NCAA Football

Ohio State Football: 5 Toughest QBs Buckeyes Will Face in 2016

The Ohio State football team will be challenged by a number of elite teams this fall, headlined by Oklahoma on the road in Week 3, but the Buckeyes won't have to defend an elite group of quarterbacks.

The departures of Connor Cook from Michigan State, Nate Sudfeld from Indiana, Christian Hackenberg from Penn State and Jake Rudock from Michigan has created a void of experience in the offenses Ohio State will face this year.

All four of those quarterbacks heard their names called in the NFL draft a few weeks ago, so the Buckeyes will be facing a lot of good teams with a new signal-caller behind center.

However, this next group of five quarterbacks should challenge Ohio State the most due to their skill level, experience and/or the coach they're learning from. 

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Stephen Guidry to LSU: Tigers Land JUCO WR Prospect

The LSU Tigers received a major boost Saturday when they received a commitment from receiver Stephen Guidry.  

Guidry, 247Sports' top-ranked junior college receiver, announced his decision on Twitter.

According to Ross Dellenger of the Advocate, Guidry decided to commit after a visit to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Saturday.

Guidry's choice is a bit of surprise after it appeared that Alabama was the favorite for his services. He told SEC Country's Chris Kirschner earlier this week that the Crimson Tide were his top option and that he nearly committed to the school after a visit last weekend.

LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig led the charge for Guidry. Craig was hired away from Auburn's staff in February, and this was a massive recruiting get for him, which was acknowledged by 247Sports' Shea Dixon:

Guidry will be a huge addition to a Tigers program that has struggled with the passing game in recent years. 

LSU finished 108th in passing yards in 2015 and 109th in 2014. This is a considerable drop from the dynamic air attack the team featured in 2013 with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Zach Mettenberger.

However, the Tigers have the potential to form one of the SEC's best receivers group in 2017. Guidry will join a position room that already boasts budding star Malachi Dupre. If Dupre, a junior, returns for another year, LSU will have two receivers who are speedy and stand above 6'3".

The full impact of Guidry will depend on the development of LSU's quarterback situation. Junior Brandon Harris is the presumed starter after throwing passes for the team in 2015, but he will need to improve on the 13 touchdowns and 53.8 percent completion rate to lift this offense.

According to Gridiron Now's Tony Barnhart, head coach Les Miles believes in Harris, but until he proves he is a quality quarterback, there will still be questions around LSU's passing game. Guidry's addition should help, though, as he gives the secondary a reason not to double-team Dupre, assuming he is still around.

 

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com. 

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Deejay Dallas to Miami: Hurricanes Land 4-Star Athlete Prospect

Deejay Dallas remains a man without a position, but he has at least sorted out his school of choice for the next few years. Dallas committed to the University of Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, per Chad Simmons of Scout.com.  

According to Simmons, Dallas explained his decision to play for head coach Mark Richt after initially committing to Georgia when Richt was still the Bulldogs' coach:

I have committed to Miami. This is the perfect time for me to commit because I am comfortable with my decision and my family is at ease. I asked my family if I could go through with it, they gave me the green light, so that was that. I had been second-guessing myself since late February and into early March, but this month kind of sealed the deal for me.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the Brunswick, Georgia, native is the No. 12 athlete in the 2017 class. He's also the 222nd-best player overall and 27th-best in the state of Georgia.

Dallas originally committed to Georgia in July 2015 but then decommitted in December shortly after the school hired Kirby Smart. In a piece for USA Today on April 11, Dallas wrote how the new coaching staff in Athens wasn't exactly rolling out the red carpet for him:

I have only been on one visit to Georgia since Coach Mark Richt was let go. That one visit was Junior Day, and I was there with all the top prospects in Georgia from the class of 2017. It was a fun day and I got to see a lot of friends that day and it was the first time the new staff was able to make a first impression. That being said, I rarely hear from the staff and they don’t make me feel like a priority, but it is understandable, I guess. It seems as though they have other priorities. I guess I’ll never know though, but I am going to see how the process plays out and I will always consider Athens a place where I can call home. Go Dawgs??

Judging from those comments, the Bulldogs didn't stand a chance at getting Dallas' commitment a second time around.

Richt's first task will be figuring out Dallas' best position. He has had his hand in a little bit of everything offensively for Glynn Academy as a junior, per MaxPreps:

Eliminating quarterback as a possibility would be sensible. Dallas is far more dangerous with his legs than he is with his arm. He could line up under center for a few trick plays to throw off the defense, but putting him at QB on a full-time basis wouldn't get the best out of his dynamic skill set:

According to Hudl, Dallas clocked a 4.52 40-yard dash. Using the phrase "deceptively fast" is somewhat cliche, but it feels appropriate in this situation. Dallas looks quicker on the field than his 40 time would lead one to believe.

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Sentell, Dallas revealed quarterback would be his personal preference but remains flexible.

"If quarterback isn't in God's plan for me then I am going to listen and see what God's plan is for me," he said. "Wherever I feel comfortable, that is where I am going to end up going. Put me on offense and I'll change a game. Put me on defense and I will control the game and keep the other team's points down so we can win."

With his acceleration and agility, he can be a weapon in the return game immediately upon his arrival in Miami, and over time, he might grow into a versatile two-way star.

Whether safety, cornerback or wide receiver becomes his primary position, Dallas is bound to create some highlight-reel plays at Miami.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Toughest Nonconference Game

As college football enters the third season of the College Football Playoff, it has become clear that having a strong schedule is as important as it has ever been. The playoff doubles the number of teams with a legit shot at the national title following the regular season (from two to four), but it’s still incredibly tough to make the four-team field.

There is margin for error; after all, in two years, only two teams (Clemson and Florida State) have finished the regular season unbeaten. But when you lose a game, you fall into a pool of similarly accomplished teams. Strength of schedule matters: The College Football Playoff selection committee explicitly lists it as one of three key factors, alongside winning conference championships and head-to-head results, when comparing similar teams.

Getting marquee teams on your schedule makes the road to the playoff tougher, but succeeding in those big moments is a major plus for your resume. That’s why having a tough nonconference slate is crucial. Here’s a look at the toughest nonconference game for every Power Five team.

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​How Clemson QB Deshaun Watson Can Earn Spot Atop 2017 NFL Draft​

Year-round followers of the NFL draft are already well aware that Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson is among a handful of prospects in contention to be the No. 1 pick in 2017 NFL draft. 

ESPN.com's Mel Kiper recently ranked Watson No. 4 overall on his early big board, and as the only quarterback in Kiper's top 10, that clearly makes him a favorite for the No. 1 pick. 

But it's important to remember that this is still an early projection, especially for a 20-year-old quarterback coming off his true-sophomore campaign. 

When an early favorite to go No. 1 overall ends up falling in the following draft, we often hear comments along the lines of: "well, if he turned pro last year he would have been a top-10 pick." But these sentiments are almost always complete fiction and solely based off preseason mock-draft positioning. 

What gets lost in these hindsight assessments is the fact that early big boards and mock drafts aren't solely about what a player is today—they're about what he will be 11 months from now.

Watson is a legitimate candidate to go No. 1 overall in next year's draft, but there are two distinct factors in this assessment.

The first factor is based on the quarterback Watson is today. He is among the most talented quarterbacks in the country and has already shown some NFL traits. But the second factor—perhaps the most important factor—is about the trajectory of his career path. 

