NCAA Football

USC Football: Keep an Eye on Morian Walker II at Running Back in 2016

As USC continues to deal with a depleted roster in 2014, head coach Steve Sarkisian and running backs coach Johnny Nansen cast a wary eye to 2015 and beyond.

With the recent announcement that Ty Isaac will be leaving the program, what is known is that beyond this year, USC will need to replenish a running backs unit that was once thought to be one of the deepest groups on the team.

That is because the only running back that will be on the roster for sure in 2015 is Justin Davis, although either Javorius "Buck" Allen and/or Tre Madden could come back for their redshirt senior season.

How about 2016? Don't ask.

With 2014 being a down year for high school running backs, the class of 2015 will have to produce a cadre of ball-carriers for the Trojans to re-stock the unit or they will be in big trouble going forward.

However, there is one very youngbut extremely talentedrunning back that Trojan fans should keep an eye on in the future.

Morian Walker II is a class of 2016 running back from Valley Christian High School (San Jose, Calif.), and this young man is going to be special by the time he gets to the next level.

Already 6'1", 197 pounds, Walker has everything one looks for in a young running back, including speed, which is evidenced by his 4.49 40-yard dash time.

I had an opportunity to catch up with Walker, and as impressive as he is physically, he is even more impressive as a person.

Asked what he is looking for in a college, Walker stated, "Education is very important to me, so that is one thing, but I am also looking for a family environment where I am thought of as more than just a football player." He went on, "I also am looking for a bond with teammates and my coaches as well."

As a young player, Walker understands that he has room to improve, but interestingly, his efforts will focus on the cerebral part of the game. "I am going to work on the mental aspects of my game because physically, I am pretty well set." said Walker.

Of course, talk turned to recruiting, and young Morian said he was aware of USC's need for running backs saying that he "met with coach Shelton and really enjoyed the facilities." Walker continued, "My mom, aunt and grandmother all went to USC, so I have those ties to the school."

Asked which school was recruiting him hardest, Walker admitted, "Probably UCLA; they have showed me a lot of love and invited me to their spring game, which I really enjoyed. I have also established a good relationship with the coaches too."

While Trojan fans might be disappointed with Walker's early infatuation with the Bruins, they should take heart that the process is very early and he is pretty much open to everyone.

But the great thing about this young running back from San Jose is that while he is as physically impressive as any 16-year-old at the position I have seen on video, he is also a great young man.

Spiritually grounded, Walker's Christian faith guides him on a daily basis. "I grew up in a Christian home, and my parents are both Christians." Walker continued, "I attend a Christian high school, and I will rely on God to guide my choice for where I attend college."

However, Walker doesn't just talk a good game, he lives it, and that is evident in the many charities he has been involved with, including several children's hospitals.

Although 2016 is a couple of years away, it is never too early to establish relationships, and to that end, I would encourage the USC recruiting brain trust to stay on Morian Walker II.

At 16 years old, he is already sporting a college-ready body, and by the time he is ready for the next level, the kid will be a beast.

Nimble on his feet and with a very soft pair of hands, Walker is destined to be a top player in 2016 and will be coveted by all of the best programs in the nation.

If the Trojans were to land him, they would go a very long way in addressing their running back needs for that class and beyond.

But just as important, they would be getting a classy young man who will represent the university in the way all Trojan fans would admire.

And you can never have enough of those kind of players.

 

Note: All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

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USC Football: Keep an Eye on Morian Walker II at Running Back in 2016

As USC continues to deal with a depleted roster in 2014, head coach Steve Sarkisian and running backs coach Johnny Nansen cast a wary eye to 2015 and beyond...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

10 Most Crucial Recruiting Visits Already Set for This Summer

With summer right around the corner, recruits are starting to put even more focus on which schools they want to see. While official visits in the fall are certainly important, an overlooked step in a prospect's recruitment is the process of taking unofficial visits in the summer.

For this list, the concentration will be on elite prospects and their visits. A pair of 5-star defensive ends will be going to check out key schools this summer, while a program in the Midwest will see a 4-star receiver later this month.

Plus, a pair of 4-star safeties will also do a lot of traveling over the next few months.

 

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

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Nick Saban's New Contract with Alabama Worth Up to $55.2 Million

Back in December when Nick Saban and the University of Alabama agreed to a long-term contract extension, one source summed up the deal simply: "It's significant."

