NCAA Football

College Football Playoff 2014: Projecting Final Playoff Contenders

With the introduction of the playoff system in 2014, college football will undergo one of the most significant shake-ups in its history, with the goal of instituting a merit-based system that ensures every FBS team has access to the playoff. 

A selection committee comprised of 13 individuals with experience as coaches, student athletes, athletic directors and more will create rankings seven times each year and will ultimately choose four teams for the playoff based on "strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won and other factors," according to CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

Let's examine four early contenders for those final seeds and, of course, project which one will come out of Arlington as the national champion. The No. 1 seed will face No. 4 and No. 2 will face No. 3. 

 

No. 4 seed: Ohio State 

The Buckeyes get the nod to top Michigan State in 2014 when they weren't able to in 2013, but it will depend on quarterback Braxton Miller's production and the performance of a defense that will be heavy in sacks if it can play to its potential. 

Coach Urban Meyer told reporters after Sunday's practice that Miller's recovery from his offseason shoulder surgery is "right on schedule," per Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch.

Miller has factored into early Heisman consideration for 2014. Despite missing time in 2013 due to injury, Miller threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,068 yards and 12 scores. If he is healthy for the opener against Navy, which Meyer expects he will be, Miller can begin a campaign to top his 2013 season. 

Though Miller can make plays with his legs, he'll need go-to receiver Corey Brown to be reliable underneath to help him extend plays and escape pressure. Brown was the Buckeyes' leading receiver in 2013 with 771 yards, and Miller's success will depend on him establishing enough of an offensive presence to keep defenses honest and help the run game thrive. 

Ohio State's defense is also primed to cause some disruption in the Big Ten. Defensive lineman Noah Spence led the team in sacks in 2013 with eight, which was second in the conference. Fellow defensive lineman Michael Bennett was right behind Spence last season with seven sacks of his own and 42 tackles. 

If the Buckeyes, currently ranked sixth in the nation, can dominate at the quarterback and defensive line positions, Meyer's squad has a great shot at the No. 4 seed. 

 

No. 3 seed: Oregon

As long as Oregon's young receiving corps can step up and become viable weapons for quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks, currently No. 4 in the nation, could make a push for the No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff. 

After Chip Kelly left Oregon prior to the 2013 season for the NFL, many thought it would result in a less productive offense across the board for the Ducks. But new coach Mark Helfrich led the team to an 11-2 finish while stressing the passing game. Mariota had 3,665 passing yards in 2013, compared to 2,677 in 2012 under Kelly.

In 2014, Mariota should continue to thrive in Oregon's high-octane spread offense, so long as his targets develop quickly. The Ducks lost two top targets from last season (Josh Huff to the NFL and Bralon Addison to a torn ACL in spring practice), which has created opportunities for Chance Allen, B.J. Kelley and Dwayne Stanford.

Mariota's knee injury in the game against Stanford had a noticeable impact on the rest of his season. If he can remain healthy this season, expect the Ducks to be serious contenders. 

 

No. 2 seed: Alabama 

Alabama's future at quarterback post-A.J. McCarron looks bright, with Jacob Coker and Blake Sims competing to replace him, but the position will need to be strong for Alabama to take the No. 2 seed.

Coach Nick Saban offered early praise for Florida State transer Coker in camp. "He's a very athletic guy, he's got the right character, attitude, work ethic," Saban said on Aug. 3, per Michael Casagrande of al.com. "He's really fit in well with the other players in terms of the kind of personality he has and how they can relate to him. All those things have been extremely positive."

Whether Coker or Sims starts for the Crimson Tide in 2014, Alabama's stable of offensive weapons keeps this team competitive at the highest level. The ground game should again be dominant in 2014 behind T.J. Yeldon, who rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013. 

And despite being loaded with pass-catchers, tight end O.J. Howard could be the team's star in 2014. Here he is making a freakish one-handed catch from Coker at practice. 

Led by Saban and stocked up on weapons, this Alabama team has a legitimate shot to trump conference rival Auburn and grab a No. 2 seed.  

 

No. 1 seed: Florida State 

It would be hard for anyone to top what Jameis Winston accomplished last season at Florida State, including Winston himself. 

In the best freshman season by a college quarterback on record, Winston set single-season NCAA freshman records for passing yards (4,057) and touchdowns (40). Though he lost receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL, top weapon Rashad Greene returns in 2014, while Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield are options on the outside and in the slot.

To earn the top seed, Florida State will have to win its slate of matchups, including games against Oklahoma State, Clemson and Notre Dame. But with Winston at the helm, that's completely feasible. 

National rankings courtesy of USA Today Poll.

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College Football Predictions 2014: Breaking Down Sleeper Heisman Candidates

For the second consecutive year, a Heisman winner returns to reclaim his throne atop the realm of collegiate football.

Except the task continues to become more difficult with each passing year. Jameis Winston is the defending champ at the moment, but as ESPN Stats & Info's Sharon Katz notes, he—like many who attempted a repeat bid before—simply set the bar too high for himself:

There have been 13 players who returned to college football the year after winning the Heisman Trophy, and only one -- Archie Griffin in 1975 -- was able to repeat.

...

Of those 13 Heisman winners who came back to school, two (Leinart and Walker) accounted for more yards of total offense in the season after winning the award. On average, these players accounted for almost 650 fewer yards of total offense the next year.

Plenty of household names will make a run at the hardware. Braxton Miller will run Urban Meyer's spread for Ohio State. Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty orchestrate offenses that tally videogame-esque numbers. Running backs Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are sure to do much of the same.

But a new problem has emerged, too—the landscape of college football continues to expand on its parity, and as that happens, players from all crevices of the nation enter the picture as contenders.

Below, let's take a look at a few under-the-radar names who certainly have the talent to steal the award from Winston and the major stars.

 

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.)

Yes, the Heisman has pretty much been a bigger, better version of the Davey O'Brien Award as of late, but running backs can very much still steal the show if the gaudy numbers they post form a nice marriage with team success.

One candidate who has the skill to post such numbers and does not necessarily qualify as a household name? Miami's Duke Johnson, who in two seasons has flirted with serious totals on rather limited usage:

Only a broken ankle slowed Johnson last year, though, and coach Al Golden is rightfully eager to see what his junior tailback has in store for opposing defenses, as captured by NFL.com's Mike Huguenin:

I think the biggest thing is we all want to see him pick up where he left off. He was pressing his runs, they were hitting where they were designed to hit, so he had great discipline at the end of last year. He was running between the tight ends really well; then when he got to the second level, he would allow his talent to take over. He was very disciplined in that.

So the natural talent is there, obviously. But what makes Johnson even better as a candidate is his ability to add bulk to his frame and not lose quickness. According to Pat Lammer of caneinsider.com, he has done just that:

Want the team aspect to wrap up the picture? Last season, in Golden's third year, the Hurricanes seemed to finally turn a corner and wound up at 9-4.

