NCAA Football

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

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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.

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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...

Predicting Where Texas A&M Will End Up in the 2015 Recruiting Rankings

The Texas A&M football team currently has the No. 2-ranked 2015 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247sports.com. After national signing day in February, the Aggies will remain in this position right behind Alabama. 

Recruiting rankings are subjective and vary from site to site. The simple fact of the matter is that coaches attempt to bring in the best players available who fit their system and their needs as a program. 

Whether the class was a success cannot be determined until at least three years after signing day. Recruiting is not an exact science. There are coaches who are paid large sums of money to sign recruits and they miss on player evaluations every year.

With that said, there are "can't-miss" players who are such physical outliers that they are destined to play in the NFL if healthy. If you can land a couple of those players in each class, you can almost guarantee that you will have success on the field.

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have gained commitments from a few players in that category and are still in the running for some more. The Aggies have verbal pledges from 5-star prospects Kyler MurrayDaylon Mack and Damarkus Lodge

They also have a commit from 4-star tight end Jordan Davis, who is one of the most physically gifted tight ends to come out of Texas in many years. The Aggies are right in the middle of the races for 5-star talents Malik Jefferson and Kendall Sheffield.  

If the Aggies can gain signatures from those three players while hanging on to their current commitments, they will ensure themselves of signing a top-five class in February. The Aggie coaches have already done an excellent job of adding to the Aggies' talent in the trenches.

The Aggies recently received a verbal pledge from 3-star offensive tackle Keaton Sutherland. The 6'5", 280-pound athlete from Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, chose the Aggies over Arkansas, Texas and Ole Miss, among others.

Sutherland is the lowest ranked of the Aggies' three commitments on the offensive line. Connor Lanfear and Trevor Elbert are both 4-star recruits, according to 247sports.com.  

On the defensive line, the Aggies have gained pledges from Mack and 3-star defensive tackle Kingsley Keke. Mack is a tremendous athlete and one of the best defensive tackles in the nation. He actually played some running back in 2013 and scored on a 61-yard run. 

Keke is more of a raw talent than Mack and may have to redshirt before he is ready to play in the SEC. The additions of Mack and Keke will bolster a defensive line that has been overhauled since Sumlin took the team over in 2012. 

Sumlin and defensive line coach Terry Price have signed six defensive tackles since arriving in Aggieland in 2012. If they sign Mack and Keke, they will have effectively made the Aggies three deep at the position. That is the kind of depth that can help a team win conference and national titles. 

Sumlin and his staff have done an excellent job stocking the roster with SEC-caliber talent. They are well on their way to bringing another top-10 class to Aggieland. 

Taking the rankings out of the equations, the Aggies need to add two more wide receivers, a running back, a true offensive guard, a pass-rushing defensive end, a linebacker and at least one true cover corner. 

If the Aggies close their class with Lodge, Ronald Jones, Toby Weathersby, James Lockhart, Jefferson, Richard Moore and Sheffield, they will have a chance to sign the top-ranked class in the nation.

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Damarkus Lodge to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 5-Star WR Prospect

Damarkus Lodge is one of the premier wide receiver prospects in the class of 2015 out of Cedar Hill High School in Texas, and the wait for his commitment is officially over. Lodge announced on Thursdaythat he has decided to play his college football for Texas A&M.  

Lodge revealed his choice on his Twitter account:

247Sports' composite rankings have Lodge rated as a 5-star recruit. He's the No. 4 receiver and No. 35 prospect overall. Based on how big and explosive he already is, those high marks are well deserved and not at all surprising.

Lodge already stands at 6'2.5" and weighs 190 pounds. Once he adds more muscle to his frame, there's no telling how good he could be. As a junior, he registered 72 receptions for 1,255 yards and a whopping 22 touchdowns. The upside is certainly there for Lodge to carry that production over to Texas A&M.

Cedar Hill wide receivers coach Kevin Benjamin heaped high praise on Lodge in December 2013.

"He will be the best thing that ever came out of Cedar Hill High School," said Benjamin, per the Dallas Morning News' David Just. "And we’ve had a lot of great athletes. But where he is at this point in his football career, the sky is the limit."

