NCAA Football

10 Bold SEC Predictions for National Signing Day

National signing day is less than a week away, which means shenanigans are right around the corner.

Who will flip? Who will stick? What random, bizarre story will pop up on national signing day that will dominate headlines?

It's time to go on the record with some SEC-related bold predictions for national signing day.

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Texas A&M Football: Aggies' 4 Most Underrated Recruits of 2015

The Texas A&M football coaches are going to sign one of the top-10 recruiting classes in the nation on February 4. While the Aggies have a number of top-flight recruits committed, there are a few recruits who are being overlooked by the analysts and fans. 

Championship teams are made up of all kinds of players. For every superstar player like a Trent Richardson, you need a player who understands his role like a Brad Smelley. It takes everyone moving in the same direction, acting as a singular unit to form a championship team. 

That is the reason why certain recruits may not score high on the scale made up by recruiting analysts but may be vital to the makeup of a college football team. College coaches bring in recruits in order to help them win college football games. 

Sometimes that is lost in a world of high school combines and overanalyzing recruits. At the same time, some of the recruits slip through the cracks and are not thought of highly enough coming out of high school. Maybe they do not have ideal size, or they simply did not attend any college camps to catch the eyes of a bunch of coaches. 

There have been numerous examples of recruits who entered college without any fanfare and then exploded onto the national scene. This is a look at the most underrated recruits in the Aggies' 2015 recruiting class. 

This will include both types of players. It will include some players who were simply overlooked, as well as some who may not have starred in college but should play a valuable role in helping the team win at the highest level. 

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USC QB Max Browne Learns Behind Cody Kessler's Growing Star

As national signing day approaches, and USC football prepares to add several highly touted prospects to its roster, quarterback Max Browne serves as a reminder that not every big-time recruit makes an impact immediately. 

But Browne also has the opportunity to prove patience pays off. 

"I’m just going about my business, preparing…for this offseason," Browne said in December, coming off Howard Jones Field after a Trojans practice for the last time in 2014. 

The 2014 campaign was Browne's second in the program. In that time, he said he's learned plenty that will serve him well for the rest of his college career. 

"I just got comfortable," he said. "A lot of the timing routes, a lot of the concepts I don't even think about anymore. Oftentimes when coaches say a formation, I already know what play they're going to call.

"That's something I never even would have thought of a year ago." 

Browne may not have had the familiarity or the comfort to run USC's offense a season ago, but when his time to shine comes, having bided his time should pay dividends. 

Browne came to USC in 2013 ranked as the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect. With four-year starter Matt Barkley on his way out and Browne enrolling in time for spring practices, high expectations met the Sammamish, Washington, native from day one. 

Instead, Browne is entering his third spring still with minimal collegiate experience to his name and behind the fast-rising star of a Heisman Trophy contender, Cody Kessler.  

Kessler's ascent from one of two quarterbacks sharing snaps early in 2013 to one of the most prolific scorers in USC's illustrious quarterback history put Browne on the back burner.  

Meanwhile, the former 5-star recruit has appeared in six games, thrown seven passes and scored zero touchdowns while at USC. 

But in that same time, Browne took hundreds, if not thousands, of snaps in practice, operating within the same process that transformed Kessler from inexperienced afterthought to record-setter. 

"All the throws are becoming second nature," Browne said. 

So, too, is Browne's rapport with other Trojans reserves as the program's next generation begins to take shape behind the scenes. 

"A lot of those second-team guys" are who Browne said he's become comfortable throwing to. "Darreus Rodgers, George Katrib, David Mellstrom, and then [tight end] Bryce Dixon is right behind Randall [Telfer] on the depth chart."

With Telfer graduating, Dixon—who Browne called "a special player"—likely moves to the top of the depth chart.

He'll be a sophomore in terms of eligibility next season, the same as Browne. When both are juniors—Dixon a true junior, Browne a redshirt—the reps taken together at Howard Jones Field could play out before a 90,000-plus crowd in the Coliseum.  

But that's still another season away. Browne said he's starting 2015 with a steady regimen in the weight room, focusing on one area in particular necessary for him to take the next step.  

"A pitcher [in baseball] would say this—any thrower would say this—throwing the ball is all core [strength]," Browne said. "[Core strength helps with] taking the hits, too. It's all huge in that aspect." 

None of this is to say Browne will be a shoo-in for the vacancy Kessler leaves in 2016—in this year's recruiting class, the Trojans are adding the latest pair of highly touted quarterback prospects in 4-star recruits Ricky Town and Sam Darnold.  

"I was there once upon a time," Browne said of the incoming class, a nod to the challenges first-year quarterbacks face adapting to the speed and nuances of playing at the college level. 

USC also returns 2014 quarterback recruit Jalen Greene, who, like Browne, will have plenty of practice reps and weight-room time logged once 2016 arrives.

There are hardly any more guarantees for Browne's future now than there were when he was a 5-star recruit in 2013. But after learning behind Kessler, Browne does have one guarantee for himself going forward. 

