NCAA Football

Which Teams Could Afford to Be in a College Football Super Division?

Imagine you get the news that the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference are breaking away from the NCAA to form a new top division of college football—what happens next?

After the shock and awe subsides, the nation will try and figure out which programs are in the new “super division” and which are left out in the cold.  This will not be decided by tradition, prestige or on-field performance—no, instead membership will be limited to those programs with the deepest pockets.

Think about it this way: Why are the power-five conferences threatening to split with the NCAA if it does not agree to restructure? 

What they want is autonomy, or enough control to make their own decisions.  Here’s what SEC commissioner Mike Slive had to say about it to Paul Myerberg from USA Today:

We seek to support the educational needs of our student-athletes through the provisions of scholarships linked to the cost of attendance rather than the historic model of tuition, room and board, fees and books.

Though this is only one reason, it’s a great starting point and it highlights the problem with the FBS: Half of the division can financially afford to do things differently—or buy autonomy—while the other half cannot.

So at the very least, schools will have to be able to afford the cost of full attendance to be in the new division.  According to Jon Solomon of CBS Sports, the average NCAA gap between an athletic scholarship and the actual cost of attending college is $3,500 per year.

This means that for a college football team with 120 players on its roster, it would cost $420,000 per year—on top of all of its other expenses—to fund this single rudimentary goal.

How many of the 128 FBS programs can afford it?

To answer this, we’ve utilized the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool to calculate which football programs have an excess of funds to work with.

It’s simple: Football revenue less football expenses equal a “gain” or a “loss.” 

The figures provided in this analysis are for the 2012-13 fiscal year and, as a bonus, the data includes every FBS program except Navy and Air Force.  This means that private institutions such as USC, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt (often left out of finance databases) are included.f

According to numbers, 74 of the 128 programs (or 58 percent) could afford the extra $420,000 required to fund the football portion of full attendance.

To illustrate, Virginia Tech reported $38.6 million in football revenue and $24.5 million in football expenses in 2012-13.  This earned the Hokies an excess totaling $14 million.  After paying the $420,000, the football program would still have $13.6 million remaining.

In this case, “afford” is a relative term because where Alabama’s football coffers would have a cool $46 million in “profit” left after a set stipend to its athletes, Wake Forest would have only $700,000.

Add in that the $420,000 is only a starting point for additional costs—what about medical insurance, guaranteed four-year deals, a share of the merchandise licensing windfall, etc.—and you get the picture:  It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Here’s a look at what FBS football programs—not entire athletic departments—would have left in the excess column if they paid the additional cost of full attendance.   

 

40 Million Plus

There are only eight programs in this group and it’s no surprise that half of them hail from the SEC.  The balance come from the Big 12, Big Ten and independent Notre Dame; the ACC has no representatives here.  The excess for each is listed in millions of dollars. 

Texas (81.3), Michigan (57.9), Georgia (50.8), Florida (48.6), LSU (48), Alabama (46.6), Notre Dame (45.5) and Oklahoma (44.6).

This group represents less than one percent of the total FBS membership.  

 

25 to 40 Million

The second tier consists of four SEC members, five Big Ten members and two programs from the Pac-12—the ACC is, again, out of the picture. 

Auburn (38.3), Ohio State (37.7), Texas A&M (35.3), Nebraska (34), Iowa (33.7), Oregon (32.5), Washington (32.1), Arkansas (31.2), Penn State (29.6), Tennessee (27) and Michigan State (26.8).

 

15 to 25 Million

The ACC finally gets in the game in the third income bracket with three members.  The balance of this group consists of two programs from the SEC, four from the Pac-12 and two from the Big 12. 

South Carolina (23.8), Clemson (20.8), USC (20.3), Florida State (19.2), Texas Tech (18.8), Oklahoma State (18.4), Wisconsin (18.4), Oregon State (16.3), Ole Miss (15.5), Arizona State (15.2), North Carolina (15.1) and UCLA (15).

 

10 to 15 Million

This group consists of two Big Ten members, four Pac-12 teams, two Big 12 programs, four ACC members and three SEC programs. 

Minnesota (14.7), Cal (14.1), Kansas State (14.1), Iowa State (14), Washington State (13.8), Virginia Tech (13.6), NC State (12.9), Utah (12.8), Illinois (12.2), Kentucky (11.8), Georgia Tech (11.2), Missouri (11), Colorado (10.3), Syracuse (10.1) and Mississippi State (10.1).

