NCAA Football

Should the SEC Change How Championship Game Participants Are Determined?

Times, they are a-changin' in college football.

In one short decade, we've seen conferences expand, a playoff system created, schools move up to FBS from FCS and even one FBS program—UAB—abandon the sport completely.

Get ready, because there could be more structural shakeups in the future.

According to CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, legislation governing the structure of conference championship games is expected to be deregulated by 2016, which would allow conferences that don't have at least 12 teams and play round-robin schedules within each division to stage conference title games. 

The move would directly impact the 10-team Big 12, which is the only Power Five conference that doesn't stage such a contest. But Dodd also mentions that the ACC helped develop the deregulation legislation, and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has a theory as to why.

"I think there's some belief that ACC would play three divisions, have two highest-ranked play in postseason," Bowlsby told Dodd. "Really, nobody cares how you determine your champion. It should be a conference-level decision."

Now, it's not really Bowlsby's place to tell anybody what the ACC's plans are, but it does kick the can further down the road. If the ACC is thinking about changing how championship game participants are determined, should the SEC?

Without a doubt, the answer is yes.

This opens the door for every conference to figure out what's best for them, and as evidenced by the rather downtrodden SEC East over the last few years, incoming commissioner Greg Sankey should take this opportunity to re-evaluate what's best for the conference.

Does winning a geographically determined division automatically make a team title-worthy?

Nope.

We saw this in 2010, when SEC East champ South Carolina (9-3, 5-3 SEC) entered the Georgia Dome to play unbeaten Auburn for the conference title, despite the fact that the Gamecocks would have been tied with Alabama for fourth in the SEC West based on their conference record behind Auburn, Arkansas and LSU.

That shouldn't happen.

So how should the SEC fix it?

Sankey could throw a giant 12-to-6 curveball and completely revamp the way the conference is formatted. SportsDayNow.com's Chadd Scott suggested completely abandoning the divisions, establishing scheduling partners and rotate other teams on and off the schedule. The two teams with the best conference records could then play in the SEC Championship Game.

Is that too aggressive for your taste? 

A simpler solution would be to keep the divisions and long-term scheduling format as is and incorporate a stipulation that SEC Championship Game participants must meet certain thresholds in order to play for the title:

  • Division champs will play in the SEC Championship Game unless the one division champ's conference record is three or more games better than the other. If that's the case, the two teams with the best conference record regardless of division will play for the conference title.
  • A title game participant must finish over .500 in conference play (this almost always is the case anyway, but better safe than sorry).

This way, the SEC Championship Game would reward the best two teams with some built-in precautions that would protect the game from getting a stale matchup while still allowing a division title winner with a tough strength of schedule based on cross-division matchups to be rewarded to a point.

There's no rule that states that geographically determined divisions have to determine champions. Sure, that's the case in virtually all major sports around the country, but there could be a better way.

With deregulation now possible, the SEC should take the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and attempt to not only change itself but become a trendsetter and change the way sports operate.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Kyle Rose Arrested: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction on West Virginia DT

West Virginia defensive lineman Kyle Rose was reportedly tased and arrested over the weekend after an incident where he allegedly struck an officer during a scuffle in Morgantown.

Allan Taylor of the Metro News reports Rose was released on $600 bond after being charged with four misdemeanors, including battery on an officer. The report provided further details about what happened leading up to the arrest:

The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. at Bent Willey's bar on Chestnut Street. Security informed police that Rose had been tossed out of the bar earlier but returned and shoved a bouncer upon re-entering. Police ultimately took the 6-foot-4, 294-pound Rose to the floor after he allegedly shoved an officer in the face. The senior nose guard subsequently continued resisting officers' attempts to put him in handcuffs and had to be tased, police said.

Police later said Rose admitted he had been drinking before the situation escalated. Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen told the outlet that all discipline would be handled internally. Also included in the report were comments from WVU director of football operations Michael Montoro.

"As with all students, Rose could face student disciplinary action," he said.

Rose is coming off a season in which he registered 35 tackles for West Virginia. In three years, he's tallied 109 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss, and one sack. He was expected to take on a starting role in the middle of the defensive line again next season.

Whether his status will change following the arrest is unknown.

 

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Michigan Football: How Wolverines Can Improve the Ground Game

In 2014, Michigan had the No. 77-ranked rushing offense in the country, racking up an unimpressive 1,954 yards and a total of 17 touchdowns. That type of math simply won’t equate in 2015 for the Wolverines, who just completed their first spring game under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

Judging by Saturday, they need more practice. The simple solution to the problem is this: Get better up front and in the backfield.

That, of course, takes time; it can’t be done overnight. The new assistants need time to implement change. 

Harbaugh’s staff is partly composed of offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley. Drevno, formerly of USC, is known for crafting sturdy lines. He's coached on and off for 11 years with Harbaugh in the NFL and NCAA.

Wheatley is Michigan’s No. 5 career rusher and has plenty of running experience to share with his student-athletes. He also has NFL and NCAA coaching experience. 

Combined, Drevno and Wheatley's knowledge and expertise should help Michigan push toward re-establishing its once-proud ground-and-pound.

The ground game is a product of cohesiveness between the O-line and the running backs. The entire plan gets compromised if one position group is off-center. That was the problem in 2014. Things rarely, if ever, ran smoothly in unison.

Luckily for Michigan, there is a remedy, a cure to what has ailed its backs and line. That’s Harbaugh’s new staff and Harbaugh’s attitude.

