NCAA Football

Which College Program Will 5-Star Byron Cowart Have Best Chance at Success?

Byron Cowart is a 5-star defensive end who has the ability to play multiple positions at the collegiate level. His size and athleticism give him the ultimate advantage against offensive linemen.

With only a few schools left on his radar, it will be a huge win for whichever program he chooses. Which school do you think he will pick?

Watch College Football Analyst Michael Felder predict where this stud will land.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings from 247Sports composite.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

War Hero Daniel Rodriguez Trying to Make His Mark on Clemson Roster

CLEMSON, S.C. — Daniel Rodriguez wants to be known for football, and he is ready to work for it.

The Clemson junior receiver's road to college football is a fascinating, heartfelt story. But Rodriguez wants to tell another story, one that involves him carving out a big role on the Tigers’ on-field roster in his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility.

“I think the coaches understand I’ve made a point that when we have one-on-ones, that I don’t want to be looked at as a feel-good story,” he said. “I want to be a football player. That’s what I want to do. For me, every day I work out, every day I go to become a better football player, a better teammate. Not just a story.”

Make no mistake: Rodriguez’s story is already impressive.

Rodriguez, 26, joined the Army in Jan. 2007 and served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan over 18 months. While in Afghanistan, he was involved in the Battle of Kamdesh, one of the bloodiest battles of the Afghan war, where 38 U.S. troops battled 300 Taliban insurgents. Eight U.S. soldiers died; 22 were wounded. Rodriguez had shrapnel wounds to his neck and right leg, and he earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his efforts.

He walked on at Clemson (the Army is paying for his education via the G.I. Bill) and became an immediate fan favorite, earning ovations every time he touched the ball—which has mostly come on special teams.

Now, though, Rodriguez wants more. That is why he gets up in the mornings for punishing workouts, sweating alongside the Tigers’ young, talented receiving corps.

His life story has been immortalized in a book: Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept, which is due out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Oct. 7.

When Rodriguez’s story is made into a movie (the film rights have been acquired by Sony’s TriStar Productions), it could end with his first career touchdown, scored Nov. 23, 2013 against The Citadel—on Military Appreciation Day, no less.

However, Rodriguez hopes that is only the beginning.

"I’ve really tried to establish and separate myself from the 'feel-good-story Daniel' to the 'football player Daniel,'" he said. "I think I have made a mark. I think I did open some eyes, having more skill than (coaches) probably thought I had. I think I am a playmaker. I think I have the ability to contribute on this team, down in and down out." 

Last fall, he carved out a small role behind talented receivers such as high NFL draft picks Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, making seven catches for 20 yards and a touchdown on 73 offensive snaps. He also had five punt returns for 31 yards.

“I felt I could have made it last year, but you have a guy like Sammy Watkins, he's a horse,” Rodriguez said. “Playing behind him, seeing what he can do, you learn from the guys around you. And when it’s your time, your number gets called, you just make the most of it.”

Rodriguez doesn't dabble in delusions of grandeur. He has made a place for himself on Clemson’s roster as a backup receiver and someone who can play any special teams position, a dependable, solid tackler who can always be counted on.

“I don’t have all the intangibles of a Sammy Watkins, a 6’5” Martavis Bryant, that type of receiver, but at the same time my knowledge is there, my commitment is there, and I hope the trust is there with the coaches that if they need me I’ll be there,” he said.

Just being on the roster doesn’t satisfy Rodriguez.

“I think that’s been my biggest chip here,” he said. “At the beginning I was so appreciative of the opportunity, just to have a chance to play that I was making a note to the coaches that I didn’t want a charity case. I’ve tried very hard to establish myself as a role player, a leader, someone who is dependable.”

This summer, Rodriguez (who stands 5’8”, 175 pounds), has been working closely with senior receiver Adam Humphries, listed at 5’11”, 190 pounds.

Humphries is helping his fellow smaller receiver make the most of what he has.

“He’s not the biggest guy,” Humphries said. “He’s got to use what he’s blessed with to maximize his potential. And I’m not the biggest guy either, so I try to help him with speed and keeping your legs underneath you, being physical with your hands and using what you have the best you can. He’s been doing a good job this summer, he’s got to keep working. He can make a huge impact. He’s just got to continue to get confidence that we can throw him out on the field and get the job done.”

Make no mistake: Rodriguez is well aware of his place on the Tigers roster. Versatility, not 5-star talent or speed, is his calling card.

“I think that’s my niche,” he said. “Special teams, I know every single receiver position, the coaches can put me in any position at receiver, those are the details I have. Like I said, my attributes aren’t to throw the ball up for a corner jump ball at the 8-yard line.

“For me, it’s using what I have to my advantage. That’s my knowledge of the game, my quickness, just to have any edge I can. Just to make my mark on special teams, it’s worth it. Anytime I can go on the field, I’ll go on the field and give it my all. Wherever they want me, I’ll go.”

Coaches have taken notice of Rodriguez’s drive, too.

“Daniel is so much more mature coming in here,” Clemson head strength and conditioning coach Joey Batson said. “His life experience is a lot different than any of us. They look to him for leadership and maturity. His drive challenges guys. He doesn’t challenge them personally, but he’s out front being a role model.”

He’s already a role model, but this fall, Rodriguez wants more. So every day he works, sweats and strives, hoping to take the next step in an already amazing story.

“This year we’ll have some talented receivers coming in, but hopefully my seniority will give me the upper edge,” he said. “I think I’ll have the opportunity to get some snaps going into this year.”

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.

Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football: Why Kelvin Taylor Should Be Considered a Heisman Dark Horse

While this whole offseason for the Florida Gators has been about getting better and putting last year’s nightmare to bed, it’s time to focus on something positive. Florida will have a chance to produce its fourth Heisman winner if running back Kelvin Taylor has the season many expect.

Only a sophomore and flying under the radar due to Florida’s offensive issues last season, nobody in their right mind would consider any running back for the Gators a candidate for the most prestigious award in college football.

But don’t be surprised if that’s the case once we get the season underway.

 

Expect the Unexpected 

Back in the days college football had to know who you were before the season began for you to have a chance to win the Heisman.

