NCAA Football

Alabama Football 2015 Spring Practice Check List

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With several SEC teams back on the practice field for the spring, Alabama will finally join that mix on Friday. The Crimson Tide will hit the practice field Friday afternoon, then get the following week off for spring break, before returning 10 days later the following Monday.

It’s somewhat of a strange schedule to kick things off, but at this point, it’s hard to question Nick Saban’s practice and preparation tactics.

Anyway, with everything kicking into high gear in a couple of days, let’s take a look at Alabama’s spring practice checklist—a list of things the Crimson Tide need to get done during these next 15 practices, including the spring game, before leaving the pads behind for the summer.

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Which QB Will Be SEC's Leading Passer in 2015?

The SEC has always been loaded with top-tier talent. On both sides of the ball, fans have been accustomed to seeing big-time performances, especially from the quarterback position. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee offer their predictions regarding who will be the best passer of the SEC in 2015. 

Who will light it up next season under center in the SEC? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Experience No Longer Matters for Starting QBs in College Football

It's almost time to hit the beach or the pool with your favorite college football preview magazine, soak up the sun and get prepared for the season.

If that magazine tells you "Team X won't contend because of uncertainty at the quarterback position," wind up, toss it into the water and turn it into fish food.

That's all it's good for.

First-year starters have won five of the last six national titles, and eight of the last 12 starting quarterbacks in college football's national title game were first-year quarterbacks.

That's not an aberration. It's a trend that you should pay attention to.

Quarterback is the most important and most visible position on the field, but it isn't always what makes or breaks a team's success. If there are talented players around—even ones who aren't experienced—that's still a recipe for college football success.

"Teams that win national titles can run the ball, play good defense, and have good quarterback play," South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus told Bleacher Report. "It takes a complete team, but good quarterback play always helps."

Mangus' team not only has a new quarterback taking the snaps this season after Dylan Thompson moved on, but has a new-look offensive line and needs to find a replacement for running back Mike Davis.

That might make it difficult for his Gamecocks to contend, but for other schools a new quarterback isn't the end of the world.

Four of Bleacher Report national lead writer Ben Kercheval's post-national signing day top 25 boast new quarterbacks—No. 3 Baylor, No. 5 Alabama, No. 7 UCLA and No. 9 Oregon. Over at ESPN.com, it was more of the same, with No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Baylor, No. 6 Oregon, No. 8 Georgia and No. 9 UCLA all in the top 10.

What do all of those teams have in common?

Brilliant offensive minds either as the head coach or offensive coordinator (or both), and veterans all over the place.

Quarterback experience is nice, but in this day and age of exotic offenses it isn't the most important thing.

Having a head coach and/or offensive coordinator who has proven over time to adjust his offense to fit his offense around the strengths of his quarterback—regardless of age and experience—is what will make or break a team's offensive success.

That means a team like Auburn, which was on the periphery of the top 10 in each of the two rankings mentioned above, is dangerous with the combination of Gus Malzahn and quarterback Jeremy Johnson. Sure, Johnson still has to actually win the job, but he has proven over two years as a backup that he has the potential to be a superstar.

Malzahn adapted his offense to become even more of a multidimensional power rushing attack to fit the dual-threat capabilities of former quarterback Nick Marshall, but he's also the same coach who produced a 5,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and three 1,000-yard receivers as Tulsa's offensive coordinator in 2007.

Is Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich suddenly going to forget how to coach offense now that former quarterback Marcus Mariota is gone? If we've learned anything over the last decade, it's that the Duck offense is plug-and-play at quarterback after Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas each have led the program to success.

"I want to earn the starting spot, earn everyone’s trust, win games, win a Pac-12 championship, hopefully a Heisman and a national championship," potential Oregon starting quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. told Bleacher Report national lead writer Adam Kramer.

