NCAA Football

High School Coaches Standing Up to the Giants of College Football

When big money and power meet grassroots, it isn't necessarily as one-sided a fight as you might think. During the college football recruiting season, we saw some coaches reneging on their promises to high school kids and others leaving their schools for other jobs roughly 30 seconds after kids signed binding commitments to play for them.      

We saw high school coaches getting all uppity about it on behalf of their kids. But what can your neighborhood high school coach do about it when your kids are screwed over by Urban Meyer, Jim Mora, Bobby Petrino?

Actually, plenty. And what we saw this recruiting season was high school coaches deciding to hit back. Grassroots packs a punch.

"As a coach, you have to have relationships that will detour those types of things from happening (to high school players) at your school," said Thomas Wilcher, coach at Cass Tech in Detroit. "If it happens, you have to take a stand, because if you do not, it will happen. It will happen.

"And if it doesn't happen at my school, it will happen at other schools. When the other schools, the whole city (gets together), that's when it can hurt colleges. When we have our organizational meetings, you speak up and say, 'Don't deal with this school.' It becomes a black hat against a university."

In at least two very public cases, coaches took this approach, threatening big-name coaches that they might not be welcome next year in recruiting kids at their school. But the power comes when these coaches spread that threat to nearby schools, an entire city.

Running back Matt Colburn of Dutch Fork High near Columbia, South Carolina, accepted Louisville coach Bobby Petrino's scholarship offer in June and cut off all other college recruiters. Then, on the week of National Signing Day, Petrino had an assistant call Colburn and tell him there would be no scholarship now, but that he could enroll in January of 2016.

Colburn's high school coach, Tom Knotts, said at the time that Petrino "won't be able to recruit my school anymore and I imagine there will be some other coaches that will say the same thing."

But what good does it do keeping college coaches away from future recruits? Doesn't that just reduce the number of opportunities for kids?

"It doesn't take away opportunities for players, it gives players a better opportunity," Wilcher said. "You want them to go somewhere where they have your interest at heart. It's not the interest of a football player, but the interest of a child.

"Football is just a road we walk down that leads us to opportunities. I just want college coaches to understand this is a child first, a student first. So you cannot allow those types of relationships to fester in your area, fester in your school, fester in your league."

We always hear about today's athletes feeling entitled. But what about the coaches and power structure of the sports themselves?

Wilcher took issue with Ohio State's treatment of his highly regarded running back, Mike Weber, who was choosing between Michigan and Ohio State. Webe signed to play for the Buckeyes, only to find out the next day that Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton was leaving to be an assistant for the Chicago Bears. Drayton had been involved in recruiting Weber but never said he might be leaving.

Wilcher spoke publicly. According to the Detroit News, he told WMGC 105.1-FM in Detroit, "I think Urban Meyer will have to step his game up; we're going to have to talk. He has come to my school and got the No. 1 athlete two years in a row.

"You cannot come over here, come up north, and walk out of here with you pockets full and not give us respect."

This is just another example of how the rules are not set up to help the kids, but rather the power schools. Weber had signed his letter and could not get out of it.

And how was it resolved? Meyer felt it important enough to call Wilcher and talk it out: "We talked about relationships, we talked about responsibilities, we talked about expectations," Wilcher said. He was satisfied and said he now believes that Meyer does have kids' best interest at heart.

There is a weird dynamic between high school coaches and big-time superstar college coaches. Both sides are holding the other's golden ticket.

"It's like a marriage almost," Wilcher said. "Both people have to get along with one another to survive. It should be a win-win."

At UNLV, new coach Tony Sanchez is going from one side of that relationship to the other. He was a longtime high school coach.

"I've been on the other side of the table my whole career," he said. "(College) teams throw out crazy offers and some are sincere and some are not. Would I do what Coach Petrino did? No, I wouldn't. We've got to be men of our word."

If he's not, he'll learn about the bottom-up power of grassroots. Soon, the message will get to coaches behaving badly.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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How Urban Meyer's Recruiting Philosophy Has Changed Since Florida

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A lot of coaches won't say it, but Urban Meyer will: Recruiting rankings matter.

"There is a correlation between how teams do where your team is ranked, recruiting class is ranked," the Ohio State head coach said on last year's national signing day. "So actually we do pay attention to that."

So it's not a coincidence that when each signing day rolls around, Meyer's class usually sits near the top. It's also not a coincidence that the three-time national champion head coach is one of the best in the history of his profession, boasting a .845 winning percentage—top among active Division-I head coaches.

But that doesn't mean that over time, Meyer's recruiting philosophy hasn't evolved.

While Meyer may get ultra competitive at the end of each recruiting cycle—and he admittedly does—he's found himself adapting to what his team needs, rather than just chasing 5-stars. That was made evident in the Buckeyes' 2015 class, which ranked seventh in the country but lacked in an abundance of star power.

"He’s looking for guys that fit a certain profile, and he’s going to build his team around those guys," ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said during a Thursday appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. "That’s clearly what he’s doing.”

