NCAA Football

Is This the Most Skill Position Talent Gus Malzahn Has Ever Had?

The annual ESPN "car wash" that features 14 head coaches over a two-day span took place this week, and the hot takes were everywhere.

Among some of the nuggets uncovered in Bristol was Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn's impression of his wide receivers.

The second-year head coach of the Tigers told Joe Tessitore that this group of Auburn wide receivers—which includes last year's star, Sammie Coates—is the best group of wide receivers he's had at Auburn, which also includes the 2009-11 seasons, when Malzahn was the offensive coordinator.

"At least since I've been at Auburn," Malzahn told Tessitore, "this is the best receiving group that we've had (1:25 mark)."

High praise for sure. It's also accurate.

Coates is a known commodity who is strong, fast and can take the top off a defense.

In addition to Coates, Auburn returns a deep threat in Ricardo Louis, veteran slot receiver Quan Bray, Jaylon Denson—who was a starter last year before tearing his ACL vs. LSU—two underclassmen with potential and junior college transfer D'haquille "Duke" Williams, who could be the best of the entire group.

Essentially, it's the same group as last year with the addition of Williams, a 6'2", 216-pound monster who can run and present matchup problems alongside Coates and the rest of the tall and athletic receiving corps.

But how do they compare to Malzahn's Auburn receivers from his days as the offensive coordinator?

The 2010 group is close to a mirror image of this group. Darvin Adams led a veteran corps during Auburn's national championship year, catching 52 passes for 963 yards and seven touchdowns. Behind him, Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake each caught more than 30 passes, with Kodi Burns and Philip Lutzenkirchen each providing solid options for then-quarterback Cam Newton.

They were solid and effective as a group, but the 2013 Tigers have much more upside and versatility.

Coates and Williams can both be deep threats or possession receivers, and the veteran and deep group of receivers outside coupled with the potential of 6'5", 264-pound tight end C.J. Uzomah will allow Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to mix and match their receivers to create matchup nightmares downfield.

Williams, who was a 5-star prospect according to 247Sports and a 4-star in the 247Sports composite, impressed receiver-turned-defensive back Trovon Reed this spring, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com:

Trovon Reed on D'haquille Williams: "He deserves every star he got" (in recruiting process)

— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAEricksonAU) April 15, 2014

What about at running back?

Tre Mason's absence doesn't help, but Malzahn has options at running back and a proven track record of success on the ground. Since he started coaching college football in 2006, he has produced 11 1,000-yard rushers in those eight seasons. 

This year's backfield still features speedster Corey Grant and senior Cameron Artis-Payne, as well as 5-star freshman "Roc" Thomas, bruiser Kamryn Pettway and redshirt freshman Peyton Barber—who hurt his ankle in the spring game. 

"Peyton Barber, he's back working out 100 percent," Malzahn said at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama. "He's got a lot of talent, like we've talked about before. Roc Thomas, Kamryn Pettway are two of the young guys coming in. We'll give them a chance, see what they can do."

Are any of those guys Mason? No. But Artis-Payne was "1B" to Mason being "1A" last year, and the Tigers have more depth than they did last season. 

Does it compare to the 2010 group that featured Michael Dyer, Onterio McCalebb and Mario Fannin? Maybe not in terms of top-end talent. After all, Dyer was fantastic when he got rolling late in the 2010 season. But this year's group is certainly comparable from the depth perspective.

This is the most talent Auburn has had at the skill position under Malzahn either as the head coach or the offensive coordinator, and also marks the first time in Malzahn's college coaching career that he's had a quarterback—Nick Marshall—return for a second year in the system.

Look out.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Big 12 Brass, Coaches Come out Firing at Media Days, Why It's a Good Thing

Big 12 media days lacked the size of its SEC counterpart—no surprise there, right?—but it certainly wasn't without major storylines. 

When it comes to coaches in front of a microphone, the more vocal, the better, especially when it comes to big-picture issues like player stipends and postseason selections. 

Which items stood out at Big 12 media days?

 

The Art Briles-Jimbo Fisher Kerfuffle

Call this manufactured drama with quotes likely taken out of context, but it's July, which means media is looking for something fun. It also involves a timely subject. 

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher was recently asked about expanding the College Football Playoff to eight teams, to which he replied that every conference should have its own championship game. Via Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com

Question: Are you in favor of expanding the playoff to 8 teams?

Fisher: I'm not. Do I think inevitably it will? Yeah I do. But really, are you not in eight now? Because you got a conference championship, you're in more than that right now. You got a playoff game there.

And by the way, I think every conference should have to have one. We got a championship where not everyone plays the same number of games and does the same things. I think it's ridiculous.

Harmless enough, at least until Baylor head coach Art Briles was asked about it at Big 12 media days. 

The Big 12, of course, is the only power conference without its own title game, and the league embraces it with the motto "One True Champion." Will the Big 12's round-robin schedule help or hurt it in the eyes of the playoff selection committee? It's impossible to tell. 

"I'm not concerned about lack of a championship game," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said during Big 12 media days. "I like our path to the championship. Some years it's a good thing, some years it's a bad thing." 

