NCAA Football

Ohio State Football: 3 Players Who Need to Break out for Buckeyes in 2016

Ohio State lost a wave of superstars with the departures of running back Ezekiel Elliott, linebacker Darron Lee, wide receiver Michael Thomas and 13 other starters from its 2015 team. But with the ever-present expectation of excellence that surrounds the football program, head coach Urban Meyer will need a number of players to break out and have big seasons for the Buckeyes this fall.

The quest to identify those players is underway as the Buckeyes completed the ninth of 15 spring practices on Tuesday. With injuries to some key players and so much youth on the depth chart, Meyer knows he has to start making some tough calls regarding the depth chart.

"We have to make some hard decisions coming up here," Meyer said on Tuesday, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "There’s some guys that are gonna play and some guys that aren’t gonna play."

These three players in particular would provide a huge boost if they're able to break out in 2016. 

 

Mike Weber, Running Back

Throughout the duration of spring camp, the Ohio State coaching staff has routinely talked about the possibility of implementing a running back-by-committee approach for the 2016 season. 

"Will we get to that point? I don't know," Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said, according to Seger. "I guess the question you're asking is if we'll do it by committee? I don't have that answer right now."

The Buckeyes, of course, are replacing do-everything back Ezekiel Elliott, who paced the offense with 4,125 total yards and 41 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Elliott was the answer Ohio State needed after Carlos Hyde, who piled up 2,689 total yards and 35 touchdowns in 2012 and 2013, graduated three years ago.

With the success Ohio State has had with featured backs, it's not a leap to think Meyer would want that in 2015. For that to happen, someone will have to emerge, and that could be redshirt freshman Mike Weber.

The former 4-star prospect came to Columbus last year and surged in fall camp as a true freshman. He was at his best in a fall scrimmage, when he ran the ball 15 times for nearly 200 yards with "a few touchdowns," according to Dave Biddle of 247Sports.

That's the kind of production that could put Ohio State's offense over the top this year, especially with how much talent the unit is replacing. Weber will have to beat out redshirt junior Bri'onte Dunn, though, who's fighting to break his role as a career backup. 

 

Dante Booker, Linebacker

Ohio State is churning out freak linebackers at an alarming rate.

It started in 2013 when outside linebacker Ryan Shazier showcased his outrageous speed—running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at Ohio State's pro day. He had anchored Ohio State's defense for three years and was a first-team All-American in his final season.

A year later, Darron Lee came out of nowhere and became a disruptive nightmare working behind (and sometimes alongside) defensive end Joey Bosa. He became college football's best-kept secret during Ohio State's title run in 2014, then became a household name last season. He showcased why at the NFL combine, posting the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker at 4.47 seconds.

Is Dante Booker next in line?

Booker is slated to take over Joshua Perry's vacated role at outside linebacker, but he's bringing a much higher athleticism to that side of the field.

"Dante is a way better athlete," middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan said when comparing Booker to Perry, according to The Plain Dealer. "When he gets on the field, he does some things y'all haven't seen yet. He's one of the fastest guys on the defense regardless of position, and he just brings that pop."

 

Austin Mack, Wide Receiver

The hype is growing for 4-star wide receiver Austin Mack, who would be getting ready for his high school prom if he hadn't graduated early to enroll at Ohio State and participate in spring practice.

The true freshman turned heads during winter conditioning and caught the eye of Ohio State's unquestioned leader and quarterback J.T. Barrett.

"He's got a little fight in him," Barrett said of Mack, according to Scout's Tim Moody. "That's the thing, when things are hard in our workouts, those are the times you see you're like all right, he's got a little dog in him."

That momentum has carried over to spring practice, where he's garnered rave reviews from both his teammates and the coaching staff. 

"Austin Mack is going to play next year," Meyer said early in spring practice, via Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report. "It's two days and I know it's too early to say that, which I have a tendency to over-evaluate guys and get too excited about them, but he's doing fantastic."

The Buckeyes could certainly use an impact guy on the perimeter.

