NCAA Football

USC Football: How Marqise Lee Declaring for NFL Draft Impacts Trojan Offense

Late Friday night, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee announced that he will forgo his senior year and enter the 2014 NFL draft. The junior wide receiver leaves USC with 248 receptions for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Breaking Down Jameis Winston's Biggest Obstacles to Becoming an MLB Star

Jameis Winston wants the best of both worlds, but can he actually be a star quarterback in the National Football League and a Major League Baseball player at the same time?

The vast majority of the sports world knows Winston as the playmaking, Heisman Trophy-winning QB for Florida State, but the freak athlete is also a member of the Seminoles baseball team as a right-handed pitcher and outfielder.

Before his award-winning campaign in football this fall, Winston, who turns 20 on Jan. 6, spent last spring splitting his time on the mound and in the outfield. In 17 appearances as a pitcher—all in relief—he threw 27 innings, allowing only nine earned runs (3.00 ERA) and just 18 hits (.176 BAA) with a 21-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Meanwhile, in 41 games as a position player, the switch-hitting Winston went 28-for-119 (.235 BA) at the plate with 10 extra-base hits (no homers), 22 walks and 33 strikeouts.

Given his pedigree, profile, athleticism and specs—he's listed at 6'4" and 220 pounds on his official Seminoles bio page—Winston's best path for baseball is to make use of his electric right arm, the one that throws touchdown passes by the bushel as well as mid-90s heat and frozen ropes from right field.

Winston recently indicated that he's of the mind to continue his dream of playing both football and baseball professionally. Winston, who will play in the BCS Championship Game against Auburn on Jan. 6, said the following, per Jon Solomon of AL.com:

You can do anything you put your mind to. A lot of people are going to say, no way, he's a quarterback, Bo Jackson was a running back. But if I put my mind to it -- and the one thing I always seem to do is gain the trust of my teammates -- if I can convince those guys I can be your quarterback and still go play baseball for the Atlanta Braves or New York Yankees ...

That echoes what Winston told Matthew Muench of ESPN two years ago, when he was a highly sought after recruit in both sports: "A lot of people ask me which sport I will choose. I want to play both. I want to be the next two-sport pro athlete."

Considered a good prospect on the diamond coming out of high school, Winston was actually drafted in 2012 by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round—and likely would have gone higher if not for his commitment to play football at FSU. Still, if he's serious about playing in the NFL and MLB, Winston has a long way to go and a number of obstacles to overcome, like these.

 

History Hurts

The number of athletes who have played in the NFL and MLB at the same time in the past few decades can be counted on one hand.

There's Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan, who was the last to pull off this incredible feat—and Jordan's playing days ended in 2006.

It's not like others haven't tried or at least been considered candidates to do both, either. In fact, there's a rather extensive list of players drafted in both baseball and football.

Sticking within just the past handful of years, two-sport stars like Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies prospect Kyle Parker and Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Zach Lee—to name just a few notables—were successful in both football and baseball at the high school and/or college levels. All three wound up choosing baseball over football, foregoing the idea of attempting both.

On the other side, Russell Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2010, but after two seasons in the low minors, he went the opposite direction and is now the star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.

Those who managed to make it to the NFL and MLB, well, that is simply a very, very special—and small—batch of athletes.

 

The Quarterback Challenge

It's no secret that quarterback is the most difficult position to master in the NFL. They're not called "field generals" for nothing. Among all positions, the quarterback has the most to learn, prepare for and grow into.

"I guess the main concern was the physical end of it," said Rick Patterson, Winston's baseball coach at Hueytown High School, per Solomon, "especially being quarterback in football and learning the game."

That brings us back to those three names again—Jackson, Sanders and Jordan. You'll remember that none of those three were quarterbacks: Jackson was a running back, while Sanders and Jordan played in the defensive backfield.

That puts even more on Winston's shoulders, since he'll be expected to be the franchise player for an NFL team at the most important position in the sport.

 

Football Fame and Riches

Coming off his star-making turn as the Heisman winner as a redshirt freshman, Winston has taken the football world by storm. Much as he may want to play baseball, this has to have him picturing a career filled with the fame and riches that come along with being a high-profile quarterback in the NFL.