Things are on an upward trajectory for the program on the field, and Johnson continues to spearhead the effort. An ACC title, bowl win and perhaps more might just be enough to allow Johnson to pull off the major upset and win the award before he jumps to the pro level.

 

Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina

That's right, two running backs might just have what it takes to steal the award in 2014.

Look, there are a ton of quarterbacks in the running for the award without even playing a snap yet this season, but a back who can capture the imagination of the country right away and never relinquish the grip stands a chance.

It might just be South Carolina's Mike Davis.

Free from the shackles of Marcus Lattimore last season, Davis erupted for 1,183 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on just 203 carries for a 5.8 per-carry average. Go ahead and compare that to Lattimore's highest collegiate usage rate—2010, when he took 249 carries for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns on a full yard less per carry.

The point is twofold. One, Steve Spurrier loves to run his backs into the ground with a traditional approach. Two, there is an argument to be made that Davis is simply a better collegiate back.

"He reminds me of former Florida Gators star Fred Taylor with his all-around combination of speed and power," says NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.

The above numbers are even scarier when one realizes that Davis missed one game and parts of two others last year. This time, Davis and Co. enter off an 11-win season and stand a strong chance at a national title in the nation's most popular conference.

Should the Gamecocks live up to expectations, it will surely be thanks to Davis. The efforts certainly won't go unnoticed, especially if he can grab the attention of the nation in a nationally televised affair with Texas A&M to start the season.

 

Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State

Most of the quarterbacks who have a serious shot at the Heisman are known commodities.

It is not often, though, that we can kill two birds with one stone and peg a sleeper for the hardware and one of the most downright underrated players in all of college football at the same time.

That would be Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, a dual-threat quarterback who posts gaudy numbers in all areas, as one can glean from his last two seasons of work:

Suffice it to say, Kelly has a strong understanding of coach Todd Graham's offense as he enters 2014 after a 10-4 campaign. More importantly, he has his eyes firmly set on accomplishing the unthinkable, as captured by NFL.com's Bryan Fischer:

I've always been an underdog my whole high school and college career. I just have to put up those numbers, get those wins in the column. Coach (Todd) Graham always tells me, 'If you win the national championship, you'll get all those individual goals and attention.' That's the ultimate goal for me, put my team in a good position and get my name out there that way.

It is an unthinkable feat that is all the more obtainable thanks to the college football playoff, and the Heisman Trophy will follow a similar trajectory.

Should Kelly thrive in the shadow of Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley and nab a Pac-12 title, he will be a difficult signal-caller to ignore. He will have to turn down the interception numbers, but lofty numbers on the ground and through the air with a large dash of team success tend to work wonders for quarterbacks of his talent when it comes to individual awards.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

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Alabama TE O.J. Howard Cuts Snickers from His Diet, Replaces with Ice Cream

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is on a strict no-Snickers diet. The only problem is that he basically just found a roundabout way to enjoy his favorite desserts.

This actually is a serious power move from the 6'6", 240-pound tight end that we think should be applauded. 

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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3 Things We've Learned About Michigan Through Fall Camp so Far

With more than a full week of fall practices in the books, the Michigan Wolverines are beginning to show their true colors.

Of course, the full brilliance of the maize and blue probably won’t be clear for several weeks; but Team 135 is making strides each day, according to quarterback Shane Morris, cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Blake Countess and defensive lineman Matt Godin.

In essence, they all said similar things during media day festivities Sunday—their team is growing stronger with each passing second, and players genuinely care for each other and want nothing more than to restore the Wolverines' luster. 

Continuity is at a high, said Lewis, who dazzled in the spring game. The defense, says coordinator Greg Mattison, is "without question" past the transition phase. 

Only 17 more days to go. Go pull that Charles Woodson jersey out of the closet and get ready for Saturday. 

 

Bulking Up on D

In 2013, Michigan’s defense allowed more than 40 points thrice, which certainly contributed to the Wolverines’ 7-6 record. However, and maybe surprisingly, it finished as the nation’s No. 13-ranked total defense.

Maintaining and improving a well-rounded defense is of top priority. 

“We’re coming along, everyone’s working hard here at camp—definitely with pass rush, we’ve been putting more emphasis on that earlier in camp,” Godin said. “We’re going to improve this year.”

The 6’6”, 286-pound redshirt sophomore out of Detroit Catholic Central wasn’t the only one propping the defense’s efforts. He said that his linemates have reached another gear and that the 3-technique position is among the most competitive.

Of course, the defensive backs will have a say in the season’s outcome as well. Countess, who led Team 134 with six picks, has also noticed an upward trend among his counterparts.

But there is always room to grow.

“I just think that we have to get better,” said Countess, a 5’10”, 180-pound redshirt junior out of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Owings Mills, Maryland. “We [the DBs] have the ability to be a strength. We have to make sure of that. We have to keep getting better, we have to keep pushing—not only ‘us,’ a corner group, but ‘us’ as a secondary.

"Just keep pushing the whole defense [and say] ’Let’s take that next step.’”

Taking "that next step" could be easier with Countess, who is considered one of the best cover men in the Big Ten. When asked if being on watch lists has changed his approach, he quickly and appropriately replied: 

"No, not all. At the end of the day, that's nice and that's fine. But you have to put that product on the field. If you don't put that product on the field, it means nothing. I'm just working with my teammates, trying to get better..."

 

Shane Morris is ‘100 Percent Ready’

Backups are always popular.

When the starter doesn’t get the job done, the No. 2 is often viewed as the savior—or at least a band-aid.

As a freshman, the former 5-star out of Warren De La Salle threw for 261 yards in three appearances. Two of them were quite brief, but his 196-yard effort during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State was noteworthy and should serve as a springboard for the 6’3", 204-pound sophomore.

When asked about his preparation for 2014, Morris said, without hesitation, “I’m 100 percent ready to play. If they need me to play the first game, then I will. Coach Hoke and Coach Nuss [offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier] are going to make the best decision for this team [in terms of personnel].

“But I’m 100 percent ready to play.”

Morris also noted that he’s “more engaged” and “understands the game more,” not to mention more mature and acclimated to college life. The training wheels have been removed. In terms of confidence and focus, there may not be a player on Michigan’s roster who wants to see the field more than Morris.

 

Run That Back?!

While giving an opening statement Sunday, Hoke said that sophomore running back De’Veon Smith and redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson are the top backs (as of now).

Of course, the obvious omission was Derrick Green, whose physical transformation and athletic development was recently praised by Nussmeier, per Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press.

So why no Green in the top two? Was Hoke trying to motivate the former blue-chip recruit by publicly placing him behind a guy coming off an ACL injury in Johnson and another who entered college with a fraction of the hype in Smith?

Could be.

Either that or Green, a 5’11”, 230-pound bruiser out of Hermitage High in Richmond, Virginia, has simply fallen behind the pack.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer. Video shot and edited by Jared Janssen of JJ Sports Video (Monroe, Michigan).