Matt Leinart had already thrown for more than 3,500 yards and 38 touchdowns the year before he won the award. Reggie Bush was making jaws drop way before his final season at USC. Ricky Williams had 4,155 career rushing yards and 45 touchdowns before he walked away with the hardware as a senior.

How about the last four winners?

Cam Newton had just 12 career pass attempts and was more known for his off-the-field issues at Florida before his first season at Auburn. Robert Griffin III had some buzz, but very few took him seriously considering he played for a Baylor program that had not won double-digit games since 1980. The last two winners (Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston) were freshmen, and the last thing anybody was thinking was a Heisman trophy.

Gone are the days where you have to already be a college football superstar.

Now, you just have to show up, help your team win and put together an off-the-wall individual season. There’s enough TV time, highlight videos and coverage to go around that builds the case for said player nowadays.

Taylor has just as good a shot as any player entering this college football season.

 

If Last Season Was a Sign of Things to Come...

Taylor only received six carries through his first five games and then eventually was thrown into the starting role due to various injuries to other backs. Even then, he only had 20 or more carries in three games and finished with only 111 touches for 508 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged a decent 4.58 yards per carry and scored three of his four touchdowns in his final four games.

A stat that was really impressive is that Taylor averaged five yards per carry against AP-ranked teams, which was higher than his average against any other group of teams. It was clear he was just getting comfortable with the speed of the game.

But what if Taylor sees a typical starter’s workload this season?

One thing that may prevent Taylor from having any shot at the Heisman is the fact offensive coordinator Kurt Roper typically isn’t a one-running-back coach. In fact, no player ran the ball more than 120 times a season in his career at Duke. He likes to keep guys fresh and use nearly the entire backfield.

However, it’s fair to say Roper hasn’t had a back as talented as Taylor and may change his style a bit. If so, Taylor’s chances at the hardware improve dramatically.

Taking Taylor’s average of 4.6 and multiplying that by 215 carries, we end up with 989 yards. Not Heisman numbers, but there’s reason to believe he can bump that average up with ease. This is the same back who averaged 5.2 yards against LSU, a team that had the third-best run defense in the SEC.

Taylor also moved the chains on nearly 25 percent of his carries and had five runs produce 20 or more yards.

Another thing to consider is Florida had zero offensive production with Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg at quarterback, so defenses were selling out completely to stop the run.

Taylor still rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina. Now, he’ll be in an offense that spreads the field and makes it difficult for opposing defenses to focus on one thing or player. It’ll also force defenders to tackle Taylor in space.

Good luck with that.

We just saw Tre Mason put up ridiculous numbers in a spread offense and receive an invite to New York. Granted, Taylor won’t receive over 300 carries, but he does have the talent and has shown his potential in a sample size last season.

Don’t rule it out.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How BCS Era Turned the Heisman Trophy into Glorified QB Award

This year will mark the 80th anniversary of the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college football. The honor is meant to go to "an individual designated as the outstanding college football player in the United States," as it says on the Heisman website.

We don't know how old that text is, but a more modern description might as well say "the best quarterback, unless none of them are any good" since that's what the Heisman seems to have become: another trophy for the top college passer.

It hasn't always been this way.

Running backs are still the most common winner since the first trophy was awarded in 1935, taking home the honor 39 times, with quarterbacks getting the second-most awards at 33. But 19 of those QB wins have come since 1984, when Boston College's Doug Flutie ended a streak of 12 straight Heismans won by rushers.

It's been even more lopsided since the BCS era began in 1998.

While Texas' Ricky Williams and Wisconsin's Ron Dayne won as running backs those first two years, after that it's been almost exclusively quarterbacks.

Only Reggie Bush (2005) and Mark Ingram (in 2009) have prevented the last 15 years from completely morphing the Heisman into the Davey O'Brien Award—an honor that's specifically for quarterbacks—and only Bush's came in a year when there were legitimately solid Heisman contenders who threw the ball.

(Worth noting: Bush's Heisman was vacated by the Heisman Trust in 2010, a side effect of NCAA violations against USC for impermissible benefits received by Bush during his time in school. Because of that, technically, quarterbacks claimed every Heisman from 2000-2008.)

And it's not even that quarterbacks just happen to be finishing first in the Heisman balloting. That position pretty much has stuffed the ballot box to the point that 65 percent of the players to finish in the top five in any given year since 1998 have all hailed from the same position, as the chart below shows.

How did this happen? A few theories deserve to be discussed.

First there's the concept that the running back position has been devalued. This would lend itself to a trickle-down effect from the NFL, where teams aren't going out of their way to draft running backs early—this past draft saw the first rusher go late in the second round, the second year in a row without a first-round pick used on that position.

Running backs have never been the marquee choice in the draft, and it's been 19 years since Ki-Jana Carter went No. 1 overall, but even current and former pro players are acknowledging the position just doesn't have the sizzle it had before. Former NFL great LaDanian Tomlinson said so much to The Sporting News' David Steele:

Think of the kid who’s starting out playing football now—kids want to play wide receiver. Back in the day, you wanted to play running back because you wanted the ball … That’s going to be the norm from now on.

With the best young athletes looking to be in a position other than running back, it stands to reason that the best rushers in college won't end up being good enough to be considered the top overall player in the country.

But a better explanation might be one that involves the past dictating the future.

Since the Heisman quarterback dominance began in 2000, predictions related to who would win the award have been heavily skewed toward passers.

While other positions get thrown into early "watch lists" and running backs, wide receivers and even a few defensive players get mentioned each year as contenders, by and large the majority of players who get early hype for the Heisman are quarterbacks.

Don't believe it? Then check out the preseason Heisman short lists from The Sporting News, NFL.com, The National Football Post (via Yahoo Sports), HeismanPundit.com and Sports Illustrated for the 2014 season, to name a few. The majority of the "contenders," "front-runners" or "favorites," depending on how they're being categorized, are quarterbacks.

And while reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and UCLA's Brett Hundley appear on all of them, the emphasis on quarterbacks is prevalent. So much so that Jacob Coker—who backed up E.J. Manuel and Winston at Florida State, hardly ever playing, and is now in a competition to win the starting job at Alabama after transferring—is on Sports Illustrated's list of potential Heisman candidates.