Ohio State's passing attack struggled last year, ranking 100th nationally with an average of 188.8 yards per game. Losing the team's top three pass-catchers in Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller doesn't help matters either, so the Buckeyes are in desperate need of perimeter playmakers. 

Mack's early graduation and participation in spring camp has certainly helped his cause, and if he continues to impress through the summer and into fall camp, it'll be hard for Ohio State to keep him off the field and opposing defenses to keep him out of the end zone. 

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports

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

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Most Talented 2-Way College Football Players of All Time

Names such as Shaq Thompson, Myles Jack and Jabrill Peppers have recently commanded attention because of their versatility.

But those unique talents are simply leading names in an era not focused on two-way college football players.

For decades, the sport was riddled with guys who starred on both sides of the ball. Many of the best suited up before 1960, claiming national awards and All-American honors.

And these aren't just receivers or cornerbacks who also returned kicks. Rather, they're players who held significant roles on offense and defense—and excelled at both while in college.

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4-Star 2018 QB Jalen Mayden Following Family Footsteps in Recruiting Process

SACHSE, Texas — Many who follow college football recruiting in the Dallas area are well-aware of the strength of the Mayden family genes.

It's something 2018 quarterback Jalen Mayden has gotten used to hearing when he speaks to media members. He's the youngest of three brothers who have made their marks on the football field. Oldest brother James Mayden Jr. has established himself as an electrifying option at wide receiver for Rice. And then there's Jared Mayden, a 4-star cornerback who signed with Alabama in February.

All eyes are now on Jalen, a 6'2", 205-pound quarterback for Sachse High School with seven offers. What may be the telling story is that three of those offers—Bryant University, Houston and Oregon State—all came before he ever started a varsity game.

"I'm just thankful there's someone out there who wants to have me as the face of their program," Mayden said. "I've still got a lot of work to do, though."

As a sophomore, Mayden threw for 2,496 yards and 32 touchdowns and completed 65 percent of his passes (178 of 271). He also rushed for 513 yards and four touchdowns. On Sept. 17, Mayden produced his breakout game, throwing for 540 yards and six touchdowns and completing 28 of 33 attempts in a win for Sachse.

"His accuracy, man," Jared said of his brother. "He really doesn't throw balls that make you think it was a dumb pass. He really improved on his decision-making later on as the season went on."

Oklahoma fans will know his last name because of the quarterback's father. James Mayden Sr., at 6'10", was a center for the Sooners basketball team for two years. The brothers' mother is Katrina Salles, who also went to Oklahoma and is an established name in and around Texas as a recruiting aficionado

All three Mayden sons are athletic, but while dad found his niche on the basketball court, the brothers decided that football was their best avenue for success. From the looks of things, all three made the right decision.

And at different positions, no less.

"I started off playing receiver, but I'd always throw the ball," Jalen said. "I really started liking it, so I'd always ask my brothers to do routes and help with my distance and my accuracy."

"He's had a very blessed walk," Salles said of Jalen. "They say the first one always has it the roughest. He watched James go through the process, then watched Jared do it. Now it's his turn, but he knows what needs to be done on the field and academically. He has the right mindset and is always somewhere working."

Mayden's offer list includes Ohio State, Louisville, Mississippi State and Syracuse, along with his first three offers. In-state programs like Baylor, Texas, TCU and Texas A&M are keeping a close eye on him as the spring progresses, according to his mother.

For Jared, watching his younger brother mature into a quarterback recruit has been a treat. He's one of his biggest critics but also one of his biggest fans. In practices last season, neither one was soft on the other, as they both knew that coddling on the field would only hurt their growth as players.

"He has goals," Jared said of Jalen. "When he first started playing, he would say he didn't think it was going to work. He didn't know if this would be for him. Now he looks like a quarterback. I just sit back and watch him."

Family battles seemed to work out just right. They'd have a quarterback (Jalen) throwing to a receiver (James Jr.) with a cornerback (Jared) looking to lock the receiver up. It made for great entertainment. It also built the competitive edge and established an alpha-dog mentality for all three brothers.

