NCAA Football

Big 12 Football Players Under Most Pressure for 2014 Season

College football is a pressure-packed world, and the Big 12 is by no means an exception. 

Expectations run the gamut throughout the conference. Texas wants Charlie Strong and Co. to start a resurgence, while Paul Rhoads at Iowa State may very well be in a do-or-die season in Ames. 

Ultimately, it's the players who face the most pressure under the lights, as their performances mostly determine wins and losses. 

So, let's check out the players throughout the Big 12 who are facing the most pressure this upcoming season. 

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USC Football Recruiting: 4-Star Recruit Tyler Petite Has Trojans in Top 2

The recruiting trail is getting active for the USC Trojans once again, who have their sights set on 4-star Tyler Petite, the 6'5", 225-pound tight end out of Moraga, California. 

He is a smooth route-runner with reliable hands and has room on his frame to bulk up once he gets to college. 

As far as recruiting is concerned, he has narrowed his options down to USC and Duke and recently told Greg Biggins of Scout.com that he is close to making a decision.

Petite discussed what he has on the agenda in the coming weeks with Biggins:

I'm going to visit USC next Wednesday. They have their Rising Stars Camp so I'm going to come down for it and meet the coaching staff. I'm not going to work out, I just want to meet the coaches and the guys on the team.

I'm still trying to figure out how much time I'll be there. I'll for sure be there all Wednesday but I might try and get over there Tuesday night too. My plan is to take this last visit and then I should be ready to commit pretty shortly after.

While that last sentence could imply Petite will be ready to commit to USC shortly thereafter, he has yet to indicate that either school has an advantage over the other. He's already visited Duke, and the Blue Devils are recruiting him aggressively:

I love Duke, they definitely have a chance, no matter how the USC visit goes. It's super close between the two, very tight and it's going to be a very hard decision.

I have a great relationship with the coaches and I'm very close with the players. The biggest thing with Duke is I'm comfortable there. That's what I'm looking to see at USC. Both are great very good academically and I like the football program so it comes down to where I think I'll fit in the best.

The Trojans will spend next week trying to convince Petite that Troy is the best fit for him.

Objectively speaking, USC has the clear advantage over Duke due to the program's clout and esteem in college football. Beyond that, there's space on the roster for him, and Steve Sarkisian and his staff are desperate to get their hands on some more quality prospects at tight end.

Veteran Randall Telfer is entering his last season at USC, leaving just Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and Bryce Dixon behind him. The Trojans' tight end corps is frail and decimated by a lack of depth. Being that the new offense installed in Troy is much more tight end-friendly than was the case with Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian needs as many able bodies as he can get at this position to enhance the passing game.

Petite wouldn't have to wait long to see playing time at USC, and he can expect a fair amount of passes thrown his way. The recent success of Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Washington (146 receptions, 1,840 yards and 21 touchdowns on his career)—where Sarkisian previously coached—could be encouraging to Petite and influence him to sign with USC. 

Offensive coordinator Clay Helton is in charge of the Northern California recruiting region, and he will be heavily pitching to Petite how he would fit into USC's scheme. 

Should the Trojans land him next week, it would be yet another recruiting win for Sarkisian and keep USC ahead of the other Pac-12 schools at this stage in the recruiting cycle. 

 

Note: Recruiting info courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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USC Football Recruiting: 4-Star Recruit Tyler Petite Has Trojans in Top 2

The recruiting trail is getting active for the USC Trojans once again, who have their sights set on 4-star Tyler Petite, the 6'5", 225-pound tight end out of Moraga, California...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Power Ranking Oklahoma's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Although it’s never wise to look past an opponent, there’s no doubt that some games should be a lot easier than others.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to the Oklahoma Sooners’ 2014 schedule.

On Aug. 30, the Sooners will begin their quest for their eighth national title. Twelve opponents will try to get in the way of that run—both non-conference and Big 12 foes alike.

Join B/R as we take a closer look at each game on Oklahoma's 2014 schedule and rank them from easiest to toughest.

