Big Ten media days in Chicago kick off on Monday, and for the third consecutive year, there will be no shortage of eyeballs watching Urban Meyer and the Ohio State contingent. But as opposed to a year ago, when Meyer spent the annual gathering defending his character, football figures to be the prominent topic of discussion when it comes to the Buckeyes.
Not all of the conversation will be positive, however, as Ohio State enters the 2014 season coming off of a two-game losing streak that included losses in the Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl to cap the 2013 campaign. The Buckeyes have undergone an offseason overhaul on defense and spent spring football without injured star quarterback Braxton Miller, leaving plenty of questions to be answered by Meyer, Miller, tight end Jeff Heuerman and defensive tackle Michael Bennett in the Windy City next week.
But when you're Ohio State, attention—both good and bad—has a funny way of finding you no matter what. With that in mind, here are five burning questions that will be facing the Buckeyes when they take center stage in Chicago on Monday.
With the College Football Playoff kicking off this year, there will be a surprise team that wasn’t expected to be in the mix when the season began.
Normally, it’s a team that struggled last season and catches fire. Last year, it was the Auburn Tigers that made the big step forward after a 2012 season that included a 0-8 mark in SEC play.
Could the 2014 surprise team be the Georgia Bulldogs?
Before the 2013 season began, the Bulldogs were looking like a team that could win the SEC East for the third consecutive year and win the SEC for the first time since 2005. But injures and inconsistency on defense plagued the Bulldogs all season and that led to an 8-5 record, which included a loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
So why do guys like Steele and Sallee think the Bulldogs will turn things around?
One of the reasons is the Bulldogs will be more experienced on defense. Steele said because there were only three starters returning on defense last year, there was a ton of inexperience, which led to them giving up 29 points per game.June 21, 2014
This season, the Bulldogs have eight returning starters on defense led by what would be the best set of linebackers in the country. Then there's the fact they added a new defensive coordinator in Jeremy Pruitt—there is no reason to think the Bulldogs can’t make strides on defense.
As far as the offense goes, they are as solid as any team in the country. Yes, the Bulldogs did lose Aaron Murray who is the most prolific passer in SEC history, but Hutson Mason has the experience needed to lead the Bulldogs to a successful season.
Also, the Bulldogs have some guy named Todd Gurley carrying the ball for them. Gurley has a shot to win the Heisman if he’s as healthy as he was in 2012.
But the most important key to the Bulldogs' chance to shock the world this season is the schedule. They will start the season with Clemson and will then have a week off before the face South Carolina. That was not the case last season when the Bulldogs had to travel to Clemson on the opening weekend and then face South Carolina in Athens the following week.
Last year, the Bulldogs' first five opponents were Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas, LSU and Tennessee. They went 4-1 during that stretch, but they were beat up after the Tennessee game and went 4-4 the rest of the way.
This season the Bulldogs’ first five opponents are Clemson, South Carolina, Troy, Tennessee and Vanderbilt with a bye week mixed in. Tennessee and Vanderbilt will not be easy opponents, but both of those games are at Sanford Stadium along with Troy and Clemson.
This has happened before where the Bulldogs have the makeup and the setup to make a run, and they come up short. But based on the preview magazines and media members who were at SEC Media Days (they were picked to finish second in the SEC East), the Bulldogs are flying under the radar.
If there is one thing the Bulldogs are good at, it’s being resilient. Just when many think they are out of the SEC picture, they get right back in it and make a run.
So will they win the SEC title and make it to the College Football Playoff? Only time will tell, but they have everything needed to make a surprise run at the title; it will just be a case of whether they can finally put it all together.
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Less than 20 yards away from a pair of Heisman Trophy passers, heralded high school quarterback Ricky Town sat in a chair untying his football cleats. The first session of Elite 11 finals wrapped up early Sunday evening in Beaverton, Oregon, home of Nike's sprawling world headquarters, and the 5-star USC commit was already putting together a game plan for the coming days.
Sure, seeing Johnny Manziel and Sam Bradford patrol the sidelines during drills provided the perfect punctuation to an eventful opening day at the national quarterback competition, but Town seemed just as intrigued by the impending arrival of an Arizona standout.
