NCAA Football

Florida to Play Miami in Orlando in 2019: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Florida Gators announced Tuesday they're officially renewing their football rivalry with the Miami Hurricanes. 

The two teams will face off in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, to begin the 2019 season. The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi originally reported in October that Florida and Miami were in negotiations for a potential game.

"We are pleased to have partnered with Florida Citrus Sports and ESPN Events to kick off the 2019 season against Miami," said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley in the school's press release. "Orlando is a great Gator city and we look forward to playing in front of our fans from all over the state of Florida and beyond."

The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter noted a number of particulars remain unknown:

Billy Corben, who directed both of the Hurricanes-centric ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries, is already antagonizing the opposition:

According to Sports-Reference.com, the Gators and Hurricanes have played 55 times, with the latter owning a slim 29-26 edge. As an annual event, the rivalry essentially ceased in 1987, and the schools have only met on a handful of occasions since:

The allure of Florida vs. Miami has lessened somewhat with the Hurricanes' fall from the nation's elite. The Gators also looked to be stagnating as a program until head coach Jim McElwain arrived last year. With Mark Richt taking over at Miami, the school is in a good position to return to a level closer to its peak in the 1980s and late 1990s-early 2000s.

By the time 2019 rolls around, the Gators and Hurricanes' clash will likely be one of the most highly anticipated on the college football calendar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: 5 Things We Learned About the Wolverines This Spring

Spring practice provided an initial look at the Michigan Wolverines football team, and the takeaways were promising.

While the quarterback competition commanded the nation's attention, the strength of Jim Harbaugh's 2016 roster—the defense—showed how special it could be.

But that wasn't simply a product of depth emerging at every spot. The coaching staff used some creative thinking to address a weakness.

Early prognostications loved Michigan. After a terrific spring, the mid-summer round of predictions will too.

Begin Slideshow

Adonis Alexander, Houshun Gaines Arrested: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander and defensive end Houshun Gaines were arrested on Sunday. 

Per Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, citing Montgomery County General District Court records, Alexander was charged with possession of marijuana. Per Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times, citing the Virginia Courts' online database, Gaines was charged with underage possession of alcohol and marijuana possession.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star WR Discusses Process, Keeping All Options Open

The last week of April is here, and more and more athletes are announcing their plans to play college football. The month of May could be a busy one recruiting-wise, as multiple athletes have discussed upcoming unofficial visits.

Many of those athletes were at Sunday's The Opening regional in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here are a few recruiting updates on some of the nation's top athletes.

 

No rush for coveted 5-star WR Higgins

There were times during The Opening Charlotte regional when Oak Ridge, Tennessee's Tee Higgins made being a wide receiver look easier than it is. But then again, there's a reason why he's a 5-star prospect and the nation's No. 2 receiver in the 2017 class.

With 22 reported offers, Higgins said he's taking his recruiting process slowly and simply "taking it all in" as he prepares for his upcoming senior season.

"The process has been great," he said. "It started about two years ago. It was crazy then, but I'm used to it now. I understand how it goes."

Higgins doesn't have a public list of top schools at the present time but said he has a few schools he's considering visiting before the end of the summer, including Florida State, Michigan and, possibly, Clemson and Tennessee.

Higgins, who earned an invitation to The Opening finals in July in Beaverton, Oregon, with his Charlotte performance, is a 6'5", 190-pound athlete with great speed for a big receiver. He said coaches have discussed plans for him to be an outside receiver who can use his speed and size to win multiple go routes.

Wherever he ends up, Higgins said he's looking for the best opportunity to benefit both athletically and academically.

"I'm thinking of what I want to major in, to be honest. I want to get a good communications degree," he said. "I'm not sure yet about when a decision will come, but I know I want a good communications school. That's important to me. Right now, I'm just taking my time with everything and having fun with it."

 

A shot at playing defense for 4-star OT prospect Ealy?

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 4-star offensive tackle Adrian Ealy is expecting to have a busy summer. He's hoping to make unofficial visits to LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Texas.

At 6'7" and 300 pounds, Ealy is a wanted athlete who has a frame that can add weight without any concern thanks to his height. At The Opening New Orleans regional, he said he doesn't have a leader as of yet, but schools like Miami, Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Florida State have been showing high interest of late.

Almost every school on his offer list (14 schools and growing) is recruiting Ealy as an offensive tackle. Ealy, however, said one school may consider trying him on the other side of the ball.

"LSU is looking at me at D-tackle, as well," he said. "I've played it all my life; I play both ways, so I'm used to it. I think my athleticism and strength is good for it. I wouldn't mind playing D-tackle."

Ealy doesn't have a timetable for a decision but said he'll look to attend a school that will put him in a great position after football. He said alumni relations are important as well.

