NCAA Football

After Surprise Oregon Visit, Will ND Hold onto Their Future QB Blake Barnett?

Four-star dual-threat quarterback Blake Barnett has been committed to Notre Dame for quite some time now. However, he recently took a surprise visit to Oregon and rumors are swirling that the Ducks might have a chance at stealing the star QB from the Irish.

Bleacher Report caught up with 247sports.com National Recruiting Analyst JC Shurburtt, who discussed the latest on Barnett and his college situation. Is there a real chance the Ducks can flip Barnett?

Watch the video and find out.

 

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.com

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Nick Saban Is a Bargain for Alabama at Almost Any Price

At $5.5 million a season, he was underpaid. At nearly $7 million a year, Alabama head coach Nick Saban is still a tremendous bargain in a world that does not abide by conventional financial rules and guidelines.

Let’s address that point out of the gate. This is not the world we operate in, nor should his compensation be viewed as such. This is a lucrative business built on an unusual business model involving a sport with more money than it knows what to do with.

Thus all reasonable attempts to compute his “value”  can get complicated, and it usually does. This is not about how much more Saban makes than the average Alabama professor (spoiler: a lot more). This is the best football CEO in the country realizing his immense value.

It’s why Texas would have loved to see Saban switch zip codes following Mack Brown’s departure. And despite the Internet’s best attempt to orchestrate a Saban-Texas romantic dinner for two, the UA system Board of Trustees compensation committee officially approved their coach’s latest contract on Tuesday.

It pays to have leverage, certainly; and it did here.

After receiving a bump in pay in April of 2013, Saban’s contract was reworked just a shade over a year later. The details, as outlined by Al.com, are noteworthy and yet somehow not all that surprising. Even for a man that accustomed to taking home a fortune each year.

For starters, Saban’s contract was extended two years. The 62-year-old’s deal will now run through January 22, 2022 rather than 2020. His salary will also receive a dramatic bump throughout this time, increasing from $5.5 million to $6.9 million a year.

His yearly compensation will now be broken up into two parts: $6.5 million will come in annual payments while another $400,000 will be paid in a completion bonus. This isn’t related to wins or SEC Championships, it’s basically a “thanks for being there.”

When we complete something, we can only hope for a flurry of thumbs ups, Facebook likes and a swarm of positive emails. When Saban does the same—assuming he does it at Alabama—he will essentially be given what equates to a four-bedroom, three-bath home.

His bonuses will remain intact, providing him the possibility to earn as much as $700,000 more per season if he hits all of his triggers. And if somehow Saban falls behind on the SEC payment totem pole, he could be due as much as the market is willing to give.

If his pay becomes less than the average of the three best-compensated coaches in the country (or he falls out of the top five), the university will increase his salary to the higher of the two averages. You know, just in case.

It is unlikely this will ever happen, of course, but there’s a clause in place in case teams like Auburn, Texas A&M or LSU exhaust their team-colored piggy banks.

Essentially, this locks Saban up for the remainder of his career. It won’t stop the NFL rumors from poisoning your Twitter feed, but this is feeling more and more like a final destination rather than a big chunk of his resume.

In a statement released by the school, Saban had the following to say on his new deal:

We are honored by the commitment the University of Alabama has made to us with this new contract. It is certainly a mutual agreement in terms of our commitment to the University of Alabama. We will continue to work hard to keep our football program among the nation's elite. My passion has always been to develop young men to their full potential as student-athletes. We've had great success in that area at Alabama and I'm appreciative of all the support and the resources we receive from the administration in order to make that happen.

Altogether, if the deal is completed, Saban will take home more than $55 million with his new contract. It is an unfathomable amount of money regardless of profession, although it seems slightly more unfathomable given what he does for a living.

And yet, given what he’s meant for the university—and the revenue he’s generated in his tenure—this conversation over whether he deserves this marvelous sum of money should be brief. Alabama could pay its current head coach $10 million plus, and it still would be a favorable relationship for the school. How about $12 million?

Where do we sign?

In November of last year, I wrote a similar piece on Saban, touting college football’s then highest-paid coach at a different salary underpaid.

It explored all the financial riches that have blossomed under Saban’s watch, a whopping $143.4 million in athletic revenue in 2012-2013 alone. It also touched on the fact that revenue at the school was up 112 percent since 2006, a staggering number that would floor most econ professors.

It hit on the facility upgrades that have made possible with the meteoric rise of the program, like the waterfall in the locker room and a weight room the size of a missile silo. Both are products of winning games and wooing 5-star recruits, and both should help further this assembly line in place.

Other figures have come out since then, like Forbes’ assessment of the nation’s most valuable teams. Alabama is moving up this list like a freight train, jumping from sixth to third on the list, behind only Texas and Notre Dame. More startling than the $110 million figure given by the program is the fact that it jumped 15 percent last year alone.

The plan is quite simple, and it's more obvious when you dive into the books. Make more, spend more and continue on this path until it's no longer functional for all parties involved.

Given Alabama's profit and spending over the past decade, this strategy has worked thanks in large part to the head coach.

Alabama is in a position where it can (and should) pay nearly $7 million for its football coach because the risk associated with doing so is minimal. More so than the risk is the steady stream of calculable revenue that is now pouring into the school, a stream still trending upward.

Then there are the matters that won’t have a direct correlation with the program—things like enrollment and marketing opportunities gained. You can't simply connect the dots when it comes to these items and the success of the football program, although the influence is undeniable.

Alabama isn't just paying a head coach. It's paying the "best financial investment this university has ever made," a statement that was made by Alabama chancellor Dr. Robert Witt on 60 Minutes last year.

A larger salary won’t equate to more, at least in terms of on-field success. In fact, it will be difficult for Saban to approach the success his teams have experienced in the past five years over the remainder of his deal.

That’s not a knock on the current state of the program or where it's headed; it's simply a realistic approach of how dominant this team has been and how difficult such success will be to duplicate.

Even with that outlook, the $55 million Alabama is investing in its coach is a no-brainer. While the wins, trophies and immense football accolades are an integral part of all this, it is only a portion of the process.

This is, in its purest form, a business. And for the foreseeable future—as long as Saban is capitalizing on his yearly completion bonus—business should continue to boom.

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Why Les Miles Is Going All In On Dual-Threat Quarterbacks

LSU head coach Les Miles hired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron prior to the 2013 season with one goal in mind—fix the offense.

Mission: Accomplished.