 

Five to Nine Million

This bracket is significant because it includes the first program that is not a member of a power-five conference other than Notre Dame.  That team is Boise State from the Mountain West.  

West Virginia (9.7), Indiana (8), Northwestern (8), Arizona (7.8), Stanford (7.7), Kansas (6.1), Boise State (5.6) and Baylor (5.5).

 

One to Four Million

Not only does this group offer a few surprises—Miami (Fla.), North Texas and Troy—but it is also the level where financial solvency becomes a real question mark.  In other words, can these programs really afford to be in a super division?

Miami Fla. (4.8), Maryland (4.8), Duke (4.4), Louisville (4.4), USF (3.8), BYU (3.7), Boston College (2.8), Army (2.7), UTEP (2.6), Purdue (2.1), Troy (1.9) and North Texas (1.2).

 

Less than One Million

Based on the numbers, these programs can barely afford to pay the full cost of attendance to its football athletes.  The amount left over for each, after paying the stipend, is listed in hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Vanderbilt (929), TCU (845), Wake Forest (669), Fresno State (566), Eastern Michigan (420), Wyoming (401), Marshall (256) and Florida Atlantic (141).

 

Notable Exceptions

Here are some surprising names from the list of 54 FBS programs that didn’t report enough income to pay the average full cost of attendance.  Unless otherwise noted, the shortfall is listed for each in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Pitt (208), Virginia (354), Cincinnati (420), Rutgers (420), Northern Illinois (420), Central Florida (784) and UConn (2.9 million).

 

The Bigger Picture

While we know that 74 FBS programs could afford super-division membership at a $420,000 minimum investment, let's take a look at how the number drops by increasing the annual funds necessary.

Raising the requirement to $5 million would mean that only 42 percent of the FBS could afford to join the new division; at $10 million the number would dip down to 36 percent.

The power-five conference that stands to lose the most is the ACC, which would lose 42 percent of its membership if schools needed $5 million annually to meet increased financial obligations. 

The most bullet-proof league is of course the SEC, which would lose only Vanderbilt based on the 2012-13 figures.

The non-power-five conference with the most solvent football members is Conference USA, with Marshall, FAU, UTEP and North Texas all reporting an excess in 2012-13.  

Regardless of the specific numbers, it’s clear that only half of the current FBS programs could afford to pay the cost of full attendance and still have money left over for other new expenditures associated with a split.

Perhaps the million dollar question isn’t IF there will be a new division in college football, but which programs have enough money to enroll. 

 

 

 

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Aaron Murray's Brother Josh Wins 'The Bachelorette,' Mark Richt Tweets Congrats

Because I'm sure all of you sports fans out there have been paying attention, the finale of The Bachelorette was Monday night and *spoiler alert* Andi Dorfman chose Josh Murray, the brother of recent NFL fifth-round draft pick Aaron Murray.

An athlete in his own right, Josh was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the second round of the MLB draft in 2002 and played minor league baseball for six seasons. After that, he went back to school and was even on the Georgia football team with his brother in 2010, when he appeared in two games.

He certainly had the backing of the Georgia faithful, including head coach Mark Richt, who tweeted out what appeared to be congratulations:

Even Dorfman's dad had to throw in a solid Georgia football reference:

And contrary to other reports, she did indeed choose Murray and did not make a shocking decision to go with Joel Embiid:

All in all, a great day for both the sports world and Georgia football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: 8 Most Crucial 2014 Fall Camp Battles

OK, friends, Pac-12 football is literally right around the corner, and it's time to take an early look at what to watch during fall camp.

As always, fingers are crossed that teams can stay healthy, and it's always exciting to hear initial reports on the true freshmen to see which members of the 2014 recruiting class have the skills to contribute immediately.

But while you generally have an idea of what the starting 22 will look like, there are always a few positions that remain up for grabs as far as the pecking order is concerned.

Which position battles will receive the most attention? How big of an impact will the ultimate decisions have on both the team and conference as a whole?

Here are eight crucial fall camp battles to keep an eye on.

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Pac-12 Football: 8 Most Crucial 2014 Fall Camp Battles

OK, friends, Pac-12 football is literally right around the corner, and it's time to take an early look at what to watch during fall camp...