Only that's not always the approach Meyer has taken.

As Gruden explained, Meyer initially found success at Florida with that philosophy, capturing two national championships with players who fit his schemes to a T. But as Meyer chased success in every way possible, he abandoned fit in favor of flare.

The Gators pulled in the nation's top-ranked class in 2010. A year later, after a disappointing 8-5 season, Meyer had left coaching.

“I think what happened at Florida, he won the national titles, and then he wanted to be the No. 1 recruiting coach in the league," Gruden theorized. "Probably signed some players that didn’t fit the Urban Meyer profile."

Through four recruiting cycles, that hasn't been the case in Columbus—although it's worth noting Meyer's first four classes at Ohio State have ranked fifth, second, third and seventh, respectively. Yes, Meyer is still attracting the top talent in the country to his campus, but he's doing it with more of a balance than even he did in Gainesville, as evidenced by the makeup of last season's team.

The stars of the Buckeyes' national championship squad were hardly similar, ranging from All-American defensive end Joey Bosa, to former 3-star prospect Darron Lee to championship game MVP running back Ezekiel Elliott, who Meyer plucked out of St. Louis—not a traditional piece of the OSU recruiting pipeline.

Even OSU's ever-changing quarterback carousel illustrated Meyer's ability to adapt, as the Buckeyes won big with both the highly touted J.T. Barrett and former afterthought Cardale Jones, who was recruited to Columbus before Meyer arrived.

“What he did at Ohio State, losing a Heisman Trophy candidate [Braxton Miller] and then doing what he did with two different quarterbacks that were backups. Amazing to me," Gruden said. “Greatest coaching job of all time."

Despite his admitted preference to finish atop the recruiting rankings, Meyer insisted there's a balance he's always trying to strike. While he generally trusts recruiting services, he trusts himself more—perhaps even more so now than he did at Florida.

"It's not saying we take a kid who is a 5-star over a 3-star, if we believe in the 3-star. That's not it at all," Meyer said. "You've got to coach and develop them and get them here."

With the Buckeyes' 2016 class already shaping up to be one that could be the best in the country, Meyer will attempt to continue to get the best of both worlds—a talented crop of players who fit right in with both his scheme and culture. But make no mistake, he's still keeping tabs on the competition. And as always, he wants to be the best.

"I hear people say it's not important. I disagree," Meyer said. "As long as you're keeping score, we're going to try to win."


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

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8 Embarrassingly Soft 2015 College Football Schedules

The College Football Playoff selection committee made it clear last year that strength of schedule was an important factor in determining whether a team was worthy of one of those coveted semifinal bids. The same thing goes for non-power conference teams hoping to land a major bowl bid—just winning a lot isn't as important as doing so against a tough schedule.

There's nothing to suggest this will change for 2015, which isn't a good sign for some schools who appear to have replaced "strength" with "weakness" to describe their upcoming schedules.

Based on the 2014 records of teams on this fall's slate, we've found eight teams who are set to play schedules so soft they may very well need to run the table just to remain in the playoff of "Group of Five conference" bid hunt. There's no margin for error, not when the future opponents collectively are as weak as these schools have on tap for this fall.

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New LSU Recruiting Sanctions Won't Stop Les Miles from Bringing in Top Talent

Isolated incidents.

A recruit will never admit it, but there are few times when an isolated incident gets in the way of what a recruit wants. And when it comes to what a recruit wants, LSU often times has everything.

Put LSU's latest isolated incident in a category where it shouldn't affect how it does in recruiting the 2016 class. Or the 2017 class, for that matter.

2016 and 2017 athletes are still asked to do their research after news broke on Thursday that LSU will deal with recruiting sanctions this year. According to The Advocate, LSU is restricted from signing early enrollee prospects to financial aid agreements for the next two years. Additionally, the program will lose 10 percent of its recruiting evaluation days in 2015.

The penalties stem from a violation involving a recruit—3-star offensive tackle Matt Womack, according to The Advocate—signing a financial aid agreement with the intentions of coming to LSU as a January enrollee. The recruit, however, chose not to attend LSU, which ultimately made some of LSU's unlimited contact illegal.

The result: LSU will lose 21 of its 210 evaluation days in 2015—17 spring and four fall days. That means the Tigers coaching staff will be restricted from off-campus recruiting activity, such as making visits to a high school campus to watch a spring workout.

Exactly what does it mean for future prospects?

In a word: Nothing.

LSU is an established program that relies on results past and present. Like it or not, head coach Les Miles and his staff could lose half of its evaluation days and still come with recruiting wins. Reason being, the athletes love what LSU has to offer.

They love the tradition. They love "Death Valley." They love the coaching staff. Repeat: They love the coaching staff. There's Miles. And Cam Cameron. And Frank Wilson. And Kevin Steele. And Ed Orgeron. And Corey Raymond.

Recruits like these guys. And not just because the coaching staff has built a solid resume of producing NFL talent—almost always the ultimate goal for a competitive college athlete.