All LSU's offense did in Year 1 with Cameron was produce the third 3,000-yard passer in program history (Zach Mettenberger, 3,082 yards), two 1,000-yard receivers (Jarvis Landy and Odell Beckham, Jr.) and a 1,000-yard running back (Jeremy Hill).

Not bad, for a debut.

What will he do for an encore? Change up his philosophy, a little bit.

Sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris—two dual-threat quarterbacks—emerged as the two top contenders to take over for Mettenberger during spring practice, while Stephen Rivers and Hayden Rettig—two pro-style signal-callers—left the program.

On top of that, LSU's two offers out to quarterbacks in the class of 2015 are to dual-threat quarterbacks, including 5-star prospect Torrance Gibson from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Is LSU switching up its offense?

Not really.

"Cameron is a smart coach—knows the game and isn't blind to how beneficial it is for teams to have that extra element in the college game, especially in the SEC, where you better either have great protection or a quarterback that can escape or you are toast," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.com.

Jennings and Harris can both run, but are pass-first quarterbacks who keep their eyes downfield when scrambling behind the line. Jennings perhaps does that a little too much and takes too many sacks as a result, and Harris has more home run ability with his legs. 

"I believe that Miles prefers a quarterback with the ability to run," said former LSU center T-Bob Hebert. "In my time at LSU he was a big fan of zone read plays (shotgun single back QB has choice whether to hand it or pull it) and option plays (we had multiple styles of option plays out of multiple formations)."

The ability of Jennings and Harris as passers allows Cameron and Miles to essentially run the same system as they did with Mettenberger, but allows them the freedom and ability to make plays with their legs when appropriate.

"Miles really likes when a quarterback has the ability to move because the QB can better avoid pass rushes and blitzes and make positive plays out of what would have otherwise been sacks," said Hebert, who co-hosts Double Coverage on 3WL 1350 AM in New Orleans. "It almost as if a running QB is an added level of insurance when it comes to the passing game and gives the defense another threat to deal with."

Having the luxury of options is a huge benefit for any offensive coordinator, and that's where LSU is headed at the quarterback position.

"I don't think Anthony Jennings is a dual-threat per se," Shurburtt said. "He's got a very good arm, but is more of a passer. Brandon Harris can do plenty with his legs and I know that they love Torrance Gibson and feel they could adjust the offense to suit him."

Gibson is a slightly different story. He's more of a runner with raw passing skills. If he lands in Baton Rouge, Cameron will have to work on his accuracy a bit, but what he lacks in polish in the passing game he more than makes up for in athleticism. 

It isn't a full-scale change for Cameron and Miles, it's a tweak. An adjustment. An evolution.

"With Cam Cameron at the helm, I believe the future of LSU quarterbacks are in the best hands possible," Hebert said. "He can combine with Miles to form the best of both worlds. Cameron will teach Jennings and Harris to be quarterbacks first relying on their arms, while Miles can still take advantage of their athleticism."

With the caliber of athletes that exist on the roster, the creativity and experience of Miles and Cameron and new-found flexibility thanks to mobile quarterbacks, this Tiger offense is going to be tough to stop.

 

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

 


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Purdue to Wear Collage of Student Photos on Helmet for Social Media Game

The "P" logo on the Purdue Boilermakers helmet will have a different look for the team's game against Iowa on Sept. 27.

Purdue is looking to get its fans to become a bigger part of the team with its "Social Media Game." Students who buy a VIP card by June 10 will have their photo be part of a collage on the team's helmet.

For a school looking to increase ticket sales, this is certainly an interesting idea that gives the students extra incentive to support the team. 

[Purdue Athletics, h/t BTN]

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3 Reasons 4-Star Quarterback Blake Barnett Will Sign with Oregon Football

Recruiting does not allow time for licking wounds and sulking. To that end, Oregon Ducks coaches quickly regrouped when 5-star dual-threat quarterback prospect Kyler Murray committed to Texas A&M last week. 

Attention at quarterback for the 2015 recruiting class turned primarily to two prospects: Travis Waller of Southern California powerhouse Servite High School in Anaheim and Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett of Santiago High School in Corona, California. 

Despite his verbal pledge to the Fighting Irish in November, Oregon is making a strong push to lock up 4-star dual-threat prospect Barnett's letter of intent come national signing day. Justin Hopkins reported via Twitter on Tuesday that Barnett paid an unofficial visit to Eugene, Oregon. 

The competition is afoot, and the Ducks may very well have the inside track. After this week's development, 247Sports' crystal ball panelists now favor Oregon by 75 percent to Notre Dame's 25 percent. 

 

Style of Play 

Although Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly introduced a spread offense upon his arrival from Cincinnati, the style the Fighting Irish employ is vastly different from that of Oregon.

From former offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Chip Kelly to current head coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Oregon has cultivated a version of the spread that is second to none. 

Barnett is well-versed in the uptempo, free-wheeling nature of the Ducks offense. Santiago High School head coach Jeff Steinberg is a forerunner of the spread in the Southern California prep scene.

Steinberg won a 2005 Southern Section championship at Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest behind former Wyoming quarterback Karsten Sween, and he helped develop new Fresno State quarterback Brandon Connette at Santiago.

Former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia recently tweeted a photo after workouts with Barnett, Connette and a quarterback with an Oregon background, former Duck-turned-Southeast Louisiana standout Bryan Bennett. 

The one quarterback to which Barnett compared his style of play, however, was none other than Marcus Mariota. Indeed, their long frames, poise in the pocket and ability to make plays on the ground are similar. 

Obviously, Barnett's style translates quite well to what Oregon wants to accomplish. 

 

Opportunity 

With both Jake Rodrigues and Damion Hobbs transferring last month, Oregon's depth chart is thin at quarterback. Jeff Lockie will be a redshirt junior once Barnett arrives on a campus. 

Highly touted 2014 prospect Morgan Mahalak will presumably be a redshirt freshman if his number is not called this season. The Ducks' third quarterback is walk-on Taylor Alie. 

That translates to an opportunity for Barnett to compete for playing time immediately. 

Notre Dame is faced with a somewhat similar situation. The transfer of Gunner Kiel to Cincinnati last season was a blow to the Irish's quarterback depth. However, the returning Everett Golson—starter for Notre Dame's run to the BCS National Championship Game in 2012—and talented second-year freshman Malik Zaire will both be in the program come 2015. 

Notre Dame also added 4-star Ohio recruit DeShone Kizer in the 2014 signing class. 

