NCAA Football

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. 

Begin Slideshow

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.

Begin Slideshow

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]

Read more College Football news on

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. 

Read more College Football news on

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.

Read more College Football news on

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.

Read more College Football news on

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. 

Read more College Football news on

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.

Read more College Football news on

Young Ohio State Fan Asks Doctors If Heart Surgery Will Make Him a Michigan Fan

The rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan burns deep within fans of both sides, so much so that a young Buckeyes supporter had qualms about going under the knife for heart surgery.

Huh? Let the 10-year-old's mother explain, courtesy of Michigan's Health System blog:

As pediatric cardiologist Dr. Ronald Grifka showed 10-year-old Ivan Applin the wire-framed device that would be used to fix the holes in his heart, the Toledo fourth grader had just one burning concern.

"He asked if the Michigan doctors were going to make his heart love University of Michigan instead of Ohio State," his mother Jennifer laughs.

For a fourth-grade kid—or anyone, really—that's some serious fanhood. Upon looking at an apparatus that will go on his heart, little Ivan's biggest worry was about his beloved Buckeyes.

A word of advice to Ivan, though: If OSU quarterback Cardale Jones visits you, don't challenge him to a video game.

[Michigan Health Blogs, h/t SB Nation]

Read more College Football news on

Oregon Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2015 Preview and Predictions

For the second time in five years, Oregon spent the offseason looking back on a successful campaign but one that came up just short of the ultimate goal: a national championship. The Ducks' 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the title game in January made for an unsatisfying finish to an otherwise stellar 13-2 season.

But unlike after losing in the final moments to Auburn in the 2011 BCS championship game, the Ducks have to try to move forward with a very different team.

"It’s no secret there is a leadership void that must be filled at Oregon this fall," Ryan Thornburn of the Eugene Register-Guard wrote, noting the loss of starters on the offensive and defensive line in the secondary and most notably Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Those departures have put an added emphasis on whether Oregon's "system" can continue to succeed even when so many significant pieces have changed from one year to the next. The offense has ranked in the top five every year since 2010, and during that span the defense has had 11 players taken in the NFL draft.

These losses, however, could be more significant than in the past.

Nevertheless, Oregon is still highly rated heading into the 2015 season, sitting at fifth in the Amway Coaches Poll and seventh in the Associated Press preseason ranking. The defending Pac-12 champions are also projected to win the North Division again, but conference media members have them losing to USC in the title game in December.

It will be far from a rebuilding year in Eugene, yet it also won't be one that's brimming with overconfidence.

Follow along as we take a detailed look at Oregon's 2015 team:



The exact same staff members who were on the sidelines for last season's national title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be wearing their school-issued polo shirts and khakis again this fall.

That shouldn't be a surprise. Oregon has traditionally had one of the most consistent sets of coaches in FBS, with five entering at least their 13th year with the program and four having logged more than 20 seasons.

Head coach Mark Helfrich is entering his third season in charge of Oregon, but he's been on staff since 2009. That's the same year current offensive coordinator Scott Frost joined the Ducks as receivers coach.

That coaching consistency will go a long way toward handling any issues that come with putting new starters in key roles such as quarterback and in the secondary, because the coaches handling those positions have been through such turnover several times before.


What to watch for on offense

Oregon's spread offense is as good as it gets in college football, having averaged more than 540 yards and 47 points per game over the past five seasons. The run-pass balance is exceptional, having produced a 2,500-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher each year and having some of the most prolific dual-threat quarterbacks around.

The same is expected in 2015. We just don't know which quarterback will be putting up those numbers or whether it will be just one.

Mariota's jump to the NFL created a big opening for a new star to step in, and the Ducks have two great options: junior Jeff Lockie and senior Vernon Adams. Lockie served as Mariota's backup last season, while Adams starred for three years at Eastern Washington before joining the Ducks this summer.

Adams announced in February he was coming to Oregon, but because of unfinished classwork he didn't complete his degree (and thus wasn't able to immediately play as a graduate transfer) until Aug. 12 after passing a final class exam that had much of the college football world on the edge of its seat.

Many declared Adams the successor to Mariota months ago, based on the 5'11", 201-pounder's great numbers at the FCS level that included throwing for seven touchdowns in 2014 against Washington and accounted for 518 yards of total offense and six TDs in a 2013 upset of Oregon State. But Lockie took advantage of getting all of the first-team snaps during spring practice and showed he wasn't going to let Adams take the job without a fight.

As a result, Lockie appears to be the leader in the QB competition and in line to start Oregon's Sept. 5 opener against Adams' old team. No official decision has been made, however.

The rest of Oregon's offense also features an abundance of options, with the exception possibly being at running back. Sophomore Royce Freeman is firmly entrenched as the starter after setting a freshman school rushing record with 1,365 yards and 18 TDs a year ago, but after him there's uncertainty.

Thomas Tyner, who has run for 1,284 yards and 14 TDs in two seasons, is out for the year after needing shoulder surgery. This could lead to returning Byron Marshall (1,038 rushing yards, 14 TDs in 2013) to the backfield after he was Oregon's leading receiver last year, while freshmen Tony Brooks-James and Taj Griffin could also see significant action.

Oregon's receiving corps is also dealing with injuries to some key players from a year ago, but there are no shortage of weapons. That includes some first-year players from the Ducks' 16th-ranked recruiting class such as Malik Lovette, Kirk Merritt and Alex Ofodile, as well as junior Bralon Addison, who missed all of 2014 with a knee injury.

"Even with Darren Carrington facing a half-season suspension from the NCAA and both Devon Allen and tight end Pharaoh Brown recovering from knee surgeries, the Ducks are deepest at receiver," Andrew Greif of the Oregonian wrote.

