NCAA Football

Virginia Tech Football Recruiting: 5 Commits and Targets to Watch at the Opening

Summer prospect camps are always good places to get an early glimpse at top recruits, and the 2015 Virginia Tech football recruiting class will have its fair share of both commits and targets at The Opening in early July.

The camp, which will be held at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon, features 162 prospects from across the country, and a few could very well end up in Hokie uniforms in just a year’s time.

Tech is still in the early stages of assembling its 2015 class, so the event will be an excellent chance for the coaching staff to get a glimpse at several of its targets all in the same place.

Read on to find out more about the commits and targets the Hokies will have their eye on at The Opening.

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Tennessee Football: What Butch Jones Must Accomplish in 2014

Second-year Tennessee head coach Butch Jones already has a top-five Rivals recruiting class and a signature win under his belt, but his work is cut out for him during the 2014 season to maintain the program's momentum.

Since his arrival on Rocky Top in early December 2012, he has hit all the right buttons. Recruiting is reaching a level not seen since the early 2000s, the fanbase is beginning to unite, and there's a general sense that Tennessee is on its way back.

However, any SEC fan knows that success in this league is fickle and can disappear in an instant. Look no further than Florida's Will Muschamp, who appeared to be the heir apparent to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer after leading the Gators to an 11-2 record in 2012. But one dismal 4-8 season later, Muschamp is squarely on the hot seat.

Jones may have a longer leash than Muschamp, but there are a few things he must accomplish in 2014 to remove any doubt about his job security and status as the man to bring Tennessee back to the top of the SEC. 

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Clemson Football: 5 Tigers Facing the Most Pressure in 2014

The Clemson Tigers entered the 2013 season with sky-high expectations, and with those expectations came an enormous amount of pressure to perform well.

This season has a different feel to it; some folks around college football don’t expect the same from Clemson this year because of what they lost from last year’s roster.

Even though expectations aren’t as high, these five players will feel the pressure in 2014.

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FSU Ballboy 'Red Lightning' Gets Lit Up at Camp, Jumps Right Back Up

Florida State's ball boy Red Lightning, a.k.a. Frank Grizzle-Malgrat, is easily the most famous ball boy in college football. But with fame comes constant attention, even at your worst. 

At the school's training camp, Red Lightning collided with a player. Both players take a spill but Red Lightning jumps right back up like a champ.

[Instagram, h/t CollegeSpun]

Update from 6:32pm ET

Next Impulse Sports gives this huge collision the Jim Ross treatment.


[YouTube, h/t Next Impulse Sports]


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4-Star QB Brady White Dishes on Rivalry with Blake Barnett, Other QB Recruits

Brady White once played football with his hand in the dirt, spending an entire season dishing out blocks. There's no record of how many pancakes he served up while manning the offensive front, but it was his first home on the football field.

"The coaches put me on the line, and I did what I was told," White said.

His career as an offensive lineman came to a screeching halt at the age of 6 when he transitioned to quarterback. Unfortunately for a long list of Southern California defenders, White has remained at the position for more than a decade.

"Quarterback is exactly where I wanted to be from the beginning," he said. "I wanted to be the guy who leads the offense and has a big impact on the game. I was blessed with the ability to sling the ball at a young age, and I've worked to get better year after year. I take pride in that."

White, a 17-year-old rising senior at Hart High School in Los Angeles County, is among the most coveted quarterback recruits in the country. He's also one of several standout passers in his home state, setting the stage for budding rivalries now and in the future.

California features the top four prospects in 247Sports' pro-style quarterback rankings. It's also home to three of the nation's top seven dual-threat talents.

"People will probably measure us up against each other for a long time," White said.

They already are.

White is rated third nationally among pro-style passers, behind only Josh Rosen (Bellflower, California) and Ricky Town (Ventura, California), respectively. The 4-star prospect is a consensus top 100 overall player in the 2015 recruiting class.

"I've always had confidence in my abilities and thought I could become a national recruit," White said. "I just didn't realize I'd be rated so high."

He earned attention after taking over the Indians' starting job as a sophomore.

White led Hart to the quarterfinals of the Southern California sectional playoffs, completing 67 percent of his pass attempts for 2,575 yards and 23 touchdowns. Thrust into a pivotal position for a playoff contender, he quickly learned what it would take to be a successful leader.

"I've always felt like I've been ahead of the curve mentally, but the 2012 season really kicked me into gear," White recalled. "I realized you've got to bust your butt every week, every day."

The journey toward stardom started long before White took his first snap as a varsity athlete.

He began training with renowned quarterback guru Steve Clarkson in middle school. The former Woodrow Wilson High School (Los Angeles) and San Jose State star has tutored a long list of successful collegiate passers, including Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Gino Torretta.

Clarkson shared an assessment of White's skill set on his website.

One look at Brady White and there is no doubt that he reminds you of what the great quarterbacks of the past were made of. Brady brings a perfect hybrid of old school flare with modern day play making ability. Brady was born to impress...with a release like Joe Namath, and pocket presence like Aaron Rodgers, you will be hearing his name for years to come.

College recruiters began hearing his name during the breakout sophomore campaign. He received his first piece of mail from Oregon State and reacted how most 15-year-old kids would.

"I was pumped, took a picture of it and shared it online with all my buddies," White said. "Knowing what I know now, I look back and realize it wasn't a huge deal. At the time I was like a kid in a candy shop."

Letters from schools quickly became commonplace as interest mounted. He began to see the writing on the wall—playing quarterback at the next level was a legitimate possibility.

"Colleges started coming by to see me," White said. "Hand-written letters from coaches also began arriving and those are the most meaningful pieces of mail."

Despite the growing sense of a looming scholarship offer, he arrived at summer break 2013 empty-handed. Meanwhile, California quarterback contemporaries Town and Rosen were already racking up offers.

"Things moved a little slower than I expected," White admitted.

So he set out to change the course of his recruitment by doing what White describes as "all the self-promotion stuff." He attended camps and went on an expansive tour of college campuses.

His first offer finally arrived that summer. San Jose State pulled the trigger during a passing tournament.