Recruiting wins will continue to be high for the Tigers, particularly with athletes in the state of Louisiana. It helps that the talent level is very high this year. One thing that LSU does well is recruit its in-state talent.

Louisiana has 18 4-star 2016 commits in the 247Sports composite top 100 rankings. Louisiana also has six 2017 commits in those rankings, including the class' top-ranked player, linebacker/running back Dylan Moses.

Of LSU's seven 2016 commits, four are from the Pelican State. Five of the seven are 4-star players. A sixth commit is 5-star cornerback Saivion Smith, the latest athlete to give Miles his verbal commitment.

The Tigers have built a healthy reputation of being an annual contender. Recruits see the results on television each Saturday. They check out the facilities and the campus environment on junior days, unofficial visits and, ultimately, official visits.

The evaluation days that will be lost for the LSU coaches are just that—for coaches. Most players will make their verbal commitment decisions by what they see surrounding the LSU environment, not by how they're seen in their own environment.

Consider the sanction a slap on the wrist of sorts. Don't expect it to hurt LSU's recruiting class in the long run.


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

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SEC Early Enrollees with Best Shot to Win Starting Job in Spring Practice

A recent trend in recruiting has begun with a handful of top recruits choosing to forgo the final semester of their senior year of high school in favor of enrolling early at the colleges of their choice. 

For example, 11 of the 35 recruits who earned a 5-star rating in the 2015 cycle are already on campus at their respective programs. 

The SEC has its share of stud recruits capable of coming in and making an immediate impact during the upcoming spring practices. 

Which SEC early enrollees have a shot to land starting jobs by the end of the spring?


*Players listed in alphabetical order.

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Pre-Spring Practice Record Predictions for Top 25 College Football Teams

For most of us, the freezing void of winter might as well have no end. But for college football teams, spring is in bloom.

Stanford, Michigan and numerous other schools have already opened offseason camp, and the rest of the country will follow their lead by early March. Spring football is almost upon us, which means we're almost one tentpole closer to the season.

To celebrate this important milestone—and to make it seem like "one tentpole closer" doesn't mean "only six months to go!"—here's a wild stab at records for the Top 25 teams in the country.

The 25 teams compiled came from the way-too-early offseason composite, which polled the rankings of six different outlets, so I had no say over which teams were included. But I did have domain over how each team was judged and predicted.

To evaluate each team, I looked at obvious factors such as past performance, returning players, coaching turnover, schedule, etc. and developed a list of optimisms and skepticisms. For teams I feel are undervalued, I gave two reasons for optimism and one reason for skepticism. For teams I feel are overvalued, I gave one reason for optimism and two reasons for skepticism.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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LSU Faces Sanctions After Recruit Doesn't Enroll: Latest Details, Reaction

LSU football has long been among the top recruiting powers in the country, but head coach Les Miles and Co. will be limited by newly revealed sanctions.  

According to Ross Dellenger of The Advocate, LSU is being punished due to a recruit's decision to decommit from the program:

Per Dellenger, LSU has been stripped of the ability to sign early enrollee recruits to financial-aid agreements for two years, and it has also been docked 10 percent of its recruiting evaluation days in 2015.

The punishment stems from a situation that saw a recruit sign a financial-aid agreement with the school before ultimately opting against attending LSU. Although the recruit hasn't been definitively identified, Dellenger reports that Alabama offensive tackle commit Matt Womack is likely the prospect in question.

While Womack's decision was essentially out of LSU's control, the football program will have to pay the price for it since financial-aid agreements provide schools with relaxed recruiting rules, according to Dellenger.

LSU was seemingly attempting to do Womack a service by allowing him to begin his education early, but that move ultimately backfired.

One can only assume that the Tigers are particularly happy with the decision, and it will be interesting to see if public perception of the punishment leads to any rule modifications moving forward.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Will Texas Take Another 2016 QB After Landing Colt McCoy-Style Stud?

The Texas Longhorns ended the 2015 recruiting cycle with a top-10 class, per 247Sports, adding tons of big-time talent to their budding roster. But what will Charlie Strong and his staff do to top it in 2016?

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by 247Sports' Jeff Howe to discuss what players could be on the Longhorns radar in the 2016 class. 

Who should Texas target? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Which Athletes Will Be on Notice During Texas' Junior Day?

The Texas Longhorns have four commitments in their 2016 class. Pulling four more this weekend at their Saturday junior day is a lofty goal.

Lofty but not impossible.

The Longhorns appear to be regaining the swagger they once had with in-state prospects. Even with a 6-7 record for the 2014 and a blowout loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl, Charlie Strong and his coaching staff have managed to win over the respect of 2016's elite.

And it's only Year 2 for Strong.

Saturday's junior day will feature a large number of players in attendance. While it isn't expected for the Longhorns to see a handful of players commit, it is expected to see Texas in the hunt for every player it offers who will be in Austin.