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Biggest Storylines Heading into UCLA Fall Camp

Three significant storylines surround Jim Mora and the UCLA football team heading into the commencement of fall camp in San Bernardino, California, on Aug. 4.

The expectations for Mora's bunch are incredibly high. The media recently picked UCLA to win the Pac-12 South Division. This could be the most talented and complete UCLA team since Cade McNown was the signal-caller in 1998. 

Can Brett Hundley and Myles Jack lead a relatively inexperienced team into the unknown territory of national success? Will the Bruins be able to adequately replace the likes of Anthony Barr and Xavier Su'a-Filo, among others?

Lastly, is the football monopoly in Los Angeles officially over?

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Biggest Storylines Heading into UCLA Fall Camp

Three significant storylines surround Jim Mora and the UCLA football team heading into the commencement of fall camp in San Bernardino, California, on Aug. 4. The expectations for Mora's bunch are incredibly high...

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USC Football: 10 Trojans Primed for Breakout Seasons

With slightly more than a month left until the start of the college football season, those who follow the USC Trojans wait anxiously for the beginning of the Steve Sarkisian era.

And while the Trojan faithful will keep an eye on how the new head coach administers his program, they will also be following the exploits of a USC team that will feature several highly touted players on both sides of the ball.

Because USC will be woefully thin in terms of scholarship players available this year, the Trojans will depend on these starters to play a lot of meaningful minutes and perform at a high level when they do.

This slideshow will look at several Trojans who have the potential to excel for USC in 2014 and offer some comments on why they are poised to star this year.

Some of the names included here will be familiar to fans of the program, while others may be somewhat of a surprise but to be certain, all of these players and more will have to have great seasons for USC to get where they want to go.

So without further delay, here are 10 Trojans poised for breakout seasons in 2014.

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USC Football: 10 Trojans Primed for Breakout Seasons

With slightly more than a month left until the start of the college football season, those who follow the USC Trojans wait anxiously for the beginning of the Steve Sarkisian era...

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5 Reasons 4-Star WR Christian Kirk Will Sign with Texas A&M

Christian Kirk is a talented 4-star receiver with a dynamic skill set. He can hurt a defense on the perimeter, in the slot and even as a running back.

At 5'10" and 191 pounds, the Arizona native has excellent speed, quickness, elusiveness and instincts as a runner. He'll be a star on the collegiate level, which is why many schools are after him.

Among the key suitors for Kirk is Texas A&M, according to 247Sports. Here's just a few reasons why the Aggies will land him.

 

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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Biggest Storylines Heading into Alabama Fall Camp

We’re less than five weeks away from Alabama’s season-opener against West Virginia on August 30, which means the offseason will come to a close very soon.

The Crimson Tide will open fall camp this weekend. The pads will (eventually) come on, opponent-specific preparation will begin, summer enrollees from the No. 1 recruiting class in 2014 will hit the field, and we’ll start to see just what the 2014 Alabama football team has to offer.

Here are five storylines to keep an eye on in fall camp leading up to the West Virginia game.

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Former 5-Star Recruits Who Will Deliver on Their Hype in 2014 Season

All 5-star recruits arrive on their college campuses with a ton of hype. However, not all of them deliver on the huge promise they showed as recruits.

Over the past few recruiting cycles, college football has seen several former 5-star recruits live up to their billing. For this upcoming 2014 season, several former 5-star prospects figure to finally show why they were such coveted recruits coming out of high school.

Whether it be a coaching change, a conquering of the depth chart or just an abundance of natural talent, these guys are ready.

Alabama has a tight end who figures to have a big season, while a versatile defensive back at Michigan is too talented to not immediately deliver on his hype. Plus, a former No. 1 overall recruit will really turn heads this year in the SEC. 

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Big Ten Media Days 2014: Biggest Quotes and Reaction from Day 1

CHICAGO — Change was in the air.

Day 1 of Big Ten media days served as the unofficial welcome for two new programs, one enthusiastic football coach and some renewed mentalities from the personalities that are already established in the conference. 

For some, such as Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, the conversation centered on personnel and the necessary tweaks for a breakthrough season. For others—including Penn State coach James Franklin and Nebraska’s Bo Pelini—the Chicago Hilton served as the ideal setting to reiterate familiar stances still lingering in the news cycle.

And for Rutgers and Maryland, it was all about getting the lay of the land.