The interesting subplot about the Briles-Fisher exchange is that the Big 12 recently joined the ACC in supporting legislation to deregulate conference championship games, according to Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News

"We would like the prerogative about whether we want to make that decision," Bowlsby said. 

 

Bob Bowlsby Takes Strong Stance

The start of Big 12 media days sounded like a funeral. The subject in the casket was college football. 

That's the tone Bowlsby set during his opening remarks on Day 1 of Big 12 media days. 

"If you like the way college athletics works now, you're going to be disappointed when the changes come soon," Bowlsby said. 

From the Ed O'Bannon trial over paying athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness to the recent unionization push by Northwestern athletes, it's no secret that college football is on the verge of major change. 

No matter which side of the fence you sit on regarding that change, the important thing to know is that it's coming.

According to Bowlsby, that may mean many athletic programs cutting sports while trying to stay compliant with Title IX. As Kristi Dosh of the Sports Business Daily reports, the pressure to fully fund scholarships creates a complex situation. 

Bowlsby supports the collegiate model, which is no surprise, but he also hasn't been shy about recognizing the problems within it. "There's more right than there is wrong" with the model, Bowlsby said.

Still, "cheating pays" according to the commissioner, and the enforcement arm of the NCAA hasn't exactly been living up to strict standards lately. 

While Bowlsby doesn't think cheating is rampant, it won't end if college football players are compensated more in some form in the not-too-distant future. In what capacity—pay for play, stipends or the like—they'll be compensated remains to be seen. 

Bowlsby's tone was bleak, but give him credit, he knows what's coming. The important thing college athletics administrators can do is start finding solutions instead of fighting the problem. 

 

Bob Stoops, Kliff Kingsbury Talk Cost of Attendance, Scholarships

Speaking of compensation, player stipends were on the table as a discussion point. You probably won't find a coach at Big 12 media days vocally opposed to paying their players the full cost of attendance. If nothing else, coaches have to keep up appearances that they're pro-player. 

And as a power five conference, the pool to fund such a payout is there: Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reported that eight Big 12 members will earn $23 million in revenue. (TCU and West Virginia are still earning a partial payout.) 

"I've always been in favor of [full] cost of attendance," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm in favor of supporting athletes in different ways, transportation home, transportation back to school."

Bowlsby added in his opening remarks that "if left to our own devices, [power conferences] could have passed stipends" already. 

As far multi-year scholarships go—another hot-button item for athlete well-being—Bowlsby said the league as a whole is not ready to get behind legislation yet. However, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he gives out multi-year scholarships at his discretion.

"My college experience was great, so if there's anything we can do to help players, I'm all for it," Kingsbury said.

If college football players will still be defined as student-athletes, and if they won't be paid for the use of their image, athletic departments have to come up with a way to better support them. This applies for stipends, safety practices during the week in practice and better medical care. 

The sport simply demands too much of its athletes for the status quo to remain. Without a doubt, coaches and administrators are catching on to it and are more than vocal about it.

That's where change starts. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.

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Jimbo Fisher Using Saban's Philosophy to Motivate Florida State's Title Defense

Jimbo Fisher wants to make a very important distinction. The Florida State football team is not the "defending champion." FSU is looking to repeat.

In Fisher's eyes, there is nothing to defend. National championships are independent of each other.

"You're not competing against the past," Fisher told 247Sports' Tim Linafelt (subscription required) at ACC Kickoff. "You're playing against the opponent that's on the field at that time. Stay in the moment, practice in the moment, and live in the moment."

Fisher doesn't want players to presume that wins will come because of what happened last fall or because FSU has a talent advantage. He wants players to use the experience from the 2013 season as an advantage. That FSU team dominated 12 of 14 opponents, winning games by 30 or more points. 

"Keep an attitude of domination," Fisher said, via 247Sports. "Complacency is set if you're basing (what you do) off the past. Don't base anything off the past."

If any of that sounds familiar, it probably does. Fisher is part of the Nick Saban tree. He was LSU's offensive coordinator from 2000-06, winning a national title with the Tigers in 2003.

After winning the 2011 national title, Saban said this to his Alabama team before the 2012 season, according to Eric Prisbell of USA Today: "This team is not the national championship team. Some of you guys played on that team. ... Nobody can take away what you did, but are you going to focus on what you did or about what you are going to do?"

What did Alabama do? The Crimson Tide went 13-1, suffering only a Nov. 10 loss to Texas A&M, and then bounced back to rout Auburn, edge Georgia in the SEC championship game and then demolish Notre Dame in the BCS championship game.

What will FSU do? Fisher thinks he has his players focused on the future.

The past efforts have been difficult. The Seminoles have won three titles (1993, 1999 and 2013) but came up short in repeat efforts.

In 1994, FSU lost at Miami and had to rally from 28 points down in the fourth quarter to tie Florida, 31-31. Although they did beat the Gators in the Sugar Bowl, the Seminoles didn't get a chance to play for a title.

In 2000, the Seminoles again lost at Miami but played for a title against Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl. FSU struggled to put points on the board without receiver Marvin Minnis (academics), and with Mark Richt working two jobs—FSU offensive coordinator and Georgia coach. The Seminoles fell, 13-2, to the Sooners.

Even legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden now admits how hard repeating was for those 1994 and 2000 teams.