Three of the four Texas commits—4-star wide receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, 3-star linebacker Demarco Boyd and the newest pledge, 4-star quarterback Shane Buechele—are expected to be in attendance (4-star California receiver Collin Johnson confirmed he won't attend). You can bet that they all will be in player-recruiter mode in an effort to make Texas a contender for the No. 1 spot in the 2016 team rankings.

Here are 10 Texas targets, in alphabetical order, either expected to be in attendance or seriously considering making the trip to Austin on Saturday.

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Nebraska Football: Power Ranking Huskers Fans' 2015 Road Trips

Many Nebraska football fans are suffering through winter’s dying throes, either digging out from snowfall or enduring subzero wind chills. So it’s a good time to look at the upcoming 2015 schedule and start dreaming of trips to take this football season.

Nebraska has five road games in 2015. Here are the power rankings for those five road trips, not based on the games themselves, but on how good of trips they will be for Nebraska fans coming from the Cornhusker state.

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On-Field Success Leading to Record $225.9 Million in Revenue for Big 12

Remember when, in the heat of conference realignment, the Big 12 was on the verge of collapse, and everyone hated Texas because of it?

Well...part of that sort of remains true, but...yeah, good times. 

Quite to the contrary, the Big 12 is not only alive but thriving.

Jon Solomon of reported this week that the Big 12 distributed $225.9 million to its 10 members during the 2013-14 fiscal year ending in June 30, 2014. The annual revenue increased by $10.6 million from the previous year: 

The Big 12 reported its TV contract revenue from 2013-14 increased by 6 percent to $139.7 million. Bowl game revenue was up 4 percent to $42.6 million. NCAA revenue distributed to the conference was up 5 percent to $37.3 million.

The Big 12's average payout to its schools was $19.8 million, up from $18.6 million a year earlier. Every Big 12 school received approximately $21 million last year except for TCU and West Virginia, who don't start collecting a full share until 2015-16. TCU received $14.3 million and West Virginia took in $14.2 million.

How well is the Big 12 doing by comparison? The SEC also projects to pay out $21 million to members, according to numbers obtained by Solomon in January. On top of that, South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner predicts—conservatively, mind you—that the SEC Network will pay out another $5 million to each member, per John Whittle of 247Sports.

Keep in mind, though, that the Big 12 does not have its own third-tier network like the SEC. Thus, the Big 12's recent numbers do not reflect any additional revenue from that level. 

Revenue numbers for each of the Power 5 conferences should go up every year; the fact that the Big 12's numbers have risen is only news in that it's not bad news. 

What is interesting, however, is that the Big 12 has done as well as it has financially with a few drawbacks. First, the conference doesn't have 12 members, and thus no revenue-producing conference championship game. 

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has no public plans to expand the conference, and hasn't for some time. "There are just so many other elements to consider when you're talking about expansion, and I just don't think there's anybody in our league that is contemplating expansion as a way to enhance our opportunity to get into the postseason in football," Bowlsby said in December, according to Sam Khan Jr. of

However, the Big 12 missed out on the first College Football Playoff while crowning Baylor and TCU as co-champions, despite pushing "One True Champion" as a league motto. 

Along those lines, Baylor and TCU—the latter of which was a new member in 2012—are projected to be the top two teams in the Big 12 in 2015. After that, there could be a significant drop-off. 

The Bears have won at least a share of the conference title over the past two seasons, while the Horned Frogs could very well be a preseason No. 1 team, according to some publications. In other words, the top of the Big 12 has been nationally relevant lately even with little to no help from blue-blood programs Oklahoma and Texas. 

Once the Sooners and Longhorns turn a corner, the perception of the Big 12 will be that much better. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Criticism of Alabama Draft Picks in NFL Is Hugely Overblown

The video is almost too good to believe.

Trent Richardson, then a freshman, took a routine handoff from Greg McElroy against Arkansas in the middle of the second quarter. The Razorbacks defense swarmed in the backfield, but Richardson used his raw power and strength to break at least five tackles in the backfield before galloping 52 yards for an electric touchdown run.

Thus began the legend of Trent Richardson. Two years later, when he came out for the draft, he seemed as close to a sure thing as there was at running back. He was big (5'9", 228 lbs), fast and quick.

But three seasons after he was taken with the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, he hasn’t made much of an impact with two different teams. He’s the poster child for criticisms that Alabama players are overrated in the NFL.

They’re too tired or don’t benefit from the precise Nick Saban coaching, the argument goes.

But those arguments don’t take the entire picture into account, and they’re too hyperfocused on a small sample of failings instead of the big picture, which is that a lot of former Alabama players are thriving in the NFL. It’s a tired argument that can hopefully be put to rest sooner rather than later.

"I mean, who does it better? I'm a little bit confused," Saban recently told USA Today Sports’ Nate Davis. "I don't know if it's just the expectation that these guys are all supposed to be something unique. "I'm kind of proud of what our players have been able to accomplish when they leave here."

To answer Saban’s question, few do it better than Alabama.