"In our household, no one screams, but we mean what we say, and we say what we mean," Salles said. "With Jalen, he's also going to show you what he means when he's doing it. It's kind of how he cultivated his leadership role. He's not afraid to tell his receivers to fix stance or call out a play he thinks the DBs are running."

Mayden's leadership skills will attract college coaches. He is big on team chemistry and maintaining chemistry on and off the field.

"At school, everybody is so focused with taking care of this level to be ready for the next level," Salles said. "They've all bought into the program. At Sachse, you have to walk right, talk right, live right and be prepared. Jalen's really bought into that, and he's a leader."

When he's not directing the offense in practice, Mayden's watching film or in a room with teammates studying position play. Team bonding is important to Jalen, on both sides of the ball. In fact, two athletes who traveled to Houston with Mayden and his mother to compete at last week's The Opening regional line up against him in practice—2017 linebacker Riko Jeffers and 2018 defensive end Zach Gilson.

As he continues to improve throughout the spring, Mayden is hoping he's doing enough to attract additional offers. He said he's going to take his time with the recruiting process and has good mentors in his brothers if he has any questions.

When that time comes to make a decision, Mayden said the winning school will answer pertinent questions that will aid his personal growth.

"Who's going to have the best fit for me? Who's going to make me better throughout my four years as a football player and as a young man?" he said. "I'm looking to make good decisions and learn how to do things outside of football. I just want to be developed, all in all."

Salles is excited about the future of her youngest son. She's anticipating Jalen to one day be the face of a program and go on to do big things like his brothers.

"Hopefully, colleges will see his walk of life and know that they can look at him as trustworthy," she said. "I want them to look at Jalen and say, 'This is our guy.'"

 

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

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SEC Football: Predicting the Biggest Upsets in the Conference in 2016

By now, you've read all of the "way-too-early" predictions for the 2016 SEC race.

You've heard all about Alabama earning the benefit of the doubt, LSU's impending return to SEC glory and Tennessee finally getting over the hump and making its first SEC Championship Game since 2007.

The unpredictable, though, is what makes this sport great.

Sometimes 18-to-22-year-old young men have bad days, coaches make mistakes and upsets happen. In this slideshow we predict the eight biggest upsets in SEC football based on talent, scheme, matchup and schedule placement. 

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Big Ten Football: Predicting the Biggest Upsets in the Conference in 2016

With spring games in full gear, the college football season is officially fewer than five months away and, of course, it's never too early to start looking ahead to the upcoming campaign.

And after a 2015 season unlike any other in Big Ten history, it's only gotten tougher to predict what will happen in the conference in the coming year.

That means that upsets could run rampant—perhaps even on a weekly basis—as teams deal with overhauled rosters, programs enter new eras and perennial powerhouses find themselves fighting to stay at the front of the league's food chain. Add in the shocking results for some teams—both good and bad—that played out a year ago, and handicapping the conference for the coming year becomes even more difficult than it already was.

Of course, a lot can change between now and the start of the 2016 season. But while we're waiting, let's go ahead and try to forecast the Big Ten upsets that will be occurring in a season that could ultimately prove to be even crazier than its unpredictable predecessor was.

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Projecting 2016 Win-Loss Records for Every ACC Football Team

It’s hard to believe, but spring football is already entering its final stages around the ACC. Syracuse has already wrapped up its first spring under Dino Babers. On Saturday, Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Wake Forest will put their best faces on for spring football games, with games stretching through April 23 when Georgia Tech, Virginia and Virginia Tech host games of their own.

In other words, we’ll soon pass another milepost on the road to the 2016 college football season opener. Real, meaningful games are less than five months away, and the ACC is plenty excited. Over the last three seasons, the league has gained plenty of national respect. Florida State won the final BCS National Championship and made the College Football Playoff in the following season, and Clemson followed suit by beginning the 2015 season 14-0 before falling to Alabama in the national title game.

With new coaches Mark Richt (Miami), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia) and Babers in the league, ACC officials have reason to believe their conference will take another step forward in the near future, with the hopes of another power emerging to join the Seminoles and Tigers. Will it happen this fall?