But before the transformation can get started, the Wolverines must learn to embrace the fundamentals. Their lack of fundamentals is what put them in this predicament in the first place.

 

Evaluating the Offensive Line

Before stepping away from the game three weeks ago, Jack Miller was up to his eyeballs in practice with the Wolverines.

While watching the spring game on TV, the former starting center noticed subtle improvements in technique, such as the way tackles and guards “squared-up” against blitzing D-linemen, footwork and other fine details as they pertain to fighting up front.

But like most, he’s hesitant to lay out a firm assessment. The fact that starters played with depth guys didn’t provide enough to really analyze the offensive line. There were windows here and there, but nothing to take to the bank.

“That makes it hard when guys are playing next to guys who obviously they probably won’t play next to this season,” Miller said. “But you know, from an individual standpoint, Graham [Glasgow] is the clear-cut leader and best player up front, I think.”

Glasgow’s ability to “get leverage” on defensive linemen stood out to Miller, who sees a great season ahead for the 6’6”, 311-pound senior. Miller also noticed the performances of Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Mason Cole.

“They’re really trying to perfect their craft,” he said. “They’ve come a long way.”

The depth chart has sprouted. It’ll bloom as the weeks roll into August.

Kalis, a 6’5”, 292-pound senior, has grown into a leading man at guard. Cole, a 6’5”, 287-pound sophomore, could play center or left tackle. Braden, a 6’6”, 331-pound senior, is right for interior or exterior.

Despite two holding penalties and a false-start on Saturday, Logan Tuley-Tillman could find a starting role as a tackle.

There are a lot of not-so-hidden talents on the roster. Miller says they’ll be good to go this fall if they continue to train hard through the spring and summer months. That involves a renewed commitment to detail. In doing so, Michigan should see a decrease in mental mistakes such as penalties and missed assignments. 

 

Evaluating the Running Backs

Chris Howard knows all about the prototypical Michigan run game—he was part of it during the mid-to-late 1990s.

As a senior in 1997, he led the 12-0, national champion Wolverines with 868 rushing yards and seven touchdowns (1,131 yards from scrimmage, eight touchdowns total), so he’s certainly in the know when it comes to X's, O's and expectations.

As a spectator and alum, he wasn’t blown away by Saturday’s spring game. But then again, it was just one live practice—meaning it’s nearly impossible to judge based on what was offered this past weekend, he says. It’d be unfair to do so as well.

“[Saturday was] just such a microcosm of a glimpse of what’s been done these past 15, 16 practices,” Howard said. “I thought [the backs] ran hard and did everything they could possibly do. There weren’t a lot of holes for them to run through, which has obviously been kind of an issue. And it’s really hard to judge a running back by that.”

Right now, mastering square one should be the goal for De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green, a wrecking-ball pair that remains unproven but oozes potential. At roughly 5’11” and 230 pounds each, they possess ideal size for a Big Ten backfield but have yet to put their power to efficient use.

However, Howard believes the Wolverines can succeed with the pair of juniors, though they are missing something—something that’d make life a lot easier for Drevno and Wheatley.

“We don’t have that Barry Sanders-type running back who can make something out of nothing,” Howard said. “We’re just not there. We don’t have that.”

Green or Smith won’t turn into Sanders, but that doesn’t mean that one won’t truly emerge this fall. There are positives to be gleaned from Saturday.

“Derrick looked much faster,” Howard said. “He looked pretty good. De’Veon was very decisive in the way he hit holes. I think that was an issue for him last year; he tended to dance a little bit. But that comes from the uncertainty of knowing where the hole’s going to be at—you know?”

Staying the course, subscribing to the staff’s philosophies and studying film—Howard stressed doing homework—should yield future rewards for Green, who had a couple of nice totes Saturday, and Smith, who bust loose for a 34-yarder. They’re the known commodities. 

But enter Ty Isaac, who, once integrated, could do wonders for Drevno and Wheatley.

Like Green and Smith, Isaac, a 6’3”, 240-pound junior, has a mixture of speed and power that could alter the tides for Michigan this fall. He’s yet to play a down in the regular season for the Wolverines and barely participated in Saturday’s spring game, yet he could end up being a key addition to the rotation.

He’s an unknown factor who could bring unreal results.

Once healthy, Drake Johnson, a 6’0”, 207-pound senior, could complement the power trio with his natural quickness. He’s already proven capable of contributing.

Then there’s Karan Higdon, a 5’10”, 190-pounder who arrives late this summer. The 3-star Floridian runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, per 247Sports.

The outlook tends to be the same for a lot of teams in the midst of change. Michigan is such a team.

Sifting through options and choosing the best fits is one obvious way Harbaugh can improve his program’s running game. Come fall, he’ll have a pool of at least Green, Smith, Isaac, Wyatt Shallman, Ross Taylor-Douglas and Higdon with which to work.

He’s working from the ground level, but Harbaugh could end up fielding a 1,000-yard rusher this season. Michigan hasn’t had one since Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 1,064 yards as a sophomore in 2011. With exception to 2007, Harbaugh's offenses at Stanford produced a 1,100-yard rusher. In 2008, Harbaugh's second season at Stanford, Toby Gerhart ran for 1,136 yards and Anthony Kimble rushed for 717. 

In all likelihood, he'll need more than a year to right the ship in Ann Arbor, but Harbaugh's potential for quick results is very real. 

 

Come Together

Once upon a time, the counter was Michigan’s “bread and butter," Howard said.

In all likelihood, it’ll be a big part of Drevno and Wheatley’s arsenal this fall. They’re traditional guys who have proven methods. The counter is both traditional and proven.