"The first thing I'm thinking about is my education and trying to live on when football ends," he said. "I want to go where I can start as a freshman and be a role player, but I also need a good education. Football doesn't last forever."

 

Never mind the hoodie: 4-star ATH Smith still open

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, 4-star athlete OrTre Smith came to The Opening Charlotte regional wearing gray sweatpants and a black, Georgia Bulldogs hoodie.

Foreshadowing, perhaps?

"No, not quite," Smith said, laughing. "I wore gray pants today and wanted to wear a black hoodie. This one was the only one I had."

The good news for Bulldogs fans is that Georgia is very much a contender in the race for Smith, the nation's No. 5 athlete. Smith, however, also said schools like Clemson, Wake Forest, USC, North Carolina and North Carolina State also are high on his list. He added that, recently, Oklahoma and Ole Miss have been recruiting him hard.

Smith said he's hoping to make a return trip to Georgia this summer, as well as other places still to be determined. He's made multiple visits to South Carolina and has also taken in Clemson and Florida State visits.

"I want to go somewhere this summer where I've never been before," Smith said. "I'm trying to find a place that fits me and my family, a place where I can put in the effort and see time on the field early. I want it to be the right feel."

 

Wanted: an RB for Virginia Tech, QB commit says

Virginia Tech quarterback commit Hendon Hooker had a goal during The Opening Charlotte regional: to find a backfield mate.

"We're looking for a running back right now," he said. "We have a strong defense, and we need someone with size and who's a people person."

Virginia Tech has its eyes on a few backs who could fit the bill, including 4-star Khalan Laborn and 3-stars Trace Christian, Jalen Holston and Travis Etienne. All four backs are in or near the 200-pound range and bring quickness and great field vision to the field.

And while Virginia Tech builds its offensive class, Hooker, a 3-star quarterback from Greensboro, North Carolina, said he'll continue taking the proper steps to become the team's leader of the future. He's looking to connect with Caleb Farley, a Hokies pledge who can play quarterback but is listed as an athlete.

"He's recruited as an athlete, and I think he may be playing receiver," Hooker said of Farley. "He's a speedster. He can really move."

Hooker said his commitment to Virginia Tech is strong but added that he does plan on taking all five of his official visits during the fall and winter.

 

Off-field X-factor for 4-star OT Moore

The Opening Charlotte regional was held at Mallard Creek High School, the home of 4-star offensive lineman T.J. Moore. With 14 offers, Moore said he's seen a lot and has a lot to consider as he inches closer to making a verbal commitment.

Moore, a versatile lineman expecting to line up as a guard in college, went to Florida State and Tennessee spring games and spoke highly of the atmospheres at both venues. He also said schools like South Carolina, North Carolina and North Carolina State have been very good at staying in touch and are showing tons of enthusiasm.

"It's been crazy these past few months, but I'm having a lot of fun with it," Moore said. "Really, I'm just going to let everything play out. My dad wants me to see what all comes before making a decision."

One major X-factor in Moore's decision will involves academics. Moore said he wants to major in mechanical engineering, which means he's paying attention to the schools with noteworthy engineering programs.

"That's very important," he said of a school with his degree. "I'm looking for good coaches, good family and a good community, but I know I want to go somewhere that'll lead me to big things after college. I want to get a good engineering degree."

 

"An opportunity" is all The Opening NOLA LB MVP wants

After being named the MVP of The Opening New Orleans regional two weeks ago, Sugar Land, Texas, linebacker Terrance Williams hoped recruiting would have picked up for him.

But like many other athletes in the 2017 class, Williams still finds himself in a struggle for his first offer. The 5'10", 196-pound linebacker said he has received some interest from USC, SMU and Tulane, but no offers have been extended.

Williams is hoping things turn around soon.

"After winning MVP, I was put on a higher stage," Williams said. "Now all I need is my name in a higher setting. Athletes like me are considered under-recruited, and all I need is an opportunity."

He might be slightly undersized at the linebacker position,but Williams isn't a stranger to being effective. According to MaxPreps, he averaged right around seven tackles per game and also had four sacks. He showed his ability to pursue and attack at The Opening New Orleans.

All he wants is for one college to take a shot on him.

"If given the opportunity, I will be the most dedicated, well-rounded athlete at their facility," he said.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Meet Alabama's Next Great Defensive Line Duo, Da'Ron Payne and Da'Shawn Hand

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The switch was difficult enough, but what happened next was borderline unfair.

Coming off a successful redshirt freshmen year, when despite his age he landed a starting job at left guard on the University of Alabama’s offensive line, Ross Pierschbacher was moved to center to see if he could handle the position during the spring.

That first practice he lined up across a 6’2”, 319-pound player who wouldn’t be holding back anything. It was the perfect football example of baptism under fire.