Let’s take a look. We’re predicting the win-loss records of every ACC team, considering factors such as returning talent, schedule and recent track record.

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4-Star QB Jake Bentley Enrolling Early at South Carolina a Big Win for Muschamp

The South Carolina quarterback battle just added another competitor—and it's somebody out of the class of 2017.

That's not a typo. A class of 2017 quarterback could be starting for South Carolina in 2016.

Jake Bentley, a 4-star prospect from Opelika, Alabama, announced on Twitter Wednesday morning that he will graduate from high school a year early and begin his South Carolina career this summer.

Bentley, who is the son of South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley (who was an analyst at Auburn last season and a legendary former high school coach in South Carolina), will join a loaded quarterback battle at South Carolina this summer that includes redshirt senior Perry Orth, true freshman early enrollee Brandon McIlwain, sophomore Lorenzo Nunez and junior Connor Mitch.

As Dayne Young of WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia, notes, Bentley will head east to Columbia with hype attached to his name.

Does Bentley have the chance to start right away?

A chance, sure.

But asking a kid who should be a senior in high school to learn an offense, figure out the speed of the game and beat out a crowded pack of talented quarterbacks in essentially a month of practice is too much to ask, no matter how much time he has spent around the game with his father.

McIlwain has already jumped to the front of the pack in his first spring practice, and Muschamp said that he and Orth looked great prior to the collarbone injury that knocked the latter out of action this spring, according to David Caraviello of the Post and Courier.

Bentley's quest to start is only one part of the story, though.

The bigger news that stems from Bentley's decision is that the quarterback talent Muschamp has amassed in Columbia is incredibly impressive.

Bentley has a 0.9511 ranking, according to 247Sports, and now joins McIlwain, who boasted a 0.9254. Muschamp has successfully recruited two of the top three quarterbacks South Carolina has had over the last decade.

Think about that for a second.

Muschamp, who's hardly known for developing quarterbacks into stars, now has a better reputation of recruiting top-tier quarterbacks to South Carolina than Steve Spurrier—a man who literally changed the game of college football because of quarterback play.

That's strong.

What he will do with those quarterbacks is still a mystery, but he's giving himself and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper plenty of chances for success with players who not only are highly rated, but also touted for different reasons.

Bentley has a strong arm, can stretch the ball sideline-to-sideline and make all of the throws required to keep defenses honest. What's more, he's a good runner who can at least pose a threat on read-options, which is a staple in Roper offenses.

McIlwain is the opposite. His ability to create on the ground is as good as it gets, and is no slouch in the passing game either. 

Muschamp has things cooking on the recruiting trail in Columbia.

The next step is having that potential translate to success on the field.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Wolverines' Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

Though there aren't many football-related worries in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines wrapped up spring practice with a handful of mild concerns.

Perhaps to the irritation of some, the primary topic remains Michigan's quarterback battle. But with a competition this important, it's simply unavoidable.

While the Wolverines avoided serious injuries this spring, a series of ailments revealed a minor yet notable depth issue.

Michigan has five months to address each concern—none of which are debilitating individually. However, they could pose a significant problem if combined.

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Auburn Football: Players to Watch in Tigers' Spring Game

AUBURN, Ala. — There should be a different feeling in the air this Saturday when football returns to the Plains.

Unlike the last couple of years under head coach Gus Malzahn, the Auburn Tigers won't be entering their annual A-Day spring game as one of the SEC's preseason darlings. After a 7-6 campaign in 2015, there's more talk of hot seats than titles in Auburn.

With eyes on a turnaround 2016 campaign, Auburn will wrap up a spring camp featuring plenty of new potential starters and assistant coaches. The all-important quarterback battle, the race for the lead running back position, a new-look offensive line and the fifth defensive coordinator in six years will all be major storylines for the Saturday afternoon scrimmage.

Which players should Auburn fans keep their eyes on the most on A-Day? Here are 10 players—representing all the major offensive and defensive position groups—to watch when the Tigers unofficially open their 2016 season inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Which Auburn players are you most looking forward to seeing this weekend? Shout them out in the comments below.