Six months later, the new deal has been approved by the school's compensation committee, and we now know that anonymous source wasn't joking around. 

According to ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough, Saban's new contract will pay him an NCAA-best $6.5 million in base salary per year through January 2022—a $1 million annual raise. Throw in yearly completion bonuses worth $400,000, and his entire deal beefs up to a massive $55.2 million. 

Saban commented on the deal in a statement, via Scarborough:

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.

According to AL.com's Michael Casagrande, the compensation committee passed the motion unanimously, and it's hard to blame them. 

In seven seasons with the Crimson Tide, Saban has compiled a gaudy record of 79-15 (.840) and brought three national championships to Tuscaloosa. Building college football's greatest current powerhouse, he has established himself as the best head coach in America. 

As FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman and ESPN's Paul Finebaum argued, Saban's newest raise still might not have been large enough: 

Unfortunately, as salaries continue to exponentially rise, the gap between head coaches and student athletes, who are a major part in raking in money for schools, will only increase. 

There's little question Saban deserves his contract, but this will certainly further the ongoing debate surrounding NCAA amateurism. 

For Alabama, though, none of that matters now. With Saban firmly entrenched on the sidelines for years to come, they can focus on returning to the top of the SEC and college football as a whole. 

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Arden Key to South Carolina: Gamecocks Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Arden Key's decommitment from South Carolina started a southern-school recruiting war. Now, Key is again heading to South Carolina.

Key announced his decision via Twitter:

The 4-star defensive end affirmed his fall destination on Tuesday, choosing the Gamecocks over offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Ole Miss. A Hapeville Charter standout in his native Atlanta, Key will spend his next few years trying to ensure his home state university doesn't compete for national titles.

Key's initial lack of interest in Georgia or Georgia Tech was to be a major oversight for both schools. He is ranked No. 123 nationally by 247Sports' composite rankings. Among in-state competitors, Key is 14th, and he's the 10th-best weak-side defensive end overall in the class of 2015.

Where Key stands out is with his versatility. Listed at 6'5" and 200 pounds, Key blasts off the ball with a quick initial burst, allowing him to disrupt activity in the backfield. Even when he's unable to get to the quarterback, his length and athleticism allow him to at least make life difficult for the quarterback. 

“I’m a speed rusher; I’m tall and I can get after the quarterback,” Key told Brian McLaughlin of Saturday Down South. “I’m a good player, and they can make me into a better player in college if they keep putting good weight on me."

It will be interesting to see how Steve Spurrier plans on developing Key. Defensive end is his most natural position and his long-term projection, but his frame and quickness may lend themselves to some outside linebacker opportunities. As defenses continue to evolve into more hybrid sets instead of constant bases, Key may wind up just playing both depending on the situation.

Run defense isn't a strength at this point. Key penetrates as well off the ball as he does against the pass, but the aggressiveness can sometimes lead toward him over-pursuing. It's not an overwhelming problem, and no one can mistake Key for any other player. He hits, he drives and he does so with ferocity. 

The biggest issue with Key is apparent even on high school film: He's slight. For an SEC defensive lineman, he's rail-thin. Getting him into the weight room and on a consistent program will be key to his development, and Key is at such a size disadvantage at this point it would be surprising if he were much more than a situational player as a freshman.

With plenty of time to go between now and the 2015 season, it's possible Key's body develops to the point he could contribute. One can rarely account for how an 18-year-old kid's body grows. Key has the frame to support the extra weight; it's just a matter of him packing it on without losing any of the explosion.

A few years down the line, Key could be the biggest coup of South Carolina's recruiting class. For now, Gamecocks fans can just imagine the possibilities.

 

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Mark Richt Dismisses Tray Matthews: What Move Means for Georgia Football

For the second time this offseason, Georgia announced the dismissal of a starting safety on Tuesday, as Tray Matthews’ career as a Bulldog came to a close.

According GeorgiaDogs.com, Georgia head coach Mark Richt offered a particularly curt explanation for Matthews’ dismissal saying simply, “We are trying to make room for guys who want to do things right.”

Although news of the star safety’s release was sudden and spread rapidly, it was not altogether surprising given recent history.  Most recently, Matthews was one of four Dawgs arrested on the eve of spring practice in a check fraud scheme involving stipends received from the athletic department.  Punishment for the arrests had not yet been announced.