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Michigan Fan Proves Hate for Ohio on License Plate

It's no secret that Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes fans don't like each other. This fan wanted to make sure that his hatred of the Buckeyes was on display at all times.

The Michigan Football Twitter account tweeted a picture of this vanity license plate that says "1H8OHIO," or "I Hate Ohio."

He'll have to be careful if he ever ends up in the state of Ohio, or there's a pretty good chance that his car will be vandalized.

[Twitter, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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Penn State OL Coach Herb Hand Raps at Junior Elite Football Camp

Penn State offensive line coach Herb Hand was in attendance for the Nittany Lions Junior Elite football camp when he decided to get the players in attendance pumped up before practice got started.

Hand grabbed a microphone and suddenly began to rap. The coaches and players clearly enjoyed it, but the best part of all was the O-line coach dropping the mic after he was done.

[The Patriot-Newsh/t Twitter]

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Power Ranking Arkansas' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

The Arkansas Razorbacks start the 2014 schedule with a trip to Auburn to face off with the national runner-ups from last season. There's not going to be any time to ease into the season against a weaker opponent by opening the season on the road against the Tigers.

What's even scarier is that the Hogs have many more huge and extremely tough games following their daunting season opener.

Just to give you a little perspective on how tough Arkansas' 2014 slate is, according to the NCAA's strength of schedule method, the Razorbacks have the toughest schedule out of all of the 128 FBS teams. The NCAA's method is based solely on opponents' win-loss records from the previous year, with Arkansas' 2014 opponents combining to go 103-54 (65.6 percent) last season.

While there are flaws with this method, there's no doubt the Hogs' schedule this season is going to be grueling. 

Here is a breakdown of the Razorbacks' games this year in ascending order from the easiest to the toughest matchup they'll have.

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Katherine Webb Poses with AJ McCarron's Rings from Alabama

That's a whole lot of rings.

Former Miss Alabama Katherine Webb decided to post this picture of herself with a number of former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron's rings from his very successful college career. 

McCarron received all of those rings thanks to three national championships, two SEC titles and one Capital One Bowl.

With so many rings, it looks like Webb is trying to give the likes of Bill Russell and Michael Jordan a run for their money.

[Instagram]

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Power Ranking Penn State's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

The college football season is just over two months away, and Penn State predictions are starting to formulate about the 2014 campaign. 

How many can they win? Can they upset the Buckeyes? Will UCF be as good as they were last season?

Here's a look at the 2014 schedule in order from the easiest opponents to the toughest to help you form an opinion of your own!

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Texas Football: Biggest Obstacles Each New Position Coach Faces in 2014

The Texas Longhorns will enter the 2014 season with a brand new face of the program and a revitalized group of assistant coaches. But the obstacles each coach will face cannot be overlooked.

Head coach Charlie Strong put together a solid group of assistants who have the goal of bringing pride back to Texas football. Unfortunately for Texas fans, the challenges that lie ahead may not be the easiest to overcome.

 

Offense

The first obstacle on more than likely every Texas fan's mind is the quarterback. The Longhorns have lacked effective quarterback play since Colt McCoy graduated in 2009. Four years have passed since the Longhorns had a solid option to lead the offense, and those woes could very likely continue in 2014.

Quarterback coach Shawn Watson has three scholarship options to work with: junior David Ash, sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Jerrod Heard. The talent among the quarterback trio is there, but the development needs to follow.

One of the best-case scenarios for the Longhorns is that Ash can stay healthy, and Swoopes can learn to develop behind Ash—giving true freshman Heard a redshirt season to adjust to the college game. And the obvious worst-case scenario is Ash cannot stay healthy and either Swoopes or Heard are forced to take over the starting role when either of them may not be ready for it.

It is rare for a true freshman to take over the starting role once they arrive on campus, but it isn't unheard of. In fact, a prime example that comes to mind is former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who Watson coached for his four seasons with the Cardinals.

