NCAA Football

Ranking the 25 Must-Watch College Football Spring Games of 2015

Spring football is in full swing, meaning we're creeping ever so slowly toward the start of the 2015 college football season.

The handful of practices that schools are allowed to have during the offseason are divvied up differently depending on the program, but nearly all of them wrap things up with a scrimmage of sorts that's commonly called the spring game. These are usually open to the public and allow fans an early glimpse at the product that will be on the field in the fall.

Several schools have already held their spring games, including power-conference programs Baylor, Colorado and Duke, while others like Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas A&M don't plan to hold official spring scrimmages. For those that have yet to hold theirs, we've identified the ones that are most worth catching a glimpse of.

In ranking these games, we took into account the intrigue surrounding each team as far as position battles or new offensive or defensive systems being implemented as well as the excitement surrounding new coaches and coordinators.

Begin Slideshow

What It Means to Play Football for Michigan and Why I Walked Away

Two weeks ago, Michigan's incumbent starting center Jack Miller retired from competitive football. He told Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers why he retired and the lasting impact Michigan football will have on him.

 

It’s hard to understand just how great it is to play for Michigan when you’re in the thick of it. The grueling workouts, intense practices and long meetings can test a man’s toughness. It’s hard to recognize how lucky and fortunate you are to play here, and perhaps you don’t have a true appreciation for it until it’s all over.

As for me, I’ve been done playing for just two weeks and already the nostalgia and gratitude are starting to flood my brain. I’ll miss the struggle with my teammates and I’ll miss game days in the fall.

That being said, it’s time for me to move on. 

All of my goals have been accomplished here. I was able to receive a top-notch education while playing football at the highest possible level. 

Because of that, my passion for the game has diminished. I know that you won’t succeed in this game without a burning passion for it.

I went to Coach Harbaugh, expressed my feelings and was met with nothing but respect for my decision. I suspect that a man who has passion flowing through his veins could understand me wanting to find the next exciting part of my life.

Not everyone will understand why, but I do. That’s all that matters. It’s time for me to start pursuing the next goals I have for myself.

My time here at Michigan is done.

These past four years have been the most challenging of my life, but they have also been the most rewarding. As a kid from Ohio, Michigan was always that mysterious place up north. With that giant stadium and those famous winged helmets, Michigan always sparked my curiosity

When I picked Michigan over other programs, it was for surface reasons. Proximity to home, world-class academics and big-time football. I had no idea that Michigan football was more than that.

I didn’t know that Michigan shapes and molds you into a winner. I can’t imagine there are many places that care so deeply about you as a person. Not many schools try to develop more than just the football player in you, but Michigan does.

Michigan cares how you do in the classroom and whether or not you’ll get your degree. Michigan cares how you present yourself in public and what kind of citizen you are for the community. Michigan cares that when you leave, you’re a better person for having been there.

There have been so many life lessons along the way about dedication, sacrifice, teamwork and excellence. The countless times that a coach or staff member pushed me further than I thought I could go are overwhelming.

When you look at being successful, the Michigan football program sits at the forefront. If you can handle the responsibilities that come with playing football at Michigan, I can guarantee you’ll end up better for it. As our hero Bo Schembechler famously said, “those who stay will be champions.”

The future for Michigan is incredibly bright, Coach Harbaugh and his staff are consummate professionals and I have no doubt the wins will come.

 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. 

Special thanks to Jack Miller for sharing his experiences and thoughts as they pertain to Michigan football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What It Means to Play Football for Michigan and Why I Walked Away

Two weeks ago, Michigan's incumbent starting center Jack Miller retired from competitive football. He told Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers why he retired and the lasting impact Michigan football will have on him.

 

It’s hard to understand just how great it is to play for Michigan when you’re in the thick of it. The grueling workouts, intense practices and long meetings can test a man’s toughness. It’s hard to recognize how lucky and fortunate you are to play here, and perhaps you don’t have a true appreciation for it until it’s all over.

As for me, I’ve been done playing for just two weeks and already the nostalgia and gratitude are starting to flood my brain. I’ll miss the struggle with my teammates and I’ll miss game days in the fall.

That being said, it’s time for me to move on. 

All of my goals have been accomplished here. I was able to receive a top-notch education while playing football at the highest possible level. 

Because of that, my passion for the game has diminished. I know that you won’t succeed in this game without a burning passion for it.

I went to Coach Harbaugh, expressed my feelings and was met with nothing but respect for my decision. I suspect that a man who has passion flowing through his veins could understand me wanting to find the next exciting part of my life.

Not everyone will understand why, but I do. That’s all that matters. It’s time for me to start pursuing the next goals I have for myself.

My time here at Michigan is done.

These past four years have been the most challenging of my life, but they have also been the most rewarding. As a kid from Ohio, Michigan was always that mysterious place up north. With that giant stadium and those famous winged helmets, Michigan always sparked my curiosity

When I picked Michigan over other programs, it was for surface reasons. Proximity to home, world-class academics and big-time football. I had no idea that Michigan football was more than that.

I didn’t know that Michigan shapes and molds you into a winner. I can’t imagine there are many places that care so deeply about you as a person. Not many schools try to develop more than just the football player in you, but Michigan does.

Michigan cares how you do in the classroom and whether or not you’ll get your degree. Michigan cares how you present yourself in public and what kind of citizen you are for the community. Michigan cares that when you leave, you’re a better person for having been there.