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Jameis Winston Won't Run Away with 2014 Heisman Trophy

All Jameis Winston did in 2013 was set national freshman records with 4,057 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns, win the Heisman Trophy by the fifth-largest percentage points margin ever (32) and lead Florida State to a national title.

It’s not supposed to be that easy for anyone, let alone a mere freshman.

For as impressive as Winston was last year, his journey to a potential 2014 Heisman Trophy will be much more complicated. That’s not an indictment of Winston, who could be even better as an individual with a year of experience under his belt, but a comment on the difficulty of repeating as college football’s top player.

Sharon Katz of ESPN Stats & Info broke down the historical precedent in place for defending Heisman winners:

There have been 13 players who returned to college football the year after winning the Heisman Trophy, and only one -- Archie Griffin in 1975 -- was able to repeat.

...

Of those 13 Heisman winners who came back to school, two (Leinart and Walker) accounted for more yards of total offense in the season after winning the award. On average, these players accounted for almost 650 fewer yards of total offense the next year. 

Similarly, only Tebow in 2008 and Griffin in 1975 played on teams that increased their win total the season after the player won the Heisman (three others matched their win total). On average, repeat Heisman winners lost 1½ more games the year after winning the award.

So often, Heisman winners set such a high bar that anything short of drastic improvement is seen as a failure in the eyes of voters. Fair or not, if the Seminoles do anything short of finish undefeated and enter the College Football Playoff as the favorites, it will be a disappointment when compared to last year.

That potential disappointment could be reflected in the Heisman vote.

The historical element isn’t the only reason Archie Griffin’s spot in the most exclusive club in college football is set. Florida State lost deep threats Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL, which means Winston will be reliant on unproven talent in the wide receiver department.

Winston's numbers could take a small dip simply because he doesn't have those playmakers around anymore.

If the Seminoles don’t run the table with their new-look receiving corps, even their schedule could be held against Winston’s Heisman chances. Zero of Florida State’s opponents are in the Top 15 of the initial Amway Coaches Poll, and only Clemson (No. 16) and Notre Dame (No. 17) are ranked at all.

A number of the other Heisman candidates will play much stiffer competition throughout the year, which could lend more merit to their statistical production.

Speaking of the Heisman field, it is absolutely loaded with challengers. Winston could put up incredible numbers and still fall short of some of the other superstars across the college football landscape.

Marcus Mariota has Oregon primed to compete for a title after throwing for 3,665 yards, running for 715 yards and tallying 40 total touchdowns in 2013. The Ducks’ high-octane offense lends itself to video game-like numbers every year, and Mariota is the one working the controller this time around.

Mariota put up those numbers last year while dealing with a knee injury down the stretch. If he can stay healthy and lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he will garner plenty of Heisman love.

Elsewhere, Braxton Miller will get another go-around in Urban Meyer’s spread offense and look to improve on his more than 3,000 total yards and 36 touchdowns. Much like Mariota, Miller needs to stay healthy and lead Ohio State to the postseason if he wants to win the Heisman, and both of those things are well within the realm of possibilities.

Throw in Bryce Petty, who threw for an astounding 4,200 yards at Baylor last year, and Brett Hundley at UCLA, and it is clear that Winston is far from the only signal-caller who can make Heisman waves in 2014.

Don’t overlook running backs Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin or Todd Gurley from Georgia, either.

Gordon ran for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and will be the focal point of a run-heavy Badgers attack. Gurley tallied more than 1,400 total yards a season ago but missed three games with injuries. With no more Aaron Murray, a healthy Gurley will be asked to carry the load for the Bulldogs in the mighty SEC.

All of these players are Heisman threats, but it’s important to remember that the award winner could very well be a sleeper. Recent winners like Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and even Winston himself snuck up on the college football world to take home the famous trophy.

To make matters even more difficult for Winston, he will play with a giant bullseye on his back all season. After all, he’s the defending Heisman winner and a national champion, so he will get his opponent’s A-game every single time out. 

Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman passed along an interesting quote from Oklahoma State’s James Castleman that fits that narrative perfectly:

Winston is going up against historical precedent, the insanely high bar he set a year ago, a loaded Heisman field and motivated opponents. He may very well win the trophy for the second straight year, but it’s not going to be another runaway victory.

 

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Trent Thompson to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 5-Star DT Prospect

The biggest chip of the 2015 college football recruiting class has fallen, as defensive tackle Trent Thompson committed to Georgia Tuesday, according to The Macon Telegraph's Seth Emerson:

Per 247Sports' composite ratings, the product of Westover High School in Albany, Georgia, is a 5-star recruit who ranks as the top defensive tackle and the No. 2 overall prospect in the nation, so there is no question that landing him is a major coup.

Thompson has been highly touted for quite some time, and he had no shortage of potential suitors. Among the schools that made a run at him, per 247Sports, were Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn and Clemson, along with a host of others.

Although Thompson didn't ascend to the No. 1 spot in the 247Sports recruiting rankings until February, many had him pegged for that spot long before, including 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr:

It is easy to see why Thompson has garnered so much interest. Not only does he have ideal size at 6'4" and 292 pounds, but his on-field production at Westover has been something special. Thompson truly took his game to the next level in 2013 with 83 tackles and 12 sacks.

Collegiate coaches have been salivating over his potential for a couple years, and it will undoubtedly be interesting to see how he translates to the college game.

Recruits are often tight-lipped when it comes to the recruiting process, but Thompson was surprisingly transparent. According to Wesley Sinor of AL.com, Thompson was in no rush to commit quickly.

"I do not want to commit early because I want to give everyone a chance," Thompson said. "I want to see how (Georgia's) season goes and if Coach Mark Richt is going to still be there."

Thompson also freely admitted to Sinor back in March that Georgia and Alabama were the top two schools that he was considering at the time:

Alabama is No. 2 for me now. When I went up there I had a great time with Reuben Foster, Blake Sims and everyone. I did not know it would be like that. Watching their workout film, I love their strength and conditioning coach and how crazy his voice is. He puts four quarters up and is crunk the entire time, so I cannot wait to go to one of their games.

Now that the marathon recruiting process has finally come to an end, the focus shifts toward what type of impact Thompson will have as a freshman and beyond. No. 1 recruits are normally expected to come in and dominate right away, but that doesn't always happen.

Thompson certainly seems to have the mixture of size, strength and explosiveness necessary to be an instant impact player; however, he'll quickly find out that elite-level college football is a different animal in comparison to high school football.

It's also important to note that the pressure to perform is something that Thompson has to cope with. He has certainly been a high school star, but the expectations are nothing compared to college football.

Thompson also has to adjust to the size difference. He is significantly bigger than most at the high school level, but that won't necessarily be the case moving forward. He is undoubtedly a big man, although there are plenty of offensive guards who have a larger frame than he does.

In fact, some might even argue that he is on the smallish side in that regard, so Thompson will have to be on point with the quick first step that he has become known for.

All of the potential is present for him to become one of the best defensive players in college football over the next couple years. Provided he puts the work in and adjusts well, that is an attainable goal.