As of May 2016, Watson is not ready to play at the NFL level. However, he has shown considerable growth during his first two seasons at Clemson, and we assume that will continue into the 2016 season. So based on where he is today and the trajectory of his career, it's reasonable to assume that by April 2017, Watson will be ready to advance to the pro game as a top pick. 

Think of it like a young company's stock. After two steady years of growth, there is optimism for the future. But you wouldn't yet assume it has Google's level of stability based on a small two-year sample. And that's where we stand with Watson. He has the potential, and he's shown the growth, but there's still more to prove. 

So rather than break down why Watson is a top prospect, let's focus on what he needs to accomplish this season to ascend to the next level and truly earn his spot atop draft boards in 2017. 

When watching Watson during the 2016 college football season, here are a two of the most important areas to focus on to asses his continued development. 

 

Anticipatory Throws

Unlike many young quarterbacks with his athleticism, Watson is a pocket passer first. While he does rack up yardage on the ground, a significant percentage comes on designed runs. So when he drops back to pass, Watson is genuinely looking to throw, which is a significant step in a quarterback's development.

Unfortunately, Watson hasn't quite reached the stage where he trusts what he sees from the pocket. Like many young quarterbacks, he's more comfortable throwing to the receiver who is already open, rather than the one who can become open if the throw is placed correctly.

Below is an example from the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Alabama where Watson passes up an opportunity to throw his receiver open. 

This a 3rd-and-4 situation late in the first quarter. Wide receiver Artavis Scott lines up wide and shows a slant route for about five yards, which forces Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland to pass him off to the deep safety in that area of the field. But Scott then cuts back toward the sideline and gets behind Ragland.

At this point, Watson has a clear window to throw over Ragland and lead Scott toward the sideline for a big gain. As the image above shows, Watson sees Scott and is ready to throw but can't bring himself to pull the trigger. He ends up tucking the ball and running himself into pressure, before eventually escaping for a five-yard gain.

These are the types of anticipatory throws that Watson needs to become more comfortable making before he's ready for the NFL. By NFL standards, Scott is wide open based on where he will be when the ball arrives, and Watson will be expected to make this throw every time. 

 

Decisions Under Pressure

As demonstrated above, Watson has a tendency to hesitate when he's in a clean pocket. But when facing pressure, he runs into the opposite issue. 

As soon as Watson feels as though his option to tuck and run has been taken away, his decision-making becomes erratic and his movements more panicked. 

Perhaps the best example of this came at one of the biggest moments of Clemson's season in 2015. 

During the College Football Playoff against Oklahoma, Watson is faced with 3rd-and-8 deep in Sooners territory while trailing 17-16. 

Watson sees almost immediate pressure and rolls to his right. At this point, he could throw the ball away or even take a sack, and Clemson would have an opportunity to kick a field goal to take the lead. 

Instead, Watson essentially tosses a Hail Mary into the end zone that gets intercepted by Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez. 

These types of poor decisions under pressure were a common theme throughout Watson's 2015 season. 

CFB Film Room recently shared Watson's stats under pressure and offered up Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield as a comparison:

Deshaun Watson vs Baker Mayfield under pressure last season pic.twitter.com/uUP0aKZ8wW

— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) May 18, 2016

Obviously the two quarterbacks faced different competition, but that doesn't change the fact that Watson's numbers are cause for some concern and an area he will look to improve in 2016. 

 

Final Thoughts

This assessment of Watson might sound overly negative, but keep in mind the intent is to highlight the areas for improvement. Both of these aspects of Watson's game are related to decision-making—an area in which quarterbacks are constantly working to learn and develop, well into their pro careers. 

As a true sophomore in 2015, it would have been unreasonable to expect Watson to consistently display the decision-making ability of a veteran NFL quarterback. And even by the end of his 2016 season, pro scouts won't expect perfection in these areas. 

But scouts will be watching closely to see that Watson continues to show growth. 

As long as Watson improves in these areas and continues to ascend as a prospect, he should land near the top of the first round when he chooses to enter the NFL draft. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Austin Deculus to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The LSU Tigers added a marquee piece to their 2017 recruiting class on Friday in the form of offensive lineman Austin Deculus.

Nick Krueger of Rivals.com reported the talented tackle's decision to join the Tigers.

“It’s just always been my dream since I was little,” Deculus said about playing for LSU, per Krueger. “The offense that they run suits me well; they just line up and smash you in the mouth every play.”

Deculus is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 45 overall prospect and No. 10 offensive tackle in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also checks in as the fifth-best recruit from Texas.

“[Offensive line coach Jeff] Grimes has a good persona, and what I like about him is that he gives freshmen chances and doesn’t hold them back,” Deculus said, per Krueger. “If he has a guy that he thinks can be an All-American, he’ll give him a chance to shine.”

The Cy-Fair High School standout has displayed all the tools college football programs look for in a budding tackle. His combination of size (6'6", 323 pounds), first-step quickness and raw power gives him the look of a future blindside protector.

Gerry Hamilton of ESPN provided a look at Deculus in action:

Deculus' technique could use more polish, and his movement should become more fluid at the collegiate level. Those concerns are of the minor variety, though. The overall outlook is overwhelmingly positive.

Landon Wright of Today's U passed along comments the coveted prospect made in January about some of the things recruiters told him throughout the process.

"They say that for me being my weight, I don't show it," Deculus said. "I'm at 325 right now and in very good shape. I play with a nastiness that they don't see in many players. I have a very quick first step, and footwork-wise they say I'm one of the best."

Ultimately, he decided LSU gave him the best opportunity to further develop those traits. The Tigers edged out several high-profile programs that showed interest in Deculus, including Michigan, Notre Dame and Alabama, per 247Sports.

LSU needed additional depth along the offensive line, and depending on how quickly Deculus can impress the coaching staff, the path to playing time is reasonably clear. With that said, it's probably still going to take some time before he cracks the starting lineup.

“When I went to the game against Texas A&M last year, the atmosphere sold me as much as anything else,” he said, per Krueger. “Right then, I could see myself playing in Death Valley in front of all those people—and the amount of support from all those people was awesome.”

 

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4-Star OT Austin Deculus Picks LSU: 'Coaching Staff Was Like No Other'

Last month, Cypress, Texas, 4-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus told Bleacher Report that while he would publicly announce his college plans immediately following his team's spring game, he already knew where he was headed.

Friday was the big day, and at the annual Cy-Fair High School spring game, Deculus ended his recruiting process by verbally committing to LSU. Deculus, the nation's No. 10 offensive tackle in the 2017 class, chose LSU over offers from Michigan and Tennessee.

Deculus is LSU's eighth overall commit and second offensive linemen pledge for the 2017 cycle. He currently is the highest-ranked offensive pledge for LSU. He joins fellow Texan, 4-star guard Edward Ingram, the nation's No. 9 guard, in the class. Jeff Grimes, LSU's offensive line coach, had a major part in recruiting both athletes.

"It feels really good to have that school behind my name," Deculus said. "When people talk about me, they'll think about that. I'm happy that I don't have to be stressed out with making a decision anymore."

Deculus earlier in the spring announced a top five of LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers are getting an athletic, 6'6", 323-pound lineman who can play either left tackle or right tackle and is football savvy enough to play guard early if necessary. Deculus plays with solid pad level and lateral agility and is expected to compete for a starting job early in his college career.