There have been so many life lessons along the way about dedication, sacrifice, teamwork and excellence. The countless times that a coach or staff member pushed me further than I thought I could go are overwhelming.

When you look at being successful, the Michigan football program sits at the forefront. If you can handle the responsibilities that come with playing football at Michigan, I can guarantee you’ll end up better for it. As our hero Bo Schembechler famously said, “those who stay will be champions.”

The future for Michigan is incredibly bright, Coach Harbaugh and his staff are consummate professionals and I have no doubt the wins will come.

 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. 

Special thanks to Jack Miller for sharing his experiences and thoughts as they pertain to Michigan football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down 2016 4-Star RB Melquise Stovall's Top 6 Schools

Melquise Stovall, among the most coveted uncommitted playmakers in America, appears prepared to stay put in Pac-12 territory during his collegiate career.

The 4-star running back from Los Angeles County revealed his top options Tuesday on Twitter and is targeting June 14 as a decision date:

Stovall's focus is squarely centered on six schools at this stage. He identified Arizona State, Washington, USC, UCLA, Arizona and Cal as his collection of favorites.

These Pac-12 programs now have nearly three months to strengthen relationships with the running back. Stovall shared he plans to "take a few more unofficial visits" before wrapping up his recruitment. 

The 5'9", 180-pound Paraclete High School junior is rated third nationally among all-purpose backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, exhibiting excellent skills as both a rusher and receiver. He gained 1,603 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground in 2014, adding 415 yards and two scores through the air.

Stovall claimed running back MVP honors two weeks ago at The Opening Regional showcase in Los Angeles. Interest from college coaching staffs mounted at a steady pace this month, with offers arriving from Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Fresno State and Nevada during recent weeks. 

His reaction to a long-awaited offer from the Trojans seems to give Steve Sarkisian a slight edge entering the final stretch of this pursuit.

"USC was big," Stovall said told Barton Simmons of 247Sports. "USC was always my dream school."

The Trojans' depth was directly impacted by recent scholarship sanctions, crippling the program's ability to build a layered corps of quality running backs. Sarkisian landed a pair of rushers last signing day, headlined by 4-star Texas talent Ronald Jones II, but another influx at the position is paramount next year.

Stovall also told Simmons a mid-April trip to Washington is in the works. 

The Huskies entered this hunt early, extending an offer to Stovall last May. Chris Peterson is currently targeting several California running backs, including Romello Harris and Sean McGrew

Cal is another squad juggling multiple West Coast recruitments at the position, with McGrew and Damian Alloway emerging as legitimate possibilities.

Many figured Alloway would land at UCLA during a Monday announcement ceremony, but the 4-star prospect pushed back his decision plans and will utilize more visits in coming months. That leaves the door open for Stovall with the Bruins, who just signed top-rated 2015 running back Soso Jamabo.

Arizona and Arizona State annually attempt to pluck top-tier talent away from Southern California. Each program has enjoyed success in that regard under current coaching regimes, and Stovall is another crown jewel up for grabs in the Golden State.

Considering the slew of offers that arrived for Stovall during recent weeks, his time frame for a decision situates him well to spend days at various campuses.

With an upcoming journey to Washington already locked in, look for him to coordinate a double-dip trip to Arizona that allows him to learn more about both out-of-state options.

USC seems to be the front-runner here, but there is still a substantial chunk of time between now and his anticipated pledge. The Trojans currently hold 75 percent of expert commitment predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Despite USC's perceived advantage, a versatile talent such as Stovall will have others chasing him through June 14 and beyond en route to national signing day.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down 2016 4-Star RB Melquise Stovall's Top 6 Schools

Melquise Stovall, among the most coveted uncommitted playmakers in America, appears prepared to stay put in Pac-12 territory during his collegiate career.

The 4-star running back from Los Angeles County revealed his top options Tuesday on Twitter and is targeting June 14 as a decision date:

Stovall's focus is squarely centered on six schools at this stage. He identified Arizona State, Washington, USC, UCLA, Arizona and Cal as his collection of favorites.

These Pac-12 programs now have nearly three months to strengthen relationships with the running back. Stovall shared he plans to "take a few more unofficial visits" before wrapping up his recruitment. 

The 5'9", 180-pound Paraclete High School junior is rated third nationally among all-purpose backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, exhibiting excellent skills as both a rusher and receiver. He gained 1,603 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground in 2014, adding 415 yards and two scores through the air.

Stovall claimed running back MVP honors two weeks ago at The Opening Regional showcase in Los Angeles. Interest from college coaching staffs mounted at a steady pace this month, with offers arriving from Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Fresno State and Nevada during recent weeks. 

His reaction to a long-awaited offer from the Trojans seems to give Steve Sarkisian a slight edge entering the final stretch of this pursuit.

"USC was big," Stovall said told Barton Simmons of 247Sports. "USC was always my dream school."

The Trojans' depth was directly impacted by recent scholarship sanctions, crippling the program's ability to build a layered corps of quality running backs. Sarkisian landed a pair of rushers last signing day, headlined by 4-star Texas talent Ronald Jones II, but another influx at the position is paramount next year.

Stovall also told Simmons a mid-April trip to Washington is in the works. 