According to, Alabama has 47 players on an active NFL roster. That puts the Crimson Tide at No. 5 behind only football powerhouses Miami, Florida State, LSU and USC.

That includes players who came from the so-called dark years of Alabama football, when it was on probation in the early 2000s and struggling through mediocrity. Only in the last few years have the Crimson Tide caught up.

Per Davis, since 2009, the year Saban won his first championship at Alabama and Richardson made that famous run, the Crimson Tide have had 41 players drafted, tying them for top honors with LSU.

At the moment, no one is putting players into the NFL better than Alabama. And there’s no indication that will change anytime soon.

It had eight players drafted last season, including two in the first round. currently lists 10 Alabama players with a grade of 7-FA or higher.

The Crimson Tide just pulled in their fifth straight No. 1 recruiting class, per 247Sports. The talent is going to continue to churn through Tuscaloosa.

And, sure, while there have been a fair share of players who haven’t panned out in the NFL, it hasn’t been widespread in the least. For every Trent Richardson there are more players having success. Alabama players are thriving at the next level.

Just this year, former linebacker C.J. Mosley won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first year. Eddie Lacy continued his strong career after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year last season.

Dont’a Hightower capped a standout year in New England by making the defensive play of the Super Bowl—before Malcolm Butler one-upped him one play later—tackling Marshawn Lynch on the 1-yard line to set up Butler's game-winning interception.

Julio Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Dre Kirkpatrick has faced criticism as one of Alabama’s draft busts but finished a big year with two interceptions of Peyton Manning. The list goes on and on.

Alabama players also deal with higher expectations than most. The Crimson Tide are one of the most high-profile teams in college football, competing for championships seemingly every year.

It happens in recruiting. Some recruiting experts admit they’ll rate a player a little higher if Alabama offers or starts pursuing him. Alabama has the track record of winning and developing top talent, so it makes sense that if it is pursuing a kid, he’s probably pretty good.

It’s a similar effect in the NFL. Mel Kiper Jr. has said that the mid- to low-round picks probably get a “half-a-round bump up” just because of the school they went to. That in turn puts more pressure on them to succeed and under an even more intense microscope for people to point out their failures if they don't work out.

It’s easy to focus on the Richardsons, Mark Barrons or, say, Dee Milliners of the world who don’t pan out. But that’s a fact of life in the NFL.

A look at the big picture shows that Alabama is doing just fine sending players to the next level.


Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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The One School Which Would Benefit Most from Freshman Ineligibility

Whether it's fair or not, the recently discussed and polarizing idea of making freshmen ineligible at the college level has been linked to the Big Ten.

And while its coaches have been cautious to comment, it's not hard to see where most of them stand on the subject.

Michigan's Jim Harbaugh declined comment when asked about it this week, while a request to Ohio State for Urban Meyer's thoughts was deferred until the start of the Buckeyes' spring practice—nearly two weeks away.

As coaches remain on the recruiting trail, it's doubtful freshman ineligibility is something they'd want to link themselves to, with many prospects wanting to hear that they'll play right away.

But while even discussing freshmen ineligibility has been a PR disaster thus far, that doesn't mean its implementation wouldn't help some Big Ten schools.

In fact, no school in the country could benefit more from a rule requiring freshmen to sit out their first years on campus than Michigan State. With Ohio State at the top of the college football mountain and Michigan on the rise, freshman ineligibility could be just what the Spartans need to maintain a level playing field.

As Meyer continues to attract the nation's top players to Columbus, Penn State maintains momentum on the recruiting trail and Harbaugh re-acclimates himself to the college game, Michigan State's key to keeping pace is one of the best player development programs in the country.

Yes, the Spartans have been recruiting better after positing a combined 24-3 record over the course of the past two seasons, but those results wouldn't have ever come to fruition if not for head coach Mark Dantonio's exceptional ability to get the most out of his players.

Take for example quarterback Connor Cook, a former 3-star prospect who was barely recruited coming out of Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit.

After redshirting in 2011, Cook led Michigan State to a comeback victory in 2012's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl before winning Rose Bowl MVP in 2013 and leading a comeback win over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl the following year.

Had Cook opted to enter the upcoming NFL draft, he could have been picked in the first round. Instead, he decided to return to school for his senior season and is already being projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick in 2016.

"He's the kind of guy, with his size and his arm, he can make all the throws. He can beat you from the pocket very effectively," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Cook on a January conference call. "He has a chance to be the first or second quarterback off the board next year."

Not bad for a player who had just one scholarship offer—Michigan State—coming out of high school.

Cook won't be the only player in East Lansing this fall who's benefitted from Dantonio's player development program, as defensive end Shilique Calhoun joined the Spartans signal-caller in redshirting in 2011.

Since then, Calhoun has twice been named a first-team All-Big Ten selection and a second-team All-American, and Kiper suggests he will also likely be a first-round selection a year from now.