“It’s been frustrating,” Pierschbacher said a few days later. “It’s different. I’ve got Da’Ron Payne in my face right here and I’m trying to get the ball back and he’s got his hands on me.

“I’m trying to work on it.”

Such is the luxury of being Alabama these days because the coaches know if Pierschbacher could hold his own against Payne, he can do so against anyone in college football. Most teams have to find out the hard way during the regular season.

The Crimson Tide continues to hold that distinction even though a big part of the defensive-line rotation from 2015 is no longer on the roster. Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson are hoping to be selected in the first round this week’s NFL draft, D.J. Pettway will probably be picked during a later round and Darren Lake has moved on as well.

Now comes the next wave, led by Payne and Da'Shawn Hand, who would like nothing more than to be the next Reed and Robinson.

“Technique, man,” Hand said was the biggest thing he learned from his predecessors. “Man, when I got out of high school, it was like one little step and the whole play can go by you.

“That was the biggest thing. Keeping your feet set and striking out first. Hips and hands and your feet will follow. In high school you could run and make a play because you were bigger and faster, but now everyone is bigger and faster.”

When the reigning national champions regroup for training camp in August, the defensive line is expected to feature seniors Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson, who have 71 games of experience between them, in addition to 145 tackles and 11 passes knocked down.

Although Tomlinson has never started a game for the Crimson Tide, both the coaches and fans are confident about what the veterans can do. They’re proven commodities.

It’s the players coming up who worked with the first-team defense all spring that figure to turn the most heads.

“We're not really rotating anybody else in there with those two guys,” Saban said during the spring, before adding about Hand: “He's made a tremendous amount of progress. He's gotten bigger and stronger. He can still run. He's still a good pass-rusher.

“We're trying to develop him as an inside rusher as well for third downs.”

Hand is still listed on the Crimson Tide roster as being 6’4”, 278 lbs, but he both looks the part and appears poised to fulfill his potential.

When recruited out of Woodbridge, Virginia in the class of 2014, he was tabbed by the 247Sports composite rankings as the top strong-side defensive end prospect and the No. 5 player in the nation.

As a reserve in 2015 he played in all 15 games and was credited with 16 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, and two quarterback hurries.

“Every now and then he will just shock the offensive lineman and [push him] back a couple yards when he isn't expecting it,” Tomlinson said.

“I feel like it is pretty rare to have that speed and power at multiple positions across the front.”

Meanwhile, Payne started three games as a true freshman when Alabama wanted a little more bulk against Arkansas, LSU and Florida in the SEC championship game.

He too had been a consensus 5-star prospect, seventh among defensive tackles and No. 29 overall out of Shades Valley High School in nearby Birmingham.

Payne played in all 15 games, with 13 tackles, a half-sack, with a broken-up pass, forced fumble and a hurry last season, but cracking the lineup with that group of deep defensive linemen was more impressive than any statistic he could post.

“He’s a freak,” Pierschbacher said about Payne. “He ran something like a 4.9-something and he weighs more than me and he’s a stud in the weight room.

“We’ve seen guys like that. A’Shawn, I went up against him every play last year, so I haven’t had it very easy here the last couple of years. But, you know, it makes me better.”

In many ways it’s nothing new for Alabama, which is the way head coach Nick Saban wants it. With these two, fans also cheer for the line to show the Hand and bring the Payne.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

The Ohio State Buckeyes are loaded with prospects for the 2016 NFL draft, and it should come as no surprise that head coach Urban Meyer's group has lost only four games combined over the last three seasons.

Per Mark Podolski of the News-Herald, the Buckeyes could potentially set an NFL draft record with seven first-round selections. Even if they do not reach that mark, this group is very talented and expected to tie the school record with 14 selections overall. With so many losses, it's also important that we take a look at the guys who will replace these stars and be counted on in 2016.

Note: This NFL Draft tracker will be updated as the players are selected.

Begin Slideshow

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Alabama has made a living recruiting the state of Texas in recent years. 

For Lone Star State power Texas, however, they have rarely returned the favor in venturing into the backyard of the Crimson Tide.

Last week, Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his staff did just that when they offered 4-star defensive end LaBryan Ray.

The 6’5”, 283-pounder out of James Clemens High School in Madison, Alabama—who is approaching 30 offers—rates as the nation’s No. 5 strong-side defensive end and the No. 173 player overall in the 2017 class.

According to EJ Holland of Horns247, the offer is one that definitely got Ray’s attention.

“I’m definitely interested,” Ray told Holland. “I grew up watching Vince Young and guys like that. They have a lot of tradition. I know Coach (Charlie) Strong has had success in the past and what he’s doing now is eye-opening.”

Among the programs that Ray has visited in recent months include Alabama, Florida State, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Battling the Crimson Tide for an in-state prospect they covet won’t be easy. However, Strong and his staff have a reputation of grooming elite defensive talents dating back to his days at Louisville. 