Before he heads to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Deculus first will travel to Beaverton, Oregon, in July for The Opening. He qualified for the national competition at The Opening Houston regional.

Deculus showcased his speed and quickness at the regional by running the 40-yard dash in 5.09 seconds. He was the fastest 2017 offensive lineman in the 40 at the camp and one of only three offensive lineman at the event—the others being 2018's Colten Blanton and Casey Phillips—to finish the dash in less than 5.1 seconds.

Deculus, recruited by both Grimes and special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto, reportedly last visited the LSU campus to attend a scrimmage April 9. He also was in Baton Rouge in February for LSU's "Boys From the Boot" junior day. He was originally offered by the Tigers as a sophomore.

"The environment around the campus and game day ... I love how it gets," Deculus said. "The coaching staff was like no other. [Grimes] told me facts; he didn't tell me stuff I knew wasn't true. That's what I like about him. He always gives people chances."

Athletes like Trai Turner, Andrew Whitworth, La'el Collins and Joe Barksdale are recent success stories as LSU offensive lineman alumni who are in the NFL. Deculus is hoping to one day add his name to the long list of Tigers who have had the opportunity to play in the league.

Deculus said he's planning on shutting down his recruiting for good and is excited about helping the Tigers recruit players who will help the program.

"I know some coaches will still try to recruit me," he said. "Even though I'm committed, I know some won't stop. But it feels good to have it come to an end. Going to The Opening and now being able to represent my next school, it feels good."

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Connor Mitch to Transfer from South Carolina: Latest Details and Reaction

South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Connor Mitch plans to transfer schools this summer once he graduates from the SEC institution.   

"Connor and I spoke today," head coach Will Muschamp said, per the State. "Connor has the opportunity to graduate from South Carolina this summer and will look to continue his playing career at another university in the fall. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."

Mitch was named South Carolina's starter prior to the 2015 season, but shoulder and hip injuries limited him to just two appearances. All told, Mitch completed 15 of 35 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown during his two seasons with the team. 

"I have enjoyed my time at South Carolina and will graduate later this summer," Mitch said in the school's official release, according to the State. "I believe it’s in my best interest to continue my playing career at another school. I’d like to thank all the Gamecock fans for their support during my time in Columbia."

Mitch will reportedly have two years of eligibility remaining once he graduates. 

All things considered, his decision to transfer makes sense. Mitch was named the starting quarterback under former head coach Steve Spurrier, but Muschamp's arrival signaled a regime change of sorts. Plus, the depth chart at quarterback was already crowded, as the State's Matt Connolly noted: 

Mitch will now be afforded time to survey the transfer market and take stock of which schools can offer him the best chance to maximize the eligibility he has left. 

And considering Mitch is a former 3-star recruit, per 247Sports, it shouldn't take long for a market for his services to develop. 

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Ranking the Top 15 College Football Towns in the Country

There's nothing quite like a college football town. Professional sports teams occupy the country's bigger cities, usually vying for attention in a crowded market. But college football is different.

The link between a football-crazy campus and the town it's located in runs deep. College football games are usually these cities' biggest events year in and year out, with the entire area shutting down on Saturdays when the home team is in town. Few sports experiences on the planet can compare.

As we continue to grind through the offseason and dream of when these locales will be commandeered by a fall Saturday, let's count down the top 15 college football towns in the country. These selections were based on a town's relationship to its college program, passion in terms of fan support, traditions, culture and entertainment options on football weekends.

Some large-city campuses, such as Columbus, Ohio (Ohio State) and Austin, Texas (Texas) are such massive metro areas that they aren't eligible for this list. Instead, this list focuses on the smaller-sized cities and towns that are synonymous with their college football teams.

Of course, this is the opinion of one writer, based on past experiences and reputations from others who have tackled this assignment for other outlets. One could fill up an awesome list of 15 college football towns that didn't make the cut here. So, in the good-natured spirit of college football fandom, feel free to share your own lists and experiences in the comments below.

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Early Projections for 2016 Preseason Freshman All-American Team

Making an immediate impact is hard enough. Performing at an All-American level as a freshman shows the elite level of talent a college football player possesses.

Whether due to injury, suspension or a weakness on the roster, hundreds of players will have an opportunity to stand out in 2016.

However, a select bunch of talents will simply rise to the top of a program's depth chart—and that ascent is anything but simple.

Projections for the upcoming season's freshman All-American team include players who redshirted in 2015.

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Bold Summer Predictions for 2017 College Football Recruiting Trail

The 2017 college football recruiting cycle reaches a new phase in coming weeks as spring turns into summer. University visits and on-campus camps annually alter the landscape as top prospects work their way toward a verbal pledge. 

Commitments and decommitments will occur in bunches before fall arrives and these recruits begin their final high school season. Few recruiting outcomes are assured this far away from national signing day so unexpected twists and turns are a routine part of the process as February approaches. 

While many of these surprises are difficult to anticipate, we've assessed several of the recruiting scene's trending storylines to project some possible developments that could command headlines this summer.

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Offseason Question Marks for Top College Football Playoff Contenders

Even the best college football teams enter a season with some level of uncertainty. After all, we're dealing with teams made up of 18- to 22-year-olds, a demographic that is brimming with talent and promise but is also still figuring out the whole "responsible adult" thing.

Just look back at last year's four College Football Playoff entrants, and you'll see they managed to make the semifinals despite heading into 2015 with some unanswered questions.

Eventual national champion Alabama had no idea who its quarterback would be, runner-up Clemson had concerns about its rebuilt defense and didn't know how Deshaun Watson would look after knee surgery, Michigan State was searching for a running back and had to replace noted defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, and Oklahoma had overhauled its coaching staff and offensive scheme.

The same is the case this season for college football's top playoff contenders, all of whom have question marks at this point. We've detailed the most pressing one for each of the top 12 candidates, based on Odds Shark's early lines to win the national title.

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Maty Mauk Transfers to EKU: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Former Missouri Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk has signed a financial aid agreement with Eastern Kentucky, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Kennedy Hardman of WTVQ in Lexington, Kentucky, first reported that Mauk had committed to joining the team on May 16, though he hadn't signed the financial aid agreement at that time.

Mauk played three years for Missouri, appearing in 28 games and throwing for 4,373 yards, 42 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He ran into trouble during his junior year, with then-head coach Gary Pinkel suspending him twice over the course of the season. The second suspension ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign in November.

In January, current head coach Barry Odom dismissed Mauk from the team altogether shortly after a video surfaced appearing to show Mauk snorting white powder off a table. According to the Kansas City Star's Tod Palmer, Mauk's father Mike said the video was two years old.

Mauk posted a photo of a letter he wrote following his dismissal:

On May 17, he celebrated his graduation from the school:

Mauk will have some competition for Eastern Kentucky's starting job. Bennie Coney threw for 2,471 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2015. In April, head coach Mark Elder talked up the rising senior, per Josh Sullivan of the Lexington Herald-Leader:

There’s no harder position for a transition than the quarterback position. I don’t think the casual fan understands how much has to go into their brain to perform at a high level. We saw Bennie get better and better as the spring went along. I think the first day he threw to the wrong color a few times, as you expect to happen, but to see him progress and get more comfortable was great.

Mauk is more proven at a higher level, though, and Coney isn't necessarily at a big advantage, as the incumbent since Elder just joined the school in December.