 

West Coast Connection 

Regional recruiting pipelines run deep. Oregon lost Murray of Allen, Texas, to in-state suitor Texas A&M. 

Programs with regional ties offer recruits the opportunity to play closer to home. As for the actual recruiting process, proximity has its benefits. One is a prospect's ability to pay an unexpected, unofficial visit, much like Barnett's to Oregon this week. 

Recruiting has indeed become a national endeavor for those programs pursuing championships, and Notre Dame is no exception. However, programs still maintain their geographic footprints. To wit, Oregon signed nine California prospects in the most recent signing period, and half of the Ducks' 2015 commits are from the Golden State. 

Adding one more California recruit in Barnett would be quite the coup for Helfrich and Co. and further establish the program's presence in a strategically vital state.  

 

Recruiting rankings culled from 247Sports' composite ratings.  

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3 Reasons 4-Star Quarterback Blake Barnett Will Sign with Oregon Football

Recruiting does not allow time for licking wounds and sulking. To that end, Oregon Ducks coaches quickly regrouped when 5-star dual-threat quarterback prospect Kyler Murray committed to Texas A&M last week...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Braxton Miller Challenges Visiting Recruit to Race over Twitter

The next time Hakeem Bailey is in Columbus, Ohio, he better be ready to race.

While the class of 2015 recruit was visiting Ohio State, he noticed that the football facility had a list of physical feats that players on last year's team had accomplished.

One number jumped out at the safety: Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds.

A simple tweet from Bailey to Miller led to a challenge:

Bailey didn't back down:

Luckily for Bailey, he wouldn't have to try to bring Miller down to the ground in the race. College defenders have a hard enough time tackling the elusive quarterback, so it would be an enormous challenge for the high school player.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Notre Dame Football: 2 Main Objectives for Everett Golson This Summer

As Notre Dame Stadium undergoes a transformation that'll begin to update the historic venue, the football team returned to campus for its own renovation. As bulldozers tear out grass and prepare the stadium for FieldTurf's installation, Brian Kelly's veterans returned to campus this week to begin laying the foundation for the 2014 football season. 

Every summer is important for a college football team. But, for this Irish team, it's critical. While the unproven talent on the roster needs to take a step forward, and the incoming freshman need to catch up to the rigors and demands of college football, this summer is most important to one of the key players on the Irish roster:

Everett Golson

No player has more pressure on their shoulders than Golson. After letting down his teammates and coaches last season after being suspended for a semester after cheating on a test, the Irish quarterback enters 2014 wanting to make amends.

While Golson took that first step forward during spring practice, summer offers a unique opportunity. On an empty campus surrounded by only teammates, Golson can become the quarterback the Irish desperately need him to be. 

But here's what he's going to have to do. 

 

Own the Playbook. 

Nobody has forgotten that Golson led the Irish to the BCS title game in his redshirt freshman season. But Kelly has been the first to state that he needs so much more from Golson if he's going to be the engine of the Irish offense.  

"He recognizes that in his first year here at Notre Dame he had training wheels on and we played to the strength of our defense," Kelly told Jack Arute and Geno Toretta on SiriusXM's College Sports Nation. "Then he took a year off, and then when he came here, he didn’t know as much as he thought he did. So that’s a real positive thing for a young man to come in and know that he’s got a lot more to learn as it relates to the quarterback position.

"He certainly has so much more developing to do. And I think that’s what he recognized. This isn’t just getting back to where I was, this is, boy, I need to get so much better."

The training wheels on the Irish offense were courtesy of Manti Te'o and one of the most dominant Irish defenses in school history. Those won't exist as Brian VanGorder installs a new system with an almost entirely rebuilt front seven. 

So the onus is on Golson to master the offense that he's being asked to run, a system that'll be quite different from the power-running, two tight end sets that efficiently moved the Irish down the field. 

Even if Troy Niklas stayed for his senior season, Kelly was planning on transitioning the Irish offense back to the true spread attack that he has wanted to run since arriving in South Bend. We saw flashes of that with Golson in 2012, as the Irish offense effectively moved the pocket, utilized the quarterback run and threw the ball efficiently with only two viable receiving threats in Tyler Eifert and TJ Jones. 

But if Golson isn't capable of owning the concepts and mastering the playbook, it's hard to think that the talented young personnel will be able to do it without him. 

Credit Golson for understanding the importance of the summer. While most Irish players spent a few weeks at home recharging their batteries before returning to campus, Golson was back in San Diego working with George Whitfield. 

Whitfield and Golson spent 10 weeks last fall learning the science of quarterbacking, focusing more on core concepts than Notre Dame-specific schemes. Golson's refresher course last week was likely a lot more specific.

Golson's training session will be supplemented by a key rule change made by the NCAA. It allows the Irish coaching staff to continue working the playbook with its team over the summer. That'll allow Golson to continue mastering the spread concepts he only touched on in 2012, and will pay huge dividends for his young playmakers. 

 

Learn to Lead

While Brian Kelly will likely name the team's captains sometime during August's training camp, the leaders of this football team will emerge this summer. And whether or not Kelly bestows Golson with a coveted "C" on his jersey, there's no question the offense's leader needs to be the Irish quarterback. 

There isn't much that's "informal" about summer workouts, even though the NCAA often mandates them as that. But after having leaders like Zack Martin and Tommy Rees around to organize the team's work over the past few summers, the Irish offense needs Golson to pick up that slack if the unit is going to move forward. 

Last year, Martin forced the Irish's young offensive line to grow up in the summer. He dragged the young depth chart to lunch, waited in the weight room for them to finish their workouts, and created a culture that stressed a brotherhood, regardless of where you were on the depth chart. That became critical once injuries started piling up, and, even without Christian Lombard, Chris Watt and Nick Martin, Harry Hiestand's offensive line stayed together. 

Likewise, Rees' respect on the roster only grew after Golson departed. While the quarterback limited what the Irish could do on the field, his willingness to embrace a very difficult role in 2012 and stick out a depth chart that seemed intent on burying him, helped keep the skill players together heading into 2013. 

The emergence of young quarterback Malik Zaire during the spring game gave Brian Kelly the champagne problem of having two quarterbacks (seemingly) good enough to start for the Irish. But even in a best-case scenario, Zaire is only where Golson was entering 2012. That's not a bad thing. But to win double-digit games this year, the Irish need their starting quarterback to be more than just "1 of 11," and Golson is the only viable option to fill that role.