"Christian Kirk is on my list," he said.
Elite 11 finals would be immediately followed by The Opening, a three-day showcase that annually draws more than 150 top college recruits to Nike's campus. Quarterbacks viewed Kirk, an uncommitted 5'10", 191-pound receiver from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, as a top target on and off the field.
"A big part of an event like this is that you're able to meet really good players from across the country and do some recruiting," Town said. "He's a guy we're pursuing at USC and someone who would be great to throw the ball to at the next level."
Kirk may not have anticipated it when he checked in at The Opening, but defensive backs wouldn't be the only ones pressing him throughout the week.
By lunch time of his second day in Beaverton, Kirk found himself in the crosshairs of several of America's most celebrated young passers.
"I've got a lot of quarterbacks talking to me about maybe playing together in college," Kirk said. "They're all trying. It's cool."
The coveted pass-catcher is one of the most heavily pursued offensive players in the 2015 class. He holds scholarship offers from nearly 40 collegiate programs, and they started to show up during his sophomore year.
He announced 10 favorites from the expansive selection of options in June:
Kirk, rated sixth nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, caught 43 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, adding four interceptions during a run to the Arizona Division III state quarterfinals. He elevated his game and led the Sabercats to a state title last fall, establishing career highs with 65 receptions for 1,183 yards and 17 scores.
Kirk also fueled the championship chase as rusher, gaining 832 yards on the ground. He wrapped up his junior campaign with more than 2,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns, averaging 14 yards each time he took a handoff or caught a pass.
"Christian has the ability to break any play at any time as long as the ball touches his hands," top-ranked quarterback Josh Rosen said.
The 5-star Southern California recruit committed to UCLA in March. He identified Kirk as an ideal weapon in college football's evolving offensive attacks.
"The idea behind the spread offense is to get athletes in space and create matchups that you like with one player against another," Rosen said. "He is definitely a guy who can beat just about anyone. You like his chances in those situations."
Kirk, clocked at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at The Opening, wasn't the fastest receiver in attendance but may have been the most relentless. He dominated in seven-on-seven competition, running sharp routes and using a solidly built physical frame to fight for position.
Though his success occurred while competing in shorts and a T-shirt jersey, it still came against some of the nation's premier defenders.
"He's an athlete who can move all over the field and make plays," 5-star Alabama cornerback commit Minkah Fitzpatrick said. "You don't see a lot of receivers who can do as many things as Christian, so it makes him special."
Kirk caught six touchdowns in tournament pool play, per Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.
"I really enjoy going up against Christian," 4-star USC cornerback commit Isaiah Langley said. "He forces you to work hard and honestly makes you better as a defensive back. I know the quarterbacks love him."
Kyler Murray probably enjoyed his company more than anyone. Texas A&M fans hope they got an early glimpse of the future, as the 5-star Aggies quarterback commit constantly connected with Kirk for big gains while playing for the same team.
"Kyler is one of my friends, and he's the best quarterback out here I think," Kirk said after a win. "We've taken pretty much every rep together and we have a good relationship."
Unlike other passers, Murray explained he didn't need to state his case for Kirk to come to College Station.
"He's my boy and he knows the deal," Murray said. "I don't think I even need to say anything to Christian about that."
You can see the duo hook up during a nationally televised game in the video below.
Texas A&M is currently the favorite to sign Kirk, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball. The Aggies claim 74 percent of expert predictions, but that won't prevent other passers from attempting to pull off a signing day surprise.
"It would be awesome if UCLA can bring him in," Rosen said. "I think a guy like Christian would complement the group of receivers they already have and become a big weapon in the slot and downfield."
Rosen and Town weren't the only quarterbacks tempting Kirk to take a closer look at Pac-12 programs.
"I've been in Christian's ear a little bit," Arizona State commit Brady White said. "It's coming down to crunch time with recruiting and these decisions aren't easy, so you want to give guys their space, but I've said some things about ASU. Hopefully he liked them."
New Alabama commit Blake Barnett was also anxious to promote his program.
"I've put a few words in his head about Alabama," he said. "He's definitely getting some good stuff from me about the team and how he could fit in."