The Ducks line battled through numerous injuries in 2014 but should still be this season, despite losing three starters. A healthy Tyler Johnstone at left tackle and the veteran play of Notre Dame grad transfer Matt Hegarty at center are huge boosts up front.


What to watch for on defense

Options abound all over for Oregon on the defensive side of the ball, but in most cases these are made up of mostly players who are getting rave reviews about their potential and promise rather than past performance. Six starters either graduated or turned pro, and many of those openings figure to be filled by players who didn't see much time in 2014.

There's thankfully at least one veteran returning at each level of the defense, led by defensive end DeForest Buckner. The 6'7", 290-pound senior led Oregon with 13 tackles for loss along with four sacks and 81 total tackles.

The linebacker corps is the most veteran unit on the Ducks' defense, with the quartet of seniors Tyson Coleman, Christian French, Rodney Hardrick combining for 40 starts a year ago. French, who was a reserve all year, led Oregon with 6.5 sacks.

It's a completely different story in the secondary, where safety Reggie Daniels stands. The junior had one interception last year—while departees Erick Dargan and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had nine—and he'll be the veteran of a unit that might end up starting freshmen and sophomores at the other three spots.


What to watch for on special teams

Special teams haven't been a major strength for Oregon in recent years, though last season a solid punt return unit produced two touchdowns from Charles Nelson and a 12.89-yard average that ranked 12th in the country. Nelson should be back in that role again, as well as on kickoffs, while fellow receiver Bralon Addison figures to get a look as well.

The Ducks were one of the worst punting teams in the country in 2014, ranking 101st behind Ian Wheeler's 39.15 average. Then again, they only kicked it 47 times in 15 games, and with a tendency to go for it on fourth down, quite often there's not been much of a need for a great punting game.

Place kicking saw a major improvement last year in the form of freshman Aidan Schneider and sophomore Matt Wogan. The pair combined to make 18 of 21 field goals, the most for Oregon since 2008 when it required 27 attempts.


Injury news

Various projected starters and contributors have missed time here and there during training camp, but none of those injuries has risen to the level of where they will hinder a player from being ready for the regular season. All of Oregon's most notable injuries happened long ago and have lingered.

A shoulder injury sustained midway through the 2014 season caused running back Tyner to miss time, but he ended up starting the national title game against Ohio State. However, pain from that ailment never went away, and in early August he had surgery that put him on the shelf until 2016.

Allen injured his knee on a kickoff return in the Rose Bowl, and the receiver hasn't played since. Tight end Brown was hurt in a November win at Utah and almost needed to have his leg amputated as a result. Both hope to return at some point in 2015, though exactly when hasn't been determined.



Even with uncertainty remaining at quarterback, Oregon's offense shouldn't pose a concern for anyone. Last year that unit showed that injuries on the offensive line and youth at the receiving corps couldn't slow it down, and similar questions to the 2015 offense figure to be answered with another set of scoreboard-abusing performances.

It's the Ducks' defense that might ultimately determine if they can return to the playoffs or have what would amount to a down year, which for Oregon might still result in 10 wins.

With that in mind, Helfrich recently labeled senior defensive end Buckner as the key to every positive that will happen for Oregon on that side of the ball.

"Ten guys can do their job perfectly, but DeForest Buckner is the ‘X’ factor and can just wreck shop and make a play," Helfrich said, per Ryan Kostecka of the Daily Emerald. "When one of your best guys is one of your best practice players, it means a ton."

Much like Mariota was to last year's team, Buckner is the player who will make or break this season for the Ducks.


2015 schedule

Oregon will again be involved in one of the biggest early-season nonconference games, making the return trip to East Lansing to face a Michigan State team it rallied to beat at home last September.

MSU is one of the most veteran teams in the country, with fifth-year senior starts at quarterback and on both the offensive and defensive line. The Spartans will serve as the first real test for whoever wins the Ducks' QB job.

After that, Oregon's schedule eases up for a long stretch, to the point that the team we see playing in various different uniform combinations over the final month of the season should be far more cohesive than the unit that's out there during the first month. From Sept. 19 through Oct. 17, the Ducks play five teams that combined to win 23 games last season, with the toughest foe (Utah) coming to Eugene for the Pac-12 opener Sept. 26.

Barring unexpected slip-ups in the middle of the year, the Ducks' season will come down to those final five games, a gauntlet that starts with a Thursday night trip to Arizona State and also includes a trip to Stanford for the annual de facto Pac-12 North title game. Oregon then finishes with a potential conference final preview against visiting USC before hosting Oregon State in the Civil War.



Oregon has a streak of seven consecutive years with at least 10 victories, tied with Alabama for the longest active streak in FBS. This team is more than capable of added to that run, but it might require a bowl win to get there.

The early test at Michigan State will set the stage for the rest of the Ducks' season, particularly if the quarterback play in that game is uneven, but it won't dictate if they're playoff-worthy. Getting the defense to come together and improve on last year's No. 89 ranking will, though—they don't want to have to win shootouts all season.

If the light midsection of the 2015 schedule allows for growth and development, Oregon will be one of the most dangerous teams in the country down the stretch. But that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be able to beat everyone in the Pac-12, and winning the North Division isn't a certainty without a victory over Stanford.


Overall record: 9-3

Conference record: 6-2


All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. All statistics provided by

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on

Oregon Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2015 Preview and Predictions

For the second time in five years, Oregon spent the offseason looking back on a successful campaign but one that came up just short of the ultimate goal: a national championship...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Michigan Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2015 Preview and Predictions

The University of Michigan football program is working to regain contender status, and the school believes new coach Jim Harbaugh is the man to guide the team back.

Following a disappointing 5-7 season, Michigan fired Brady Hoke and replaced him with Harbaugh, who played quarterback for the maize and blue in the mid-1980s. Harbaugh swiftly assembled an experienced and well-traveled staff, one that boasts 40 years of NFL coaching experience.