Even Chris Huston, author of the Heisman Pundit website, limited his 25-person watch list to players who have actually achieved something in college.

These early lists aren't meant to be considered gospel, as breakouts can (and will) emerge as the 2014 season progresses. But odds are most of those who get added to the roster of legitimate contenders will be quarterbacks, something we must resign ourselves to accepting as the Heisman moves closer and closer to being a quarterback-only award.

It's almost like we enter each year assuming that a quarterback will win the Heisman, because that's how it's been lately and nothing indicates that should change. The BCS era is to blame for this, especially if you look at how games have been played during that time span.

Bleacher Report's Amy Daughters compared offensive stats from before the BCS and during, and it wasn't surprising to see that the numbers have gone way up. And even less startling was how much quarterbacks had to do with the offensive boom.

The number of 3,000-yard quarterbacks doubled from 1987 to 1997 and then tripled from the beginning of the BCS until 2007 ... Proving that the bar is being pushed up even further is the fact that there were zero 4,000-yard passers in 1987 and 1997, but there were six in 2007 and nine in 2013.

At the same time, running back production increased at only a fraction of the rate of quarterback output.

Is there any sign this will stop? The BCS era has come and gone, with the College Football Playoff replacing it and giving us our first legitimate tournament to determine a national champion. But that new system isn't likely to have an effect on the Heisman and who it's handed down to, since the CFP games all occur weeks after voting is over and the trophy is locked away in the winner's trophy case.

Not a fan of the Heisman being a glorified quarterback award? As long as college football continues to trend toward passers being as important as they are, it's not likely to change.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Is Tight End the Bulldog's Weak Link on Offense?

The offense for the Georgia Bulldogs has been strong the last two seasons, and despite losing Aaron Murray, they have a chance to be just as strong in 2014.

Hutson Mason has proved he can take control of the offense when needed. The running backs for Georgia led by Todd Gurley are reliable and have the ability to run past and over defenders. The receivers have speed, and they also have good hands. The offensive line does have question marks, but they are a group that can take over a game if they are all on the same page.

But if there’s one position on offense that’s a question mark, it would have to be the tight end position because the depth and the experience are not there.

The position took a big blow this week when Hunter Atkinson decided to quit football according to Gentry Estes of 247 Sports. Atkinson did not play a down for the Bulldogs because he was a newly signed player.

#UGA really liked Hunter Atkinson as a tight end and possibly a o-lineman depending on how he grew. Dawgs down to 4 scholarship TEs & Hicks

— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) June 18, 2014

Regardless, that leaves the Bulldogs with only three scholarship players, and they are Jay Rome, Jordan Davis and Jeb Blazevich, who is also a newly signed player.

So based on where the position is right now, the tight end position is a weak link on offense, but that could change during the early stages of the season if Rome turns out to be the player the coaches have hoped for.

Rome missed all of spring practice because he had to have a screw surgically inserted in his left foot.

Last year, Rome was a backup for Arthur Lynch, who was an All-SEC tight end. And while Lynch did a lot of good for the Bulldogs during his career, Rome has the potential to be a better overall player than Lynch because he’s bigger, stronger and faster.

But his issue with his foot has been ongoing, and the coaches don’t want to rush him back on the field because of it.

And this is also why the Bulldogs have made Quayvon Hicks as a hybrid tight end. Hicks’ natural position is fullback, but he has the hands and the blocking skills to be out on the edge as well.

Davis and Blazevich are in the same boat. Davis has a year on Blazevich, but both have not played a down for the Bulldogs.

Davis will see some action, but he will need one more year to be the dual-threat tight end the Bulldogs need in order to run their pro-style offense. Blazevich could redshirt, but it will depend on how Hicks comes along in his hybrid role.

The tight end position is normally a strength for the Bulldogs nearly every year. And the talent is there this season for it to be a strength again.

But the injury concerns of Rome and the zero experience of the other three tight ends on the roster make the position the weakest one on offense.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: What Each Potential Starting Quarterback Means to 'Canes

The Miami Hurricanes are approaching an intense four-man battle for the starting quarterback position during the 2014 season.

Boasting a veteran in Ryan Williams, a pair of 4-star freshmen in Kevin Olsen and Brad Kaaya and a former 5-star in Jake Heaps, Miami is loaded with talent. 

Whether Al Golden chooses Williams, Heaps or one of the young guns matters not, because the 'Canes offense will be in capable hands no matter where they turn.

Except for not really: The Miami quarterback situation is simply a mess. Being capable is not necessarily a sufficient quality of, well, quality.

But ultimately, it just doesn't matter what problems the Hurricanes face: They have to find the best option to guide the 2014 team, and each player brings advantages and disadvantages of his own.

 

Ryan Williams

Looking back to late March, it was relatively clear Williams would not be beaten out by anyone, even an unforeseen mid-summer transfer.

But then, the one-time transfer suffered a knee injury that nearly derailed his hopes for the upcoming season. One surgery and three months later, Williams' return is now a matter of when rather than if it will.

Williams is not extremely mobile and does not have an overly powerful arm, but he makes sharp decisions, gets the ball out quickly and throws accurate passes.

According to Christopher Stock of 247Sports (subscription required), Williams said pre-spring:

I've been working on my hands in the pocket and getting the ball ready to throw faster so there's less time between thinking I want to throw this and actually getting the ball out and it gives the DBs less time to react to the ball.

And with receivers like Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis cutting across the middle, the potential for yards after catch is high. Williams is the type of quarterback who won't light up a box score, but he would be the most consistent under center.

If his knee allows it, that is.

Though he may start practicing shortly before the season-opener, Williams' football readiness will be an issue. The best-case scenario for the senior is to be available for Arkansas State on Sept. 13 and shake off any rust before Miami heads to Nebraska the following week.

Williams is the safest option for the Hurricanes, but Golden and offensive coordinator James Coley need him to be healthy. Otherwise, Plans B, C and D really start to gain traction.

 

Kevin Olsen

Following Williams' injury, the heavily recruited, now-redshirt freshman Olsen was the best choice to replace the anticipated starter. Then the spring game happened, and he looked exactly like what a young second-string quarterback usually does: not very good.

The glorified scrimmage raised two major questions. First, what is Olsen missing in his development? Second, is it his fault, is it on the coaches or does he just need more time?