Kirk presumably heard plenty of similar proposals from quarterbacks at The Opening. Even though he isn't new to the recruiting game, it was refreshing to talk about the process with fellow prospects instead of coaches for a change.
"It's definitely better to get recruited by your peers because they have the same insight as you and understand what you're going through," Kirk said. "They've been able to figure out what's real and what's fake. You know you're not going to get the same old sales pitch from them, just a normal conversation."
The playmaker plans to narrow his focus to five teams in August before the season starts. He'll begin coordinating official visits at that point, and it's a safe bet his new pals will be following the process intently.
"I'll be interested to see what he decides," said Rosen. "Hopefully he ends up in a UCLA uniform."
Why the admiration?
"Because Christian is just a great player," Barnett said. "He seems to catch everything thrown his way, he gets down the field extremely quickly and he can pick up a lot of yards after the catch. It's huge to have a receiver who can consistently do all those things for you."
Kirk isn't quite as big as some of the other top-rated pass targets in this class, but he refuses to allow others to limit his possibilities at the next level.
"I want an offensive coordinator who is open to me playing every wide receiver position on the field," Kirk said. "When a guy tells me, 'We want you here in the slot,' and they don't plan to move me anywhere else, that's not what I'm looking for. I may not be 6'3", but I can be a true top target who stretches the field and creates problems for defenses."
Clearly, the cast of Elite 11 quarterbacks agree. He's on their lists.
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.
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Fall camp has almost arrived for the Miami Hurricanes, which means fans will be eagerly anticipating a newly released depth chart.
Before that eventually happens, however, previewing the 11 projected respective offensive and defensive starters and two specialists serves as a starting point for what to expect in August.
The predictions include a decent number of familiar faces since a majority of the team's playmakers return for the upcoming campaign.
Hopefully, head coach Al Golden will soon release a depth chart, providing the official look at where Miami stands heading into the final weeks of preparation for the 2014 season.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
During its media days earlier this week, the Big 12 Conference unveiled a new slogan that both refuted the need for a football championship game and praised its full round-robin scheduling model.
The concept of "one true champion" comes from the fact that the 10-team Big 12 is able to have each team play all the others with a nine-game league schedule. If only that were possible with the rest of the power conferences, or with all other FBS leagues in general.
Unfortunately, it isn't. With 11, 12 or 14 teams to schedule against one another, and only eight league games (or nine, in the case of the Pac-12) with which to do so, some matchups get left out in the cold. This is particularly troublesome in the SEC, in which, along with having six annual divisional opponents, each team has a "permanent rival" from the other division it'll play every year.
The SEC has already released its opponent pairings through 2025, illustrating how certain teams will go five to seven years between meetings. Longstanding rivalries that have existed since the early days of the conference now get put on long hiatuses because of realignment, writes AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky:
This is the kind of distance the SEC created when it chose to stay with an eight-game conference schedule with one permanent and one rotating opponent from the opposite division despite the league's expansion to 14 schools.
This isn't a problem only in the SEC, though. Every FBS conference (other than the aforementioned Big 12) has pairings that won't happen this year, including several that would make for great games. We've identified 10 of them we wish were on the schedule in 2014.
Texas head football coach Charlie Strong dismissed running back Jalen Overstreet and defensive back Chevoski Collins from the team Thursday due to undisclosed violations of team rules.
Taylor Gaspar of Orangebloods.com first reported the news, noting the pair were two of the four players banned from the Moncrief Complex, the team's athletics facility where the Longhorns are currently beginning preparations for the 2014 season.
Earlier in the day, wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander were arrested and charged with second-degree felony sexual assault following an incident last month, per ESPN. Sanders and Meander could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty and were also dismissed by Strong.
"We've been monitoring and addressing the situation with Kendall and Montrel since it was brought to our attention," Strong said in a statement. "It's been made clear to everyone on our team that treating women with respect is one of our core values, and I'm extremely disappointed that two young men in our program have been accused of not doing that."
Gaspar's report did not indicate why Overstreet or Collins were dismissed. Neither has been in off-the-field trouble on the public record, and the university has not released a statement confirming either player's departure. Student-athlete privacy laws typically prevent universities from divulging too much behind-the-scenes information.