There are several variations of the play, but the counter is essentially based on a change of direction inside of the tackles; it’s used, in some form or fashion, by every team in America.

For that reason, it’ll serve as today’s example of X's and O's. Mastering this play—grasping basics has been difficult for Michigan—could lead to yards upon yards. It’s the type of run that often throws defenses off balance and sets up larger gains. It's also a nice change of pace when throwing body blows up the middle. 

In an attempt to further detail technique, Howard was asked to describe what he looked for while running such a play: 

“I always got on the hip of my offensive linemen because your offensive linemen are going to take you to the hole, and you’re going to have to read off of him—whether he continues to take you outside or he turns up [the field]…” said Howard, who noted that attention to detail, such as what he described, could help the ball-carriers.

"It’s probably something taught by Wheatley and Drevno," he added.

Running backs process a lot once they get the ball. With just a fraction of a second to make a decision, they need to know they can trust in their line’s ability to block and create holes.

Some backs are better at reading than others and can make do with a developing line. Some backs aren’t as good at reading the play but get by thanks to outstanding lines.

Everything is tangled, woven and intertwined.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Howard.

Miller agrees with Howard’s idea. There is a lot more than running and blocking going on during a running play. The backs aren’t the only ones surveying the field, either. Linemen are tasked with reading levels as well.

What does that entail? Again, to further detail the specifics, Miller was asked to describe a lineman’s role during a counter/power play:

“The idea is that you’re going to get movement from whatever side you’re running it towards and have the guard come around and create a big hole—a kick-out—usually the defensive end and SAM linebacker on the ball, to create a seam right there [at designated spot for runner]," Miller said. 

Typically, a fullback helps plow the trail. Other times, a teammate from the other side of the play will fly in and provide assistance further up the field. 

Got all of that?

Now throw all of that, seven or eight guys aiming to maim, into a split-second window. There isn’t a lot of time to read, let alone breathe. However, Michigan must improve its ability to make adjustments on the fly and adapt while under duress.

That process began last year, says Miller. He's confident that it’ll produce results this fall.

“I think it’s important to know that the running game requires more than a good offensive line,” Miller said. “You’ve got to have tight ends who can block, you’ve got to have running backs who can hit the holes and read where it’s at, and you’ve got to have a passing game that opens up it up and puts safeties further back instead of crowding the box.

"So it’s a whole offensive effort, and I think they’re moving in the right direction.”

Like Howard said, it’s a “symbiotic relationship” between those up front and those in the back. The running backs go as the offensive line goes, so on and so forth. 

That relationship is formed in practice and on game day, but it’s perfected in the film room.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

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Incoming 2015 College Football Freshmen with Famous Parents

It’s only natural to find players with talented fathers dotting college football rosters. That phenomenon has been happening for years. Fathers pass down their athletic talents to their sons, and many professional athletes have the means and knowledge to mold their sons into standout players in their own right.

2015 was no different on the college football landscape. A number of second-generation stars will take the field for programs across the nation this fall, but one of the most intriguing players is the son of one of this generation’s most famous rap artists.

Regardless, the sons of famous athletes and entertainers should make an impact this season and beyond. Here’s a look at some famous offspring who’ll make headlines in the college football world in 2015.

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Ex-Homeless Baylor Football Player Finding Himself After Losing NCAA Eligibility

Editor's note: According to former Baylor running back Silas Nacita, a school compliance official met with him on February 24 and informed the formerly homeless walk-on that he would no longer be a part of the Baylor football program, pending a full investigation, because he accepted improper benefits, including housing. On March 25, following the completion of the investigation, Nacita informed Bleacher Report that he has been ruled officially and permanently ineligible. On April 5, Baylor confirmed Nacita's ineligibility to Bleacher Report.

 

For more than four minutes he spoke, uninterrupted by doubt or punctuation. He spoke of God and football and failure and how it all webbed together. 

He shared his unwavering love for the sport that had just been taken from him and what he would do to get it back.

"I worked so hard for 12 years for this game, and I have lost it," former Baylor running back Silas Nacita said. "Whatever it is [I need to do to play again], it would be worth it."

Nacita has slept in ditches and hotel lobbies in pursuit of his dream to play big-time college football, per Sports Illustrated's Ken Rodriguez. He's hitchhiked in multiple states, jumping in the backs of pickups, front seats and backseats to get to where he needed to be. 

His journey has been anything but ordinary, although his faith has remained. It has been tested, twisted and bent, but he's come off the other side unbroken.

There's a weight to all of this, one no 21-year-old should ever have to bear alone. It's a weight that he's been carrying for quite some time through various stops in his life, and it's more than just football eligibility. It's about failure, love, perseverance and the power of the human spirit. 

 

A Dream Denied

On February 24, however, Nacita's love was taken away. His dream was put on hold. Just hours before Baylor's first meeting of the offseason, a school official called Nacita into his office. As the player simply listened, the official spoke of improper benefits Nacita had received: a place to live, food and financial support.

"He told me I was suspended from the team for breaking NCAA rules," Nacita said. "I didn't really understand."

Nacita didn't deny the allegations. He didn't ask for further clarification. He didn't protest or respond with anger at the messenger or the program that gave him a chance to live out his dream. He took the earth-shattering news in silence. It wasn't necessarily the day his NCAA eligibility died; there was still a final decision to be made, one that would eventually come. 

But this is where he started to read the writing on the wall. 