"I'm just taking the mindset I've got to make the most of every rep I get," he said. "Not waste any." 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy CFBstats.com. Recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC QB Max Browne Learns Behind Cody Kessler's Growing Star

As national signing day approaches, and USC football prepares to add several highly touted prospects to its roster, quarterback Max Browne serves as a reminder that not every big-time recruit makes an impact immediately...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Biggest Takeaways from 2015 ACC Football Schedule Release

The ACC has released its schedule for the 2015-16 college football season.

Prior to Thursday's announcement, opponents and locations had already been set for conference play, but the order of the games was undetermined.

"We have a tremendously competitive league schedule which provides our teams and fans with great games each week of the season," said ACC commissioner John Swofford, per the official release.

Now that we know the who, what, where and when of the ACC schedule, we can analyze the complete picture. The timing of each game dictates more than just travel arrangements for fans; it dictates where potential trap games and letdown scenarios lurk.

Here are four things we learned on Thursday.

 

The Florida State-NC State Trap Game Is On!

Florida State has an NC State problem, and it has for a long time. The Wolfpack upset a highly ranked Noles team in 1998 and again in 2012. Last year, even though they didn't finish the job, they pushed FSU as hard as they could in a 49-37 home loss.

Next year, FSU gets the Wolfpack at home, which it knew before the schedule release. But it found out Thursday that the NC State game is the week after the road trip to Clemson. That is, the week after the biggest game on FSU's schedule.

"Hosting NC State the week after [Clemson] is a clear trap game," wrote Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation.

This is true no matter the outcome of the Seminoles' game in Death Valley. If they win, they are coming off an emotional high and poised for a letdown—a Clemsoning, ironically, if you will. If they lose, they are likely battered from a physical game and dejected.

Either way, a plucky NC State team is the last thing they will want to see. A 6'4" quarterback with a history of running through them is the last player they will want to see. Jacoby Brissett had 359 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against FSU last season.

One of those touchdowns was Jameis Winston-esque:

Without Winston, how does FSU counter?

 

Can Louisville Survive the First Half?

Louisville knew it had to start the season with Auburn. It knew it had to follow Auburn with Houston. Now it knows it has to follow Houston with Clemson—and to do it on a short week, no less.

Basically, in the span of 18 days, the Cardinals play an offense coached by Gus Malzahn, an offense coached by Tom Herman and an offense coached by Dabo Swinney. Even with Chad Morris gone from Clemson, these are three uptempo offenses you don't want to face. And you especially don't want to face them three straight weeks.

After Clemson, the Cardinals get Samford, but the schedule gets hard again from there. Their next three weeks go: at NC State, bye week, home against Florida State.

It's a brutal first six games for Bobby Petrino's team—one which they'd be happy to survive at 4-2. If they get there, however, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Check out these final six weeks:

  • October 24: vs. Boston College
  • October 30: at Wake Forest
  • November 7: vs. Syracuse
  • November 14: vs. Virginia
  • November 21: at Pittsburgh
  • November 28: at Kentucky

Louisville plays 11 FBS opponents next season. Its first six (including Boston College) all made bowl games in 2014. Four of its last five didn't. And the only one of that last group that did, Pittsburgh, actually lost its bowl game to a team from the first group, Houston.

The Cardinals have a chance to go 5-1 or 6-0 in the second half next season. How they start will determine where they finish.

 

Atlantic vs. Coastal Challenge Weeks

Over the past four seasons, the ACC Atlantic has played big brother to the ACC Coastal. Florida State and Clemson have lorded over the conference, and the addition of Louisville to the Atlantic in 2014 made the chasm between the two divisions wider.

But Georgia Tech showed well against Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl and enters next season with high expectations. Miami finished 6-7 but has the talent to beat any ACC team on any given day. They are the favorites to win the Coastal next season, and whoever wins the Coastal will fancy itself a contender to win the ACC.

Which is why two weeks stand out from next year's schedule: October 10 and October 24. In those weeks, the two presumptive favorites from each division will play each other—first at the Atlantic locations and next at the Coastal:

  • October 10: Georgia Tech at Clemson
  • October 10: Miami at Florida State
  • October 24: Clemson at Miami
  • October 24: Florida State at Georgia Tech

Florida State sweated out wins against Miami and Georgia Tech last season, beating the Hurricanes on the road and the Yellow Jackets on a neutral field. Still, neither team will cower from the Noles, or from Clemson, when they take the field in 2015.

These are huge weeks for the Coastal at large.

 

Clemson Hosts Florida State in November—Not October

The past four meetings between Clemson and Florida State have determined the ACC champion. They have also all taken place in October. Talk about a spoiler alert.

Next year, however, we will not learn the ACC champion before Halloween. Clemson hosts FSU November 7, in each team's ninth game of the season. Neither team can use youth or inexperience as an excuse; Week 10 is when teams should be peaking.

Both teams have their bye in Week 4 and will thus be playing their sixth game in six weeks, also. They will be tired but equally tired. Neither team can play the "fatigue" card, either.

Basically, the stage is set for a fair, late-season matchup between the two modern ACC titans. The top of the league is less defined than usual, so this might be the year someone other than the winner of Florida State-Clemson becomes conference champion; but until that day comes, this is still the de facto ACC title game.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Projecting Every Power 5 College Football Team's Breakout Player for 2015

Before they were Heisman contenders or held FBS single-game rushing records, many of college football's best players from this past year were unheralded or almost completely unknown to most of the country. But when the 2014 season was over, they all had something in common.