Does that mean Texas fans should expect Heard to develop at the rate of Bridgewater? Probably not.

All eyes will be on Watson to make something work with the options he has. And this story angle will likely not die down until results are seen from the quarterback position.

Next on the list is the offensive line.

Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Wickline is widely regarded as one of the best O-Line coaches in college football, and he will have his work cut out for him in 2014.

The Longhorns are looking to replace one of the more veteran lines in college football from 2013. But the talent to replace the line may not currently be on the roster.

Aside from center Dominic Espinosa, Texas has a large group of inexperienced linemen. And the inexperience was extremely apparent in the spring game.

Wickline may be the best-of-the-best when it comes to coaching up the big guys, but he has a very limited amount of time to find four other linemen who will be able to protect whichever quarterback Watson puts on the field. 

The running back position is one of the more solid positions for the Longhorns in 2014. 

Between Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray, running back coach Tommie Robinson inherited a loaded roster of backs.

The obstacle Robinson will face is not who's the best option but rather how to split the carries between the trio.

Brown and Gray carried the bulk of the load in 2013, but Gray's Achilles injury has left his status of returning to the field up in the air. If Gray returns to the team in time for the start of the season, Robinson will have to come up with the right solution to effectively distribute the carries among the backs.

Texas alum Les Koenning has a decent group of receivers, but the position remains a question mark as long as the quarterback position is not situated.

Putting the quarterback position aside, one of the bigger obstacles Koenning will face does not have to do with a lack of personnel but rather finding the best options to put on the field. Senior Jaxon Shipley has been one of the more consistent options for the previous three seasons while Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson picked up valuable playing time in 2013.

But Koenning has a decent group of receivers from last season's roster—in addition to the 2014 signing class—which included 4-star prospects Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe.

Koenning will need to help develop Sanders and Johnson and find a solid group of backups to throw into the mix in 2014.

 

Defense

Surprisingly, the Texas defense will enter the season with less concern than the offense, which hasn't been the case in recent history.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford hit the nail on the head when he explained the defense's biggest issues during spring practice:

The biggest surprise for me is the confidence to go out there and make a play. In the game of football on the defensive side, those who play it safe are going to miss the bus. If you have confidence, you're going to be aggressive, and you're going to win. You don't play it safe.

You don't go to lose, but go to win. We have to get that back here, and that comes with confidence, understanding how to play the game, knowing what your job is, trusting your teammates and going out there and doing that job. When we get to that point of going to win, not just to survive, we will be headed in the right direction.

One of the biggest concerns for the Texas defense over the previous two seasons was with the linebackers. First-year linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary inherited a distinguished group of talent that has been plagued by injuries.

The three projected starters are likely Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmond and Peter Jinkens. But Hicks is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the Longhorns fourth game of the 2013 season. Hicks was also sidelined for the majority of 2012 with a lingering hip injury.

Considering his injury-prone past makes it difficult to expect a full, healthy season from Hicks, Jean-Mary's biggest obstacle will be to find a decent group of backups who can take over for Hicks if he spends another season on the sidelines.

The remaining defensive position coaches appear to have fewer obstacles to overcome in their first season in Austin, but that does not mean problems couldn't surface.

Bedford and secondary coach Chris Vaughn have a decent amount of talent to work with, led by senior Quandre Diggs. Bedford commended Diggs' attitude during spring practice and said Texas needs other defensive backs to have Diggs' attitude. Diggs plays with a will to win while some of the remaining DBs play timid.

What Bedford and Vaughn have to do is teach the defensive backs to play the game with the confidence that can be seen from Diggs.

That leaves the defensive line.

Similar to Robinson, defensive line coach Chris Rumph has a solid group of linemen to help lead the defense in 2014. Rumph inherited projected top-round 2015 NFL draft pick Cedric Reed and veteran defensive tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson. 

The biggest concern for Rumph will likely be who will play opposite of Reed, but on a scale from one to 10, that concern is probably a two compared to the rest of the issues on the team.