Overstreet, a rising sophomore, rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in limited playing time last season. He received a majority of his playing time in a Week 1 win over New Mexico State, rushing for 92 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. He appeared in nine games overall on special teams and as a backup running back.
The Longhorns return running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, but Overstreet was one injury away from an expanded role. Senior Joe Bergeron will probably see increased snaps as a result of his dismissal.
Collins, a redshirt freshman, was a highly touted prospect coming out of Livingston (Texas) High School. He was considered an athlete by most recruiting services and redshirted last season as he made the full-time move to defensive back. He was expected to be the primary backup behind senior Josh Turner at the free safety spot. Without Collins, Texas might be scrambling for depth in its back line of defense.
The suspensions, however, continue an ongoing cleansing of the Texas program from Strong. A no-nonsense personality, the 53-year-old Arkansas native came over from Louisville promising a return to prominence and a straight-laced mindset from his players.
"They're searching for that. They want discipline," Strong told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest. "They've heard so much about what they haven't done. Now, they want to prove to everyone that they can do it."
Discipline for Strong has typically meant regimenting the lives of his players. Ubben's report notes that dorm rooms are even expected to be clean on a daily basis. But with Strong's iron fist comes difficult decisions.
More information will come to light regarding Collins and Overstreet in the coming days, but it's safe to say Charlie Strong is putting his stamp on the program. For better or for worse.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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In merely a handful of weeks, Michigan's Team 135 takes the field, looking to avenge a 7-6 stumble in 2013.
Naturally, there are expectations—sky high, in some cases—for the group as a whole, but there are also several players who are on the brink of having breakout seasons...or continuing where they left off this past year.
By looking at who did what in 2013 and during the offseason, this slideshow will examine five candidates who are almost certain to impress come fall.
For college football players around the country, fall camp is just days away. A new season represents a fresh start for some and new opportunities for others.
Post-spring depth charts are nice and give the media something to talk about, but the real depth chart is made in August.
For the Clemson Tigers, several young players are eager for their first crack at stardom. While most starting positions are settled for the Tigers, that doesn't mean some players can't shine and make coaches second-guess their decisions.
Some younger players, like sophomore tight end Jordan Leggett and freshman corner Mackensie Alexander, starred in spring practice, therefore creating massive expectations for themselves.
Who's ready to step up and become the talk of fall camp? Here's an early peek at four players who will open the eyes of coaches and fans in August.
TCU's odds for 2016 received a major boost on Thursday evening with 4-star quarterback Brennen Wooten committing to the Horned Frogs. The Marble Falls High School standout tweeted out his decision:
According to 247Sports' composite ranking, Wooten is the 10th-best pro-style QB in the class of 2016 and 150th-ranked recruit overall. He joins fellow 4-star recruit Jonathan Marshall in giving TCU the No. 12 class in the country in 247Sports' early team rankings.
ESPN.com's Max Olson called Wooten a "great get" for the Horned Frogs:
Tyler Donohue of Bleacher Report tweeted out the signal-caller's impressive stats from his sophomore season:
Wooten was one of many talented quarterbacks to take part in the Rivals Camp Series. The event posted a Vine of the Marble Falls, Texas, star in action:
TCU had recently been one of the best non-AQ schools before moving to the Big 12. Although the school is coming off of its first losing season since 2004, it's not hard to see why Wooten would be tempted by what the Horned Frogs have to offer.
According to Danny Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, he believes the program is going in the right direction:
Although Wooten isn't the kind of generational recruit who will single-handedly take TCU to the next level, he has the potential to capably lead the offense down the line and help make the Horned Frogs one of the top teams in the Big 12.
This is the kind of player Gary Patterson needs if he wants to get the program back into a bowl game once again.
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National signing day is always full of surprises, and among them are decommitments. The 2015 class is full of committed recruits who appear locked into their pledges, but several could opt to decommit before signing day arrives.
A 4-star defensive lineman could flip-flop between SEC teams, while a bad season in 2014 could spoil Oklahoma State's plans to sign a 4-star running back in 2015.
Also, a foreign recruit could change his mind.
Georgia continues to add to an already impressive 2015 class with the commitment of wide receiver Michael Chigbu.