Sure, there are all sorts of dangers—including life-altering kinds—in playing professional football, but it's tough to imagine that Winston would be tempted to potentially hinder his burgeoning football career for the chance at, what, being a hard-throwing pitcher whose best outcome in baseball might be as a late-inning reliever?

In terms of career path, prestige and salary, that's not really a comparison that makes it worth compromising the former to also be the latter.

 

Baseball Development

Similar to the way quarterback is the most challenging position in football, baseball is, in many ways, typically the more challenging sport to break into as a rookie.

At this stage of his career, Winston is clearly more advanced in football than in baseball. That's unfortunate because baseball usually requires more in terms of time, effort and development in order to reach the highest level.

As proven every year, football players can step off a college campus and have immediate success in the NFL. By comparison, though, even the most big league-ready collegiate baseball players spend at least a season or two in the minor leagues.

That's the sort of thing that might try Winston's patience, especially if he breaks into the NFL in a big way.

Besides, whereas Winston is a quarterback in football, he would have that whole hitter-or-pitcher decision to make on the diamond.

Sure, Winston did manage last year to get three hits off Carlos Rodon—presumed to be the No. 1 overall pick in next June's MLB draft—as fellow Bleacher Report MLB lead writer Joe Giglio pointed out for the News Observer. But as mentioned above, given his arm, his best baseball path is on the mound.

Except that would only serve to make Winston even more rare, since there isn't exactly a lengthy history of NFL players who have made it to the majors as a pitcher. In case your memory needs to be jogged, Jackson, Sanders and Jordan were all outfielders.

 

Contract Clauses

There's also the strong likelihood that whichever NFL team drafts Winston once he declares is going to force him to give up baseball and focus solely on pigskin.

Winston will have some leverage in that matter—he could ask for more money, for instance—but it's tough to imagine any NFL franchise being just fine with the potential No. 1 overall pick spending some of his time on the baseball field.

Certainly, it would behoove Winston's football team to work a clause into his contract that prevents him from continuing his baseball career as long as he's in the NFL. That might come across as the team restricting or limiting a player's options or rights, but it's simply a matter of the team protecting itself.

 

Injury Issues

Continuing that thought, can you imagine the controversy were Winston to become a star QB, only to blow out his arm while pitching, and thus interrupting or ending his quarterbacking career?

Or how about the inverse: What if Winston becomes a star closer for an MLB team but has his shoulder wrecked while being tackled on the football field?

Teams in both sports pay players way too much money today to allow them to risk their future by playing in two physically demanding professional leagues.

Double dipping on sports at the professional level is only going to increase the chances that Winston suffers a serious injury or three along the way, which could ruin his career in not one, but two sports at the same time.

Just ask Jackson.

None of this is to say that Winston won't be able to go pro in both the NFL and MLB. In fact, odds are that he will be drafted in both in the coming years, so he very well could have the option and opportunity. Whether he can make it, though—or rather, whether he's allowed to make it—is another question.

And another obstacle.

 

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tajh Boyd Intercepted on Impressive Grab from Vonn Bell in Sugar Bowl

Tajh Boyd got a little too cute in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State, as Matt Millen was saying on the broadcast.

Rolling out to the right with the Clemson Tigers up 14-9 on the Buckeyes, Boyd decided to try to flip a pass to his intended receiver in the end zone.  Vonn Bell had different ideas, coming up with an impressive interception on a one-handed grab to keep the Tigers from scoring.

The defense for Clemson was able to hold up, however, forcing a three-and-out against the Buckeyes on the ensuing drive.

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Marqise Lee Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

After a disappointing junior season in which he missed several games due to injury and saw his production wane significantly, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee has decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

Lee announced the decision on Twitter:

Lee finished the 2013 season with 57 receptions for 791 yards and four touchdowns, a far cry from the pristine numbers he posted in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. However, he made a strong statement in USC's 45-20 trouncing of Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, ending his career on a high note with seven catches for 118 yards while finding the end zone twice.

In 2011, he caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6'0", 195-pound wideout then exceeded those numbers with a whopping 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 scores in 2012.

He finished fourth in the 2012 Heisman Trophy balloting and seemed assured to be in the running for the award again this season. He also won the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which he was the heavy favorite to replicate in 2013. Unfortunately, he never quite got going in his junior year.