If Mauk can return to the level he displayed during his sophomore year with Missouri, the Colonels could be major contenders in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2016.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Commissioner Nick Saban May Never Happen, but Ambassador Saban Already Exists

HOOVER, Ala. — Nick Saban made one thing clear this week: He will not be making an endorsement.

Not for the upcoming presidential election—he’s smart enough to know that doing so could alienate fans and recruits—but rather for an idea he supports: college football commissioner.

Saban thinks it would be in the best interest of the sport to have someone overseeing it and doing things like negotiating draft rules with the National Football League and consolidating safety issues. A commissioner could also streamline the process of changes that are in the works while helping prevent some of their unintended consequences.

Keep that latter part in the back of your mind, because college football’s dealing with one right now...but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Saban has little or no interest in the job. He’s got a pretty good one right now that’ll probably be his last. Moreover, serving as commissioner wouldn’t include the things he likes the most about being a coach, including the whole football part of it and dealing with young players.

Yes, even this week.

Of course, two of his players were arrested early Tuesday morning, with starting left tackle Cam Robinson’s status uncertain after being charged with possession of a controlled substance, illegal possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen gun, which is a felony.

Saban is looking into the matter and told reporters at the PGA Tradition Pro-Am on Wednesday morning that it’s way too early to announce anything.

"One thing I always tell players is that there are three bad things: nothing good happens after midnight, nothing good happens when you're around guns, unless you're going hunting, and you don't want to mess around with women that you don't know, because a lot of times bad things happen," Saban said later that day on the Paul Finebaum Show. “In this case, a couple of those things were violated, and I think it's going to be a learning experience for everybody on our team."

People who aren’t regularly around Saban don’t quite understand how seriously he takes the teaching part of his job, and he talks extensively about it during his annual coaching clinic.

Meanwhile, the event Saban attended this week that unfortunately got overlooked by most was a fundraiser for former Alabama running back Kerry Goode (1983-87), who was diagnosed with ALS last year.

“We’ve had two guys now, Kevin Turner and now Kerry Goode, that have now suffered from this disease,” Saban said, referring to the former NFL fullback who died in March. “Lou Gehrig’s disease. His great speech in Yankees Stadium was 77 years ago, and it doesn’t look like we have a whole lot better way of dealing with this disease now than what we had then. This is one of the things that we want to be an advocate of.”

Saban the Alabama ambassador was happy to lend his name to that cause, only that's just another one of the hats that he wears, especially during this time of the year. Serving as college football’s ambassador is something he's inadvertently been doing for years, as well, arguably since he won his second national championship and first with the Crimson Tide in 2009.

In sports it’s a role that often goes to those who are the best at something, whether they’re interested in the responsibility or not. Lebron James is a good example in the NBA, although Stephen Curry is beginning to figure that out as well.

The same holds true with coaches. They may be polarizing, but it’s like the old E.F. Hutton ads. When someone like Mike Krzyzewski says something about college basketball, everyone listens.

Saban is clearly on that plateau.

In a couple of weeks the Southeastern Conference will be gathering for its annual spring meetings in Destin, Florida, where it'll be hashing out ideas and voting on proposals. In preparation, there have already been some preliminary discussions and phones calls, plus the coaches have talked when they run into each another at various charity golf events and speaking engagements.

As for what might be the hot topic, no one’s really sure yet. Georgia’s Kirby Smart plans on doing a lot of listening, as it’ll be his first time at the meetings, but new rules which now allow unlimited texting is a subject on which he might offer an opinion.

“If you’re not doing it, someone else is,” Saban's former defensive coordinator said.

Something else that’s sure to come up is the SEC having officials at the league headquarters helping with live instant-replay reviews, similar to what the NFL does from its home office.

“I kind of like the direction of the central command and all that,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "You’re always trying to improve, as far as that goes.”

But those are changes that have already occurred. The only coach at the Regions Pro-Am who was talking about what’s next was Saban, which brings us back to that issue with unintended consequences: satellite camps.

Whether you’re for them or against them, Saban makes a good point that the NCAA is sending a bad message by severely limiting the time coaches can spend with their own players during the spring and summer while not putting any kind of restriction on satellite camps during the same time period.

“[It’s] kind of like what we went through 25 years ago when you used to go to college all-star games all summer,” Saban said. “My wife was beating me over the head, and I could never see the players that I coached because they were going to all-star games everywhere in the country.

“Well, you can’t do that anymore, but now we’re gonna go do satellite camps. Every high school that’s got a prospect is gonna have a satellite camp, and every coach in the country is gonna be expected to be there, and all these thing happening are gonna create a circumstance where this was time that we spent with our players.”

Have no doubt that satellite camps will be extensively discussed in Destin, where it'll be interesting to see if Saban has even more influence after Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all hired his former assistants as head coaches. 

The SEC will almost certainly draw a line somewhere and argue for a national norm, yet it could take significant time for common ground to be reached, something that might have been avoided with a commissioner.

That’s the difference, and if college football eventually creates such a position, it would be best filled by a former SEC commissioner like Mike Slive instead of Saban or another coach.

 

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

The Case for and Against Leonard Fournette Winning the Heisman Trophy

Is the Heisman Trophy a quarterback-driven award anymore?

Maybe not.

Alabama running back Derrick Henry took home the hardware last year, and LSU's Leonard Fournette will enter the 2016 season as one of the top contenders to win college football's most prestigious individual award.

The 6'1", 230-pound junior from New Orleans led the nation last year in rushing yards per game with 162.75 and is second behind Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson in early odds for the award, according to Odds Shark.

Can Fournette make it two in a row for SEC running backs?

Let's make the cases for and against the superstar.

 

The Case for...

Simply put, Fournette is a freak.

With track-star speed, bulldozer power and the best vision in college football, the award for the "most outstanding player" in the game should go to the player who actually is the most outstanding player—regardless of position.

It's hard to argue that Fournette isn't that player.

His 162.75 yards per game on the ground last year were on an offense that provided virtually no threat through the air, and everybody in every stadium he played in knew when he was getting the ball.

It didn't matter.

Fournette averaged an eye-popping 6.74 yards on first and second downs in 2015, converted 35.4 percent of LSU's total first downs and was well on his way to winning the award before the November swoon happened last year and teams devoted their entire defenses to stopping him.

Plus, he's humble and knows that sometimes he needs to take a break and let Derrius Guice and the rest of the running backs take the pressure off.

"It feels great [to be the best], but it’s not just me," he said after the spring game, according to the school. "My teammates are working hard each and every day. There are all these other people on the field sweating, putting in hard work, and challenging themselves. It’s all about the team."

As Pro Football Focus noted during the bowl season, Fournette actually graded higher than Henry and every other running back in the SEC.

Plus, the scare that head coach Les Miles received in late November when he was nearly fired—according to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report's Stephanie Riegel—should force him to change his offensive philosophy, stretch the field deep a little more often in order to keep defenses honest, and those tight running lanes that Fournette still had success running through last year should be a little bit bigger.

That will keep LSU in the national title picture for three months instead of two, which is always a boost to any Heisman Trophy campaign.

 

The Case Against...

Come on...this is Les Miles.

The same guy who has been infatuated with dual-threat quarterbacks for the better part of a decade and never seems to use them properly. The same guy who is stubbornly married to an ultra-conservative philosophy. The same guy who tries to win games in 2016 the same way he won them in 2011. 