"I was ecstatic," White said. "I thought, 'Ok, there's the first one. Now the ball is going to start rolling.' But I didn't think there was going to be a ton more."

Several schools followed suit during the course of his junior season. From the start of his second campaign as a starting quarterback, it was apparent White belonged among America's best recruits.

He outdueled fellow 4-star prospect Blake Barnett in the 2013 opener against Santiago High School. White was 35-of-46 for 471 yards and three touchdowns while adding two more scores on the ground in a 56-49 victory.

Barnett, who spent seven months committed to Notre Dame before backing out of the verbal pact in June, also impressed with six touchdowns. The two square off again Sept. 26 in a rematch that should attract plenty of attention.

"Reporters are definitely going to make a big deal about the matchup and compare everything we do," White said. "They'll try to make it out to be me versus Blake. I can't worry about that stuff. At the end of the day, you judge a quarterback by the win column."

White torched opponents for at least 300 yards passing in half of the team's 12 games last fall. He finished the year with 4,535 passing yards and 50 total touchdowns. Offers began to arrive in bunches.

By mid-spring, teams from across the country were clamoring for his commitment. Tennessee, Oregon, Kentucky, Penn State, Illinois and Louisville were just a few of the programs that threw their hat into the ring.

Just as things were really heating up, White decided it was time to focus on finding the right fit.

Following an early April visit to Arizona State, he moved the Sun Devils to the top of his short list of favorites. Fellow Pac-12 members Cal and Oregon were also in the mix, along with Penn State.

UCLA and USC—nearby squads searching for a quarterback in the 2015 class—never truly entered the equation.

"UCLA pretty much disrespected me," White said. "They offered a lot of quarterbacks in the class and didn't pay much attention to me so that wasn't a place I really looked at."

The Bruins landed Rosen in late March.

White established a rapport with Steve Sarkisian and his staff at Washington, so when USC hired the head coach he thought the Trojans could come calling.

"It would have been awesome to have USC offer when the new coaching staff came in, but they weren't showing me much love," he said.

Sarkisian secured a commitment from Town in January, flipping the 5-star quarterback from his original pledge to Alabama.

By the time May rolled around, White decided he'd done enough research to make his decision. After another visit to Arizona State, the Sun Devils were the clear choice, and he went public on May 2.

"When I reviewed everything, ASU stood out in all aspects," White said. "The coaching staff is doing amazing things, I love the city of Tempe and I'm going to get a quality education. I can see myself enjoying school and life there even if things don't pan out with football."

There's also the matter of him leading the Sun Devils against a pair of his hometown teams. It's a safe bet White will be circling dates with UCLA and USC on his calendar.

"There's no doubt they will be meaningful games," he said. "I want to put up stats and points on them but it's not to make them jealous. It's all about getting a win for the Sun Devils."

White understands comparisons with Rosen and Town won't end in high school. He expects the hype will be in full force whenever they meet in college.

"When we play each other, the media will make it out to be a quarterback battle and try to build up a rivalry part of it," White said. "But Rosen and Town will be playing the Sun Devils defense, I'll be facing the Bruins and Trojans defense. Sure, there's going to be talk about a rivalry but my only concern is trying to get our team a win."

He hopes to get a head start toward those victories by leaning toward early enrollment. Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly has started 27 games and departs after his senior season, opening the door for a group inexperienced passers to replace him.

"It's crucial for me to enroll early if I want to potentially be the starter," White said. "The competition is going to be fun. We're each going to get after it. I'm going in there swinging, and hopefully I'll earn the respect of my teammates. Starting as a freshman would be a dream come true."

Continued physical maturation will build a stronger case for his ability to weather the storm as a starting quarterback in Tempe. White, who was 6'1", 170 pounds at the end of his sophomore season, is now 6'2" and approaching 190 pounds.

Less than a year after he was waiting for the recruitment to really get rolling, White has reached a different phase of the process. He is fully committed to Arizona State, though other programs haven't completely called off their pursuit.

"It's cooled down, but schools still stop by and reach out to make sure I know they're still interested," White said. "They tell me to keep in touch. But I'm a Sun Devil now and couldn't be happier about that."

 

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

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

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4-Star QB Brady White Dishes on Rivalry with Blake Barnett, Other QB Recruits

Brady White once played football with his hand in the dirt, spending an entire season dishing out blocks. There's no record of how many pancakes he served up while manning the offensive front, but it was his first home on the football field...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Texas Football: Longhorns with the Most to Prove in 2014

Over the past four seasons, the Texas Longhorns have struggled to put together a consistent game plan, resulting in a 30-21 overall record since 2010 and ultimately causing former head coach Mack Brown's resignation.

Texas has historically put together some of the top recruiting classes in college football. But in recent years, many of the top-rated recruits have not played to their potential once they arrived in Austin. First-year head coach Charlie Strong will look to change that trend.

The Longhorns have a lot to prove, as do the new coaches. But some of the players have much more to prove than others.

Nevertheless, a new coaching staff means a clean slate for Texas, and it couldn't come at a better time for many of the players.

Here's a look at five Longhorns with the most to prove in 2014.

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Notre Dame Football: Vegas Odds Suggest Low Expectations for 2014 Irish

There are various signs that college football is right around the corner during the summer. One of those came Friday, when the Golden Nugget sportsbook in Las Vegas released its opening lines for its college football "games of the year."

With Notre Dame playing a rigorous schedule and always being a popular play for bettors, lines for 11 Fighting Irish games were released Friday.

Because Notre Dame always draws heavy action, lines for Irish games often tend to be inflated a bit in order for a sportsbook to draw an equal amount of money on each side of the line. 

Analyzing the lines, they actually come in much less favorable to Notre Dame than I had imagined. Notre Dame is listed as an underdog in four games (Stanford, at Florida State, at Arizona State, at USC) and is favored by a field goal or less at home against Michigan and North Carolina. With a three-point advantage generally given to the home team, Las Vegas is saying the Irish are on par with the Wolverines and Tar Heels.