The Huskies entered this hunt early, extending an offer to Stovall last May. Chris Peterson is currently targeting several California running backs, including Romello Harris and Sean McGrew

Cal is another squad juggling multiple West Coast recruitments at the position, with McGrew and Damian Alloway emerging as legitimate possibilities.

Many figured Alloway would land at UCLA during a Monday announcement ceremony, but the 4-star prospect pushed back his decision plans and will utilize more visits in coming months. That leaves the door open for Stovall with the Bruins, who just signed top-rated 2015 running back Soso Jamabo.

Arizona and Arizona State annually attempt to pluck top-tier talent away from Southern California. Each program has enjoyed success in that regard under current coaching regimes, and Stovall is another crown jewel up for grabs in the Golden State.

Considering the slew of offers that arrived for Stovall during recent weeks, his time frame for a decision situates him well to spend days at various campuses.

With an upcoming journey to Washington already locked in, look for him to coordinate a double-dip trip to Arizona that allows him to learn more about both out-of-state options.

USC seems to be the front-runner here, but there is still a substantial chunk of time between now and his anticipated pledge. The Trojans currently hold 75 percent of expert commitment predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Despite USC's perceived advantage, a versatile talent such as Stovall will have others chasing him through June 14 and beyond en route to national signing day.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down 2016 4-Star RB Melquise Stovall's Top 6 Schools

Melquise Stovall , among the most coveted uncommitted playmakers in America, appears prepared to stay put in Pac -12 territory during his collegiate career...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

5-Star Commit Tommy Kraemer Shows Brian Kelly Is Focused on Recruiting O-Line

Tommy Kraemer, a 5-star offensive tackle, per 247Sports, is committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The big offensive lineman will be a key piece for the Irish, who are dedicated to bolstering their running game while also protecting the quarterback. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Kraemer's game and what his impact will be at Notre Dame. 

Is Kraemer the type of player that the Irish should keep targeting? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star Commit Tommy Kraemer Shows Brian Kelly Is Focused on Recruiting O-Line

Tommy Kraemer, a 5-star offensive tackle, per 247Sports, is committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The big offensive lineman will be a key piece for the Irish, who are dedicated to bolstering their running game while also protecting the quarterback. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Kraemer's game and what his impact will be at Notre Dame. 

Is Kraemer the type of player that the Irish should keep targeting? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Harbaugh Says He's Not Worth $5M a Year, but Here's Why He Really Is

Jim Harbaugh is entitled to his opinion.

But for the first time since he took over as Michigan's head coach at the end of 2014, it's easy to question him.

From his Twitter account to out-of-the-box hires, it hasn't been hard for Harbaugh to stay in the news since returning to Ann Arbor. Harbaugh was at it again on Monday, unintentionally creating headlines when he appeared in a segment on Fox 2 in Detroit with reporter—and former Michigan cheerleader—Charlie LeDuff.

After some talk about why the former Wolverines quarterback opted to return to his alma mater as the head coach, the direction of the conversation turned toward Harbaugh's salary.

After initial reports that he would make $8 million per season with Michigan, he ultimately agreed to a seven-year deal worth $5 million per year, along with a $2 million signing bonus, per NFL.com's Mike Huguenin.

Is he worth it?

"No," Harbaugh told LeDuff in the answer that stood out most in the six-plus-minute segment.

"I like making a buck just like the next guy. I'm not doing five times as much work as somebody else or doing more work than someone that's not the head football coach at the University of Michigan. So to answer your question honestly, I would have to say no."

That may be the case, but work output doesn't always equate to a person's worth.

Compared to other college coaches, Harbaugh's $5 million annual salary places him in a virtual tie with Texas' Charlie Strong for the fourth-highest-paid coach in the country, and even adding in his signing bonus would still put him behind Alabama's Nick Saban, who is slated to make $7.1 million in 2015.

Of course, Saban has won three national titles with the Crimson Tide, while Harbaugh hasn't coached in the college ranks since leading Stanford to a 12-1 Orange Bowl-winning season in 2010.

In four seasons, Harbaugh sustained success with the San Francisco 49ers while making the same amount of money he's making now, per Huguenin. During the same time frame, Michigan struggled under the direction of Brady Hoke.

Yet even as the Wolverines were on the decline, amassing a 31-20 record under Hoke from 2011-14, Michigan football remained profitable.

According to MLive.com, the Wolverines' football program made $82 million in 2012-13. Perhaps even more telling, The Wall Street Journal named Michigan the second-most valuable football program in the country, with an estimated intrinsic value of $999,130,000.

At an annual salary of $2.8 million, Hoke may have actually been a bargain. But it also begged the question of just how much money Michigan football was leaving on the table.

Just look at Ohio State, which The Wall Street Journal estimated is college football's only program worth at least a billion dollars ($1,127,580,000, to be exact). Just like the Wolverines, the Buckeyes play in the Big Ten and have a big fanbase and rich tradition, but unlike Michigan under Hoke, OSU has been winning in recent years with a big-name head coach.

In hiring Harbaugh, the Wolverines have already accomplished the latter, as no coach in college football has been talked about more this offseason than Michigan's.

The winning won't come until this fall—at the earliest—but it's safe to say the Wolverines are already more valuable under Harbaugh than they were under his predecessor.

An annual base price tag of $5 million—and about $40 million total—may seem like a bit much for somebody whose job is to coach football games, but it's actually not uncommon. According to Deadspin, the highest-paid public employee in 39 of the 50 United States is a football or basketball coach.

