NCAA Football

What Mark Richt Needs to See from QB Hutson Mason in Georgia's Spring Game

Georgia's offense isn't exactly full of holes, but the one left by former quarterback Aaron Murray is gaping.

Luckily for head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, they have a veteran to rely on.

Redshirt senior Hutson Mason will do his best "D.J. Shockley" impression and take the reigns from a legend. Shockley's one and only season as Georgia's starting quarterback in 2005 ended well, as he led the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl.

Can Mason do the same? 

With running back Todd Gurley, a host of wide receivers and a coach in Bobo who he's worked with for the last four years, Mason certainly has the foundation to do so.

But he still has work to do, and needs to show how much he's progressed between the hedges in this Saturday's spring game in Athens.

What does Richt need to see?

 

Accuracy

Mason completed 57.3 percent (43-of-75) of his passes as the starting quarterback in Georgia's final two games of the season, for 619 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. In those games, he struggled to get in the flow at times, which put his team behind the eightball.

The bright side for Richt is that Mason led his team back to a dramatic double overtime win over Georgia Tech to close out the regular season, and led his team downfield in the Gator Bowl on potential go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, before two drops in each drive sent those to screeching halts.

In an offense like Georgia's, which is predicated on establishing the run and a quarterback using play action off that, accuracy is vital. Mason needs to complete around 65 percent of his passes for Georgia to be a true national title contender.

If he can do that, then the offense will be fine. With Gurley and all those weapons around him, all he has to be is a caretaker for Georgia's offense to move the ball. If he can evolve into a difference-maker, that's a bonus.

 

Finding that Go-To Guy

Georgia has plenty of wide receivers for Mason to choose from, and he needs to find at least one that he knows he can rely on in key situations.

For Murray that player was Michael Bennett, and the senior could play the same role for Mason this season. But fellow senior Chris Conley, the speedy Reggie Davis and last year's spring superstar, Jonathon Rumph, are all vying for playing time this spring. 

Bennett and Conley are the favorites. As a junior last season, Bennett caught 41 passes for 538 yards and four touchdowns, while missing two-and-a-half games in the middle of the season with a knee injury. Conley led the Bulldogs last season with 45 catches for 651 yards and four touchdowns.

If Mason can connect with just one of those guys, then he'll be able to hit the ground running during fall camp when Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley both get back to full speed from their ACL injuries.

 

Comfort in the Pocket

Georgia has been mixing and matching some pieces along the offensive line this spring. Hopefully for Richt and Bobo, those pieces have settled in. 

David Andrews is entrenched at center and John Theus and Kolton Houston each have experience at offensive tackle. Those three need to be comfortable in the checks at the line, which are so prominent in Bobo's offense. 

At the guard spots, Watts Dantzler, Mark Beard, Greg Pyke, Brandon Kublanow and Zach DeBell all are vying for playing time, according to the Red & Black. 

Whoever emerges as starters, Mason has to know that he's protected and that everybody is on the same page before the snap. A lot of that is on Andrews making the proper reads. But if Mason loses faith in his offensive line, he's going to struggle.

Richt doesn't need Mason to be a star, he needs Mason to be effective.

If he proves on spring's biggest stage that he's progressed from his limited time last year as the starter, Georgia could be in for a big season in 2014 with Mason at the helm.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com. 

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What State Court Questioning NCAA Penalties in Sandusky Case Means for PSU

With the Commonwealth Court, led by Judge Anne E. Covey, beginning to question the validity of the NCAA's consent decree, Penn State can sit in the background and watch the fight. A battle that Penn State's board of trustees considered waging in 2012 appears ready to take place without the university placed squarely in the cross hairs of controversy.

In August 2012, the board of trustees appeared poised to fire back at the NCAA, an action that would have made Penn State the football-hungry villain. Instead, the board elected to simply take the hand the NCAA dealt and move on with the sanctions.

Now, as The Morning Call reports, the Commonwealth Court might take the steps the board would not. The court voted 6-1 to uphold a law passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2013 that would require the NCAA to spend the money from the fines levied against the Nittany Lions in Pennsylvania, not distribute it to other states.

During that process, Covey looked into the language regarding the consent decree and pointed out that ordinarily the NCAA would not take action in this instance and that "the NCAA involved itself." Her ruling opened the doors for state Sen. Jake Corman to continue pushing against college athletics' governing body. As Corman told the Centre Daily Times:

"I’ve always been uncomfortable with the way the NCAA handed this consent decree on Penn State and the process they went through to do it," Corman said. "Now that (the court) brought Penn State into the case and that they’re not sure that the whole consent decree is valid or constitutional, that’s an area that wasn’t part of our original lawsuit but clearly an area we want to explore now that the court has opened the possibility to do so."