Oh, and we learned that Purdue JUCO transfer Corey Clements checks in at cool 6’8” and 400 pounds, according to head coach Darrell Hazell. Somehow, someway, Purdue has to find a way to get its new guard in the end zone.

As for some the notable moments from Chicago, here’s what stood out on Day 1.

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Ray-Ray McCloud III to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star RB Prospect

Ray-Ray McCloud III has known where he'd be attending college for a while now. On Monday, the Clemson Tigers found out with the rest of the world.

Bright House Sports had the news: 

As expected, McCloud announced his decision to attend Clemson at a live televised special on BHSN. The 30-minute program had been in the works for some time, as the 4-star running back—like many of his contemporaries—used his moment to soak up a little limelight.

McCloud chose Clemson over Florida, UCLA and Maryland. While there was some debate in recruiting circles where he would wind up—247Sports' Crystal Ball rating had Clemson as the 44 percent favorites, with Florida right behind—McCloud has maintained his decision had already been made long before Monday.

"I've been here a lot, so just hanging out with the coaches," McCloud told Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports. "I know where I'm going, I'm not changing my mind. I won't do anything to affect the school I'm committed to. I'll talk to my coach about [official visits], but if he's not down with that, I won't do it."

As McCloud notes, he is still allowed to take official visits. His verbal commitment to the Tigers will not become official until February's national signing day. Until then, he is free to be swayed one way or another—though he's maintained his commitment is firm.

A star out of Sickles High School in Tampa, McCloud burst onto the scene as a junior. He rushed for 2,316 yards and 26 touchdowns while leading his team to the Florida 7A state semifinals. Though he's somewhat slight at 5'9" and 175 pounds, McCloud is still listed as the No. 93 recruit in the nation and sixth-best athlete by 247Sports' composite rankings.

Although he's listed as an athlete, most services project he will continue playing running back at the next level. He's an explosive ball-carrier, able to recognize holes and burst through them for long gains. Over his sophomore and junior seasons, he has averaged nearly eight yards per carry—the result of an endless supply of said big gains.

Dabo Swinney might want to see him receive more reps as a pass-catcher, as that skill has rarely been seen in his prep career. McCloud has a total of 27 catches for his career, though his 12-catch freshman season gave some hope that he could be a versatile threat. Sickles' reliance on McCloud has also prevented him from doing much as a return man; he has just 112 return yards, all in his sophomore season.

It will be interesting to see how he develops as an all-around player. Someone of his size profile and speed should be more active catching screen passes and working as an all-purpose threat. Had he not carried the ball 300 times last season, perhaps those touches could have been more evenly distributed.

That said, the Tigers are getting a unique prospect. As the running back position becomes more niche-oriented, guys like McCloud are going to get more chances. In the workhorse days of yore, scouts would have questioned whether someone his size could withstand a collegiate workload. In today's system, he won't have to withstand a weekly 30-carry load—mainly because so few backs in the country do so at all.

McCloud can be special in the right system. We're more than a year off until he'll arrive at Clemson, so he'll have plenty of time to work on his all-around game. We'll just have to see whether McCloud chose the right program to emphasize his unique skill set. 

 

Stats via MaxPreps.

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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5-Star WR Recruit George Campbell Names Top 10 Schools

Wide receiver George Campbell, a 5-star recruit and the No. 36 overall player in the 2015 class, "narrowed" his list of potential college choices down to 10 Monday afternoon.

The 6'3", 184-pound pass-catcher from Tarpon Springs, Florida, announced his top 10 teams in a tweet (and later clarified that they were not in any particular order):

"I just like all of those schools," Campbell said, per Derek Tyson of ESPN.com (subscription required). "They all have great things to offer and I just want to be able to touch the field my freshmen year and hopefully I’ll be able to get in the mix at one of those schools."

Conspicuously absent from the list is Michigan, where Campbell committed last July but decommitted in December. In fact, the only Big Ten school he is considering is Maryland, a newcomer to the league. But according to Steve Lorenz of 247Sports, Campbell's omission of Michigan came as no surprise at all:

The SEC leads with six teams in Campbell's top 10, the ACC has two, and the Pac-12 also has one. The Big 12 is the only power conference school that is not being considered by the nation's No. 4 receiver.