In fairness, not every prospect should be pushed to take over as the full-time starter during their second year of college. As it pertains to Olsen, so much hype has been brought on the brother of a former Miami star, which might have generated unfair expectations.

But Heaps' transfer consequently brought a third query: if the coaching staff is comfortable relying on Olsen.

The freshman's arm talent has been lauded, and the spring game certainly backed it up.

However, the accuracy and decision-making was not present, save for his connection with Lewis. Again, Olsen's limited reps as the backup for the majority of spring factor in here.

Anyway, barring a major letdown in the fall, I'm still on board with Olsen making a few spot-starts until Williams is full-go.

Plus, if he shows significant improvement, it's better to continue starting a younger talent over a veteran and give him more early game experience.

But if the coaches cannot trust Olsen, the quarterback situation gets even trickier.

 

Jake Heaps

A top-three quarterback in his class according to 247Sports, Heaps initially headed to BYU for two seasons before transferring to Kansas. But after his fall from grace late in 2013, the journeyman searched for a greener pasture and believes he has found one in South Florida.

Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval asks if Heaps, who will be surrounded by a plethora of playmakers, can make the Hurricanes an ACC contender.

Let's answer the question this way: Any quarterback who avoids being the principal reason Miami loses will do just that.

The trouble, of course, is deciding whether or not Heaps is a game manager. Over three collegiate seasons at BYU and Kansas, Heaps has completed 54.8 percent of his passes, tossing 32 touchdowns to 27 interceptions.

Per Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post: "[Heaps] has a sense of humor about his past struggles. When I started a question by telling him I had watched tape of his Kansas games, he cut in with, 'Mixed reviews, I'm sure.'"

While a Jayhawk, including his transfer 2012 season, Kansas wide receivers caught three touchdowns. That's it. Three, during two years—24 games of football.

Quite obviously, Heaps wasn't getting much help on the outside, but he now has Coley, Lewis, Phillip Dorsett, Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters as the targets. Those receivers are definitely upgrades over Andrew Turzilli, Rodriguez Coleman and Justin McCay.

 

Brad Kaaya

Starting Kaaya as a true freshman is an appealing prospect, with visions of an immediate four-year starter and sugar plums dancing in our heads.

But that's not necessarily what is best for the program. Unless Kaaya proves himself worthy of the starting job and retains the position over the entire campaign, the 4-star quarterback should take a redshirt season.

Yes, if Kaaya deserves the No. 1 role, by all means, give it to the prospective star. But Miami cannot misuse or rush the development of who many consider the quarterback of the future—including themselves.

For example, take the University of Michigan in 2013. The Wolverines fought through a frustrating season with Devin Gardner at the helm, yet only sparingly used highly touted Shane Morris and burnt his redshirt.

Where Michigan could be visualizing at least three years of the left-hander under center after Gardner graduates, it instead wasted an entire year of Morris' eligibility for essentially one game.

Look, the Hurricanes are not winning a national championship in the 2014 season. They are not making the inaugural College Football Playoff. They will probably not earn the ACC crown.

Rely on the veterans, let Kaaya immerse himself in the Miami playbook and build for the future. Because it certainly can be brighter, for longer.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Five 2015 Defensive Recruits with Most to Prove This Summer

As the summer arrives, many recruits will be busy at various camps and seven-on-seven events over the next few months. Looking at the 2015 class, a few defensive prospects will be looking to shake some slight knocks on their skill sets.

A 5-star defensive end must prove he is strong enough not to be considered a one-trick pony, while a 4-star cornerback has to show he is more than just an explosive athlete.

Also, a mysterious 4-star defensive lineman needs to prove he doesn't just dominate weak competition.

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Every Pac-12 Football Team's Ace 2015 Recruiter

The Pac-12 is not just about sunshine and throwing the football. Its recruiting trail is fiercely competitive, with the state of California serving as the main source of talent for the conference.

Each head coach in the Pac-12 must assemble his coaching staff with a great balance of on-field tutors and skilled recruiters. Each staff in the league has at least one ace recruiter, and they're starting to shine in 2015 recruiting.

UCLA's offensive line coach is a respected recruiter on the trail. A former Pac-12 head coach is doing well recruiting for Utah, plus California's running backs coach has already lured a powerful runner to Berkeley.

All recruiting class ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Recruiting Rankings.
All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

 

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Mark Emmert's O'Bannon Trial Comments Tell CFB Fans What They Already Know

Boise State will never win a college football national championship, and we’re completely at peace with this. In fact, fine Idaho inhabitants—even the extreme blue-blooders—have grown to accept this very notion, despite the handful of close calls that nearly debunked this logic in the past decade.

This is not meant to be a jab at one of the more exciting and successful little giants of our lifetime. It’s also not a Boise problem. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

It’s simply acknowledging the truth: College athletics aren’t fair to all of its members—it’s never been fair—and the notion that paying players beyond cost of attendance would somehow destroy the competitive fairness of the sport ignores the fact that it was never fair to begin with.

NCAA president Mark Emmert took the stand at the Ed O’Bannon trial on Thursday with the intention of convincing U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken otherwise. It’s her opinion that matters; not ours, the public’s, the jury’s (there isn't one) or the endless stream of Twitter jokes that poured out with each and every response.

It’s up to Wilken to rule in favor of the NCAA and its current model, or the plaintiffs, a decision that could rock the foundation of collegiate athletics as we know it.

While Emmert’s hours on the stand brought up a wealth of fascinating talking points, from the definition of amateurism, to a trip down NCAA history lane, to his own salary, his position regarding the current competitive state of collegiate athletics—and what it could become—certainly stood out.

His stance is pretty clear and predictable, as outlined by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach: If you allow schools to pay the players, the rich (aka the schools with seemingly unlimited resources) will get richer and separate themselves from the masses.

Emmert says paying players would destroy competitive balance, another pro-competitive benefit

— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) June 19, 2014

He continued, according to Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples, by saying that paying players would drastically alter the recruiting process.

Emmert says if payment is allowed, players would choose colleges based on amount of payment.

— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) June 19, 2014

Although this is a deep dive down the doomsday rabbit hole, it’s also a distinct possibility that this could become a reality. After all, there’s a rather significant trial taking place that could prompt this movement. (There will also be other trials to come regardless of this ruling, but the process has begun.