"Is that all?" was the only thing he could muster before floating weightlessly out the door and toward his locker—a place of comfort and peace. He sat there in his thoughts until teammates inquired what was wrong.

The development hit the Baylor team and the coaches hard. Nacita wasn't a starter, but given his history and everything he went through to arrive at Waco, he was a locker room favorite and fixture. He was the glue.

The news was especially difficult for head coach Art Briles, whom Nacita had only recently gifted a photo of them standing together with "Thanks for always believing" penned on the image. It was a tribute to Briles, who regularly left "always believe" as his own calling card. 

Despite Nacita's reluctance to break the news, he eventually did. He called his pastor, and the two spoke, not of solutions but of restoring faith in the journey ahead.

"It's been really tough. But through it all, I know God is good," Nacita said. "He blessed me with the opportunities that I've had, and he's always taken care of me. I've been through some pretty tough things in my life, but through it all, God is not surprised. He knows what's going to happen. I have trust in him and know he has a plan for me."

Even with his faith strong and his spirit intact, Nacita struggled.

He missed a midterm, bombed another test and asked for extensions in other classes. Even with understanding professors, Nacita wasn't able to find stable footing. The situation controlled him rather than the other way around.

As he spoke of this dark time—the fact that other walks of life were impacted—you could hear his voice give out some. His regret for letting his athletic situation impact his studies was palpable.

Nacita also shut down physically, at least briefly. He didn't touch a single weight or even think about his body for the first week after he heard the news. With football out of the equation, there was no point. Having been estranged from his family and homeless, football was the constant.

Only now, it wasn't.

 

The Road to Recovery 

Silas Nacita is not easily defeated; he has already gotten up off the mat. More specifically, he joined a gym.

Without access to the athletes' facilities, this was his only option. After getting used to the posh football weight room and other amenities, asking average Joes for a spot might have seen like a drastic transition—and at first it was. But given his options not long ago, Nacita eventually embraced his new digs.

"There was a year I had to go to a park and train with rocks, so this is nothing new for me," he said. "I'm just hoping that I am training for something and not just keeping in shape."

As Nacita's body went to work, his mind still lagged behind. His spirit was nowhere close to where he needed it to be.

With spring break approaching, Nacita loved the idea of dropping everything and truly getting away. He thought about lying weightlessly on a beach and finding peace by letting loose in a different city and state. Given everything he had been through, it was a tantalizing proposition.

But instead of leaving Waco to lose himself, he left to find himself.

"Deep down, I knew that this wasn't going to help me," Nacita said. "I needed to go find some inner peace."

Instead of heading to Panama City, Nacita took an eight-hour bus drive to Edinburg, Texas, on a mission trip. This was not the spring break he envisioned, but it was the one he needed.

When they arrived, the students cleaned out an abandoned church. They went on outreaches. They held carnivals. They shared their love of Jesus. They danced, they played games, and they played football. 

As the days progressed, things improved. Throughout the week, Nacita found what he went searching for.

"It was really, really good for me," he said. "It was a reminder that life is not about me. This is the first time in my life where all the power, understanding and intelligence I have cannot change my situation. It's completely out of my hands. For weeks, I couldn't accept that. I found peace that week."

 

Coming Full Circle

Nacita arrived back in Waco seven days later with a different perspective. He was rejuvenated. He went back to class, back to the gym and even back to the football stadium for Baylor's spring game. This time, however, he sat in the unfamiliar stands, a foreign football landmark.

"My circumstances have not allowed me to be out there with them on the field, which is unfortunate, but I am going to support them whatever way I can," Nacita said. "Even if that's being a spectator in the crowd."

To get to the stadium, Nacita took the same route that he did as player. As he walked into the building, he retraced the walkthroughs and practices that demanded the same path. The memories washed over him as he retraced his steps.

Just before entering the stadium, however, he changed course. Instead of heading to the locker room, he took the other fork in the road. He entered the stadium as a fan. It was then that Nacita saw the Baylor concession stands for the first time.

He took his seat, one close to the far more familiar turf.

Well, this is a new point of view. #SicEmpic.twitter.com/snoOp9jIch

— Silas Nacita (@Salsa_Nacho) March 21, 2015

He watched his team go through the same warm-ups and routines he now knew by heart. Like the steps he took to get here, he replayed them in his mind. He knew what they were going to do next. 

Defensive end Shawn Oakman saw Nacita in the stands and came over to say hello before the game. The two shared a hug, talked for a while and went their separate ways. Oakman readied for the game, while Nacita finally sat down.

The game began, and the entirety of the situation overcame him.

"It was tough," he said. "It was absolutely tough."

Throughout the evening, Nacita's presence became known. By the end of the evening, he might as well have been mayor of the bleachers. He shook hands, took photos and talked with various fans who were eager to meet a young man they had already heard so much about. Some even told Nacita they were praying for him, a gesture he deeply appreciated.

"It was really encouraging to see so many people I didn't know just telling me they support me and they hope to see me out there again," Nacita said. 

Very fortunate to have spoken with @Salsa_Nacho tonite.After all he has been through, his hope in Jesus stands strong pic.twitter.com/g2fRXGmx6B

— Devin Campbell (@DevinCampbell5) March 21, 2015

Eventually, Nacita left the building the same way he came in, the steps a bit more familiar this time around. His taste of Baylor football brought back memories—good memories—and it left him with the same craving he's had all along. As he left McLane Stadium, he felt both empty and alive.

Only a few days later, closure finally came. Nacita received an email from the university and was asked to meet regarding his eligibility. A final decision had been made.