The high school has produced former Kansas star and NFL free-agent wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, so Benjamin certainly didn't make any effort to slow down Lodge's figurative hype train. And he had no reason to, considering the skill set Lodge already has even at his young age.

In his report, Just goes on to describe what Lodge's head coach Joey McGuire had to say about him—and to whom he compared the prodigious wideout. It's some pretty elite company, to say the least:

McGuire said Lodge has the body control of former Cedar Hill and current Washington Redskins receiver Dezmon Briscoe, the yards-after-catch ability of Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones and the playmaking ability of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

Just his being on the field has an impact on every play. Opposing defenses tend to double-cover Lodge, which opens up opportunities for Cedar Hill’s four-man running back committee.

That pretty much outlines what makes Lodge so special. On his 247Sports profile, his critical attributes are rated on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest possible mark. Using that scale, Lodge rates as a nine in hands and ball skills, and an eight in route running and agility.

The latter two marks make Lodge even more dangerous than his body control and knack for catching the ball at its highest point already do. High-pointing is not an easy skill to acquire, especially for young players, yet it's something Lodge has been able to do time and again to devastate opposing defensive backs:

More than a mere big-bodied, red-zone target, Lodge is indeed a surefire 5-star prospect who could easily make an impact as a true freshman. With his lateral quickness, drive to finish runs after the catch and natural instincts for the position, Lodge has all the tools to help the Aggies' receiving corps immediately.

Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com broke down what Lodge will bring to the Aggies:

Lodge has potential to be a legitimate NFL prospect, but he must focus on what's ahead of him first. That means making an impact at Texas A&M setting a good example and not being caught in the trap that many star receivers tend to get into as so-called divas. The good news for Texas A&M is that Lodge doesn't fit that profile, making him an even more ideal candidate to contribute big plays right away for the offense as he makes the adjustment to the collegiate level.

If his dominance against tough competition at the high school level and his all-around skill set are any indication of what's to come, the Aggies will be even more thrilled than they already are to welcome Lodge to their campus.

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Florida State Football: Winston's Best Decision Is to Go Pro After Season

The 2014 college football season is still more than two months away, and there are seven months before a player must declare for the 2015 NFL draft.

Winning games and national titles is priceless. But the chance to start an NFL career a year early could be worth millions to Jameis Winston, and we haven't even discussed the shoe and apparel deals.

Winston has already won a Heisman Trophy and a crystal football. He won't be able to say the pursuit of a national championship is the reason he's returning to campus.

Winston hasn't said he will return to Florida State and play football in 2015, but he did tell the Associated Press in February (via ESPN.com) that he plans "on playing baseball next season anyway."

His father, Antonor Winston, told AL.com on Wednesday that the plan is for Winston to earn his degree, meaning he will play football at FSU in 2015. And coach Jimbo Fisher said in February that he thinks "it will be two" more years at FSU.

This is all well and good in an offseason to debate. But what will happen when January arrives and Winston weighs his options? In the past week alone, Blake Bortles signed a fully guaranteed $20 million, four-year deal with the Jaguars as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Winston is already considered a top-10 pick in the 2015 by Sports Illustrated. The presumption is that a season that's even remotely similar statistically to 2013 will make him the top quarterback in the draft.

The curveball is Winston's love of baseball. How does baseball fit in? Would he even try to play some college baseball in 2015 while also training for the NFL?

There have been, of course, two-sport stars. Two of the famous examples are Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, and they did it at the highest levels.

Does that mean it's possible? Yes. Does it mean that he could try it?

Maybe.

Winston did the football-baseball double play this spring at FSU. He missed just one football practice while traveling to Clemson for a baseball series. Winston spent time on the football field working out with playmaker Rashad Greene and also a young group of rising sophomores in Jesus Wilson, Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield.

But he also served as the Seminoles' closer. Winston had a team-best 1.08 ERA in 33.1 innings, striking out 31 batters and walking seven (he was a BaseballAmerica 2014 preseason third-team All-American).