A strong returning defense gives the Wolverines hope to rebound in a big way after missing a bowl game for only the third time in the last four decades. However, Michigan's lackluster offense must improve dramatically while adapting to a new scheme.

Bleacher Report broke down everything worth knowing about the 2015 Wolverines in a complete season preview, capped by win-loss predictions from a collection of B/R analysts.



Save for Greg Mattison, every single coach is occupying his position with the university for the first time. With that being said, there are a few ties to the school. Jim Harbaugh and Tyrone Wheatley donned the winged helmet, while Mattison, Kevin Tolbert and T.J. Weist have previously coached at Michigan.

Harbaugh helped San Diego become a respectable program, built Stanford into a powerhouse and coached the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance before returning to his alma mater.

The 51-year-old added longtime assistant Tim Drevno—who most recently coached at USC for one season—to help the Wolverines return to a run-focused system and Jedd Fisch, a terrific quarterbacks coach.

Tyrone Wheatley, the No. 5 rusher in Michigan history, Jay Harbaugh (tight ends) and Weist (senior analyst) round out the offensive staff.

Harbaugh retained defensive coordinator Mattison but shifted him to the D-line—a coaching job he held at U-of-M from 1992-96—and hired Florida's D.J. Durkin to replace Mattison. Greg Jackson and Michael Zordich lead the defensive backs.

John Baxter and Jay Harbaugh organize the special teams, while Tolbert handles strength and conditioning duties.


What to Watch for: Offense

Harbaugh and Co. have plenty to improve on the offensive side of the ball. Last season, Michigan ranked 111th in scoring (20.9 PPG), 64th in rushing (162.8 YPG), 112th in passing (170.2 YPG) and 115th in total offense (333.0 YPG).

Fortunately for the new staff, barring injury, the O-line is set. From left to right, Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson will block for to-be-determined athletes. They combined for 47 starts in 2014.

At quarterback, it's a two-man battle between Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and junior Shane Morris, whose Michigan tenure hasn't exactly been sterling. Rudock seems to hold the edge since he protects the football, but Morris is still in contention for the job.

Rudock or Morris will hand off to a talented group of running backs, led by Derrick Green and returning leading rusher De'Veon Smith. USC transfer Ty Isaac is eligible after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA rules, while Drake Johnson could emerge as a No. 1 or 2 now that he's nearly recovered from an ACL injury.

Smith was the only one of the four who didn't miss offseason work due to injury, so he might have a small edge heading into the 2015 campaign. However, Green will likely overtake Smith in short order, and Johnson might cut into Green's carries later on this year.

Tight end Jake Butt and wide receiver Amara Darboh have locked up starting jobs, but two wideout spots remain up for grabs. Jehu Chesson figures to nail down the No. 2 wide receiver job, though Drake Harris is challenging, too. Freddy Canteen, Grant Perry and—to a lesser degree—Brian Cole are competing for the opening in the slot.


What to Watch for: Defense

Highlighted by a strong contingent of linebackers and defensive backs, the Wolverines' key to producing a surprising final record rests on their defense, the strength of the 2015 roster.

Michigan must replace leading tackler Jake Ryan, but linebacker Desmond Morgan is back after missing last season due to injury. Morgan joins Joe Bolden—who racked up 102 tackles—and James Ross III.

Cornerback Jourdan Lewis and safety Jarrod Wilson return, and highly touted 2014 recruit Jabrill Peppers will enter the lineup at free safety. Channing Stribling, Jeremy Clark and Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons are battling for the other cornerback slot.

When the Wolverines switch from Durkin's base 3-4 defense to the nickel, Peppers will slide into the Star position. Delano Hill is the favorite to replace Peppers at free safety in that situation.

"Every guy has certain strengths, and we don't try to fit everyone into one hole," Durkin said, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. "Guys have their own way of doing things, and it's our job as coaches to evaluate what their strengths are and play to it, whether it's multiple in scheme or multiple in personnel."


Injury News

Bryan Mone, a sophomore defensive tackle who was expected to occupy a sizable role on the defensive line, sustained a broken ankle, per's Andrew Gorringe.

According to Max Bultman on, Darboh had a splint on his left pinky finger during Michigan's scrimmage last Saturday. Lewis, Canteen, Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Patrick Kugler did not participate, either. Wilson and Mike McCray wore no-contact red jerseys.

Currently, it's unclear if anyone other than Mone will miss a significant portion of the season.



Michigan lacks playmakers on offense, so the best option might be utilizing a defender on occasion. That versatile player, of course, is Peppers.

The 6'2" talent spent time as a running back and receiver in high school, amassing 1,889 total yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Paramus Catholic (New Jersey). So, Harbaugh could utilize Peppers in a variety of fashions, which is exactly what Durkin can do on the opposite side of the ball, too.

According to Snyder, Durkin said he's communicating with defensive assistants about the places Peppers—who has questioned nothing—can be used.

"It's an ongoing discussion amongst the staff," Durkin said. "He's great about it. Whatever you ask him to do, he goes and does it, 100 miles an hour. Doesn't ask why or how or what about this. He just goes and does it and is very talented."

Additionally, Peppers can return kicks. It's safe to say that Peppers is the most important player to Michigan since he can impact the game in so many ways.


2015 Schedule


Make-or-Break Games

After opening the 2015 season at Utah, the Wolverines return to the Big House for three consecutive games that can set the tone for their year.

Oregon State shouldn't pose a massive problem, but the Beavers boast a few talented players at skill positions who will certainly test the Michigan defense. Dropping that matchup could open the floodgates for a dismal season.

Following a matchup with UNLV, the last outing of the homestand is opposite BYU. Taysom Hill, a dual-threat quarterback and Heisman hopeful, leads the Cougars. It's imperative the Wolverines topple both Oregon State and BYU, lest they enter Big Ten play needing to avoid a letdown simply to reach a bowl game.