I expected the Florida State line to be closer to 14 than 24, and USC and Arizona State to only be field-goal favorites rather than 10 and four-and-a-half respectively. Stanford being listed as a six-point favorite in South Bend means Las Vegas thinks the Cardinal would be nine to 10 points better than the Irish on a neutral field. That's surprising.

The Purdue, Northwestern and Louisville lines were all close to what I anticipated. The Irish being a mere three-point favorite against Navy shows the respect that the Midshipmen have garnered among oddsmakers, and five-and-a-half for Syracuse was four to five points fewer than my expectations.

No line was listed for the season opener against Rice.

Notre Dame was 5-8 against the spread last season and is 24-25-3 in the four-year Brian Kelly era. 

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14 Redshirt Freshmen Who Will Be Impact Defensive Players in 2014

Jameis Winston carried the banner for redshirt freshmen nationwide last season, but his success masked some of the deficiencies on the other side of the ball.

Only two of the 11 players named to the FWAA Freshman All-America Team were redshirts in 2013, and neither of those players—UCF cornerback Jacoby Glenn and Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez—came from the front seven. They both play in the secondary.

The previous two years sent six and five redshirt freshmen to the first-team defense, respectively, so there's reason to suspect that 2013 was a fluke. There should be more of a contribution this season.

This list sought a combination of talent and opportunity. It is not merely a rundown of the top-ranked recruits who didn't play last year; it's a rundown of the most talented players who didn't play last year and should play a lot in 2014. Only one of those two did not cut it.

Sound off below, and let me know whom I missed.

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4-Star QB Travis Waller Talks Alabama, Lane Kiffin and His Surprise Finalist

The recruitment of 4-star dual-threat quarterback Travis Waller got a little more interesting this week when he announced his list of top four colleges:

Waller listed July 1 as the day he will verbally commit to Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame or Northwestern, which means there is a very narrow window of opportunity for one of these programs to get the advantage over the others. 

Right now, all four are in a dead heat in Waller's mind. The Servite High (Anaheim, California) quarterback spent Wednesday in Crimson Tide country on an official visit. 

"No edge right now, all four are even," Waller said. "Once I visit, that will change. It could be Bama after this visit."

Alabama's existing reputation intrigues Waller and is one of the reasons the Tide made the cut.

"They're the powerhouse team. I know it’s a pro style, but a mobile quarterback in that offense; that's dangerous for defense," Waller said of how he could potentially fit into Alabama's scheme.

While in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday, Waller spent time with college football's most notorious coach, Lane Kiffin. Though his reputation may proceed him, Kiffin's reputation isn't impacting Waller. 

"I've talked to Lane Kiffin. I'm trying to build a good relationship with him," he said.

Kiffin is highly regarded for his recruiting abilities, and establishing a bond with Waller could be exactly what Bama needs to convince the California boy to come down South.

But Northwestern and Notre Dame will be trying to pull him North. Ohio State has yet to extend an offer to Waller, but he expects one in the coming days.

Each school represents a unique opportunity for Waller to excel at the college level.

At Ohio State, Braxton Miller is gone, so he could compete for the starting job. At Notre Dame, once Everett Golson leaves, the starting quarterback job would be wide open. But perhaps no school provides Waller with a better opportunity to carve his own destiny than Northwestern.

Yes, that's right: Northwestern.

While the Wildcats don't tout BCS titles or Heisman trophies, they do offer opportunities he wouldn't necessarily be guaranteed with the bigger, more storied programs.

"A degree from Northwestern would be huge for me," Waller said, first speaking about the academic prestige of the university. "I plan to major in business and marketing, and they have a good program for that. I could start early and play all four years there."

Graduating with a degree is very important to Waller, and it doesn't get much better than one from Northwestern. 

"I need a plan B no matter what happens football-wise, so Northwestern is the place to be for that."

While Northwestern's lack of football pedigree would be a deterrent to some, Waller sees things differently.

"One thing my head coach told me: Do you want to start your own legacy or continue someone else's? I would have the chance to start my own legacy there," Waller said, and that is a possibility that sounds very good to him.

Notre Dame also has the academic prowess to sell Waller on the Fighting Irish experience, but its quarterback situation is a bit more precarious.

If Waller were to join that mix, it would be much tougher to earn playing time, as Zaire has three years of eligibility left, and Kizer has all four.

But that doesn't seem to faze Waller.

"It's not necessarily a concern," he said. "Once Golson leaves, I have chance to compete for the spot, so that’s really good."

The high school senior doesn't have to worry about any of that right now. In the next few weeks, all he will be focusing on is taking his visits and deciding which school truly is the best fit for him.

"The visits will definitely be a huge determining factor," he said. "I need to see if I can see myself there on campus. All these schools are back east, so I need to be comfortable there and I need to feel like I want be there for the next four years."

Once he makes a decision in July, Waller says he plans to visit that school again at some point during the summer. But shortly after he announces his commitment, he ships out to Nike's The Opening camp, July 6-11.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise stated. 

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Insider Buzz: The 5 Players Atop FSU's 2015 Recruiting Big Board

The Florida State Seminoles are trying to put together a stellar recruiting class in 2015, and five names are currently at the top of their list.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe checked in with Michael Langston of Warchant.com to discuss the names atop the Seminoles' big board and which recruits will most likely end up at FSU.

Watch the video and learn the latest on Florida State's recruiting.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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Florida State Football: What We Learned from Jimbo Fisher's June Camp

With each passing year, more and more high school football prospects make the trip to Tallahassee, Florida, for Jimbo Fisher's summer football camp.

There's certainly a direct correlation between winning a national title in January and the increase in enrollment, as about 500 players spent time on the Florida State campus this week.

"I thought it went really well," Fisher said on Friday afternoon. "I thought our assistant coaches, I thought our players did a good job of running it and teaching. Whether you're a prospect or not, we teach everybody the same, want to make them better. Coach them just like our players—coach them hard, put them through the same drills.

"The camp has grown each year. It's gotten bigger and bigger."