On March 25, Nacita sat down in a room with Baylor officials and learned the news that he was anticipating all along: His NCAA ineligibility was final.

"I didn't shed a tear in the meeting. I wasn't angry. I shook their hands," he said. "It was a pleasant conversation. I didn't go into the meeting expecting good news. I went in expecting confirmation, and that's what I got. I had a little hope in the back of my heart, but when they told me, it was almost a relief. I could start thinking about my future."

Although playing for an NCAA program is no longer an option, the process of continuing his football career has already begun. It began only hours after the word became official, and in reality, the brainstorming began far earlier than that. Nacita has started researching NAIA schools in the area, and he is encouraged that he will be able to continue to play football somewhere.

It won't be in Waco or at a program that carries the same prestige, but that is of limited importance now. There is a dream still to chase, and nothing will stop him from chasing it. The window to play football in front of fans and for himself is still open, even if it's not like it once was.

"If I am going to go out, I want it to be on my terms," Nacita said. "I want to be satisfied with how it ended. I know it's cliche, but I want to leave it out all on the field. I don't want to just leave it in a meeting room somewhere. I love the game and want to play more than ever."

 

Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Can Jalin Marshall Replace Devin Smith as Ohio State's Deep Threat?

Replacing the best deep threat in college football isn't easy.

In fact, it may be impossible. 

That challenge is settling in for Ohio State, which has to fill the void left by Devin Smith's departure. The 6'1", 199-pound wideout was the Buckeyes' home run hitter for four straight years, and now, head coach Urban Meyer needs to identify someone who can stretch the field in a similar fashion.

And while the Buckeyes grind their way through spring camp, Jalin Marshall is emerging as an unexpected replacement.

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith revealed that Marshall—who played the H-back position in 2014—has moved to the outside this spring, running the deeper routes that Devin Smith executed so well.

"Jalin can play outside, and he's going to have a full spring of doing that," Zach Smith said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer

Are the Buckeyes moving their rising redshirt sophomore to the perimeter permanently? Zach Smith isn't ready to pull that trigger, but he's experimenting with a number of different possibilities. While Devin Smith's departure hurts, the Buckeyes are loaded with a number of exciting yet unproven options at receiver.

"We are going to get the best six or seven wideouts in the rotation, so where [Marshall] fits in that is really where we best see him fitting," Zach Smith said, via Wasserman. 

That could be in the slot or playing the H-back position that he thrived in a season ago. After Dontre Wilson suffered a broken foot against Michigan State in Week 11, Marshall emerged as a dangerous weapon for the Buckeyes. In the final six games of the season, he caught 24 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns.

But a new year has brought about a whole new situation for the Buckeyes. Curtis Samuel—Ezekiel Elliott's backup at running back last season—is emerging as a player who needs to be on the field, and the coaching staff has moved him to H-back in an effort to get him playing time. Sophomore Noah Brown is making a similar move, as well, working at a number of different wideout positions after dropping 25 pounds in the offseason. 

And then there are the new guys who haven't had a chance to see the field yet—players who have been identified as possible candidates to replace Devin Smith as the team's deep threat. Zach Smith specifically named four underclassmen at the beginning of spring camp, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone

At the end of the day, you need guys with speed, and we have a number of them. Johnnie Dixon's a great example, when he comes back. He is an elite guy. James Clark was before his injury, so when he gets healthy and gets confident, he'll be a guy that we look to.

And then Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell are two guys that can really run. We've got four young guys that haven't done much around here that can flat fly. So it's going to be fun to watch and fun to develop and interesting to see how it plays out.

Four weeks into spring practice, though, and it's Marshall who's getting that opportunity.

He has the speed to burn a defense. According to 247Sports, Marshall was running a 4.4 40-yard dash as a high school senior. But does he have the strength to beat press coverage at the line or the body control to track a ball in the air with a defender on his hip?

Those are the traits that allowed Devin Smith to lead the country in yards per reception by a wide margin in 2014, according to cfbstats.com.

If Marshall can't mimic Devin Smith's game, the Buckeyes will have to look elsewhere for their deep threat. And if they can't find a suitable replacement, the offense might not have the quick-strike ability that it had last year.

 

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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UCLA Football Recruiting: A Look at the Bruins' Offensive Philosophy

The offensive philosophy of Jim Mora and the UCLA football team has seemingly been adapted from where it was when Mora first took over. This has been readily apparent in the 2015 class, as well as early in the 2016 class. 

When looking at Mora's first three recruiting classes, he recruited exceptionally well—particularly on the defensive side of the ball. His efforts have netted integral players such as Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes, Deon Hollins, Kenny Clark and Fabian Moreau, among others. 

The talent across the board is a big upgrade from the previous regime. Not only is the depth exponentially improved, but the amount of athleticism has been considerably enhanced.

With that said, there have been some areas of concern. These issues reside primarily on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback depth hasn't been great, athleticism at wide receiver has been a question mark, and the level of potentially elite talent on the offensive side of the ball hasn't quite matched up with the defensive personnel. 

The offense has lacked dynamic playmakers—especially within the wide receiver corps. A significant staple of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's offense is quick passes to the perimeter. Receivers need to be able to block effectively out on the edge. As a result, UCLA has targeted bigger, more physical players for the position. 

While this certainly has helped in regard to blocking, there has been a glaring absence of speed. There really hasn't been a receiver in the Mora era to consistently take the top off of an opposing defense. UCLA's passing attack has undoubtedly been more horizontal rather than vertical—largely due to the high number of possession options. 