"It's so dad-gum difficult because you are talking about perfection," Bowden told the Tallahassee Democrat's Jim Henry. "You can play great football and not be perfect. Let me just say this - it's a great position to be in."

The Seminoles are in that position in 2014. And positioned well for a repeat run. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is back at quarterback, and he will be protected by an offensive line that will likely feature five seniors. There are playmakers at receiver (led by Rashad Greene) and a deep group of running backs (led by Karlos Williams). FSU loses defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, as well as linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, but there is experienced depth to fill those spots without a significant drop-off. The secondary is loaded with talent and could again be the nation's best against the pass (FSU allowed just 156.6 passing yards per game in 2013, tops in the nation). The nonconference schedule includes Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida. Among the ACC games, Clemson is at home while Louisville and Miami are on the road. But it's not insurmountable. If FSU navigates one of the nation's toughest schedules unbeaten, the Seminoles will make the four-team playoff. And they'll be looking to repeat—not defend—as champions.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats from seminoles.com and NCAA.com.

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Christian Ponder's Newborn Daughter Was Named After FSU Legend Bobby Bowden

Christian Ponder made a name for himself while playing under Bobby Bowden at Florida State, so the Minnesota Vikings quarterback and his wife felt it would be a good idea to honor the coach by naming their child after him.

Check out what Christian and Sam Ponder named their newborn daughter:

Naming a kid Bowden Sainte-Claire is one way to pay tribute to the former Seminoles coach. 

Larry Fitzgerald Sr. reported that the Ponders brought the baby girl into the world recently:

Given that Florida State is the reigning national champion, most FSU fans would probably be naming their kids after Jameis Winston or Jimbo Fisher right now. However, Ponder played under Bowden for three seasons, and he learned a lot from the legend.

[Twitter]

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10 Under-the-Radar Players Whose NFL Draft Stock Will Skyrocket in 2014

Preseason draft rankings aren't just flawed; they're impossible. A final year of game film is the most important thing a prospect can post—more important than his size and his speed and his other scouting combine scores combined.

The preseason draft boards put together by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and other way-smarter people than myself are as accurate as they can possibly be, but even the authors of those lists would admit how much red ink they will contain at the end of the season.

Some players will fall and other players will rise to replace them. Names currently under the radar will soon be firmly on it.

There's no way to predict these things for sure, but, based on their physical tools and the situations they find themselves in, there are a few players who stick out as viable late-rising candidates.

Chime in below, and let me know whom else I overlooked.

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Ohio State Football: Why Urban Meyer Must Land a Star Quarterback for 2015

Nobody could successfully argue with Urban Meyer's track record on the recruiting trail.

Through three recruiting cycles in Columbus, the Ohio State head coach has brought the Buckeyes a trio of top-5 classes, including the nation's second-ranked class in 2013 and No. 3 class in 2014, per 247Sports. Even in 2012, when Meyer arrived on campus with two months to go until national signing day, he managed to turn what was at the time an unimpressive class into the country's fifth best.

But in his first two-and-a-half years at the helm at Ohio State, one position in particular has seemed to elude the two-time national champion head coach. And it happens to be the most important on the football field.

Despite his successful track record with the likes of Josh Harris, Alex Smith, Tim Tebow and Braxton Miller, Meyer still hasn't managed to attract a star quarterback to Columbus during his time with the Buckeyes. Sure, 2017 commit and all-everything sophomore Danny Clark waits in the wings, but there remains a two-season gap between Miller's departure and Clark's arrival in Columbus.

It's not that Ohio State has failed to add any signal-callers since Meyer arrived, as the Buckeyes have signed Cardale Jones (2012), J.T. Barrett (2013) and Stephen Collier (2014) in the past three classes. But Meyer is yet to have landed a big-name, blue-chip quarterback at OSU, with the Buckeyes having missed on the likes of Deshaun Watson and Kyle Allen a year ago. And while Barrett may have been Ohio State's top choice in 2013, he lacks the athleticism and star power that have made Miller and Terrelle Pryor such successes in Columbus the past seven years.

But fortunately for Meyer and the Buckeyes, one of their top quarterback targets in the 2015 class remains uncommitted. And all recent indications are that the up-and-down recruitment of Fort Lauderdale American Heritage 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson has hit another peak for Ohio State.

Although it seemed as though the Buckeyes had ended their pursuit of the Sunshine State star just weeks ago, that no longer appears to be the case. With Ohio State's big "Friday Night Lights" camp approaching on Friday, Gibson informed Cleveland.com on Monday that he is currently planning on making his first trip to Columbus for a visit.

"Yeah, it looks like I'm visiting," Gibson said. "I will know for sure if I am going (later Monday afternoon)."

Gibson later confirmed his impeding visit, via his Twitter account:

That bodes well for the Buckeyes, who have remained at the forefront of Gibson's recruitment despite having yet to receive a visit from the highly touted prospect. At 6'4" and 200 pounds, Gibson is an athletic freak comparable to Miller and Pryor who could conceivably step right in and make an immediate impact in Meyer's spread offense.

Landing Gibson won't be an easy task, however, as the dual-threat quarterback has already taken multiple trips to Tennessee and Auburn and has also shown a strong interest in LSU. Nearby Miami (Florida) also remains a factor in Gibson's recruitment, but his upcoming trip to Columbus shouldn't be seen as anything but a positive sign for Ohio State's chances.