Many consider Florida the favorite to land Campbell, and doing so would come at a perfect time for head coach Will Muschamp, whose job security is…shall we say, tenuous. Offense has eluded Muschamp these past few seasons in Gainesville, and scoring a receiver like Campbell is something he could sell to the fanbase.

Especially after losing his second-highest-ranked 2015 recruit when cornerback Marcus Lewis announced his decommitment earlier Monday afternoon, Muschamp would do well to bring in Campbell.

But with Clemson and LSU (and seven other teams) also in pursuit, doing so will be difficult. Where do you think Campbell will sign?

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports Composite rankings

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Florida State Football: Biggest Storylines Heading into Fall Camp

There will be no competition for the starter at quarterback and tailback. Jameis Winston and Karlos Williams have secured those jobs. And Rashad Greene is the Florida State football team's unquestioned No. 1 receiver.

But there will be plenty of competition for jobs at positions like Nos. 2 and 3 receivers, backup tailback, starting defensive tackle and starting linebacker.

Here's a look at five storylines to watch as FSU prepares for the start of preseason camp on Aug. 4.

 

Nos. 2 and 3 receivers

Contenders

Scooter Haggins, Christian Green, Isaiah Jones, Levonte Whitfield, Jesus Wilson, Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane, Javon Harrison.

 

Worth noting

Green (42), Haggins (20), Whitfield (5), Wilson (3) and Jones (2) have 72 career receptions, four fewer than Greene had (76 receptions, 1,128 yards and 9 touchdowns) as a junior in 2013.

 

Analysis

Ideally, a senior with plenty of game experience—Haggins or Green—would win one of the starting jobs. Haggins has been successful but has struggled with injuries, and Green hasn't been able to duplicate the 26-catch season he had as a freshman in 2011. Jones is 6'4'' and 200 pounds, giving FSU a big body that could go over the middle to make catches. And Whitfield's speed and ability to make players miss would be ideal for a slot receiver.

 

What could happen

Experience should win out. Haggins and Whitfield are ideal slot receivers, so one should win that job. Green and Rudolph will compete for a starting job out in the three-receiver sets.

 

No. 2 tailback

Contenders

Mario Pender, Ryan Green, Dalvin Cook.

 

Worth noting

FSU loses 1,746 of its 2,844 rushing yards (61.4 percent) from 2013.

 

Analysis

Coach Jimbo Fisher had a 1,000-yard rusher in Devonta Freeman last season, and he likes to use a deep rotation of rushers. While the loss of Freeman and James Wilder Jr. is significant, FSU is very deep at running back. Odds are two of the three players will see significant carries.

Green had just 33 carries a year ago but showcased his speed and ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Pender doesn't have a college carry but has gained experience on the scout team and has the ability to break off long gains, writes 247Sports' Chris Nee. Cook, the state's Mr. Football in 2013, enrolled early to get a jump on academics and learn Fisher's playbook.

 

What could happen

FSU has an abundance of wealth at running back. Cook and Pender could share carries as the Nos. 2 and 3 rushers with Green running the ball when FSU is well ahead in the fourth quarter.

 

Starting defensive tackle

Contenders

Nile Lawrence-Stample, Keith Bryant, Desmond Hollin, Derrick Mitchell, Giorgio Newberry, Justin Shanks, Demarcus Christmas, Frederick Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Adam Torres, Arthur Williams.

 

Worth noting

The returning defensive tackles made just 60 tackles in 2013, three fewer than Timmy Jernigan (who entered the NFL a year early and was a second-round pick). 

 

Analysis

FSU has six veterans and five newcomers who are battling for playing time. Eddie Goldman will start at one tackle spot, and coaches are trying to figure out who is best suited to start opposite Goldman and who should back him up.

Lawrence-Stample started six games but made just 15 tackles. Hollin has experience at both end and tackle, and he could be a solid run-stopper. Mitchell is 6'4'', 300 pounds and is tough to move around. Newberry played defensive end and tight end before returning to defense in 2014.

 

What could happen

FSU uses a deep rotation of defensive tackles. Lawrence-Stample and Hollin have the experience to win the most playing time. But coaches are also curious to see which player from the large group of true freshmen—Christmas, Jones, Nnadi, Torres and Williams—could contribute quickly. The freshmen will get more playing time, and possibly start, as the season progresses.