Florida State's quarterback situation is very much up in the air with Sean Maguire as the safe choice among several others, including true freshman early enrollee De'Andre Johnson and incoming freshman Deondre Francois. But head coach Jimbo Fisher has still recruited his tail off over the last five years and has a loaded roster that very much can continue to compete in the ACC and on the national scene.

Don't fall into the trap, look who's returning starting quarterbacks and write those teams off.

That's just lazy.

 

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

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jamal Couch Commits to Florida State: Will He Bring Two 4-Star Teammates With?

Florida State’s 2016 class received a major boost when 2016 3-star linebacker Jamal Couch committed to the Seminoles Monday evening via his Twitter account:

The 6’4”, 214-pounder from Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama, selected FSU over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi State, among others. 

Couch becomes the 11th member of the Seminoles' 2016 class and the fourth linebacker who has verbally committed to Jimbo Fisher and his staff.

But what is the impact of his commitment for FSU and its class?

For starters, Couch is a versatile player who could play inside or outside linebacker at the next level. 

It’s clear that Fisher and his defensive staff have targeted the linebacker segment as one of the main needs to fill in 2016.

According to Ourlads, the ‘Noles will bring back one junior and a pair of senior starters at linebacker next year. However, with the offseason transfer of E.J. Levenberry, FSU will need to hit a home run at linebacker in terms of quality and quantity in hopes of restocking the cupboard with talent in the middle level of its defense.

Couch adds to a haul that already includes 4-star Emmett Rice, 4-star Josh Brown and 4-star JUCO product Tyree Horton.

Couch is a terrific athlete who also plays tight end for his high school team. In fact, according to MaxPreps, Couch hauled in 17 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns—which resulted in an average of nearly 26 yards per catch—last season.

Additionally, his commitment could help FSU out with a pair of his prep teammates who hold offers from the Seminoles—2016 4-star corner John Broussard and 2017 4-star linebacker Markail Benton

Both Broussard and Benton took to Twitter to chime in their thoughts on their teammate heading to Tallahassee, and the early returns seem to indicate positive vibes for the Seminoles' chances to pull off a potential package deal, per Chris Nee of Noles247.

Aside from linebacker, another position of emphasis for FSU in the current cycle is at corner. Broussard, who is the nation’s No. 6 corner and the No. 87 player overall in the 2016 cycle, would fill another major need should he join Couch. 

In order to make a move on Broussard, the ‘Noles will have to beat out a pair of SEC West powers that are currently in the lead for the 6’0”, 164-pounder.

“As of right now, Auburn and LSU are my co-leaders,” Broussard told Bleacher Report last month. 

Benton represents one of the elite talents in the 2017 class, and he is currently rated as the top rising junior in the state of Alabama. 

Although he was scheduled to join Couch at FSU’s junior day in late February, Benton didn’t make it to Tallahassee. However, he did mention the ‘Noles as a program that has grabbed his attention in the early stages of his recruitment. 

“They are just smooth,” Benton said of FSU. “They got good coaching. I just like the atmosphere.”

Landing Couch gives FSU another player who has great long-term potential at a position of need. His commitment is also a signal that the ‘Noles could become a bigger player for both Broussard and Benton than perhaps they were previously expected to be.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Teams Set for Huge Turnarounds in 2015

Turnaround stories have come to dominate college football.

First came the 2013 Auburn Tigers, who turned a 3-9 record into an SEC title and a trip to the BCS National Championship Game, where it narrowly lost to Florida State. Then came the 2014 TCU Horned Frogs, who turned a 4-8 record into a co-Big 12 title and a trip to the Peach Bowl, where they thoroughly beat Ole Miss.

But who will maintain the tradition in 2014?

To answer that we've looked at numerous important factors for improvement, chief among them returning starters, incoming talent, turnover luck, coaching changes and success in recent seasons.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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College Football's Top RBs Entering 2015 Spring Practice

If you think the running back position has been devalued, well, you may be right in some sense. Just don't tell the following players. 