After all, in addition to Maryland and Rutgers—two teams U-of-M fell to in 2014—Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Ohio State remain on the schedule.



First and foremost, Harbaugh needs to settle on a quarterback. That choice—whether it's Rudock or Morris—will dictate the course of the 2015 campaign.

Michigan heads to Utah for the season opener, which sets the tone for the brutal schedule Team 136 is preparing to face. Opening the year with a victory would be tremendously beneficial for the Wolverines, but make no mistake, the Utes are a difficult opponent.

Really, Harbaugh and Co. are only locked into a pair of victories against UNLV and Indiana. They'll likely be favored against Oregon State, Maryland, Northwestern and Rutgers—perhaps BYU and Penn State as well, depending on the direction the season takes.

  • Barrett Sallee: 8-4
  • Adam Kramer: 7-5
  • David Kenyon: 7-5
  • Michael Felder: 6-6

After 12 games, Michigan will be headed back to postseason play for a late-December bowl appearance.

Prediction: 7-5 (5-3 Big Ten)


All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on

Will Connor Mitch Lead South Carolina to a Surprising SEC East Run?

Now that the dust has settled on the gridiron, it appears Connor Mitch has emerged as starting quarterback for the South Carolina Gamecocks.  Bleacher Report's college football analyst Barrett Sallee discusses if Mitch can be an X-factor for the Gamecocks to go on a run in the SEC.

Should Connor Mitch be the starter for the Gamecocks?  Tell us what you think in the comment section.  

Read more College Football news on

Centre College Football Team Pranks Quarterback During Practice

The Danville, Kentucky-based Centre College Colonels (Division III) know when it's time to play and when it's time to play around.

During a recent practice, the Colonels pulled the old "fall down at the snap" prank on quarterback Heath Haden. When everyone around him hit the ground, there was nothing Haden could do—so he punted the football.

This prank wasn't the only tomfoolery that the Centre College football team has been involved in recently. Colonels defensive line coach Jeff Collett got tased in front of the team to "boost morale."

The Colonels are the reigning Southern Athletic Association champions, so they know what they are doing.

[Centre College Football, @TheBuzzer]

Read more College Football news on

Hits and Misses from 2015 Preseason Coaches All-SEC Team

While the barrage of watch lists and all-conference squads ended last month, the coaches of the SEC play by their own rules.

On Tuesday, the conference unveiled its three coaches' All-SEC teams, which were voted on by the league's 14 head men.

Alabama and LSU led the way with 10 selections each, while every team in the SEC boasted at least a pair of players on the trio of squads.

The coaches' teams, as usual, differed in a few ways from the ones those who cover the conference put out at SEC media days. Most of the conference's stars made the first team, but a few who were higher up in the eyes of the media slid down a few spots—or out of the three teams altogether.

Here are some notable hits and misses from the coaches All-SEC teams. Sound off on how the ones in the headsets voted in the comments below.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Stadium Renovations: Latest Details, Drawings, Comments

Notre Dame Stadium will undergo renovations to revamp the historic venue, with an emphasis on modernity and video presentation.

Continue for updates.

Notre Dame Announces Stadium Renovation Plans Tuesday, Aug. 25

Only 11 days remain until the Fighting Irish kick off their 2015 football season in South Bend against Texas, but Notre Dame has indicated its football stadium will undergo upgrades in advance of the 2017 campaign.

According to Fox 28's James Fegan, Notre Dame will add a video board in the south end zone, a vantage point in the stands that's been criticized for being too far away from the action. That is the most notable change coming as the venue that opened in 1930 becomes more contemporary.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick spoke about the impending changes, expected to be completed by August 2017, per ESPN's Matt Fortuna.

"We are confident the introduction of video will significantly improve enjoyment of every aspect of a game at Notre Dame Stadium—including the ability to support game-day introductions and presentations with video elements, additional opportunities to promote the University, plus replays," Swarbrick stated.

Dan Wolken of USA Today reacted to Tuesday's developments:

Video boards will be installed in other areas of the stadium beyond the big board going in the south end zone. The wooden benches are going to be replaced with vinyl-clad seats as well to make fans comfortable and likely enhance the game-going experience.

Other alterations to support that theme include renovations on restrooms and concession stands. The upper and lower concourses are to be enhanced along with the venue's sound system.

Tuesday's announcement falls in line with the recent push to update Notre Dame Stadium, which installed artificial turf a year ago. Until construction begins on these impending modifications, Irish fans will continue attending in droves to support one of college football's richest traditions. 

Read more College Football news on

Texas Football: How Longhorns Can Turn 2016 Recruiting Class Around

Of the 191 teams included in 247Sports' team recruiting rankings for the Class of 2016, the University of Texas currently ranks 53rd.

That's one spot ahead of an SMU team that won one game last season, 35 spots behind the Big 12 leader in the rankings (No. 18 TCU), 25 spots behind one rival in No. 28 Texas A&M and two spots behind another in No. 51 Oklahoma.

Of the top 75 ranked teams, only three—Texas, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh—feature a class without double-digit recruits thus far. Pittsburgh has nine commits, while Texas and Georgia Tech each have eight.

In short, things must change for the Longhorns on the recruiting front.

Fortunately for Texas fans, there is still plenty of time to make moves in the 2016 class—and there are more than enough quality athletes to land in and out of the state to quickly give Charlie Strong's new class added weight.

Texas is the primary example of the recruiting process being a marathon and not a sprint. It's in a good position to turn eight commits into 12, 15 or even 20 in a short amount of time.

Upcoming official visits—those already set and those in the works—will play a huge role from September through January.