Sometimes even the most talented defenses struggle, which forces offenses to win games 45-42 instead of 17-10. That philosophy will generate video-game numbers for Fournette but won't create a true national title contender in Baton Rouge.

In a day and age of dual-threat quarterbacks blinding Heisman voters, the College Football Playoff dominating the late-season narrative and other talented running backs likely pacing their teams in that narrative, there simply won't be room for Fournette.

Plus, as CFB Film Room noted after the regular season, Fournette didn't exactly punish the best defenses that he faced in 2015.

If Dalvin Cook matches or exceeds his 1,691 rushing yards from a year ago and leads Florida State into the College Football Playoff, will he win it? Maybe, but he'd certainly split some of the running back vote with Fournette and open the door for a quarterback—likely one who's also in the playoff—to win it.

If Stanford's Christian McCaffrey matches, exceeds or even comes close to the single-season all-purpose yardage record that he set last year (3,864), he'll split some of the running back vote as well thanks to a full season of exposure that eluded him in 2015. 

There are only so many spots for running backs in New York City. Three ball-carriers have won the award since 2000, and last year was the first time since 2009 that two running backs finished in the top three in Heisman voting.

Running backs getting more love isn't a trend yet. It's the anomaly.

Because of that, Fournette could have a hard time hoisting the trophy in December.

 

The Verdict

It all depends on the offense and LSU's overall season.

If Miles takes last November's near-firing as a wake-up call and opens things up, Fournette will have even more room to work, put up better numbers and lead his team into the thick of the national title hunt.

If he stays true to his conservative roots, the Tigers will stumble along the way, Fournette will take a backseat in the Heisman Trophy discussion and Miles could be looking for work come December instead of accompanying his superstar to the Big Apple.

The only glimpse we had of LSU this spring was in the spring game. While quarterback Brandon Harris was efficient (11-for-16 for 106 yards), he didn't stretch the field like he needs to in order to take pressure off Fournette.

Because of that, it's hard to trust Miles to do the right thing and open things up at this point in the offseason, which will make Fournette's Heisman campaign more fiction than reality.

 

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.

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Ellis Brooks Decommits from Duke: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Highly touted linebacker prospect Ellis Brooks reopened his recruitment Friday and announced his decision to decommit from Duke.

The Richmond, Virginia, native made it official with the following tweet:

Brooks is rated as a 4-star recruit by 247sports, and he is No. 16 ranked linebacker, No. 7 ranked player from the state of Virginia and No. 230 overall prospect in the 2017 class.

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue expects Brooks to have no shortage of options now that he is available once again:

Brooks initially committed to Duke in March and seemed thrilled with his decision to do so at the time, according to Scout.com (h/t USA Today High School Sports):

I have a great relationship with the coaches and players. It's also a great school academically. And I was their top target and they wanted me more than anyone else. It just feels like home and I feel the most comfortable there.

I'm very excited about my decision. The recruiting process is fun and I'm thankful for all the opportunities, but it can be stressful. Now, I can just focus on football and winning another state championship.

The Benedictine High School standout received offers from several other high-profile schools, including Notre Dame, Michigan, Virginia, Virginia Tech and South Carolina, per247sports.

Brooks has ideal size at 6'2" and 233 pounds, and he is coming off an extremely productive 2015 season that saw him register 117 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and six sacks, according to 247sports.

His stock is very much on the rise, and while Duke isn't necessarily out of the running yet, Brooks has plenty to consider.

Should the Blue Devils fail to get his commitment back for 2017, losing him could be a major blow to the program, especially if he goes on to realize his potential at another ACC school.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Big Ten Q&A: Who's the B1G's Best NFL Quarterback Prospect?

Can you hear it?

No, you probably can't.

At least not in Big Ten country, where college football has officially hit the annual doldrums of its offseason.

Even with satellite camps popping up like a whack-a-mole game you can't seem to notice before another one appears, this offseason has been a relatively quiet one for the conference—especially when compared to last spring's madness featuring an unprecedented Ohio State team and Jim Harbaugh's arrival in Ann Arbor.

Even with its league meetings taking place in Chicago, the Big Ten took a back seat to the SEC this past week, with the biggest news in college football being the arrest of Alabama star offensive tackle Cam Robinson.

Nevertheless, you have questions and I can sometimes come up with decent answers. With that in mind, let's get to this week's Big Ten Q&A.

As always, you can send me your inquiries each week on Twitter @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.

 

After what appeared to be the year the Big Ten would end its 20-year drought of first-round NFL quarterbacks, the league's signal-callers struck out once again, despite Christian Hackenberg, Cardale Jones and Connor Cook each seeming to possess first-round ability a year ago.

Nevertheless, ESPN's Todd McShay—who projected Hackenberg and Cook to be 2016's top two overall picks a year ago—remains bullish on one Big Ten quarterback being a first-round pick, with his surprising selection of Minnesota's Mitch Leidner in his way-too-early 2017 first-round mock draft. McShay elaborated on his choice:

Leidner shows some upside as a passer, but I'll be looking to see if he can improve his accuracy. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, Leidner has ideal size and has shown the ability to make plays with his legs off designed runs and scrambles. He's a late riser to keep an eye on, similar to Blake Bortles and Carson Wentz.

But as we learned last month, anything projected nearly a year prior isn't necessarily set in stone. And while he may not be a first-round pick, the Big Ten quarterback with the highest upside as a pro passer, in my opinion, is Ohio State's J.T. Barrett.

Sure, Barrett doesn't look like your prototypical pro passer; I'm 5'10" and basically eye level with him whenever I interview him. But with Russell Wilson's success in Seattle, height is no longer the necessity it once was, and quarterbacks from spread systems are getting a longer look from NFL teams.

"It's not like I'm going to change who I am," Barrett said of his prospects. "So however I play right now, just probably a better version of myself."

As for the Wilson comparisons, which have become more popular as Barrett's career has progressed? "That's probably 'cause we're not the tallest cats," the Buckeyes signal-caller said.

Entering his redshirt junior year, Barrett still has two years of eligibility remaining in his college career, so it's not a lock he'll even enter the 2017 draft. But with an impressive junior campaign, there won't be much left to do to change draft evaluators' opinions of his game, as even a stronger senior season wouldn't help him grow two inches.

For now, it's Leidner and Barrett who stand out in the Big Ten's bunch of potential pro passers, although Iowa's C.J. Beathard has a chance to jump into the conversation with a big 2016 as well.

Right now, I'd bet on Leidner to be the higher pick, but Barrett to have the more fruitful NFL career.

 

A regulation of some sort is definitely coming. There almost has to be one after what Harbaugh's done this offseason, with 34 scheduled camps in the month of June alone.

That's what Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell told me this week, and it's tough to disagree. A 34-camp tour—including stops in Australia and American Samoa—probably is a bit much and something the NCAA wouldn't be able to regulate on a yearly basis.

As far as what the limit would be, I think what would make the most sense is either a limit on camps held or miles traveled each summer.

For example, if there was a limit on stops, Harbaugh, or any coach, could hold camps anywhere in the country—or world for that matter—but would only be able to do so X amount of times (probably somewhere around 10) each offseason. As far as a limit on miles, that could get a little more complicated, as coaches would then have to balance taking a national approach with fewer camps or a more local look with more.