It is extreme, but it also makes some sense on the surface. For further proof of what a free market can generate, look no further than professional free agency. Perhaps, if all barriers were removed, this is what we’d be left with.

It’s not this part of Emmert’s claim that is necessarily incorrect, as assumption-heavy as it might be. It’s assuming that collegiate athletics—with a strong focus on college football—were somehow fair to begin with.

There are various ways to convey what you already know: that certain teams with certain means will be more attractive to players, coaches, fans and success than other places. Nothing conveys this more than tangible results.

Over the past 77 years—stretching back to the leather-helmeted 1930s—only 27 teams have finished No. 1 in the final AP Poll. The lack of representation at the top is both startling and somehow not the least bit surprising.

This top-heavy trend was around well before television contracts changed the sport entirely, although the gap has widened exponentially thanks to networks and other media endeavors for major teams and conferences.

Texas and Alabama combined to generate nearly $310 million in revenue in 2013, according to USA Today. For comparison’s sake, Iowa State and Cincinnati—No. 50 and 51 on this list—generated less than $125 million in revenue.

Alabama has certainly put this money to good use. The Tide only recently put the final touches on its new $9 million weight room. It even added a waterfall to its training area, in case you weren’t aware by now.

Oregon has taken its football success and connections with Nike (and more specifically, Nike co-founder Phil Knight) and parlayed that into a gorgeous, $68 million, 145,000-foot football operations building.

Clemson has strategically decided to put its football success back into coaching salaries. After giving Dabo Swinney a much-deserved raise, the Tigers also reworked the contracts of the staff. Payroll for Clemson assistants will now total more than $4 million per season, while Swinney will take home more than $3 million himself.

Staffs at major programs are larger, recruiting budgets have grown exponentially, and the money generated by the sport is poured back into the machines to produce more. This is not simply common procedure at Alabama, Oregon and Clemson; it’s common practice for the select revenue-rich teams in a favorable situation.

While these tactics aren’t as direct as handing over a check to a “student-athlete” based on his/her physical worth, they’re still a byproduct of a system that is built on money and resources. The more you have, the more things you can do to your football program—and your athletic program in general—to further increase the gap between those that have and those that don’t.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. It’s business.

Programs are choosing to spend their fortunes, which is both admirable and intelligent. The fact that there are vast differences between teams is both accepted and acknowledged when you sign up for this.

Well, at least for most.

Emmert’s stance on paying players comes as no surprise given his current predicament. It's what his bosses (the schools) pay him to do. At the most critical hour, with fortunes in the balance, he is simply doing his job.

In his defense, there is likely an intelligent argument to be made—a checklist to be crafted—as to why paying players is ultimately not the answer. Or, at the very least, why the slow destruction of amateurism should come with guidelines.

Basing this argument around a competitive balance that simply does not exist in this world, however, is a taxing way to establish an argument. There is none, really.

That ship sailed long ago.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Football: 10 Current Tigers Who Have Outplayed Their Recruiting Rankings

Clemson has become one of the top recruiting schools in the nation lately, but the Tigers have shown with the guys on this list that a star rating is merely just a number.

Recruiting rankings are very useful for fans to gauge a prospect's potential, but so many times prospects are ranked lower than what they deserve.

It goes to show how well a player can become once he is around certain coaches, and for these 12 guys, it's been no different.

Note: For Shaq Lawson and Isaiah Battle, their original high school rankings were used. Both became ranked higher after a year of prep school, but the rankings before prep school were used in this article.

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SEC Football: Players Facing the Most Pressure in 2014

There is no greater microscope in college football than the SEC's. So, when a player agrees to become part of a team in the conference, he accepts the scrutiny that accompanies the celebrity.

It's part of the deal, age be darned.

Players and coaches are lauded or loathed. Key plays are painted, hung in living rooms and etched into fans' minds for lifetimes. Controversial calls are dissected on call-in shows and posted frame-by-frame on internet message boards. Smack is constantly talked.

In 2014, with so many heroes and team stars off to the NFL, there will be an even greater amount of pressure on some new faces.

Whether they're replacing a legend, returning from injury, competing for a championship or simply trying to prove a point, numerous players will have the spotlight centered on them.

Let's take a look at 12 names about to jump head-first into the pressure-cooker world of SEC criticism this year.

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Chris Clark to Michigan: Wolverines Land 4-Star TE Prospect

After a lengthy recruiting process with plenty of twists and turns, elite tight end prospect Chris Clark has officially committed to Michigan for the 2015 season.    

Clark confirmed his decision on Twitter:

A 4-star prospect, Clark rates as the No. 2 tight end in the class of 2015, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Not surprisingly, he has been a highly coveted player among top college football programs, so the Avon, Connecticut, native essentially had his pick of the litter.

Most ended their pursuit when Clark committed to North Carolina in March, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports. Clark later rescinded his commitment, though, and tweeted regarding his availability:

There was no shortage of potential suitors, but it seemed as though the Big Ten made a run at Clark harder than any other conference. Per 247Sports, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State were among the schools near the top of his list.

Clark's Twitter account backs that up as he met with Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, as seen in this photo:

Clark also heavily weighed his options between fierce rivals in the form of the Wolverines and Spartans:

As happy as Clark appears to be with his decision, North Carolina has to feel as though he is the one who got away. According to Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com, Clark made the mistake of committing to North Carolina originally before exploring all the options at his disposal.

"I kind of rushed the decision to commit to North Carolina," Clark said. "It was just one of those things that I didn't really think over or talk to my parents about. When I got home, my mom and dad told me that I owe it to myself to check out more schools because it was early."

Clark certainly has a lot of developing to do, but he already possesses ideal size at 6'6" and 247 pounds. If he can add a bit more muscle to that frame and improve his blocking as well, then he will have all the makings of a complete, superstar tight end.

He is also far from a finished product from a receiving perspective. Clark caught 39 passes for 417 yards and six touchdowns in 2013, which is good for a tight end at the high school level, but he wasn't a dominant force by any means.

The excitement surrounding Clark is based largely on potential. Many players never reach their fullest potential, so it is incumbent upon Clark to learn as much as he possibly can and apply it on the field early in his collegiate career.