Still, it's no surprise that Lee is tossing his name into the NFL hat. He's a surefire first-rounder and likely will be off the board within the first 15 picks. Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register weighed in on Lee's decision:

It's doubtful most scouts or coaches will hold a lost season against him in which he battled through some injuries and was stuck on a Trojans team that underwent a midseason coaching change.

While Clemson's Sammy Watkins will likely be the first receiver off the board, either Lee or perhaps Mike Evans of Texas A&M will likely be the next one taken. And after aches and pains hampered him in his third season, Lee probably has decided that another year of college football isn't worth the risk with a big paycheck in his future.

In the NFL, his ability to separate from defenders, run crisp routes and make plays after the catch will make him a dangerous weapon for whichever team drafts him.

His junior season may have been a disappointment, but expect nothing but big things from Lee at the next level.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cotton Bowl 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Missouri Tigers

Both Oklahoma State and Missouri are looking to finish off very successful seasons with a win in the 2014 Cotton Bowl. The Tigers came up short in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn, but a trip to the Cotton Bowl is much more then what Tigers fans expected after a 5-7 record last year.

The Tigers are looking to cap off an incredible surprise season Friday night with a 12th victory and a Cotton Bowl title.

Stay tuned for live game grades and analysis throughout.

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Army All-America Bowl 2014: Ranking the Top 10 Defensive Recruits

The Army All-American Bowl caps off an incredible journey for dozens of standout high school seniors. The action takes center stage at 1 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon on NBC, broadcast live from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

The nation's premier offensive playmakers aim to steal the spotlight, but they must contend with elite defenders at every position. We rank the top 10 defensive stars to watch during a highly anticipated matchup.

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Orange Bowl 2014 Clemson vs. Ohio State: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Buckeyes

Ohio State 22, Clemson 20 - Third Quarter

No. 7 Ohio State is battling No. 12 Clemson in the highly anticipated Discover Orange Bowl. 

Stay tuned for live game grades and analysis of the heated matchup.

For complete stats, check out NCAA.com.

First-half analysis for the Ohio State Buckeyes

Pass Offense: Braxton Miller spent the majority of the first half running for his life. The Buckeyes quarterback was sacked three times and completed just three passes midway through the second quarter, but a fast finish to the half gave Ohio State a huge lift.

Run Offense: Ohio State’s third-ranked rushing offense was shut down by Clemson’s active defensive front. Outside of a 33-yard touchdown run from Miller, the Buckeyes had no explosive plays on the ground and rushed for just 85 yards.

Run Defense: Ohio State has been good against the run this season, but Clemson found a lot of success against the Buckeyes. Tajh Boyd cut right through Ohio State’s defense on a 48-yard touchdown run to open the game, as Clemson piled up 139 rushing yards on just 18 carries.

Pass Defense: As expected, Boyd and the Clemson receivers took what they wanted against Ohio State’s beleaguered secondary. Ohio State gave up 224 yards and two touchdowns through the air, although Vonn Bell did snag a pivotal interception inside Ohio State's 5-yard line.

Special Teams: Two huge special teams plays lifted the Buckeyes early. On Ohio State’s first drive, Meyer called for a fake punt that tight end Jeff Heuerman executed perfectly. Later, punter Cameron Johnston pinned Clemson’s offense at the 1-yard line, which led to a safety for the Ohio State defense.

Coaching: Without that fake punt call and the final two offensive drives, the first half would have been a complete disaster for Urban Meyer and the coaching staff. Ohio State consistently tried to pound the ball inside despite Clemson stuffing the run, but the Buckeyes adjusted and went to the air to close out the half. 

 

 

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Penn State Recruiting: Michael O'Connor Waiting Patiently for Coaching Hire

Florida 4-star quarterback Michael O'Connor has spent the past several days in St. Petersburg, Florida preparing for and playing in the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday.

It was a great experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Being around the best players from all over the country—big time college players—was really helpful. Getting to see where you stand against the best players was a really beneficial experience before going to college.

 

O'Connor got to spend time getting to know future teammates Chris Godwin and DeAndre Thompkins, both of whom have committed to play receiver for the Nittany Lions.

But the week wasn't all roses for the young signal-caller.