In order to combat these issues, UCLA has looked to add speed to its roster. 

The 2015 class saw the Bruins add athlete Stephen Johnson III. The San Leandro, Calif., native runs a legitimate, sub-4.4 40-yard time. Capable of playing on both sides of the ball, he'll likely start in the slot for UCLA. Johnson instantly becomes one of, if not the fastest, members of the football team. 

Unfortunately for UCLA, it lost out on slot target Ryan Newsome on signing day this past year. In 2016, however, there has already been a mass effort to address the quickness, elusiveness, agility, and speed the team needs at the receiver position. 

The Bruins already have a commitment from Scout.com 4-star receiver Demetric Felton. Per his highlight tape, Felton appears to be a dynamic runner with the ball in his hands. He's also versatile in that he can line up at multiple receiver spots, as well as at running back. 

UCLA also is heavily recruiting the skill position trio of Sean McGrew, Damian Alloway, and Darian Owens. All Scout.com 4-star prospects, it would be a relative shock if McGrew and Owens didn't end up Bruins. At the very worst, Alloway is down to Cal and UCLA, per Adam Gorney of Rivals.com

McGrew is another exceptional athlete from the running back position. Perhaps one of the fastest players in the entire state of California, he looks like a perfect fit for the role former UCLA running back Damien Thigpen played a few years ago. 

Alloway is a pure burner. Capable of playing on the outside and in the slot, he would instantly upgrade the offense's speed. Perhaps most significant for UCLA, four of Alloway's 7-on-7 teammates—Felton, Lokeni Toailoa, Krys Barnes, Breland Brandt—are committed to the Bruins. 

Owens is the biggest and most physical of the aforementioned 4-star troika. But don't let that fool you, as Owens is a fantastic athlete in his own right. He would be a very nice replacement for current UCLA receiver Jordan Payton. 

In order to compete with the class of the Pac-12, as well as against prominent national programs, the amount of elite talent on the offensive side of the ball needed to improve. Depth at quarterback also needed a jolt in the proverbial arm. 

UCLA killed two birds with one stone when it signed exceptional quarterback Josh Rosen. Rosen's signing might be the most significant addition to the program dating to 2011, when the Bruins signed Brett Hundley.

Rosen is already killing it in spring practice, and is most likely headed for a starting spot as a true freshman. While Hundley put UCLA on the map—and truly got the ball rolling—Rosen has the talent to take the program to unseen heights. 

Paul Perkins is an absolute stud at running back. The redshirt junior led the conference in rushing a season ago, and figures to be one of college football's best backs in 2015. With the shelf life for running backs being short, it's doubtful he'll return for a senior year. 

Therefore, UCLA needed to replenish the talent within its running back corps. The Bruins were able to sign Scout.com's No. 1 running back nationally in Soso Jamabo. UCLA also signed the Scout.com No. 1 tight end in the country in Chris Clark. 

The addition of both demonstrates the UCLA recruiting staff's prowess. Jamabo hails from Texas, whereas Clark comes to UCLA from Connecticut (via New Jersey). 

Jamabo is supremely versatile. At 6'3", he can line up as a receiver with his ability to catch the ball. However, he makes his living on the ground as a smooth, explosive running back. 

Clark represents an element UCLA hasn't had since the days of Joe Fauria. He's a true tight end at 6'6", 250 pounds. Not only can he go up and make the grab in traffic against smaller players, but Clark can be a mauler in the run game.

UCLA often relied upon defensive players playing offense when it needed to pick up short yardage on the ground. As a result, the opposing defense almost always knew the Bruins were running the ball. With Clark, the threat of utilizing play-action is there. He should be a monster in red-zone situations as well. 

It is apparent that UCLA has transitioned from signing good talent across the board to fulfilling specific needs while also inking elite talent at significant positions. It will be fascinating to see how this development impacts UCLA chances at potentially winning a conference title for the first time under Mora. 

 

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UCLA Football Recruiting: A Look at the Bruins' Offensive Philosophy

The offensive philosophy of Jim Mora and the UCLA football team has seemingly been adapted from where it was when Mora first took over. This has been readily apparent in the 2015 class, as well as early in the 2016 class...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Clemson Football: 5 Things to Watch in Tigers' 2015 Spring Game

There are championship aspirations for the Clemson Tigers this season, and we can all be the judges of that during Saturday’s spring game. Talking about it only gets you so far, so it will be nice to get a glimpse of what is to come in 2015.

The scrimmage will give us a good look at some of the new faces on both sides of the ball, as well as give us a feel for how some of the position battles may turn out.

Here are five things to watch for during the Tigers' spring game.

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Austin Kendall to Oklahoma: Sooners Land 4-Star QB Prospect

The Oklahoma Sooners landed their potential quarterback of the future on Tuesday when Austin Kendall joined their 2016 class.     

The news came straight from the player himself:

The 6’2”, 205-pound Kendall checks in as a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and is the No. 181-ranked national prospect, the No. 8 pro-style quarterback and the No. 5-ranked prospect from the state of North Carolina.

Given the importance of the quarterback position, it is no surprise that a number of schools were in on Kendall’s recruitment. Oklahoma won out over the likes of Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn, among others, who were all interested in Kendall at some point in the recruiting process, per his 247Sports profile.

The Sooners had a disappointing loss to Clemson to finish a lackluster 2014 season, but the future looks much brighter thanks to commitments like Kendall’s on the recruitment trail.