Clark could be utilized to some degree as a freshman, but he is a developmental player who would benefit more from sitting on the sidelines and developing an understanding for the offense and the intricacies of the college game.

There is still plenty of time for Clark to develop before then as he has another year of high school football left to play. While it won't necessarily prepare him for what he will see in college, Clark has an opportunity to improve in all areas before officially making the jump.

In addition to being an extremely talented player, Clark comes across as a cerebral person who truly understands the game. That bodes well for him moving forward and makes for a good bet that college football fans will be hearing his name quite a bit in the near future.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Penn State Football: 'Lasch Bash' Recruiting Event Will Be Huge for Franklin

The grills will be fired up this weekend outside of the Lasch Building when James Franklin and his staff host most of their currently committed 2015 recruits as well as several high-profile targets. 

A fairly new tradition, this year's "Lasch Bash" could have a huge impact on the future of Penn State football.

Expected prospects include 4-star offensive lineman Matthew Burrell and 5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle. They'll be joined by the likes of committed players Andre Robinson, Sterling Jenkins and Brandon Wimbush, who will all be acting as recruiters this weekend.

 

PSU here we come pic.twitter.com/sfp1OjUlre

— Tim Settle (@tim_settle) June 19, 2014



Though he was already committed at the time, last year's Bash had a big impact on incoming freshman linebacker Troy Reeder. "It was different because you felt like you were a part of the team rather than just a visitor," Reeder said. He spoke of the relationships that bloomed that weekend when he met guys like Troy Apke for the first time, as well as some future teammates:

I got to meet Garrett Sickels and Brendan Mahon and I got to eat lunch with them. It was pretty cool because they had just gotten up there permanently so they were filling me in on how the transition was. They’ve become good friends now throughout this past year.

Those are exactly the kind of relationships that the coaching staff is hoping for when they bring together so many prospects at one time, some already committed. 

By creating a cookout-type environment, it allows the kids to mingle freely without a game to watch or a tight tour schedule to maintain. Instead, you get competitive banter over a game of corn hole.

Schools and coaches can only do so much to stand out when recruiting but prospects themselves can be the difference-maker. Adam McLean is expected to be on campus and has been one of the most relentless recruiters in the current class. It's a safe bet that he'll be on his game this weekend. 

Player-on-player relationships are only one aspect of the Lasch Bash. It also gives the coaches a chance to speak with players and their families in a casual environment. It will give next year's class, the juniors-to-be, a chance to get familiar with Penn State and what it offers. 

Similar to a big game with several high-profile visitors, this weekend could prove to be huge in the future of Penn State football. Enough big-time prospects will be on hand that Franklin could significantly improve the rosters of the future. With the help of hamburgers and hot dogs, of course.


All quotes obtained firsthand.

All recruit ratings are courtesy of the 247Sports Composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly Will Fare Without RB Marion Grice in 2014

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly has the talent to lead the Sun Devils to the Pac-12 championship next year.

With another year under his belt, Kelly will be a dual threat that will tear up defenses. Does he have the skill set to dominate next season?

Watch Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss his bright future.

 

Highlights Courtesy of XOS Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly Will Fare Without RB Marion Grice in 2014

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly has the talent to lead the Sun Devils to the Pac -12 championship next year. With another year under his belt, Kelly will be a dual threat that will tear up defenses...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

The Case for and Against Ohio State Making College Football Playoff

It is "College Football Playoff or Bust" for the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes, who enter their third season under Urban Meyer with a 24-2 record but nothing to show for it tangibly.

After starting 12-0 for the second consecutive season, OSU tapered off at the end of 2014, losing the Big Ten Championship Game to Michigan State, 34-24, and the Orange Bowl to Clemson, 40-35.

Despite the sour end to last season, however, there are just as many reasons for optimism in Columbus as there usually are.

The team's best player is returning for his senior season, and a 2014 recruiting class that ranked No. 3 in the country on the 247Sports team rankings joins a 2013 class that ranked No. 2 and a 2012 class that ranked No. 5 to form a deep, impressive wellspring of talent.

But will it finally amount to a Big Ten Championship in the Meyer era? Will the Buckeyes be able to make the first College Football Playoff?

Here is the case both for and against OSU.

 

The Case For Ohio State:

Ohio State hasn't lost a regular-season game since Meyer arrived in 2012, going 24-0 during that span. It is one of just eight teams—joined by Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Stanford, Michigan State, South Carolina and Oklahoma State—to finish in the top 15 of Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings in both of those two seasons.

Is it too early to rest my case?

The Buckeyes are led by senior quarterback Braxton Miller, who is the two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

Because of the Big Ten's unfortunate offensive reputation, some might compare that to "being the tallest dwarf," but it is impressive nonetheless. Big Ten teams still know how to play defense, after all. Anyone that can average 7.61 yards per play against conference opponents is a unique offensive threat.

Despite losing star running back Carlos Hyde, leading receiver Corey Brown and four senior starters from a dominant offensive line, Miller should be able to will the offense to a decent mode of efficiency.

It might not be the second-best offense in America—as the F/+ ratings had it ranked in 2013—but with Miller and some high-upside skill players such as Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott in the mix, a top-15 or -20 finish is realistic (and most likely expected).

On defense, the line should be one of the best in America. In actuality, it might be the single best in America. I have already gone into more depth on this here, but just know that the four projected starters up front—Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Joey Bosa and Noah Spence—all have a realistic chance of being All-Big Ten performers.

All but Washington could realistically be All-Americans.

What plagued OSU's defense last season was not the front seven but the secondary. According to Football Outsiders' S&P+ ratings, the Buckeyes finished No. 61 in pass defense, worse than teams such as Tulsa, USF and (most painful of all) in-state non-rival Akron.

They do lose three starters from that unit, but considering the way it performed in 2014, an argument could be made in favor of that being "addition by subtraction"—or, at the very least, in favor of some sort of "Ewing Theory" effect after losing up-and-down star Bradley Roby.

New co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash should help, too.

Ash comes over from Arkansas by way of Wisconsin, jumping off the Bret Bielema bandwagon at what appears to be the right time. He is a secondary specialist who molded some great units with the Badgers; during his three seasons as the defensive backs coach, they finished with a top-20 pass defense twice (per the S&P+ ratings).