Having lost his future QB coach in Charlie Fisher in early December and future head coach in Bill O'Brien this week, O'Connor's future is unclear:

It was nice having all of us (Thompkins, Godwin, Thomas Holley) together through it all to get each other's perspective. It was tough for all of us but we're all going through the same thing and we bonded from it. Those guys are really cool.

 

Despite reports that the quarterback had decided not to enroll early, O'Connor told me that he "wasn't sure yet," adding "if there is a new coach in place soon enough, and everything works out, that's still a possibility."

Since O'Brien's move to the NFL, O'Connor has been contacted by Rutgers, Michigan, UCLA and Michigan State, with the Spartans among his final two choices with Penn State. Despite his situation and interest from other programs, O'Connor emphatically replied "No" when asked if he had intentions of visiting any other schools.

As far as the rumors surrounding the Penn State coaching search, O'Connor has a previous relationship with James Franklin. He camped at Vanderbilt before being offered by the Commodore's head coach.

I got to sit down and meet with Coach Franklin in his office. He's a great coach and I have a lot of respect for him. We'll see where it goes but he'd be a great hire for Penn State and it was an honor to be recruited by him.

 

As far as Al Golden goes, O'Connor admitted to having been recruited by Miami but said he never got to speak with the head coach and "doesn't know much about Coach Golden."

Interim head coach Larry Johnson told the media on Friday that he is trying to organize a mass visit from the committed players on the weekend of Jan. 17. 

O'Connor has heard about the weekend but said, "I took my official visit the weekend of the Nebraska game, so I wouldn't be able to go on that weekend...but, I mean, I might already be enrolled by then."

 

 

 

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Army All-American Bowl 2014: Top Combine Stars and Fastest 40 Times

With the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl set for Saturday, another round of elite senior recruits will be showcasing their talent on a national stage. 

However, many 2015 prospects are also in San Antonio to show what they can do at the U.S. Army National Combine. This is a great event for juniors and sophomores to attend, as it allows them to test and compete with other underclassmen with college-level talent.

Among the many participants, a few stars have emerged at the event via their testing results.

NOTE: 40-yard dash times are hand-held times, as electronic/FAT results were not available to the public at time of publish. 

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Orange Bowl 2014: Live Score and Highlights for Clemson vs. Ohio State

Stars.

Lots and lots of stars.

The 2014 Orange Bowl certainly won't lack in name value, either individually or by team, as 12-1 Ohio State takes on 10-2 Clemson in Miami—reason enough to tune in to what many believe will be a wild shootout, given the respective offenses.

Ohio State has dynamic quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, as formidable a 1-2 backfield punch as any team in the country. Clemson has quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, as good a pass-and-catch combo as there is.

Both teams will be nursing hangovers coming in. Clemson—who had already lost badly at home to Florida State earlier in the season—comes in after losing the state championship to South Carolina in the regular-season finale (something Steve Spurrier was quick to mention, after winning the Capital One Bowl). Ohio State, of course, was so close to being in the national title game before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship.

Interestingly enough, this is only the second time these two teams have met. But the first time was memorable: the 1978 Gator Bowl, won by Clemson, but best remembered for being Ohio State coach Woody Hayes' last game—after he punched a Clemson linebacker, following a late-game interception. 

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Blake Bortles and Girlfriend Lindsey Duke Are Sports' Hottest Couple in 2014

Push past the Tannehills, slip on by Katherine Webb and A.J. McCarron, and you'll find the year already belongs to Duke and Bortles. 

We are of course referring to Lindsey Duke, the young woman who continues to garner a great deal of attention while her University of Central Florida quarterback boyfriend, Blake Bortles, continues to wade in relative obscurity. 

Now, "obscurity" may be too harsh of a term, but you would struggle to find those outside of ardent football fan circles who would quickly recognize his name, which is remarkable considering what many seem to think about his prospects outside of college. 

The junior quarterback helped the Knights down Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, 52-42, garnering 301 yards and three touchdowns by air and 93 yards and a TD on the ground. 

CBS Sports' Rob Rang seems to think Bortles has a lot to think about before committing for one more season with UCF, offering that he is, "a young quarterback with intriguing traits but whose technique might require a bit more polish before heading to the NFL."

Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval is far more positive in highlighting a kid who was once, "an unheralded 3-star recruit." Now he's someone who The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi considers as better than Daunte Culpepper was while playing for UCF. 