When it comes to the impact of the camps, it was limited last year, according to Farrell, but this year, no one knows. With such an increase in camps from not just Michigan, but other schools across the country, it's hard to imagine satellite camps not playing a significant role in this summer's recruiting landscape.

But for as crazy as this offseason's been from a satellite camp standpoint, it seems clear that changes are coming. What exactly they'll be remains to be seen, but this storyline isn't going away anytime soon.

 

You could probably find an example of this in a division or conference nearly every year, but this year more than most, I see schedules shaping the race for the Big Ten West.

For example, take the onslaught Wisconsin's about to face, with games against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa opening the Badgers' Big Ten slate, with three of those four games being played away from Madison. I like a lot about Wisconsin's roster, but with that murderers' row ahead, as well as games against Nebraska and Northwestern, it's just hard to imagine the Badgers emerging as the division champs.

And then there's Iowa, which, while returning much of last year's team that found itself one game away from crashing the College Football Playoff, hasn't been a program that's prided itself on consistency under head coach Kirk Ferentz. But a year after the nation's 60th-ranked regular-season schedule, per Team Rankings, helped propel them to a 12-0 regular-season record, the Hawkeyes again have a more than manageable path ahead, although a Nov. 12 date with Michigan should be tougher than any game they played a year ago.

Even then, that game will be played in late November and inside the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium. By that point, Iowa could probably afford a loss and remain in control of its Big Ten West destiny heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Based on the combination of what they bring back and their favorable schedule, it's tough not to consider the Hawkeyes the Big Ten West favorites in 2016. Nebraska could give them a run for their money in their regular-season finale, which unsurprisingly will also be played in Iowa City.

 

I sense some shade being thrown in this question, but it hits on what could be one of the biggest wild cards in the Big Ten this season.

How will Mark Dantonio handle the quarterback competition to replace Connor Cook, after doing the same with Kirk Cousins in 2012 proved to be a two-year process?

After the Washington Redskins selected Cousins in the same draft they took Robert Griffin III, Dantonio was left with a plethora of options for his replacement, ultimately settling on Andrew Maxwell for the majority of the 2012 campaign. The results, however, were mixed at best for the former highly touted signal-caller, as the Spartans struggled to a 7-6 record.

The competition wound up carrying over into 2013, with Cook ultimately grabbing the reins and never looking back. Two Big Ten titles, two major bowl wins and an appearance in the College Football Playoff later, and Michigan State finds itself in a similar position, with Tyler O'Connor, Damion Terry and Messiah deWeaver battling it out to be Cook's successor.

Right now, O'Connor has a clear lead as the upperclassman and following an impressive spring. It certainly doesn't hurt that he helped quarterback the Spartans to their biggest win of the year in 2015 as Cook sat out with an injury, a road win over Ohio State to seize control of MSU's playoff fate.

But O'Connor will have to carry his momentum into 2016, or as this question alludes to, Dantonio could have a quick trigger with other options available. But if O'Connor can find a way to negate the drop-off from the most accomplished quarterback in Spartans history, Michigan State should find itself right in the thick of another Big Ten East title race. 

 

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. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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Hits and Misses of the Las Vegas SEC College Football Win Totals

Are you making a trip out to the oasis in the desert in Southern Nevada this summer?

Congratulations, you can now place win total bets on some of the best college football programs in the country.

The Golden Nugget released selected over/under win total (via Covers.com) on Thursday, and—in a slight shock—Tennessee is picked to have the most regular-season wins in the conference at 10.

What are some hits and misses of the first wave of win totals?

 

Hit: Tennessee Hype Is Justified

The first thing that jumps out of the Golden Nugget's numbers is the fact that Tennessee is pegged to have more wins than any other team in the conference, including two-time conference and defending national champion Alabama.

Say what?

After you get over the initial shock, take a step back from the keyboard, avoid the temptation to hit the comment section with smoking hot takes and understand that a 10-win season is the logical next step for the Vols.

They finished 8-4 in the regular season last year before winning their bowl game, had late leads in losses to Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma, return essentially everybody on both sides of the football and get the Crimson Tide and Gators at home.

Ten wins isn't a pipe dream, it should be the logical next step for head coach Butch Jones—who has improved every year since taking over in 2013.

Despite that, Jones doesn't want to focus too much on the past.

"Each team is different," he said earlier this month at the College Football Hall of Fame. "That's what makes college football very exciting and very special. Each year is a new year and each team is a new team. That's why this is 'Team 120.' There are opportunities for growth and development and roles change."

Growth is the key, because the Vols already posted a defense that finished second nationally in third-down defense (27.6 percent) according to cfbstats.com, upgraded with defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, returned potential All-Americans at every level (defensive end Derek Barnett, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Cam Sutton) and has one of the best multidimensional rushing attacks in the country with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara.

Tennessee hasn't been picked to win the SEC East at media days since 2005 and has been picked higher than fourth once since 2010—last year when it was picked (and finished) second.

This is the year for the Vols, and Vegas knows it.

 

Miss: No Dead Heat in the West

Another major shock in the win totals from the Golden Nugget is Alabama sitting at 9.5 wins for the regular season, tied with LSU as the highest mark of the listed teams from the SEC West. 

If you want to say that 10-2 for Alabama in the regular season is a successful season considering the massive roster turnover the Tide faces this year, OK. That's the floor that head coach Nick Saban has established in Tuscaloosa, and an over/under of 9.5 suggests that some oddsmakers expect this to be a serious rebuilding year by Alabama standards.

Meanwhile, LSU is on the other side of the coin. 

Until proved otherwise—and it wasn't proved in the spring game or by any of the coaching or roster decisions during the offseason—head coach Les Miles is still going to implement the same ultraconservative offensive philosophy that nearly got him fired last year, and makes it difficult for the Tigers to keep up in high-scoring games when the running game is slowed.

We saw that last year when teams stacked the box in November to slow down Leonard Fournette and the Tigers dropped three of their last four regular-season SEC games. 

And this is the team that's considered the co-favorite in the West? Nope.

Alabama hired Lane Kiffin to run the offense prior to the 2014 season because Saban knew that, at times, you have to win games 45-42 in this day and age of exotic offense. LSU has refused to accept that. Until it does, there's no way the Tigers should be considered an equal to Alabama—a team that they've lost five straight to.

 

Miss: No Love For Ole Miss

Whether it's due to NCAA distractions or high-profile roster turnover, it appears that Las Vegas is banking on the public assuming Ole Miss is going to take a massive step back.

Don't fall into that trap.

Ole Miss is still loaded defensively with studs like linebacker DeMarquis Gates, safety Tony Conner, tackle Breeland Speaks and end Marquis Haynes.

Offensively, the line of scrimmage might be a concern in the post-Laremy Tunsil era. But injuries and suspensions have made that a fact of life for head coach Hugh Freeze for two years running. Sure, Ole Miss will miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, but with Quincy Adeboyejo, Damore'ea Stringfellow, Van Jefferson, Damarkus Lodge and a stellar incoming class at wide receiver, there are enough "No. 2" wide receivers to help quarterback Chad Kelly finish his career strong.

Even if Ole Miss doesn't contend for the SEC West title, an over/under win total of 7.5 seems insanely low for a program that has recruited well even after the stars from the 2013 class arrived on campus.

 

Hit: For Once, Georgia Hype is Tempered

With new head coach Kirby Smart in town, it appears that Vegas has hit the reset button on Georgia this year—one year after former head coach Mark Richt didn't live up to the SEC media days prediction of his program winning the SEC East.