The emphasis on the back end this spring was aggressiveness, which was evident during an impressive showing in the spring game. "We were talked about so bad in the media, how bad the pass defense was," safety Tyvis Powell said after the game, per Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "So today was just the way to show that we improved that and we were able to be aggressive."

Between the obvious chip on the unit's shoulder, the hope of a fresh new start, the potential of the younger players, the dominance of the defensive line and the switch to a zone-based scheme—which Bleacher Report's Michael Felder broke down in detail here—it does not seem absurd to expect a far better pass defense in 2014.

Here, for example, is the conclusion of Felder's piece:

Meyer's offense is going to go. [Co-defensive coordinator Luke] Fickell's defense is going to stop the run. The missing link for Ohio State in 2013 came in the form of defending the pass. The addition of Ash and a new mentality as a unit are remedies to the heel-sitting approach from a year ago. 

The Buckeyes recognized a vulnerable area and seized the opportunity to not only fix the problem, but turn a weakness into a strength. If the defense continues to build on the spring's progress, it should find defending the pass to be a treat, not a nightmare, in 2014.

That is some encouraging stuff to hear.

And lastly, of course, there is the veteran presence of Meyer.

Of the 13 teams Vegas Insider lists with 30-to-1 odds or better to win the national title, only four others—Florida State, Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma—enjoy the benefit of a head coach who has already won one. Only Alabama has another head coach who has won two.

Meyer will provide a steady, been-there-before presence to a roster filled with players who have never "been there before." There are few coaches you would rather have developing your players, designing your offense, tailoring your game plans and shepherding your team through the grueling four months of the season.

In fact, you could argue there are zero.

 

The Case Against Ohio State

Let's begin with some issues that I addressed but glossed over—or downright embellished—during the "Case For" section.

Miller was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year last season, but Ohio State's offensive line was more important to the team's success than its quarterback. According to Football Study Hall, it finished first in the country (by a wide margin) in adjusted line yards.

The other top-five offensive lines were Auburn, Texas A&M, Oregon and Alabama. That is not a terrible list to be on. Here is a detailed breakdown of how those lines performed in run-blocking last season.

Note: The full breakdown of what each stat category means can be found by following the link to Football Study Hall (reposted here).

The Buckeyes relied on the power running game more than any team in the country last season, gaining big chunks on standard downs by giving the ball to Hyde. This set the rest of the offense up for success with manageable third downs, which it converted at a Big Ten-best 50 percent during conference play.

This year, the line must replace four senior starters, chief among them center Corey Linsley, guard Andrew Norwell and tackle Jack Mewhort—all of whom made the media's All-Big Ten First Team in 2013. Marcus Hall wasn't terrible, either.

Ohio State has the talent—on paper—to replace those players, but it does not have the experience. It cannot rely on four or five yards each time it runs up the middle on 1st-and-10, which could put Miller into positions that he is not overly familiar or comfortable with.

At which point, who knows how he'll react?

There is a similar flaw in the OSU secondary.

In the optimistic portion of this article, we called losing three starters from such a bad unit "addition by subtraction." In reality, there's a chance it's more "the poor getting poorer." Other than Doran Grant—the lone returning starter—every other non-freshman on this roster was unable to get playing time in such a bad secondary last season.

Why should we expect such sudden improvement?

Is it all because of Ash? Because that seems like a lot of pressure to put on a guy who didn't get his first defensive coordinator job until 2013. And it seems like more than a lot of pressure to put on a guy whose one year as a defensive coordinator yielded a 3-9 record.

And yes, it's true that two of Ash's three Wisconsin secondaries finished in the top 20 nationally in pass defense. But the other one—the one from 2011—didn't finish close-but-no-cigar. It finished all the way down at No. 80, well lower than Ohio State's did in 2014.

A lot of young, inexperienced players are being counted on. Most were highly touted high school recruits, but that doesn't always translate to the big stage—especially when forced to play early.

Is Grant really ready to get the most out of these guys?

There also looms the matter of the schedule.

Compared with some of the other CFP favorites—i.e., the ones that play in the SEC—it is not overly competitive, but in a Big Ten-specific vacuum, the Buckeyes' schedule is definitely disadvantageous.

The main reason for that is the road game at Michigan State—the reigning conference and Rose Bowl champion. Sparty beat Ohio State on a neutral field last season and nearly beat them in East Lansing two seasons ago before falling by one point, 17-16.

Now that Connor Cook has emerged as a viable/quality quarterback, this MSU team should be more like the 2013 version than the 2012 one. And even though a potential—if not likely—loss at Oregon looms in Week 2, it would have no bearing on the Big Ten standings.

If Sparty beats Ohio State in November, the Buckeyes would need to run the rest of their Big Ten schedule and pray for two Big Ten losses by MSU in order to make the conference championship game.

Which, I mean…good luck with that.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Everyone Overlooking T.J. Yeldon Is Making a Huge Mistake

When Bleacher Report recently asked readers who will lead the University of Alabama in rushing this season, 60.9 percent voted for the backup, compared to just 33.9 for the incumbent.

On May 30, NFL.com listed the same reserve at No. 1 in an article titled: "Scariest players in college football."

Bovada has him at 25-to-1 odds of winning the Heisman Trophy this season.

All this for a player who touched the ball just 36 times as a collegiate rookie, Derrick Henry.

Yes, crimson Kool-Aid is being chugged regarding the sophomore running back—and with good reason. Anyone who watched the Sugar Bowl is well aware of his enormous potential.

What’s not to be impressed with? The driven Henry is a workout fiend who gets up and does push-ups in the middle of the night. At 6’3”, 238 pounds, the former 5-star recruit and Parade High School Player of the Year is bigger than most linebackers and has no qualms about trying to run them over.

But anyone overlooking T.J. Yeldon is making a huge mistake.

The junior was Alabama’s starter last year when he became the fifth running back in Crimson Tide lore to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, joining Johnny Musso (1970-71), Bobby Humphrey (1986-87), Shaun Alexander (1998-99) and Kenneth Darby (2004-05).