So people are talking, they just aren't clicking. That's what we glean from the funny video that follows tipping fans off to the amazing manner in which Duke surpasses her QB beau in popularity. 

The New York Daily News, and many others, picked up on that video featuring ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski asking Bortles and head coach George O'Leary about the immense popularity surrounding Duke. 

O'Leary certainly wins in the quote department, "I would hope as a head coach that the numbers would be reversed, but obviously you haven’t seen his girlfriend. She deserves six million Googles."

Here is a pic of the couple from Duke's Instagram feed, followed by some more of the Internet sensation and her boyfriend. 

They deserve all of the Googles. 

The obvious notion, regardless of Bortles' decision, is that we have our winner for sports couple of the year. 

Lauren Tannehill was all the rage when her husband, Ryan Tannehill, was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2012, and she made a splash after being featured on HBO's Hard Knocks later that year

In 2013, it was all Katherine Webb, the model who overshadowed her star quarterback boyfriend, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, during the 2013 BCS championship game

In 2014, it's all Bortles and Duke—a couple who doesn't need Brent Musburger or draft night to dominate the Googles. 

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UCLA Football: Would Asiantii Woulard Be Ready to Take the Reins in 2014?

It's not known what Brett Hundley's decision will be. 

UCLA's star quarterback is a redshirt sophomore. As such, he has the choice of potentially leaving school early in favor of the NFL.

Hundley ended this season in great fashion, throwing for 226 yards and rushing for 161 yards in a 42-12 victory over Virginia Tech. 

During his career at Westwood, the signal-caller from Chandler, Ariz. has broken numerous UCLA records. Hundley established marks in single-season completions, single-season passing yardage and single-season total offense. 

Based on physical ability, Hundley would likely be a first or second-round draft choice in the 2014 NFL Draft.

It could behoove Hundley to stay an extra year in college. The quarterback position in the NFL is at such a premium. Quarterbacks entering the professional ranks are expected to compete right away and perform. If one is a high draft pick, the pressure is intensified even further. 

Hundley, while a great athlete, isn't completely polished. His vision from within the pocket could stand to improve. His accuracy on deeper routes hasn't been great, and overall consistency is an aspect of Hundley's game that he could improve. 

Regardless of the nitpicking, he stands to be a hot commodity, should he enter the draft. 

In the event that Hundley does leave, it'll likely be up to redshirt Asiantii Woulard to take the reins of the UCLA offense. 

Woulard came to UCLA under interesting circumstances. He was a long-time commitment to South Florida. The Palm Bay, Fla. native ended up changing his mind and opened up his recruiting process. 

UCLA was very fortunate in signing the 4-star prospect. As per Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, Jim Mora even mentioned on signing day in 2013 that, "[The Bruins], quite frankly, got lucky that he was out there and available when he was. The stars kind of aligned for us."

Woulard was an unheralded prospect until bursting onto the scene in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp. Prior to his junior year, Woulard was a wide receiver. His junior season was the first in which Woulard even played as a quarterback. 

At the Elite 11, Woulard won MVP honors. According to Bryan Fischer of CBSSports.com, camp counselor and former NFL quarterback, Trent Dilfer spoke about Woulard in an extremely positive manner. When asked why Woulard won the event, Dilfer said: "Greatness is making the highly difficult look very easy and that's what Asiantii did."

As a result of his rapid development, ESPN had Woulard as its No. 1 dual-threat quarterback for 2013.

Woulard redshirted this past season. In the same article (as above) by the Los Angeles Daily News' Jack Wang, it was reported how incredibly impressive Woulard looked in fall camp. He flashed a big-time arm and nice mobility.

He isn't a finished prospect by any stretch. Woulard is still very new to the quarterback position, and he will have to work on learning the nuances and intricacies of the position. 

A potential departure by Hundley will likely thrust Woulard into the limelight. Based on his interviews, he's an intelligent and calm individual with confidence. He doesn't appear as if he'd get rattled very easily. 

As for his physical traits, he should be able to be a nice fit in Noel Mazzone's offense. Growing pains would likely come in his redshirt freshman campaign. There would be an adjustment period in terms of getting actual time in a college game. 

From a pure talent standpoint, Woulard's upside is infinite. Best case scenario would have Hundley man the position for one more year. Woulard would take over as a redshirt sophomore with two years of polishing under his proverbial belt. 