Thompson is one of the most exciting prospects to come around in a long time, and there will be plenty of eyes on him from day one.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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No. 1 DT Trent Thompson Commits to Georgia; Adds Incredible Power to D-Line

The No. 2 overall recruit in the 2015 class, Trent Thompson, has committed to the Georgia Bulldogs. The 6'4", 292-pound defensive lineman is a huge get for the Bulldogs after they missed out on some notable in-state recruits the past few years. 

Watch Bleacher Report's Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down what Thompson's commitment means for Georgia.

Recruit rankings from 247Sports' composite.

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What 4-Star RB Johnny Frasier's Commitment Means to Florida State

Johnny Frasier put on football pads for the first time three years ago as a newcomer to a sport that would alter the course of his life. The North Carolina native surged into the starting lineup at Princeton High School as a sophomore and hasn't slowed down since, rushing for 4,834 yards and 66 touchdowns in two seasons.

"I kind of fell into football after never playing before high school," Frasier said. "It felt natural right away, and I was moved up to varsity after a few games. My role has continued to increase."

That may be the understatement of this recruiting cycle.

He assumed the starting job in 2012, averaging 7.8 yards per carry en route to 1,792 yards and 21 touchdowns. Frasier followed with a monstrous junior campaign, gaining 12.2 yards per rushing attempt and accumulating 3,045 yards and 45 scores on the ground.

"That's when you know you've got a gift from the good Lord," Princeton head coach Derrick Minor said. "For him to find immediate success like he has is a sign that he is blessed and meant to play this game."

College programs quickly took notice.

Georgia, North Carolina, Duke and NC State each offered in 2013. The trajectory of his recruitment altered in early February when Florida State offered during a two-week stretch that also saw Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee join the mix.

"It was immediately clear he was most excited about that Florida State offer," Minor said. "I think we all had a sense that's the school that really grabbed his attention."

Frasier formally reciprocated the interest from Florida State on Aug. 11, becoming the 19th member of a Seminoles class rated fifth nationally in 247Sports' national rankings.

"Florida State had been my leader for a long time, and I just couldn't see anyone catching up," Frasier said. "I wanted to make the announcement rather than wait and risk seeing FSU fill up its spots at my position."

The Seminoles are targeting several top-tier backs aside from Frasier, including fellow 4-star prospects Jacques Patrick and Tim Irvin.

"That was a concern," he said. "You don't want to be the one left out, missing an opportunity because someone else made their decision before you."

A pair of recent Seminoles pledges further convinced Frasier that Tallahassee was an ideal landing spot. He applauded the team's efforts of July 31 when 4-star quarterbacks Deondre Francois and Kai Locksley committed to Florida State within a half hour of each other.

The development provided one of the most surreal moments of this recruiting class and motivated Frasier to follow them onto the defending national champion's bandwagon.

"Their decisions definitely impacted my choice," he said. "Your quarterback runs the whole offense, so it's important to have a good one. I think Florida State has a strong future on offense with those two guys in the mix now."

Of course, Florida State already has one heck of a quarterback who could still be around when Frasier arrives on campus. Reining Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is just a redshirt sophomore, though many expect him to depart for the NFL draft after this season if he stays healthy.

"Winston is a tremendous player, but it's unlikely he'll still be around when I get to FSU," Frasier said. "It would be a blessing to compete with him, but it didn't make sense for me to include that in the equation for my decision because it probably won't happen."

Fraiser, who compares himself to former Florida and Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, is more realistic about the prospect of teaming up with running back Dalvin Cook. The 5-star 2014 signee is on campus as a true freshman, and the two could create quite a tandem in coming years.

"It's going to be a special thing when Cook and I get together," Frasier said. "We'll run Florida State to another national championship."

The 5'11" 200-pound prospect can create opportunities regardless of where he attacks the defense. Frasier's physical build enables him to brush off contact while above-average speed (clocked at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per 247Sports) presents breakaway possibilities.

"Johnny can take on that role of workhorse back because he gained a lot of confidence last season and wants the ball in every crucial situation," Minor said. "He has the mindset to carry the ball 20-30 times per game in college if that's what the team needs."

Frasier can also do damage downfield, evidenced by a career-best receiving campaign last fall. He caught 25 passes for 555 yards and five touchdowns, pushing his 2013 season total to 50 offensive scores.

"He's a special, dual-threat running back," Minor said. "We use him in the screen game with a lot of success, flare him out into a high-wide situation and just attempt to create quality opportunities for Johnny in space as a receiver. He shows good hands and great control of body. People overlook that part of his game because he's such a dominant rusher."

Though Frasier is steadfast in his commitment to the Seminoles—he calls it a 99.9-percent done deal—there are still several campus visits in the works. His list of anticipated college trips includes Michigan, LSU, South Carolina, Michigan State and Tennessee.

"Look, I love Florida State, but I feel like it's important to check out some other options before the decision is final," Frasier said. "I'd be very happy to be a Seminole on national signing day."

 

All quotes courtesy of B/R national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

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

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Big 12 Football: Power Ranking Top 10 Players Heading into 2014 Season

The Big 12 routinely produces some of the nation's elite athletes.

From prolific passers to stellar wideouts to shutdown corners, the country's premier conference of the midwest has a knack for attracting the best players and getting the most out of them.

Heading into 2014, some of the top players at each position nationally lie in the Big 12—including quarterback Bryce Petty and wide receiver Tyler Lockett.

Ranking the top players is a near impossibility, as the depth of the conference runs so deep, but it was done.

With that, let's check out the top 10 players in the Big 12.

Begin Slideshow

Latest Updates on Dorial Green-Beckham's 2014 Eligibility with Oklahoma Sooners

Dorial Green-Beckham's quest for an eligibility exemption now rests with the NCAA's appeals board. As expected, the University of Oklahoma formally filed an appeal to grant the troubled wide receiver immediate eligibility after his dismissal from Missouri.      

Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports first reported the news Tuesday:

Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma this summer after being kicked off the Missouri football team due to off-the-field issues. Typically, players who transfer from one FBS program to another are forced to forfeit one year of eligibility. Green-Beckham will be eligible for the 2015 season if his appeal is denied.

Oklahoma is planning to file the appeal under the so-called "run-off" waiver, per Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman. The exception allows players who did not leave their previous programs under their own volition to immediately become eligible elsewhere. Oklahoma feels "very confident" a waiver will be granted based on past precedent, per Kersey.

There is no word on when Green-Beckham can expect to receive a decision. Oklahoma opens its 2014 season against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30, so one would reasonably discern that the Sooners will know by then.

While it's unlikely to make much of a difference in the opener, the NCAA's decision may ultimately determine the Sooners' ceiling in 2014.

Already expected to compete for one of the four spots in the new College Football Playoff, adding Green-Beckham would give Oklahoma's offense a whole new dimension. The 6'6" junior made 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, showing flashes of his world-beating potential. Green-Beckham was considered the second-best recruit in the class of 2012 by 247Sports' composite system and drew numerous comparisons to Lions star Calvin Johnson.