Bob Przybylo of Scout.com believes that Kendall is a “huge domino” in the early process for the Sooners’ 2016 class, which is an important one after Oklahoma finished No. 15 in the 2015 class rankings, per 247Sports. Stockpiling quality young depth is the key to sustained success at the college level, which is certainly something Oklahoma is accustomed to under coach Bob Stoops.

That 2015 class did not include a listed quarterback in it on 247Sports, so Kendall will likely have the opportunity to at least compete for playing time early in his college career.

There was a need for more depth at the position, and Kendall has a strong arm and is comfortable making reads in the pocket and then delivering the ball where it needs to be on time.

Oklahoma can make room for someone like that in the backfield.

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Which Under-the-Radar Studs Should FSU Target in 2016 Class?

The Florida State Seminoles have been dominating the recruiting trail the past few seasons, scooping up talent all over the country as they have established themselves as an elite program once again. But who are some of the under-the-radar recruits FSU should target? 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by 247Sports Recruiting Analyst Josh Newberg as he broke down which underrated targets FSU should chase on the recruiting trail.

Will Jimbo Fisher lock down another top-10 recruiting class?   

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4-Star RB Matt Falcon Breaks Down Top 5 in B/R Exclusive

Dynamic Michigan running back prospect Matt Falcon proclaimed a "Fab Five" on Monday afternoon, naming the college programs currently under heaviest consideration for his commitment:

The 4-star rusher revealed Arizona State, Arkansas, Michigan, Oregon and Tennessee as the teams to beat entering the final stretch of his recruitment. Falcon, a junior at Southfield High School, holds more than 20 scholarship offers but is nearing a decision. 

"I'll probably announce my commitment around that first week of May," he said. 

With several premier programs in the mix and a crucial campus visit looming, Falcon is among the most compelling running back recruits to monitor this spring.

Rated 13th nationally among players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings, he is fourth on that list when it comes to uncommitted ball-carriers.

Falcon, who stands 6'1", said his weight is up to 220 pounds. That's substantial size for an athlete who completes the 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range and has a track background.

“I bring a different kind of presence to the backfield, and I think that’s why coaches like me so much," he said. "I can receive just as well as I can run the ball. When I started going to camps at the start of high school, all I did was work as a receiver. I’m big, fast and have that versatility opponents always have to keep their eyes on.”

Though he played in just six games as a junior due to injury, Falcon provided evidence of his playmaking mentality. His 2014 campaign featured 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, according to Michigan blog Touch the Banner.

Falcon is focused on a collection of schools from three conferences and discussed specific qualities about each member of his "Fab Five."

 

Arizona State

Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham has impressed during his tenure in Tempe, highlighted by back-to-back 10-win seasons. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell orchestrates one of the country's most consistent attacks, one rated among the top 20 nationally in points per game during each of his three campaigns as play-caller. 

Falcon is impressed by the team's ability to utilize running backs in multiple phases of that offensive scheme. 

D.J. Foster led Arizona State in rushing yards last season, gaining 1,081 yards on the ground. He also hauled in 62 passes for an additional 688 yards.

“They have a very versatile offense," he said. "I like that because if I want to line up at receiver or run the ball, they do both very well with their running back. If I want to show both of those skills, Arizona State would be a great place to do that.”

The Sun Devils extended an offer on March 23.

 

Arkansas

It's no secret the Razorbacks rely on a relentless rushing attack to set up other aspects of the offense. Arkansas featured a pair of 1,100-yard backs last season (Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins) who each rushed for 12 touchdowns.

Their efforts contributed mightily toward making Arkansas the SEC's third-best team in terms of rushing yards per contest (218). Plenty of credit must be spread among the maulers up front who form one of college football's most feared positional groups.

“They have the biggest offensive line in football, so it would be sweet to run behind that group," Falcon said. "They run the ball a lot. It’s kind of like ‘Running Back U’ over there."

He also noted a supportive atmosphere around the program as part of its allure.

“The fanbase is amazing down there," Falcon said. "They’re all about college football in Arkansas, and they’ve got a coach who loves to run the ball with [Bret] Bielema. So those things stand out.”

Arkansas was another team that entered the equation late, offering on March 28. 

 

Michigan

Falcon grew up a Wolverines fan and recalled memories of watching all-time Michigan rushing leader Mike Hart decimate defenses. Now he may be in position to do the same as a new era gets underway.

“Michigan is so close to home. It’s probably about a 15-minute drive going up to Ann Arbor, which is great," Falcon said. "Coach [Jim] Harbaugh came in with a whole new staff, and they’re doing big things. They’re on the rebuilding path to get Michigan back to where it once was.”

He attended the team's spring game on April 4 and left impressed by what he witnessed. Michigan landed a commitment from 4-star quarterback prospect Brandon Peters the night before and could soon pair him with its top in-state offensive backfield target.

“When I was at the spring game, I thought that I could see myself out there playing and fighting for a position," Falcon said. "That intrigued me."

He's established a strong relationship with former Michigan star Tyrone Wheatley, who joined Harbaugh's staff as running backs coach following stints with the Buffalo Bills and Syracuse.

“Coach Wheatley has known about me since eighth grade," Falcon said. 

Michigan may be in excellent position to pick up a pledge from the running back, who spent his youth football years with the Washtenaw Wolverines.

“I’ve been a Wolverine almost my whole life," Falcon said.

 

Oregon

The Ducks offense hasn't lost any of its luster since former head coach Chip Kelly left for Philadelphia. Oregon carved up opponents for 45 points per game during each of the past two seasons and produced a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Running back Royce Freeman starred as a true freshman in 2014, rushing for 1,365 yards and 18 scores. Meanwhile, six different Ducks caught at least five touchdown passes last season.