With spring practice underway, our position-by-position offseason rankings roll on. Today's edition involves the best ball-carriers this sport has to offer. 

As always, stats matter but aren't the only thing under consideration. What was a player's value to his offense? Is he versatile or a role player? Was he the No. 1 guy, or did he share carries? How consistent was he?

With these questions in mind, let's get to it. Here are the top 10 running backs heading into spring practices. 

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Every Power 5 Team's 1 Position Battle That Will Last Until Opening Day

When a position battle pops up on a college football team during the season, it's often a sign of trouble because it either means the starter has lost his effectiveness or an injury has forced a change at a spot where there's no go-to backup.

But in the offseason, position battles are far more common and looked at as an opportunity for hungry players to show their desire to be a starter. They also serve as an elixir for action-starved fans looking for anything football-related to track and discuss during the long months between the end of one season and the start of the other.

Every power-conference team figures to have several position battles that will be waged over the next two months during spring practice, but not all of them can be decided during this brief time frame. Either because no strong candidate emerges from the pack or because starting contenders aren't available until the summer, several competitions will continue on until the final days of training camp.

Here's the one position battle that every Power Five team (plus Notre Dame) will have continue on until right before the 2015 season opener.

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Auburn Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn enters his third year as the head coach of the Tigers in 2015, and this spring practice is all about getting Auburn back to the promised land.

Malzahn's Tigers orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football history when he took over a 3-9 program and brought it to within 13 seconds of a national title in 2013.

The encore, though, was a bit of a struggle. The Tigers danced around the College Football Playoff for the first two months of the season, but three losses over the last four games sent the Tigers to the Outback Bowl, which they lost in overtime to Wisconsin.

Will Muschamp was brought in to fix the defense, which hasn't finished in the top half of the SEC since 2007.

What must Malzahn and Muschamp see this spring? Our spring primer for the Auburn Tigers will let you know.

 

What to Watch on Offense

Malzahn made waves with a multidimensional, power-rushing attack that featured dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall as its trigger man. With Marshall gone, junior Jeremy Johnson will likely inherit the starting job and usher in a more pass-happy approach in the process.

Johnson has filled in well for Marshall over the last two seasons, particularly in last season's opener when he threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in one half of play against Arkansas. He has a big arm, is accurate when he takes something off and can push the ball from sideline to sideline. 

The biggest question for Johnson this spring is who will be his second option.

D'haquille "Duke" Williams is a known freak, but alongside him, Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens and a talented and deep pool of receivers are vying for playing time this spring. If Louis becomes more of an edge-rusher—which is a role he settled into during the latter half of the 2015 season—it could open the door for some lesser-known receivers to step up.

Running back isn't an issue.

"Roc" Thomas will return along with junior college transfer Jovon Robinson and sophomore Peyton Barber, with 2015 signee Kerryon Johnson coming this summer. All four have the talent to be the No. 1 running back, and it's up to the staff to have a pretty good idea of how that depth chart will shake out when spring practice ends. 

As Cole Cubelic of SEC Network and WUMP 730 in Huntsville, Alabama, notes, eventually, Malzahn must get to one by the end of fall camp.

Up front, Auburn returns a loaded offensive line that includes tackle Shon Coleman, versatile Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson, veteran guard/tackle Avery Young, monster Braden Smith and guard Alex Kozan, who missed all of last season with a back injury. The experience and talent up front is undeniable, and it's up to the coaching staff to find out in the spring where these players will line up this fall.

 

What to Watch on Defense

Muschamp's task looks tough on paper considering the Tigers finished ninth in the SEC in total defense (398.8 yards per game). It really isn't, though.

Auburn has some quality pieces in place, including defensive end Carl Lawson, who's healthy after missing last season with an ACL injury, defensive tackle Montravius Adams, cornerback Jonathan Jones and linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. Muschamp's primary goal is to get all of those players on the same page at the same time, which will go a long way toward Auburn boasting an adequate defense.