The takeaway? He wanted to do both and he did. He knew it was important to build chemistry and rhythm with his receivers. And he knew it was important for him to help close out games in the ninth for his baseball team.

So for Winston, the spring of 2015 is again all about how he chooses to schedule it.

One scenario: Winston turns pro in football but retains his amateur status in baseball. He could focus on football up until the NFL Scouting Combine in February and then return to Tallahassee to work out with his hand-picked quarterback guru, all while pitching an inning or two a week as the closer.

Winston would have to be very protective of his arm. He would need to build a structured schedule that included what days he would run, lift, throw the football and throw the baseball. Oh yeah, and maybe find some time to sleep.

It sounds tough to pull off. But if Winston wanted to do it, he could play baseball in late February and parts of March and April while also taking part in his on-campus pro day and scheduling a few one-on-one workouts with NFL coaches. While many teams prefer to fly a player in for a workout, surely coaches and general managers would be willing to fly to Tallahassee and work him out either at Doak Campbell Stadium or the team's indoor practice facility.

The NFL draft was held May 8-10 in 2014. If similar dates are scheduled for 2015, it's likely that an NFL team that picks Winston won't want him to pitch in the NCAA postseason. At that point, he may have to give up college baseball for good.

But Winston would be eligible for the MLB amateur draft in June 2015. He could work out a deal with his NFL team to allow him to play in the minors during breaks over the summer.

It's a scenario where Winston doesn't pass up millions from the NFL yet still has a chance to play two sports. For Winston, the goal is to keep playing two sports as long as he can. And this provides him the financial security while giving him the ability to pursue a career in football—and perhaps baseball, too.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Texas A&M RB Duo: Dangerous Weapon for Aggie Offense

With Johnny Football taking his talents to the NFL, there is an opportunity for Tra Carson and Trey Williams to steal the show next season for Texas A&M.

This dynamic duo will be the one-two punch for the Aggies as they hope to make a run in the SEC. Do you think they will have what it takes?

Watch Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss the future of the Texas A&M running backs.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Where 5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson Will Dominate at Next Level

CeCe Jefferson is the top strong-side defensive end in the 2015 class and has everyone wondering where he will choose to play at the next level.

This 5-star Florida prospect has offers from every big school in the country but has narrowed his list down to just a few. Where do you think this monster recruit will land?

Watch College Football Analyst Michael Felder make his projections in the video above.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital. Rankings from 247Sports' Composites.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Teams That Belong in Different Conferences

Conference realignment is slowly veering to a halt, and although there are some big moves in store for 2014 and some smaller ones in store for the season that follows, there is not much on the horizon beyond that. And good riddance!

But not every team used the chaos of realignment as a ladder, instead ending up in a less favorable position because of it. Especially now that the process of the College Football Playoff is starting to sharpen into focus, some of the better teams in non-power conferences have a less realistic chance than ever of contending for a national title.

"We don’t think in terms of most deserving on the resume," said selection committee chairman Jeff Long of how the CFP teams will be chosen, per Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News. "We’re focused on the best four teams and the best ranking in the [playoff] top 25. Again, our focus is the best, not deserving."

Translation: "Sorry, smaller-conference teams, but no matter what you do during the regular season, you will never be playing for a championship."

This selection credo puts many of the best non-power-conference teams in an awkward spot. They would need to play in a bigger conference to stand a realistic chance of reaching their ultimate goal.

But that's not the only reason a team might need a new league.

Others could use a change of scenery for their own sake; because they have struggled so mightily in their current league, a transfer to a less-competitive schedule might be better for everyone involved.

This list includes both of those types of teams. It also includes a team that needs to move for geographical reasons after desperately clinging to a league during the brunt of realignment season.

Remember, too, that these suggestions exist in a hypothetical world where realignment is not so political. I understand that most of these moves are unrealistic in real life. There are too many moving parts.

But that doesn't make them any less necessary.