"With all the junior defensive linemen that came out [in 2015], if he plays consistently, improves his pass rush technique, if he works on all those things and brings it all together, he could be a top 15 pick next year,” Kiper said. “He could go from being a late one, early two to a top 15 [pick] by coming back.”

Calhoun, like Cook, was a 3-star prospect coming out of high school and the 66th-ranked strong-side DE in the class of 2011.

Neither Cook nor Calhoun, however, have anything on the development of junior offensive tackle Jack Conklin, who went from walk-on to All-American and projected 2016 first-round pick.

"It's good fortune," Dantonio said last season when asked of Conklin's development, via The Detroit Free Press' Joe Rexrode.

Perhaps. But Michigan State's ability to develop under-the-radar talents is far from a coincidence.

From Conklin to Cook, to Calhoun, to Darqueze Dennard, to Le'Veon Bell, the Spartans have made a habit of getting the most from their players. Implementing freshman ineligibility would allow them to continue to do just that, ensuring that every player on their roster goes through a season of development before taking the field.

Already, Michigan State has found itself relying on multiple true freshmen more than it has in the past, with both defensive back Montae Nicholson and defensive lineman Malik McDowell seeing significant reps a season ago.

As Dantonio's recruiting efforts improved, that was bound to happen and could ultimately work in his favor.

However, freshman ineligibility would allow the Spartans to enjoy the best of both worlds: The country's top players developing in one of the nation's best programs.


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

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College Football's 10 Burning Offseason Recruiting Questions

A long road lies between now and next national signing day. It's an unpredictable path that could ultimately determine the success of prospects and college programs for years to come. 

Every recruiting cycle features unforeseen twists and turns, reshaping our expectations along the way. This latest pursuit of top talent presents plenty of compelling storylines as the clock steadily ticks toward crucial decisions.

Here's a look at 10 key questions we'll be monitoring in the months ahead.

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Randy Moss' Son Thaddeus Picks Up Michigan Offer, Expect More Teams to Follow

The recruiting process for 3-star tight end/defensive end Thaddeus Moss has been a slow trickle, but it's one that continues to go in a positive direction. On Wednesday, Moss picked up an offer that could help push his recruitment to another level.

Moss, the son of NFL wide receiver great Randy Moss, tweeted that he received an offer from the Michigan Wolverines. He confirmed that tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh extended the offer with Bleacher Report but declined further comment.

At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Moss can play defensive end at the next level, but he's ranked the nation's No. 24 tight end. Physically, he's a bulkier version of his father, and while he has some similarities, he's more of a different athlete overall.

Per 247Sports, Moss has additional offers from North Carolina State, Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, UMass and Charlotte. For those who enjoy the legacy stories, Moss also has an offer from his father's alma mater, Marshall.

The offers could skyrocket in the upcoming months as more schools watch his highlights and see him in action during the spring. Moss in December told Michael Clark of that Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and West Virginia were showing interest.

On film, Moss makes for an impressive flex tight end. He can line up as an H-back, but his strengths are lining up wide and posing a problem for smaller defensive backs. Like his father, he likes making the catch at its highest point.

Moss has soft hands and a good stride after the catch. He can be a reliable target in red-zone passing situations. These qualities and others have caught the attentions of several college coaches—most recently, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his son, Jay.

Defensively, Moss is a player who has a good nose for the football. He likes to make plays in the trenches and disrupts plays with his athleticism. With Jay Harbaugh extending the offer, however, look for Moss to see the majority of his time on the offensive side of the ball.

That is, if he ultimately chooses Michigan. He made an unofficial visit to Duke in November and took part in North Carolina's junior day last month, according to his 247Sports timeline. You can bet that the Harbaughs will do their part in an effort to land him and make him a weapon in the Big Ten.


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

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Why LSU OC Cam Cameron Is on the Hot Seat in 2015

When compared to previous years, 2015 is relatively cool in terms of head coaches being on the hot seat.

Sure, there's some frustration with LSU head coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge, and Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason probably can't regress from last season's 2-10 record and expect to keep his job. 

Coordinators, though, could be a different story.

When there's a little bit of frustration, that means coordinators are at risk since, typically, they're the first ones to go when a head coach's seat begins to heat up. For LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, that's bad news.

Entering his third season as LSU's offensive mastermind, Cameron should be coaching for his job in 2015.

Sure, his first season was solid. When you have a gunslinger at quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, stud running back Jeremy Hill and two superstar wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, a coordinator's most important job is to not mess things up. 

Even with that all-star roster, LSU finished seventh in the SEC in total offense (453.3 YPG). 

In 2014, when all of those stars moved on, Cameron was left trying to figure out how to make things click with inexperienced, dual-threat quarterbacks who don't exactly fit the offenses Cameron is accustomed to running. 

True sophomore Anthony Jennings won the job, struggled early and was benched for the Tigers' road game vs. Auburn. True freshman Brandon Harris came in, promptly went 3-of-14 on the Plains, and forced Jennings back into action. Jennings completed less than half of his passes on the season (48.9 percent), which was the worst mark in the SEC among qualifying quarterbacks. 