Let's be honest, that's all Auburn has to be. 

It's not like Muschamp has to be a miracle worker and get the Auburn defense to a point where it's holding teams under 300 yards per game on a consistent basis. With an offense like Auburn boasts, 375 yards and 22 points per game is more than adequate.

Auburn only had 21 sacks last year (11th in the SEC), and developing Lawson into a Dante Fowler clone is something Muschamp needs to do this spring. If he does, that will take pressure off of Adams and other defensive linemen in the rotation and let a talented yet underachieving secondary feast on mistakes.

 

Freshman to Keep an Eye On

Defensive end Byron Cowart won't arrive on campus until the summer, so for the time being, focus on 4-star athlete Tim Irvin

The Miami, Florida, native enrolled early as part of the class of 2015, and he will compete for playing time at cornerback in the new-look defense headed by Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson. Irvin, who is former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Michael Irvin's nephew, has a relationship with the new defensive staff dating back for nearly a half-decade.

Irvin told Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com:

They had been recruiting me since my freshman year and I had wanted to play for those guys. He's one of the great defensive coordinators in college football and I felt like I wanted to be a part of that. 

He asked me what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to come play for you guys. I had built the bond early with those guys and I felt like there was a brotherhood and fatherhood to me.

That's important, because everybody has a clean slate on Auburn's defense, and being one of "Muschamp's guys" will give Irvin even more of a chance to compete for playing time right away.

 

Coach Malzahn's Toughest Task

Finding a pass rush.

Auburn was all over the place last year, to a point where hybrid safety/linebacker Brandon King moved down to defensive end in pass-rushing situations in an effort to find some kind of spark and generate a little bit of pressure.

It didn't work: Quarterbacks had all day in the pocket and routinely picked apart a Tiger defensive backfield that finished 12th in the SEC in pass defense (230.1 YPG) despite tying for the conference lead with 22 interceptions. 

Lawson should be the guy who steps up, but it doesn't really matter who it is as long as somebody finds a way to collapse the pocket and get quarterbacks on the move.

If Malzahn can find a pass rush this spring, he might find himself in the College Football Playoff next winter.

 

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

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

14 College Football Teams in Need of a Uniform Redesign

If uniforms don’t matter, then why is it difficult to find an Oregon game preview that doesn’t mention what the team will be wearing?

Though the Ducks definitely serve as the sport’s fashion trendsetter, there is a uniform style craze sweeping the nation. 

While some schools have had great success in tweaking their kits, others have missed the mark.  And then there are those teams whose time has come to try something, anything, to take their bland unis to the next level.

The teams highlighted here have issues across this broad spectrum, but all share one common denominator: It's time to call the fashion police.

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Georgia Football: Ranking the Hardest Games on the 2015 Schedule

Georgia head coach Mark Richt is entering his 15th year in Athens, and this could be the year where he finally meets all the expectations fans, students and alumni have set for his team since he arrived on campus.

The 2015 schedule sets up well for the Bulldogs (at least in the beginning) to where they can make a run at the SEC title as well as the College Football Playoff. However, the SEC is never easy, and in order for Georgia to get over the hump, it will need to fight through an SEC schedule that could be quite challenging.

So which game will be the toughest for the Bulldogs? Which team (or teams) could give them the most trouble as they try to win their first SEC title in 10 years?

Here are the rankings for the hardest games on the 2015 schedule.

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UCLA Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2015 Schedule

Although we're months away from the start of the 2015 season, it's never too early to look ahead at the UCLA football program's future schedule. 

The 2015 slate appears to be a bit more manageable when compared to the 2014 schedule. UCLA will avoid Oregon and Washington this upcoming season and will have one nonconference game on the road—versus lowly UNLV in Las Vegas. 

With that said, the conference road games aren't a breeze by any stretch. Although not expected to be an overly tough game, the affair versus Oregon State in Corvallis could be a tricky ordeal (as Arizona State can attest to). 