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Watch HS QB Chris Robison Nail Trick Shot from Top of AT&T Stadium

Oklahoma 4-star commit Chris Robison, the eighth-ranked pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2017, clearly has a great arm. Just how impressive is it, though? We here at Bleacher Report put his accuracy to the test.

We made Robison hit a target on the field from the upper deck of a stadium. It wasn't just any stadium, though. He did it at AT&T Stadium, one of the largest in the country, with a seating capacity of 80,000.

Check out the soon-to-be Sooner's ridiculous trick shot in the video above.


Star ratings via 247Sports.

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Tennessee Football: Freshmen Who Will Play Significant Snaps in 2016

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones harps all the time on the idea that the Volunteers haven't yet built a program that is as stocked with depth and talent as any of their peers around the country.

Whether that's poor-mouthing with a purpose or not—the Vols should be really good in 2016, and nobody on Rocky Top is shying away from those expectations—several freshmen will still play this year.

Part of that is out of necessity, but the bottom line is that UT is recruiting at such a high level that the talent is simply too good to keep off the field.

However, a few star upperclassmen will block some uber-talented first-year players.

Defensive back Tyler Byrd, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and running back Carlin Fils-aime would play on a lot of teams around the country, but they didn't make the list because UT is in an enviable place at those positions.

That's a product of consistent classes, and Jones is working on building a program that should be able to compete on a yearly basis.

The Vols have a good chance to have a good year in '16. Perhaps, it can even be special. But as many promising junior and senior players as there are in orange and white, the Vols will still rely on freshmen of the redshirt and even true variety.

Let's take a look at 10 freshmen who'll be on the field a whole lot this year for Tennessee.

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Urban Meyer Responds to Recruit's Criticism over His OSU Visit

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is widely seen as one of the best recruiters in all of college football, but Kentucky signee Landon Young did not like the way the three-time national champion and his school pursued him as a prospect.  

Young, who is a 4-star offensive tackle and part of Kentucky’s 2016 recruiting class, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, criticized Meyer’s treatment of him as a recruit to David Collier of SECCountry.com. Meyer took note and responded Tuesday to the criticism, per Austin Ward of ESPN.com.

Meyer said he read the comments and discussed them with his staff: “We have a lot of respect for him as a player, a lot. I was very disappointed in our staff that we didn't offer him earlier. Then about the treatment thing, we don't do that on purpose, if that's his feelings. I went back and talked to our staff about it.”

Meyer did make sure to point out “that was one [recruit] out of 650 saying ‘Someone has treated me bad,’” per Ward.

Young made visits to Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina as a prospect before ultimately choosing the hometown Wildcats. However, the Lexington native made news as he recalled his negative interactions with Meyer when he asked the Ohio State coach why he wasn’t on the Buckeyes’ radar earlier in the process, per Collier:

I had gone up to camp there, and they had treated me like a piece of meat, just treated me like crap… I said, ‘Well coach, back when I was just committing to Kentucky and keeping my options open, I came up to a camp and sent you my film and everything, and you didn’t even reply. It seemed like y’all just deleted it.’

He said, ‘Well, if you look back at that time, you were how big?’ I said, ‘6-7, 270, just like I am now.’ He said, ‘Well, you were an insubstantial tackle, an insubstantial player,’ so he was saying I (didn’t) even amount to being able to be recruited by Ohio State as a four-star tackle. He said, ‘Now what offers did you have?’ I said, ‘I had my one from Kentucky,’ and he said, ‘Well, you were an insubstantial player with insubstantial offers from an insubstantial school.’

If anything, Kentucky fans probably won’t enjoy hearing one of the most prominent names in all of college football calling their program insubstantial, but Young was clearly affected by Meyer’s approach and spurned the Buckeyes for the Wildcats. 

Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors thought of another way Young could have interpreted the entire thing:

Alas, Ward noted Meyer did disagree with the idea Young was not a good enough player for Ohio State in his response to the offensive tackle’s comments.