And with no clear succession plan in place for Miller's departure, that could make this upcoming weekend one of the most important in the Buckeyes' 2015 recruiting cycle. Ohio State does already have 3-star prospect Joe Burrow committed to its upcoming class, but the addition of Gibson would make an unparalleled splash across the college football landscape.

But don't expect a commitment from Gibson this weekend—or anytime soon for that matter. With some of the nation's top schools chasing after him, Gibson appears intent on allowing his recruitment drag out all the way until national signing day.

But for a program with one star on his way out the door, the wait to add another would be well worth it in Columbus. Meyer and the Buckeyes may have not added a star signal-caller since Miller arrived in 2011, but Ohio State's upcoming weekend could go a long way toward changing that.

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College Football Week 1 Picks: UNLV Runnin' Rebels vs. Arizona Wildcats

The UNLV Runnin' Rebels are 8-3 against the spread in their last 11 games, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 college football picks, as they take on the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, Arizona.

Sports bettors will find that the Runnin' Rebels are 24-point road underdogs in the NCAA football odds, with no betting total available in the market.

Let's take a closer look at this nonconference matchup from a betting perspective, while offering up a prediction along the way.

 

Gambling stats via Sports Book Review

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5-Star DT Daylon 'Recruit Whisperer' Mack Predicts Top Uncommitted Recruits

Daylon Mack, a 5-star defensive tackle, took some time to speak with Bleacher Report about the latest recruiting buzz. With some of the top recruits still uncommitted in the 2015 class, Mack breaks down exactly where he thinks each big-time athlete will land.

Where do you think these guys will play their college ball?

Watch the video and see where this future Aggie thinks these studs will end up.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

 

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Predicting the Heisman Favorites Heading into the 2014 Season

The 2014 college football season is just around the corner and we can't help but start making Heisman Trophy predictions. Some of the biggest names in college football have returned for another year on the gridiron with the hopes of winning the prestigious award.

Who do you think will win in 2014?

Watch Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss who they think will end up in New York and ultimately win the Heisman Trophy following the 2014 season.

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College Football Recruiting QB Rankings 2015: Top 10 After The Opening

A crowded crop of top-tier quarterbacks spent the second week of July testing their skills at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Premier passers from across the country competed in the Elite 11 finals and The Opening, an annual high school football showcase that featured more than 150 prospects.

Tasked with rapid play-calling instructions and facing elite defenders, several 2015 quarterbacks rose to the occasion with impressive performances. Others struggled at times, which suggests they still have significant strides to make before taking their talents to the next level.

Here's a look at the position's top 10 players, based on freshly updated 247Sports composite rankings.

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Gavin Stansbury's Departure Means It's Panic Time for Texas A&M's Defense

Now, it's officially time for Texas A&M to panic.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin announced Monday that defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury has left the team for personal reasons.

“While we will miss Gavin being a part of our program, there is more to life than football,” Sumlin said in an emailed statement. “We wish him the best as he focuses on the personal issues ahead of him.”

The 6'4", 255-pound senior was slated to be a contributor along the Aggie defensive line, but an April arrest for misdemeanor assault put his future in College Station in question this spring. 

In the same statement, Texas A&M also confirmed that cornerback Victor Davis was arrested for shoplifting in his hometown of Rosenberg, Texas, and has been suspended per school policy.

This is bad news for an Aggie defense that was already littered with uncertainty and bitten hard by unexpected attrition this offseason. According to AL.com, Stansbury is the fourth high-profile defensive player to depart Texas A&M this offseason, joining linebacker Darian Claiborne, defensive tackle Isaiah Golden and redshirt freshman and former 4-star safety prospect Kameron Miles.

Stansbury's departure is huge, as Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com notes.

Significant loss for Aggie defense with Gavin Stansbury exit. Along with Darian Claiborne, that's 2 of 3 best on '13 D lost prematurely

— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) July 21, 2014

He and fellow defensive end Julien Obioha were being counted on to provide a veteran presence up front. As a bigger defensive end, Stansbury was being counted on to defend the run and drop down to tackle in pass-rushing situations to make way for hot-shot recruit Myles Garrett. 

His job was already going to be more difficult because of the departure of Golden. He was inconsistent at times, but did a great job in Texas A&M's final game of last year, controlling the line of scrimmage in the second half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke.

Now Sumlin, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and the rest of the Aggies need Garrett to come in and be more than a pass-rushing specialist right off the bat. Out of the question? Of course not, but that's a lot of pressure for true freshman.

Throw that on top of Claiborne, who was slated to be A&M's second-leading returning tackler and Miles, who had all the makings of a superstar, and you have big problems in College Station.

Sumlin is a fantastic head coach, who has proven at Houston and Texas A&M that he can adapt his offense to fit the skills of his quarterback. But it's unrealistic to expect the Aggies offense to continue at the level it operated at with Johnny Manziel—the most dynamic player in a generation—at quarterback.

The defense needs to take a significant leap forward this season, and without some of its better pieces, is that likely?