Being a leader isn't something that comes naturally to Golson. A mild-mannered and quiet person, Golson needs to use this summer to transform his personality from the talented guy in the shadows to the man leading the charge. 

Golson knows that's the case, stating back in April that he's feeling the transition take place.

"I do feel like I'm a leader," Golson said. "It has evolved. That's my role, to be a leader on this team." 

Golson will earn that role this summer. And if he can do that and master an offense that's been tailor-made for him, it will have been a very successful summer. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Follow @KeithArnold on Twitter. 

 

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Alabama Football: Any Way You Look at Roster, Crimson Tide Loaded

At the end of spring practices, there was one player from the recruiting class of 2009 remaining on the University of Alabama football roster, although most Crimson Tide fans probably don't remember ever seeing him on the field.

He was rated a 3-star player. He's since lined up at two different positions and finally saw his first game action last season.

His name? Anthony Orr.

It’s almost hard to believe that same recruiting class also had Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, D.J. Fluker, James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, Eddie Lacy and Nico Johnson, who have all been in the National Football League for at least a year, while AJ McCarron, Kevin Norwood and Ed Stinson were selected in the recent draft.

That’s five first-round selections, an NFL rookie of the year and winners of too many collegiate awards to list. Most were also part of winning three national championships.

“I really do think the most accurate way to be able to rank any recruiting class would be three years down the road,” Nick Saban said on national signing day, “because I think the challenge for all these young men that got recruited today, wherever they're going, is to be able to stay focused on what they need to do to improve as players and do the things that they need to do to become very effective college football players.

“And it is a challenge to go from high school to college. Maybe the biggest challenge of all, maybe even more so going from college to the NFL.”

Nevertheless, with a unanimous No. 1 recruiting class this year, the Crimson Tide remains loaded with talent. Despite needing arguably 11 new starters (four offense, seven defense), the lineup looks like something straight out of one of those high-profile all-star games that the nation’s best recruits play in every year. 

So after reviewing the Crimson Tide position by position earlier this week, the following is a different look at Alabama’s roster based on how each player was evaluated as a prospect. After each name is the year he signed, what level he was assigned (stars, five being the best) and his overall national rank according to the composite rankings by 247Sports

 

Quarterbacks (5)

  • David Cornwell, 2014, 4, 79
  • Cooper Bateman, 2013, 4, 80
  • Blake Sims, 2010, 4, 275*
  • Jacob Coker, 2011, 3, 532 (FSU)
  • Alec Morris, 2012, 3, 569

 

Running backs (7)

  • Derrick Henry, 2013, 5, 12
  • Bo Scarbrough, 2014, 5, 16
  • T.J. Yeldon, 2012, 5, 28
  • Altee Tenpenny, 2013, 4, 53
  • Tyren Jones, 2013, 4, 66
  • Kenyan Drake, 2012, 4, 130
  • Jalston Fowler, 2010, 4, 220

 

Wide receivers (9)

  • Robert Foster, 2013, 5, 23
  • Chris Black, 2012, 4, 45
  • Amari Cooper, 2012, 4, 46
  • Cameron Sims, 2014, 4, 84
  • ArDarius Stewart, 2013, 4, 86
  • DeAndrew White, 2010, 4, 107
  • Derek Kief, 2014, 4, 221
  • Raheem Falkins, 2013, 3, 361
  • Christion Jones, 2011, 3, 365*

 

Tight ends (5)

  • O.J. Howard, 2013, 5, 19
  • Malcolm Faciane, 2011, 4, 190
  • Brian Vogler, 2010, 4, 228
  • Kurt Freitag, 2012, 3, 480
  • Ty Flournoy-Smith, 2014, 3, 103 (JC)-x

 

Offensive line (16)

  • Cam Robinson, 2014, 5, 4
  • Grant Hill, 2013, 4, 61
  • Ross Pierschbacher, 2014, 4, 74
  • Brandon Greene, 2012, 4, 125
  • Dominick Jackson, 2014, 4, 2 (JC)
  • JC Hassenauer, 2014, 4, 172
  • Arie Kouandjio, 2010, 4, 173
  • Ryan Kelly, 2011, 4, 237
  • Alphonse Taylor, 2012, 4, 266
  • Joshua Casher, 2014, 4, 280
  • Leon Brown, 2013, 4, 19 (JC)
  • Isaac Luatua, 2011, 3, 391
  • Montel McBride, 2014, 3, 422
  • Bradley Bozeman, 2013, 3, 471
  • Brandon Hill, 2013, 3, 505-x
  • Austin Shepherd, 2010, 3, 623

 

Defensive line (15)

  • Da’Shawn Hand, 2014, 5, 5
  • Jonathan Allen, 2013, 5, 16*
  • A’Shawn Robinson, 2013, 5, 33
  • Dee Liner, 2013, 4, 46
  • Josh Frazier, 2014, 4, 85
  • Korren Kirven, 2012, 4, 166
  • Jarran Reed, 2014, 4, 13 (JC)
  • D.J. Pettway, 2011, 4, 206 (2014, 4, 14 JC)
  • Dalvin Tomlinson, 2012, 4, 217
  • O.J. Smith, 2014, 3, 398
  • Johnny Dwight, 2014, 3, 429
  • Dakota Ball, 2012, 3 432
  • Darren Lake, 2012, 3, 584
  • Brandon Ivory, 2010, 3, NA
  • Anthony Orr, 2009, 3, 582

 

Linebackers (14)

  • Reuben Foster, 2013, 5, 6
  • Rashaan Evans, 2014, 5, 15
  • Trey DePriest, 2011, 5, 29
  • Xzavier Dickson, 2011, 4, 34
  • Christian Miller, 2014, 4, 39
  • Reggie Ragland, 2012, 4, 41
  • Ronnie Clark, 2014, 4, 70
  • Ryan Anderson, 2012, 4, 78
  • Tim Williams, 2013, 4, 82
  • Dillon Lee, 2012, 4, 101
  • Denzel Devall, 2012, 4, 139
  • Shaun Dion Hamilton, 2014, 4, 203
  • Keith Holcombe, 2014, 4, 281
  • Walker Jones, 2013, 3, 658

 

Secondary (14)

  • Landon Collins, 2012, 5, 7
  • Tony Brown, 2014, 5, 9
  • Marlon Humphrey, 2014, 5, 12
  • Cyrus Jones, 2012, 4, 43*
  • Laurence “Hootie” Jones, 2014, 4, 50
  • Geno Smith, 2012, 4, 61
  • Maurice Smith, 2013, 4, 84
  • Bradley Sylve, 2011, 4, 106*
  • Jarrick Williams, 2010, 4, 130
  • Nick Perry, 2010, 4, 250
  • Anthony Averett, 2013, 4, 273
  • Jabriel Washington, 2011, 4, 285
  • Eddie Jackson, 2013, 3, 349
  • Jonathan Cook, 2013, 3, 524

 

Special teams (3)

  • Adam Griffith, 2012, 3, 656
  • JK Scott, 2014, 3, MA
  • Cole Mazza, 2013, 3, NA

*Wasn’t necessarily recruited at the position now playing.

x-Hill attended Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia while Flournoy-Smith went to Georgia Military College to quality academically.