FSU's success over the past four seasons under Fisher is one reason. The Seminoles are 45-10 since he took over before the 2010 season after Bobby Bowden was forced into retirement.

Fisher has found success by surrounding himself with good assistant coaches. Together, they have put together Scout.com's No. 8 signing class in 2010 along with 247Sports.com's No. 1 class in 2011, No. 3 class in 2012 and No. 12 class in 2013. FSU's 2014 class was ranked No. 4 by 247Sports.

That's three of the last four classes in the top five. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, and FSU's roster is deep.

Fisher and his staff welcomed a large number of 4- and 5-star prospects to campus from Wednesday through Friday, so let's take a look back at some things that we learned as FSU continues to build its 2015 class.

According to 247Sports, FSU currently has 12 verbal commitments.

 

Current FSU Players Embraced New Rule as Coaches

For the first time, the NCAA has allowed college football players to serve as coaches—and earn money—as they pass on what they've learned to high school players.

FSU players like wide receiver Rashad Greene, defensive backs P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby and Lamarcus Brutus, and offensive lineman Austin Barron were among those on the practice fields giving encouragement.

A few recent graduates, like defensive end Dan Hicks and offensive lineman Daniel Glauser, were there too.

It's one thing to learn from wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey. It's another to learn from Greene, who had 1,128 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last season.

"It's definitely been fun," Greene said. "Just to pass on your knowledge to younger kids and kids that actually want to be in the same position as you. That makes it more personal for them."

Just rubbing shoulders with current players helps coaches sell their program to recruits.

 

Phillips Weighing FSU and Miami

Da'Vante Phillips, a 4-star receiver from Miami Central (Florida), was one of the top uncommitted prospects at FSU's camp.

According to the Orlando Sentinel's Chris Hays, Phillips had been a verbal commitment to Florida. But with wide receivers coach Joker Phillips' resignation, Da'Vante Phillips (no relation) is apparently having second thoughts.

Phillips suggested he has no favorites, but FSU and Miami have shown the most interest. 

"I like Florida State. This is the one school I've been to the most. I've been here more than any school out there," Phillips said. "It really feels sorta like home up here. They show me the love."

He then said the following regarding Miami: 

If you're growing up rough, with struggles and everything, you don't want to stay in Miami. You want to get away from Miami, move your family from Miami, just to be in a better place. I like Miami, but that's just some of it. 

There's a lot of problems in Miami and I just don't want to be in those problems.

 

Another QB in the Mix

Fisher spent about 10-15 minutes working with quarterback Kai Locksley, a 4-star prospect from Gilman High School (Baltimore). Locksley displayed a strong arm and a willingness to learn from Fisher as well as quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders.

FSU already has a verbal commitment from 3-star quarterback De'Andre Johnson, but 247Sports analysts Chris Nee and Josh Newberg have both made Crystal Ball predictions (subscription required) that Locksley will join Johnson in Tallahassee as part of the 2015 class.

Fisher has signed two quarterbacks in the same class before, as Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire were both part of FSU's 2012 class.

 

Barnett Enjoys Visit to FSU

Michael Barnett, a 4-star defensive end from Woodland High School (South Carolina), visited with FSU this week. He told 247Sports' Ryan Bartow (subscription required) that he spent a lot of time talking and working out with FSU defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri.

"I think this is the nicest I've been treated on any of my visits," Barnett said. "They showed that they really want me. They also showed me that when you’re here you have to work your butt off to achieve that common goal."

Barnett said that he's debating between FSU and North Carolina State.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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Alabama Football: Realistic Expectations for the Quarterback Position in 2014

When Nick Saban was in his first year at the University of Alabama in 2007, some of the quarterbacks making starts for other Southeastern Conference teams were Auburn’s Brandon Cox, Kentucky’s Andre’ Woodson and Tennessee’s Erik Ainge.

As the league’s success stories ranged from Tim Tebow at Florida to Ryan Perrilloux at LSU, the Crimson Tide quietly began an impressive string of having just one quarterback start every game of the season, which is still ongoing.

Since John Parker Wilson, a second-year starter, took that first snap to help open the Saban era (a 47-yard touchdown run by Terry Grant against Western Carolina), Alabama has had only two other quarterbacks start a game, Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron.

That alone is a remarkable statistic, especially considering that both Florida and Tennessee had three in 2013 alone. While McCarron was finishing up his career with a 36-4 record as a starter, Bo Wallace of Ole Miss was the only other SEC quarterback to start every game for his team.

Overall, 28 SEC quarterbacks started at least one game last season.

According to the conference's annual season reviews during McCarron’s three years as a starter the other teams combined started 48 different quarterbacks:

Arkansas (3): AJ Derby (0-1), Tyler Wilson (15-9), Brandon Allen (3-9).
Auburn (6): Nick Marshall (10-2), Jeremy Johnson (2-0), Clint Moseley (3-5), Kiehl Frazier (1-5), Jonathan Wallace (2-2), Barrett Trotter (5-2).
Florida (5): Tyler Murphy (2-4), Skyler Mornhinweg (0-3), Jacoby Brissett (2-2), Jeff Driskel (11-3), John Brantley (15-9).
Georgia (2): Aaron Murray (35-17), Hutson Mason (1-1).
Kentucky (4): Morgan Newton (7-10), Maxwell Smith (3-9), Jalen Whitlow (2-12), Matt Roark (1-0).
LSU (4): Zach Mettenberger (19-6), Anthony Jennings (1-0), Jarrett Lee (14-4), Jordan Jefferson (24-8).
Ole Miss (4): Bo Wallace (14-12), Barry Brunetti (0-2), Randall Mackey (1-5), Zack Stoudt (1-3).
Mississippi State (3): Dak Prescott (4-4), Tyler Russell (12-9), Chris Relf (14-8).
Missouri (3): James Franklin (19-12), Corbin Berkstresser (2-2), Maty Mauk (3-1).
South Carolina (3): Connor Shaw (27-5), Dylan Thompson (3-0), Stephen Garcia (20-14).
Tennessee (6): Joshua Dobbs (1-3), Nathan Peterman (0-1), Justin Worley (5-5), Tyler Bray (13-11), Justin Worley (1-2), Matt Simms (2-8).
Texas A&M (2): Johnny Manziel (19-6), Matt Joeckel (1-0).
Vanderbilt (3): Jordan Rodgers (11-8), Austyn Carta-Samuels (8-3), Larry Smith (8-19).