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Georgia Football: How Lorenzo Carter Works His Way into Starting Lineup

Remember Lorenzo Carter? He’s the guy who was regarded as the state of Georgia’s best overall prospect in 2014 according to 247Sports. You know, the guy whose signing with the Bulldogs was a crown jewel in the frenzied close of national signing day?

Well, nobody’s talking about him this offseason, but he could be a starter as a true freshman.

 

Open Opportunities

If Georgia fans learned anything from Jeremy Pruitt’s first spring in Athens, it’s that no positions are locked up. Aaron Davis, a walk-on who redshirted last season, worked his way into the starting lineup for the Dawgs’ spring game. Ray Drew, who registered five total sacks against LSU, Tennessee and Missouri over the course of three consecutive Saturdays last fall was resigned to backup duty.

And despite an increase in open competition and a number of different lineups, no starting spots were firmly secured. As Pruitt told Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We had 50 guys out there on defense that were all trying to do the same stuff. I didn’t see anybody particularly that just stuck out and deserved an award.”

Undoubtedly, some of that is coach speak. Players like Amarlo Herrera, Ramik Wilson, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins are sure to be staples of the unit even if Pruitt is hesitant to recognize any surefire starters. That being said, there are still plenty of question marks.

For a player like Carter, who’s equally defined by his size and athleticism, even the slightest sign of uncertainty could yield a tremendous opportunity.

At 6’5”, Carter already has the frame to be an absolute force at the next level. But it takes more than a frame to solidify oneself as a starter in the Southeastern Conference.

This summer, Carter’s top priority must be adding strength and muscle without compromising his speed. Fortunately for Carter, who weighs 230 pounds according to 247Sports, Georgia’s new-look defense is not going to demand too much added mass.

Tracy Rocker, the Dawgs' new defensive line coach, believes oversized players negatively impacted Georgia’s defense two years ago. “They go to the championship, and you turn on the tape, and the first thing everybody saw (was) they couldn’t get off the blocks,” he told Seth Emerson of the Ledger-Enquirer.

Pruitt also said to Emerson, “I think it’s a little different philosophy. I think the old staff maybe wanted them a little bigger, kind of how they wanted to play. We want to be a little leaner, so we can sustain for four quarters.”

Added strength and endurance this summer can mold Carter from a mere prototype into an actual on-field weapon.

 

Taking a Spot

Ultimately, Carter’s going to have to take someone’s spot in order to start the season opener against Clemson. Drew and Sterling Bailey are the most obvious projections to start at defensive end, but James DeLoach could also find his way into the mix. Fortunately for Carter, his unique physical gifts give him potential edges against all three of those players.

Drew, who has registered seven starts (all in 2013) over a three-year career, does not possess Carter’s quickness. Accordingly, he makes more sense on the strong side of the ball as a space-eater capable of penetrating through a tight end. But if Pruitt is looking for speed, Carter will have an edge on the weak side of the field.

Bailey also worked his way into the starting lineup last season and was a member of the first unit on nine occasions. At 6’3”, however, Bailey will be unable to match Carter’s length. If the newcomer is able to master leverage and use his long limbs to his advantage, he could supplant Bailey as the weak-side starter.

And although DeLoach had a strong spring showing, he boasts minimal game experience. Last season he appeared in only five games and registered four tackles. Like Bailey, he lacks Carter’s elite frame.

 

Impact of Carter as a Starter

If Carter can work into the starting lineup he might once again generate some buzz. Again, he’s been all but forgotten this offseason despite his high-profile signing. That excitement is a good for Georgia in two regards.

First and foremost, his movement into the starting lineup reflects improvement. For Carter to start he will have to establish and prove himself as a better option than a former starter. That’s a very positive sign for a defense looking to make a name for itself.

Second, true freshman starters are great recruiting tools. Currently, Georgia is in hot pursuit of Trent Thompson, the nation's top player in the class of 2015 according to 247Sports. Thompson may be drawn to the Bulldogs if he wants to follow Carter’s lead as an immediate starter on the Dawgs’ defensive line.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Remaining Challenge Each Pac-12 Coach Faces This Offseason

The offseason isn't over yet. That's a sentence no Pac-12 fan wants to hear, but we're more than halfway through the month of June and college football is just around the corner.