There are some interesting things that stand out.

 

Roster

Alabama doesn’t release scholarship information, but the above roster gives the Crimson Tide 42 offensive players, 43 defensive players and three specialists, which adds up to 88, three over the limit.

Saban usually doesn’t disclose information about players who may not return until after the fact, or about incoming players who haven't qualified academically. At least one has yet to arrive at the Capstone and the coach recently said that a couple of signees may need summer classes.

Incidentally, Orr has already graduated.

 

Year-by-year totals

With six players from the recruiting class of 2011 already in the NFL there are just nine remaining, the same number of holdovers from 2010. Meanwhile, 20 players from 2012 are still on the roster.

With two departures already, there are 23 players remaining from the recruiting class of 2013.

 

Stars galore

If it wanted to, Alabama could start a 5-star recruit at every defensive position minus two (it’s a linebacker and safety short). Overall, it’s slated to have 15 5-star players (six on offense, nine defense), and 50 (25 and 25) who were rated as 4-four prospects on the roster this season.

Combined, that’s a staggering 76.5 percent of the roster.

 

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

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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College Football Uniform Trends to Watch in 2014

College football is changing by the minute.

Not just in the way the game is played—in its tempo and the size of the players who succeed at it—but in the way it looks.

Uniform aesthetics have developed gradually over the past decade or so, but the result of that steady, gradual change is something radically different than what we had before.

We live in a new, chrome-filled, stand-out-by-any-means-necessary era where something such as this new NC State helmet with wolf eyes on the back of the head can actually exist in real life:

Whoa.

Fortunately for us, the "eyes in the back of our heads" conceit is not likely to catch on. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but it seems more like a gimmick than a trend that will inspire future imitations.  

The same, however, cannot be said for some of the other trends that will continue or begin in earnest next season.

Let's take a look at some of them.

 

Jarring Sleeve Patterns 

Phil Knight and Nike have helped Oregon redefine what a football jersey can—and perhaps should—look like. Part of that design has included an emphasis on the shoulders, where Oregon has sported everything from wings to metallic-colored tire marks in past seasons.

This year's "Mach Speed" uniforms have the next iteration of sleeve pattern: something close to the winged look but a little bit lower and, especially in the case of the black jersey, a little more intricate.

The wings on the shoulder used to be a gentle accent on the fringe of the uniform. Now they have expanded their breadth, creeping down to the chest area and dominating the front of the jersey. 

Take a look:

And because Oregon jumped the gun and debuted the white version of the Mach Speeds during the 2013 Alamo Bowl, here is a look at how those jerseys come off with a live, game-ready model:

But it's not just Oregon partaking in this trend anymore.

The intricate shoulder pattern has made its way to the opposite corner of the country—way down to Tallahassee, where the defending national champions have decided to update their style.

Check out the Seminole-themed print on the shoulders:

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the patchwork on the sleeves "contain the Seminole Tribe of Florida's symbols for arrow, man on horse, and fire, with the helmet spears crossing in the back representative of the crossed bars of the state flag."

That's actually pretty freakin' awesome.

Also awesome is the integration of the Ibis mascot on the shoulders of the new Miami uniform update (better angle here):

Well done on all three fronts.

 

Secondary Logos

Jerseys change from week to week. 

That is a historical reality of sports. All sports. Not just football.

Teams need to wear different colors, and because there are so many teams (and so few viable colors), each team needs at least two jerseys to ensure that always happens.

Until recently, however, the logo was supposed to stay consistent. There is no practical reason for an alternate logo, which is not needed to differentiate one team from the other during the run of play. And if anything, logic might dictate that it hurts any sort of branding.

But, alas, Arkansas might be helping to start a new trend with a soft introduction of its new secondary logo:

(Which may or may not look like Pumbaa from The Lion King):

The forward-facing hog will not replace the profile shot of the hog on the Razorbacks' helmet, but it will be placed below the neck on the front of the updated jerseys:

Another SEC team, Georgia, did a similar thing in 2013:

Secondary logos might seem frivolous, but they are in fact a smart piece of marketing. They allow the school a chance to roll out and crowdsource an update—perhaps with the intention of making it a full-time change—without the risk of a massive public flop.

Arkansas' forward-facing hog, for example, has been mocked a bit since its introduction. But, for the time being, it is only an alternate. It's only displayed in a tiny little spot below the collar of the jersey.

Had Arkansas rolled out that logo as a new, full-time change, placing it on the helmet, it would have put itself at risk of public scorn and a debacle such as the one Florida State had with its own new logo.

Expect this kind of thing to catch on.

 

"Group of Five" Chrome Domes

College football's fascination with chrome helmets began to penetrate the NFL this offseason. It also continued spreading among itself.

Now more than ever, it seems, schools from the "Group of Five" are adding chrome domes to their repertoire—ostensibly to look hip and to aid with recruiting, where they are already at a disadvantage.

Just look at Florida Atlantic, which unveiled these (surprisingly cool) chrome-red and -blue helmets back in March:

FAU is also one of the biggest stories of the young recruiting cycle, having landed a commitment from 4-star running back and top-100 overall player (per the 247Sports Composite) Jordan Scarlett and placing ahead of Oregon, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Washington and Stanford at No. 47 on the current 247Sports team rankings.

Do the helmets have everything to do with that? Of course not.

Florida is the ripest recruiting ground in the country, and new head coach Charlie Partridge knows the area well and is an excellent recruiter. Those are bigger factors than the helmets—no doubt.

But the chrome domes definitely don't hurt.

Which is why FAU isn't the only smaller school on fertile recruiting soil that is trying this tactic. Akron put out new chrome helmets as well:

As did Houston way down in Texas:

And South Florida, which is coming off a disastrous 2-10 season and competing with the likes of FAU for the deep class of prospects in the Sunshine State, got creative with its usage of the chrome:

Don't expect this trend to go away anytime soon.