They were breakout stars.

It happens every year, on every team. Guys like Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Oklahoma's Samaje Perine entered 2014 with promise but also uncertainty, yet they ended up far exceeding expectations. Now, they're considered among the best in the game.

Who will those breakout players be in 2015? We take a stab at plucking one from the masses for every power-conference team (as well as Notre Dame), so check them out and get yourself educated for next season.

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Quart'e Sapp Is Athletic Final Defensive Piece to Vols' 2015 Recruiting Class

Tennessee received a key piece Thursday in versatile outside linebacker Quart'e Sapp that will likely wrap up defensive recruiting for the Vols in this 2015 cycle.

The 6'1.5", 200-pound defender from Alpharetta, Georgia, chose UT over various offers on the heels of last weekend's visit to Michigan State and after canceling a scheduled visit to Missouri this weekend. Clemson, Miami and others were in the picture as well.

Sapp's announcement was made live on Atlanta's Channel 11, and he cited fan support and his relationship with players and coaches, among other things, as reasons for his pledge.

Another key factor was UT's defensive line recruiting prowess, echoing the thoughts of middle linebacker commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. from more than a month ago:

"With all the guys coming in like Kahlil [McKenzie] and Shy [Tuttle], those big guys mean a lot to a linebacker," Sapp said.

Back in December, Sapp tweeted a picture of himself in a bathtub full of college letters. It was a creative way of displaying that he had options, but like the 28 other players in Tennessee's highly rated class, he ultimately chose the Vols.

While Sapp's commitment is more of a luxury than a necessity for Tennessee, which doesn't really have a need at outside linebacker, it doesn't affect the importance of Sapp's decision.

He has been a top UT target for a very long time, and after being a high priority for the Vols for months, his decision to wait out the process recently brought into question whether or not he'd be part of the final class.

After he'd developed a relationship with UT players and coaches, it wound up being only a matter of time. Tennessee tight end commitment Kyle Oliver expressed equal parts elation and relief over Twitter.

Teaming with fellow commit Austin Smith, a 3-star outside linebacker, Sapp will give linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen an athletic duo who fit perfectly with what defensive coordinator John Jancek is building.

 

Speed in Space

Sapp doesn't appear to have what analysts would call "elite" speed for a player his size at the outside linebacker position, but he covers a lot of ground and is really good tackling in space.

Much the way the Vols have taken safeties Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cortez McDowell, beefed them up in the weight room and turned them into play-making second-level players, Sapp has the same ability.

Volquest.com's Paul Fortenberry discussed what makes Sapp an elite linebacker:

The most impressive attribute about Sapp has to be his athleticism and his ability to play in coverage while still being physical. Sapp looks like a sideline-to-sideline linebacker that can make plays all over the field.

But, when he's in coverage he excels. He picked off several passes this year and showed that he's a rangy linebacker that can not only cover running backs out of the backfield, but receivers and tight ends in the slot as well.

The biggest positive for him is he has played linebacker at Milton High School where Reeves-Maybin and McDowell were recruited as safeties.

Sapp's natural instincts won't have to be taught at the college level, and once he adds the necessary weight to play in the rugged SEC, he can step right in.

As a senior, he did nothing but impress. According to his 247Sports bio, Sapp won the Region 5AAAAAA Defensive Player of the Year award, leading Milton to the region championship. He also was a participant at The Opening, a prestigious camp for elite high school players.

As a junior, Sapp recorded 110 tackles, including seven for a loss, four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery that was returned for a touchdown. He will eventually have the opportunity to fill up the stat sheet like that in Knoxville.

That type of ability to make plays all over the field makes Sapp compare favorably to Reeves-Maybin, who led Tennessee in tackles along with A.J. Johnson as a sophomore in 2014 while doing everything else, too, as his stat sheet suggests.

Players such as Sapp will help UT continue to revamp its defense from one that was embarrassed and abused against speed-based teams like Auburn and Missouri in 2013. While it improved this past season, it still wasn't great.

According to CFBStats.com, Tennessee was ninth in the conference allowing 56 plays of more than 20 yards. The Vols were 11th in plays of 30-plus yards, giving up 29. They also allowed four plays of 60 or more yards.

Sapp will make those tackles in space, keeping the edges closed down. The Vols need more players like him.

 

Depth at Linebacker

Coaches will use the cliche that you can never have too much depth, but it became a reality for the Vols this past year.

So, it isn't just lip service.

There may have been more pressing needs for Tennessee than linebacker in this cycle, but getting Smith, Sapp and 4-star middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., who is already on campus, is still huge.

When Dillon Bates went down with a torn labrum last year, the Vols didn't have many viable options on the outside to go along with Reeves-Maybin. In traditional sets, it wasn't uncommon to see defensive end Curt Maggitt return to his old position standing up on the second level.

JUCO transfer Chris Weatherd didn't know enough of the playbook to be an every-down outside 'backer, and McDowell was a freshman still learning the system as well. So, adding a couple more outside linebackers into the mix was important.