And yet, just last week, Mark Richt expressed optimism regarding Matthews' future.  According to Seth Emerson of Macon's Telegraph, Richt had plenty to say about the potential maturation of Matthews, who started six games as true freshman in 2013.  

"I think he's on a turning point of maturing some, and becoming a very dependable guy," Richt commented to Emerson.  But he tempered that stance by adding, "I'm not saying he is a dependable guy, or has been at this point.  But I have a feeling that that's his desire to become that.  And he needs to. It's time."

Obviously, Matthews did not reach that point of inflection—at least not in Richt's eyes.  While specific details regarding Matthews' dismissal have yet to emerge, Georgia fans must now face another offseason of negotiating an all-too-familiar conflict of sentiment.

Mark Richt's laudable stance as a disciplinarian has made the Bulldogs task on the field all the more difficult.

 

Disciplinary Implication 

For every "Mark Richt has lost control" joke told, there's a piece of anecdotal evidence that suggests Richt's primary objective is to build character and conduct business—both on and off the field—in a manner befitting of his coined "Georgia Way."

And to Richt's credit, his "Georgia Way or the Highway" standard has not been mitigated in the slightest, not even by some of the biggest stars in recent Georgia history.  Several notable Georgia contributors have been dismissed from the team over the past several seasons for on-going behavioral shortcomings.  Countless others have faced suspension for failing to meet requirements.

Even a player of Matthews' caliber, a 4-star recruit, according to 247Sports, and one of the most promising players on the young 2013 defense, is not immune to the lofty expectation set by Richt.  And in the most literal and holistic sense, that's a very good thing.

Richt does not bend to the wills of even the most talented athletes.  

Days like today—frustrating as they may be—serve as a reminder that even after 13 seasons at the helm in Athens, Richt is still very much in control of his program.

 

On-Field Impact

Despite all these positive externalities, even the most casual of Georgia fans knows Tray Matthews' dismissal hurts the on-field product.  Even worse, so did the dismissal of Josh Harvey-Clemons a few months back.

On one hand, Georgia has all its desired personnel to rebuild a defense that struggled more often than not in 2013.  New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is fresh off a national championship with the Florida State Seminoles, and he's expected to revitalize the unit, particularly the team's defensive backs.  For the most part, Georgia fans seem pleased with the other hires brought to town.

But on the other hand, the rebuilding project was never going to be overnight.  The spring game in April was more indicative of the long road ahead than of the progress already made under the new regime.  And while the front seven may return a wealth of talent and experience, the major questions for this defense in 2013 all revolved around the secondary.

The same can be said for 2014, but now the unknowns are amplified thanks to the loss of Harvey-Clemons and Matthews (and to a lesser extent, cornerback Shaq Wiggins).  

Make no mistake about it: Georgia will enter the 2014 season without its two best safeties.  As a result, the onus of rebounding now falls on the shoulders of Corey Moore, a senior who's never been able to lock down a starting spot, sophomore Quincy Mauger and redshirt freshman Tramel Terry.  Moore and Mauger could have been capable backups.  Nobody knows what to expect out of Terry, who missed last season with an injury.

Now, these three unproven safeties are—for better or worse—the catalysts for the development of Pruitt's first Georgia defense.  That could be a good thing, but for now, all Dawg fans really know is that none of those guys is Tray Matthews. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Who Will Replace Tray Matthews in the Starting Lineup?

Things have gone from bad to worse when it comes to the Georgia Bulldogs secondary. It was announced today that Tray Matthews has been dismissed from the team by Mark Richt, according to Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph. Matthews did confirm this on his Twitter account but would not elaborate on why he is leaving Athens.

This could not come at a worse time for the Bulldogs. Richt recently kicked Josh Harvey-Clemons off the team, and shortly after that, Shaq Wiggins decided he was going to transfer. Both players have transferred to Louisville.

So the question now is who is going to take the place of the sophomore? 

Tray Matthews: "I'm leaving. I can't really talk about that right now. But all I can confirm is I'm leaving."

— UGA Football News (@UGAfootballLive) June 3, 2014

That is an interesting question because the depth at the safety position is very thin. Quincy Mauger is the top backup, and he’s likely going to be the No. 1 free safety when preseason practice begins. Like Matthews, Mauger is a true sophomore that played in all 13 games and started in seven of them. He recorded 42 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble.

Having Mauger starting is fine because he has experience. However, when it comes to his backup, the options are not very plentiful.