The next step for the Longhorns will be arranging a visit to get Ray on campus, which could help them make a serious push for one of the nation’s elite defensive linemen.

 

Michigan After Texas WR

The state of Texas is one area that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have aggressively recruited since he took over in Ann Arbor.

Last week, the Wolverines continued that theme by offering 4-star receiver Omar Manning.

The 6’3”, 203-pounder ranks as the nation’s No. 21 receiver and the No. 151 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

Among the programs in the mix with Manning early include Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas.

However, the Wolverines will work to make a push with one of the nation’s top skill players.

 

Florida Offers Ohio State Pledge

Considering his successful stints with both Florida and Ohio State, current Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer will always be a link between both powerhouse programs.

Last week, Gators head coach Jim McElwain and his staff tendered 4-star running back JK Dobbins—who is currently committed to the Buckeyes.

The standout from LaGrange High School in Texas has been committed to the Buckeyes since early March.

However, the Gators will try to make a run at the nation’s No. 4 all-purpose back and the No. 54 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

 

UCLA Offers Midwest DB

One of the elite defensive players in the Midwest in the current cycle is 4-star corner Amir Riep.

Last week, the 6’0”, 180-pounder from Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio picked up an offer from Pac-12 power UCLA.

Riep, who visited Michigan State last weekend and has plans on taking a trip to see Oregon this weekend, has more than 40 offers to his credit.

Kentucky, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State are among the other programs in the mix with Riep at this stage of his recruitment. The Bruins are hoping to get in the mix with the nation’s No. 14 corner and No. 132 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

 

Best of the Rest

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

2019

 

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

Spring Football Report Card Grades for Top Early Enrollees

Early enrollees dotted the college football landscape during spring practice, and many of the 2016 cycle's highly ranked prospects passed their first major test.

While immediate success certainly isn't a surprise for these guys, several have already claimed or are quite close to securing a starting position as a true freshman.

But the learning curve simply takes longer for others. However, that doesn't mean a slower start is a failure by any means.

The grades are not representative of a player's talent or potential. Rather, they're based on how quickly he climbed the depth chart (if legitimately possible), performed in scrimmages and other factors that vary for each early enrollee.

Begin Slideshow

Top Teams Still in Need of Landing a 2017 QB Recruit

Still more than nine months shy of national signing day, the search for top-tier quarterbacks continues to intensify. Plenty of marquee college football programs have already secured verbal pledges from passers who will provide immediate promise in the development of future offensive attacks.

Each composite 5-star quarterback in the 2017 class committed well in advance of his senior season, while the collection of undecided prospects has steadily dwindled this spring. Here's a glimpse at five teams still working to fill pivotal position slots as a dizzying recruiting cycle progresses, including one powerhouse primed to pursue a huge commitment flip despite the presence of a passer in its class.

Begin Slideshow

Preseason College Football Rankings: Top 25 After Spring Practice

The past few weekends have been filled with college football, and though none of it counts in the standings, those spring practices and scrimmages were as close as we've gotten to the real thing since January. It's also the last we'll see of these teams until August, when preseason camps open in preparation for the 2016 season.

The NCAA allotted every FBS school 15 practices that it could use to work on different schemes, identify starters and, in many cases, acclimate players to an entirely new coaching staff. Along the way, there were some injuries, breakout performances and sluggish efforts, all of which have led to some minor tweaks in our rankings heading into the summer.

This is not a prediction of what the Associated Press or Amway Coaches Top 25 polls will look like when they come out in August; rather, it's a reflection of what Bleacher Report feels are the best teams in college football at this point in the offseason. Consider it a conversation starter to help you get through the rest of the offseason, which is now down to only about four months.

Begin Slideshow

2016 Will Be Michigan's Last Quiet NFL Draft Under Jim Harbaugh

As the 2016 NFL draft approaches, there's been no shortage of attention placed on the Big Ten.

At Ohio State, the Buckeyes are preparing to send a potentially historic draft class to the NFL.

In East Lansing, Michigan State will likely lay claim to multiple first-round picks, as well as one of the draft's biggest question marks at quarterback in Connor Cook.

Even at Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Illinois, pro teams having been poking and prodding at players expected to be taken within the first three rounds of the selection show.

But when it comes to Michigan, the place Wolverines are most often popping up on the NFL's radar is on game film where they served as the opponents of the more highly touted prospects in their conference. That shouldn't be the case for long, however, as Ann Arbor should soon find itself an NFL factory once again.

That was always expected to be the case when Jim Harbaugh returned to his alma mater, and not just because of his previous four-year stint as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, but also his penchant for putting players in the pros while on the sideline at Stanford. One year may have been one too few to expect similar results at Michigan, and if the Wolverines' current crop of draft hopefuls is any indication, that certainly seems to be the case.