In the quantity-vs.-quality battle, the Longhorns are struggling with landing numbers. From a quality standpoint, the team has offensive firepower in quarterback Shane Buechele and wide receivers Tren'Davian Dickson, Collin Johnson and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps.

Texas also has a 3-star defensive tackle in Gerald Wilbon, whom the coaching staff is very high on.

Still, the Longhorns' 2016 class is looking for that run of commitments that will help it compete for a top-15 or top-20 national finish in February. Texas' target list is strong, as 5-star athletes such as offensive tackle Greg Little and safety Brandon Jones are still available and interested in playing in Austin.

Landing the nation's top-ranked tackle and safety would jumpstart Texas' class without question. Adding 4-star athletes like wide receiver Devin Duvernay, offensive tackle Jean Delance and running back Devwah Whaley would give the offense major expectations for the future.

And there's still a chance the Longhorns could flip LSU 4-star receiver commit Dee Anderson.

Texas is looking to improve on offense, but the defensive side of the ball arguably is the primary target area for this class. Along with Jones, the secondary would benefit from 4-stars Deontay Anderson and Christian Wallace playing safety and also lining up in man-to-man coverage.

Wilbon is Texas' only defensive lineman committed so far. Strong and his staff are hoping to somehow sway the No. 1 player in Arkansas in defensive end McTelvin Agim, who has Arkansas, Baylor, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in his top four. He is scheduled to announce on Sept. 5.

Working in the 11th hour is something Strong has been known to do, which is why nothing is out of the picture with athletes the Longhorns are recruiting.

If Agim is unavailable, then there are still a handful of defensive prospects available.

Longhorns freshman Malik Jefferson has targeted the 4-star linebacker duo of Jeffrey McCulloch and Dontavious Jackson from a player-recruit standpoint.

While there are those who feel defensive end Justin Madubuike is leaning toward ultimately choosing Texas A&M, you can believe the defensive coaching staff in Austin is doing its part to sway the 4-star talent for when it's time to sign in February.

And let's not forget that there are out-of-state athletes willing to play for Strong. Wilbon and linebacker Shemar Smith will travel from Louisiana and Florida, respectively, to take scheduled official visits in late September.

Strong has excellent ties in the state of Florida, and 4-star receiver Darnell Salomon has expressed his interest in the Longhorns multiple times. One player Texas is hoping to impress and lure is 4-star defensive end Brian Burns, who picked up an offer in late May and has been doing research on the program since.

As the Longhorns prepare for the 2015 season, the month of September will be huge regarding the momentum of their 2016 recruiting class. Targets will be monitoring how the team opens the season and handles itself with a competitive schedule.

Landing a couple of big prospects in the next few weeks could lead to the Longhorns finishing somewhere close to where they finished last year. Texas ranked ninth nationally with its 2015 class.

The challenge right now is finding that spark to have similar success with this year's senior class.


Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Damon via Twitter @DamonSayles.

Read more College Football news on

Connor Mitch Named South Carolina's Starting QB over Perry Orth

Head coach Steve Spurrier announced on Tuesday that Connor Mitch will be the team's starting quarterback for the opening game against North Carolina, according to David Cloninger of

The redshirt sophomore appeared in just two games last season, completing two of six passes for 19 yards. He beat out Perry Orth and Michael Scarnecchia, who were also vying for the starting job and apparently made the decision difficult for Spurrier, who waited well through the summer to make one. 

Combined, the three quarterbacks have attempted nine passes in their collegiate careers. Heading into the season, the player with the most pass attempts was wide receiver Pharoh Cooper with 11, so the Gamecocks were always going to have an inexperienced quarterback calling the shots.

Mitch is likely to concede at least some snaps to talented freshman Lorenzo Nunez, however. Nunez is a dangerous running threat and will likely have certain packages built around his skill set this season, and Spurrier already confirmed he'll play some role in the offense this season, via David Caraviello of the Post and Courier.

But Mitch was always the favorite to win this gig, and now he'll have to prove he can replace last year's starter, Dylan Thompson, as South Carolina looks to win the always-stacked SEC. Going from the accomplished Thompson to the relatively inexperienced Mitch will certainly be a major adjustment for the program.


Read more College Football news on

Florida Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2015 Preview and Predictions

The Jim McElwain era at Florida is about to begin in earnest. With it comes new hope that the Gators can get back to the glory days they most recently experienced under former coach Urban Meyer

There's work to be done, however, especially on the offensive side of the ball. A quarterback battle, a thin and inexperienced offensive line and the need for more playmakers at wide receiver means McElwain and Co. will earn their paychecks this year. 

The cupboard is not completely bare, however. And with an SEC East division that, once again, figures to be wide open, there's a chance for Florida to pull off some big wins right away. 

Below is the complete 2015 Florida Gators preview, where we break down the offense, defense, schedule and much, much more. 



McElwain's staff, as you'd expect, is almost completely brand new. All but one member, offensive line coach Mike Summers, are in their first year with the Gators under McElwain. However, McElwain's coaching staff is heavy on SEC experience. Geoff Collins, Kirk Callahan, Greg Nord, Doug Nussmeier, Chris Rumph and Randy Shannon have each coached at least one year at an SEC school. 

That's McElwain's M.O.: build a staff with heavy recruiting ties to the area. It's what he did at Colorado State, and it's what he's doing now at Florida. Only Tim Skipper and strength and conditioning coach Mike Kent—and head coaches often prefer their own strength and conditioning guy—came to Gainesville from Colorado State. 

It's a solid staff, overall. Nussmeier lasted only one year at Michigan in the final days of the Brady Hoke experiment but previously had successful stints at Alabama, Washington and Fresno State. Nussmeier, in fact, succeeded McElwain as the play-caller in Tuscaloosa and with Fresno. 