Rumph has options to work with and will add incoming freshman and former 4-star prospect Derick Roberson to the mix.

In other words, Rumph's concerns are far less than some of his fellow position coaches on defense.

It's very obvious that year one under Strong and his staff will not be a breeze. The Longhorns have lacked an identity and consistency for the last four seasons.

But with a new leader at the helm, Texas has the chance to build a new identity and bring pride back to Texas football—which is needed now more than ever.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Big Ten Football's Best Candidates to Win 2014 Heisman Trophy

The Big Ten hasn't had a Heisman Trophy winner since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Before that, you would have to stretch back to the end of the last millennium to find another player from the conference—Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne—who claimed the award.

No other "power" conference has had less than two Heisman winners since 2000, but being an underdog is part of the Big Ten's newfound charm. No longer a powerhouse, the conference has taken on the role of the plucky underdog and, in certain spots, played it quite well. 

But even if the league, as a whole, is considered a bit of an underdog, that doesn't mean the players and teams at the top are incapable of national recognition. Ohio State and Michigan State are expected to be Top 10 teams at the start of next season, and even beyond those two stalwarts, there are glimmers of hope throughout the Midwest.

Based on the body of work they have already put forth and the situations they find themselves in next season, at least four Big Ten players stand a realistic shot of contending for the Heisman Trophy.

Behind them, a deep class of dark horses could emerge. Johnny Manziel, after all, was not considered a "realistic" Heisman candidate when he took the reigns at Texas A&M two seasons ago.

Who says the next Johnny Football can't play in the B1G?

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The Opening 2014: Position-by-Position Rankings of the Invitees

The Opening is an annual summer event sponsored by Nike that now rivals postseason All-American games in terms of prestige and star power. The action returns to Beaverton, Oregon, on July 7-10, offering the country's premier collegiate recruits a chance to strut their stuff against their peers.

Throughout the country, 150 high school athletes have received invites to attend and test their skills. National bragging rights will be up for grabs as positional battles and seven-on-seven showdowns take center stage.

We surveyed the list of invitees, assessing and ranking the top players at each position in terms of talent and track record. These rankings apply as competition gets ready to commence at The Opening but could dramatically alter after the dust settles in Beaverton.

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Texas A&M Lands No. 1 2016 Recruit Greg Little, Tightens Grip on Lone Star State

Texas A&M is still more than seven months away from finalizing an inevitably outstanding 2015 recruiting class, but head coach Kevin Sumlin is already commanding massive headlines on the 2016 trail. Greg Little, the nation's No. 1 overall rising junior in 247Sports' composite rankings, committed to the Aggies on Friday.

The 6'5.5", 282-pound offensive tackle posted news of his pledge on Twitter:

Texas A&M is on a tear right now, picking up 5-star recruits on consecutive days. Wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, rated No. 4 nationally among 2015 receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, committed Thursday.

Little and Lodge hop on a bandwagon that continues to grow packed with blue-chip prospects.

Keaton Sutherland, a 4-star 2015 offensive tackle, joined the class Monday. Last month, 4-star receiver Kemah Siverand and 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray committed to the 2015 class.

Murray is teammates with Little at Allen High School, a two-time defending state champion in suburban Dallas. He collected 4,943 total yards and 65 touchdowns in 2013 with the sophomore anchored at right tackle.

Little, who transitioned from tight end after his freshman season, became a full-time starter last fall. He was an instant success, dominating defensive counterparts despite raw technique.

“He took to it very quickly," Allen offensive coordinator Jeff Fleener told Brian Perroni of 247Sports. "He definitely was able to use his leverage and wingspan to his advantage where he was probably still lacking a little bit in strength, just being a sophomore.”

It isn't easy to make a name for yourself as an underclassman in a locker room loaded with established state champions and Division I prospects. However, Little didn't waste time announcing his arrival to the Eagles lineup, as Fleener told 247Sports.