Graham Glasgow, ranked by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller as the draft's No. 7 center, should hear his name called this weekend, as should 14th-ranked defensive lineman Willie Henry. That, however, might be it when it comes to Michigan players picked in 2016, save for a team taking a late-round shot on quarterback Jake Rudock or defensive lineman Mario Ojemudia.

All things considered, the Wolverines' streak of not having more than three players picked in a single draft is likely to extend to an eighth year. It's also likely to be the last lean draft under Harbaugh's watch at Michigan given both his current roster and the way he's recruited in his first year-plus in Ann Arbor.

"You knew that the day he took over he's going to win," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on a conference call last week. "He's well on his way. He's got prospects for this draft."

In fact, this year's class of Wolverines prospects could have seen a boost, if not for a few players opting for an additional year of seasoning from their head coach.

That rings particularly true when it comes to the case of cornerback Jourdan Lewis. According to Kiper, the All-Big Ten selection would have been one of this year's most highly touted corners, a status in draft stock that shouldn't change over the course of the next 12 months.

"If he had come out, he'd have certainly been one of the top corners," Kiper said. "Next year's draft, if you look at the top five right now and you look at a corner, you'd have to put him in there."

Instead, Lewis, who CBSSports.com already ranks as its No. 4 cornerback in the 2017 draft, will return to Michigan alongside tight end Jake Butt, the same site's top-ranked prospect at his position for the upcoming season. The reigning Big Ten Tight End of the Year, Butt would have almost assuredly been selected had he opted to enter the 2016 draft, which features an uninspiring crop of tight end prospects, according to Miller:

And then there's defensive lineman Chris Wormley, who also bypassed the upcoming draft in order to receive one more year of development under Harbaugh. Add in potential draft picks in wideouts Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, defensive end Taco Charlton, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, running back De'Veon Smith and offensive lineman Erik Magnuson, and the Wolverines' 2017 draft class should be their most robust in recent memory—and that's before mentioning safety/corner/linebacker/jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers will also be draft-eligible a year from now.

"There's no question there's going to be athletes produced. You've got the receivers who can run, you're going to have talent coming in," Kiper said. "Look at the recruiting class coming in."

That class, Harbaugh's No. 5 nationally ranked haul, includes 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, as well as 4-star quarterback Brandon Peters, who Harbaugh has already compared to arguably his most famous pro product, Andrew Luck.

And while it may be too early to project players who are yet to officially begin their college careers, let alone their senior seasons of high school, Harbaugh's 2017 class ranks seventh in the nation and should bode well for a continuing pipeline from Ann Arbor to the professional ranks.

"Tremendous difference from what they were and what they are," Kiper said of the Wolverines program. "You've got some young players, some studs from this recruiting class."

This draft is just a start, and while a modest one, it still serves as a testament of Harbaugh's ability as a player developer. Soon enough, he'll be putting his own recruits in the pros, which could be reminiscent of what's occurring at his Big Ten counterparts.

"What Jim's doing there, it's going to put pressure on Ohio State, who just lost a gazillion players to the NFL," Kiper said. "There's no question it's going to be Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh going up against each other every year."

Losing "a gazillion" players to the NFL, however, can be a good problem to have, as big draft classes serve as an indicator of the top talent your roster possessed and your staff produced.

It's also one the Wolverines should be experiencing soon enough, given their second-year head coach's propensity for putting players in the pros.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football Q&A: Which Unproven QBs Will Become Stars in 2016?

Spring is in the books, post-spring power rankings are out and we have officially entered the doldrums of summer.

How will you survive?

A little SEC Q&A will do the trick.

In this week's edition, we'll take a look at some of the unknown quarterbacks in the SEC, Auburn's title hopes, and Austin Allen's future—and we'll get a little weird.

Enjoy.

 

Chad Kelly is clearly the best of the bunch after he produced the third-best single season in SEC history in 2015 with 4,542 total yards. For the sake of focusing on unproven quarterbacks, I'm going to ignore Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs and Trevor Knight for this question since they have proven a lot during their respective careers.

Who else could become a star?

I really liked what I saw from Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason in the G-Day game earlier this month. The true freshman early enrollee completed 19 of his 29 passes for 244 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions, including a perfect 37-yard sideline pass to Reggie Davis in the fourth quarter and a 35-yarder down the opposite sideline to Riley Ridley in the second.

It wasn't just the statistics or the throws that were impressive; it was the respect Eason demanded. 

From the moment he took the field in the second quarter for his first series, the entire Georgia secondary took about five steps back. They knew what was coming, because they had seen it for 14 straight practices. 

In the end, isn't that all that matters for Georgia?