Lucas Redd would be the next option. The senior has only played in 12 games his entire career, and all of them came last season. He was a member of the scout team in 2012 and in 2011.

Another option is Tramel Terry, who played wide receiver last season. Terry took the redshirt last year because he was recovering from a knee injury.

When it comes to newcomers, there is only one signee that is a true safety. Dominick Sanders from Tucker, Ga., is not as big as Matthews, but he has the ability to make plays, which is something defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is looking for. In fact, this may be a very good thing for Sanders because Richt told Gentry Estes of 247 Sports (subscription needed) that every position in the secondary is wide open, and it’s a good time to be a young defensive back at Georgia.

But no matter how young the players they have out there are, there will have to be some adjustments made in the secondary. J.J. Green, who played running back last season, was listed as the No. 1 strong safety this spring. There could be a chance he could move to free safety and have Corey Moore play strong. Another option is have Brendan Langley move back to defense and be a backup to both safety positions.

Right now, it’s too early to tell what will be the next move for Mark Richt’s crew. But if there is one thing that is certain, Richt wants the players that are going to do the right things on and off the field, and he won’t hesitate to tell players to hit the road if they don’t agree.

 

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Alabama Football Recruiting: Five 2015 Commits Who Can Make an Immediate Impact

With three new additions to Alabama's top-rated 2015 recruiting class within the last week, Nick Saban and the coaching staff are cleaning up on the recruiting trail.

Fourteen of the Tide’s 18 pledges are 4-stars or higher, and 10 rank among the nation’s top 100 players, according to 247Sports Composite Rankings.

With that type of talent headed to the Capstone, a handful of potential impact players are capable of making the jump to the college level and earning playing time as freshmen.

Which current commits fit the bill of being able to make an impact on the field next fall?

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Texas A&M Dismisses Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden from Football Program

Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden, Texas A&M football players who were arrested in late February on different charges, were dismissed by the program on Tuesday, school officials announced.    

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted the pair's dismissal:

Claiborne and Golden, both sophomores, were arrested Feb. 23 after police approached a parked car both were sitting in along with wide receiver Speedy Noil. Golden, a defensive tackle, was charged with marijuana possession. Claiborne, a linebacker, was served a noise complaint.  

Both were indefinitely suspended following news of their arrests, but were largely expected to return to the program. Head coach Kevin Sumlin told Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com in March that he expected Golden, who withdrew from school, to be back this summer.

It's unclear what has changed over the past couple months. Neither has been publicly cited with any further wrongdoing, and the school did not specify why the pair were dismissed.

"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, per Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News. “These two players have exhibited a pattern of behavior that we will not tolerate at Texas A&M."

The news comes as a significant blow to the Aggies' 2014 defense. Claiborne and Golden both started as freshmen last season and were expected to be integral fixtures in an improved front seven.

Claiborne recorded 89 total tackles (seven for loss) and made 1.5 sacks. Considered a 3-star recruit by 247Sports' composite rankings, Claiborne's on-the-field production far exceeded expectation. Texas A&M often struggled defensively in 2013, but Claiborne gained valuable experience that could have begun paying dividends next season.

The February incident was his second run-in with police in a three-month span. He was also arrested last December on charges of possession of a dangerous drug and possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Sumlin suspended him for the Aggies' Chick-fil-A Bowl win against Duke.

Golden was the more high-profile of the pair, coming into College Station with 4-star hype and garnering considerable playing time. He made 32 tackles (three for loss) and seemed a lock to start again in 2014. While fellow class of 2013 defensive tackle Justin Manning was ranked higher by most recruiting services, it was Golden who avoided the freshman redshirt.

Both players are eligible to transfer to other schools. They will be subject to NCAA transfer rules, however, meaning they would have to sit out a year if picked up by a Division I school. Because they did not redshirt in 2013, Claiborne and Golden will have three years of eligibility remaining.

As for Texas A&M, seeing Sumlin take a hard-line stance is promising—even if something about the timing is amiss. The Aggies coach's control of his program has often come into question over the last year, starting with the media frenzy surrounding Johnny Manziel and continuing with the increase in off-the-field incidents from players.

Sumlin is one of the most promising young coaches at any level and a gifted recruiter. Having off-the-field incidents derail one of the best up-and-coming programs in the nation is apparently not an option. We'll just have to see whether defensive coordinator Mark Snyder can help mitigate the loss of talent walking out the door.