In some cases, the coaches aren't worth it, but in many of them, they are. In the case of Michigan, which has proved profitable regardless of results but has yet to reach its ceiling, it's hard to envision a world where Harbaugh doesn't prove worth his paycheck.

"I'm willing to work for it," Harbaugh said.

It might not even take that much.

 

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

Jim Harbaugh Says He's Not Worth $5M a Year, but Here's Why He Really Is

Jim Harbaugh is entitled to his opinion.

But for the first time since he took over as Michigan's head coach at the end of 2014, it's easy to question him.

From his Twitter account to out-of-the-box hires, it hasn't been hard for Harbaugh to stay in the news since returning to Ann Arbor. Harbaugh was at it again on Monday, unintentionally creating headlines when he appeared in a segment on Fox 2 in Detroit with reporter—and former Michigan cheerleader—Charlie LeDuff.

After some talk about why the former Wolverines quarterback opted to return to his alma mater as the head coach, the direction of the conversation turned toward Harbaugh's salary.

After initial reports that he would make $8 million per season with Michigan, he ultimately agreed to a seven-year deal worth $5 million per year, along with a $2 million signing bonus, per NFL.com's Mike Huguenin.

Is he worth it?

"No," Harbaugh told LeDuff in the answer that stood out most in the six-plus-minute segment.

"I like making a buck just like the next guy. I'm not doing five times as much work as somebody else or doing more work than someone that's not the head football coach at the University of Michigan. So to answer your question honestly, I would have to say no."

That may be the case, but work output doesn't always equate to a person's worth.

Compared to other college coaches, Harbaugh's $5 million annual salary places him in a virtual tie with Texas' Charlie Strong for the fourth-highest-paid coach in the country, and even adding in his signing bonus would still put him behind Alabama's Nick Saban, who is slated to make $7.1 million in 2015.

Of course, Saban has won three national titles with the Crimson Tide, while Harbaugh hasn't coached in the college ranks since leading Stanford to a 12-1 Orange Bowl-winning season in 2010.

In four seasons, Harbaugh sustained success with the San Francisco 49ers while making the same amount of money he's making now, per Huguenin. During the same time frame, Michigan struggled under the direction of Brady Hoke.

Yet even as the Wolverines were on the decline, amassing a 31-20 record under Hoke from 2011-14, Michigan football remained profitable.

According to MLive.com, the Wolverines' football program made $82 million in 2012-13. Perhaps even more telling, The Wall Street Journal named Michigan the second-most valuable football program in the country, with an estimated intrinsic value of $999,130,000.

At an annual salary of $2.8 million, Hoke may have actually been a bargain. But it also begged the question of just how much money Michigan football was leaving on the table.

Just look at Ohio State, which The Wall Street Journal estimated is college football's only program worth at least a billion dollars ($1,127,580,000, to be exact). Just like the Wolverines, the Buckeyes play in the Big Ten and have a big fanbase and rich tradition, but unlike Michigan under Hoke, OSU has been winning in recent years with a big-name head coach.

In hiring Harbaugh, the Wolverines have already accomplished the latter, as no coach in college football has been talked about more this offseason than Michigan's.

The winning won't come until this fall—at the earliest—but it's safe to say the Wolverines are already more valuable under Harbaugh than they were under his predecessor.

An annual base price tag of $5 million—and about $40 million total—may seem like a bit much for somebody whose job is to coach football games, but it's actually not uncommon. According to Deadspin, the highest-paid public employee in 39 of the 50 United States is a football or basketball coach.

In some cases, the coaches aren't worth it, but in many of them, they are. In the case of Michigan, which has proved profitable regardless of results but has yet to reach its ceiling, it's hard to envision a world where Harbaugh doesn't prove worth his paycheck.

"I'm willing to work for it," Harbaugh said.

It might not even take that much.

 

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

On-the-Field Breakdown of Top Auburn Prospects from the Opening in Atlanta

Auburn football is looking to rebuild in 2014-15 after a disappointing season. The Tigers could rebound with a couple of top recruits featured at Nike's The Opening in Atlanta.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee is joined by B/R recruiting expert Sanjay Kirpalani to discuss what Auburn could look like next season.

What kind of season will Auburn have? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

On-the-Field Breakdown of Top Auburn Prospects from the Opening in Atlanta

Auburn football is looking to rebuild in 2014-15 after a disappointing season. The Tigers could rebound with a couple of top recruits featured at Nike's The Opening in Atlanta.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee is joined by B/R recruiting expert Sanjay Kirpalani to discuss what Auburn could look like next season.

What kind of season will Auburn have? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Conference Is Most Likely to Produce 2015's Heisman Trophy Winner?

The Heisman Trophy race has become predictable and formulaic. On one hand, that's made the whole thing mostly uninteresting. Last year, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won by a landslide, and there's an argument to be made that the results were decided months before. 

On the other hand, such consistency in the results provides a glimpse into which players have the best shot to win. 

Here's what we know: The Heisman is basically a quarterback award. It has been since the turn of the century. In fact, only one non-quarterback has won the Heisman since 2000: Alabama running back Mark Ingram in 2009. 

Sure enough, Odds Sharks' latest Heisman odds have 10 quarterbacks among the top 20 players.  

It makes sense. TCU's Trevone Boykin had a legitimate claim to be a Heisman finalist last season and accounted for more than 4,600 total yards. Should USC realize its playoff hopes, Cody Kessler will become a fascinating Heisman candidate. 