 

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UCLA Football: Would Asiantii Woulard Be Ready to Take the Reins in 2014?

It's not known what Brett Hundley's decision will be. UCLA's star quarterback is a redshirt sophomore. As such, he has the choice of potentially leaving school early in favor of the NFL...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Orange Bowl 2014 Clemson vs. Ohio State: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers

The season started off with such high hopes for both teams, but for the Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes, disappointment is the best way to describe their current feelings.

However, both teams still have a lot of pride and want to show they're still among the best teams in the country as they square off in the Orange Bowl (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Both have a lot on the line for their conferences, as the ACC is currently 3-6 in bowl games while the Big Ten is 2-4.

So, who will come out on top?

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Needs a Quick Coaching Decision Regarding Charlie Strong or James Franklin

The Texas Longhorns football program needs decide quickly whether Charlie Strong or James Franklin should be the next head coach. This means that a coach must be in place before the Jan. 15 deadline set made by athletic director Steve Patterson.

If not, things could get messy.

As the new year begins to age, a couple of coaches have withdrawn their names from consideration for the Longhorns job. This includes Baylor's Art Briles, via BaylorBears.com, and UCLA's Jim Mora, via Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.

With both Briles and Mora out of the picture, whom does that leave available for the Texas job? Nick Saban? He's also personally denied rumors. Yet, only speculation revolves around the idea of Saban actually coming to Texas. Maybe Florida State's Jimbo Fisher would be interested in listening to an offer from the Longhorns? Or maybe his quarterback, Jameis Winston, is just mocking the situation and Fisher would never leave, via @AP_Top25.

A wish list by Texas appears to have only been made by fans and donors. Jon Gruden, a rumored candidate, said, per Will Brinson of CBS Sports in a December 2013 article, "I don't want to be considered for any of these jobs." That was in reference to NFL job openings, but he went on to say, "I don't want to be considered for anything."

Nonetheless, there's still support for the current Monday Night Football announcer and even for Saban even after both denied leaving their current jobs. Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com joined KRLD-FM in Dallas Fort-Worth on Jan. 2 to discuss how the man in charge of the coaching hire, Patterson, isn't giving the same support that others are, via SportsDay DFW.

I think there's support for Jon Gruden, but I don't think Steve Patterson (Texas AD) is one of them. When you talk about Jon Gruden, I think that will fizzle. Saban, I just think there's too much that's already happened. There's no question Mack Brown did not want Nick Saban to succeed him.

Who is Patterson considering now? Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly laughed off rumors, per Brinson, and San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh made a humorous response to coaching rumors, per Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports. Bob Labriola of Steelers.com reported that Mike Tomlin had no interest in going back to college. And Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston reported on Twitter that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is not interested in Texas.

So while message board and Twitter users still might believe that one of the above mentioned coaches is coming to Texas, they've all denied. Currently, Louisville's Charlie Strong and Vanderbilt's James Franklin are solid candidates for the Longhorns. Per Orangeblood.com's Chip Brown on Twitter, both are among finalists for the job.

Strong's season is wrapped up while Franklin's Commodores play in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday. So why must Texas make a decision regarding the pair sooner rather than later?

Penn State is the key after former head coach Bill O'Brien left for the Houston Texans. The Nittany Lions are in the same search as the Longhorns and have made an offer to Miami's Al Golden, per BlueWhiteOnline.com via @Tim_OwenBWI.

And Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com reports via Twitter that Franklin will interview for the Penn State job on Sunday. So, about that mess? Well, if Franklin takes the Nittany Lions job then the Longhorns lose him as a coaching hire. Still, he's awaiting that interview.

However, if Miami's Golden accepts the Penn State job, Strong could be considered for the 'Canes job. Jon Madani, program director and host for Sportstalk AM 1300 The Zone in Austin, believes Strong would go to Miami in this instance, via Twitter.

Strong recruits the Miami area very well and went back and forth between jobs with the Florida Gators throughout his coaching career. Fifteen players on his current Louisville roster are from Miami and several others are from the nearby areas. Despite the money that Texas has, Strong could build the Hurricanes program back to up to "The U", especially with his Florida recruiting pipelines.