 

Black For Black's Sake

Because it is ostensibly the most "menacing," "macho," "masculine" color, black jerseys are something many teams fancy—whether the shade of black is part of their school's color palate or not.

Paul Lukas of Uni-Watch.com has coined this phenomenon "Black for Black's Sake" (BFBS for short), and it has continued with many of the new uniform updates that will hit college football in 2014.

Take, for example, this new Arizona State Florida State kit:

Or this updated look at BYU:

Or the clashing sleeves and shoulders that go along with the midnight-purple update at Washington (on the left) in addition to the traditional BFBS update the Huskies will sport (on the right):

Why does a team such as Florida State need a black uniform? It made sense, for example, when Georgia helped begin the "blackout trend" against Auburn in 2007, because the Bulldogs have black featured centrally in their logo. But the Seminoles only have the black in their logo's hair, and their Garnet home uniforms are iconic.

Why try to shoehorn in the "cool factor" when you're already cool?

This is not a new but expanding trend in college (and all levels of) football. It will continue creeping from niche to norm in 2014, leaving those who refuse to indulge in the minority.

And for that, we thank them.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Position-by-Position Analysis of South Carolina's 2014 Roster

South Carolina lost a few key players in No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney, rock-solid quarterback Connor Shaw and a handful of other players. Despite losing some major talents on both sides of the ball, the Gamecocks return a team with a great deal of experience. 

The team may be young in certain areas, but the experience gained during last season will help to carry the Gamecocks a long way in 2014. 

With double-digit win season after double-digit win season for head ball coach Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks, the bar is set high in 2014, especially considering this could be one of the most complete and overall talented rosters Spurrier has had the privilege of coaching during his tenure in Columbia. 

South Carolina is loaded up offensively and making progress on the defense throughout the offseason, so this team could potentially make waves in 2014 en route to the College Football Playoff. 

Here is a position-by-position analysis of the South Carolina Gamecocks' 2014 football roster. 

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5 Schools Most Responsible for Keeping the ACC on the Upswing

2013 was a banner year for ACC football. The league expanded its East Coast footprint with a pair of additions in Pitt and Syracuse, replaced departing Maryland with an upgrade in the American Athletic Conference’s best team in Louisville and also had a huge breakthrough in on-field play.

Florida State won a thrilling BCS national title game over Auburn to give the ACC its first national title since 2000, when the Seminoles beat Virginia Tech.

And the Seminoles’ ACC Atlantic Division mate Clemson capped its second consecutive 11-win season with an Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State for the Tigers’ first BCS bowl win.

With two BCS bowl wins, the ACC matched its total from the previous 12 seasons combined.

Three years ago, the league was a prime candidate to be torn apart in the realignment frenzy, with speculation about members going to the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. In the end, Maryland was the only loss, and as college football enters the playoff era, the ACC is firmly positioned as one of the nation’s power-five conferences, thanks to a league-wide grant of rights that preserved stability.

But as the league solidifies its position among the nation’s best, it can’t afford a step back. Florida State and Clemson’s emergence, along with a scheduling alliance with Notre Dame that will put five ACC teams on the Fighting Irish’s schedule each season, will help assure its staying power.

Here are five schools that will carry that burden.

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Michigan Football: Losing the Next Generation of Fans?

Despite a 7-6 finish and nearly a decade having passed since its last Big Ten title, Michigan again led the nation in football attendance. According to the NCAA, this marked the 16th consecutive season that the school has won the attendance title.

But while overall attendance continues to be strong, student attendance has been problematic. A significant number of students are foregoing the game-day experience despite efforts by the athletic department to encourage attendance.

Is Michigan losing the next generation of fans? And if so, what are the long-term implications?

MLive.com reported that during the 2012 season, 50 percent of students arrived late, and 25 percent failed to show up at all. Michigan instituted a loyalty program, general admission seating and even offered donuts to entice students to arrive early with little reduction in the number of empty student seats.

Now, a significant number of students have decided to not buy tickets for next season.

The Michigan athletic department expects to sell approximately 7,000 fewer tickets this upcoming season compared to Brady Hoke's first season, according to associate athletic director Dave Ablauf in a report by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

One possibility may be that Michigan is paying the price for six seasons of mediocre football. The Rich Rodriguez era and the last two seasons under Brady Hoke are hardly what many students hoped for.

But the problem goes beyond Michigan. According to an article in the Tuscaloosa News, even Alabama struggled with student attendance during the 2012 season:

A total of 18,683 student tickets of an allocated 109,900 went unused over the course of seven home games, and at least 5 percent of student tickets went unused in every game, topping out at 58 percent for the Western Carolina game.

The usual litany of explanations for poor Michigan student attendance—poor weather, bad team, unpopular game times—don't apply to Alabama, which won the national championship that season.

There is a silver lining for schools with declining student attendance: The seats allocated for students are worth more when sold to the general public. Michigan has already offered season ticket holders the option to purchase additional seats (along with the required seat licenses) and offered ticket plans to the general public.

Michigan Stadium is a revenue-generating machine. New additions include private suites for top donors and outdoor club seats for fans who want a more comfortable game experience. Two huge high definition screens look down on season ticket holders who all pay annual seat licenses for the privilege of maintaining their seats.

But as the fans in the stadium age, will they be replaced by younger alumni, many of whom passed on attending games as students?

Attending football games used to be a priority for many students, but the culture of watching games has changed.

Hundreds of cable channels and dedicated networks ensure that practically every game is available in HDTV quality. Social media has transformed the game-day experience from a passive activity to one where fans can interact with hundreds or thousands of others in near real time.

Students are the proverbial canary in the coal mine. 

Administrators who believe that winning will solve the student attendance problem are ignoring the cultural shift that's taking place among the next generation of football fans.

Michigan and other traditional football powers need to offer fans a compelling reason to attend games, or the next renovation at the Big House might be a downsizing.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football Recruiting: Latest News, Notes and Analysis

The spring evaluation period has come to a close, so USC's 2015 recruiting endeavors will cool off a bit through the summer. It was a busy spring for USC as the coaches crisscrossed the country checking out recruits and shuffling names up and down their boards. Additionally, the Trojans earned a few commitments in the past few weeks and will look to carry that momentum into the summer.