This piece will rank the five toughest games on the 2015 schedule for the UCLA Bruins. The rankings are based upon returning starters for the respective teams, as well as the sheer difficulty of the opponent itself.  

 

A full schedule of the 2015 season can be found here.

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UCLA Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2015 Schedule

Although we're months away from the start of the 2015 season, it's never too early to look ahead at the UCLA football program's future schedule. The 2015 slate appears to be a bit more manageable when compared to the 2014 schedule...

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Dak Prescott, Mississippi State Teammates Attacked During Spring Break Concert

Mississippi State star quarterback Dak Prescott and some of his teammates were jumped while attending a concert on their spring break holiday in Panama City, Florida.

Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday reported the news Monday:

ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough confirmed the story, adding that Prescott was not seriously injured:

Bulldogs signal-caller Damian Williams took to Twitter to express his frustration about the incident. In a tweet that has since been deleted, Williams stated, "We got jumped for no reason, It's sad we can't go anywhere without being attacked by people."

Prescott would later tweet about the situation as well: 

Brooks Roberts of Bulldog Sports Radio located an image of Prescott receiving medical attention following the altercation:

Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger added more details, which came from Prescott's family:

Dak Prescott is recovering from lacerations to his face after a group of men attacked the Mississippi State quarterback and his teammates during a trip on spring break, Prescott's family told the Clarion-Ledger. 

The injuries the senior sustained are not serious and the group is returning home after the incident, the family said.

Edward Aschoff of ESPN reports that no legal action will be taken:

Brandon Walker of the Commercial Dispatch confirmed through a Panama City Beach PD spokesman that no arrests have been made on the alleged assault. 

With Prescott listed at 6'2" and 230 pounds on the school's official website, it's a bit of a surprise anyone wanted to attack him. After all, the rising senior didn't have many problems taking on SEC linebackers in the open field with his powerful running style.

Passions run deep among college football fans, and Prescott and his friends were unfortunate victims of an apparently violent act.

Prescott has been thrust into the spotlight after a 2014 campaign in which he contended for the Heisman Trophy and had Mississippi State atop the initial College Football Playoff rankings. The dynamic QB threw for 3,449 yards and ran for nearly 1,000 more, accounting for 41 total touchdowns.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Ranking the Toughest Games of the 2015 Schedule

Could Charlie Strong go 2-4 to start his second season at Texas? Four of his toughest contests come in the first six games of the season, so it's entirely possible.

Texas still has a lot to prove on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line was bad in 2014, pushing for just 3.8 yards per carry while Tyrone Swoopes chucked 11 picks against 13 touchdowns.

Jerrod Heard will get his chance to take the reins and the line should improve, but this is an offensive conference. The best Big 12 teams score a lot of points—it's as simple as that.

Making matters worse, the Horns can no longer lean on the conference's best defense to keep the lid on. Of its 10 lost starters (per 247Sports), six were every-down players on that side of the ball, and many of them will be replaced by first-year Division I players.

You can't count out Strong, and there are a lot of winnable games on the schedule. But his team will have to play some good football to win these games.

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Nebraska Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2015 Season

Nebraska football fans will be watching spring practice reports, imagining what the roster will look like when NU takes the field in 2015. So it’s not at all too early to be looking at next year’s schedule and imagining which games will be the most challenging.

So here, power ranked from easiest to hardest, is what Nebraska will be facing in new head coach Mike Riley’s first year in charge in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Jean Delance Decommits from Oklahoma After Video of Racist Fraternity Chant

High school prospect Jean Delance was committed to play football for the University of Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the Sooners program experienced backlash from a controversial video of a campus fraternity's racist chant.