Then there's the four quarterbacks from the Big Ten with a shot: Ohio State's big three (Cardale Jones, JT Barrett and Braxton Miller) and Michigan State's Connor Cook. Eventually, though, the Buckeyes will have to settle on one primary quarterback. That puts the Big Ten at two Heisman contenders. 

The ACC has two up-and-coming stars in Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya. Four SEC players rank among the top 10 with the best Heisman odds, though only one, Dak Prescott, is a quarterback. 

Those are all legitimate choices who deserve the hype they're going to get. But here's the one thing that actually works against them: The difficulty in predicting where the Heisman winner will come from stems from the fact that we may not know much about him yet. 

Beyond Mariota, recent Heisman winners have been relative unknowns at the start of the season. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead noted as much last December: 

Three of the last four winners were essentially 1st-year players who were not on the Heisman radar at the start of the season. Cam Newton came from JUCO (by way of Florida), and Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston were redshirt freshman who hadn’t thrown a college pass. Debating freshmen or drama Kings is fun.. Blowouts are not.

In other words, if you want to win the Heisman, it helps to be a first-year, starting-full-time quarterback who comes out of nowhere. Heisman odds can't reflect that because, put simply, there's no way to know who that will be. 

With those two things in mind, the SEC could actually make a strong run at having another Heisman winner. 

That's not to say Georgia running back Nick Chubb doesn't have a strong chance to win the Heisman, but it's okay to think a little more adventurously. Recent history actually encourages it. 

If you're going by the trend, someone like Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson would be an intriguing choice at 20-1 odds. Johnson had a brief moment of fame in last season's opener against Arkansas when he threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns while starter Nick Marshall served a half-game suspension. The potential is certainly there. 

Or, if you really want to go off the beaten path, put money—figuratively speaking, of course—on Texas A&M's or even Alabama's new quarterback. Both will play in offenses that are quarterback/stat friendly. You could even make a case that Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs is primed for a Heisman run. 

To varying degrees, they all fit the mold. 

But let's say 2015 turns out to be a down year for quarterbacks and a great year for running backs. The SEC has ground covered there, too.

The conference has the right blend of relative unknowns and household names like Chubb and LSU running back Leonard Fournette. They could be two players in the right systems who have legitimate chances if a quarterback doesn't win.

Last year, the Big Ten had the best crop of running backs with Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Tevin Coleman, David Cobb and Ezekiel Elliott. The SEC could take that title in 2015. As a sophomore, Chubb is stating his case as the best running back in college football. 

Could he be the most outstanding player in college football? A lot would have to happen, but yes, theoretically. 

None of this is to imply that quarterbacks are instantly more deserving because of their position; it's a matter of history. 

And the SEC has the under-the-radar players who fit the criteria. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Conference Is Most Likely to Produce 2015's Heisman Trophy Winner?

The Heisman Trophy race has become predictable and formulaic. On one hand, that's made the whole thing mostly uninteresting. Last year, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won by a landslide, and there's an argument to be made that the results were decided months before. 

On the other hand, such consistency in the results provides a glimpse into which players have the best shot to win. 

Here's what we know: The Heisman is basically a quarterback award. It has been since the turn of the century. In fact, only one non-quarterback has won the Heisman since 2000: Alabama running back Mark Ingram in 2009. 

Sure enough, Odds Sharks' latest Heisman odds have 10 quarterbacks among the top 20 players.  

It makes sense. TCU's Trevone Boykin had a legitimate claim to be a Heisman finalist last season and accounted for more than 4,600 total yards. Should USC realize its playoff hopes, Cody Kessler will become a fascinating Heisman candidate. 

Then there's the four quarterbacks from the Big Ten with a shot: Ohio State's big three (Cardale Jones, JT Barrett and Braxton Miller) and Michigan State's Connor Cook. Eventually, though, the Buckeyes will have to settle on one primary quarterback. That puts the Big Ten at two Heisman contenders. 

The ACC has two up-and-coming stars in Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya. Four SEC players rank among the top 10 with the best Heisman odds, though only one, Dak Prescott, is a quarterback. 

Those are all legitimate choices who deserve the hype they're going to get. But here's the one thing that actually works against them: The difficulty in predicting where the Heisman winner will come from stems from the fact that we may not know much about him yet. 

Beyond Mariota, recent Heisman winners have been relative unknowns at the start of the season. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead noted as much last December: 

Three of the last four winners were essentially 1st-year players who were not on the Heisman radar at the start of the season. Cam Newton came from JUCO (by way of Florida), and Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston were redshirt freshman who hadn’t thrown a college pass. Debating freshmen or drama Kings is fun.. Blowouts are not.

In other words, if you want to win the Heisman, it helps to be a first-year, starting-full-time quarterback who comes out of nowhere. Heisman odds can't reflect that because, put simply, there's no way to know who that will be. 

With those two things in mind, the SEC could actually make a strong run at having another Heisman winner. 

That's not to say Georgia running back Nick Chubb doesn't have a strong chance to win the Heisman, but it's okay to think a little more adventurously. Recent history actually encourages it. 

If you're going by the trend, someone like Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson would be an intriguing choice at 20-1 odds. Johnson had a brief moment of fame in last season's opener against Arkansas when he threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns while starter Nick Marshall served a half-game suspension. The potential is certainly there. 