Collins comes to Florida after four years with Mississippi State—the first two as a co-defensive coordinator and the final two as the sole play-caller for the Bulldogs defense. 

But perhaps the biggest assistant coaching hire was Shannon, the former head coach at Miami (FL). Shannon's resume as a defensive assistant is a lengthy one, and he's one of the top recruiters in all of college football. As B/R colleague Tyler Donohue wrote in February, Shannon's roots in south Florida should pay dividends for the Gators long term. 


What to Watch on Offense

This is easily where a majority of the questions lie, and the lack of an official depth chart from Florida shows just how fluid the situation is. 

Let's start with the quarterback spot because, well, why not? Redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris have been in a tight battle throughout the entire offseason, and there doesn't appear to be any major separation between the two just weeks ahead of the season. As such, McElwain says he's prepared to use both players in Week 1 against New Mexico State. 

"Those two guys are progressing," McElwain said via Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. "No clear separation yet. And that's OK. That's alright. They're competing. They're working." 

There's also the matter of who's going to block for the quarterbacks. Depth along the offensive line isn't as dire as it was in the spring, but it's not ideal, either. True freshman Martez Ivey figures to see plenty of time at tackle if he's not on track to start. This is an inexperienced and thin group that will be thrown into the fire early. As of mid-August, few, if any, positions have been locked down as McElwain tries to find the five best guys

At receiver, the Gators need a complement to Demarcus Robinson, who caught more than twice as many passes (53) as the next-leading player in 2014. Brandon Powell's full-time transition to receiver has him lining up in the slot, and big things are expected of him this year. Can he be that No. 2 guy? Or will someone else step up at the other outside receiver spot? 

Outside of Robinson, no other returning receiver caught more than 15 passes a year ago, so there's sizable room to grow. Ahmad Fulwood and C.J. Worton are some of the names to keep an eye on here. 


What to Watch on Defense

Defense figures to be the strength of the Gators in 2015 and probably the side of the ball that will win games. However, the defense lost a major star in edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr., who departed for the NFL.  

Florida does return a few key components, namely cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, an All-SEC and All-American player. Hargreaves is the cornerstone for what should be an outstanding, if not slightly under-appreciated, secondary. Jalen Tabor and Brian Poole won't get the attention that Hargreaves does, but they're every bit as important. Tabor specifically was a freshman All-SEC selection in 2014 and had one of the highlight interceptions of the season against Vanderbilt: 

Up front, the Gators should have a nice edge-rushing duo with Jonathan Bullard and CeCe Jefferson—the latter of whom was a heralded member of the 2015 recruiting class. Jefferson may not "start" or play every down, but the coaching staff is going to get him on the field in passing situations to take advantage of his athleticism. Nick de la Torre of Gator Country explains: 

"Jefferson will be used in a role similar to what Ronald Powell and Dante Fowler were used as freshmen. Jefferson will be used primarily on passing downs where the playbook for his position is simple; get to the quarterback quickly. As he learns and grows, that role with expand."

Beyond Hargreaves, there isn't a ton of star power on the defense—but don't confuse that with any negative connotation. The Gators are thriving with young talents who should emerge as major playmakers over the next two to three years. 

However, the defense is also missing its key middle linebacker. Speaking of which... 


Injury News

Antonio Morrison is still recovering from a severe knee injury he sustained in last season's Birmingham Bowl. He's had surgery on the knee twice and has been limited to no-contact work in practice. Ideally, Morrison will be able to play at some point this year, but McElwain isn't sure when—if at all. 

"It's too early to say if he'll play. The fact he'll be out there is short of a miracle based on that knee," McElwain said via Robbie Andreu of "A credit to how hard he has worked to be part of this family, and I just can't tell you how good that makes us all feel."

Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone are two of the players competing for reps in Morrison's absence. With the way Florida's defense is set up, there should be enough depth to account for the injury. 

"We may have two middle linebackers that may be the best two guys on the field," Shannon said via Scott Carter of (h/t Fox Sports). "We have to play them. It may be two outside linebackers who are the best guys. We may have three linebackers in the game who are all weak-side linebackers. Whoever the best guys are at that point in time, that's who we're going to have to play."



There are so many questions that have yet to be answered for the offense, but one of the few steady components is running back Kelvin Taylor. The second-leading rusher a year ago now becomes the primary back with the departure of Matt Jones. Furthermore, the transfer of Adam Lane means there's even more pressure on Taylor to be the legitimate bell-cow running back. Freshman Jordan Scarlett will likely serve as a complementary runner, but this is undoubtedly Taylor's ground attack.

With a new quarterback and a thin offensive line, Taylor will be asked to do a lot in 2015. If Florida can move the chains consistently, it'll be in large part because of him.  


2015 Schedule


Make-or-Break Games

The month-long stretch from late September to late October is a critical time for Florida. In that span, the Gators play Tennessee on the road, Ole Miss, Missouri on the road, LSU on the road and Georgia. 


Make no mistake, early matches against East Carolina and a rising Kentucky program won't be gimmes—not the way Florida has played over the past few years. But that midseason stretch is going to tell us a lot about this Gators team and what McElwain has to work with. 

Can the offense establish a starting quarterback? Can the offensive line come together by this point in the season? These will be some of the questions that will likely be answered by this time. With any luck, McElwain will come away with positive answers. 

Otherwise, fighting for bowl eligibility could very well be the case come November. 



Despite the numerous question marks on offense, Florida gets off to a 3-0 start. But remember that key stretch in the middle of the year? It proves to be every bit the headache it looked to be on paper, and the Gators go 1-4 during that five-game run. 

The good news is Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic alone are enough to get Florida back to a bowl game. The offensive line won't get any deeper—on the contrary, it could have depth issues again if injuries pile up—but I like Grier to get things done at quarterback and for one more receiver to emerge alongside Robinson. 