Those comparisons stopped looking insane last season. Green-Beckham had a four-touchdown game against Kentucky, dominated Auburn in the SEC Championship game and helped lead the Tigers to a surprising 12-2 record.

With the talent, unfortunately, comes character concerns nearly as immense. Green-Beckham was arrested twice on separate marijuana charges at Missouri, though he was not charged in the second incident. He was dismissed from the program outright in April after allegedly trying to break into a female acquaintance's apartment. The victim did not press charges because "she was afraid of the media and community backlash," per David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune.

“So through extensive conversations with them, visiting with our leadership, as well, it comes back to me and to Dorial,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters in July. “In the end, I am not one to easily give up on young people. Dorial or anybody else. My coaches will tell you. We have a firm background in discipline."

Green-Beckham will be Trevor Knight's top receiver should his appeal be granted. Knight, who went through bouts of wild inaccuracy during his freshman season, would unquestionably benefit from having someone to bail him out on 50-50 balls. Great receivers can make even the most inconsistent quarterbacks look better than their skill level.

He would also give the Sooners a more balanced attack. Mike Stoops' defensive unit is expected to be among the best in the nation. The weaknesses for Oklahoma last season were largely offensive, and a big-play threat like Green-Beckham would help assuage concerns.

For now, it's all a waiting game.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why 5-Star Gentle Giant Rashan Gary Is Name You Need to Know in Class of 2016

Moments after the most competitive high school linemen drills in America ended, an unassuming Rashan Gary quietly grinned along the sidelines while standing yards away from the nation's beastly blockers. 

The disruptive and diffident defensive tackle still wore his shoulder pads, soaking in those final moments at The Opening, an annual football showcase held at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

A few feet further toward the end zone, top-rated 2015 offensive tackle Martez Ivey was occupied with questions concerning his highly publicized nationwide recruitment.

Sensing the 6'6", 270-pound Floridian has grown weary of discussing the likes of Alabama, LSU and Auburn, our conversation shifts to Gary, one of just three 2016 prospects invited to compete during a three-day stretch that features more than 150 prized recruits.

Ivey interrupts the initial question with an unfamiliar inflection in his voice, breaking out of well-versed reactions to personal recruiting questions.

"Wait, hold on," Ivey said "He's only going to be a junior?"

Yes, indeed. 

The 6'4.5", 290-pound specimen who spent his week making coveted collegiate offensive linemen targets look silly in the trenches still has two high school seasons ahead of him.

"Whoa, I had no idea," Ivey said. "He definitely stepped up his game. That's pretty crazy. The guy deserves a lot of credit for how he handles himself."

Fellow 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt shared that sentiment and surprise.

"Like most of the linemen, I didn't find out he's a rising junior until the final day of competition," the Clemson commit admitted. "We just assumed he was another senior, especially based on the way he competed. It was a shock for sure."

Gary, just one month removed from his sophomore year, proved he belongs among established prospects who will compete for playing time in college next summer.

"He's way above his level when compared to other players at that age," said Hyatt. "He's going to be fun to watch in the future because he has everything a defensive lineman needs to be dominant at the next level."

Gary knew his status as a 2016 recruit—the only lineman to carry that distinction in Beaverton—created a slight underdog persona. Despite his soft-spoken demeanor and off-field congeniality, he instead played the role of aggressor.

"I'm young so I still make simple mistakes sometimes, but there's no one I can't handle," Gary said. "The guys who found out about my age wanted to test me and see if I really deserved a spot at The Opening."

He emphatically answered that challenge, according to Ivey.

"He's isn't just big; he's fast off the ball and stays low," Ivey said. "He's very physical too and doesn't let opponents get into his head. That's great to see out of a young guy."

Gary left no doubt about his status as a premier member of the 2016 recruiting class.

"I feel like he's in the same position as us, ready to go off to college somewhere next season," Ivey said. 

However, when Ivey and other linemen at The Opening embark on the next chapter of their playing careers at campuses across the country, Gary will still be concerned about chasing down New Jersey state titles. He transferred to Paramus Catholic High School from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in June.

The team featured 5-star athlete Jabrill Peppers last season. The Michigan freshman also arrived at Paramus Catholic (from Don Bosco Prep) with plenty of fanfare.

Gary, rated No. 5 overall in 247Sports' 2016 composite rankings, also follows in his footsteps when it comes to collegiate attention. He holds nearly 20 scholarship offers, including Alabama, Miami, Ohio State, USC, Penn State and Tennessee.

"When I first started to get recruited, I came into it with an open mind," Gary said. "Things picked up really fast and have stayed that way, so now I need to think about cutting down the list."

Like many top prospects, he admits the SEC is appealing.

"It felt like things really reached a new level when the SEC offers started arriving," Gary said. "When I realized those teams decided early that they want me, it was an honor. That's grown-man football."

Hyatt, who committed to Clemson after his junior season, stressed the importance of patience for a young phenom on the recruiting trail.

"Rashan needs to just take it one step at a time for as long as he needs," Hyatt said. "Sometimes it's easy to feel rushed into making a decision, and that could be the case for him. Because he's so talented, plenty of teams are going to put the pressure on him to commit."

Gary stressed there's no timetable in place for a decision, and the process could stretch to national signing day 2016 if necessary. He broke down several key elements of his recruitment with Bleacher Report in July:

His week in Oregon featured a few mentors, including 5-star defensive linemen Tim Settle and Byron Cowart, who both remain uncommitted.

"Some of the older guys have given me plenty of advice about different stuff, on and off the field" he said. "They've talked to me about recruiting, how to figure out who is real or fake, and now I need to use those lessons as I continue down this road."

Though he was relegated to nose tackle duties—an unnatural position for his skill set—Gary managed 58 tackles, including 13 for loss and four forced fumbles in 2013, per Todderick Hunt of NJ.com.

The 3-technique or 5-technique appears to be the more appropriate landing spot for him in college. While sliding outside, he can use his speed (clocked at 4.74 seconds in the 40-yard dash at The Opening) to exploit space and provide an interior pass rush.

"He was great and we all noticed it throughout the week," 5-star Texas A&M defensive tackle commit Daylon Mack said. "You're watching a 2016 guy with big size, rare speed and dreadlocks that make him look dangerous. Some might have questioned his toughness, but when Rashan put on the pads, he didn't disappoint."

Gary consistently outpaced opponents in Oregon, sprinting back to the defensive line with a workmanlike approach once the whistle blew. It was the same style of play Gary exhibited when he dominated at Nike's regional football camp in New Jersey this spring, earning the rare invite to national competition.

"When we first arrived, I thought, 'man, this kid is going to be weak,'" 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell said. "But he earned his invitation for a reason. That was obvious from the start."

Burrell took that praise one step further, sending a strong message about Gary's impression in Beaverton.

"I think he could be the top player in our class, let alone his own," he said. "Those 2016 offensive linemen are in trouble with him around."