 When we first moved him to tackle, the very first day he went down to one-on-one pass rush, a lot of the older d-linemen started chirping at him a little bit. The very first time he goes, though, he grabs one of our d-linemen and throws him to the ground. He’s got an aggressive nature to him.

That attitude shined throughout the 2013 season, as did Little's athleticism. Coordination can be a shortcoming for many young players of his physical stature, but he moves smoothly and already exhibits tremendous reach while dealing with pass-rushers.

Little joins fellow 5-star Texan offensive tackle Patrick Hudson in Texas A&M's 2016 class. The massive bookends could stabilize the Aggies' front line for years to come, protecting Murray and 5-star 2014 quarterback signee Kyle Allen from fearsome SEC defenders.

College Station has become the place to be for in-state prospects during Sumlin's tenure.

The 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes feature the nation's top-rated pro-style passer (Allen) and top-rated dual-threat quarterback (Murray), two 5-star wide receivers (Lodge and Speedy Noil), two 4-star receivers (Siverand and Frank Iheanacho) and a 4-star tight end (Jordan Davis).

During that span, the Texas Longhorns have landed just two pass-catchers with 4-star credentials (Lorenzo Joe and Armanti Foreman), while adding a pair of 4-star passers (Jerrod Heard and Zach Gentry).

Little's commitment to Texas A&M continues a trend of recruiting dominance that's undoubtedly met with frustration in Austin. The Longhorns extended a scholarship in October and hosted him on campus for the team's spring game in April.

Auburn, Baylor, Georgia, Tennessee, Oregon, USC and Clemson were among more than 20 offers on Little's list.

Texas A&M currently holds five 5-star commitments between its 2015 and 2016 recruiting hauls. Coveted defensive tackle Daylon Mack committed in October and remains the top-rated player in 2015, ranked second nationally by 247Sports.

The addition of Little ensures a similar rise in rankings next year and provides the latest sign of a rapidly changing recruiting climate in College Station.

 

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

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Power Ranking Wisconsin Football's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

After three straight Rose Bowl appearances, the Wisconsin football team came back down to earth last season.  While 9-4 is nothing to shake a stick at, the home loss against Penn State coupled with the debacle in the desert and an implosion in the bowl game gave Badger fans cause for pause.

Returning just 10 total starters from last year's team, including just three on the defensive side of the ball, while facing uncertainty at the quarterback and wide receiver position, the Badgers should still find themselves the favorites in most games thanks to a favorable schedule in the Big Ten.

After a season-opening tilt against LSU in Houston, the rest of the Badgers' nonconference schedule shouldn't trouble them too much as they continue to work out the kinks of their passing game while giving their relatively inexperienced front seven some much-needed playing time.

Once the Badgers get into the meat of their Big Ten schedule, save for a game at Northwestern, it takes until mid-November for things to really get more difficult, as the final trio of games against Nebraska, at Iowa and a season-ending matchup for Paul Bunyan's Axe against Minnesota will determine whether or not the Badgers can get back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.

Without further ado, here are the Badgers' opponents, ranked from worst to first.

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Damore'ea Stringfellow's Transfer Puts Nebraska Back at Square One

Damore'ea Stringfellow was supposed to fill the void left by Monte Harrison.

When Harrison decided to pursue a professional baseball career over attending college, fans were left wondering who the Huskers would recruit in his place. That's what made transfer wide receiver Stringfellow so appealing.

Stringfellow would likely have had to sit out his first year with the Huskers. That was no issue, though. With seniors Kenny Bell, Tyler Evans and Jamal Turner on the team, Stringfellow would have had a year to learn and prepare to take over in 2015.

Nothing was set in stone though, which allowed Stringfellow to change his mind. With that option still available, the former Washington wide receiver flipped his commitment from Nebraska to Ole Miss after visiting Oxford, Miss., as reported by 247Sports.

Unfortunately, his switch in commitment leaves Nebraska back at square one.

While the present is still secure at wide receiver, the Huskers' long-term future is now in question. This comes on the heels of also losing Spencer Tears.