Nevertheless, this is a strong message from Sumlin and the A&M program.

 

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4-Star WR Irvin Charles Reveals Top 7 Favorites: Breaking Down His Options

Irvin Charles emerged as one of the Northeast's premier wide receiver prospects during his junior season and swiftly saw his recruitment heat up in the aftermath. The 6'4", 212-pound pass target holds more than two dozen scholarship offers but has begun to focus on the final stretch of his decision process.

Charles, rated a 4-star recruit by 247Sports, identified seven top schools during the final month of May. Still eight months away from national signing day, he determined Miami, Louisville, Michigan State, Maryland, Penn State, South Carolina and Florida would be at the forefront moving forward.

Going public about the favorites wasn't something he rushed.

"It's been a long process determining that list," Charles said. "I had a lot of people help me reach this decision. I just looked at it from a standpoint of playing time—that's first and foremost—a school that wins and a place that will fit my comfort zone. That's why I trimmed it down to those seven."

The rising senior from Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, New Jersey left several squads off his list of top collegiate options. Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee and in-state Rutgers are among programs that now look like long shots to sign Charles, although he explained that not every team outside the top seven is necessarily eliminated.

"Anything can happen," he said. "Nothing is final or set in stone, but these are the schools that have really separated themselves from the others."

Charles, who caught 49 passes for 848 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, has visited Penn State several times. He plans to return this summer, while also journeying to the campuses of his other six favorites.

The versatile playmaker detailed his thought process regarding each of the top seven programs, sharing what stands out about each option.

 

Penn State

"It's about the vibe at Penn State. The fan support and everything about it. I've been up to Penn State multiple times, and I've never been disappointed. Not just from a football standpoint, but how everyone in the area loves the football team and how Coach Franklin is doing. I know they're going to do big things. Everyone wants to be a part of the next big thing."

The Nittany Lions extended an offer to Charles in mid-February, just a few days after the team landed fellow 4-star Southern New Jersey receiver Juwan Johnson, who remains the only committed pass-catcher. Penn State has feasted in this region when it comes to recruiting, so it's no surprise to see another standout compelled by the program.

Charles is projected to sign with Penn State by 53 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

 

Miami

"I think really highly of the Hurricanes because of what they've done in the past and what they're capable of doing in the future. I like how (wide receivers) coach (Brennan) Carroll does things. I like their philosophy down there, with freshman being able to compete with the first-team players. You can come in early and compete for a starting job."

The Hurricanes joined this race relatively late, extending an offer in April. Miami enjoyed a strong spring on the recruiting trail, with 4-star talents Dexter Williams (running back) and Dwayne Lawson (quarterback) committing to the team.

Miami trails only Penn State in 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections for Charles. The Hurricanes are predicted to sign him by 29 percent of experts.

 

Michigan State

"Obviously they can get the job done after seeing what they did last year. They have a pro-style offense, which is one I think I can really fit into. I want to go out there and get a taste of what Michigan State is all about. I've seen it from the outside, so now I want to see it from the inside and go from there."

The reigning Big Ten champions are competing with a pair of conference foes (Penn State and Maryland) for Charles. The Spartans landed talented Arizona quarterback Brian Lewerke in April but remain in search of offensive skill players.

Michigan State was the third Big Ten team to offer Charles after Iowa and Rutgers.

 

Florida

"One thing I take into consideration is the durability of a coaching staff. That's why I'm kind of iffy. But at the same point, it's a good offer and they do a lot of things I like. I'm going to watch this football season at Florida carefully to see how productive it is. I just want to make sure they're doing what I think they can do and see what things might look like for the following year."

Gators head coach Will Muschamp is coming off a disastrous 2013 season, when the offense struggled mightily. Charles is taking the same approach as several Florida targets, monitoring the team to see how things turn out this fall.

Among programs on his list of favorites, Florida was the last one to offer him (April 30).

 

South Carolina

"It's a winning team that never really seems to go through slumps. I also have family in South Carolina, and that's a good thing. I would have an extra comfort level going down there, and I wouldn't be homesick. I'll have people come watch me play that I'm close with. I can just get out there and ball out early, get on the field and do what I do best."

The Gamecocks have assembled a solid corps of pass-catchers during this recruiting cycle, including 3-star prospects Dexter Neal and Michael Bowman. Neither player possesses Charles' height, but they complement each other well as assets for 4-star quarterback commit Lorenzo Nunez.