With Sapp's commitment, Jancek now has a deeper pool of talented players from which to match up personnel. Reeves-Maybin, Weatherd, Bates, McDowell and Elliott Berry will all return. Adding Sapp and Smith to the fray will give the Vols several options.

A player with the versatility of Sapp could factor into the equation, if necessary. But that also means there is enough depth on the roster where he could be brought along slowly and develop the way freshmen are supposed to before seeing the field.

If something happens such as Kirkland isn't ready to play in the middle and none of Jakob Johnson, Kenny Bynum or Gavin Bryant prove to be great middle linebackers, UT could move a player like Bates inside for now, if necessary.

The key is they now have options. That's never a bad thing.

 

More Positive Publicity

A big part of recruiting is perception. Players want to play for the best teams with the best recruiting classes.

Given the way coach Butch Jones has built Tennessee's elite recruiting classes the past two years, there hasn't been a lot of drama in the weeks leading up to national signing day.

On one hand, that isn't a bad thing. As the old saying goes, most of the hay is in the barn, and there's less to worry about from the standpoint of players flipping or not filling up your class.

On the other, it's nice to have the attention focused on your team during the few weeks out of the year when recruiting steals sports' spotlight.

Getting Sapp to pledge less than a week before signing day is great publicity for a Tennessee recruiting class that will get plenty of national buzz because of its depth and star power but not because of any late surprises.

Sapp's announcement was televised in the talent-rich hotbed of Atlanta, and with that being a key area of emphasis for the Vols (as well as everybody else in the country) the publicity isn't small news.

Also, with ESPNU featuring the Vols on national signing day along with some other schools, Sapp's commitment will help boost a lofty ranking that was already fourth in the 247Sports composite rankings before Sapp's decision.

Sapp's commitment is big, even if there wasn't a pressing need. It's always nice to be able to grab a player of his talent this late in the game, especially when some of the nation's top defensive programs wanted him.

It helps in Atlanta, it helps build depth and, most importantly, it gives Tennessee another versatile athlete it can throw at opponents from an absolutely loaded defensive recruiting class.

 

All recruiting information from 247Sports composite rankings, unless otherwise noted. 

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Quart'e Sapp to Tennessee: Volunteers Land 4-Star LB Prospect

One of the prized linebackers in the 2015 recruiting class, Quart'e Sapp, has made one program very happy with his announcement on Thursday. 

According to Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com, Sapp has decided to attend Tennessee:

According to 247Sports.com rankings, Sapp is the No. 14 outside linebacker in the country. He's been making the rounds lately, with an official visit to Michigan State last weekend. 

One reason the Spartans appealed to Sapp, according to his high school coach Tony DeCristofaro in Alpharetta, Georgia, is because of the way Mark Dantonio runs his defense before acknowledging two key reasons why they may not be the school for him, via Allen Trieu of The Detroit News:

"Michigan State runs a scheme that's similar to ours," DeCristofaro told Scout affiliate InsideTennessee. "But I think he'd rather be closer to home than go that far away. That's just my opinion. I think the weather would also have something to do with it."

Early on Thursday, Sapp posted on Twitter that he was going to officially announce his decision on a local Atlanta news show:

Sapp also posted recently that his decision came down to Michigan State, Tennessee, Missouri and Miami:

Using the 247Sports.com Crystal Ball predictions, Tennessee was seen as the overwhelming favorite with 92 percent of the votes from recruiting insiders and experts. That certainly falls in line with what DeCristofaro said about proximity to home and being in a warm-weather environment. 

Sapp's presence is a huge boost to the 2015 recruiting class. He's a known commodity but still flies under the radar based on his overall ranking. The Georgia native isn't coming in as a ready-made product with room to grow physically at 203 pounds, but the raw pieces give him star potential. 

Despite the lack of bulk presently, Sapp is a tremendous athlete with speed, range and good tackling instincts. He's the kind of player that every coach wants to have, so for Butch Jones to get this kind of talent is a great gift before National Signing Day on February 4. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star Carlton Davis Decommits from Ohio State, Sets Sights on SEC School

Ohio State has been on a recruiting roll since winning the national title, but its 2015 class took a hit on Thursday when 4-star corner Carlton Davis dropped his pledge to the Buckeyes, according to Alex Gleitman of Bucknuts.

Gleitman reports that Auburn—who hosted the 6’2”, 184-pounder on an official visit last weekend—is now in the driver’s seat for Davis.

This turn of events has ramifications for both schools.

For the Buckeyes, the loss of Davis is a blow considering that he had been committed to Ohio State since last August.

Corners with his type of size and athleticism are rare, and those players are being coveted by coaches across the country who are trying to match up against big and athletic receivers on the outside.

While corner is a pressing need for Urban Meyer and his staff in the 2015 cycle, the Buckeyes have four talented corners still committed in 4-stars Jamel Dean, Eric Glover-Williams and Denzel Ward, plus 3-star Joshua Norwood.

According to Gleitman, the next target for Meyer could be 3-star South Florida native Damon Arnette—who is currently committed to South Carolina.

The 6’2”, 185-pounder is scheduled to visit Columbus this weekend and could be a candidate to flip his commitment on signing day.