The longer Texas waits, the worse the potential situations could get. And instead of the Longhorns getting to pick the next coach, they could very easily be left with Franklin picking the Longhorns. Not that he isn't capable of the job, but is he the right fit? Or, maybe there's another name besides Strong and Franklin that Patterson's fond of.

Whatever the case is, it's time for the Longhorns to make a hire a before the carousel gets out of hand.

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Cotton Bowl 2014 Oklahoma State vs. Missouri: Live Score and Highlights

Missouri (11-2) gets a chance to face an old foe when it meets Oklahoma State (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Tigers and Cowboys were regulars on each other's schedules from the 1960s until 2011 as members of the Big 12 (previously Big Eight) Conference, but in 2012, Missouri left to join the SEC. Oklahoma State has won the previous three meetings in the series, taking the last one 45-24 in October 2011.

Both teams missed out on playing in a BCS bowl game by losing their last contest. Missouri was beaten 58-42 by Auburn in the SEC title game, while Oklahoma State fell 33-24 at home to rival Oklahoma in its regular-season finale.

The game is being shown live on Fox, but stick around here for real-time updates, analysis, tweets, pics, GIFs and other nuggets of knowledge from this renewal of an old rivalry.

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Alabama Football Recruiting: Top Remaining Targets for the Crimson Tide

Nick Saban has already helped the Alabama Crimson Tide assemble an imposing recruiting class for 2014, but the Tide have the potential to land a few more stellar young athletes to truly make this group one to remember. 

Alabama has already secured pledges from top-flight recruits, such as Cameron Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and Tony Brown, but Saban isn’t done quite yet. 

Instead, the Tide are waiting on three more big recruits to announce their decisions to fill out the remainder of what most recruiting services consider the top class in the nation.

Only time will tell if Alabama can land each one, but it’s hard to doubt the staff’s recruiting mastery.

 

Matt Elam

Elam may be on the Kentucky Wildcats’ home turf, but the Tide are still considered strong contenders for the 4-star defensive tackle’s services.

It’s no surprise why Alabama is interested; a quick glimpse of his highlight video shows that he could be a force in the middle. 

Mark Stoops and the Wildcats have wooed the Elizabethtown, Ky., native, but it’s impossible to ignore the influence of the Tide. 

"There's a lot to like about Alabama—the defending national champions, the coaching staff, it's just one of the best in the country,” Elam told Wescott Eberts of SB Nation. “And then to get to play on the biggest stages against the best competition, you can't really get that against Kentucky, so there are some pros and cons with that."

Elam, however, might be unable to resist the appeal of his hometown team: 247Sports’ Crystal Ball predictions give Elam a 61 percent chance of choosing Kentucky.

"When Stoops and his staff came in, I feel like they changed the program," Elam told Eberts. "I talked to (Kentucky commit) Drew (Barker) and he was like, 'Man, I wasn't considering them at first, but when Stoops came, I put them to the top of my list.' I feel like that's definitely the case with me, they made such a jump because of what he did at FSU and especially with the defensive line."

Elam plans to announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, so Saban and company won’t know for sure until then.

 

Brian Wallace 

The Tide might’ve already nabbed a stellar offensive tackle in Robinson, but they might able to land another if they can sign Wallace.

The 4-star tackle is a physical beast at 6’6” and 305 pounds, and given his impressive technique, it’s no surprise that Saban has his eye on him.

Wallace is also being pursued by the Arkansas Razorbacks, but it seems increasingly likely that he’ll go with Alabama instead. He’s visited both schools, but he seemed particularly taken with Tuscaloosa. 

"Everyone was telling me how impressive Alabama was, and I actually got a chance to see it for myself," Wallace told 247Sports (subscription required). 

The Crystal Ball prediction for Wallace heavily favors the Tide, giving Alabama a whopping 82 percent chance of landing the tackle. 

Wallace will also wait to announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but it seems like Tide fans can feel pretty confident about his commitment.

 

Marlon Humphrey

The Crimson Tide are surely happy to have landed Brown, widely considered one of the best cornerbacks in the 2014 class; however, Saban isn’t willing to settle for just “one of the best.” Not when Marlon Humphrey, the nation’s top cornerback and the son of former All-American Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey, is still available.

Humphrey may be just 6’1” and 175 pounds, but his speed and technique are both superb, as his highlights suggest. 