Or, if you really want to go off the beaten path, put money—figuratively speaking, of course—on Texas A&M's or even Alabama's new quarterback. Both will play in offenses that are quarterback/stat friendly. You could even make a case that Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs is primed for a Heisman run. 

To varying degrees, they all fit the mold. 

But let's say 2015 turns out to be a down year for quarterbacks and a great year for running backs. The SEC has ground covered there, too.

The conference has the right blend of relative unknowns and household names like Chubb and LSU running back Leonard Fournette. They could be two players in the right systems who have legitimate chances if a quarterback doesn't win.

Last year, the Big Ten had the best crop of running backs with Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Tevin Coleman, David Cobb and Ezekiel Elliott. The SEC could take that title in 2015. As a sophomore, Chubb is stating his case as the best running back in college football. 

Could he be the most outstanding player in college football? A lot would have to happen, but yes, theoretically. 

None of this is to imply that quarterbacks are instantly more deserving because of their position; it's a matter of history. 

And the SEC has the under-the-radar players who fit the criteria. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com

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5-Star DTs Julian Rochester, Derrick Brown Praise UGA: 'It Feels Like Home'

On the heels of landing 5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson in the 2015 class, Georgia head coach Mark Richt and his staff have positioned themselves well with two more prized in-state defensive linemen in 2016 5-star standouts Derrick Brown and Julian Rochester.

The two Atlanta-area stars were both on hand at the Nike Opening Atlanta Regional, with Brown participating and Rochester sitting out due to an arm injury.

However, when both players took the time to break down their recruitments, it became clear that Richt and his staff built a strong bond that will be tough for each of them to overcome.

“I love the atmosphere there,” Brown told Bleacher Report. “When I go there, it feels like home.”

For his part, Rochester agreed with his good friend.

“I like Coach Rocker, Coach Pruitt and Coach Richt,” Rochester said. “All of them, Coach Sherrer too. They just treat me like family, and they have since I was a youngster. It’s been cool to go through this process and have them build that relationship with me.”

Aside from Georgia, both players have similar schools who are chasing them.

Auburn, in particular, along with Alabama, lead the pack of schools who are pushing for the Peach State defenders. Both players mentioned Auburn as a school that has done a good job in recruiting them.

However, considering that Georgia has been aggressive in trying to keep its top homegrown talent from heading to Athens, it will be tough to pull them from their home state.

Rochester notes that he and Brown, along with Antwuan Jackson—who took home the MVP honors for the defensive line at the camp—have discussed the idea of playing together at the next level.

“Me and Antwuan [Jackson] talk about that every day,” Rochester said. “That’s like my brother. We talk about it. We always go through it together and we’re looking at some of the same schools. We look at it individually too, for the schemes and how we fit too. But it would be cool though if it worked out.”

Brown acknowledged that he’s brainstormed about the possibility. But, he also said it wouldn’t be a determining factor for his recruitment.

“I mean if it happens, it happens,” Brown said. “It would be cool because we’d be a pretty dominant team.”

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker were able to land one of the nation’s top defensive line classes in 2015, with Thompson being the headliner.

If they can close the deal on elite prospects such as Brown and Rochester, the Bulldogs defensive front has the potential to develop into one of the nation’s most talented units.

 

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

5-Star DTs Julian Rochester, Derrick Brown Praise UGA: 'It Feels Like Home'

On the heels of landing 5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson in the 2015 class, Georgia head coach Mark Richt and his staff have positioned themselves well with two more prized in-state defensive linemen in 2016 5-star standouts Derrick Brown and Julian Rochester.

The two Atlanta-area stars were both on hand at the Nike Opening Atlanta Regional, with Brown participating and Rochester sitting out due to an arm injury.

However, when both players took the time to break down their recruitments, it became clear that Richt and his staff built a strong bond that will be tough for each of them to overcome.

“I love the atmosphere there,” Brown told Bleacher Report. “When I go there, it feels like home.”

For his part, Rochester agreed with his good friend.

“I like Coach Rocker, Coach Pruitt and Coach Richt,” Rochester said. “All of them, Coach Sherrer too. They just treat me like family, and they have since I was a youngster. It’s been cool to go through this process and have them build that relationship with me.”

Aside from Georgia, both players have similar schools who are chasing them.

Auburn, in particular, along with Alabama, lead the pack of schools who are pushing for the Peach State defenders. Both players mentioned Auburn as a school that has done a good job in recruiting them.

However, considering that Georgia has been aggressive in trying to keep its top homegrown talent from heading to Athens, it will be tough to pull them from their home state.

Rochester notes that he and Brown, along with Antwuan Jackson—who took home the MVP honors for the defensive line at the camp—have discussed the idea of playing together at the next level.

“Me and Antwuan [Jackson] talk about that every day,” Rochester said. “That’s like my brother. We talk about it. We always go through it together and we’re looking at some of the same schools. We look at it individually too, for the schemes and how we fit too. But it would be cool though if it worked out.”

Brown acknowledged that he’s brainstormed about the possibility. But, he also said it wouldn’t be a determining factor for his recruitment.

“I mean if it happens, it happens,” Brown said. “It would be cool because we’d be a pretty dominant team.”

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker were able to land one of the nation’s top defensive line classes in 2015, with Thompson being the headliner.