Recruiting for the 2015 class has hit its stride, and coaches are likely putting together a plan as to how they'll improve when fall camp arrives. Needless to say, while the sky remains dark for the fans, it's full steam ahead for players and coaching staffs around the country.

If you're a top-notch coach, you probably have goals set aside for this time of year. Heck, the best coaches probably have goals they want to accomplish every single day. So what's left on the docket before the 2014 season begins? What hurdles are standing in the way between now and starting the season in the best shape possible?

Here are the biggest remaining challenges each Pac-12 coach still faces this offseason.

 

All stats via cfbstats.com

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Biggest Remaining Challenge Each Pac-12 Coach Faces This Offseason

The offseason isn't over yet. That's a sentence no Pac-12 fan wants to hear, but we're more than halfway through the month of June and college football is just around the corner...

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Texas Football: Predicting Where the Horns Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

Texas' 2015 class of 10 commits sits at 15th in the nation, which has the Longhorns poised to finish outside the top 10 for the third straight season. The best way to prevent that from happening is for Charlie Strong to prove he can turn the team around in a timely fashion.

Coming off their fourth straight disappointing season, the 'Horns have lost some equity on the recruiting trail. Players have been decommitting late in the process, leaving the state in search of greener pastures and altogether spurning the Burnt Orange for Texas A&M.

The worst part for Texas is that these players were right to do so. Mack Brown fielded a top-10 recruiting class three out of the last four years and still went 30-21 over that span. That's not going to get it done in a non-SEC conference, especially when your players aren't getting drafted.

It's Strong's job to reverse those fortunes. And considering the circumstances, he's done well to nab some high-upside players that will keep the class atop the Big 12.

 

The Current Crop

The offensive line is the cream of the current group commits, led by one of the state's top tackles, Toby Weathersby. Joining him are The Opening participant Patrick Vahe and fellow tackle Ronnie Major, a 6'6" prospect whose stock continues to soar thanks to his athleticism.

On the other side of the trenches, Charles Omenihu is looking like a steal at defensive end. Rated as a 3-star player when Texas landed his commitment, he is up to 13 offers on his way to jumping up a star on the trail.

Zach Gentry and Kirk Johnson headline the more glamorous offensive positions. At the very least, Gentry provides a solid arm behind Jerrod Heard should anything happen to Texas' top 2014 recruit. As for Johnson, who surprised everyone at the Oakland NFTC, he's shaping up as Texas' replacement for Johnathan Gray in the backfield.

 

The Safe Bets

Texas' top targets in the short-term are defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin, defensive back Holton Hill and running back Chris Warren. The 'Horns could also use a commitment from one of Anthony Wheeler or Cameron Townsend at linebacker.

Not only do all four of the above defenders have a chance to play as freshmen, they would each be the first commit at their respective positions. The Longhorns will be dangerously thin at all three positions next year, so getting players of this caliber would be huge for this class.

Lampkin visited last week and has named Texas his leader.

On the offensive side of the ball, both Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will graduate following the 2014 season. That leaves the door wide open for a bruiser such as Warren to take over short-yardage duty and then some in 2015.

Texas is in good position with every player on this list, and landing even half of them would make this a national-level class.

 

The Long Shots

Cornerback Kendall Sheffield and linebacker Malik Jefferson are the two best players in the state, and anyone hoping to land their services better be ready to play the long game. The Longhorns stand a better chance with Sheffield at the moment, which would give Texas a four-year starter if he stayed that long.

Roney Elam and Kris Boyd were once thought of as great consolation prizes to Sheffield, but Texas is losing ground with both. Elam canceled this week's visit, per Orangebloods.com's Dustin McComas, and the Aggies are quickly gaining ground with the athletic Boyd.

Winning 10 games or getting as close as possible without doing so is the only way Texas gets a shot at picking up any of these players. That's why it's called the long game.

 

Prediction

So long as they stay on the current path, the Longhorns will have the top class in the Big 12. Anything more than that depends completely on what they do in the left-hand column.