If you included the 2011 season for Missouri and Texas A&M, which were still playing in the Big 12, and the number moves up to 50.

Overall, since 2007 the other SEC teams have had 133 different quarterbacks start. Auburn has had the most with 11, followed by Ole Miss (10) and Tennessee (nine). 

It’s only with that in mind can one start to project and speculate about what kind of numbers Alabama’s starting quarterback might post this season, because the odds are already against anyone starting every game.

A lot could also depend on how the quarterback competition plays out. In 2011, Crimson Tide coaches had McCarron and Phillip Sims split snaps during the season opener against Kent State to evaluate how they handled everything. It wasn’t until McCarron led the Week 2 victory at Penn State that he was finally handed the job.

With Alabama opening this season Aug. 30 against West Virginia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Saban may not have that luxury this time.

Senior Blake Sims will head into training camp as the closest thing to an incumbent, finishing the spring ahead of redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman, while sophomore Alec Morris is the only other quarterback with any game experience with the Crimson Tide. But Florida State transfer Jacob Coker will likely be the player to beat.

Of course none of them have made a start at the collegiate level, which makes projecting what kind of statistics Alabama’s starter(s) might eventually post extremely difficult. The Crimson Tide will also have a new coordinator with Lane Kiffin, who will do things a little differently and try to make the offense less predictable.

Since Sims is more of a dual-threat quarterback anyway, for the sake of this discussion the assumption will be made that not only does Coker beat out his competition but remains healthy.

During his first year as a starter, 2009, McCarron completed 219 of 328 passes (66.8 percent), for 2,634 yards, with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. His passer efficiency rating was 147.3.

A year later that improved to 175.3, which led the nation, and this past season he became the Crimson Tide’s first 3,000-yard passer (9,000 career).

McElroy’s situation in 2011 was a little more similar to Coker’s in that he had to wait longer before finally getting his shot to start. He completed 198 of 325 attempts (60.9), for 2,508 yards, with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions.

The key for both was that the coaches didn’t overload them, keeping things relatively simple until the quarterbacks showed they were ready to handle more. Both went on to win the national championship but had a whole lot of help.

With T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, the running backs might compare to the unit that led the 2009 Crimson Tide, and this year's defense has the potential to eventually be outstanding. But chances are that Alabama will need to throw more than McElroy or McCarron did during their first year starting.

With Coker, coaches are hoping that he has a short learning curve after previously playing for Jimbo Fisher, a former Saban assistant coach who employs a similar pro-style offense. He appears to have a stronger arm and more playmakers to work with than his predecessors.

So while the potential is for even more, if you asked Saban right now if he’d be happy to get the same production out of the position as the 2009 and 2011 seasons, he’d probably take it in a second.

  

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Urban Meyer Says His 2008 Florida Team Was 'Best to Ever Play the Game'

OK, Urban Meyer. Whatever you say.

Speaking at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Detroit on Thursday, the former Florida and current Ohio State head coach called his 2008 Gators team—the one that lost to Ole Miss in September but eventually won the national title—the best to ever play the game of college football.

Here is a video of Meyer's speech:

And here is a transcription of the pertinent quote, courtesy of Ryan Ginn of Buckeye Sports Bulletin:

Once again, I know some of you won state championships. I’ve been a part of a couple great teams, I think the best team to ever play the game in ’08 (at Florida). And that was (because) animal instincts took over on the field. They protected each other. What he said is, ‘Have you ever tried to reason with a wild animal?’ Think about that. Think about what I just said. You try to reason with a wild animal… you can’t reason with a wild animal. They protect each other. Have you ever tried to negotiate, evaluate, take a play off? If you’re a wild animal, that doesn’t happen.

No doubt, the 2008 Gators were good. They were great. Led by quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and a pair of coordinators—Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong—who would go on to become very good head coaches, Florida overcame its early defeat to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and Oklahoma for BCS National Championship.

And Meyer is right to relate that team to a speech about "animal instincts." Tebow is the poster child for "heart over talent," and his impassioned postgame speech after losing to Ole Miss that season is perhaps the defining moment of his college career: 

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Plenty of other teams could convincingly argue for the title of "best to play the game."

According to the F/+ rankings at Football Outsiders, the 2008 Florida squad wasn't even the second-best SEC team of the past six years.

Its F/+ rating of +49.4% is plenty good—for context, Florida State scored a +49.2% in 2013—but Alabama's national championship teams scored higher in 2011 (+53.9%) and in 2012 (+50.6%).

And speaking of Florida State, last year's Seminoles, unlike 2008 Florida or either of those Alabama teams, could make a strong case because they went undefeated. So have a whole host of other national champions the past few years and stretching back into history.

Um, Urban. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are on Line 1:

"Best team to ever play the game" is a difficult term to define. If the data we have now stretched back 100 (or even 20) years, there is a chance we could find a way to do it. Until then, it is totally subjective.

So you're entitled to your opinion, Mr. Meyer. That's fine. Your Florida team was one of the best to ever play the game. No doubt.

But this comes off a little hyperbolic.

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Oregon Football: Projecting Who Will Win Ducks' Open Starting Positions

Oregon football heads into the 2014 campaign with one of the most veteran starting lineups in the Pac-12, returning 14 starters in total. Still, that means plenty of spots head coach Mark Helfrich must fill throughout the depth chart by kickoff Week 1 against South Dakota.

Open starting competitions ensued throughout the spring at Oregon and will continue into the rapidly approaching preseason camp.

After spring workouts, a few of the open jobs appear filled. Alex Balducci is primed to move into the vacant nose guard position on the defensive line, for example. 

However, other openings will continue to generate fierce, internal competition once camps opens.  