Texas Tech defensive tackle commit Breiden Fehoko admired Gary's ability to bring tenacity to every element of his game.

"He's a quiet guy who puts in work on the field and in the film room," Fehoko said. "The kid has strength and length that's rare at his age. First and foremost, he works his butt during drills, and that translates into the one-on-ones, where you really build your reputation."

Gary appreciated the opportunity to battle with college-bound blockers, dealing with the ups and downs of brutality along the line of scrimmage.

"I'm going to get a lot better because now I really have a feel for what it's like to be challenged by the best offensive linemen in the country," he said. "I can't wait to get back here again next year, compete against a new group of guys and show how I've improved."

Alabama freshman Da'Shawn Hand, one of the top-ranked 2014 defensive ends, was a rare two-time Opening attendee. Mack foresees a similar fate for Gary.

"Next year, it's all his," Mack said. "Rashan will be back to dominate at The Opening, and I believe he'll be the top player in the country."

Gary isn't the kind of athlete to brag about his abilities and came off as a kid who was just happy to be invited to the party in Oregon. That's fine, since plenty of top competitors were willing to do the talking for him.

"He's pretty silent like you'd expect from a lot of younger players," Mack said. "But don't get me wrong, his game is not quiet. Rashan makes loud statements with what he does on the field."

 

All quotes courtesy of B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Bleacher Report's College Football 2014 Offseason Awards

Fall camps are in full swing across the country, which means we have officially made the transition from the college football offseason to the college football preseason.

But before we make the full segue to season-mode, when everything becomes so forward-looking, let's take one more moment to reflect on the offseason that was.

This winter, spring and summer was, after all, a pretty important one for the current state and future of college athletics—football more than any other sport. It is one we will remember for a long time.

But it wasn't just what happened behind the NCAA's closed doors that stuck out to us the past six months. It was the signature personalities, the hard-to-believe stories and the standout performances that make college football the best sport in the world to cover.

So with that, let's hand out a little offseason hardware.

Begin Slideshow

Clemson's Dabo Swinney Lets Pro Billiards Player Hit a Trick Shot off His Mouth

Don't try this at home, unless someone in your family is a professional billiards player. Even then, you are taking a pretty big risk in letting that person hit a billiards ball off your mouth.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney trusted Loree Jon Jones—a Clemson fan and a member of the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame—to hit a billiards ball of his mouth as part of a trick shot.

See for yourself how things turned out.

[Clemson Football, h/t College Spun]

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Texas A&M Football: Realistic Expectations for the 2014 Aggie Defense

The Texas A&M football team needs to have better play from their defense in 2014.

The Aggies' defense will be improved in 2014, but they are still too young and thin and certain positions to take a huge step forward. The 2013 Texas A&M defense was one of the worst in the nation, allowing 475.8 yards per game to rank No. 109 in the NCAA.

They have to improve in 2014 if they want to compete for an SEC title. 

The Aggies have recruited well since Kevin Sumlin took over as head coach of the program. Sumlin and his staff have brought in classes ranked No. 14, No. 8 and No. 6 according to 247sports.com. 

In those three classes, the Aggies have brought in 17 defensive linemen, 10 linebackers and 13 defensive backs. Attrition has led to nine of those players leaving the program. That means that Sumlin has recruited 31 of the defensive players currently on the roster. 

He is doing his best to improve the defensive talent in the program. You win games in the SEC by winning the battle in the trenches. That means you need to have elite defensive linemen and be three-deep on the lines. 

The attrition has hurt the linebacker position the most.

The Aggies lost Jordan Richmond and Darian Claiborne to dismissal from the team and Michael Richardson to injury. Claiborne was a potential four-year starter who led the Aggies in tackles during the regular season in 2013 with 89. No one is going to hit on 100 percent of his recruits so every player you lose to issues off the field hurts you.

The Aggies need to improve on defense in 2014, but their lack of depth at certain positions will hold them back. 

 

Defensive Line Is Strong

Sumlin and defensive line coach Terry Price have done a good job of bringing in SEC talent on the defensive line. The 14 defensive linemen who they have brought in should offer the Aggies a quality rotation along the line in 2014. 

Nothing is set in stone yet, but if the Aggies were to play tomorrow the starting defensive line would be Julien Obioha at strong-side defensive end, Alonzo Williams at defensive tackle, Hardreck Walker at nose guard and Daeshon Hall at weak-side defensive end. 

The second-team defensive line would be Qualen Cunningham at strong-side defensive end, Justin Manning at defensive tackle, Zaycoven Henderson at nose guard and Myles Garrett at weak-side end. 

The third-team defensive line would be Jarrett Johnson at strong-side end, Jay Arnold at defensive tackle, Ivan Robinson at nose guard and Darrell Jackson at weak-side defensive end. 

The fact that the Aggie coaches can feel confident with a 10-man rotation on the defensive line speaks volumes about their recruiting at the position. When you consider that they lost two starters in Gavin Stansbury and Isaiah Golden during the offseason, it is apparent that the Aggie coaches have done a tremendous job of creating depth on the defensive line. 

In 2013, the Texas A&M defense registered 21 total sacks. As a unit, the defensive line contributed 10.5 sacks along with 25 tackles for loss. 

The defensive line has to be better in 2014, particularly at putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. With Hall, Garrett, Cunningham and Jackson at defensive end, the Aggies should have a more consistent pass rush in 2014.

The Aggie defense allowed 5.4 yards per rush in 2013 which was very poor. With the added depth and experience along the defensive line in 2014, they should be able to lower that number by at least a yard per game.

Realistic expectations for the defensive line as a unit in 2014 are 17 total sacks, 35 tackles for loss and allowing 4.4 yards per carry on defense.

 

Depth Is Still Not There at Linebacker

The Aggies' linebackers were run over for the most part in 2013. They simply did not have the size nor the experience to hold up against SEC running games. 

The linebackers on the 2014 defense are physically bigger, but it remains to be seen if they will be better than the 2013 unit. The loss of Claiborne was big because he had the best instincts of any linebacker on the Aggies roster. 

The first-team linebackers today would be Shaan Washington on the strong side, Jordan Mastrogiovanni in the middle and A.J. Hilliard on the weak side. All three starters are linebackers who have not proven much in an Aggie uniform. 

Washington showed some natural pass-rushing abilities as a true freshman in 2013 with three sacks. Hilliard sat out the year after he transferred from TCU. Mastrogiovanni was solid in coverage but struggled against the run as a freshman. 

The second-team unity will be Donnie Baggs at strong-side outside linebacker, Reggie Chevis at middle linebacker and Tommy Sanders at weak-side outside linebacker. Baggs and Sanders were too small to be effective defenders against the run in 2013. 

Chevis redshirted in 2013 and will see action in short-yardage situations in 2014. Sanders and Baggs will have to prove that they can be effective linebackers in the SEC in 2014.

True freshmen Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker may find their way into the rotation if they can learn the defense. 

The Aggies do not have any proven playmakers returning at linebacker. That is not a good place to be at in the SEC where championships are won with elite front sevens on defense. 