Obviously, the NCAA is on the opposite side, pushing against the ruling that is not only forcing them to keep the fines obtained from Penn State in Pennsylvania. Now, with Covey's decision, the NCAA finds itself facing another legal battle that arose out of nowhere. It is fighting to prove that the organization was within its power to levy sanctions upon the Nittany Lions program.

Meanwhile, Penn State—and all those associated with the university and the program—sits on the sidelines and watches Corman ready himself for battle against the NCAA. The Nittany Lions can hunker down, working to demonstrate compliance to the NCAA to regain lost benefits. All while hoping Corman's lawsuit strikes down the sanctions.

The most recent questioning of the consent decree does not change Penn State's footing; it simply means someone may be fighting for the university without those closer to the program being involved.

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Ex-Georgia DB Josh Harvey-Clemons Will Reportedly Transfer to Louisville

Louisville rehired a coach, Bobby Petrino, with character concerns this offseason, and that coach appears to have landed a talented safety with similar misgivings.

According to Mike Hughes of InsideTheVille.com (subscription required), the grandfather of former Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said his grandson plans on transferring to play for the Cardinals after being dismissed from UGA this offseason.

Harvey-Clemons was a 5-star recruit and the No. 20 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings in 2012, and he showed flashes of reaching that potential during his time in Athens. Recruited as an outside linebacker, he stands 6'5" (which is huge for a safety) and plays a Kam Chancellor-type role inside the box.

His occasional struggles in coverage, however, are well-documented and reared their ugly head on the Hail Mary against Auburn in 2013:

Harvey-Clemons got into all sorts of off-field trouble at Georgia, mostly for drug-related incidents. He was suspended for the 2014 Gator Bowl and first three games of next season (before being dismissed) by head coach Mark Richt for a "violation of team regulations," per Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If the reports are true, Harvey-Clemons will now reunite with former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who left Georgia to join Petrino at Louisville this offseason. The Cardinals had two of the best safeties in the country—Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith—a season ago but are stripped of similar talent on the current roster.

If he's (finally) able to figure out the best way to use Harvey-Clemons, Grantham will get a major and much-needed upgrade on the back end of his defense.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, however, Harvey-Clemons will have to sit out this season before gaining eligibility in 2015.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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2017 ATH Recruit Darnay Holmes Has NFL Genes, Talks Ohio State Visit

Ohio State welcomed intriguing Class of 2017 prospect Darnay Holmes to campus Wednesday. The Newbury Park High School (Calif.) freshman toured facilities with 7-on-7 teammate Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson Sr., forming a high-profile trio of visitors.

Holmes, a 5'11", 180-pound speedster, also comes from a family filled with football pedigree. His father, Darick Holmes, spent five seasons in the NFL as a running back with Buffalo, Green Bay and Indianapolis.

Older brother Darick Holmes Jr., a 2015 running back recruit, committed to Arizona last month. His cousin Desean Holmes is a 4-star 2015 wide receiver with offers from USC, Cal, Oklahoma and UCLA.

The trip to Columbus was the latest development in Holmes' burgeoning collegiate recruitment, as he continues to carve out a name for himself. He doesn't yet hold an offer from Ohio State but admits the program ranks highly in his eyes for several reasons.

"It has a great tradition, good academics and will always be in the national championship hunt," Holmes said.

Though an offer from head coach Urban Meyer didn't come during his visit, Holmes managed to add another collegiate option Wednesday night.

He and Johnson Jr. each received offers from Louisville. His scholarship list also includes Arizona, UCLA, Tennessee and Utah.

Holmes visits Clemson on Thursday with the Johnsons, presenting another opportunity to expand his horizons as a young prospect.

He departed Columbus with a strong indication of how Meyer conducts things at Ohio State.

"He's a great coach," Holmes said. "He tells players how he feels, doesn't sugar coat it. Very hyped practice."

Expect his recruitment to expand moving forward, with physical maturity and family genes playing pivotal factors in heavy college interest. His athleticism sets the stage for progression at a variety of positions, particularly defensive back and receiver.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to B/R's Adam Donaldson for his contributions to this story.

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Keyshawn Johnson Jr. Opens Up on Ohio State Visit: 'It's a Good Fit for Me'

Keyshawn Johnson Jr. is just a freshman, but a flurry of early scholarship offers have quickly accelerated his recruiting process. The Southern California wide receiver spent Wednesday at Ohio State with his father, former NFL Pro Bowler Keyshawn Johnson Sr.

They watched Buckeyes coaches and players go about their business on the practice field and in meetings. It gave Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer an opportunity to showcase his program for the suddenly coveted Mission Viejo High School standout.