An opportunity to join this prolific attack and add to the firepower should be tempting for any offensive talent, according to Falcon.

“It’s like a dream school for football and athletics," he said. "They’re good every season out there on the West Coast and just went to the national championship. They produce high-level offensive athletes each year.”

Oregon offered him a scholarship less than a week ago, but he's impressed enough by the Ducks' reputation to put the team on his list.

 

Tennessee

Head coach Butch Jones has used his "brick by brick" philosophy to assemble some of the nation's most star-studded recruiting classes the past two national signing days. That effort hasn't gone unnoticed by Falcon.

“Coach Jones is making big steps in recruiting," he said. "They’re another team that’s rebuilding, and he’s working to turn Tennessee back into a national powerhouse.”

The Volunteers identified him as a long-term target last season, and Falcon quickly reciprocated interest. He named Tennessee his leader earlier in the process, though new offers and a recent trip to Ann Arbor have shaken things up.

Tennessee assistant coaches Robert Gillespie and Steve Stripling have each traveled to Southfield to see Falcon on multiple occasions. He'll return the favor later this month, visiting Knoxville for the first time to watch the school's spring game on April 25.

Falcon will make the trip with his mother. It's his last planned campus visit before he expects to announce a commitment.

“We’re going to look at the academic side of the school just as much as the athletics," said Falcon, who plans to study physical therapy. "We’ll be taking a tour, so that will really help me check things out. I want to see how live the fans are down there. They said they’re trying to bring in 100,000 people for the spring game this year. That would be crazy.”

He's already connected with several Volunteers fans online.

“I have a great relationship with their fans on social media," Falcon said. "It’s all positive feedback, and they’re letting me know they want me down there badly, so I’m looking forward to that visit.”

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Jimbo Fisher Should Ignore the Allure of NFL and Stay at Florida State

From this point forward, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be connected to other jobs, both at the college and pro level. Welcome to being a Florida State fan in 2015. And 2016. And 2017. And so on. 

Appearing on ProFootballTalk Live on NBC Sports Network on Tuesday, Fisher said he "recently" heard from an NFL team about any possible interest in being a head coach. 

Exactly which team reached out and when remains unknown. As PFT's Mike Florio notes, the Bills, Jets, Raiders, Broncos, 49ers, Falcons and Bears have all "recently" filled head coaching spots.

It's a moot point now. Those jobs are filled, and Fisher remains with Florida State. Though he threw out the "never say never" line, for the moment, Fisher doesn't seem interested in the pros. That's a good thing; he's an incredible fit for the college game. 

The X's and O's of football transcend every level of the sport, and Fisher is a brilliant offensive mind. He could coach anywhere—from Houston, Texas, to Hoover, Alabama—and be able to find mismatches, call plays and develop talent. 

What changes from college to the pros is the coaching style, and that's not for everyone. Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh have dabbled in the NFL and, for their own various reasons, eventually found their way back to the college game. 

Fisher, on the other hand, has spent well over 20 years coaching exclusively in the college ranks. 

The dream of winning in the NFL can be alluring, but it's a different animal than college. The workload is different, managing egos and personalities in the locker room is different, the control/role within the organization is different. 

If Fisher knows that's not necessarily his bag, baby, then good for him. He explained that rationale to Florio: 

I love college kids. I love 18-to-22, 23-year-old kids.  I love the family life.  I love living in the towns I live in.  I love living in Tallahassee.  It’s a great place to raise a family, it’s a great place to grow.  You’re living in warm weather. I don’t have that ambition — not saying, again, I wouldn’t — but it’s not my driving force to have to be a pro football coach.

Could things change? Sure. Opportunities are all about timing and circumstances, both of which are fluid factors. 

Also, it helps to have an awesome agent. 

Overall, though, Fisher appears happy with his present situation. That's not just about FSU, either. As a college head coach, he can fill up an entire recruiting class of blue-chip prospects who will win 10 or more games every season. 

Yes, there's parity in college football, but not nearly as much as there is in the pros. In other words, Fisher has a machine running on all cylinders in Tallahassee—and is being paid well to run said machine—and it's showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. Fisher has a hand in every little thing that happens with that machine. The operating manual? He wrote the thing. 

What's not to love?

Still, this is what happens when you win as many games as Fisher has—he's averaged 11.6 wins per year since taking over the Seminoles program in 2010—and put 25 players into the NFL since 2011. You're going to get attention from the highest level of the game, that's just a fact of life. Though the thought of losing Fisher is enough to put a lump in the throats of FSU fans everywhere, it truly is the highest compliment possible. 

Just because Fisher would potentially entertain an offer doesn't mean he's leaving, either. One of the best things anyone can do professionally is listen to what someone else has to say. 

Florida State fans probably don't need to worry about head coach Jimbo Fisher leaving for another college job. If that were going to happen, it would have been Texas in 2014. The only thing that resulted there was a new contract extension with FSU and a raise

The NFL could be a different story, but if it is, it'll be told someday in the future. 

The only thing that could change that is if Fisher gets burned out in Tallahassee, or if some unforeseen instance arises and Fisher is let go or resigns. Otherwise, this is a program with a lot going for it. Fisher is competing for national championships regularly, has a wealth of recruits from which to choose and an athletic department willing to do what it takes to win. 

That's a good situation anywhere. If Fisher isn't inherently driven by the challenge of the NFL like he says, it's a tough situation to leave, too. 

 

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

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