 

Starting linebackers

Contenders

Ukeme Eligwe, Reggie Northrup, Ro'Derrick Hoskins, E.J. Levenberry, Matthew Thomas, Kain Daub, Jacob Pugh, Delvin Purifoy.

 

Worth noting

Terrance Smith didn't start at the beginning of the year but had 59 tackles and is the team's leading returning tackler.

 

Analysis

Without starting a game, Northrup finished with 46 tackles and excelled at the weak-side spot (where he could back up Smith). Eligwe has seen the most experience on the strong side, making 18 tackles (10 also came on special teams). Levenberry (39 tackles) is versatile enough to play any of the linebacker positions, and Thomas could be the hybrid defensive end/linebacker that Christian Jones played in 2013.

 

What could happen

Since FSU is in the nickel defense more often than not, the key is placing the linebacker in the game situation where/when he can succeed. Defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will find the right spot for each of the players.

 

Starting safety

Contenders

Nate Andrews and Tyler Hunter.

 

Worth noting

Andrews led the team in interceptions (four) and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (three).

 

Analysis

Despite being a true freshman, Andrews played like a seasoned veteran in 2013. He made one start but had a significant impact when he was in the game, and he had two INTs and forced a fumble in the win at Wake Forest. Hunter was supposed to be the starting safety but suffered a season-ending neck injury just three games into the year. He was able to take a medical redshirt and has two seasons left to play.

 

What could happen

Both will see playing time. One will win the starting job at safety, and the other should see playing time in the nickel defense.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats courtesy of seminoles.com and FSU's 2014 media guide. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Notre Dame Football: 4 Players Primed for Breakout Seasons in 2014

Hype runs rampant throughout the spring and summer, with optimism driving expectations around programs like Notre Dame football.

The glimpses, reports and projections will soon give way to actual performance.

So with fall camp rapidly approaching, which Fighting Irish players are primed for those breakout seasons? Who can live up to some of the hype we’ve heard over the past few months?

For our purposes, we won’t consider players who’ve already achieved a high level of success. While Jaylon Smith seems likely to make the leap from stud freshman to stud sophomore, that doesn’t fit our criteria of a breakout season.

In most cases, we’ll restrict the exercise to players who have yet to make major contributions to the Irish squad.

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Why Braxton Miller Is to Ohio State Football What LeBron James Is to the Cavs

Asked how important it is to Ohio State for Braxton Miller to stay healthy, Buckeyes tight end Jeff Heuerman answered the question with a question of his own.

"How important is it for Cleveland to keep LeBron (James) healthy?" Heuerman said with a laugh.

Only Miller's health is far from a laughing matter in Columbus, as evidenced by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's remarks at Monday's Big Ten media day. Pointing out that the Buckeyes will replacing four experienced starters on the offensive line from a season ago, the third-year OSU head coach explained that getting his new hog mollies ready for 2014 has been this past offseason's top priority.

"Concern number one—I mean, that's it," Meyer said. "There's a bunch of concerns you always have. It's A through F, A through Z, A through X, whatever it is. But the number one on the list is development of that offensive line for the reasons you just said, among many other. You want to win that game, but protecting our quarterback is paramount. So that's—I don't want to say that's all our focus—but that's where a lot of our focus is right now."

And for good reason.

The inexperienced offensive line will be responsible for keeping the Buckeyes' Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback in the starting lineup. And with backup Kenny Guiton and running back Carlos Hyde no longer around to fall back on, Miller's value to the team is even higher than it was last year.

Even if the OSU offensive front five can come together and prove to be a cohesive unit, what's scarier for Meyer is his acknowledgement that the Buckeyes offensive line is only a part of a potential preemptive strike. Having coached numerous notable names throughout his career, Meyer is aware that some of the same traits that make Miller great are also the ones that kept him on the sideline with an MCL injury for the better part of three nonconference games in the 2013 season.

"Braxton Miller, his issues are he goes sometimes above and beyond what his body is going to allow him to do," Meyer said. "(Tim) Tebow, John Simon, Braxton Miller, Christian Bryant—those are guys that have the competitive spirit at the highest possible level, and that's all they do is know how to go."

So how does Meyer plan on balancing the risk vs. reward of Miller's all-out style?

He doesn't. With an adequate offensive line, emerging weapons on the perimeter and a better understanding of the offense from his star quarterback, Meyer believes that Miller's senior season should see him act as a distributor more than the player who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.