Even if the Buckeyes can’t flip Arnette, they still have a strong group of corners to plug into their secondary.

If Auburn lands Davis, it will be the second corner it has been able flip from the Miami area within a week.

The dynamic recruiting duo of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson helped the Tigers flip 3-star corner Jeremiah Dinson, who was previously committed to Kentucky.

Davis’ impact is important to Auburn for a few reasons.

For starters, he would give Muschamp another tall and athletic corner who can play physical, man-to-man coverage on the outside—something that has been critical to the success of his defensive units over the years.

Additionally, it continues to give Auburn a presence in the talent-rich area of South Florida.

Davis could also set off a potential avalanche of top targets jumping into the Tigers class heading into national signing day.

Among the standouts that Gus Malzahn and his staff are heavily involved with are 5-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey, 5-star defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson, 5-star defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. and 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland.

With that kind of firepower left on the board for the Tigers, Malzahn’s program has a chance to be the biggest winner on national signing day.

Regardless of how those recruitments play out, getting Davis would fill a huge need for the Tigers in the 2015 cycle.

 

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

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2015's No. 1 Safety: 'I Honestly Don't Know How Many Tattoos I Have'

Derwin James is a 5-star safety—per 247Sports' composite rankings—who is covered in tattoos. But for Derwin, each tattoo has a story.

Watch the Florida State commit discuss the significance of his body art in the video above.

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Who Are the Biggest Freak Athletes in the 2015 Class?

The 2015 recruiting class is full of outstanding athletes who are whizzing all over the field while opening eyes at their respective combines.

Which athlete is the freakiest out there?

Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer reveal which recruits are the biggest freaks in the class.

Who is the best athlete to come out of the 2015 class? Check out the video and let us know!

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Insider Buzz: Don't Believe Rumors of Monster Package Deal

National signing day is sure to cause some fireworks, especially in the state of Florida. Three top recruits from the state are uncommitted, and they have everyone wondering where they will end up. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson sits down with 247Sports National Recruiting Analyst JC Shurburtt to discuss whether this package deal is a possibility. 

Where will Byron Cowart, CeCe Jefferson and Jeffery Holland end up?

Watch the video and let us know!

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4-Star Chidi Valentine-Okeke Gives LSU Major Recruiting Win over Alabama, Auburn

Days before national signing day, LSU was in need of some positive recruiting news. The Tigers not only received a Thursday morning present but also won an important recruiting battle over two SEC rivals.

Georgia 4-star offensive tackle Chidi Valentine-Okeke verbally committed to LSU, according to Scout.com analyst Chad Simmons. Valentine-Okeke became LSU's 19th overall pledge and the program's first offensive lineman commit of the new year.

Perhaps more importantly to Les Miles and the LSU coaching staff, Valentine-Okeke is a big get in a recruiting battle that also included Alabama and Auburn. Entering the week, Auburn appeared to be the front-runner, per Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports. Valentine-Okeke was supposed to make his decision on TV on Monday, but plans were changed after he received visits from both Auburn and Alabama later that day.

A decision was then expected to come early next week, but Valentine-Okeke told Simmons on Thursday that he "had to go ahead and get it over with" and that the wait "was too much for me."

"I just love everything about LSU," Valentine-Okeke told Simmons. "Coach Miles was very, very happy when I gave him the news. I am happy, too, to have my decision."

Valentine-Okeke is just outside the 247Sports Composite Top 100 at 102, but of those 102 players, LSU now has seven either committed or on campus as an early enrollee. He is the team's top-rated offensive tackle.

Per 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions, Auburn was considered the team to beat. LSU, however, had the last official visit. Valentine-Okeke visited Auburn and Alabama on Dec. 10 and Dec. 12, respectively, but he took in an LSU campus visit the weekend of Jan. 16.

Valentine was recruited primarily by LSU secondary coach Corey Raymond. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will get a player in Valentine-Okeke who is the nation's fifth-ranked offensive tackle. At 6'6" and 305 pounds, Valentine-Okeke is the fourth offensive lineman to commit to LSU. He joins 3-star tackles Adrian McGee of Louisiana and George Brown Jr. of Ohio, as well as 4-star offensive guard Maea Teuhema of Texas.

There's much to like about Valentine-Okeke. He's a tall, strong lineman who has great measurables to be a solid pass protector. What makes Valentine-Okeke even more intriguing is that he's still a project. It wasn't long ago that Valentine-Okeke—originally from Nigeria—had never played football. In roughly a year, he not only was able to establish himself as a player to watch for Georgia's Faith Baptist Christian Academy, but also earned U.S. Army All-American status and built his offer list to nearly 20 offers.

Not bad for someone who also reclassified to the 2015 class. Much of what he does on the field relies on raw talent. You can bet the LSU coaching staff are excited about molding him into a potential all-conference-caliber player.

Valentine-Okeke adds depth to an improving LSU offensive line. La'el Collins finished his senior year, but look for Valentine-Okeke to learn a lot from Jerald Hawkins, Vadal Alexander, Ethan Pocic and the other returning linemen.