The New Orleans native announced his decision on Twitter:
Chigbu is a 4-star prospect and is considered the No. 32 wide receiver in the nation, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. At 6'2", he has good size and the athleticism to go up and get passes at their highest points.
While the Holy Cross star is not known for his blazing speed, he is good in traffic and is elusive enough to create big plays when he is given the opportunity.
It was easy for Chigbu to narrow his decision down to just Georgia and Texas A&M, as he explained to Andrew Lopez of The Times-Picayune:
The most important thing was being able to be able to compete in the SEC. I wanted to be happy with the coaches and being able to live in that state. Both schools are amazing. Both head coaches, the recruiting corners, the players, everything was amazing.
It became easy to understand his final choice once you examine the situation for Georgia. Fletcher Page of the Athens Banner-Herald breaks down that playing time will be available early:
Seniors Chris Conley and Michael Bennett will be gone after the 2014 season and Malcolm Mitchell could turn pro, leaving plenty of space and production to be filled. From a recruit’s perspective, that means early playing time will be up for grabs soon after hitting campus. That’s good incentive for kids like Chigbu, already an imposing target at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, to say yes to Richt and jump on board.
Nothing will be guaranteed on Mark Richt's squad, but Chigbu has the size and advanced technique to get onto the field early in his career. On the other hand, a redshirt season could make him even better in the future.
If he lives up to his potential, he has the ability to be one of the top receivers in the conference.
The Bulldogs still have more holes to fill before completing the class, but this is already shaping up to be quite a formidable roster in the future.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.
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High School football season is rapidly approaching, and the nation's top teams will be eyeing various district, regional and state championships.
While it's a bit daunting to rank the top high school teams in the nation, this list will do exactly that. Some of these dominant squads feature a stud recruit or two, while others are well coached. A combination of talent, returning starters, past performance, coaching and competition quality all served as the main factors in determining this list.
A few programs in California figure to have nationally ranked teams, while a pair of powerful Texas squads are also ranked high. The state of Florida is represented well on this list.All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.com, Rivals and 247Sports.
The last milestone before Pac-12 football teams open preseason camp is in the books. Pac-12 media days wrapped Thursday from Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California, and the countdown to the season officially begins.
The conference’s two-day event was an opportunity for all 12 programs to set the tone for the coming campaign. And, for the few next weeks, the entire Pac-12 is on equal ground at 0-0.
Those who stood out at Pac-12 media days aren't guaranteed wins on the field, but the event's winners certainly started the new campaign on the right foot.
Before diving into another one of his signature long-winded answers, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder delivered a knockout opening line during Big 12 media days.
"My degree of optimism is negotiated daily."
That little gem came when Snyder was asked about his feelings heading into the 2014 season. Media days tend to encourage fluff and promising predictions, but Snyder is a master of downplaying just how good his teams can be.
That, over time, probably lends a hand to K-State's nearly constant undervaluing. The Wildcats were picked sixth in both last year's preseason media poll and in 2012. In '11, K-State was projected to finish eighth.
Snyder's record during those years: 29-10, including back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins and one Big 12 title (2012).
Doubt Snyder at your own risk. The Wildcats have been anything but irrelevant.
The preseason polls are starting to get the picture. K-State, which won six of its last seven games, is projected to finish third by media in this year's Big 12's standings, behind Oklahoma and Baylor. That's the highest K-State has been picked since the Big 12 went to 10 teams in 2011. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports and Matt Brown of Sports on Earth agree that the Wildcats are the Big 12 sleeper.
The team returns a veteran offensive line featuring center B.J. Finney, quarterback Jake Waters, receiver Tyler Lockett, defensive end Ryan Mueller and linebacker Jonathan Truman. As Kellis Robinett of the The Wichita Eagle writes, all were either former walk-ons or unheralded recruits:
Receiver Tyler Lockett was overlooked by the two biggest football programs in his home state, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Quarterback Jake Waters didn’t receive his first Division I scholarship offer until he was a sophomore in junior college. Jonathan Truman and B.J. Finney — like Mueller — both joined the Wildcats as walk-ons. Little was expected out of them as they exited high school. Now, all five of them are receiving national attention.