 

Maryland

"They do a good job of distributing to wide receivers. (Receivers) coach Keenan (McCardell) played in the NFL for a lot of years. He knows, from a receiver's perspective, what it takes to get to the next level. I'm going to college to get coached up, not to stay the same. I feel like being coached by him for the next three or four years would be a great thing to do to prepare for the draft."

Charles is clearly drawn to College Park by the prospect of playing for McCardell, who caught nearly 900 passes and won a Super Bowl as a pro. After a slow start, the Terrapins added two commits during the final week of May and may finally be building some momentum.

In terms of early playing time, he would immediately become one of the program's most highly regarded offensive prospects.

 

Louisville

"I really like how they do things. I watched their spring game, and they produced a lot of offense. Another thing that sparks my interest is they're losing several wide receivers to graduation. They only have one or two key guys coming back, so I know if I go there it's going to be necessary for me to contribute early. I also have some family in Kentucky, which is another reason why they made the cut."

The Cardinals landed just one receiver with a 3-star rating or better during the 2014 recruiting cycle and have yet to solidify a 2015 prospect at the position. The team just lost a first-round NFL quarterback but has several intriguing options ready to step up as starter for the first season of Bobby Petrino's return.

Charles aims to announce a commitment prior to the start of his senior season, though he admits things could remain unsettled heading into September. A summer filled with campus visits and coaching sales pitches will help him continue to trim a dwindling list of possible destinations.

 

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

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bleacher Report's Perfect College Football Starting Lineup for 2014

If you could pick a starting 22 for a college football team, what would it look like? Would it be full of All-Americans and award winners? Or would it be filled with players who are, athletically, the best at their position? 

Either way, picking a starting lineup and special teams is harder once you realize how many players won't make the cut. But that's what we tried to do here in Bleacher Report's Perfect College Football Starting Lineup for 2014. 

If there's one thing that should be noted—and this cannot be stressed enough—style of offense or defense doesn't matter. There will be guys who play in a pro-style offense next to guys who play in read-option or air raid offenses. Defensive tackles who play in a 3-4 are still eligible to be selected for this list's 4-3 defense. 

It's the dead of the offseason. It's all subjective and fun. There are no rules. 

Which ones made the list? The selections are in the following slides.

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OSU Football Players Send Inspirational Videos to 4-Year-Old Cancer Patient

Joshua Perry asked a number of his teammates to spare half a minute of their time to film a video that would make a young fan’s day.

The footage, Perry said, was for Joshua Chambers, a four-year-old in Orlando, Florida, struggling with a deadly form of leukemia.

According to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors (h/t Bill DiFilippo of College Spun), seven members of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team collaborated in May to send Joshua a series of videos as he lay in the emergency room awaiting treatment. 

Joshua’s father Jeremy Chambers says he continued forwarding each individual video to his son’s iPad as he received them.

“I would forward them from my phone to Joshua’s iPad and he’d get a message and it would pop and he’d say, ‘It’s another Buckeye!’” Jeremy said. “The way we did it, by sending them over to his iPad one at a time, he was like ‘Oh another one and another one!’” 

The players involved in the video messages included Perry, Devan Bogard, Craig Fada, Curtis Grant, Doran Grant, Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan. All of them offered words of support for Joshua, who was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February 2013. 

Maks reports that Joshua’s father Jeremy is a native of Ohio, and his Buckeyes pride quickly rubbed off on his son.

Image via Joshua's Journey Facebook page.

“Thanks to his father’s Perrysburg, Ohio, roots, [Joshua Chambers] has fallen in love with Ohio State,” Maks writes. 

Perry, a junior from Galena, Ohio, heard of Joshua Chambers’ plight from his mother, who had received word of the little superfan’s battle with cancer from a colleague at work.

The linebacker soon began wearing rubber bracelets with “Joshua 1:9” inscribed on the cuff. He says he knows what the football program means to the Buckeye faithful and he is trying to use his platform to make a difference in fans’ lives.

“It’s one of those things where some of the guys who aren’t from Columbus don’t necessarily understand how just being a Buckeye and the small interactions you make with people can actually make their day when they’re going through something tough,” Perry said. “If somebody says, ‘Hey, there’s somebody who wants to meet you…they’re going through a rough time…if they want me to wear their wristband and tell their story and get to know them a little bit, it’s the least I can do.”