While the Tide are largely considered heavy favorites to land Humphrey, one team could swoop in and steal him away, as SB Nation’s Bud Elliott explains

Humphrey's dad Bobby was a star for the Crimson Tide, and son Marlon lives just down the road from Tuscaloosa. If there is a school that can sign Humphrey away from the Tide (it) is Florida State, as Humphrey has a great relationship with Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who coached defensive backs at Alabama for several years previous to joining FSU's staff in 2013. This one will come down to official visits, but (it) is very difficult to pick against the Tide and a chance to be coached by Nick Saban when a five-star Alabama legacy is concerned.

Humphrey has yet to make official visits to either school, but he is set to head to Tallahassee, Fla., on Jan. 17 and Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Jan. 24.

He plans on making his official decision on Feb. 1, but with the Crystal Ball predicting that he has a 95 percent chance to sign with the Tide, the announcement may be a mere formality.

 

Conclusion

Alabama certainly doesn’t need to sign any of these recruits to still have assembled the best class in college football, but on the heels of a disappointing season (by Saban’s crazy standards) and a loss in the Sugar Bowl, it’d be huge for the Tide to prove that they’re still the premier program in college football by completely dominating in the recruiting arena.

The last time Alabama landed a loaded class like this was back in 2009, with a group that included stars such as Trent Richardson, A.J. McCarron, Chance Warmack, Eddie Lacy and Dre Kirkpatrick.

That class produced a bevy of first-round draft picks and a trio of national titles for Saban, and there’s no reason that the Tide won’t aim to accomplish the same things this time around.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marqise Lee vs. Nelson Agholor: Who Will Graduate USC with Better Career?

The inclusion of USC's Marqise Lee in the Jadeveon Clowney-Teddy Bridgewater conversation was not too far-fetched just a year ago.

He was perennially projected as a top-10 NFL draft pick come 2014, and guys like David Moulton of naplesnews.com wished he could be granted eligibility sooner. Such head inflation was premature, as Lee witnessed his stock fall throughout the season due to early drops, nagging injuries and the stigma of Lane Kiffin-influenced origins.

While his most recent performance in the Las Vegas Bowl helped save himself from possible draft-board disappointment, unlike Matt Barkley and Robert Woods, the void left behind in its wake may have allowed Nelson Agholor to surpass him in the ranks of USC lore.

Southern California officially appointed itself "Wide Receiver U" this past June, and the names on its admissions list boast a quantitative argument at least. Transitory success to the professional level this century has been short-lived (Steve Smith), marginal (Keary Colbert; Mike Williams; Damian Williams) or non-existent (Dwayne Jarrett; Patrick Turner; Ronald Johnson). Nonetheless, USC's capability to continuously spit out Biletnikoff candidates and stars in the confines of the Coliseum is indicative of its mainstay offensive prowess.

In order to fit among the lineage, of course, every snap lined up as the flanker or in the slot is invaluable. Lee possesses the edge, having played first, but is there enough time for Agholor to catch up?

As the nation awaits the junior's decision on whether or not to forgo his senior campaign, do Lee's numbers and accolades stack up to be insurmountable? Has Agholor already capitalized on Lee's absence and subsequent head start in leading the Trojans offense as Cody Kessler's primary target? Do scouting reports and box scores outweigh highlights and off-field factors? Who will ultimately be remembered as the superior cardinal n' gold receiver?

It's time for another decathlon presented by the Italian Trojan.

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Marqise Lee vs. Nelson Agholor: Who Will Graduate USC with Better Career?

The inclusion of USC's Marqise Lee in the Jadeveon Clowney -Teddy Bridgewater conversation was not too far-fetched just a year ago...

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking the Best College Football Players to Declare Early for NFL Draft

With time winding down to the Jan. 15 deadline for college football players to declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft, it's the perfect time for a history lesson on the best student-athletes to depart school early to head to the pros.

Texas A&M great and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel still hasn't made his announcement, though a spot on this list will likely be made if he leaves College Station early.

Until then, click on for the list of the 10 best players to leave school early for the NFL draft.

The primary judging factor is the player's collegiate career, seconded by his time in the NFL. Other factors, such as program and historical impact, also play a role in the rankings.

 

Note: Stats via Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

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