Meyer instead realized it probably took his staff too long to recognize how valuable of a recruit Young could be up front for the Buckeyes offense and said as much, per Ward: “When we did want to offer him afterwards and felt like he was a great player, I think we missed on him early on and I was very upset with our coaching staff and the recruiter in that area and the position coach.”

Kentucky hopes Young proves himself on the field enough during his college career that Meyer and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff regret missing out on him. He is 6’7” and 270 pounds, but 247Sports lists his 40-yard-dash time as 4.80, which is a testament to his athletic ability at that size. He can move laterally to protect the passer or maul defensive linemen up front to create holes for the rushing attack.

The fact Young chose Kentucky over Ohio State and Alabama, among others, is newsworthy in itself. The Buckeyes won the national title during the 2014 season and are coming off a 12-1 campaign and a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2015. They have also won at least 10 contests in 12 of the last 14 years and have Meyer as a three-time national champion leading the way.

Ohio State is one of the pillar programs of the sport, and its reputation on the recruiting trail will probably only grow when a number of Buckeyes are selected in the upcoming NFL draft.

Historically, Ohio State is usually not battling with the likes of Kentucky for some of the top players in the Midwest and some of the northern states in SEC country like the Wildcats. Rather, it frequently competes with the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State, as well as national powerhouses such as Alabama.

However, Young's choosing Kentucky is no fluke. The Wildcats have some momentum under head coach Mark Stoops and check in with the No. 10 class for 2017, per 247Sports' composite team rankings. While 247Sports lists the Buckeyes as the No. 1 group for 2017, the Wildcats are among some of the sport’s top classes and will look to continue that upward trajectory on the recruiting trail.

Ohio State was the No. 4 class in 2016, while Kentucky was No. 34, per 247Sports

If Kentucky is able to consistently land players like Young, Meyer will have to worry about another program near his home state of Ohio.

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How Commitment of 4-Star QB Tristan Gebbia Impacts Future of Nebraska Recruiting

Two weeks ago, Nebraska fans were happy with their two 3-star commitments in wide receiver Jaevon McQuitty and linebacker Willie Hampton. But there were those who silently wondered when the class would have its breakout opportunity.

On March 23, the Cornhuskers were excited to have 4-star wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. commit. The buzz followed.

Monday was another huge day for Nebraska fans, as the program landed a 4-star quarterback in Tristan Gebbia. Ranked the nation's No. 8 pro-style quarterback, Gebbia chose the Cornhuskers over West Virginia, Washington, Washington State and Ole Miss—the school where his father, Rich Gebbia, played tight end.

"I've spent a lot of time with Coach Lang [offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf] and [head] Coach [Mike] Riley," said Gebbia, a 6'3", 180-pound quarterback. "I've gotten to see them practice up close and personal. Plus, Keyshawn loves it there. He'd been telling me he wants me to come with him. We've had a pretty good connection the last three years, and he said, 'Why not take it to the next level?'"

Nebraska picked up a quarterback who had great numbers as a junior, according to MaxPreps. He threw for 4,435 yards and 45 touchdowns and completed 63 percent (278 of 442) of his passes. Additionally, Gebbia rushed for five touchdowns.

Quarterbacks like Gebbia tend to be keystone commitments for programs. Offensive athletes want to make plays with him. Defensive athletes want to get better practicing against him. In Nebraska's case, Gebbia's commitment is a huge win for a variety of reasons.

First, Gebbia gives Nebraska a quality option at one of recruiting's most competitive positions. There are only 14 pro-style and 10 dual-threat quarterbacks nationwide listed as at least a 4-star prospect. Of those 24 total quarterbacks, prior to Gebbia's commitment, only four were uncommitted targets.

Second, Gebbia's pledge helps establish what appears to be a budding pipeline between Nebraska and Calabasas High School. Safety Marquel Dismuke signed with Nebraska in February, and the Cornhuskers are expecting to add Johnson and Gebbia next February.

And you can bet that Nebraska is doing all it can to add more Calabasas players in the near future. Among that short list are 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes and 2018 cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles.

