LSU in the Music City Bowl, as he earned the start over Golson, though both played roles in the victory.

In practices open to the media, both in the spring and fall, Zaire appears to bring more comfort to the read-option game. The charismatic southpaw will have the chance to lead the offense.

Now in his third year on campus, Zaire has narrowed his focus in the learning process, Kelly said. Whereas in the past Zaire may have been thinking of too much football minutia, Kelly said the dual-threat quarterback has let go of that which is not nearly as vital.

In the backfield, C.J. Prosise steps into a prominent role after making the full transition from slot receiver. The 220-pound speedster and junior Tarean Folston will carry the load, as Greg Bryant will not play for Notre Dame in 2015.

“We’re just gonna push each other to be better every day,” Prosise said earlier this month. “We don’t want to just settle and just think either one of us has a spot. We’re fighting right now. We’re definitely battling. But we’re still also teaching each other and knowing that we’re there to help look out for each other.”

Over the last week-plus, Prosise has battled a hip flexor, but Kelly said Friday he was expected to be “full-go” Monday, allowing two full-game weeks of preparation before the season opener against Texas.

Possibly Notre Dame’s deepest position on the roster, wide receiver will be a strength for the Irish in 2015.

Junior Will Fuller returns after a breakout sophomore season in which he piled up 76 receptions for 1,094 yards and a program record-tying 15 touchdowns. The Irish also return junior Corey Robinson (40-539-5 in 2014), senior Chris Brown (39-548-1) and fifth-year senior slot man Amir Carlisle (23-309-3).

Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Torii Hunter Jr. (7-65-1) was one of the standouts in fall camp, and Kelly said Friday he can play all three receiver spots, not just the slot.

“Torii’s a playmaker for us,” Kelly said. “We’ve gotta be able to get some touches for him.”

The Irish are so deep—or “blessed,” as Kelly said earlier this month—at wide receiver that second-year man Justin Brent is auditioning at running back, and playing time could be tough to come by for fellow sophomore Corey Holmes.

Notre Dame’s talented freshman wideouts impressed in the fall, with the lengthy Equanimeous St. Brown and jitterbug C.J. Sanders flashing regularly.

Freshman tight end Alize Jones had his moments, as well, and we’ll see how much playing time he can carve out among a crowded group of tight ends. Redshirt sophomore Durham Smythe has battled a balky hamstring, so second-year players Tyler Luatua and Nic Weishar have received more reps. Fifth-year senior Chase Hounshell, a converted defensive lineman, could help in the blocking game.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Nick Martin lead the offensive line, which inserts new starters at left guard (likely Quenton Nelson, with Alex Bars in the rotation) and right tackle (Mike McGlinchey) and lost Conor Hanratty and Matt Hegarty, both of whom had fifth-year options. Still, Kelly is high on this group, especially with the added physical ability of Nelson and McGlinchey, Stanley’s growth and Martin’s health.


What to Watch for on Defense

The biggest news on Notre Dame’s defense heading into a new season revolves around returns: Defensive tackle Sheldon Day passed on the NFL for his senior year; cornerback KeiVarae Russell has been fully cleared by the NCAA; middle linebackers Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace are back from serious injuries.

The injuries and depth issues that, in part, derailed Notre Dame’s defense down the stretch in 2014—when the Irish allowed 43 points to North Carolina, 39 to Navy, 55 to Arizona State, 43 to Northwestern and 49 to USC—are mostly solved.

The next question is how the Irish will be in their second season under VanGorder.

Along the defensive line, Day, junior Isaac Rochell, senior Romeo Okwara and sophomore Andrew Trumbetti will be counted on. So too will tackles Jerry Tillery and Daniel Cage after Jones’ injury (more below).

Notre Dame still lacks a premier pass rusher. The Irish ranked tied for 70th in the nation last season, per, with 26 sacks. Okwara’s team-leading four sacks are an answer to a level-three trivia question.

The Irish are strong at linebacker, with Schmidt and Grace factoring in on the interior with sophomore Nyles Morgan, a “good problem” to have, according to Kelly.

Jaylon Smith, meanwhile, is an exceptional talent and, unsurprisingly yet still consistently, drew praise from Kelly throughout the fall.

“Jaylon Smith is remarkable in terms of what he’s doing on the field,” Kelly said earlier this month. “He is on his game.”