"I'll not one time say, 'Don't go hard,'" Meyer said of Miller. "You have to be smart sometimes in certain situations to get down. But when we coached John Simon it wasn't, 'Hey, slow down a little bit.' Football's a tough, violent sport. Some people go really, really hard at it. Braxton's one of those players."

To further put the importance of Miller's health in perspective, there isn't another signal-caller on the Buckeyes roster who has taken a significant snap at Ohio State.  

In fact, No. 2 quarterback Cardale Jones is better known for an infamous tweet than anything he's done on the football field. The inexperience behind Miller alone is reason enough to believe that any serious injury suffered by the reigning two-time Big Ten MVP could derail a potential Buckeyes run to the first-ever College Football Playoff.

While Meyer claims that Miller is in the "best shape of his life," Miller himself insists that he'll do what's necessary to stay on the field for the duration of his senior season. Having just fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery that sidelined him for five months, that may be easier said that done, but the Huber Heights, Ohio, native remains optimistic about his health nonetheless.

"I love competition, so (Meyer's) correct on that. But you just gotta be smart about your play and make sure you don't do anything that brings you to being out for a couple of games," Miller said. "Just be smart, be about your game and take care of your business."

If Miller really is to the Buckeyes what James is to the Cavs, Ohio State will be in big trouble if its quarterback misses any extended playing time. Relayed Heuerman's hypothesis, a knowing grin flashed across Meyer's face, although he ultimately attempted to decline comment.

"I don't want to make a headline," Meyer said.

Unfortunately for Meyer, his tight end already did.

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.  

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Keisean Lucier-South Releases Top 5: Which Program Is Best Fit for 5-Star DE?

Keisean Lucier-South, a 5-star defensive end from Orange County, California, announced the list of five programs he will choose from Monday afternoon, and a certain local powerhouse was conspicuously absent.

The 6'5", 225-pound pass-rusher listed Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and UCLA among his final five, leaving out traditional California power USC along with supposed contender Notre Dame:

Although Lucier-South listed his top five teams in no order, UCLA is considered a modest-to-strong favorite to land him. It's clear that being local is not his primary concern—otherwise, USC would have likely cracked the top five over Florida, Michigan and Oklahoma—but the Bruins have stuck out to him for other reasons.

Here is a closer look at his 247Sports "Crystal Ball" predictions:

UCLA is a pretty clear favorite to land Lucier-South, but is it actually the best fit for his style? Might another school suit him better?

Probably not, to be honest.

Lucier-South is not thick or strong enough to play with his hand down in a 3-4 defense, which might initially make Michigan, a base 4-3 unit, seem like the stronger fit. But he has the rare speed off the edge that should allow him to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

The Bruins have a pretty good selling point on that front, as they just developed Anthony Barr into an All-American and first-round NFL draft pick. Barr started his college career as a running back but was molded by head coach Jim Mora and new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich into one of the best defenders in the country.

That comparison has not been lost on Lucier-South, who has a similar body type to Barr. He says the Bruins' staff has approached him about it.

"[A UCLA assistant coach] said Anthony Barr was having trouble his first year, but his second year he did great," the rising senior told Edward Lewis of Rivals.com (subscription required). "He said right now, I'm better than Anthony when he started."

Of course, a team like Oklahoma could champion its similar defense and the budding star it has in Eric Striker, but Lucier-South is five inches taller (and much lankier) than Striker, so the comparison is a little imperfect. Plus, the Pac-12 better fits his style of play.

Writes Bleacher Report's Edwin Weathersby:

Outside of Stanford, most of the Pac-12 schools have offenses that lean more toward passing the football. That means pass-rushers can go crazy in the conference, as they don't have to worry as much about stopping the run as they would in another league.

Lucier-South isn't the strongest defensive end one will see on tape, but he can get after the passer. The fact that UCLA plays in the traditional pass-happy Pac-12 offers him a chance to consistently do what he does best.

This logic eliminates Florida as Lucier-South's best option; even though he would be interesting as a Dante Fowler-type Buck linebacker, the physical, run-first nature of the SEC would not suit his style well. He would need to spend at least a year (and maybe even two) bulking up before he could see the field consistently.

It does point well to Oregon, though, as the second-best contender behind UCLA. Michigan also plays in a run-first conference, and the best defensive ends it's developed the past few years have been shorter, stockier types such as Brandon Graham and Frank Clark.