Winning games with defense means things won't always be pretty for Florida, but it could still be effective. It might even be enough to take a game Florida isn't supposed to win. 

Overall Record: 7-5

Conference Record: 4-4


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

Read more College Football news on

Alabama Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2015 Preview and Predictions

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama football program won a title last season, two actually.

You wouldn’t know it by the way everyone has talked about the Crimson Tide since—media, fans, even students. If it was another sport, Alabama could raise banners for the Southeastern Conference’s West Division and the league championship, yet most consider 2014 to have been a down year due to the way it ended in the inaugural playoffs.

“I look at the ring every now and then, but it doesn’t feel like we even won,” senior center Ryan Kelly said. “It doesn’t. At the time it was an awesome feeling. We get the chance to play Ohio State.

“After we lost to Ohio State, I just, all that season was for nothing.”

That was rallying point throughout the offseason, with constant reminders that last year’s defense wasn’t good enough, nor the team’s finish, at least by Alabama’s standards under Nick Saban.

“We’re not allowed to have a bad season, because the fans will let you know when you’re playing badly,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “We have to have the right mindset at all times because the players that came before us instilled something that we have to keep finishing and keep going on.”

Alabama certainly has the talent to do so. Among the 85 scholarship players this summer, 18 had been rated by 247Sports to be 5-star prospects as recruits, with 47 4-star players. Combined, that’s 76 percent of the roster, meaning this team is arguably as talented and loaded as any Saban’s ever had.



Saban is back for his ninth season at Alabama, which is nearly twice as long as anywhere else he’s coached, and he’ll turn 64 this fall, specifically on Halloween when the team is enjoying its bye.

Due to make more than $7 million this year, Saban’s the highest-paid coach in college football, and for once there appears to be no one looming to trying and pry him away or talk of a potential return to the National Football League.

Also back are both coordinators. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is looking for a bounce-back season while Lane Kiffin returned for what he called his “sophomore” year under Saban.

“There’s still so many things to learn from Coach,” the offensive coordinator said.

While Alabama can no longer claim to have five coaches on the staff with head coaching experience, as linebackers coach Kevin Steele left to be LSU’s defensive coordinator, it instead added a big-time NFL presence with Mel Tucker overseeing the defensive backs.

He spent the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears and before that had the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-12) and Cleveland Browns (2008). Saban gave him his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Michigan State (1997-98), and Tucker was his secondary coach at LSU (2000).

“Mel does a great job with the kids. He has a great demeanor. Kids really respect him. They know he’s got a lot of NFL experience,” Smart said. “When you turn on a clip of an NFL drill, eyes pop open a little more.”

Alabama’s other coaching move was to promote Tosh Lupoi to outside linebackers coach, a position he had previously held at California and Washington.

"Coach Tosh, he's energetic every day,” senior linebacker Denzel Devall said. “There's not a dull moment. He preaches on doing the right thing every play, looking at the right stuff, eyes at the right thing. Great hand placement. He's a technician. Effort, energetic guy, you know. I don't think I've ever seen him down. Just a great coach."


What to watch for on offense

Note: Alabama’s official offensive depth chart won’t be released until next week

Losing nine starters would mean disaster for most offenses, but Alabama’s style of play will likely lead to a bigger decrease in its statistics than the turnover in personnel.

With the quarterback competition possibly continuing into the regular season and the offensive line looking like it could be Alabama’s best in years, a bigger emphasis on ball control and the running game is expected.

“Obviously we want to be tough and physical and run the ball,” Kiffin said.

That begins with junior running back Derrick Henry, who ended up leading the Crimson Tide in rushing last season despite not being the starter.

Listed as 6’3”, 242 pounds, he’s physically similar to Eddie George when he played at Ohio State. At Yulee High School in Florida, he broke Ken Hall's 51-year-old national rushing record with 12,124 yards after rushing for 4,261 as a senior in 2012.

He’s gone from being a monster of a prospect to playing in 26 career games, for 1,372 career rushing yards (6.6 average per carry) and 17 touchdowns, with six receptions for 194 yards and three more scores.

Complementing him is senior Kenyan Drake, whom Kiffin has described as a Reggie Bush-type player. Alabama will line him up at running back and out wide to exploit mismatches in coverage.

“He has so many things that he does well,” Saban said. “He has great speed. He has very good running skills and running instincts, but he's a fantastic receiver.”

Although there’s obviously no replacing a wide receiver like Amari Cooper, who set numerous school records last season, ArDarius Stewart will be the primary wide receiver. Coaches hope that sophomore Robert Foster and junior tight end O.J. Howard have breakout seasons, but fans should also keep an eye out for promising true freshman receiver Calvin Ridley.


What to watch for on defense

Note: Alabama’s official defensive depth chart won’t be released until next week 

Led by its front seven, which returned nearly intact, Alabama’s defense hopes to draw comparison to the 2011 unit that led the nation in all four major statistical categories (total, scoring, rushing and pass-efficiency defense).

"That defensive line is a beast," Henry said. "You've got four or five big guys who dominate every play and give it their all every play, and that's all you can ask from the defensive line.”

Last season, Jarran Reed led the line with 55 tackles, which was the second most by a lineman during the Saban era (Wallace Gilberry in 2007). Thanks to a 15-tackle tally against LSU, which tied former middle linebacker Rolando McClain (vs. Auburn 2007 and Tulane 2008), for the most by an Alabama player under Saban, he edged out A’Shawn Robinson’s 49.

A preseason All-SEC selection, Robinson was once described by Senior Bowl director Phil Savage as a “man-child.” At the other end spot, Jonathan Allen has 49 career tackles with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. An All-SEC selection by media last season, he’s already made 25 starts heading into his junior season. In 2014, he was second in team sacks with 5.5 and had seven hurries.