In 2013, the Aggie linebackers contributed 28.5 tackles for loss and seven total sacks. The 2014 numbers should be better for the linebackers because they will have a better defensive line in front of them.

Realistic expectations for the linebackers in 2014 will be 30 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a unit. 

 

Questions Remain at Safety

The 2013 season was marked by atrocious play at safety in the Aggies' secondary. The 2014 team returns all four starters from the 2013 secondary, and they need to see a significant improvement in play at the safety position if they want to win football games. 

The starting secondary for the Aggies will be Deshazor Everett and De'Vante Harris at cornerback, with Howard Matthews and Floyd Raven at the two safety spots. 

Everett is a senior and this will be his fourth year starting at cornerback. He has spent time as a starter at safety also. He is the Aggies' best defensive player and should compete for All-SEC honors in 2014. 

Harris is a three-year starter at cornerback. He needs to make the transition from an inconsistent, young player to the veteran playmaker the Aggies expect him to be as a junior. Harris has missed some practice time with a health issue. 

Raven and Matthews both played poorly at safety in 2013. Matthews was particularly bad in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke. He struggled all season to cover the wheel route out of the backfield. 

Improved play from the defensive line should help the safety play in 2014. If the Aggies' front seven can control the run, the safeties will not be asked to crash down as much and will not be as susceptible to play-action fakes. 

The second-team defensive backs will be Victor Davis and Noel Ellis at corner, with Jonathan Wiggins and Clay Honeycutt at safety. Honeycutt started a few games at safety in 2013 and struggled immensely. Ideally, the Aggies will not be put in a position where they have to start him in 2014. 

Nick Harvey, Donovan Wilson and Armani Watts are true freshmen who may fit into the equation at safety. Harvey has seen practice time at both safety and cornerback. He will not redshirt and will see playing time in 2014. 

Whether Wilson or Watts break into the rotation depends on their understanding of the defense. If the safeties in the two-deep remain healthy, Aggie fans should expect either Wilson or Watts to redshirt.

Devonta Burns and Noel Ellis will battle it out for the starting spot at the nickel. Burns has been seeing the most time with the first-team when the defense goes to the nickel. 

The Aggies' defensive backs intercepted nine passes and had 2.5 sacks in 2013. Realistic expectations for the unit in 2014 are 12 interceptions and three sacks.  

The Aggie defense allowed 475.8 yards and 32.2 points per game in 2013.

Realistic expectations for the 2014 unit would be to allow 390 yards and 25 points per game. That would make them one of the top 60 defenses in the nation. 

They should be able to accomplish that goal by being stronger against the run and cutting down on coverage busts in the secondary. An improved pass rush should result in more turnovers created and less total plays for their opponents.

The Aggies will not be a great defense in 2014, but they should be good enough to help the team win games instead of being the liability they were in 2013. 

 

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SEC's Offensive Renaissance Will Continue in 2014 Despite What Haters May Say

Remember the days when defense won championships and divisions were decided by 9-6 field-goal kicking contests?

Times, they are a-changin'.

The remarkable absence of star power in the SEC heading into the 2014 season suggests that the offensive power we saw last year—when nine teams averaged more than 430 yards per game—might not exist in 2014.

That'd be wrong.

"There's a bunch of players sprinkled through our league, and we're going to continue, because of the recruiting area, to be able to always have really good players," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said at SEC media days in July. "That's just part of the Southeastern Conference every year. The names may change, but the production is going to be the same."

While the absence of star power—which is due in large part to substantial quarterback turnover—won't help, it's mitigated by the presence of innovative, flexible and creative offensive coaches who know how to get the most out of their players and put their quarterbacks in the proper positions for success.

The 2012 season didn't just mark the arrival of Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC; it ushered in a new offensive era in the SEC.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin, Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze—three brilliant offensive minds—joined the conference. The next season, Auburn hired former coordinator Gus Malzahn, Tennessee hired Butch Jones, and Kentucky went back to the air raid with coordinator Neal Brown. Florida and Alabama continued the trend this offseason when Kurt Roper and Lane Kiffin were hired to run the respective offenses at those two traditional powers.

Quarterbacks play a part, no doubt. But the offensive renaissance in the SEC is more due to coaching than anything else.

These aren't pro-style caretakers who rely on defense. They were all hired to push the envelope offensively and challenge the old and outdated notion that defense wins championships.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore. Just enough defense wins championships, and the influx of brilliant offensive minds within the SEC has made the definition of "just enough" a moving target based on the specific offensive scheme a team runs.

Sumlin has won big with a dual-threat quarterback (who took over as a redshirt freshman) when the Aggies and Johnny Manziel took the SEC by storm in 2012. He also won consistently with pro-style quarterback Case Keenum at Houston.

Malzahn won a national championship in 2010 as Auburn's offensive coordinator with eventual No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton and came within 13 seconds of doing it with again last year with Nick Marshall—who was playing defensive back at Georgia 18 months prior to arriving on the Plains. Malzahn even made Chris Todd look good when he turned around the Auburn offense as the offensive coordinator in 2009.

Will the SEC touch the total offense mark it set last year at 432.5 yards per game? Probably not. But don't be surprised if it's close. 

The coaches within the conference—both at the head coach and offensive coordinator levels—have changed the game. If offenses take a step back in 2014, it will only be a small one—and it will only be temporary. Unless a rule change like the ill-fated 10-second rule comes to fruition, there's too much coaching talent in the SEC to step back into the defensive dark ages.

 

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

 

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Breaking Down UCLA's Latest Depth-Chart Moves Midway Through Fall Camp

UCLA fall camp at Cal State San Bernardino is in full swing, and so too are shifts in the Bruins lineup. 

Perhaps the most notable change after the first week of practices is Adarius Pickett's move from defensive back to running back. 

Pickett came in this offseason with 4-star billing at cornerback, but the depth of the UCLA secondary, combined with uncertainty at running back, necessitated the move.

Although touted for his ability on defense, Pickett won't be out of place on offense. His performance at running back last year for El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, California, included a 251-yard, four-touchdown outing in the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section Division III championship, per Stephanie Hammon of the Contra Costa Times   

UCLA's search for backfield reliability is among the more pressing issues facing the Bruins at fall camp, and Jordon James missing repetitions due to an injury won't help.

James was the Bruins' leading rusher through the first month of 2013, going for at least 105 yards in each of the first three games. He's making his return from an ankle injury, but Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register reports James has missed time due to a hamstring injury. 

James' is just one among numerous injuries vexing the Bruins through the first week of practices. Two in particular have to cause concern for head coach Jim Mora. 

Offensive lineman Jake Brendel left practice Monday with a leg injury, per Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, just days after it was announced that fellow lineman Simon Goines had ankle surgery, per Wang:

Goines suffered an injury-plagued 2013. His absence, coupled with various other issues along the Bruins' front five, led to UCLA starting three true freshmen. 