Nope.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore, "just enough" defense does. The definition of "just enough" varies based on the type of offense a team runs. A&M couldn't get enough even with Manziel taking the snaps, and now it has to try to get to that level with a new offense and stars gone off of an already-questionable defense. 

Good luck, Aggies.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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2014 Fall Camp Previews for Each College Football Top 25 Team

It’s almost here. As college football’s media days schedule enters its second week, the feeling that football is just around the corner gets more and more palpable.

By August 1, most of the nation’s college football teams will have begun fall practice in preparation for the 2014 season, which kicks off in the final weekend of August.

It’s a perfect time to look at what’s ahead for the nation’s top teams, what they have returning, what they need to work on and their biggest questions. Here’s a look at the nation’s top 25 (as determined by Bleacher Report’s latest top 25 poll) entering fall camp.

 

*Quotes for ACC, SEC and Big 12 coaches and players were provided by ASAP Sports media days transcripts.

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Top College Football Coaches Who Excel and Struggle Against Top 25 Teams

Did you know that of the 128 FBS head coaches, only 14—or 11 percent—have a career winning record against Top 25 teams?

Not only do 89 percent of the top level of college coaches have a losing record against ranked opponents, but 51—or 40 percent of the field—have never won a single game against a Top 25 team.

So while lots of ink is dedicated to coaches with the highest all-time winning percentage or the most titles, what about those who have been the best—or worst—against the best teams in the nation?

Is this the magical gauge of future success?

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Miami Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from ACC Media Days

Head coach Al Golden, running back Duke Johnson and linebacker Denzel Perryman represented the Miami Hurricanes at ACC media days, discussing ever-nearing fall practice and the 2014 regular season.

A few combined hours later, notable quotes and important takeaways emerged from the trio's respective answers, including some encouraging news about a true freshman waiting to qualify.

The quarterback competition was, of course, a hot topic, and the Hurricanes' player reps gave two strikingly different answers, though neither was surprising.

Plus, Golden supplied an answer about the length of his tenure at Miami, one that was questioned just a few short months ago.

 

New Players Making Impact, 2 Coming Soon

While the newest recruiting class is helping build the program's depth, Golden acknowledged many of the newcomers have arrived at Miami ready to play.

Per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun Sentinel, the fourth-year head coach specifically mentioned Tyre Brady, Joseph Yearby, David Njoku, Michael Wyche, Anthony Moten, Chad Thomas, Darrion Owens, Juwon Young and Ryan Mayes as notable players.

Additionally, quarterback Brad Kaaya has been battling Kevin Olsen and Jake Heaps for the starting position during the season opener against Louisville, unfazed to this point.

"I can't get into his head," Perryman said, according to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post. "But I'm working on it."

Golden said he anticipates athlete Trayone Gray and wide receiver Darrell Langham will join the team. Miami does not necessarily have an immediate need at running back or out wide, but Alabama appeared to be fine without Derrick Henry, too.

No, Gray is not being directly compared to Henry, but depth is never a bad thing because offensive production is typically not discouraged.

 

Perryman Talks Returning, Slimming Down, Expectations

According to Porter, Perryman returned for his senior season in order to "master his craft." The linebacker believed he was ready for the NFL, but further tape study revealed weaknesses in his game.

"I said I got it, I got it ... then I said wow, I can't believe I put that on tape."

Though Perryman looked particularly massive during spring practice, he decided the extra bulk made him "a step slow" and is in the process of losing 10 pounds. Chirinos notes Perryman said 240 pounds is his optimal "striking weight."

He also believes Miami can become one of the country's best defenses, per Porter:

I don't think talent is the issue. Guys need to be where they need to be. That one guy out of his gap could be a big difference in the game or a play. ... Everybody is on the same page. Everybody knows the playbook in and out. Young guys came in and quickly learned the playbook. Nobody's behind on the playbook at all.

An elite defense is hardly a realistically obtainable goal, but Miami is certainly better than the No. 89 unit last season. How much better the group actually is, however, will only be answered come September.

 

Johnson Hints at, Perryman Flat-Out Expects Williams

According to Chirinos, Johnson realizes he carries the burden of expectations but does not want whichever teammate is under center to feel the same.

"You have a lot of weapons around you as a quarterback," Johnson said. "So whoever the quarterback is until Ryan gets back, there isn't a lot of pressure on them like there is on me."

Perryman, on the other hand, did not hold back, saying he already feels like Ryan Williams is ready to lead the team.

Currently, Olsen, Kaaya or Heaps will be the No. 1 quarterback on Labor Day Monday, but Williams is the heavily favored and seemingly heavily preferred option when healthy. And the longer this conversation goes unsettled during fall camp, the move evident that preference will become.

 

Odds and Ends

As of this moment, Golden has no plans of leaving the program—one that needs continuity as it progresses through the rebuilding stage. Golden is under contract through the 2019 regular season.

Per Porter, Nate Dortch has left the program. After taking a redshirt in 2012, the cornerback participated in six games last season, tallying a pair of tackles.

Gray Crow added bulk and moved to H-back, likely after recognizing the logjam at quarterback. Crow completed 6-of-8 attempts for 55 yards in 2013, including a touchdown pass to Beau Sandland against Savannah State.