"I loved the atmosphere," Johnson Jr. told Bleacher Report. "It's a good fit for me."

His father also approved.

"Urban Meyer is a guy you can trust with your kid," he said.

Johnson Sr., who finished his professional career with 814 receptions for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns, played for Super Bowl champions Bill Parcells and Jon Gruden during an 11-year stay in the NFL. His admiration for Meyer was apparent after the visit to Columbus.

"Urban Meyer is a kind of guy I could play for," he said. "If you can't play for Urban Meyer, Ohio State isn't for you."

Johnson Jr. didn't play varsity football last season for the Diablos, though he turned heads at the freshman level and also participates in the 7-on-7 circuit. He was accompanied Wednesday by Darnay Holmes, a fellow California prospect on Team 19, which features Johnson Sr. as a coach.

Offers have poured in for Johnson Jr. in recent weeks. Ohio State, Florida State, SMU, Utah, Arizona State, Tennessee, Miami, West Virginia and UCLA each extended scholarships since March 20, making him one of the hottest Class of 2017 targets.

The 6'1", 180-pound playmaker added Louisville to that list Wednesday night, when both he and Holmes received offers from the Cardinals. As his collegiate opportunities continue to mount, Johnson Jr. views Ohio State as a strong option.

He was particularly impressed by the way Meyer orchestrates practice.

"He's very straightforward. Tells you if you're good, tells you if you're bad," he said. "What impressed me the most was how hard they worked, how hyped they were. Not a lot of other schools like that, that I have visited."

Johnson Jr., who recently spent time at Arizona and Arizona State, is slated to visit Clemson Thursday. An offer from the Tigers could be in the cards.

There's a long road ahead for the receiver in his recruitment. Multiple seasons with Mission Viejo's varsity football squad separate Johnson Jr. from signing day 2017 and a college career.

His father starred during two seasons at USC before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 1996 NFL draft. Johnson Sr. is now an established television analyst on ESPN.

The father-son duo are sure to spend substantial time on campuses across the country in coming years. Their Ohio State visit provided an early highlight.

"I was impressed with Ohio State's coaching staff, Urban Meyer, and Buckeye Nation," Johnson Sr. said.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to B/R's Adam Donaldson for his contributions to story.

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Complete Previews for Week Two of College Football Spring Games

Welcome to the heart of the spring football season.

This weekend features by far the most spring games of any on the calendar with 54, including 30 of the 64 teams from power conferences (31 of 65 if you count Notre Dame) and 20 of the 39 teams that finished last season with nine or more wins.

To further illustrate the point, take a look at this: Last weekend, we previewed the 12 best games on the schedule and ended up including SMU and Bowling Green. This weekend, we're previewing the 20 best games but ended up omitting West Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, N.C. State and Central Florida, among many, many other quality programs.

The weekend is really that stacked.

Among those playing are the last two national title game participants from outside the state of Alabama, the reigning Sugar Bowl champion, the prohibitive Big Ten favorite and perhaps the best head coach who switched programs this offseason.

It's weird to say this in April, and it's admittedly wishful thinking, but we might be in store for an awesome weekend of football.

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Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones Wise to Narrow QB Race in Spring

Tennessee will hold its spring game on Saturday, and apparently the quarterback race is narrowing leading into the event.

Head coach Butch Jonestold B/R last week that he hoped to narrow the quarterback competition among senior Justin Worley, sophomore Joshua Dobbs, sophomore Nathan Peterman and redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson to two before the end of spring practice.

Now, apparently, we know those two.

Butch Jones told reporters (via: Tennessee's Twitter account) on Thursday that Worley and Ferguson have been receiving more reps than Dobbs and Peterman, and that the reps will continue to be divided that way.

JONES (on QBs):We are balancing repetitions. Justin & Riley have taken more reps and they will continue to. Nate & Josh continue to progress

— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) April 10, 2014

It's a great move for Tennessee, because Jones couldn't afford to follow the same path as he did last season when the four-man battle lasted all the way to the final week of fall camp. Worley received more first-team snaps than the others as fall camp went on, but it was still a four-man battle that lasted far too long. That battle took snaps away from Worley, and he clearly was unsure of himself when the season started.

By narrowing it down now, it makes it more likely that both Worley and Ferguson will be as prepared as possible for that opener on Sunday, Aug. 31 versus Utah State.

Who's got the edge?

Jones was very complimentary of both in our conversation last week.

"Justin Worley has really improved greatly, from leadership to his ability to make all of the throws, particularly the deep balls," he said. "It's been great to get Riley Ferguson getting a volume of repetition. You know, Riley has an innate ability to create plays. I've been very encouraged."