A former 5-star prospect himself, Yeldon spent a full season working behind Eddie Lacy before taking over in the backfield. He knows the offense, has the blocking schemes down and scored 26 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons, which is tied for ninth in Crimson Tide history.

Meanwhile, Henry was Yeldon’s primary backup for one game last season after things came together during the bowl practices. He had 100 rushing yards on eight carries with a touchdown, and turned his first career reception into a 61-yard score against Oklahoma, but what may have best demonstrated his improvement was a key block on a blitz.

Earlier last season Henry wouldn’t have made that play. Blocking was something he didn’t do much of in high school.

“We're encouraged by his progress and we think he's capable of making a tremendous contribution to our team in a lot of different ways," Saban said during the post-spring SEC coaches’ teleconference. "Now he's sort of comfortable in what is expected of him here, not only in running the ball, but running pass routes, catching the ball, pass protection, being a complete player at his position.

"He's much more confident and feels like he can make a tremendous contribution."

In addition to doing the necessary things that most fans don’t notice, and having a significant advantage in experience, Yeldon showed the difference between them during Alabama’s A-Day, the final scrimmage of spring.

Yeldon was the one to go 13 yards behind the right side on the first offensive snap. Henry’s first handoff resulted in no yards up the middle.

Yeldon had the game’s longest carry, 36 yards. Henry’s best was 8 yards.

Yeldon’s 95 rushing yards on 11 carries (8.6 average) landed him game MVP honors. He’s the first player in Crimson Tide history to win the Dixie Howell Memorial Award three times.

Henry, playing on the same side, and behind the same linemen, had eight carries for 22 yards (2.8 average). Granted, with the scaled-down play-calling, coaches didn’t do much to get him the ball in space, but the same was true for Yeldon.

Both had one reception. Yeldon’s resulted in a 9-yard gain, while Henry was hit behind the line of scrimmage for a 2-yard loss.

Overall, Henry has tallied 382 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns for the Crimson Tide while Yeldon is sixth on Alabama’s all-time rushing list, having already surpassed Dennis Riddle (1995-97), Sherman Williams (1991-94), Johnny Davis (1975-77), and Lacy (2010-12).

All that is left for him are the five 3,000-yard running backs.

If Yeldon can stay healthy and maintain his 2013 game average of 102.9 rushing yards, he’ll join the 3,000 club during Alabama’s seventh game of the 2014 season, against Texas A&M. He could then move up a slot each week, surpassing Trent Richardson at Tennessee, Mark Ingram at LSU, Ken Darby vs. Mississippi State and Bobby Humphrey vs. Western Carolina.

The pace would put the record within reach against Auburn on Nov. 29, with one to three postseason games remaining.

Should any opponents overlook him, like the way a lot of fans are, he could get there even sooner.

 

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

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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5-Star WR Damarkus Lodge Commits to Texas A&M: Gives Aggies Best 1-2 Punch

2015 5-star wide receiver Damarkus Lodge has committed to play his college football at Texas A&M. The 6'3", 190-pound athlete has both the size and hands to be a serious threat at the next level.

How will he fit into the Aggies offense? How good can he be?

Watch as B/R's CFB analyst Michael Felder breaks down Lodge and why he will be so tremendous in College Station, Texas.

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

Rankings courtesy of 247sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Where USC Football Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

USC has long dominated the recruiting landscape in the West, finishing at or very near the top of the Pac-12's rankings even while serving NCAA sanctions.

With the sanctions lifted in 2015, Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff are no longer bound by the NCAA's mandated scholarship restrictions. A return to a full scholarship allotment means the sky is the limit for the 2015 signing class.

The Trojans currently lead 247Sports.com's rankings for Pac-12 teams and check in at No. 16 nationally. The foundation of eight verbal commitments is a strong start—even if rumors of quarterback David Sills de-committing come to fruition.

According to USCFootball.com analyst Gerard Martinez, the four-year pledge may be wavering:

USC has two commitments from 5-star prospects in quarterback Ricky Town and offensive lineman Chuma Edoga.

But to maximize the class' potential, USC must finish with a flourish through the summer into signing day 2015. There are plenty of top targets on the Trojans' radar who, with their commitments, can elevate USC into the top five of the national ranking.

The commitment of cornerback Iman Marshall, another 5-star prospect, is a strong possibility. Marshall is from Southern California prep powerhouse Long Beach Poly, the same school that produced 2014 Trojans 5-star recruit John "JuJu" Smith.

An overwhelming majority of 247Sports' crystal ball panelists project Marshall to choose USC over Pac-12 counterpart Stanford—94 percent, to be exact. A third 5-star prospect would set the pace for the entire nation.

Marshall is not the only uncommitted 5-star with a heavy USC lean. All of 247Sports' crystal ball panelists tab linebacker John Houston to USC, and with good reason.

Houston plays at Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, California, one of the most lucrative recruiting pipelines USC has established. Noteworthy Trojans like Marqise Lee and Robert Woods came from there, and in 2014, Sarkisian landed three JSerra alums. Among them was 5-star cornerback and wide receiver Adoree' Jackson.

Houston is the nation's No. 3-ranked outside linebacker and a potential backfield terror. USC recruiting guru Tee Martin is leading the efforts to land Houston's commitment.

Behind Martin and defensive line coach Chris Wilson, USC is also in the mix for Houston's JSerra teammate and 5-star defensive tackle Rasheem Green.

A quintet of 5-star recruits is not a bad base for a recruiting class. On its own, that group would seemingly be enough to almost guarantee USC top-10 billing. However, there is so much more to this class beyond the most highly touted prospects.

The Trojans currently have three commitments from 4-star players, including defensive tackle Jacob Daniel, who earned 5-star billing from the site's individual metrics.

A variety of other 4-star talent in the mix should help shape the 2015 class in the coming months. Names to watch include wide receivers Cordell Broadus and Kanya Bell, running back Malik Lovette, and defensive backs DeChaun Holiday and Isaiah Langley.

USC will not land every high-profile target on its list, but expect Sarkisian and Co. to secure enough talent to finish the 2015 recruiting cycle atop the conference and in the nation's top five.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Where USC Football Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

USC has long dominated the recruiting landscape in the West, finishing at or very near the top of the Pac -12's rankings even while serving NCAA sanctions...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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