If they can close the deal on elite prospects such as Brown and Rochester, the Bulldogs defensive front has the potential to develop into one of the nation’s most talented units.

 

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

On-the-Field Breakdown of Top Alabama Prospects from the Opening Atlanta

The Alabama Crimson Tide are known for having exceptional recruiting classes, and it looks like 2016 will continue that trend. Alabama has its eyes set on a couple of top recruits after The Opening in Atlanta. 

Bleacher Report recruiting expert Sanjay Kirpalani joins B/R College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee to discuss what Alabama is looking like for next season. 

What kind of season can Alabama have in 2016? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

On-the-Field Breakdown of Top Alabama Prospects from the Opening Atlanta

The Alabama Crimson Tide are known for having exceptional recruiting classes, and it looks like 2016 will continue that trend. Alabama has its eyes set on a couple of top recruits after The Opening in Atlanta. 

Bleacher Report recruiting expert Sanjay Kirpalani joins B/R College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee to discuss what Alabama is looking like for next season. 

What kind of season can Alabama have in 2016? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Urban Meyer Already Setting Ohio State Up for Success in 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following Ohio State's third spring practice of 2015—and the Buckeyes' first since returning from last week's spring break—Urban Meyer made no bones about how he felt about his team's most recent performance.

"It wasn't a great day," Meyer said. "Today was not a pleasant one."

In both the long and short term, the Buckeyes' bad day is nothing to worry about. Tuesday was just one of 15 Ohio State practice sessions scheduled for the spring, and Meyer seems to have developed a habit of downplaying his team's performance on the practice field to the media since arriving in Columbus three years ago.

Oh, and it's probably worth noting that several of the Buckeyes' key players weren't even on the field on Tuesday and likely won't be for extended periods of spring practice moving forward.

In an attempt to get a head start on Ohio State's upcoming national title defense, Meyer has implemented a system to preserve the health of some of his more experienced players. Deemed the "2,000 club," players who have already received 2,000 combined competitive reps in both games and practice won't see significant playing time this spring, as the risk of having them on the field far outweighs the reward.

"I think we're on the cutting edge of just being smart about the wear and tear that the student-athlete goes through," Meyer said. "I love it."

Based on Meyer's definition of reps, most players who have started or seen significant playing time for two or more seasons in their respective careers appear to qualify. Left tackle Taylor Decker, guard Pat Elflein, tight end Nick Vannett, linebacker Joshua Perry, safety Tyvis Powell and defensive end Joey Bosa were all players mentioned by Meyer who will see their playing time limited this spring out of pure caution.

Throw in the injuries that are keeping running back Ezekiel Elliott, center Jacoby Boren and H-Back Dontre Wilson out of spring practice, and Meyer may have nowhere to look but the mirror when it comes to placing blame on Tuesday's sloppiness. That doesn't mean the reps that would have otherwise been going to starters for the 2015 season are going to waste, however, as it's opened the door for some younger players to see increased playing time this spring.

Specifically on the Ohio State offensive line, where the current absence of three starters and departure of right tackle Darryl Baldwin have allowed some of the more inexperienced Buckeyes to get on the field. None of Jamarco Jones, Brady Taylor, Evan Lisle or Marcelys Jones have seen significant playing time in their respective careers and will each have eligibility remaining in the 2016 season and beyond.

That's both good news and bad news for Meyer, as players in need of reps are receiving them, even though at times it's led to an ugly product on the field. On the offensive line, especially, the fourth-year Ohio State head coach places an emphasis on cohesiveness, which he has found tough to develop through this spring's first three practices.

"You're losing a little bit of chemistry in the unit," Meyer admitted. "You hear stories about the 'cohesive offensive line.' When you hear that story, that's absolutely correct. We were a great example the last three years ... You're losing that completely because you're sticking some guys in there that aren't quite ready yet."

Make no mistake, fall camp should be plenty of time for the Buckeyes to get that back, especially with four starters returning from last season's national title team. And come this time next year, the sloppiness Meyer is currently bemoaning could ultimately pay off in the long run.

The same could be said on the defensive side of the ball, where there's no shortage of young linebackers to play in the absence of Perry, who is entering his third season as a starting outside linebacker. Dante Booker, Chris Worley and early enrollee Nick Conner each arrived at Columbus highly regarded and could find themselves vying for starting roles as soon as 2016.

At least one young Buckeyes linebacker won't have to wait that long to contribute, though, as Raekwon McMillan is sliding into the middle linebacker void left by Curtis Grant. After seeing plenty of playing time as a true freshman, McMillan's role will only increase entering his sophomore season, though Meyer would like to see more from the 6'2", 240-pounder than he did on Tuesday.

"Today wasn't his best day," Meyer said. "He's got some big shoes to fill. That guy he's replacing, Curtis Grant, maybe didn't have a stellar career, but he had a stellar senior year, though ... He's replacing a middle linebacker who was actually a coach on the field for us last year."

Other young Buckeyes seeing expanded reps for the first time in their college careers this spring include, but aren't limited to, defensive end Sam Hubbard, tight end Marcus Baugh, cornerback Damon Webb, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, defensive end Jalyn Holmes, safety Erick Smith, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon and wide receiver/running back Parris Campbell.

With only so many open spots in the starting lineup next season, not all of their springs will translate into playing time for the fall, but each could ultimately help build a foundation that leads to sustained success at Ohio State. Because as opposed to 2015, when the Buckeyes will return 14 starters from a season ago, Ohio State could conceivably lose as many as 13 first-team players the following year, depending on who decides to declare early for the 2016 NFL draft.