Eason doesn't have to throw for 4,000 yards for the Bulldog offense to be successful; he just has to look like he's capable of doing it. If he can do that—and he did in the spring game—running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel should be able to take it from there.

Will he have his ups and downs? Sure.

Any true freshman would, regardless of the star ranking coming out of high school. But the highs for Eason will be high, and where and when the lows come could determine just how successful Georgia's season is.

Elsewhere, "Alabama Quarterback X" will be a star, whoever it is. Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts are all talented and will have the luxury of facing off against the best defense in the nation everyday in practice. 

Why so much faith in Alabama, especially after the offense's struggles in the spring game?

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has worked wonders for the Crimson Tide offense in each of the last two seasons that included massive quarterback uncertainty. Kiffin's system works. It has led Alabama to consecutive SEC titles, College Football Playoff berths and last season's national title and is founded on creating mismatches pre-snap through different formations.

 

Well, sure. If John Franklin III can lead Auburn's offense to its 2013 level—when it finished 11th in the nation in total offense (501.3 YPG), eighth in yards per play (6.92) and 12th in scoring offense (39.5 PPG)—yes, Auburn can win it all.

But getting to that point isn't likely with the questions the program faces at wide receiver and quarterback.

Auburn's offense was widely panned following the spring game in which it converted just one of 22 third-down chances, but Franklin—the junior college transfer from East Mississippi Community College—wasn't allowed to show off his wheels since quarterbacks weren't "live."

What were short gains or losses in the spring game wouldn't have been short gains or losses in real games, because Franklin has the speed and moves to replicate Nick Marshall—whom he imitated while on the Florida State scout team prior to the 2014 BCS National Championship Game between the Seminoles and Tigers. 

He is an edge threat, and the quest for Auburn's staff is to make him enough of a threat deep in the passing game to keep opposing defenses honest. 

If he can do that, yes, Auburn can contend.

Unlike the 2013 season in which Auburn's defense finished 87th in the nation in total defense (420.7 YPG), this defense led by a fierce defensive front that includes end Carl Lawson, tackle Montravius Adams and enough depth to roll nine or 10 players in throughout games should be much better.

Because of that, the offense might not have to be at the 2013 level in order for Auburn to contend.

Auburn has the talent on the roster, and Franklin is the right man for the job at quarterback. The pieces just have to come together, and the Tigers have to catch a few breaks. If all of that happens, don't count them out.

 

It won't be as great as his brother's senior season last year, when Brandon Allen threw for 3,440 yards and 30 touchdowns. 

But Austin Allen did look solid in Arkansas' spring game, when he completed 13 of his 19 passes for 141 yards. He showed off his big arm at times in the spring game and has a veteran group of receivers to rely on including Keon Hatcher, Cody Hollister and Dominique Reed.

A season more like his older brother's junior season in 2014 is more likely. That year, Brandon Allen threw for 2,285 yards, 20 touchdowns and five picks and was more of a game-manger than a difference-maker. 

That's a good thing.

The most important aspect of any quarterback's job is to manage the game and avoid mistakes, and that should be the expectation for the younger Allen after three years in the system with the veteran weapons he has around him.

This is a foundation year for the redshirt junior, and he should set a solid one.

 

Vanderbilt will make a bowl for the first time since James Franklin's last season as head coach in 2013.

It's easy to pile on Vanderbilt thanks to its reputation as the SEC East's cellar dweller and a couple of years of rather mediocre football. But the dirty little secret in Nashville is that head coach Derek Mason has built a phenomenal defense that finished sixth in the nation in third-down defense (28.16 percent) and fourth in red-zone touchdown defense (38.78 percent) according to CFBStats.com.

Linebacker Zach Cunningham is back to lead that defense, along with veteran defensive backs Torren McGaster and Oren Burks. 

The 'Dores will win three of their four out-of-conference games and win three conference games (South Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri) to finish 6-6 and make a lower-tier bowl.

Write that down (in pencil, so it can be erased).

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

After a tumultuous fall that nearly saw Les Miles canned at LSU, the Tigers get to celebrate this week, as a slew of players from Deion Jones to Jalen Mills are expected to be selected in the NFL draft.

Jones is the prize of LSU's class, but anywhere from four to seven players could be drafted by the time the weekend draws to a close.

We'll keep you up to date and track each LSU player as they're selected with analysis on how they'll translate to the NFL and how they'll be replaced at Death Valley.

Stay plugged into the following slides to track each LSU player selected in this weekend's draft.

Begin Slideshow

USC Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

With linebacker Su'a Cravens headlining the class, the USC Trojans are expected to have upwards of half a dozen prospects selected in this year's NFL draft.

This piece will track the Trojans who are selected on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as how they fit into the NFL and their newfound teams.

Stay plugged in for continued updates as each Trojan is selected.