It's familiar territory. The narrative (for better or worse) about the Wildcats is that they are rarely the most talented team on the field. Snyder is unofficially nicknamed "The Wizard" because he finds overlooked players before getting every last drop of potential out of them. Since Snyder's return in 2009, the Cats have finished at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in recruiting, according to 247Sports rankings.
No lie, Google "How does Bill Snyder..." and the search engine auto-populates "do it?" Even the Internet is curious.
So, how does Snyder do it?
"His attention to details in our personal lives and on the field is amazing," says center B.J. Finney, a former walk-on and first-team All-Big 12 selection by the Associated Press in 2013 and 2012. "He cares so much about his players."
At 74 years old, Snyder hasn't lost his football acumen, and he certainly hasn't lost his ability to connect with his players. He coaches them up, and along the way, draws comparisons between football and life. For many, that's coming sooner rather than later.
"He prepares us to be ready to hang up the pads," Finney said, "because it's going to happen to all of us one day.
"He told our team one time, 'maybe 10 of you will go to the pros.'"
It's easy to see why his players want to make every practice, weightlifting session, game and snap count. The program has a system, and it works for them.
It doesn't always go smoothly. Snyder said repeatedly that his '13 team took things for granted dating all the way back to spring practice. When K-State was upset by North Dakota State 24-21 in Week 1, Snyder delivered the always-embarrassing "I told you so" postgame speech.
K-State lost three more games in five weeks before turning things around. But then the turnaround started. By December, the Wildcats were having what Snyder said was the best bowl preparation he could remember.
"What I learn is about other people," Snyder said. "The significant thing is not that I understand something, it's that our young people do. You can't do something two days in a row—practice hard, go to class—and expect to play lights out on Saturdays. You have to do it over a long period of time."
The lessons are as important, if not more so, than the wins. As long as he's healthy, as long as he's affecting his players positively, Snyder wants to keep coaching.
His laid-back style isn't for everyone. One anonymous Big 12 player told Fox Sports Southwest that Snyder would be the coach he'd least like to play for.
"I'm a high-energy guy," the player said. "I've never met the guy and he doesn't look like he's too high-energy."
Question Snyder's energy levels if you must, few teams were rolling like K-State by the end of last season. If this team keeps that momentum going, perhaps Snyder's degree of optimism will finally change.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.
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Kliff Kingsbury is a handsome man. This much we know.
The Texas Tech coach is among the less paunchy and better-dressed figures in college sports, and what more awkward way to drive that point home than to have the man read detailed tweets about his own good looks?
Thus we have this segment from ESPN's SportsNation, which asked Kingsbury to quote gushy messages about himself written by random Twitter users.
Well, that was fun. And uncomfortable.
I credit Kingsbury for going through with the segment. Getting a college football coach to say something nice about himself is like milking a horse—you can do it, but it's going to get weird.
While we're here, let’s get meta and read some random tweets of people fawning over Kingsbury while he reads fawning tweets.
Also, here's a screenshot of what comes up when you type "Kliff Kingsbury" into Twitter.
One of these things does not belong. Kingsbury is to Charlie Weis as tuna tartare is to KFC Double Down.
The weird explanation for this is that the Big 12 just began airing a commercial where the head coach of each program says his piece and morphs into another coach.
You know what makes for an aggressive shape-shift? Kingsbury to Weis.
With that, we can conclude our semiannual "Kingsbury is an attractive man" report. I hope you consider yourself up to date and informed on all Kingsbury news.
Just remember: We are all lesser mortals than the Red Raider Gosling.
Follow me on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.
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The annual zoo known as Pac-12 media days began on July 23, when a variety of conference coaches took their place in front of a hungry band of reporters determined to pick their minds in preparation for the 2014 college football season.
Among those program leaders was Trojan head coach Steve Sarkisian, and he offered some illumination on what he sees lying ahead for the men of Troy this year.
Remarkably candid, coach "Sark" offered up some interesting tidbits as USC prepares to embark on the final practice sessions in the fall as the August start of the football season looms directly ahead.
This slideshow will look at some of those pearls of Sarkisian wisdom and attempt to decipher what they mean for USC in 2014.
Did the USC head man tip his hand during media days?