For the past few seasons, the spring evaluation period meant USC would hit the recruiting trail hard, hoping to lock up at least half of its class before the next football season began. There was a sense of urgency in filling the reduced classes with the highest available talent. But because the Trojans can bring in 25 guys for 2015, things are really just getting started for USC.

Here's a look at where USC's next recruiting class stands, as well as what's to come down the trail later this year.

 

 

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USC Football Recruiting: Latest News, Notes and Analysis

The spring evaluation period has come to a close, so USC's 2015 recruiting endeavors will cool off a bit through the summer...

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Can Texas A&M Defense Survive Dismissal of Isaiah Golden and Darian Claiborne?

Texas A&M's porous defense, which was at or near the bottom of the SEC in just about every major statistical category last season, just took another hit.

So to speak.

On Tuesday, Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin announced in an email statement that linebacker Darian Claiborne and defensive tackle Isaiah Golden had been dismissed from the team.

"These two individuals have failed to meet the high expectations and standards that we have for our football players and as representatives of this university," Sumlin said in a statement via The Eagle. "These two players have exhibited a pattern of behavior that we will not tolerate at Texas A&M."

Shortly after the statement was sent out, College Station police announced that Claiborne and Golden were hit with three charges of aggravated robbery each. Those charges came as a result of a drug-related incident that occurred last month.

Details of that incident can be read on cstx.gov.

Claiborne and Golden had a history of off-the-field problems, but the severity of the most recent allegations left Sumlin with no choice but to cut ties with the duo.

From purely a football perspective, this is tough news.

For as bad as the Aggies defense was last year, Claiborne was a rising star who finished his freshman season with 89 tackles—good for third on the team. Golden started six games as a freshman last season and finished with 32 tackles.

That production has gone out the window.

According to Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News, Jordan Mastrogiovanni is the likeliest replacement for Claiborne. Redshirt freshman Justin Manning and/or freshman Zaycoven Henderson could fill in on a full- or part-time basis in Golden's place.

Mastrogiovanni has experience, but Manning and Henderson would be new to the game. Henderson was a touted early enrollee, but as with most freshmen, it's a guessing game in terms of how soon he'll be ready to contribute.

The off-the-field issues don't end with Claiborne and Golden, and neither do the dismissals.

The Houston Chronicle reported that redshirt freshman Kameron Miles, who was expected to compete for a starting job this year, was dismissed from the program in March for alleged theft.

Defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury was arrested earlier this spring on assault charges stemming from an alleged incident on Rice's campus, though he's fighting those charges. Safety Howard Matthews, who was in the car with Stansbury at the time of his arrest, was also arrested—receiver Edward Pope was driving. 

However, all three players are still on the team.

Stansbury played in 10 games in 2013 while Matthews was one of the most active players for the Aggies.

There are questions at every level of the defense for A&M—that was going to be the case with or without Claiborne and Golden—but what the Aggies do have is potential. Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com identified Henderson, Mastrogiovanni, defensive back Devonta Burns and linebacker A.J. Hilliard as four players who had standout springs.

Once again, A&M will need young and/or inexperienced players to grow up quickly. If they don't, last year's liability will grow into a consistent problem.

A&M plays at South Carolina in Week 1 and will face an SEC West loaded with offensive firepower this year. That's a lot to ask of any defense. 

Plus, it remains to be seen how well the offense performs in the post-Johnny Manziel era. So, for the time being, the margin for error on defense has shrunk.

  

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Here's Video of Les Miles Hula Hooping and Singing Bob Seger for Charity

Man. Myth. Part-time adrenaline junkie.

All of these words describe Les Miles, who reaffirmed his status as the most interesting man in college football this May by gripping and ripping on plastic hoops and Bob Seger at a charity event for children.

The head coach of LSU football’s program attended an event called Cooking in Central, wherein he endeavored in a bit of friendly competition and singing.

Greg Smith of BlackSportsOnline.com (h/t Andrew Holleran of Collegespun.com) spotted video of Miles going to town with a hula hoop and singing Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

His commitment to hula hooping was far from total, though he did manage some impressive arm-hooping.

“Hey, watch the technique,” Miles told onlookers before failing completely. 

What Miles lacked in hip swiveling he more than made up for in Seger, however. Coach brought the business to the microphone. 

And thus another day passed in the life of Miles, the grass-gobbling coach born with everything but a single care to give. 

As Tigers fans can attest, hula hooping is far from their coach’s most ridiculous charity stunt. Miles nearly broke the Internet in 2013 when he rappelled down the side of a 24-story building to promote child adoption. 

That’s Les Miles—anything for a good cause. 

The Tigers kick off their season against Wisconsin on August 30. We can only presume Miles will participate in a furious downhill cheese wheel race to commemorate the matchup and raise money for orphans.

 

On the Twitters.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Top-Performing Quarterback Recruits from 2014 Columbus Elite 11 Regional

The nationwide Elite 11 tour made a stop in Urban Meyer's backyard Monday evening. The prestigious quarterback competition camp attracted several premier passers to Columbus, Ohio, for a chance to prove themselves against top peers.

This event has featured notable college and NFL stars in the past, including Andrew Luck, Vince Young, Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford and Tim Tebow. Elite 11 action occurs throughout the country over the course of months, as a select few pick up invites to the national competition this July in Oregon.

After the dust settled in Columbus, a pair of invitations were extended and a number of competitors saw their stock rise. Here's a look at five of the most impressive passers who were on hand for the Elite 11 regional.

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5 Reasons Kahlil McKenzie Will Sign with the Tennessee Volunteers

With needs all over the field for the Tennessee Volunteers, perhaps none is bigger in this recruiting cycle than securing an impact defensive tackle. Concord, Calif., 5-star Kahlil McKenzie certainly fits the bill.

It just so happens that ties run deep between the 6'4", 309-pound McKenzie and the Vols.

The great quarterback debate can rage on—and there's no minimizing UT's need for at least one commit this year—but coach Butch Jones has to restock the offensive and defensive trenches to turn Tennessee's fate.

After a recent camp swing in which McKenzie surged all the way up to 247Sports' No. 10-ranked overall player in the 2015 class, it's evident why UT is so high on him.

He also is feeling the Vols right now, as evidenced by 97 percent of his Crystal Ball projections aimed toward UT. News broke Tuesday night on Twitter that McKenzie would be choosing between UT and Arizona on July 10 at The Opening.

He listed the Vols as his leader when he released his top 12 in late May, so things are looking good for UT. Here are five reasons why McKenzie will anchor UT's 2015 recruiting class, based off comments he has made throughout the recruiting process.