As long assumed, running back Joseph Yearby will not be redshirting this year. Alongside Johnson and Gus Edwards, Yearby gives the 'Canes a slasher in the backfield, complementing the overall skill of Duke and brute strength of Edwards.

 

Note: All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Why Pac-12 Football Turns Out the Best NFL QBs

It's no secret that as we enter into the 2014 college football season, the cradle of quarterbacks is located out west in the Pac-12 (sorry, Purdue). Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion and Taylor Kelly all look like elite signal-callers with promising professional careers ahead.

With top recruits like Ricky Town, Josh Rosen, Travis Waller and Brady White set to join the league in 2015, the trend of seeing great quarterback play from the conference of champions won't be slowing down anytime soon.

The fruits of the conference's efforts are visible in the NFL, too, with players like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck holding the titles of "best quarterback" and "best young quarterback," respectively. Even former USC quarterback Carson Palmer is hanging around and producing solid play now and again.

With respect to other leagues that have also churned out multiple MVP winners, Super Bowl champions and future Hall of Famers at quarterback, what is it about the Pac-12 Conference that produces the best and most accomplished passers in the game?

 

Style of Offense

With all the innovation taking place in the game of football, offensive schemes are rarely categorized as simply "pro-style" or "West Coast" anymore. There are spread offenses that mix in West Coast passing schemes, up-tempo systems that occasionally slow it down and bully you up the middle and pretty much everything in between.

But when San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh unveiled the West Coast offense back in the '80s, it changed the way the game was played and directly led to much of the tremendous quarterback play we see today.

Nearly every team from the current Pac-12 has run some variation of the offense in its history, and the quarterbacks produced by these systems have often gone on to have long, productive NFL careers. But at the same time, the variety of offenses out west has also helped signal-callers develop a unique skill set, and one that doesn't hinge solely on a single trait such as arm strength or mobility.

Rodgers may have benefited from the coaching styles of Jeff Tedford while at Cal, but you can go all the way back to 1970 and find Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett leading the Stanford Cardinal, meaning the great play didn't begin when Walsh's 49ers began their reign.

The game has changed, of course, and Plunkett's 2,980 yards passing and 19 touchdowns in his award-winning season wouldn't draw a second glance in 2014. Heck, the strong-armed Plunkett tossed 19 interceptions the same year!

But as the game has evolved, so has the Pac-12, and after Plunkett came Oregon's Dan Fouts, who still sits in 11th place on the NFL's career passing yardage list. The next generation looks to be guys like Hundley and Mariota, both of whom play in completely different schemes than Plunkett and Fouts and, yet, have success written all over their paths ahead.

In no other league will you be able to trace the evolution of the game as well as the Pac-12, and the ever-changing offensive schemes have played a big role in the conference producing so many standout quarterbacks at the next level.

 

Talent-Rich Area

If you follow recruiting even a little bit, you probably know that Florida, Texas and California are the most talent-rich states by a mile and a half. But it's difficult to argue against California as having the best crop of signal-callers each year, and this year is a terrific example.

Of the 19 quarterbacks who attended the Elite 11 Camp in Beaverton, Oregon, seven hailed from the state of California. Two more players reside in Washington and Arizona, respectively, which means the West Coast gave the unique event nearly half of its competitors.

But consider this: Of the nine players hailing from Pac-12 country, a whopping six are already committed to play for Pac-12 schools.

Rosen and Town lead the way along with Waller, a highly touted recruit in his own right set to play ball for the Ducks. Then there's White, an Arizona State commit, along with Ross Bowers and Sam Darnold, who have pledged their skills to Cal and USC, respectively.

With more than 100 FBS schools across the country, it's remarkable that nearly one-third of the top 19 prep quarterbacks (according to the Elite 11 guest list, at least; there are always diamonds in the rough) are headed to the Pac-12.

With that said, will anyone really be surprised when the conference continues to dominate through the air over the next few years?

Using one recruiting class might not be fair, but then you see future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Rodgers both calling California home. Despite Brady playing in the Big Ten, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny the fact that the best high school quarterbacks are often out west.

And sure, schools like Alabama will steal players like Blake Barnett and not every great local kid stays close to home. After all, places like Tallahassee, Ann Arbor and Knoxville, just to name a few, have a lot to offer.

But when that much talent is groomed in the conference's most fertile recruiting ground, the league stands to benefit. And it has.

 

Developing the Talent

Let's be very clear that our final point isn't insinuating that other conferences don't know how to properly develop quarterbacks. If that were the case, no 3-star or lower would ever make it big anywhere outside the West Coast. However, the Pac-12 is excellent at taking players and making them better from day one.

This process is more impressive when the player in question was overlooked out of high school, but it's just as important with the stars.

Matt Barkley arrived at USC with a lot of fanfare, and in year one he managed to beat Ohio State in Columbus. Despite a senior season that was rather puzzling, he was one of the nation's top players after his junior season and may very well have been a top-10 pick had he opted for the draft instead of returning to school.

UCLA's Hundley is another example of a player who arrived in Westwood with a 4-star ranking in tow. He's improved each year and enters his junior campaign as one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates. But again, those are examples of two players destined for greatness from the beginning.