Worley completed 55.6 percent of his passes last season (109-for-196), for 1,239 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions; but he was lost for the season in late October when he suffered a thumb injury versus Alabama.

Jones' comments last week suggest that he's comfortable with what Worley brings to the table, but thinks that Ferguson has more upside. 

For Ferguson, a former 3-star prospect from Matthews, N.C., getting a higher proportion of reps is huge for his development. If he can develop the consistency that Jones is looking for, he'll likely win the job. 

Can he do it?

That remains to be seen.

But now he has the chance, and it's more than the "one-in-a-million" chance Lloyd Christmas had in Dumb and Dumber.

 

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

 


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Will the Ohio State Buckeyes Land 5-Stars Christian Kirk and Torrance Gibson?

Ohio State landed one of the top 2014 recruiting classes and are already rolling on the 2015 class. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are heavily recruiting the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson and the No. 3 wide receiver Christian Krik

Both Gibson and Kirk have amazing playmaking abilities and are just the kind of athletes that Meyer favors. Gibson has the potential to take over the starting QB role for Braxton Miller in 2015, while Kirk would have an immediate impact on any offense. 

Check out Bill Kurelic from Bucknuts.com break down the latest on Urban Meyer's recruitment of 5-stars Torrance Gibson and Christian Kirk. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital.

Player rankings from 247 Sports Composite

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Ole Miss Insider: OT Laremy Tunsil Most Physically Gifted in Rebel History

The Ole Miss Rebels are gearing up for what should be a very productive fall. Laden with talent all over the field, head coach Hugh Freeze is building a powerhouse down in Oxford, Miss.

Bleacher Report spoke with Ole Miss Spirit's Ben Garrett, who broke down which Rebel early enrollee has been must impressive this spring, the running back situation heading into the fall, and just how good sophomore OT Laremy Tunsil truly is.

What did he have to say about QB Bo Wallace?

Watch the video, and get all your Ole Miss insight heading into next season.

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

 

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Missouri's Recruiting Roll Proves It Can Stay in the SEC East Discussion

If Missouri's magical run to the SEC East title wasn't enough, it's now recruiting like an SEC big boy too.

The Tigers have been on a recruiting roll in April, securing commitments of three 4-star prospects in the class of 2015.

The most recent prospect to commit to the Tigers is Drew Lock, a 6'5", 195-pound pro-style quarterback from Lee's Summit, Mo. Rated as the fifth-best prospect in the class, Lock has a big arm, is accurate downfield and can make throws on the run. He completed 199 of 331 passes for 3,062 yards, 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior for Lee's Summit Senior High School, and chose the Tigers over Tennessee and Ole Miss.

Staying close to home was important for Lock.

"My parents and grandparents would obviously cheer for me, but I do not think they would cheer for the school as well," he told 247Sports.com's Kipp Adams. "Going to Missouri, they would be cheering for me, but at the same time they would already want Missouri to win so bad.”

He's the icing on the April recruiting cake so far for Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel.

On Tuesday, Missouri got the commitment of a weapon for Lock to use in the future—4-star running back Natereace Strong. At 6'1", 210 pounds, Strong has the size to take the pounding between the tackles but is dangerous enough to be a weapon in space in that Missouri offense. The East St. Louis, Ill., native is rated as the nation's No. 14 running back and chose the Tigers over Florida State, Michigan State, Ohio State and others.

Earlier this month, Pinkel got the commitment of 6'4", 297-pound guard AJ Harris of Stilwell, Kan. Harris, the nation's 19th-ranked guard, had offers from Arkansas, Ohio State, Nebraska and others. 

This recent roll is a great sign for Missouri. Three likely contributors have committed to the program from three separate states, all in Missouri's region.

What does it mean? It means Missouri's success is resonating a bit.

The Tigers' run to the SEC Championship Game seemingly came out of nowhere, and they didn't have time to feel the recruiting effect from that in the recently completed cycle. The class of 2015, however, is a different story.

Those kids now know Missouri not as the "other expansion team" in the SEC; they know it as a champion. That's a big draw and could push Missouri over the top for kids within the region, especially if they want to move on to the NFL.

The SEC more than doubled its closest competitor in players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft, according to CBSSports.com's Chip Patterson. In that draft, either division would have led FBS conferences in players drafted. 

Is Missouri where it needs to be from a recruiting standpoint?

No. 

They're currently ninth in the SEC and 23rd in the country in the updated 247Sports team recruiting rankings. But it has a division title in its trophy case, a new identity in the nation's toughest football conference and momentum in the living room. 

That will go a long way towards keeping the program competitive in the SEC East.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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