Read on to find out.
Note: All quotes obtained from transcripts provided by ASAP Sports Transcripts.
New era, new sponsorship. As we transition into the first season of the College Football Playoff, we must also transition into the first season of the Amway Coaches Poll.
But don't expect a radical difference. Amway has partnered with the Coaches Poll's traditional producers, USA Today and the American Football Coaches Association, and the voting process will remain essentially unchanged. The only difference is that now, unlike during the BCS era, the poll will not play a role in deciding who gets to play for a national title (or in this case, in a national semifinal).
Although the rankings no longer have a stake in the season, they are still important for entertainment (and arguing) purposes. And the preseason edition is especially important, as it signals the impending return of real, live, actual college football to our lives.
So with the first rankings set to be released on July 31, let's take a stab at predicting which teams show up and where.
For those of you prudent enough to read the intro slide, keep in mind that these are not how I would rank the teams myself. It's a projection of how the coaches will rank them based largely, but not entirely, on the apparent general consensus.
Chime in below and let me know where you think the poll will differ.
Junior college players have always been a part of Bo Pelini's recruiting plan. For 2015, it needs to become a crucial part.
Less than a month after arriving in Nebraska, defensive end DeAndre Wills left the program. The Omaha World-Herald reported the decision was primarily determined by two family illnesses. Now that he's gone, the Huskers face an interesting predicament.
The depth at defensive end is now concerning. Randy Gregory and Greg McMullen are the only two players with experience at the position on the roster. But that doesn't mean it's time to panic.
Instead, it's time for Pelini to focus on recruiting JUCO players.
Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald recently took a look at the benefits of doing so. He was clear that Pelini needs to build JUCO players into his bigger plan.
"Nebraska’s done so well scouting that level of football it doesn’t need to be a court of last resort," McKewon said. "It needs to be built into the plan."
McKewon even explained why JUCO players fit so well at Nebraska:
Why do junior college guys fit so snugly into NU’s system? Probably because they’re hungry, and thus self-starters. Examining Pelini’s program over seven years, this much is clear: He and his staff tend to reject coddling. He’s not a micromanager, outside of being a stickler for academics. So junior college players — who have already learned to fend for themselves in the cattle-call system of juco ball, where facilities can be sketchy and the meal plan can be fast food — come in ready to lift, ready to learn the playbook, ready to adjust to college life, arriving with a little extra maturity and humility. Those components matter to NU coaches.
The players that Pelini has recruited out of the JUCO ranks in the past fit that description exceptionally well, too. For instance, DeJon Gomes came to Nebraska from the City College of San Francisco. His two seasons with the Huskers were nothing short of impressive.
Another example of success is Lavonte David. Coming from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, David made a quick impact for the Huskers in just one season.
What David and Gomes show is that Pelini knows how to recruit great players from junior colleges. That skill is going to have to be put to use for the 2015 class.
In addition to defensive end, the wide receiver position looks to be a concern after 2014. In the last few months, the Huskers lost Monte Harrison (recruited in the 2014 class) to Major League Baseball, as well as Damore'ea Stringfellow and Spencer Tears.
When current seniors Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner graduate, the experience level is going to be a concern at wide receiver. That's what makes junior college players necessary.
Even JC Shurburtt, 247Sports' national recruiting director, believes the Huskers will find the needed players in junior college.
"There's always good JUCO wide receivers all over the place," Shurburtt said. "That's a position that's plentiful and I certainly think the Huskers will find their share and replenish their numbers."
Pelini could replenish numbers from high school recruits, but the needs are much more immediate now. With the defensive end and wide receiver positions filled with mostly inexperienced players, junior college recruits could make an impact immediately.
With how Pelini works with junior college players, it only makes sense to put some time and energy there for the 2015 class. It may not be how Pelini envisioned things going at first, but the success of this class now relies on it.
The Huskers are now halfway through the recruiting cycle, which is another reason junior college players will be important. The 2014 season will bring out the best in those players, allowing Pelini to find just what he needs to make up some ground.
Junior college athletes are no longer nice-to-have pieces for Nebraska in 2015. At this point, they're a need-to-have. That's what makes it so crucial for Pelini and the Huskers.
All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.
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