 

Slot Receiver: Devon Allen 

Competition to replace injured star Bralon Addison in the wide receiving corps should be heated. And realistically, Helfrich cannot go wrong choosing either Devon Allen or Darren Carrington. 

Both redshirt freshmen were impressive throughout the spring, and each should prominently factor in the Ducks' plans throughout 2014. 

Allen's breakaway speed, demonstrated on both the track and football field, is an ideal weapon in the Oregon offense. His star performance in the spring game sets the right tone for him to break into the starting lineup by the start of the season.  

 

Tight End: Johnny Mundt

Tight end should again be a position of importance in the Ducks offense after instability last season. Colt Lyerla was dismissed from the team, Pharaoh Brown was injured off and on, and freshman Johnny Mundt was still learning.

Brown was suspended for the Ducks' bowl-game win over Texas and missed spring workouts due to injury. That left the door open for Mundt, and the sophomore looks ready to break out. 

Mundt showed up to spring workouts with a bulkier frame that should help with blocking, and he demonstrated reliability in the passing game with a team-leading three receptions in the spring game. 

With a spot in the starting rotation, expect Mundt to have many more performances like his five-catch, two-touchdown effort last September against Tennessee. 

 

Strong-Side Linebacker: Tyson Coleman 

This is one of the more interesting positional battles coming out of spring practices. Redshirt junior Tyson Coleman spent the offseason recovering from injury, but outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander made no bones about Coleman's place in the lineup. 

Andrew Greif of The Oregonian reports Chinander called the No. 1 spot at strong-side linebacker Coleman's to lose. 

But if he does so, it will be to sophomore Torrodney Prevot, who impressed throughout the 15-date season. 

"Torrodney has been fabulous this spring,” first-year defensive coordinator Don Pellum told Aaron Fentress of CSNNW.com. “He’s a very smart player…now, because he understands (the game) a little more you can see him take off and play.”

 

Cornerback: Dior Mathis 

Terrance Mitchell left some big shoes for his replacement to fill, so don't expect a rush to name a starter without due diligence from the coaching staff. 

Both Dior Mathis and Troy Hill gained experience as reserves and playing in multiple-defensive back formations. Mathis had an opportunity to move up the depth chart late in the season while Hill served a suspension, and Mathis has been able to build on that opening. 

Dominique Harrison, a 3-star junior college transfer, worked his way into the discussion with a solid debut spring. 

 

Safety: Tyree Robinson

A 4-star recruit in the Ducks' 2013 signing class, Tyree Robinson redshirted a season ago. The time spent acclimating to the speed of the college game served Robinson well, as the praise Helfrich heaped on him this spring would suggest. 

On the May 1 coaches teleconference call via Pac-12.com, Helfrich said Robinson was one of the Ducks' breakthrough players. 

Robinson blends a hard-hitting tackling style with keen ball instincts. The combination makes him perfectly suited to his role as a roving safety and gives him the inside track on teammate Reggie Daniels. 

 

Safety: Erick Dargan 

Erick Dargan returned to practices refocused following a two-game suspension that ended his 2013 campaign prematurely. Prior to the suspension, Dargan made 24 tackles, broke up four passes, forced a fumble and snagged an interception as a reserve. 

The redshirt senior brings veteran savvy to a restructured secondary, a quality that should give Dargan the edge over youngster Juwaan Williams. 

"Everything I see right now, he’s going to be a difference maker for us," defensive backs coach John Neal told Joseph Hoyt of the Daily Emerald

 

Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com. Spring game stats via GoDucks.com. Recruiting rankings via 247sports.com

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Oregon Football: Projecting Who Will Win Ducks' Open Starting Positions

Oregon football heads into the 2014 campaign with one of the most veteran starting lineups in the Pac -12, returning 14 starters in total...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

LSU Football: Projecting Who Will Win Tigers' Open Starting Positions

LSU head coach Les Miles' annual replacing of players that were selected in the NFL draft during the offseason has become as certain as death and taxes.

Miles has the arduous task of finding new starters to step in and be productive right away. He will be aided this season by a talented incoming class of freshmen, but he does not have much time to determine who is best fit to play right now. 

LSU has a number of talented players returning from last year's team as well. The Tigers will need them to come into their own next season.

Here is a quick of preview of who will be asked to fill open vacancies from last year's team. 

 

*Stats and rankings via 247Sports, LSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

 

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Why Notre Dame Should Absolutely Be Running Satellite Recruiting Camps

The very best college football programs take advantage of "loopholes." Joker Phillips' resignation notwithstanding, power programs—mostly in the SEC—have created a culture of rule-pushing, whether it be in recruiting practices, expanded support staff or over-signing.

But to consider the adoption of satellite camps, by Penn State this summer and by Notre Dame starting next summer, as exploiting a loophole gets one key variable wrong: This one actually helps the kids.

For Notre Dame, perhaps the premiere national recruiting football program in the country, getting the opportunity to sell their school and take their message to recruits over the summer can only help all parties involved. And the Irish staff absolutely must be at the forefront of the idea. 

As 247Sports.com's Steve Wiltfong first reported, the Irish will begin co-hosting football camps with schools in different regions. First on the list is joining Georgia State in Atlanta, a region that's turning into a significant pipeline for head coach Brian Kelly

Atlanta is just one stop. As a fully-formed idea, Notre Dame could set up shop in Florida, Texas and California, spending parts of the summer in three crucial recruiting regions where the Irish coaching staff continually fights uphill battles trying to pull out talent. 

The chance for Tony Alford to be more than just a voice from Indiana on the telephone in South Florida should have Irish fans salivating. That Kerry Cooks will be able to coach up prospects in Texas, where he's made significant inroads the past few recruiting cycles already, will be invaluable.

And while most Irish fans want to give up on a place like Fresno, getting Mike Denbrock and the Irish staff to such a talent-rich (though difficult-to-crack) region will make the idea of Notre Dame a reality to talented recruits, not just some mythical place in Indiana. 