On Monday, Delance announced on Twitter that he'd decommitted (h/t Sporting News' Jasmine Watkins):

It appears Delance has moved on quickly in the recruiting process, as he later stated that he'd received a scholarship offer from Alabama:

ESPN.com's Max Olson was among those suggesting that Delance's decision didn't completely hinge on the unsavory video:

But Scout.com's Bob Przybylo spoke to Delance and acquired firsthand knowledge of how the incident weighed on the young player's mind:

The following tweet from CBSDFW.com confirms Przybylo's testimony:

Delance, who hails from North Mesquite High School in Texas, is rated as a 4-star recruit from the class of 2016 by 247Sports. The site's composite rankings have Delance as the 162nd-ranked prospect and the 16th-best offensive tackle in the country.

Joining Alabama's powerhouse program is an option Delance should be excited to explore. As for Oklahoma, it will have some damage control to do in order to prevent future commitments from going the route Delance did.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M 'Friday Night Lights' Recap

You have to believe that three days after one of its biggest recruiting opportunities of the year, the Texas A&M Aggies football program is excited about where it stands with some of the top in-state prospects.

Although the Aggies didn't get a commitment over the weekend, fans should keep an eye on several Texas A&M targets who attended the school's annual "Friday Night Lights" event.

 

A&M offers a pair of 4-star DTs

The Aggies are hoping to bulk up their defensive line—arguably the best part of the team's defense already. Jordan Elliott and Chris Daniels, two 4-star defensive tackles, have added Texas A&M to their offer lists.

Both are top-15 defensive tackles.

Daniels has TCU, Baylor, Michigan and others high on his list, per 247Sports. He also has offers from Texas Tech, USC, Ole Miss, Miami and several other programs.

Elliott will be the tougher pledge to land, as he's been a Baylor commit since Jan. 31. Elliott said he's keeping all options open, and he's received offers from Texas A&M and Michigan since Friday.

 

California group in for FNL experience

Members of the Team 19 All-Stars—the California-based seven-on-seven team run by former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson—took a group road trip to Texas A&M for Friday Night Lights. UCLA commit and 4-star wide receiver Michael Pittman, 4-star 2017 wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and 3-star dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate were among those who made the trip.

Tate left College Station not only with an offer but also with a new outlook on the campus.

When he got to the campus, he said it was relatively quiet, but the atmosphere instantly became electric shortly before the events of Friday Night Lights and remained so shortly thereafter.

"I wasn't expecting the campus to be this amazing," he told Bleacher Report. "The facilities are state of the art, and they love mobile QBs that can spin the ball."

 

No. 1 2017 DT calls A&M offer a 'big deal'

As the nation's top-ranked defensive tackle in the 2017 class, Marvin Wilson is watching his recruiting process slowly heat up. A new Texas A&M offer could help that process blow up.

The Aggies became the third team to offer Wilson, a 6'4", 300-pound talent who is the No. 13 overall player in the 2017 class. USC became offer No. 4 on Monday.

Texas is considered the early favorite, according to the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, but Wilson said the Texas A&M offer is a huge one to consider.

"It's a big deal for me in my recruitment to get this offer," he said. "I feel like it's going to get my offers rolling in. The school just feels like home to me."

 

A&M offer caps Friday trifecta for 2017 ATH

Jeffrey Okudah had a good Friday. In addition to picking up a Texas A&M offer, the rising athlete also grabbed offers from Tennessee and UCLA.

Okudah ended his productive day with the offer from the Aggies. He took in Friday Night Lights and was excited to land the in-state offer. He added that he's a fan of new defensive coordinator John Chavis.

"It's a school I really have had my eyes on," Okudah said. "The coaches show me a lot of love over there, and FNL is all about energy. It's great to get a feel of the school, and it's really a blessing to have the [other] schools feel highly enough of me to offer."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Offseason of Jim Harbaugh

If George Costanza of Seinfeld had "The Summer of George," then first-year Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is having "The Offseason of Jim." 

Consider it this way: Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer just won a national championship. Yet, if he hadn't been stranded at sea on a cruise ship—while contributing to an excellent cause, mind you—we may have barely uttered a word about him. 