The secondary receives a major boost with Russell’s return. Interestingly, Kelly said Friday that Russell will shift into the nickelback role in certain packages, and junior Devin Butler will man the spot opposite Cole Luke on the perimeter. Sophomore Nick Watkins and freshman Nick Coleman are also options on the outside.

Safety is still an enigmatic spot for the Irish, though junior Max Redfield could be poised for a breakthrough campaign after two quiet seasons to begin his career in South Bend. Beside him, Notre Dame can turn to senior Elijah Shumate and graduate student transfer Avery Sebastian. While there have been promising signs since the end of the 2014 season, the growth at safety needs to be seen when it counts to be believed.


Injury News

Martin, Schmidt and Grace are healthy. Jones and Crawford are not.

Nearing full health from a Lisfranc injury that prematurely ended his junior season in 2014, Jones suffered an MCL injury earlier this month, had surgery last Tuesday and is out for the season.

Jones was rolled up on during an 11-on-11 practice situation—“kind of a freak deal,” per Kelly. At 6’5”, 315 pounds, Jones was set to build on a junior season in which he tallied 40 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss.

So Notre Dame must turn to Tillery and Cage. An early enrollee from Louisiana, Tillery shined in the spring and has received first-team reps in the fall, too.

“Invaluable to have him here in the spring, given the fact that obviously he’s gonna have a pretty prominent role for us on the defensive side of the ball,” Kelly said of Tillery. “That obviously is a big plus for us. He knows the defense pretty well.”

At nickelback, Crawford, a true freshman, was earning praise this fall before he suffered a torn ACL during Wednesday morning’s practice. He’s out for the season.

The Irish have fifth-year senior Matthias Farley as a nickelback option, but Russell allows VanGorder enviable versatility in the slot, Kelly said.



It might sound too mainstream, but Zaire is an X-factor for Notre Dame in 2015. Sure, he brings an excitement to the position with both his running ability and his personality. But those 21 career completions are four fewer than the 25 consecutive completions Golson had in a couple quarters against Syracuse last season.

Zaire's potential is there. Will the production follow?

As for lower-profile picks, Hunter and Tillery are both wild cards. If Hunter can maintain his health, he certainly has the ability to produce consistently for Notre Dame, based on his work this fall, in particular.

Tillery, meanwhile, is a heralded freshman, but he’ll get a major bump in usage with Jones sidelined. How badly will the Irish miss Jones?


2015 Schedule

Notre Dame will again endure a challenging slate of games in 2015, with Texas, Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC and Stanford headlining the 12 regular-season matchups.

The Irish start with three of their first four games at Notre Dame Stadium before traveling to South Carolina for a date with Clemson.


Make-or-Break Games

If we restrict our focus here to just a few games, the matchups with Clemson and USC—in a three-week span in October—stand out.

Notre Dame could conceivably be 4-0 when it travels to face the Tigers. A win there, and the Irish will have plenty of momentum two weeks later (following a home clash with Navy) when it hosts USC under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium.

At No. 8 and No. 12 in the AP poll, respectively, USC and Clemson are the two highest-ranked opponents the Irish face. There are many other variables at play over the course of a 12-game season, but these two games can mightily change the tune of Notre Dame’s season.



We’ve analyzed the Irish schedule throughout the spring, summer and fall.

And while nothing is certain, of course, Notre Dame should take care of its business against UMass, Virginia, Wake Forest, Temple and, to a lesser degree, Boston College. Those are in our first tier of games.

Notre Dame should also be favored against Texas, Navy and Pittsburgh, as well as Georgia Tech, though the Yellow Jackets are coming off an 11-win season and can look to the past success option teams like Navy and Air Force have had against Notre Dame.

That brings us to those Clemson and USC games, in addition to the regular-season finale against Stanford in Northern California. Taken individually, Notre Dame could have a slight edge at home against USC and against the Cardinal, who bring back just 13 starters from last year’s 8-5 team. A road date at Clemson, though, looms large.

Notre Dame can win every game on its schedule. It could also lose against Clemson, USC, Stanford and, to a lesser extent, Texas and Georgia Tech, without it being a major upset. Navy and Pittsburgh have threatened the Irish in recent years, too.

But with a veteran-laden team heavy on leadership, we’ll stick with last week’s prediction.

Overall Record: 11-1


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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