Oregon has the benefit of the Pac-12 style and the development of longer, leaner defensive ends such as Dion Jordan. It can't pitch the local angle that UCLA can, but it's not exactly far from home, either.

KLS would do fine at either West Coast location.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska's Bo Pelini Ready for the Challenges in Make-or-Break Season

When it comes to the 2014 season, Bo Pelini is ready for the challenges it presents. As the coach's seventh season at the helm of Nebraska football, it truly is make-or-break.

During Pelini's time at the Big Ten Media Days podium, the coach didn't shy away from his expectations for the season. He also didn't sugar-coat the challenges his team will face to meet those expectations, either.

"We're looking for a championship," Pelini told the media, via the Omaha World-Herald. "I think we have the pieces. We have a lot of potential on our football team, but there's going to be a lot of hard work that needs to be done for that to make that become a reality."

What exactly does that mean for the team? As Pelini noted, a lot of changes are in store:

We've tried to turn over every stone in the offseason, look at everything we can do to make ourselves a better football team. I guess you could say a little bit -- what do they say? -- loco as far as not getting too far outside of the box but trying to turn over every stone and trying to look at everything we can do as a football team to make ourselves the type of program we want to have.

And I think we've done that. We're going to make -- institute some changes, some things, different things about how we practice, when we practice. It's a long season. Do everything we can to make sure that we give our players the best opportunity to have success on the field.

As for the exact changes, Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald noted a few Pelini mentioned. Those include keeping the Sunday practice with Monday off, as well as potentially flipping Thursday and Friday practices. Pelini is also considering shortening the amount of time players are on the practice field, too.

Additionally, in a very surprising move, Pelini announced that he will open fall camp to the media.

The willingness to make changes and be more open shows a different side of Pelini. It shows a coach that is aware of the challenges ahead of him. And the challenges are nothing to ignore.

For instance, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer poll, 29 sportswriters selected Nebraska to finish third in the Big Ten's West division. Of those that voted, only one picked the Huskers to win the conference title.

While it likely isn't something Pelini thinks about too much, he has to be feeling the pressure to win. His first six seasons with Nebraska all brought four losses. He has won three bowl games, but has also lost three. The highest the Huskers have peaked in a poll under his leadership was No. 14 in both the Coaches and AP in 2009.

Fans, and Pelini, want more. To accomplish this, the head coach talked about improving the Huskers' efficiency. “By the time we walk onto the practice field to the time we step off, we want to be as efficient as we possibly can. We want to get our players on and off the field," Pelini said, as noted by the Omaha World-Herald's Sam McKewon.

That efficiency should carry over from the offense to turnovers and everything else Nebraska does. That will also include correcting the turnover issue. Pelini made sure to say that, as Hail Varsity noted:

Turning the ball over, that’s No. 1. (We’re) doing everything we possibly can to simplify in every area. The terminology, as far as what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, make sure that our players can play a hundred miles an hour.

Pelini's hopeful that the focus on efficiency will give his team the tools needed to be successful on and off the field. If all goes according to plan, it should get Nebraska back to the Big Ten Championship.

The 2014 season is make-or-break for Pelini and his staff. After a rocky 2013 season, the coach used the offseason (and a cat) to improve his public persona.

Now it's time for the coach to do the same on the field. With the amount of changes Pelini has made in the offseason, he's ready for the challenge.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Storylines Heading into Notre Dame's Fall Camp

With training camp a week away, the Notre Dame football season is finally upon us.

After a star-crossed 2013 season went awry in the spring with the surprise suspension of quarterback Everett Golson, Notre Dame fell short of their lofty goals as injuries struck All-American candidates Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix and chipped away at the offensive line. 

But the 9-4 season is in the rearview mirror. And so is a lot of talent—Tuitt, Nix and captains Zack Martin, TJ Jones and Bennett Jackson are in NFL training camps, among the eight Irish players drafted. 

Yet the cupboard is hardly bare in South Bend. Brian Kelly has plenty of talent, but the Irish are young and inexperienced. 

That makes fall camp crucial, as an August 30 date with Rice is right around the corner. With Golson and a lot of young offensive talent back, expectations are once again sky-high.

Let's run through the biggest storylines heading into Notre Dame's fall camp. 

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