Cameron told's Ron Higgins that his goal is to focus on the positives.

"In quarterback play, you're continually trying to set aside the things you don't do well and focus on the things you do well without being unbelievably predictable. That's the catch," he said. "You can simplify, which is what you should do, but then comes the ability to be unpredictable. The magic is to be unpredictable but also simple enough so your guys can execute things."

Except that LSU's offense with Jennings and Harris taking the snaps looked like a mirror image of the one run with Mettenberger, despite the fact that Jennings was the changeup running quarterback in 2013 and Harris has the speed and moves to be a difference-maker.

Cameron has to change more than the quarterbacks.

When LSU traveled to College Station on Thanksgiving night to take on Texas A&M, jet sweeps were a bigger part of that offense than at any other time of the year. Those jet sweeps jump-started a Tiger offense, including running back Leonard Fournette, that was in desperate need of a spark.

"It opened up the run for Leonard even more and for me," Jennings said during bowl prep, according to Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana. "They can't cover everything perfectly, so the new sweep helped a lot."

LSU needs to build on incorporating the running quarterback—whoever wins the job—as more of a threat in the running game and become multidimensional in the rushing attack. Cameron already knows Fournette is a stud and the jet sweep works, so a more diverse rushing attack is the path of least resistance toward winning football games.

Would that anger established receivers Travin Dural and young players with potential like Malachi Dupre and recent signee Tyron Johnson? Maybe, although several run-based coaches, including Auburn's Gus Malzahn, have proven that there are plenty of passes to go around to top wide receivers even when the play-calling is heavily slanted toward the run.

Cameron was one of five million-dollar coordinators in 2014, when he raked in a cool $1.3 million, according to the USA Today coaching salary database. For that, all LSU got was a bunch of frustration and heartache.

His salary jumps to $1.5 million in this, the final year of his three-year deal.

He better live up to his word and focus on the things his team does well in 2015, because another 8-5 season won't sit well in Baton Rouge, as ESPN's Brett McMurphy pointed out to Arkansas syndicated radio host Bo Mattingly after the 31-28 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl loss to Notre Dame:

If Miles' job status suddenly becomes shaky, changes must be made.

That would start with coordinators, and Cameron's inability to adjust to his players will be viewed as one of LSU's biggest problems.

With the offense regressing and Cameron's contract expiring, it's time to put up or shut up.


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

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

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Texas A&M Football: Realistic Expectations for Aggies' New Coaches

The Texas A&M football team will have a new look on the sideline in 2015, with new coaches at five positions. The Aggies should expect improved play at all five.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin made a big splash this offseason when he hired John Chavis away from LSU to be the Aggies' defensive coordinator. In addition to his coordinating duties, he will also coach the Aggie linebackers.

Mark Hagen previously coached the linebackers but will now coach defensive tackles. Terry Price was the defensive line coach in 2014 but will now concentrate on defensive ends.

In addition to Chavis, Sumlin also brought in new coaches for the offensive line and at wide receiver. Dave Christensen will be the offensive line coach and coordinate the run game. Aaron Moorehead will take over as wide receivers coach after David Beaty chose to take the head coaching job at Kansas.  

There is something to be said for turning a staff over every couple of years and bringing new ideas into the program. These new coaches should offer a fresh approach on offense and defense.

This is a look at realistic expectations for each coach and his position group. 

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Chauncey Gardner Tweets Top 10: Which School Is Best Fit for 4-Star?

Despite just now heading into his senior season, 4-star corner Chauncey Gardner has had his share of ups and downs in the recruiting process. 

According to Nate Adelson of InsideTheU, Gardner has made and then backed off commitments to Miami and Florida.

Following his decommitment from the Gators in January, Gardner has picked up offers from the likes of Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Penn State and Oklahoma among others. 

The 6'0", 194-pounder, who rates as the nation's No. 9 corner and the No. 105 player overall in the 2016 class, has now narrowed his list down to 10 schools.

In addition to the Sunshine State's Big Three, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Penn State are the schools still in the running for Gardner.

But which program presents the best fit for the Sunshine State standout?

It's still early, but a few schools may be sticking out for the talented corner prospect.

As awkward as decommitments can be for both prospects and programs, both the 'Canes and the Gators are still very much in the picture with a player who was once a member of each school's respective 2016 class. Both schools have had reputations for producing stud defensive backs in their history.

In fact, the two in-state powers join Ohio State as three schools that Gardner told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports he has "high interest" in.

One reason why Gardner is high on Urban Meyer's program is because of a new hire that Meyer recently made.

"It makes me look at everything now," Gardner told Bartow. "Now that Tony Alford has switched schools, it changes my whole idea about what's going on."

Ohio State did sign four corners in its 2015 class, including fellow Cocoa (Florida) High School product Jamel Dean. However, it has been aggressive in targeting more standouts at that position in the 2016 cycle.