That will only increase the importance for the more inexperienced Buckeyes to not only make the most of next year's spring, but this one as well. And as far as the struggles at practice that have come as a result of the number of veterans sitting out, Meyer's willing to tolerate them—for now.

"We're not going to blame coaches or players yet," Meyer said. "That's coming, though, if we don't get better."

 

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

Urban Meyer Already Setting Ohio State Up for Success in 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following Ohio State's third spring practice of 2015—and the Buckeyes' first since returning from last week's spring break—Urban Meyer made no bones about how he felt about his team's most recent performance.

"It wasn't a great day," Meyer said. "Today was not a pleasant one."

In both the long and short term, the Buckeyes' bad day is nothing to worry about. Tuesday was just one of 15 Ohio State practice sessions scheduled for the spring, and Meyer seems to have developed a habit of downplaying his team's performance on the practice field to the media since arriving in Columbus three years ago.

Oh, and it's probably worth noting that several of the Buckeyes' key players weren't even on the field on Tuesday and likely won't be for extended periods of spring practice moving forward.

In an attempt to get a head start on Ohio State's upcoming national title defense, Meyer has implemented a system to preserve the health of some of his more experienced players. Deemed the "2,000 club," players who have already received 2,000 combined competitive reps in both games and practice won't see significant playing time this spring, as the risk of having them on the field far outweighs the reward.

"I think we're on the cutting edge of just being smart about the wear and tear that the student-athlete goes through," Meyer said. "I love it."

Based on Meyer's definition of reps, most players who have started or seen significant playing time for two or more seasons in their respective careers appear to qualify. Left tackle Taylor Decker, guard Pat Elflein, tight end Nick Vannett, linebacker Joshua Perry, safety Tyvis Powell and defensive end Joey Bosa were all players mentioned by Meyer who will see their playing time limited this spring out of pure caution.

Throw in the injuries that are keeping running back Ezekiel Elliott, center Jacoby Boren and H-Back Dontre Wilson out of spring practice, and Meyer may have nowhere to look but the mirror when it comes to placing blame on Tuesday's sloppiness. That doesn't mean the reps that would have otherwise been going to starters for the 2015 season are going to waste, however, as it's opened the door for some younger players to see increased playing time this spring.

Specifically on the Ohio State offensive line, where the current absence of three starters and departure of right tackle Darryl Baldwin have allowed some of the more inexperienced Buckeyes to get on the field. None of Jamarco Jones, Brady Taylor, Evan Lisle or Marcelys Jones have seen significant playing time in their respective careers and will each have eligibility remaining in the 2016 season and beyond.

That's both good news and bad news for Meyer, as players in need of reps are receiving them, even though at times it's led to an ugly product on the field. On the offensive line, especially, the fourth-year Ohio State head coach places an emphasis on cohesiveness, which he has found tough to develop through this spring's first three practices.

"You're losing a little bit of chemistry in the unit," Meyer admitted. "You hear stories about the 'cohesive offensive line.' When you hear that story, that's absolutely correct. We were a great example the last three years ... You're losing that completely because you're sticking some guys in there that aren't quite ready yet."

Make no mistake, fall camp should be plenty of time for the Buckeyes to get that back, especially with four starters returning from last season's national title team. And come this time next year, the sloppiness Meyer is currently bemoaning could ultimately pay off in the long run.

The same could be said on the defensive side of the ball, where there's no shortage of young linebackers to play in the absence of Perry, who is entering his third season as a starting outside linebacker. Dante Booker, Chris Worley and early enrollee Nick Conner each arrived at Columbus highly regarded and could find themselves vying for starting roles as soon as 2016.

At least one young Buckeyes linebacker won't have to wait that long to contribute, though, as Raekwon McMillan is sliding into the middle linebacker void left by Curtis Grant. After seeing plenty of playing time as a true freshman, McMillan's role will only increase entering his sophomore season, though Meyer would like to see more from the 6'2", 240-pounder than he did on Tuesday.

"Today wasn't his best day," Meyer said. "He's got some big shoes to fill. That guy he's replacing, Curtis Grant, maybe didn't have a stellar career, but he had a stellar senior year, though ... He's replacing a middle linebacker who was actually a coach on the field for us last year."

Other young Buckeyes seeing expanded reps for the first time in their college careers this spring include, but aren't limited to, defensive end Sam Hubbard, tight end Marcus Baugh, cornerback Damon Webb, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, defensive end Jalyn Holmes, safety Erick Smith, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon and wide receiver/running back Parris Campbell.

With only so many open spots in the starting lineup next season, not all of their springs will translate into playing time for the fall, but each could ultimately help build a foundation that leads to sustained success at Ohio State. Because as opposed to 2015, when the Buckeyes will return 14 starters from a season ago, Ohio State could conceivably lose as many as 13 first-team players the following year, depending on who decides to declare early for the 2016 NFL draft.

That will only increase the importance for the more inexperienced Buckeyes to not only make the most of next year's spring, but this one as well. And as far as the struggles at practice that have come as a result of the number of veterans sitting out, Meyer's willing to tolerate them—for now.

"We're not going to blame coaches or players yet," Meyer said. "That's coming, though, if we don't get better."

 

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

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