Begin Slideshow

USC Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

With linebacker Su'a Cravens headlining the class, the USC Trojans are expected to have upwards of half a dozen prospects selected in this year's NFL draft...

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

While the Georgia Bulldogs still look to reaffirm their prowess on the field under a new head coach this offseason, fans get to celebrate during this week's draft as potentially over a half-dozen former Bulldogs could be selected to enter the NFL.

With that, let's track the top Bulldog candidates to be drafted in the 2016 NFL draft.

Begin Slideshow

US Department of Justice Reportedly Begins Inquiry of NCAA's Satellite Camp Ban

The NCAA may have created a formidable foe when it outlawed satellite camps on April 8.

According to USA Today's Paul Myerberg, the United States Department of Justice has opened an informal inquiry into the practice and the NCAA's decision to ban the events. The purpose of the inquiry is reportedly to look into whether the ban hurts high school athletes who are looking to increase their profile among college head coaches.

USA Today's Dan Wolken is already imaging the debate about satellite camps bleeding into the presidential campaign:

Earlier in the month, the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Sun Belt Conference and Mountain West Conference voted in favor of prohibiting coaches from running clinics away from facilities their teams use throughout the entire year.

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh was the catalyst for the growth of satellite camps following his Summer Swarm tour in June 2015. In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg, Harbaugh laid into the powers that be, telling the reporter, "The incompetence of the NCAA has reared its ugly head yet again."

Harbaugh was also critical of what he believed was hastiness by the NCAA.

"I mean, what's it based on? A survey?" he said. "There wasn't a lot of discussion or study. What are the facts? What are the perils and merits of making that decision? It just seemed lacking in that regard."

Rosenberg then argued satellite camps are beneficial in terms of exposure:

High school players learn from the best coaches in the sport. More importantly, for the price of one camp, they can get in front of several coaching staffs and potentially earn a scholarship. And even more important: Players get a taste of success. They get a little closer to their dreams.

If you have spent any time in impoverished neighborhoods, you know that the problems there go beyond finding food to eat and a roof to sleep under. People feel completely disconnected from their aspirations.

CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, on the other hand, thought the problem was being overblown:

Proponents argued satellite camps provided "exposure." I'm sorry, did that Internet that Harbaugh so expertly hijacked suddenly go down? Phone service, too?

If you're good enough, you'll be found. There's 7 on 7, there are personal trainers. In a handful of states, high schools conduct spring practice.

Oh yeah, there are the regular, longstanding above-board scouting opportunities available to coaches. The term "official visit" seems to have been lost in the bluster.

ESPN.com's Tom VanHaaren reported on April 19 that a number of coaches and athletic directors were working behind the scenes to overturn the 10-5 vote that ended satellite camps.

The DOJ's potential involvement could speed that process up quite a bit.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Grading Each Top 25 Team's 2016 Spring Game Performance

Getting a clear read on a spring game is difficult. Different teams do different things in how they separate the talent, how they score the game and how they maintain the clock. Several just ditch the idea of a traditional scrimmage and go for a public practice.

Spring game season is almost completely finished in the world of college football, meaning fans and analysts everywhere won't get to see on-field action for quite some time. This can lead to overreactions from the glorified scrimmages, which usually are vanilla by design.

Let's try to avoid the hot takes and identify the reasonable takeaways coming out of spring games for each Top 25 team for the 2016 season, based on our composite preseason rankings of several top national outlets. (Again, if you have a problem with where a team is ranked, take it up with the rest of the country.)

Here are the spring game grades for each of the composite Top 25, based on factors such as the overall performances of the offenses and defenses, quality of depth showcased in the games, excitement level around the contests and the avoidance of the infamous spring game injuries. 

Opinions on spring games are wide-ranging, making a universal grading system impossible to use. But this one trends toward the positive for teams that got closer to answers for their major preseason questions and left pleasantly surprised at some of their individual performances.

Begin Slideshow

Which Former Alabama Player Should Be Taken 1st in 2016 NFL Draft?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Like for everyone else who could be selected in the NFL draft this week, it’s been a whirlwind few months for former University of Alabama center Ryan Kelly.

After declining to participate in the Senior Bowl, Kelly underwent a whole different kind of training to improve the individual skills that would be measured and tested. There was the NFL Scouting Combine and Alabama’s pro day, in addition to private workouts scheduled by various teams.

Sometime this week, he’ll finally find out his destination, although Kelly’s not even sure when he should be paying attention, as there’s a wide range of speculation about which round he could be selected in.

The first round is on Thursday, the second and third rounds on Friday and the rest on Saturday.

If I’m an NFL general manager, I don’t wait. He’s the guy I want to take from Alabama. Kelly could be the rock of an offensive line for a decade or more and seems to have no red flags.