A win total of 8.5 seems exactly right for a team that has concerns along both lines of scrimmage, will either start or ease in a true freshman quarterback, has a superstar running back who's coming back from a serious knee injury and a mysterious group of wide receivers who have yet to break out.

"Excited about 'em," Smart said of his wide receivers earlier this month at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge. "We've got some big guys, and we've got some small guys. We've got some big guys coming in and some fast guys coming in. We've got some small, quick guys on the roster.

"I think that [offensive coordinator Jim] Chaney has done a great job and [wide receivers coach James] Coley have done a great job getting those guys better," Smart continued. "We've got to take we've got and get better, and I'm happy with where they are."

Georgia has reached nine regular-season wins in each of the last two seasons, so setting the win total at 8.5 in a clear transition year makes sense.

 

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

SEC Football Coaches on Hot Seat Heading into 2016 Season

In this day and age of massive coaching contracts and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately fan bases demanding championships, there are big stakes that go along with the big money.

There's no larger shark tank in the country than in the SEC, either.

So, which SEC head honchos in the league are swimming with blood in the water? You actually may be surprised.

Two years ago, two of the guys on this list were among the hottest young up-and-comers in the country, one was the quirky gambler who everybody loved and the other was making waves as a first-year coach.

That should show you just how quickly things can change in the cutthroat world of SEC football.

Just ask Mark Richt, who was fired following the 2015 season after 15 seasons at Georgia where he won 74 percent of his games and was the longest-tenured league coach.

The move was enough to baffle Alabama coach Nick Saban, the gold standard among coaches who is the guy that—fair or not—is the measuring stick for other coaches around the conference. Saban told CBSSports' Jon Solomon:

I don't know what the world's coming to in our profession. Mark Richt has been a really good coach and a really positive person in our profession for a long, long time…I hate to see people that have character and quality and ability to affect young people like Mark Richt not be part of our profession…We all get it. We know we have to win games. But winning nine games is not bad.

But year after year of nine wins when your program expects a championship or two sprinkled in simply isn't good enough. If you can't win big, schools will pay big money to cycle in the next hopeful.

These days, cell phones last longer than college coaches.

It's inevitable that coaching moves will happen following the '16 season as well. So, who could be the next conference coach to get the hook? Let's take a look at four guys whose bottoms may become a little toasty if the losses start piling up.

 

Kevin Sumlin

How did we get here?

When Sumlin left Houston following a 12-1 season and followed that up with an 11-2 campaign in 2012 that featured the birth of Johnny Football Madness, he was thought of as one of the hot, young innovative offensive minds who had the chance to dominate college football for years.

Recruits were flocking to College Station, and the Aggies looked like they were being built for the long haul.

But Johnny Manziel didn't have nearly enough weapons around him as a putrid A&M defense saw the Aggies drop to 9-4 the following year. Consecutive 8-5 seasons followed, and then there was the bizarre quarterback controversy of a season ago that saw both blue-chip quarterbacks leave.

Kyler Murray transferred to Oklahoma, and Kyle Allen left for Houston. While Sumlin was able to convince Sooners senior transfer Trevor Knight to play his final season for the Aggies in '16, the drama hasn't ended.

Highly-touted prospect Tate Martell decommitted earlier this month, via Twitter, leading to even more questions about Sumlin's ability to lure (and keep) a high-profile signal-caller. 

Martell's father told Rivals.com's Adam Gorney it was partly because of A&M's hiring of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

Then things got worse when receivers coach Aaron Moorehead tweeted something seemingly directed at Martell following the decommitment, though he later tweeted it wasn't related.

"I feel sorry for ppl who never understand loyalty. I can't really even vibe with u. At the end of the day trust is 100& everything else is BS," said the tweet Moorehead later deleted (via B/R's Barrett Sallee).

Mannie Netherly decommitted from the Aggies shortly thereafter, and the 4-star prospect referenced the tweet when he did. Other recruits bristled, too.

Simply put, things are a mess for Sumlin right now. The only real way he can quell the concerns is win football games. 

Question marks abound, and the issues are making some of the Aggies fans restless. If you can't recruit, you can't compete in the SEC, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a lot of prospects take a wait-and-see approach with this season. 

The good news for Aggies fans is there's still a ton of talent in College Station, led by some elite defenders and receiving corps, so there are some pieces in place. Sumlin desperately needs to put everything together for double-digit victories, or he may find himself coaching elsewhere in 2017.

 

Gus Malzahn

Basically, the first few paragraphs of the Sumlin section could be rewritten here, too. 

The Gus Bus was chugging along merrily downhill during his first season on the Plains when Auburn went from the forgettable final frame of the Gene Chizik era to coming within a tomahawk chop of beating Florida State for the national championship.

Folks began thinking Malzahn was Saban's kryptonite, and that his funky, innovative offense was taking the archaic cloud-of-dust SEC by storm.

Then, 8-5 happened, followed by last year's 7-6 season that started with the Tigers as a dark-horse national champion contender and quarterback Jeremy Johnson on the short list as a Heisman Trophy hopeful. That ended quickly and decisively, and now Malzahn needs to rekindle the magic.

In each of the last two years, the Tigers were in the preseason top 10, yet they have a combined 6-10 SEC record during that time.

When you aren't winning, the quirky offense looks like a gimmick, and replacing defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (who left to be the head coach at South Carolina) with Kevin Steele was quizzical, at best. Malzahn's moves need to pay off.

The best news for Auburn? As Saturday Down South's Chris Wuensch stated perfectly: 

Working in Malzahn’s favor is that Auburn often seems to come up big when expectations are small. The Tigers might need a quick turnaround, somewhere in the neighborhood of, at minimum, eight wins, to keep detractors at bay. And while that’s easier said than done, especially for a team coming off a last-place finish in the SEC West, it won't be a quick fix.

The Tigers have some weapons, especially at running back. They also recruited extremely well at receiver, which was a major position of need. But expecting freshmen to turn your team around is a risky proposition, at best. And while there's talent on defense, adjusting to a new coordinator isn't easy.

Then, there's that quarterback conundrum where Johnson, Sean White and transfer John Franklin III will battle it out. If AU doesn't have a signal-caller who can make plays, it's going to be a long season in the rugged SEC West.

Will eight wins be enough to save Malzahn? Well, that depends. What if the Tigers win eight but get blown out by Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Again, Saban and the Tide will always be measuring sticks for Auburn and its fans. Lose that game badly, and things could get very shaky.

Malzahn has to turn things around in a hurry.

 

Mark Stoops

There are 12 million reasons why the fourth-year Kentucky coach shouldn't be on his list, as in that's how much it would cost the Wildcats to can him after this season.

But if Stoops really stinks things up, athletic director Mitch Barnhart may put all that basketball money Big Blue generates toward finding another football coach.

Stoops' story, like the two coaches above him on this list, is odd. He's recruiting better than any Wildcats coach in recent memory, but those prospects simply haven't translated into wins. How UK is losing is all the more frustrating.

Last year, UK started the season 4-1, and in 2014, the Wildcats began 5-1 with their only loss being a 36-30 overtime setback at Florida. Both years, they failed to make a bowl game, going a combined 1-11 afterward. It seemed the team just ran out of gas as depth became an issue later in the year.