Vahe, Major, Johnson and Omenihu alone will give this class a boost as it climbs the rankings. Along with the rest of the class, they are as committed as it gets this early in the process.

As for the safe bets to eventually commit, the 'Horns should be able to land between six and seven based on their ability to provide an early role on the team. But the 'Horns can take as many as 27 recruits this year, so more names are sure to enter the mix.

And should Jefferson or Sheffield decide that he looks better in burnt orange than maroon, it wouldn't be out of the question to crack the top five. That's the ceiling with a 10-win season.

Realistically, the Longhorns are looking at eight to nine wins. The end will net them a class full of quality players that ends up near the top 10.

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Where Clemson Will Finish in 2015 Recruiting Ranks

The key to becoming a powerhouse in college football is simple: win the recruiting battle. It's no coincidence that Alabama has won three national championships over the past five years. The Crimson Tide have had the top-ranked recruiting class—per 247Sports (subscription required)—for four straight years and are poised to finish No. 1 again in 2015.

But not if the Clemson Tigers have anything to say about it.

Currently, Clemson has 20 verbal commitments in the class of 2015, most in the country. The Tigers are ranked No. 2—behind Alabama—in 247Sports' team rankings. And they're not finished yet.

Clemson's biggest commitment thus far is offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt from Suwanee, Georgia. Hyatt is a 5-star recruit and the nation's No. 2 ranked offensive lineman. 

Three straight 10-win seasons are beginning to pay dividends for head coach Dabo Swinney. Back-to-back bowl wins over traditional powers LSU and Ohio State don't hurt either. But can the Tigers continue that momentum with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins now in the NFL?

The Tigers can move past Alabama and win the 2015 recruiting wars, but it won't be easy. Many of the country's top prospects often wait until signing day, or close to it, to make their intentions known. By that time, the Tide have usually won another national title.

Here are three reasons why Clemson could overtake Alabama for 2015's top recruiting class and a prediction on where it will finish. 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 10 Best Irish Recruits from BCS Era

The BCS era started in January of 1999, and Notre Dame has recruited well since. The Irish have signed several elite classes, which featured many top recruits.

Although there have been several coaching changes in South Bend, Notre Dame still remains a brand that recruits are attracted to. The Golden Domers signed a hyped quarterback in 2007, while an excellent linebacker from Hawaii came to the program in 2009.

Also, a recruit from the 2013 class is on this list.

All stats are from Sports-Reference.com.

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USC Football Recruiting: 10 Best Trojan Recruits from BCS Era

To start, this list was awfully tough to put together. Production factored, but a bigger emphasis was put on how good a player was as a recruit.

USC has signed a large amount of the best recruits of the BCS era, which essentially began in January of 1999. 

Former head coach Pete Carroll is responsible for many recruits on this list, as he will go down as one of the best recruiting head coaches college football has ever seen. The Trojans are known for their ability to pull top talent from anywhere in the country, and this list is more proof of that.

USC signed an elite defensive lineman in 2001, the same year it signed a quarterback who went on to win a Heisman. Plus, an offensive tackle signed in 2008 is also on this list.

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Florida State Football: Power Ranking 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

The 2014 Florida State football schedule is a far cry from the 2013 version that drew criticism from analysts and fans.

Toss out Bethune-Cookman, Nevada and Idaho on the nonconference slate. In are Oklahoma State, Citadel and Notre Dame (Florida is the mainstay, of course). The Seminoles now have one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the nation, with The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel ranking FSU's No. 1.

While it may be a tough schedule, it's not inconceivable for FSU to go 12-0 and play for the ACC title. The Seminoles gain a few schedule breaks, earning bye weeks before the ACC opener at home against Clemson on Sept. 20 and before a Thursday night game at Louisville on Oct. 30.

Still, state rivals will be waiting in November. FSU will have to win again at Miami on Nov. 15 and then defeat Florida at home on Nov. 29 to have a chance to repeat as national champions.

Let's take a look at FSU's schedule from the easiest opponent to the toughest.

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