The idea that James Franklin, Brian Kelly or any northern coach would be able to set up shop in somebody else's backyard has some SEC coaches crying foul. Georgia coach Mark Richttold the AP the following:

"To me, what I'm seeing is a loophole in that if another school sponsors a camp -- Georgia Camp featuring Penn State coaches -- or some Division II schools in Texas featuring Oklahoma's coaches or Oklahoma State's coaches or Texas' coaches and then just barnstorming all around the place," Richt said. "The rule says that everybody's camp should be on their own institution, so it's basically people finding a way around that rule. We think the rule was set for a reason and it ought to stay that way."

As SEC meetings took place a few weeks ago, some of the SEC's powerbrokers had the conference considering rule changes to stop the growing practice. Ross Bjork, athletic director for Ole Miss, made these comments to ESPN's Brett McMurphy and Edward Aschoff:

"That's our backyard, so anytime those things happen, your eyes and ears perk up to say, 'What do we need to address [the issue] if that's a hindrance,'" Bjork said. "If it's a competitive disadvantage, then we need to look at it."

The deeper you look into the summer camp scene, the more distasteful things seem to get. It's hardly satellite camps that are the problem.

CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler recently exposed the summer camp scene, highlighting the slippery slope that comes with paying high school coaches (often with elite prospects in tow) to work their camp.

According to open records requests made by CBSSports.com, Washington, Ohio State and Florida State spent more than $150,000 in "guest fees" last summer, making it pretty evident that it takes significant financial motivation to keep the current, non-loophole exploiting, summer camp system alive and well. 

Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Tennessee's Butch Jones know the other, more compromised side. Both say high school coaches attempt to leverage them by offering to bring top players in exchange for getting paid to work a camp. “It's a growing question we hear,” Jones said.

Several FBS coaches are concerned not that camps exist, but that the recruiting system is designed for potential abuse, or to create pressure for coaches to abuse it themselves.

Putting high school or junior college coaches on the camp payroll to potentially steer players' campus visits could create a new arms race among high-resource schools. There's no definitive limit on pay for on-field guest coaches, assuming everyone gets the same rate based on work they perform.

“Essentially what (schools) are doing is paying to bring prospects to their camps,” Arizona's Rich Rodriguez said.

As recruiting timelines compress, getting athletes on campus over the summer is crucial. To that point, Notre Dame has stepped up its efforts on the homefront, not just relying on the traveling circus that could be unleashed next summer. Their upcoming "Irish Invasion" camp is among the top stops for elite recruiting prospects, with the Irish staff welcoming dozens of the top 2015 and 2016 prospects to campus.

For as long as Notre Dame has struggled to get back to the top of the college football mountain, excuses have been made: Academic barriers that eliminate a large portion of the country's top talent; an unwillingness to partake in unethical recruiting practices; the geographical hindrance that comes with being in Northern Indiana.

But Brian Kelly has done his best to tear those excuses down. He's recruited aggressively, working with both the university admissions office and high school guidance counselors to help prospects understand what it takes to get in and thrive at Notre Dame.

He's also taken a "new school" approach to recruiting, with the "Pot of Gold." Kelly's staff turned late December, a recruiting quiet period, into a much-talked about letter writing campaign that got national attention.  

With satellite camps, Kelly and the Irish staff will be breaking down a final barrier, combating the geographic issue that even NBC and Under Armour money can't beat. For talented recruits that can't find their way to South Bend on their own dime in the summer, the Irish staff will simply come to them. 

Call it a loophole in NCAA rule (13.12.1.2) if you will, but it's good for the kids. So whether or not it ruffles a few feathers, it's just one more thing Notre Dame needs to do as it continues its climb back into college football's elite. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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How Gus Malzahn, Auburn Dominate Recruiting in the State of Georgia

Two years ago, a picture of an MSNBC map incorrectly placing Auburn University in northern Georgia made the rounds online.  

This was obviously a mistake in geography, but looking at the makeup of Gus Malzahn's latest recruiting classes you can understand why it was made.

While Georgia has 69 in-state players on its current roster, Auburn's influence in the state is growing with 25 Tigers who call Georgia their home state.

"Georgia is very important to our success here," Malzahn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. "If you look back at the championship-type teams we’ve had at Auburn, we’ve had a lot of players from the state of Georgia. We’re going to continue to recruit that state very hard."

Through its close proximity and close relationships with some of the top players in the state, Auburn is having even more success in Georgia than the powerhouse Bulldogs.

In 2014, home-state power Georgia, finished with 11 in-state signees, but let 10 Peach State natives, including 4-star cornerback Nick Ruffin, cross the border to play for Malzahn on the Plains. 

Recruiting the Peach State is nothing new for Auburn. One could make a dominant All-Star team of former Tigers from Georgia—Cam Newton, James Brooks, Karsten Bailey, Steve Wallace, Tracy Rocker, Takeo Spikes and Carlos Rogers, just to name a few.

But Malzahn's staff has put more of an emphasis on recruiting Georgia than previous regimes, and for good reason.

From the talent-rich center of Atlanta to the state's football-crazed southern region, Georgia consistently puts out a much higher level of talent than the battleground state of Alabama:

“There’s no reason for these Alabama schools not to come over and try to pluck from a good tree," said Welton Coffey, who was the head coach of Auburn cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent at Camden County High School. "The football talent in Georgia is great, but the Bulldogs can’t get all of them."

Auburn takes full advantage of its close proximity to Georgia—Jordan-Hare Stadium sits less than 30 miles west of the Alabama-Georgia border—but it also maintains close relationships with the players of Georgia.

“I think it’s a testimony to the guys who come out and recruit here," Coffey said. "When you have guys who come out and develop relationships with these kids, I think their honesty and being candid with the players have a lot to do with it."

One of Auburn's key figures in developing relationships with Georgia high school players is assistant coach Rodney Garner. His wealth of experience on both sides of the state line—as a player at Auburn and a coach at Georgia—has been invaluable to Malzahn's efforts in the Atlanta area. 

“[Garner] knows the lay of the land in the state extremely well," 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr said. "Because he worked at Georgia so many years, he knows what their key selling points are and how to attack those points, while also trying to accentuate the positives of Auburn."