Meanwhile, Ragland might be the favorite for the Butkus Award after being a semifinalist last season.

“He's been one of our best playmakers on defense and been one of our most productive players,” Saban said of the unit’s anticipated leader—not just for the linebackers, but the entire defense.

Adding to Alabama’s optimism is that after having issues at cornerback during the past couple of seasons, not only does the Crimson Tide have quality starters there but depth.

Senior Cyrus Jones was named preseason All-SEC while Marlon Humphrey, Tony Brown and Minkah Fitzpatrick hope to start Alabama’s next wave of first-round draft picks among defensive backs similar to Mark Barron, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kareem Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dee Milliner.

With coaches using converted cornerbacks Eddie Jackson and Geno Smith at safety, they figure to get a little more help on the edges as well. If so, Alabama should meet its targeted areas for improvement: turnovers, big plays and third-down defense.


Injury news

For the most part, Alabama emerged from training camp relatively unscathed in terms of major injuries.

Most notable were a toe injury that cost Coker three days during the heart of camp and a sprained knee to sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson.

“The injury wasn’t serious,” Robinson said. “It just scared me. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Although coming out of the spring the biggest concern was the health and depth of the running backs, that changed during training camp to the wide receivers. Junior Chris Black (ankle) and sophomore Robert Foster (sprained knee) both suffered camp injuries, sophomore Cam Sims (ACL) has only recently started practicing and junior Raheem Falkins (leg) is still out.

At running back, senior Kenyan Drake was already coming off last season’s fractured leg and dislocated ankle only to be limited by a hamstring issue during camp. Freshman Bo Scarbrough is coming off a spring knee injury but will be out four games anyway while serving an eligibility suspension in September.

Otherwise, coaches have been cautious with the running backs to try to keep them as fresh as possible entering the season.

At cornerback, Brown (shoulder) and Humphrey (pulled muscle) have been playing through injuries, while offensive tackles Dominick Jackson (shoulder) and Korren Kirven (sprained knee) are expected to be out a few days this week.



Alabama’s pack mentality with the defense goes far beyond the players who will be listed as starters, especially with the pass rush. The Crimson Tide have 14 players who were in on a sack in 2014 and all but one of them is back looking for more.

“We have a lot of guys who can contribute,” Ragland said.

While Devall, Ryan Anderson and versatile Dillon Lee figure to be Alabama’s primary outside linebackers, behind them is a bunch of young fast “quick-twitch” players, including sophomore Rashaan Evans, redshirt freshman Christian Miller and junior Tim Williams. All could be poised for a breakout season.

“They always go out there and are always doing 110 percent, flying around, doing everything they can,” Lee said about his talented understudies. “We have people breaking on the ball really fast and are disruptive.”

Ragland believes Williams has the speed and size to top Xzavier Dickson’s nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss last season and maybe even lead the nation in sacks if he’s hungry enough.

Although fans shouldn’t expect Alabama to match the numbers that Saban’s teams posted at Michigan State (for example, the 1999 team notched 60 sacks and 119 tackles for a loss), getting more pressure on the quarterback has been a priority and reflected in the latest staff additions of defensive line coach Bo Davis, Tucker and Lupoi.

Before serving as an Alabama analyst last season Lupoi was at Washington, which ranked fourth nationally in sacks per game (3.15) in 2013. One of his former players, outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha, led college football with 19 sacks in 2014. 

“What he brings to pass rushing and disrupting the pocket is really unbelievable,” Lee said. “Always aggressive.” 


2015 schedule 


Make-or-break games

There are two necessary elements in order to have what’s called a “trap” game: an overlooked opponent aided by timing.

Alabama doesn’t have to worry about that this season because there really aren’t any opponents to overlook. The schedule is that difficult and widely called the toughest in college football.

Going by the preseason Associated Press Poll, the Crimson Tide are slated to face seven different teams that were in the Top 25, in addition to the top two vote-getters among teams not ranked, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Should they move up, Alabama could be looking at facing nine ranked teams plus potentially playing another in the SEC Championship Game.

Last year, Ohio State faced one ranked opponent during the regular season followed by three more at the end—in the Big Ten title game, the Sugar Bowl and the national championship. The total of four marked the fewest ranked teams a national champion had faced since Texas in 2005.

The record for most ranked opponents faced by a national champion is eight, LSU in 2007. So for Alabama to win the crown this season, it might have to accomplish something that’s never been done in the history of college football.

Nevertheless, Alabama’s schedule is so brutal that no one has to hear a player say they’re going to take it one game at a time because there’s really no other way to approach it.

Alabama opens in the marquee game of Week 1 against Wisconsin in the 2015 AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and two weeks later gets a rematch with the only team that defeated it during the 2014 regular season, Ole Miss.

Things get tougher in October when the Crimson Tide could face four straight ranked opponents: at Georgia, Arkansas, at Texas A&M and Tennessee. November features the usual onslaught of LSU, at Mississippi State (which Alabama knocked from No. 1 last year) and finally at Auburn, which could again determine the division title.

As Saban would say, “It is what it is,” but there’s no doubt that the Crimson Tide will be tested.



If Alabama doesn’t have its toughest schedule in program history, it’s definitely on the short list. If it makes the SEC Championship Game, it will probably have played 10 teams that were ranked at some point.

Saban has only had one undefeated team, the 2009 national champions, and the turnover on offense paired with the uncertainly at quarterback makes another unlikely. Yet a strong defense and running game alone make Alabama a strong contender assuming it can avoid key injuries.

If Alabama can get through the regular season with just one loss, it’ll be a shoe-in for the playoffs. The guess here is that it’ll lose two but still represent the West Division in Atlanta, where a win would earn a spot in football’s version of the Final Four.

Overall record: 10-2

League record: 6-2


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on