Damon Sayles is National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' Composite ratings. Follow Damon on Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Big Ten Needs to Fight Back Against Recruiting Rules That Favor SEC

The backroom of college football is a game of king of the hill. The big winners get all the titles, but also all the money, the top recruits, the exposure and even control of the rules. That's why this is the big moment for the Big Ten to stand up to the SEC.

It's the first chance the Big Ten has had in years and the first time the SEC has looked vulnerable since God knows when. For so long, Big Ten football was seen as a caveman, out of touch and out of time. But now? In the past handful of weeks, it has produced the national champ (Ohio State), made the biggest coaching hire of the offseason (Jim Harbaugh) and put two starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl (Tom Brady, Michigan; Russell Wilson, Wisconsin), not to mention other big bowl wins.

Time to take the fight into the backroom.

Less than a week from one of the most popular days of the college football year—national signing day for recruits—it's clear that a weird technicality in recruiting rules is being exploited and making it nearly impossible for the Big Ten to fully close the gap on the SEC.

The Big Ten figures to have just one team, Ohio State, ranked among the top 10 recruiting classes, according to 24/7 Sports' Composite rankings. The SEC figures to have five or six.

Why isn't the success in other areas translating to a recruiting advantage? What does the conference need to do to make up ground?

"The Big Ten can advocate for a rule change," Gerry DiNardo, former head coach in both conferences, told Bleacher Report. "In the Big Ten, they can come together as coaches and say, 'We're under an old recruiting calendar, an old model. And it favors the SEC.' "

There are way too many rules for anyone but the most ardent recruiting nerds to follow, but this one involves unofficial and official campus visits. Basically, schools can bring in recruits for an official campus visit when they're high school seniors, expenses paid. But recruits can make unofficial visits if they show up at campuses on their own dime.

And what has happened? The unofficial visits have become the big deciders, done before official visits. Coaches have protocols set up to make sure any unofficial visitor gets the official visitor treatment. Then, most athletes have made their decisions already by the time they take their official visits, which become a ceremonial trip.

In other words, if you don't get an athlete on campus before his official visit, for the most part it's already too late. So how does that favor the SEC? How is it unfair to the Big Ten?

Well, the big problem with football in the Midwest involves population shifts in the U.S. away from the rust belt. Simply, the kids of farmers, manufacturers, plant workers and miners who used to make up the core of Midwestern teams aren't there as much anymore.

As a result, nearly all the top high school players are from the Southeast, Texas or the West Coast, according to the 24/7 Sports Composite player rankings.

"Before the population drain from the Big Ten footprint, there were enough (high school) players in the state of Michigan, enough in the state of Ohio for those teams," said DiNardo, the former head coach at Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana, and current studio analyst for the Big Ten Network. "Now there are not enough. In basketball, they can look at prospects in the spring, but football is way behind the times. You can't pay for the parents' (visit), you can't (pay for a) visit with a junior.

"So you look at a kid in the South, and he's looking at LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and all he has to afford is a tank of gas to go to those places."

But how much would it cost a potential recruit to fly to Lincoln, Nebraska, where there isn't even a major airport nearby?

SEC schools not only have better access to the top players, they also have rules advantages to keep them there.

Now comes a proposal to allow high school kids to sign in December of their senior year and not have to wait till February. And early signing day works out to two fewer months that Big Ten coaches can have to get to know a prospect. It locks in the SEC's advantage.

Just say no, Big Ten. Fight back the way you did in the bowl season and keep that early signing date from happening, unless there are concessions about official and unofficial visits.

Actually, it's time to ban unofficial visits entirely and allow juniors to go on official visits. That's when non-athletes are considering which schools to go to, too.

It's already hard enough to get a top recruit from the South to come play in cold weather for a conference that wasn't winning big games. Illinois coach Tim Beckman told Bleacher Report that suddenly he's able to use the conference as part of the sales pitch. He also tells recruits that NFL teams will want players who can play in the cold, and coming to Illinois would give them a chance to learn.

Good pitch.

Not working.

The Big Ten is suddenly flush with confidence. Not only did Ohio State beat Oregon to win the title, but Michigan State beat Baylor and Wisconsin beat Auburn. That's three modern offenses being shut down by cavemen. And Ohio State's semifinal win over Alabama made Nick Saban the caveman.

This spot on top of the hill is new to Big Ten football. It's going to take a lot more to stay there. It's going to take some smashed heads and bloody noses—caveman football—not only on the field, but also in the backroom.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia's No. 1 Recruiting Goal Is to Hold on to 5-Star ATH Terry Godwin

Terry Godwin has been one of the cornerstones of the Georgia recruiting class ever since the 5-star athlete/receiver committed to the Bulldogs in January of 2014, but he could be at risk of heading elsewhere.

The 5-star stud visited Auburn two weeks ago and followed that up with a visit to Alabama last weekend. According to Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Godwin could be wavering despite saying that he's 100 percent committed to the Bulldogs.

“Right now, I’m still committed to UGA, so who knows?" Godwin told Carvell.

Godwin will make his final decision and sign on the dotted line on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. ET, according to Carvell.

He's an absolutely pivotal piece of the Georgia recruiting class.