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3 Reasons 5-Star QB Torrance Gibson Will Sign with Auburn

Auburn may have only grabbed one commitment from its recent Big Cat Weekend—3-star fullback Chandler Cox, who was not even on campus for the annual recruiting event—the defending SEC champions got some valuable one-on-one time with several of the nation's top recruits.

One of those recruits was 5-star Florida native Torrance Gibson, a dual-threat quarterback at Ft. Lauderdale's American Heritage high school and the nation's No. 1-rated athlete.

After visiting the Plains, Gibson moved Auburn up to "1A," slightly above SEC rival Tennessee in his list of top schools:

According to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports (subscription required), Auburn rose in Gibson's eyes after his second unofficial visit—a visit that did not focus only on the pigskin.

"We weren’t always talking about football," Gibson said. "It was about having fun, enjoying life. It’s not always about the coverages and defenses. It’s a big difference. Not only seeing them as football coaches, but seeing them as a person."

The Tigers are expected to be in a tight race with Tennessee over the next few months, with LSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State rounding out the top five. Gibson is expected to announce his commitment after his senior season at American Heritage, where he helped lead the Patriots to a state championship last year.

Auburn is currently the leader to sign Gibson on 247Sports' Crystal Ball, which compiles predictions from a wide variety of recruiting experts.

B/R's own Adam Kramer put 4-1 odds on Gibson signing with Auburn, slightly behind Tennessee at 3-1:

The Tennessee coaching staff—and its passionate fanbase—has been a leader in recruiting Gibson since before his junior season of high school. The Volunteers' biggest draw is its immediate need for a quarterback as Butch Jones looks to rebuild an SEC contender in Knoxville.

If he signed with Auburn, Gibson would have to compete in a quarterback depth chart that features several former 4-stars: current backup Jeremy Johnson, former Under Armour All-America Game MVP Sean White and possibly fellow class of 2015 member Tyler Queen.

But with a dynamic offensive scheme, a coach known for his success with dual-threat quarterbacks and a roster ready to compete for a national championship, Auburn has more to offer down the road to the left-handed 5-star if it comes down to a two-way battle between the Plains and Rocky Top.

 

Auburn's Schematic Advantage

While some recruiting experts think Gibson could be a receiver at the collegiate level, Gibson has all the physical tools to be an elite dual-threat quarterback for the school he signs with next February.

At 6'4" and 200 pounds, Gibson brings the durable size coaches and scouts like to see with a scrambler. Gibson also runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, making him one of the quickest blue-chip recruits in the class of 2015.

Jones is implementing the hurry-up spread scheme that led him to success at Cincinnati and Central Michigan, but his offenses have never reached the statistical heights of offenses coached by no-huddle guru Gus Malzahn.

Since his move to Tulsa in 2007, Malzahn has either been the offensive coordinator or head coach for seven offenses that finished in the top 25 nationally in total yards per game, including three top-10 attacks.

With the exception of Auburn's statistically woeful 2011 season, Malzahn's offenses have consistently had more success and talent than ones coached by Jones and longtime offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian.

From a running back stable featuring several former blue-chip recruits to a dynamic receiving corps to a deep offensive line, Auburn already has the pieces in place to help an athlete such as Gibson excel at the SEC level.

 

Malzahn's Past Success with Dual-Threat Quarterbacks

In an Auburn offense that is seeking more balance following its option-dominated run in 2013, Gibson would be able to show off both his arm and his legs in an offense that already has a history of producing top dual-threat signal-callers.

Malzahn's offense, which has a solid zone-read foundation, would give Gibson the opportunity to showcase his top-level running ability—something the stat sheets show us he might not get as much in Knoxville. 

At Central Michigan, Cincinnati and now at Tennessee, offenses under Jones rely heavily on their running backs to get most of the yards on the ground.

Central Michigan legend Dan LeFevour ran for 1,122 yards in 2007, Jones and Bajakian's first season coaching the Chippewas. LeFevour followed up those years with marks of 592 and 713 yards on the ground, and the most rushing yards a quarterback had under Jones at Cincinnati was Munchie Legaux's 335 in 2012.

Malzahn, on the other hand, has coached a pair of 1,000-plus-yard rushing quarterbacks at Auburn, possible 2014 Heisman contender Nick Marshall and 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton.

Ryan Aplin ran for 438 yards in Malzahn's only season as Arkansas State head coach, and while Paul Smith's rushing yardage was not extraordinary in a pass-heavier 2007 Tulsa offense, the Golden Hurricane quarterback found the end zone on the ground 13 times.

While quarterback rushing yards in offenses under Jones have progressively declined, quarterbacks in Malzahn's system are now getting more opportunities to run the ball.

One would expect Jones' coaching staff to find ways to let an elite athlete such as Gibson run the ball in the Volunteers offense, Auburn already has an established system favoring dual-threat quarterbacks and an offensive innovator who has a proven track record of helping those types of players succeed.

 

Chance to Win Now

While offensive schemes, coaching staffs and early playing time are important and specific factors in the recruitment of Gibson and any other top-level high school player, one of the most universally crucial appeals for a school is the opportunity to win early and often.

Gibson is no exception, as he told reporters at Big Cat Weekend that his prospective school's success in the 2014 season will be important in his decision.

"I want to win, too, I don't want to lose," Gibson told AL.com's Wesley Sinor last weekend. "That's why I'm committing. I want to win."

And Auburn is simply in a better position to win in the near future than Tennessee.

Fresh off a SEC championship season, the Tigers were predicted by the SEC's sports information directors to finish a close second behind rivals Alabama for the 2014 SEC title. The Volunteers were picked to finish No. 11 in the conference.

While Auburn has been a preseason Top 5 and inaugural College Football Playoff pick by several media outlets, Tennessee will be fighting this year for its first season of eight wins or more since 2007. In that same time span, Auburn has won eight or more games in four seasons, won two SEC titles and made it to a pair of national championship games.

Auburn proved last season major turnarounds can happen in the nation's toughest conference, and Tennessee could shock the country like the 2013 Tigers did by heading to Atlanta for this year's SEC Championship Game.

Anything can happen in the crazy world of college football, but Auburn's superior recent seasons and recruiting classes point to the Tigers staying ahead of the Volunteers this season and possibly the next couple of seasons.

If winning now is of high importance to Gibson, Auburn should emerge as the winners in the race for one of the country's most coveted offensive playmakers.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats taken from CFBStats.com. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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