The Bruins surrendered 36 sacks a season ago, second most among all Pac-12 teams.

With Goines out, redshirt freshman Conor McDermott has an opportunity to climb up the depth chart—as soon as he recovers from shoulder surgery.  

"We have numbers, but not as much quality as I would like," offensive line coach Adrian Klemm told Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. "We are definitely getting better, definitely heading in the right direction. We're still developing."

Likewise, first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is still developing his lineup since taking over for Lou Spanos. 

"His NFL experience, his football experience and his IQ is wearing off on all of us," linebacker Eric Kendricks said of Ulbrich in July at Pac-12 media days. 

Fall camp is Ulbrich's first opportunity to impart his experience on the entire 2014 roster, including newcomers like 4-star linebacker recruit Kenny Young

Young is among those Bruins competing for a spot in a linebacker rotation that replaces 2013 starters Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt. 

The battle to replace Barr at outside linebacker is one of particular interest, with Aaron Wallace, Deon Hollins and Kenny Orjioke all jockeying for the job.

In his Orange County Register notebook, Kartje described Hollins as "nearly unstoppable at times."

That's one position that could be listed in UCLA's Week 1 depth chart with an "OR," denoting a game-time decision for the starting nod.   

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

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Breaking Down UCLA's Latest Depth-Chart Moves Midway Through Fall Camp

UCLA fall camp at Cal State San Bernardino is in full swing, and so too are shifts in the Bruins lineup. Perhaps the most notable change after the first week of practices is Adarius Pickett's move from defensive back to running back...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell Makes 1-Handed Catch Look Easy During Practice

Seeing Laquon Treadwell make a one-handed catch this easily should make Ole Miss quarterbacks feel very confident in the receiver.

All the team's quarterbacks have to do is get the football near the 6'2" wideout and let him use his good hands to haul it in.

A catch like this isn't easy, but Treadwell made it look fairly routine.

[Laquon Treadwell, h/t College Spun]

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Ohio State Football: Inside the Buckeyes' Most Exciting Position Battle

Inside the walls of Ohio State's fall camp team hotel, it'd be tough to find two roommates with more in common than Curtis Grant and Raekwon McMillan.

Highly touted prospects during their prep playing days, both Grant and McMillan opted to spurn the south to spend their college careers at Ohio State, where playing time was seemingly readily available at linebacker. But their respective journeys have led them on a collision course in Columbus in what's arguably the most intriguing position battle for the Buckeyes this fall.

One player's trying to make a first impression, while the other's attempting to make the most of a last chance. But regardless who winds up starting for Ohio State at middle linebacker when the 2014 season kicks off on Aug. 30, it's easy to see how one of the most unique bonds on the Buckeyes roster has already come to fruition.

Three years ago Grant essentially was McMillan, a 5-star prospect and the top-ranked inside linebacker in the 2011 class. On national signing day, he announced that he'd be heading from Richmond, Virginia to Ohio State, where the Buckeyes were devoid of depth at the linebacker position.

From that standpoint, little had changed in Columbus eight months ago, when McMillan committed to Ohio State over Alabama and Clemson. Urban Meyer's pitch to the 5-star prospect from Hinesville, Georgia was clear—and reminiscent of the one that Grant received from Jim Tressel during his recruitment three years prior.

"Coach Meyer, when I was getting recruited, he made it clearly simple that we needed linebackers here at Ohio State," McMillan said. "He wants his type of guys here playing linebacker."

It'd be simple—perhaps even easy—to state that Grant isn't one of Meyer's "guys," but that's not necessarily the case. In fact, Meyer attempted to recruit Grant while he was the head coach at Florida, as he often did with the country's top prospects.

But while it was the Buckeyes' pitch of immediate playing time that won out for Grant, he found himself limited to predominately special teams play in his freshman campaign at Ohio State. His sophomore season didn't go much more swimmingly either, as he lost his starting spot at middle linebacker just three games into the season.

Meanwhile in Georgia, McMillan was already making a name for himself, being named the Region 3-AAA defensive player of the year as a junior in 2012. Heading into 2013, McMillan could have already had his pick of where he'd be spending his college career, and his recruitment only ramped up when he repeated as his region's top defensive player as a senior.

McMillan's stellar 2013 campaign coincided with the best of Grant's college career, as the then-junior tallied 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 12 games. But even then, injuries and inconsistencies prevented the 6'3", 240-pounder from living up to the hype that came with him to Columbus in 2011, as even he's admitted that his career has yet to meet its lofty expectations.

"Average. Very average," Grant said when asked to describe his college career. "I didn't have the confidence that I needed coming in. I was thinking too much."

That, however, no longer appears to be the case. As Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell explained, Grant has acted every bit the senior he is through the first week of his final fall camp, which has paid dividends for him on the football field.

"His confidence level has really gone up. That's probably the biggest thing," Fickell said. "Things haven't quite gone his way since the day he walked in here. I'll tell you what, he's a different kid—no, I shouldn't say kid. He's a different man."

Nipping at Grant's heels, however, is a kid, even if McMillan hasn't quite looked like one since arriving on campus as an early enrollee in January.

When the Buckeyes split into two teams for the annual spring game in April, there was McMillan—all of 18-years-old—alongside presumed starting linebackers Joshua Perry and Darron Lee on the Gray squad. And when Ohio State took the field for the first day of fall camp, McMillan didn't participate in practice with his fellow freshmen in the morning, as he was invited to take part in the veterans' afternoon session by his head coach.

"They act like grown men," Meyer said of McMillan and freshman wide receiver Johnnie Dixon. "So we let them practice with the grown men today."

Unsurprisingly, it didn't take long for McMillan to lose the black stripe on his practice helmet either, signaling that he had "officially" become a member of the Buckeyes' roster.

But as the competition between Grant and McMillan has heated up, the two roommates have only grown closer. Older and wiser than he was three years ago, Grant understandably sees himself in his understudy and wants to provide a presence that he never felt when he was a highly touted freshman.

"That's like my little brother. I try to teach him the ropes," Grant said of McMillan. "It's something that I didn't have my freshman year. I kind of had it, but this is a little more welcoming."

And while McMillan has admitted that Grant's guidance has helped him, he's also not shy about stating that starting is one of his goals for his freshman season. Whether he'll make an early impact or suffer the same early struggles that Grant did remains to be seen, but he's well aware of the opportunity that's at hand as his freshman season approaches.

"I'm used to coming in my freshman year with a lot of expectations," McMillan said, drawing back on his high school days. "Either you break under pressure with it, or you make diamonds with it. I'm just trying to do everything I can to make progress."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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Biggest Dark-Horse Contenders for the First College Football Playoff

Everyone is fully expecting powerhouses like Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma and Oregon to be in the fray for the first College Football Playoff once we hit the postseason. However, the unpredictable nature of college football is bound to send some of the front-runners spiraling down the rankings.

Which underdogs will push their way to the top and emerge as playoff contenders?

Watch as B/R's experts break down this year's CFB Playoff dark horses.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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