Godwin, a 6'0", 168-pounder, is a crisp route-runner, has uncanny ball skills and has the explosiveness to take it to the house from just about anywhere on the field. He's as close to an Odell Beckham Jr. clone as it gets in the 2015 class.

Recruiting analysts are split on where Godwin could land.

Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com, thinks he sticks:

JC Shurburtt, national analyst for 247Sports, told Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson that he thinks Godwin will flip to Auburn in the video below:

Godwin is the kind of difference-maker Georgia needs, and head coach Mark Richt needs to do whatever it takes to keep him on board. The Bulldogs already lost 4-star wide receiver Van Jefferson—a one-time commit—to Ole Miss.

As Carvell noted on Twitter, half of Georgia's decommitments in the 2015 class have been wide receivers:

Keeping Godwin will make or break Georgia's class.

If he sticks, he will be the second-highest-profile signee behind No. 1 overall player and monster defensive tackle Trent Thompson. He'd be walking into a situation at Georgia where new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is looking to replace the top two receivers from last year—Chris Conley and Michael Bennett.

Godwin has a very good chance of stepping right in and kick-starting the Bulldog passing game, which finished ninth in the SEC in yards per game last year (199.9) and will be breaking in a new starting quarterback.

Without Godwin, Georgia's class would chime in with 263.72 points and drop it from sixth—where it currently stands—down to ninth behind LSU and slightly ahead of Auburn, assuming Godwin signs with the Tigers.

That's assuming there are no more surprises from the Tigers, who are in the mix for several top prospects including CeCe Jefferson, Martez Ivey and Byron Cowart.

Godwin is the highest-profile Georgia commit who has seriously considered looking around. If he signs with the Bulldogs, the class will be solid. If he flips, it'll be considered a good class with a disappointing close.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon's Starting QB Next Year Will Be a Transfer, but Won't Be Braxton Miller

Oregon has traditionally done a brilliant job of implementing the "next man up" philosophy. In this case, the "next man up" could literally move up a level of football. 

Justin Hopkins of DuckTerritory.com reported on Wednesday that Vernon Adams Jr., the redshirt junior quarterback from Eastern Washington of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision ranks, will visit Oregon this weekend.

The report adds Adams does have his transfer release from Eastern Washington. Jim Allen of the Spokesman-Review later reported Adams has received a scholarship offer from Oregon. 

For the sake of conversation—nothing is official yet—let's say Adams decides to spend his last year of eligibility at Oregon. Beyond Braxton Miller, who has indicated he will remain at Ohio State, this is as good a fit as the Ducks are going to find. 

That's important. Head coach Mark Helfrich told Stephen Alexander of the Portland Tribune earlier this month he would consider a transfer quarterback if it was the "right guy, the right fit." 

Listed at a modest 6'0" and 200 pounds on his bio page, Adams isn't as big as now-former Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota. However, he has the athleticism necessary to be the cornerstone of the offense. His scrambling ability and field vision conjure up comparisons to guys like Russell Wilson, Johnny Manziel and Michael Vick. 

Beyond his obvious physical gifts, Adams has been extremely productive in his years as a starter, as noted by the Spokesman-Review

In 2013, Adams led the Eagles to a 49-46 upset win at Oregon State; last year, he threw seven touchdown passes in a 59-52 loss at Washington.

In three years, Adams has thrown for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, while helping EWU go 35-8 overall and 22-2 in the Big Sky. For the last two years, he has finished second in balloting for the Walter Payton award for the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Primary backup Jeff Lockie is the presumed front-runner to succeed Mariota if the competition ended today. Behind Lockie are a few unproven quarterbacks. However, none of them have the combined athleticism and experience Adams has.  

Furthermore, the last three times Oregon named a new starting quarterback—Mariota in 2012, Darron Thomas in '10 and Jeremiah Masoli in '08—the primary backup from the year before—Bryan Bennett, Nate Costa and Brady Leaf, respectively—did not get the starting job. 

While there are no guarantees, Adams has to feel confident about his chances to start if he does transfer to Oregon. "I’m not going there to be a walk-on or a second-stringer," Adams told Allen. 

The obstacle he would have to overcome is learning the offense at an accelerated rate. Because Adams is set to graduate in June, he wouldn't be able to join Oregon until the summer. 

The good news for Adams is the Ducks' offense is quarterback (and stat) friendly. Even with no real household names on the receiving unit last season, Mariota was still throwing into large windows more often than not. Additionally, Oregon returns a talented group of running backs led by Royce Freeman. 

Inserting Adams into that offense could keep it running at a high level. It has the potential to be unfair for opponents. 

It's a unique situation for Adams to potentially transfer up a level and start, but clearly Oregon likes his style. Guys like Adams get passed up by bigger programs coming out of high school all the time for myriad reasons. 

As a small-stature quarterback, Adams had to prove he can play at a high level despite his size. He's done just that; Adams is one of the few big names outside of the FBS level—or outside the Power Five conferences, for that matter. 

Adams can play. Oregon is, at the very least, interested in what Adams can bring. This could be a beautiful marriage, even if it's the most unlikely kind. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon's Starting QB Next Year Will Be a Transfer, but Won't Be Braxton Miller

Oregon has traditionally done a brilliant job of implementing the "next man up" philosophy. In this case, the "next man up" could literally move up a level of football. Justin Hopkins of DuckTerritory ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Chidi Valentine-Okeke to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star OT Prospect

Chidi Valentine-Okeke, a 4-star offensive tackle out of Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici, Georgia, announced he would be attending LSU on Friday.