What does that leave Nebraska with? Brandon Vogel of HailVarsity.com summed it up:

That leaves Nebraska with three underclassmen wide receivers — Jordan Westerkamp, Alonzo Moore, Kevin Gladney — on scholarship on the current roster, and three true freshman. Two of those, Demornay Pierson-El and Glenn Irons, are smaller slot-type receivers. The third, Jariah Tolbert, at least fits the mold of an outside wide receiver (6-3, 190) but his time in Lincoln didn’t get off to an ideal start after he was arrested last weekend.

That definitely puts the Huskers in a tough spot. So where does the team go from there?

"Obviously wide receiver is a big need," said JC Shurburtt, 247Sport's national recruiting director. "I expect them to go out and expand their board a little bit and maybe look into the JUCO ranks."

As far as who the Huskers should look for, Shurburtt thinks the Huskers just need to be patient.

"Last year we had a lot of big time JUCO guys out there like LaVon Pearson and Eric Lauderdale," he said. "This year it's not as deep but I do think there will be some guys that emerge."

Now it's just a matter of Nebraska finding those players as they come forward. Shurburtt is confident Bo Pelini and staff will.

"There's always good JUCO wide receivers all over the place," he said. "That's a position that's plentiful and I certainly think the Huskers will find their share and replenish their numbers."

Losing Stringfellow still hurts, though. With Harrison gone, he was expected to fill the missing void. Shurburtt acknowledged that. "It's a blow, not even so much for this season, but for future seasons."

Going forward, the Huskers will have to be focused on finding players to fill the position, especially ones that fit the mold of an outside wide receiver.

What's important to remember is what Shurburtt said. The wide receiver position truly is plentiful. While back at square one, that's good news for the Huskers.

Now Pelini and staff just have to find those players.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

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College Football Players Headed for Sophomore Slump in 2014

Freshman standouts turn into sophomore disappointments every season, even if they didn't necessarily get worse or hit the proverbial "second-year wall."

Take, for example, the best freshmen wide receivers in 2011 and 2012. Those players—Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Alabama's Amari Cooper—both put up considerably lower numbers in their second collegiate seasons, but a lot of that was out of their control.

For Watkins, the emergence of DeAndre Hopkins as one of the best wideouts in America played a large part. For Cooper, Alabama's desire to spread the ball around (and some questionable play-calling) kept the ball out of his hands more often than he might have liked.

The following players won't be worse in 2014 than they wore in 2013. But because of the personnel, coaching or situational changes around them, they might find it difficult to put up as good of numbers as they did as freshmen last season.

Sound off below, and tell me who I missed.

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How 4-Star QB Blake Barnett Will Impact Lane Kiffin's Career at Alabama

The rich just keep getting richer.

Alabama has been a recruiting machine over the last four years, winning the recruiting national championship in each of those years.

It got its quarterback of the future this week, as 4-star dual-threat Blake Barnett from Corona, California, committed to the Crimson Tide Wednesday on B/R's Team Stream Now with Adam Lefkoe.

Barnett told Lefkoe:

I think being paired up with good coaches like [offensive coordinator] coach [Lane] Kiffin, he's developed great quarterbacks in the past at USC. I think that can put me at an advantage being with a good coach like that and running a good offense with a good scheme. Hopefully it will bring me to the next level.

There's a little bit of a problem, though. Alabama already got its "quarterback of the future" in 2013 with 4-star Cooper Bateman and again in 2014 with fellow 4-star David Cornwell

But Barnett is different. He's a Kiffin guy brought in by the new offensive coordinator specifically to run his offense.

What offense is that?

That remains to be seen. Kiffin could dial back the creativity a bit and run a more conservative style thanks to the presence of a small village of talented running backs. But where's the fun in that?

The one thing Kiffin was brought in specifically to do was develop a more creative offensive scheme that can adapt if Alabama finds itself in trouble in games.