Center and guard are known as positions teams only rarely pick from in the first round, but Kelly could be the exception. Two obvious fits are Indianapolis at No. 18, as the Colts need a lot of help in the offensive line, and Cleveland with the first pick in the second round (No. 32 overall).

“Ryan Kelly’s a top-tier offensive lineman in this draft,” Mike Mayock of NFL.com said on a conference call with reporters on April 22. “He could play center or guard, but he’s the top center in this draft. So I think Ryan Kelly could be an interesting guy at 18.”

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has Ryan Kelly going 22nd to the Texans in his latest mock draft, while The MMQB’s Peter King has him slated for Arizona at No. 29.

But chances are Kelly won’t be the first Crimson Tide player to hear his name called, as he wasn’t invited to attend the first round in Chicago, while three of his former teammates are making the trip: linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive linemen Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson.

Trying to project who it will be is nearly impossible because no one knows how the draft will change due to trades, team needs and the varying degree of opinions. For every evaluator who might prefer Reed, another might like Robinson.

“Mock drafts are exercises in futility,” King wrote on Monday. “Two years ago, I was 2-for-32; last year, 5-for-32.”

Moreover, each NFL war room is different. Some stick to their draft boards like glue, while others are known for doing the opposite. Who has the final say and how often that person has the job security to select a high-reward, huge-risk player like Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche is crucial.

If pure talent was the only factor in the draft, he’d almost certainly be a top-five selection.

“At the end of the day, do you trust him? I think that’s the whole thing with Robert Nkemdiche, and my answer is 'No,'” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “[If I’m a general manager] I have to hit on a first-round pick.”

When it comes to Alabama’s R-R-R collection of defensive prospects, there’s no consensus about who’s the best prospect.

For example, NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt has Robinson 13th on his Hot 100 list, followed by Ragland (18), Reed (21), Kelly (25), running back Derrick Henry (32) and cornerback Cyrus Jones (92).

Meanwhile, Mayock has Reed ahead of Robinson, while Ragland has slid in his position rankings to fourth among interior linebackers.

“I think they’re all going to be really solid,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “I don’t know about spectacular because it’s a pass rush league and Ragland, Reed and Robinson aren’t pass-rushers. Ragland’s shown some versatility, he’s not real explosive. His coverage ability in the NFL, we’ll see. He might be a two-down player.”

That’s a little different from McShay, who calls Reed maybe the best run-stopper in the draft and Robinson one of the most overrated players. He also likes to remind people that Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott claims that Ragland was the hardest hitter he has ever faced.

One could debate between the three for hours.

“I think Robinson’s going to get better,” Kiper said. “He’s young, just turned 21. He showed pass rush ability as a freshman when he had 5.5 sacks. He kind of stops the run on the way to the quarterback, knocks down passes, disrupts throwing lanes.

“Reed is a hustler. He’s a different kind of player. He could be a nose tackle, he could be a 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 end. He’s got talent and plays hard. I like Robinson and Reed a little more than most people.

The guess here is that Ragland will be the first to go due to the concept of scarcity. While there is some concern about Ragland’s ability to cover at the pro level, finding a quality linebacker who can act as both the base and leader of the defense isn’t easy.

Chances are a team like Buffalo, Denver, Green Bay or Oakland will find him too good to pass up.

Meanwhile, it’s a very deep draft for defensive linemen. You might see a team or two trade up to take one, but not many. Here are some teams that have a need to fill up front: Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Miami, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Washington

“We’ve been talking all along about the best defensive tackle draft we’ve seen in years,” Mayock said. “I’ve talked to several teams in the last couple of weeks, all of whom believe that because that group is so deep, we’re going to see teams in the first and second round kind of going after positions of need that aren’t anywhere near as deep, like say wide receiver. Or if you think there are four offensive tackles in the drop-off, you better go get that offensive tackle before you get your defensive tackle.”

Despite that, Reed was the first Alabama player selected in the NFL Network’s Media Mock Draft (by Maurice Jones-Drew on behalf of Washington at No. 21) on Sunday.

So to summarize: It should be Kelly, it would be Robinson with a little more consistency, it could be Reed, but odds are it’ll be Ragland who gets selected first.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down Top College Football QB Battles Following Key Spring Games

The 2016 crop of college football's starting quarterbacks is becoming clear after competitions ruled college football headlines during spring practice.

Returning starters, experienced backups and talented youngsters spent most of March and April in the spotlight. Following the workouts, though, just two or three real contenders remain at most programs.

Nearly every battle brought the anticipated result. While no clear-cut starter emerged at schools such as Michigan and Notre Dame, the spring still brought some separation on the depth chart.

A few coaches named leaders, but most others elected to refrain from tabbing post-spring starters. Those competitions will receive a majority of the nation's attention once fall camp arrives.

Begin Slideshow

Pages