In addition to Dean, who enrolled at Ohio State in January, the Buckeyes already have a commitment from another prep teammate—2017 4-star athlete Bruce Judson.

Before Alford left South Bend to head to Columbus, Notre Dame was a school that had gained traction with Gardner in the wake of his decommitment from the Gators.

In fact, a glance at his Crystal Ball page shows the Irish as the unanimous favorite to land him at this stage of his recruitment.

According to Tom Loy of Irish247, Gardner has told members of the Irish staff that they are among his lead group of schools.

It also doesn't hurt that the Irish present a depth chart—which will feature three upperclassmen out of the club's top four corners next season, per Ourlads—that could be friendly in terms of him seeing the field early at corner.

A potential wild card in the race could be Florida State. The 'Noles are currently the most dominant force in the Sunshine State, and they have a huge need at the corner spot, as noted by Josh Newberg of Noles247.

Bartow notes that because Gardner is running track this spring, he has yet to schedule any visits during the spring or summer.

That nugget likely means that his recruitment will come down to the visits he makes in the fall or after the season.

While his process is likely to extend all the way until signing day, Ohio State—with Alford in tow and a pair of prep teammates bound for Columbus—seems to have a lot of momentum in its pursuit of one of the top corners from the state of Florida.


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

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SEC Legend Vince Dooley on Herschel Walker and Freshman Ineligibility

KENNESAW, Ga. — True freshman Herschel Walker led the Bulldogs with 1,616 yards and 15 touchdowns in his inaugural season in Athens, leading the Bulldogs to an SEC title and a 17-10 win over Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl to claim the 1980 national title.

If head coach Vince Dooley had it his way, Walker wouldn't have been playing at all.

In an effort to keep education as the central mission of college athletics, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is floating the idea of making freshmen ineligible for play in some or all sports. The "year of readiness," as it's being termed, would drastically change the landscape of college football and basketball.

Dooley says, "Bring it on," as long as it makes sense.

"In an ideal world, I would like to see freshmen ineligible," Dooley, who doubled as Georgia's athletics director from 1979-2004, told Bleacher Report. "Particularly in basketball. I'd have to make economic sense in football, which is the biggest question. You'd have to add a large number of scholarships. In basketball, you might have to add a couple of scholarships, but not as many. So it wouldn't be as big of a financial strain as it would in football."

Dooley knows both sides of this story.

As Georgia's football coach from 1964-1988, he worked in an era of freshman ineligibility until the rule was changed in 1972. During his time with the Bulldogs, players like Walker were the anomalies, not the norm.

"We always thought it would be a handful or less, primarily at the skill positions" he said. "We never really thought a freshman could come in and immediately play at the line of scrimmage, though, some are even doing that now. At the skill positions, they can go out, run routes and catch, but they still need to know how to block and do the things that you want them to do that takes time. I'd say there was always a handful that could help in some way, with one or two starters."

Walker was a part of that small group of immediate-impact players.

The Wrightsville, Georgia, native stepped into a crowded backfield in Athens that included Donnie McMickens and Carnie Norris, but the freshman had a target on his back from the Bulldog defense.

"We had a pretty good team, and they wanted to 'pay their respects' to Herschel, because they have been reading all about him," Dooley said. "We had a guy named Eddie 'Meat Cleaver' Weaver, who was a defensive lineman. When Herschel ran for the first time, everybody was out there watching. 'Meat Cleaver' did pay his respects to Herschel and spun him around."

It wasn't the run that got Dooley's attention—it was Walker's reaction.

"As soon as he hit the ground, he jumped up, put the ball down and ran quickly back to the huddle," Dooley said. "From that point early on, he gained their respect from the way he conducted himself—you know, the proper humility and the mental aspect of it. Physically, there wasn't any question. I knew he was going to be good; it was just a question of how soon."

It came really soon.

Dooley went into the season opener against Tennessee with a plan in mind to give McMickens, Norris and Walker two series each and then evaluate the tailback rotation at halftime.

"If he was going to earn the position, he was going to have to earn it," Dooley said.

Earn it he did.

Walker's first career touchdown was the foundation of his legacy, as he ran over Bill Bates and into the end zone as his Bulldogs dug out of a 15-0 hole to beat the Vols 16-15.

"When it got to Herschel, there wasn't any question in anybody's mind who the best player was," Dooley said. "So I started him after halftime. He earned the job on the job, and he did it in front of his teammates, his coaches and the fans, really."

He'd go on to set the freshman rushing record with those 1,616 yards, finish third in the Heisman Trophy voting and win the trophy two years later.

Not bad for a guy who was the exception, not the rule.


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

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

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Rapid-Fire Predicting Where 2016's Top Wide Receivers Will Land

The 2016 class is full of exciting and athletic wide receivers. And as we are in the early stages of the 2016 recruiting cycle, many of them are uncommitted. Where will they land?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee highlight some of the uncommitted wide receivers and predict where they will play their college ball. 

Who is the top wide receiver in the 2016 class? Check out the video and let us know! 

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