Like Garner, some of the series' biggest icons played significant roles on both sides. Legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley was an Auburn graduate, and legendary Auburn head coach Pat Dye was a Georgia graduate.

Niebuhr said Garner and the rest of his fellow coaches' success in Georgia is based on their understanding of what draws Georgia recruits, especially those from smaller towns, to Auburn.

"Auburn’s current regime has done a great job of identifying kids that fit what they do and also fit their personality," Niebuhr said. "They sell the family atmosphere extremely well, and that resonates well a lot in Georgia. You have the Atlanta kids, but you also have a lot of the more rural kids who are big on family and home."

Sometimes those family connections run a little deeper for some recruits.

Class of 2014 signee Dontavius Russell flipped from Georgia to Auburn last December after Garner's move back to the Plains, and his high school head coach believes Russell's Auburn heritage played a factor in the change of heart.

“Dontavius has grown up an Auburn fan his whole life," former Carrollton High School head coach Rayvon Teague told Carvell. "His uncle (1987-90 safety Dennis Wallace) played at Auburn. He and his parents are big Auburn fans...Coach Garner and Auburn never stopped recruiting him."

The Tigers, who also signed the son of former Auburn defensive lineman Myron Burton, have another family connection in Georgia for this upcoming recruiting class.

"Four-star cornerback Darius Slayton from Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross, is a guy who's got ties to the Auburn program," Niebuhr said. "His cousin (1988-91 linebacker Darrell Crawford) played there. He's pretty high on the Tigers."

For some Georgia recruits who did not have the familiar connection with Auburn, the Tigers were able to make an impact in their recruitment by targeting them early in the process and getting a jump on the in-state Bulldogs.

"Sometimes the Bulldogs are after some of these kids strongly and are battling these out-of-state schools," Coffey said. "But there are some guys where Georgia does not have them as high up on their recruiting lists for whatever reason."

This was the case for Andrew Williams, another class of 2014 signee for the Tigers. The 4-star defensive end from McDonough made three separate unofficial visits to Auburn last summer before making his first visit to Athens. 

After a busy winter of visits to Auburn, Georgia and Clemson, Williams put on the orange and blue hat on national signing day.

"I just followed my heart, and everything about Auburn was right," Williams said. "It was really hard though. The short time Georgia had to get at me, they did the best. If they had longer time, they’d have been the ones to probably get me."

Looking ahead to the recruiting class of 2015, Auburn has a slim early lead on Georgia for the Peach State's finest picks. 

Malzahn and company have commitments from seven of Georgia's top high school stars and one from Jovon Robinson, a Tennessee native who has restarted his recruitment at Georgia Military College as the nation's No. 1 junior college player.

Georgia currently has six in-state commitments, but its top pledge, 5-star athlete Terry Godwin, has visited Auburn twice since committing to the Bulldogs.

"Getting to meet all of the coaches, everything was fun," Godwin told 247Sports' Kipp Adams (subscription required) during his Big Cat Weekend visit. "It was just a great day. It is one big family. They were just giving me more information on how they would give me the ball."

Auburn will hope to maintain that close relationship with Godwin and the rest of their targets from Georgia, including the nation's No. 1 overall recruit Trent Thompson, throughout the summer in what will be another yearlong border war on the recruiting trail.

"Auburn's right there, so close to everything in Georgia," Niebuhr said. "There’s talent in Georgia, and you are close to the talent. Success breeds more success."

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Michigan Wolverines Football: Examining the Discipline Problems Under Brady Hoke

After last season’s disappointing 7-6 finish some fans are doubting whether Michigan will return to national prominence under Brady Hoke. He is facing a critical juncture of his Michigan tenure—attempting to mimic the offense of Alabama with an offensive line that needs to be retooled at every position.

The last thing he needed was for one of his returning linemen to be involved in an embarrassing off-the-field incident. But that’s the position he finds himself in after details emerged of center Graham Glasgow’s arrest during spring camp. Graham’s subsequent punishment does more than hamper the development of Michigan’s offensive line—it raises the question of whether key players are responding to Hoke’s message of discipline and in his words “…understand the standard expected of them.”

As reported by Kyle Feldscher of MLIVE.COM Glasgow was arrested after his vehicle was pulled over by Ann Arbor police.

Glasgow, 21 of Ann Arbor, was driving a white Chevrolet Suburban SUV on William when Officer Pat Maguire observed a woman…hanging out of the front passenger window…screaming at pedestrians and not wearing a seatbelt…the rear tailgate to the SUV was open and, as Glasgow continued driving, it started to open more and more with items coming out of the trunk. Eventually, the falling items started to obscure the license plate and Maguire initiated a traffic stop.

Glasgow invited the arrest by driving through the heart of campus on a Saturday evening. He risked not only his own safety and that of his passengers but the safety of the numerous pedestrians and other vehicles in a busy downtown area.

Hoke suspended Glasgow for part of spring practice and the season opener versus Appalachian State.

Players have had mixed results after being disciplined by Hoke:

  • Defensive end Frank Clark was suspended after an arrest in 2012 but returned and has emerged as a team leader. 
  • Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint’s 2012 season was delayed by a DUI arrest that caused him to miss the beginning of training camp and he never really got on track. 
  • Kicker Will Hagerup was suspended last season for a violation of team rules (he also missed four games in Hoke’s first season) but will be return this season.
  • Tight end A.J. Williams was suspended one game last season after being arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop.
  • Kicker Brendan Gibbons didn't make the team’s bowl trip last season and was expelled from the University of Michigan over an alleged assault.
  • Tackle Taylor Lewan was arrested after allegedly assaulting an Ohio State after Michigan’s loss last season.

Michigan is hardly a renegade program, but it cannot afford to lose any more key players because of bad decisions.

Hoke says that he wants to help players who make off-the-field mistakes to “…learn valuable life lessons.”

One of those valuable life lessons might be that their actions can lead to more than just personal embarrassment— their selfishness may derail Hoke’s rebuilding program at Michigan altogether.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

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