Perhaps one of the more intriguing discussions of Gebbia's commitment involves depth at the position. Nebraska, upon Gebbia signing his national letter of intent, will enter the 2017 season with three players competing for the starting QB job. Gebbia, early enrollee Patrick O'Brien and A.J. Bush, who just finished his redshirt freshman year and was listed as the team's third-stringer last season, will compete for playing time. If Gebbia doesn't start as a freshman, he'll definitely push his competition to be better, which will help Nebraska in a tough Big Ten Conference.

Having Gebbia as a part of the Nebraska roster is huge for Riley and his program. Now it's all about keeping Gebbia committed. Look for Ole Miss to continue recruiting him, as he is a Rebel legacy. Before committing, Gebbia took an unofficial visit to Ole Miss over the weekend.

"The trip's been great," Gebbia said Saturday. "I've spent a lot of time with the coaches and watched their scrimmage. I just wanted to see the SEC up close and personal. As an athlete who wants to get better, you look forward to seeing all you can and getting as much out of it as possible."

Gebbia's recruitment will be one to watch, but for now, all arrows point to him becoming a Cornhusker when it's time to sign his letter of intent.

"It's pretty great," he said of Nebraska. "You get great football, and the life outside of football is great. That's what I wanted."

 

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

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Incoming 2016 College Football Freshmen with Famous Parents

Not all incoming college freshmen football players are looking to put their family name on the map. While the vast majority of newcomers aren't necessarily accustomed to an expanded spotlight, others grew up in environments that commanded one. 

Whether their parents were entertainers or celebrated athletes in football or some other sport, several 2016 signees have plenty to live up to when it comes to family success. We examined a collection of prospects who inherit some level of fame from parents who previously gained public affection.

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Ranking the Top 25 Sophomores Heading into the 2016 College Football Season

Freshmen are the future, juniors are the next batch of pro stars and seniors are the veterans who know how to get it done. Where do sophomores fit into the equation?

It's like the crossroads class in college football, the purgatory between being a newcomer and an upperclassman. Quite often, sophomores are the most forgotten of any group unless they managed to stand out as freshmen.

That's what we have with our list of the 25 best sophomores heading into the 2016 season. It's a group that began to draw attention last year, but in most cases, that was just the start of their run. We've ranked them based on what they've achieved to this point and what they're in line to do this fall, when their role expands from being a first-time contributor to a go-to asset.

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4-Star WR Isaiah Robertson Tweets Top 6: Who Holds an Edge in His Recruitment?

Several universities remain in the mix to sign heavily pursued Illinois wide receiver Isaiah Robertson, with six standing out for the 4-star recruit.

Robertson, a 6'3", 190-pound prospect from Neuqua Valley High School in suburban Chicago, revealed a list of favorites on Tuesday afternoon:

His top options, in alphabetical order, are Illinois, Iowa, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt. The collection is heavy on Big Ten contenders, which is to be expected considering his proximity to conference programs.

Robertson, rated No. 27 among wide receivers and No. 214 overall in the 2017 class, picked these schools to highlight from a large group of scholarship offers. His alternatives include Maryland, Indiana, Iowa State and Syracuse.

He began collecting offers as an underclassman, with in-state Illinois extending an offer shortly after his breakout sophomore campaign. Robertson racked up 721 receiving yards (24 per catch) and five scores in 2014.

His offer total surpassed double digits last fall, when he commanded attention on both sides of the ball.

He tallied 81 tackles and four interceptions at safety, according to Allen Trieu of Scout.com, adding 50 receptions for 803 yards and nine touchdowns on offense.

While Robertson is ranked among receivers, the jury may still be out when it comes to determining his ideal collegiate fit.

He seemed receptive to a variety of roles during a September discussion with Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

“I really think that I’m more of an athlete recruit,” Robertson told Wiltfong. “Defense and offense and returning the ball, I really feel like I can get the job done anywhere it needs to be done with the right preparation."

Notre Dame was the latest school to open its doors. The Fighting Irish presented an offer on Saturday, setting the stage for an appearance in his top six.