Head north to Oregon and you'll find two other players, equally as important to their teams if not more so, who ended high school with little fanfare. Oregon State's Mannion was a 3-star player who didn't come anywhere near an Elite 11 invite, and the Ducks' Mariota went from 3-star to superstar the moment he took the field in his first start.

Even Rodgers had to begin his career in junior college before transferring over to Cal and being molded by Tedford's offense into one of the top prospects in the country.

Again, talent is developed at every program around the country to some degree. How apparent that is to those outside the program often has a direct correlation with the team's overall success. But the Pac-12 in this year alone boasts Mariota, Mannion, Kelly and Connor Halliday as former middling high school prospects who are now considered solid-to-elite at the college level.

Having talent to begin with is important, and exposing these players to a variety of different offenses can only help with NFL preparation. But without solid coaching and consistent improvement, the league wouldn't have the same reputation of producing top-flight signal-callers.

In a year where the Pac-12 appears to be head and shoulders above the competition at quarterback—ESPN's Pac-12 Blog lists 10 out of 12 teams as being in "good or great shape"—it's only appropriate to identify why that might be the case. And with an exciting crop of young guns set to enter the fray in 2015, don't expect things to change anytime soon.

 

All stats via Sports-Reference.com. All recruiting information via 247Sports. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.

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Why Pac-12 Football Turns Out the Best NFL QBs

It's no secret that as we enter into the 2014 college football season, the cradle of quarterbacks is located out west in the Pac -12 (sorry, Purdue)...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Clemson Football: Previewing 3 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

After the Clemson Tigers finished off the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl, the biggest concern for head coach Dabo Swinney heading into the offseason was who his starting quarterback would be for the 2014 season.

Three-year starter Tajh Boyd was gone, and the race to replace him was on. Rising senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and true freshman Deshaun Watson were supposed to be competing to replace Boyd all throughout fall camp.

They aren't.

Shortly after the spring game, Swinney named Stoudt the starting quarterback, dismissed Kelly from the team and Watson missed part of the spring due to a shoulder injury. So what was expected to be Clemson's top position battle throughout the offseason was already settled. 

Other positions remain unsettled, though. Remember, Clemson lost both Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant at wide receiver. The Tigers return a lot of talent at the position, but Watkins and Bryant's production from 2013 will be difficult to replace.

 

No. 1 Wide Receiver

Clemson's leading returning receiver this fall is senior Adam Humphries. Humphries was third on the team last season with 41 receptions. However, he's suited best for the slot. He isn't the type of player defenses will game-plan around. He is a steady and reliable receiver who should get lots of targets from Stoudt.

Sophomore Mike Williams has everything you look for in an elite receiver. He's big (6'3", 205), fast, strong and has good ball skills. As a freshman in 2013, Williams battled drops, though. If he can improve his concentration and run better routes, he could be Clemson's next star receiver. 

Humphries and Williams are expected to start at two of the three starting wide receiver positions, per the team's updated depth chart

The player to keep an eye on is junior Charone Peake. Peake, who missed most of 2013 with a torn ACL, was a member of the prized 2011 recruiting class that also featured Watkins and Bryant. He's ready for his chance to shine now. 

Peake showed signs of breaking out as a sophomore when he caught 25 passes, good for fifth on the team in 2012. He's actually listed as Clemson's third starter, but he will compete with sophomore Germone Hopper and a trio of true freshmen receivers. Hopper is another exciting player; however, he doesn't possess Hopper's size (6'2", 205).

The biggest question surrounding Peake is health. Is he fully recovered from last season's knee injury? He believes so, per David Hood of TigerNet.com:

During last summer and fall camp I improved so much. I feel like it's still in me, too. It shouldn't be a problem with the redshirt and two years (of eligibility) left. That'll be on me. I think I'll build my confidence, get my cuts right and plant more off my left knee during the summer before camp gets here. I'm already moving a lot and can sprint. I'm already working on some side-to-side stuff, too. I'm going to be 100-percent by the time the summer hits. When we start drills with the team, I'll be ready. 

Peake is certainly optimistic, and that is good news for Clemson fans. He can be a special player. 

 

Running Back

There is no clear-cut starter at running back for Clemson. The Tigers have a pair of upperclassmen, senior D.J. Howard and junior Zac Brooks, currently atop the depth chart.

But how long will it stay that way?

Neither player will remind anyone of former backs C.J. Spiller, Andre Ellington or even James Davis. Howard has 581 career rushing yards, while Brooks has just 365. Howard is a physical runner that will work best in a platoon.

The player to keep an eye on is redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman.

Gallman had a strong spring and has the game-breaking speed that neither Brooks nor Howard possess. While Gallman is fast, he isn't an outside runner. He has shown the ability to run between the tackles and get the tough yards. He could be an asset in the passing game, too. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris likes getting his running backs involved.

The biggest question facing Gallman is if can he play on third downs. Yes, he would be an ideal third-down back due to his speed, but can he thrive in pass protection in his first year of college football?

That is likely what coaches will be wanting to see from Gallman during fall camp.

Two other players, junior C.J. Davidson and freshman Tyshon Dye, will also figure into the mix. Dye ruptured his Achilles in February, so his availability for this season is still in question. He missed his freshman season due to injuries. 