Wise words from a young man. 

As for Joshua, he is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment and is making strides toward better health, but he isn’t out of the woods just yet. 

You can access his Facebook page here, and I highly recommend reading Maks’ in-depth article on Joshua in its entirety.

Keep fighting the good fight, Joshua. You’re the pride of Buckeyes nation, and we can’t wait to see you back on your feet and taking one to the house at Ohio Stadium.

 

THE Joshua Chambers.

 

 

 

 

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Michigan QB Recruit Alex Malzone Starts Talking Smack to Ohio State Fans Early

The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is so intense that high school recruits need to be ready to jump in from the moment they step on campus. The most dedicated recruits, like Wolverines quarterback recruit Alex Malzone, start the trash-talk early.

After Malzone attended an Elite 11 event in Columbus, Ohio, this week, the class of 2015 recruit got Buckeye fans riled up with a simple tweet:

Ten minutes later, he was already loving what he was seeing:

Just like that, Malzone has already become a hit with Michigan fans.

Malzone has a lot of confidence, but beating the Buckeyes—regardless of venue—will be no easy task for the quarterback. Ohio State has won 11 of the past 13 meetings between the rivals, including both games since Urban Meyer took over as coach. Michigan has lost its last six games at the Horseshoe and has not won in Columbus since 2000, so Malzone better be prepared for a challenge.

For now, it's just good old smack-talk between rivals.

[Twitter, h/t Fox Sports]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

PJ Mbanasor Commits to Oklahoma: Sooners Land 4-Star CB

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops landed his biggest commitment of the 2015 class Tuesday afternoon, as 4-star Texas cornerback PJ Mbanasor (Hendrickson High School) announced he will be playing for the Sooners next season.

Mbanasor made the news public on Twitter:

"(I am) done with recruitment," Mbanasor told Football Brainiacs. "I've analyzed every factor, prayed about it, considered in my heart and I am done with recruitment. I am 100,000 percent sure!"

Mbanasor is the No. 133 overall player and No. 17 cornerback in the country, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He is the ninth top-20 cornerback to commit and the first to commit to a Big 12 school.

At 6'0.5", Mbanasor fits the mold of the new-age man-coverage cornerback—the mold made famous in recent seasons by the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. He is physical on the outside and in run support, and even though he could stand to add some weight to his 176-pound frame, he projects as a complete defensive back at the next level.

Oklahoma sorely needs this commitment. Prior to Mbanasor, it only had four other players signed up in the 2015 class and only two—defensive tackle Marquise Overton and offensive tackle Bobby Evans—who ranked among the top 400 prospects in the country.

But both of those guys, like Mbanasor, rank among the top 150 prospects in the country, which has allowed the Sooners to move up from No. 50 to No. 42 on the 247Sports team rankings, per OU Insider:

The cycle is young and Stoops has never had trouble attracting talent, so there was not much reason to fret even before this signing. But bringing in a player of Mbanasor's caliber should, at the very least, quiet some of the chatter about his struggles.

It also provides a nice developmental prospect on the outside for a team that just lost Aaron Colvin at the position.

It's a pretty solid addition for the Sooners.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star WR Christian Kirk Tweets Top-10 List

Coveted wide receiver recruit Christian Kirk has spent much of his high school career collecting scholarship offers from across the country. The 4-star prospect decided to pare down a long list of options Tuesday.

Kirk shared his top 10 schools on Twitter:

The 5'11", 195-pound playmaker kept plenty of programs in the mix, including several squads he recently spent time with in person. Kirk embarked on an SEC tour in late May, visiting Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia.

The Crimson Tide are the only team to miss the cut from that cluster of campus trips.

Kirk, who stars at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, kept another SEC team in the picture. He listed Texas A&M among his favorites, which isn't a surprise, considering his relationship with Aggies true freshman Kyle Allen.

The 5-star quarterback is competing to start this season and spent significant time working with Kirk in past years as a fellow Arizona phenom. The receiver didn't shy away from admitting the allure of playing with Allen at the next level while discussing Texas A&M last year with Taylor Hamm of 247Sports (subscription required).

It’s good to have a quarterback that you know and have chemistry with. Me and Kyle workout a lot and I’m always out running routes for him when he’s training. We have that timing and stuff down already. I think if I were to come in while he’s there, I’d be able to make an impact because of our relationship.