The Wildcats' schedule is always back-loaded with quality opponents, and they just can't hang. If they keep banging their head against the ceiling, it wouldn't be surprising to see Barnhart make a change and see if somebody else can win with Stoops' recruits.

While he wouldn't say Stoops' job is contingent on a bowl game, Barnhart told the Courier-Journal's Kyle Tucker just how important the postseason is to the development of the program:

You know me well enough to know I'm never going to say 'have to' do anything. What we want to do is we want to get to postseason play. That's the goal. There is no mystery in that. We talk about that all the time: What do we have to do in all of our sports to get to postseason play? Postseason play in football is bowls. We want to get to a bowl game.

It is a real important part of the growth of this program. It's extra practice for our guys. It's our young guys getting reps. It's being able to see your physical effort rewarded in other areas off the field. Those pieces are really, really important to us. Getting to a bowl, it's absolutely important. So is it bust (if not)? No. But we've got to find our way through.

That doesn't exactly sound like an ultimatum, but it's not far off. Basketball is a massive moneymaker for UK, much more than at most programs. But Barnhart knows that football is the big-revenue sport, and getting it healthy could mean taking the school's athletics to the next level.

Given Barnhart's history at Tennessee during part of the Vols' gridiron heyday from 1986-98, you know football is very important to him. So, Stoops needs to find a way to get his Wildcats into a bowl game, especially considering he's just 12-24 so far in Lexington.

There are defensive gaps yet again this year, but with Drew Barker at the helm under center and Boom Williams still in the backfield, there are some nice building blocks. They'd better build toward a bowl game, or UK could be looking at yet another regime.

 

Les Miles

After a regular season-ending win over Texas A&M last year, LSU football players carried Les Miles off the field on their shoulders for what most (including Miles) thought would be his final game as the coach of the Bayou Bengals.

There had been so many reports he was going to be fired throughout the week.

LSU president F. King Alexander told CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli the decision to keep Miles was made, amazingly, at halftime of that game against the Aggies.

So, what happens next? Miles signed one of the best recruiting classes in the country, ranked third overall by the 247Sports Composite. He returns more starters than anybody in the country, led by the nation's most freakish talent in running back Leonard Fournette and star safety Jamal Adams.

Noted sports analyst and handicapper Danny Sheridan said on the Paul Finebaum Show on Thursday that LSU should be the top team in the SEC, and Tennessee should be 1B. 

In other words, there are a slew of expectations riding a pontoon boat to the bayou. A lot of analysts, including FOXSports.com's Aaron Torres, believes the Tigers will pass Alabama this year.

That Saban barometer has been mentioned a couple of times, and there's no bigger glare off those national championship rings than in Auburn. But a close second is LSU, where Saban used to roam the sidelines and where the fans of the Tigers demand matching the legendary coach.

Miles has been stuck in that shadow for a lot of his career unfairly after carving a nice little legacy of his own. But LSU fans believe their team is going to be really, really good in '16, and if the Tigers aren't, what almost happened last year actually will this season.

Is he safe? Not a chance, says B/R colleague Barrett Sallee via Paul Finebaum:

No coach is safe, really. You're one awful season away from feeling the pressure. With all the hype surrounding Tennessee this year, what if Butch Jones lays an egg? Bret Bielema is facing some offensive uncertainty following the departures of Brandon Allen and Alex Collins, too.

Vanderbilt's Derek Mason made some positive steps last year, but what if the Commodores are horrible again? Even a first-year coach like Muschamp may fall out of favor if he is back to his offensively impotent ways dating back to his head-coaching tenure at Florida.

In the SEC, you've got to win; as in, right now. If not, your head will fall firmly on the chopping block.

 

All information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

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

 

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Ohio State Football: 3 Recruits Who Would Be Perfect Fits for Buckeyes Defense

Ohio State already has seven elite defenders in its No. 1-ranked recruiting class, highlighted by 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade. But Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are looking to tighten their grip on that top spot by recruiting some of the nation's top blue-chip prospects.

These 5-star standouts, in particular, would not only help Ohio State maintain pole position in the recruiting standings, but they would also be perfect fits in an already-dominant defense.

Last week, we identified three players who would take Ohio State's offense to the next level. This week, we're providing a look at three recruits who would make the Buckeyes a defensive nightmare over the next four years.

 

Dylan Moses, 5-Star Linebacker

Ohio State has loaded up on linebackers in recent years, signing eight prospects in the last three classes, so the position group wasn't one of the highest priorities for the 2017 recruiting cycle. That urgency lowered even more when the Buckeyes landed 4-star linebacker Antjuan Simmons from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

But when a kid as talented as 5-star linebacker Dylan Moses is interested in your school, those priorities change.

That's the reality for Meyer and Ohio State after Moses tweeted about his desire (via Cleveland.com) to visit Columbus. Rated as the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker and the No. 2 overall prospect nationally, Moses has offers from pretty much every school worth mentioning.

He'd be an incredible fit in Ohio State's defense, especially when lined up in the spot that was recently vacated by Darron Lee. The Buckeyes put Lee there to make their defense more athletic and aggressive, and those are the two most obvious traits Moses brings to the field. 

Meyer will have a tough time pulling him away from the SEC, though, as 247Sports' Crystal Ball has Alabama and LSU as heavy favorites for his commitment.

 

Jeffrey Okudah, 5-Star Safety

Another athletic freak Ohio State could benefit from is 5-star safety Jeffrey Okudah.

The Grand Prairie, Texas, product is rated as the No. 7 overall prospect and the nation's top safety, and he has garnered offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame and home-state schools Texas and Texas A&M.

But the Buckeyes are trending up for Okudah's commitment, and they've been named his current leader, per Scout.com's Greg Powers. He talked about why he can see himself playing his collegiate football in Columbus.

"The tradition at Ohio State. It's just a surreal atmosphere," Okudah told Rivals (h/t Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com). "The coaching staff, Coach (Urban) Meyer wins a lot of games. Coach (Greg) Schiano, a former (NFL and college) head coach, I know he can develop me and get me to the next level."

The Buckeyes like versatile safeties who could double as cornerbacks in the secondary. That's the mold that former Buckeyes safety Vonn Bell fit, and he was selected in the second round by the New Orleans Saints last month.

Okudah fits that bill, which is why Ohio State will push hard for his commitment.

 

Chase Young, 5-Star Defensive End

With Moses fueling the linebacker unit and Okudah serving as the perfect safety net in the secondary, all the Buckeyes would need now is a lethal pass-rusher to anchor the defensive line.

Enter Chase Young, the 5-star standout from Hyattsville, Maryland.

Ohio State is among 40 other schools that have offered the 6'5", 225-pound sack artist, and it's easy to see why, as he's the No. 29-ranked prospect overall and No. 2-ranked weak-side defensive end.

Young would be a fantastic fit because his talents as an edge-rusher would be a perfect complement to former 5-star strong-side defensive end and soon-to-be Ohio State freshman Nick Bosa (the younger brother of superstar Joey Bosa).

That kind of 5-star, one-two punch at defensive end is what Ohio State was building with Joey Bosa and Noah Spence in 2013. But that vision was derailed when repeated failed drug tests cost Spence his Ohio State career, and he was forced to transfer to Eastern Kentucky.

If the Buckeyes can land Young—50 percent of 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions have Ohio State as his destination—then Meyer would have the tools to build one of the best pass rushes not just in the Big Ten but the entire country.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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