Davidson is another intriguing player. A former track star, Davidson does have the speed to compete for playing time and will have a chance to show coaches he deserves to be on the field. 

 

Right Tackle

Clemson lost very good starters from its offensive line last year. Left tackle Brandon Thomas and guard Tyler Shatley are gone. However, the Tigers have some experienced players ready to step in.

Isaiah Battle will replace Thomas on the left side, but who will start at the tackle position opposite of him?

Juniors Joe Gore and Shaq Anthony are currently battling it out, and by all appearances that competition will continue into fall camp. 

Who has the advantage?

Anthony has more experience, having started three games in 2013 and having played in 17 games throughout his career. Gore has never started a game but has played in 12 games.

Both players are athletic, though Anthony is better in pass protection. Gore is bigger (6'5", 300) and also a better run-blocker. In Morris' offense, the offensive linemen must have good lateral quickness, and both Anthony and Gore have that. 

Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell recently spoke to the media about both players, per Mandrallius Robinson of The Greenville News.

On Gore: 

Joe's biggest nemesis has been his hands, learning to use his hands. Athletically, physically, he has everything. He's got to do a good job studying and learning. So much happens on the edge, you've got to communicate.

And Caldwell had this to say about Anthony:

He came from a throwing system, which is great. Everybody does that. Run-blocking has been his nemesis. He's really improved that. He had a great spring. It's coming. He's added weight. He's gotten stronger. He's got to commit himself to doing that and learning to play with his pads down.

Many talented young offensive tackles struggle with pad level. It's no surprise that Anthony struggled in that area. However, he has improved and his suspension for the season opener could be the only thing keeping him from being named the starter now. He has opened the door for Gore, and he has taken advantage of it. 

But if Anthony reports to fall camp in shape, he will be tough to beat. 

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Ranking 10 Best SEC Football Teams of BCS Era

Picking the best SEC football teams during their dominant run through the BCS era essentially means nitpicking some of the strongest teams in recent memory.

SEC football fans hope they will find the same success the conference enjoyed during the BCS era, when it ran off nine total national championships and seven consecutive titles.

Of course, hosting two of the all-time great coaches certainly doesn’t hurt.

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer represent six of the top 10 teams during the BCS era and one honorable mention team each as well.

Emerging as SEC champion carried great honor during the BCS era—and whoever came out of the conference was expected to bring home the national hardware.

With the College Football Playoff era upon us, we take today to look back on the best teams the BCS era had to offer.

How good is this group of teams? Not even a national championship secures a spot in the countdown.

We measure the top 10 teams by considering win-loss records while also factoring in margins of victory (both total and against quality competition). Other components considered were the overall talent on the teams and their strength of schedule.

Here is our list.

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Nate Craig to Auburn: Tigers Land 2016 5-Star WR Prospect

The Auburn Tigers have gotten a big jump on their 2016 recruiting class, getting an early commitment from 5-star wide receiver Nate Craig on Monday.

Craig, who hails from Tampa Catholic High School in Florida, tweeted the news of his college decision:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Craig is the No. 2 receiver in his class and the 17th-best prospect overall. The site also lists him at 6'3" and 205 pounds, while ESPN.com (subscription required) notes that Craig runs a 4.62-second 40-yard dash.

Allie Davison of Rivals.com spoke with one scout who had particularly high praise for the dynamic playmaker:

There is no question that Craig is a special talent, and he will bring a dynamic element to Auburn's offense. Already possessing an enviable blend of size and speed, Craig figures to only get faster and stronger once he moves on to the collegiate level.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is creative with his game plans, though he has often relied heavily on the rushing attack in both of his recent stints with the program.

That was especially true in his first season at the helm, when Malzahn guided the Tigers to the national title game. Adding someone like Craig will open up both dimensions of the offense. Presuming Auburn continues recruiting well and running the ball with similar effectiveness, it will set up Craig for plenty of big plays.

Craig has outstanding ball skills that suggest uncommon instincts and feel for the game. What also stands out is his field vision once the ball is in his hands. Stretching the field vertically and being such a threat on quick screens and short passes will make Craig a nightmare for SEC defensive coordinators in the years to come.

The route tree deployed by the Tigers' passing game also isn't likely to be overwhelming in its complexity. It's important for Craig to continue developing and refining his technique in that regard, but the fit at Auburn should allow him to make an immediate impact, too.

Malzahn has demonstrated the capability to capitalize on the strengths of his skill players. It should be no different with a wideout like Craig at his disposal. This is a great fit for both parties—one that should allow Craig to grow into one of the premier prospects from the class of 2016.

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Kliff Kingsbury's Expensive Breitling Watch May Have Been a Fake

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury has a reputation for being one of the best-looking and best-dressed coaches in college football. He recently garnered some attention on Twitter when he showed off a Breitling Mulliner Tourbillon model watch, which retails for more than $100,000.

The folks at Deadspin, with the help of a tipster, discovered that Kingsbury's watch looks very similar to the fake Breitlings that sell on the Internet for about $100. Some informed watch enthusiasts from the forum BreitlingSource.com confirmed the claim, calling the timepiece an obvious fake.

Although slightly embarrassing, Kingsbury has at least saved himself a lot of money if the watch is indeed a fake.

[Deadspin]

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