"He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and NFL level," head coach Nick Saban said in a release when Kiffin was introduced. "He has a very good understanding of the game and I have always been impressed with what I saw in the games he called."

He was brought in to challenge Saban's philosophies, which is exactly what he can do when Barnett takes the reins.

Let's get this out of the way right now: Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is going to win the quarterback job this year. If he succeeds, then it's reasonable that he could jump to the NFL after his junior season. That would give Barnett the chance to start right away or redshirt. Either way, though, he could play as a freshman in Kiffin's system.

That system should get a boost from Barnett, who's a dual-threat quarterback by trade but really is more of a passer who can run. In other words, he gives Kiffin the option to spice up the offense without changing the fundamental scheme.

As you can see in the video above, he has tremendous arm strength and accuracy downfield. That will allow Alabama to continue to do what it has done throughout the Saban era, taking the top off of a defense that creeps up to stop the run.

But Barnett brings something more. His quick release and accuracy on short and intermediate routes will allow Kiffin to use his full West Coast playbook and incorporate some new-school spread elements with Barnett's legs.

If Coker doesn't revitalize Kiffin's career, the former USC, Tennessee and Oakland Raiders head coach can re-invent himself with Barnett in the talent-rich SEC, which could land him another big-time college head coaching gig in a hurry.

While Alabama's approach to pretty much everything is old school, Barnett can offer a blend. He can bring a new-school, dual-threat approach to an old-school style. On an overly simplistic level, that's exactly why Kiffin was hired.

It's fair to assume that, due to Coker's presence on the roster, Kiffin wasn't thrilled with his quarterback options when he arrived in Tuscaloosa. Or, at the very least, he needed competition to up the ante for all of the contenders.

Barnett is his guy, and he holds the keys to Kiffin's future employment—as long as Kiffin doesn't jump ship in the near future.

If Barnett succeeds, Kiffin's career will rebound. If he fails, the "Lane Kiffin experiment" at Alabama may follow suit.

No pressure, kid.

 

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

 


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Predicting Where Oregon Football Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

Oregon football recruiters have ground to make up in the 2015 signing cycle. With five verbal commits in the fold, the Ducks currently check in at No. 5 in the Pac-12 and No. 51 nationally, according to 247Sports. 

The good news? Head coach Mark Helfrich and his staff have almost eight months until national signing day. The bad news? Early into the process, the Ducks have had to readjust their plans after losing prospects. 

Blake Barnett, the 4-star dual-threat quarterback from Santiago High School in Corona, California, tweeted his commitment to Alabama on Wednesday. 

Barnett is the second quarterback Oregon lost to an SEC program in as many months. Kyler Murray, a 5-star prospect, committed to Texas A&M on May 28. 

Conversely, the most highly touted recruit pledged to the Ducks for 2015 is someone they plucked from SEC country. Taj Griffin, a standout from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, is one of two 247Sports composite 4-stars currently on board. According to 247Sports' own metrics, Griffin is actually a 5-star prospect, and continues the program's run of recruiting top-tier ball-carriers.

The other 4-star is offensive lineman Zach Okun, who will pave the way for Griffin in the years to come. 

The Ducks are playing catch-up behind the Pac-12 pace-setters. USC, for example, has as many 4- and 5-star prospects committed as Oregon has total pledges. 

Pinning down the majority of the top-rated targets on Oregon's list will be critical to their future success. After losing out on Barnett, the focus is on quarterbacks. 

The position may come down to Deondre Francois, s 4-star prospect from Orlando, Florida. Oregon is also a leading contender for 3-star athlete Stephen Johnson, who plays quarterback for San Leandro High School in San Leandro, California. However, according to 247Sports' JC Shurburtt, Johnson would likely play either wide receiver or defensive back at the next level. 

Further 4-star reinforcements look promising in offensive lineman Zack Bailey and athlete Donte Jackson. Both reside in the SEC geographic footprint, with Bailey in South Carolina and Jackson in Louisiana. 