The Aggies are projected to sign Kirk in 82 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Ohio State and Oregon, following with seven percent apiece, received mixed news.

The Buckeyes made the cut, while Oregon is left on the outside looking in.

Several Pac-12 programs are still under consideration. USC, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona State give the conference plenty of clout in Kirk's collection.

Oklahoma is the lone Big 12 team listed. The Sooners offered Kirk last November.

Kirk, rated No. 5 nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, has caught 142 passes for 2,775 yards and 35 touchdowns during the past three seasons. He flashed impressive rushing skills last year, gaining 832 yards and 13 scores on the ground.

Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami and Texas are notable exclusions among nearly 30 teams left off of his top 10 list.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star Dual-Threat QB Travis Waller High on Alabama, Waiting on Bigger Offers

The quarterback dominoes of the 2015 recruiting class continue to fall. The Oregon Ducks lost out on No. 1 dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray so now they turn their eyes to 5-star dual-threat quarterback Travis Waller. The Anaheim, California native has been pursued by Alabama and Ohio State lately and should be announcing his commitment later this summer. 

What's the latest news with Waller's recruitment? Is he now Oregon's top quarterback target? Which dark horse Big Ten school is in the running?

Watch 247Sports' Ryan Bartow break down the latest in Travis Waller's recruitment. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital. All recruit rankings are from the 247Sports composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4 Reasons Why 5-Star WR Damarkus Lodge Will Sign with Texas A&M

The Texas A&M football coaches have the No. 5-ranked recruiting class in the nation committed and a lot of momentum on the recruiting trail right now. The Aggies will sign 5-star wide receiver recruit Damarkus Lodge in February to put an exclamation point on top of their excellent class.

Lodge is considered by many to be the top wide receiver prospect in the state of Texas. If the Aggies want to win conference and national titles, it starts by winning the big recruiting battles in their own state.

Lodge is an impact player who would see playing time from the time he steps foot on campus at any program in the country. He is one of the truly elite recruits in Texas in the 2015 class. 

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff will prevail in their pursuit of Lodge. They will sign him and continue to add to the stacked roster they are building in Aggieland.

This is a look at the reasons why Damarkus Lodge will sign with the Aggies.  

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Miami in Talks with Alabama and LSU About Future Nonconference Kickoff Games

The Miami Hurricanes former mantra—"any team, any place, any time"—might reportedly be put to the test in the next couple of years, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald is reporting that the school has had preliminary talks about scheduling a season-opening game against either Alabama or LSU.

"UM has been approached about opening the football season against Alabama in 2017 in Atlanta or LSU in 2018 in Arlington, Tx," Jackson wrote. "UM will consider playing in one but not both."

These talks appear to be in the infant stage of development, and a lot could change to throw Miami off Alabama and LSU's trail.

But the game would make sense, in theory, since all three teams have not been shy about scheduling blue-blood nonconference opponents.

Say what you will about the state of TCU and Virginia Tech in 2013—LSU and Alabama had to have thought that those games would be more competitive when they were scheduled. Same goes for the Tide's season-opening matchup against West Virginia in 2014.

And as for Miami, just take a look at some of the marquee programs they have scheduled for the next few seasons:

Scheduling Alabama in 2017 would bridge the current gap and ensure the Hurricanes have at least one power-conference opponent (or Notre Dame) scheduled in each of the next eight seasons.

Scheduling LSU in 2018, however, would be risky in addition to the previous agreement to play Rutgers that season. The Scarlet Knights are down right now, but they are a historically competitive program that should ostensibly benefit from their move to the Big Ten.

Still, this is Miami we are talking about—a program that does not, historically, like to back down from a challenge. 

Which leaves all of us, just like Bryan Fischer of NFL.com, hoping desperately to see one of these games happen:

Amen to that, brother.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football Recruiting: Position-by-Position Preview for the Class of 2015

USC's 2015 recruiting cycle is off to a strong start. Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff have eight verbal commitments at six different positions, including two 247Sports composite 5-star prospects. 

All told, the Trojans top 247Sports' Pac-12 rankings and check in at No. 13 nationally. 

The current corps of commits provides USC a strong foundation for national signing day 2015. 

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USC Football Recruiting: Position-by-Position Preview for the Class of 2015

USC's 2015 recruiting cycle is off to a strong start. Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff have eight verbal commitments at six different positions, including two 247Sports composite 5-star prospects...

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