Chad Simmons of Rivals.com reported the news as Valentine-Okeke made his decision:

Valentine-Okeke is featured in 247Sports' composite rankings as the No. 5 offensive tackle and No. 102 prospect overall in the class of 2015. The gifted Nigerian star was initially a 2016 recruit but was reclassified upon transferring from Champagnat Catholic High School in Miami, Florida.

However, as Chad Carson of 247Sports reports, a strong performance in the Army Bowl boosted Valentine-Okeke's stock in a big way:

A fast track to college was fortuitous for LSU, who may have landed a key program cornerstone by getting Valentine-Okeke to commit. Still a raw player with little football experience, Valentine-Okeke is a worthy investment due to his tremendous upside.

Despite his limited time on the gridiron, goals are already gaudy for Valentine-Okeke, who already has an idea of who he wants to emulate. That would be the 2014 NFL draft's No. 2 overall pick, former Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson.

Valentine-Okeke revealed this amid the Tigers' courtship of him, catalyzed by someone he learned from in a July camp in Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes.

"He's a nice coach," said Valentine-Okeke in November 2014, per AL.com's Wesley Sinor. "He coached Greg Robinson and I'm looking to be like him. That shows he knows what he is doing."

As is referenced on Valentine-Okeke's 247Sports profile, he only arrived in the United States in August 2013, yet he's still shown the skill set to explode onto major programs' radars.

The 6'6", 305-pound specimen is quick, has naturally good hands and has the athleticism to get to the second level as a blocker.

Since Valentine-Okeke has flashed as both a run blocker and pass protector, he could plug in anywhere on the offensive line, but LSU will likely give him every chance at the all-important left tackle spot.

By the time he's in his third year on campus, there's reason to believe Valentine-Okeke could burst onto the scene as one of the nation's premier players in the trenches.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking 10 Fastest Recruits in 2015 Recruiting Class

Speed is one of the primary factors that college coaches look for on the recruiting trail. 

The 2015 class is loaded with athletes who are a blur on the gridiron.

Whether it’s running backs, receivers or defensive backs, a handful of stud recruits in the 2015 cycle possess elite speed. 

Which recruits are among the 10 fastest prospects in the 2015 class?  

Begin Slideshow

Nobody's a Winner in the Preston Williams Recruiting Saga

Around this time every year, there's at least one bizarre recruiting story. 

Sometimes, a mom steals a national letter of intent. Other times, a player commits to one school but signs with another. And sometimes, a player's bio gets posted on a school's website a bit prematurely.

Preston Williams, a 4-star wide receiver from Lovejoy High School in Hampton, Georgia, is your early leader for the most bizarre recruiting story of 2015.

Williams, a Tennessee commit since September, took an official visit to Auburn last weekend. It didn't last long. He was asked to leave early by the Auburn coaches, and the reason for the dismissal is certainly up for debate.

According to RockyTopInsider.com, Williams showed up on the visit wearing Tennessee gear and was actively trying to recruit some of the other official visitors—many of whom aren't considering the Vols—to join him on Rocky Top.

Knoxville-based radio station WNML 99.1 has a slightly different account.

According to Josh Ward, a midday host on the station, Williams was asked to leave after he was caught smoking marijuana by the Auburn staff. Justin Hokanson of 247Sports.com also reported that Williams was a distraction and was disruptive during meetings but didn't show up in Tennessee gear. The hotel room incident was the last straw, according to Hokanson.

From Hokanson:

From talking to sources very close to the situation, Williams didn't show up to Auburn in Tennessee gear, he showed up in red sweatpants and acting like he didn't want to be there. Williams didn't participate in the visit, he didn't make it a point to talk to people or interact, and he showed an extreme lack of interest in the visit.

During one presentation by S&C (strength and conditioning) coach Ryan Russell, Williams laid on the ground, not paying attention at all. Auburn asked Williams if he wanted to leave and Williams said no.

Williams backed up RockyTopInsider.com's account on WNML on Tuesday (10-minute mark).

"It was all right," he said. "I just didn't want to be there anymore. I was ready to go home."

No matter which side you believe, nobody is a winner in this situation.

If you believe Williams—who maintained in the radio interview that he was wearing Tennessee gear and actively recruiting players to Tennessee—you're believing a player who would show up on a free official visit and purposefully be a distraction to players who aren't Tennessee targets. 

Does that make somebody a legend? Hardly.

It also makes Auburn look a little threatened by Williams and perhaps unsure of whether it can close some of its visitors with somebody else providing unfriendly competition.

If you believe Ward's and Hokanson's reports, Williams doesn't exactly look like the kind of player you want on your team.

There are three sides to every story, and the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Regardless, the Williams recruiting saga is a situation in which both sides have scars. In recruiting, those tend to linger because the flow of information from both sides is limited and both parties would much rather move on than dwell on it.

Ah, national signing day. It's the most wonderful time of the year.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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