Harbaugh? He's everywhere. He's crushing it on Twitter (and a must-follow if you're into such things). He's helping car-crash victims. He's coaching first base for the Oakland A's. 

He's in (or previously was in) the audience for an episode of Judge Judy

Look, I'm selfish. So are you. It's OK to admit it: We're all glad Harbaugh's back in college. He makes things so much more interesting, and we're six full months away before he coaches his first game against Utah. 

But why is Harbaugh so fascinating? What possesses him to say, "That's kind of the way the pickle squirted" when describing his 2015 recruiting class in a press conference instead of, you know, taking the normal route?

It starts with the fact that Harbaugh's personality isn't like a lot of other coaches.  

"Perception-wise, he's not what I expected," said Phil Callihan, editor-in-chief of UMGoBlue.com. "He's the most atypical football coach I've ever spoken with.  

"He's almost geeky." 

That word—"geeky"—carries a certain connotation. Yes, Harbaugh is intense and passionate with a touch of awkward, though you probably knew that already. All you had to do was watch Harbaugh flip out over a questionable call as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. 

Or read this description about Harbaugh courtesy of Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com

He says weird things that make people laugh, but he's not trying to be funny. He'll look at you with a 10-mile stare and make you wonder if he's listening to anything you're saying, while still digesting every word.

He wears cleats to news conferences. He'll deliver five cliches in a row, and then turn right around with an articulate, insightful answer out of nowhere.

Nothing's predictable, and just about everything should be expected.

What's less obvious about Harbaugh is his passion translates into other branches of his life. And we mean every branch. He has a wide range of interests that go beyond football, and he goes 100 percent with all of them. "He's...very well-rounded," said Callihan. 

Harbaugh, along with his brother, John Harbaugh, is notably vocal about his faith. "He mentions religion more than any coach I've met. It's very sincere for him" said Callihan. "Sometimes he relates to players on religion." 

However, this is bigger than Judge Judy or God. Those are simply the avenues through which Harbaugh's personality travels. 

What makes Harbaugh interesting is that he's brutally honest about himself and others. He is who he is, and he's unapologetic about it. He's different and doesn't try or want to hide it. He cares about people, about recruits, but not to the point where he'll lie to them to prove it. 

According to Callihan, if Harbaugh thinks someone isn't NFL material, he'll tell him. It doesn't mean Harbaugh's right, but it is what's on his mind. If he thinks a recruit's ceiling is an undergraduate degree and only an undergraduate degree, he'll say so. "He gives an unvarnished opinion in recruiting," said Callihan. 

Some appreciate that candor; others don't. Harbaugh's personalty may not be malicious, but it can rub people the wrong the way. There are examples of that. Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin and cornerback Richard Sherman, both of whom played for Harbaugh at Stanford, didn't exactly give glowing reviews of their former head coach to Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated in January:  

Thus, Baldwin and Sherman have interesting recon abilities as the only two guys to have played for both Harbaugh and Carroll. Safe to say, Harbaugh's personal style rubbed both players the wrong way -- both Sherman and Baldwin felt like odd fits, and Baldwin actually thought about quitting the game altogether in his junior year before his mom told him to stick it out.

(Harbaugh was unavailable for comment for this story.) 

Most of us will never see that side of Harbaugh. What we'll get instead is someone who posts quirky things on social media, says off-the-wall phrases and dives headfirst into anything that piques his interest. 

But he's not scatterbrained. Like all great coaches, Harbaugh has laser-sharp focus at the task at hand. He's a fierce competitor who loves football. He lives in the moment and for the moment. He's wound tight, but as Callihan explains, it's never such that you think he's going to burn out.

Harbaugh is the anti-Meyer in that sense. 

In eight-and-a-half months, Harbaugh will be the anti-Meyer on the sidelines as well. No matter how long Harbaugh stays at the college level, he'll make the game better and more interesting. 

From one college football geek to another, that's good enough. 

 

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

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