Bailey could be a cornerstone of what is shaping up to be the strongest area of this class. Along with Okun and committed 3-star lineman Shane Lemieux, the Ducks are in the hunt for 4-star lineman Andre James, as well as 3-stars Cody Creason, Mason Walter and Connor Williams

Conversely, Oregon's 2015 class is lean on defensive players, even after adding 3-star cornerback Jihree Stewart last week.  

The biggest defensive target is 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart. The defensive end from Seffner, Florida, will be in Oregon for The Opening next month. 

Fellow The Opening participant and 4-star safety Marvell Tell is also on Oregon's radar. 

Solidifying the defensive class is paramount, and likely the difference between the Ducks falling in the middle of the pack among conference counterparts, and rising to the top three. 

Oregon faces an uphill climb to break into the top 20 of the national rankings. The coming months will be crucial to shaping this recruiting class. 

 

Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

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Notre Dame Football: How Brian Kelly Is Changing His Recruiting Strategy in 2014

From "Pots of Gold" to graphic arts, Notre Dame football has been shifting its recruiting ways over the past year or so.

The newest development is this weekend’s Irish Invasion summer camp, an invite-only event that puts a new spin on the traditional summer camp for current Notre Dame commitments, targets and yet-to-be-offered prospects.

#IrishInvasion

Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) June 20, 2014

#TheEliteWillRise

— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) June 20, 2014

"Irish Invasion is a primetime camp...that’s designed to attract top talent to South Bend in an atmosphere that’s going to be exciting and show off all the cool features and parts of the program that would be attractive to recruits visiting the campus," said Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting.

The event is something new for Notre Dame, with the camp running Friday night.

"They’ve done camps in the day. But a camp in the evening on Notre Dame’s campus—great weather, the sun setting on the Golden Dome, just the serene setting and a chance for an awesome atmosphere," Wiltfong said. "Anytime you do something in the evening, you’ve got a chance for a better atmosphere."

Wiltfong pointed to Florida as the first program to turn a summer camp into a marquee event, as the Gators did with their "Friday Night Lights." Though other schools have followed suit, Wiltfong said Notre Dame—like other elite programs—has the ability to lure bigger names and higher-profile prospects to its campus.

So why, all of a sudden, is Notre Dame branding its summer camp as the Irish Invasion and going as far as to open up the two-hour Friday-night session to media? As Megan Whitt, Notre Dame’s coordinator of recruiting operations, mentioned Thursday night, the idea just came about recently.

Three short months ago this was just an idea; now these butterflies finally tell me it's about to become reality! Bring on Irish Invasion! 🍀

— Megan Whitt (@MeganWhitt1) June 20, 2014

"You always want to try to keep up with the curve and be a trendsetter,” Wiltfong said. “Notre Dame is just keeping up with the Joneses in this regard."

In part, yes, the Irish are simply keeping up. But Wiltfong reiterated that Notre Dame generates a certain buzz that not all schools can.

"Again, anytime Notre Dame does something—and it’s not just Notre Dame, but a high-profile program like Notre Dame—it certainly attracts more attention and eyes than when other BCS programs that aren’t as highly regarded do the same thing," Wiltfong said.

Wiltfong added that Notre Dame will be calling on that high-profile stature throughout the camp:

"Notre Dame will bring these kids in before the camp and they’ll get a chance to get a taste of Notre Dame and learn about the school," he said.

A host of commitments in the class of 2015 will also be on hand to aid in the recruiting efforts. The Irish recently landed six commitments over a 17-day span, a surge that should help the recruiting efforts with some of the top targets in town for the Irish Invasion, according to Wiltfong.

“Now you’ve got more spokesmen in the trenches with the prospects on the field helping sell your brand and your program and talking to the kids about why they committed to Notre Dame,” Wiltfong said.

Such is the cyclical nature of recruiting.

But this weekend, Notre Dame will attempt something new, marking a progressive change in its recruiting strategy.

“Notre Dame continues to make statements and do things that are attractive to recruits,” Wiltfong said. “And this is certainly one of them.”

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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