Robertson's rapport with the program continues to accelerate, courtesy of recent visits to South Bend, Indiana. These campus trips proved vital as both sides advanced from mutual flirtation to a full-fledged scholarship offer:

His decision to drop a list of favorites just days later hints that he's ready to move forward to the next phase of a widespread recruitment. The Note Dame offer may have served as motivation to do so, as Wiltfong wrote it's one Robertson "wanted as the process picked up."

The Irish have netted each commitment projection in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, but there will be substantial competition from Big Ten schools.

Penn State has seen its passing attack sputter for stretches under head coach James Franklin, and the program failed to make a major splash at receiver last signing day. Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton, the only Nittany Lions to surpass 20 catches in 2015, will be seniors when Robertson enrolls.

Illinois is attempting to redefine itself following the hiring of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith. The 2007 NFC champion will attempt to capitalize on new Illini buzz by capitalizing with local talent, and he may not discover a more impressive player than Robertson while assessing the Chicago area's recruiting landscape.

Wisconsin gains an edge due to family ties with the school. His father, Pollis Robertson, was a Badgers basketball player in the 1980s, though there's been little to indicate a legacy commitment is imminent.

As an in-depth search for Robertson's ideal fit continues, look for further diligence through visits and communication with coaches to determine what comes next in his career.

“We have certain criteria that we look for,” Pollis Robertson told Matt Freeman of Irish Sports Daily. “First and foremost would be academics. Second to that, it’s definitely the football program and in his case, we look at the tradition, coaching staff, players that are there and the position needs."

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Tyler via Twitter @TDsTake.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Many schools around the country visit the state of Florida in hopes of finding talent to supplement their rosters with. 

One program that has frequented the Sunshine State with a decent amount of success is the USC Trojans.

Head coach Clay Helton and his staff are hoping to find more talent from Florida in the 2017 cycle.

Last week, the Trojans offered a pair of defensive standouts in 4-star linebacker VanDarius Cowan and 4-star safety Daniel Wright

Cowan, who is committed to Florida State, is the nation’s No. 5 outside linebacker and the No. 78 player overall in the 2017 class.

The 6’0”, 170-pound Wright—who holds more than 30 offers—rates as the country’s No. 8 safety and No. 102 player overall in the current cycle.

Last month at the Miami Opening Regional, Cowan spoke on the strength of his commitment to the Seminoles.

“I’m 80 percent committed. I just keep the other 20 percent open to other schools,” Cowan said.

Meanwhile, Wright has FSU among his group of early leaders, but he doesn’t plan on making a decision until after his senior season at the earliest.

If the Trojans can find a way to get either Sunshine State defender on campus, they could once again become a factor in the state of Florida in the 2017 cycle.

 

Georgia Offers Ohio DB

While it’s commonplace for Big Ten schools to recruit in the SEC’s backyard, it’s more of a rare occurrence for the reverse scenario to unfold.

Last week, SEC power Georgia looked to the state of Ohio to offer 4-star corner Amir Riep.

The 6’0”, 180-pounder—who rates as the nation’s No. 14 corner and the No. 131 player overall in 2017—from Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, has collected 40 offers.

The offer comes on the heels of Riep visiting Athens. If he schedules a return visit, the Bulldogs could become a major contender in the race for his services.

 

Clemson After New Jersey ATH

After its race to the national championship game, Clemson is building momentum nationally with top recruits in the 2017 class.

Last week, the Tigers hit the state of New Jersey to offer 3-star athlete Markquese Bell.

According to Cory Fravel of 247Sports, the Tigers offered Bell—who also landed an offer from fellow ACC program Pittsburgh last week—as a safety.

Bell has 16 offers to date, with Michigan—who hosted him on an unofficial visit last week—being one of the main contenders in his recruitment at this stage.

 

Penn State After Stud 2018 CB

The 2018 class is loaded with recruits who are the sons of former NFL players. One such talent is corner Houston Griffith—whose father Howard was a fullback who won a pair of Super Bowls during his stint with the Broncos.

The younger Griffith is a 6’0”, 180-pound corner who has landed offers from programs such as Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Tennessee before his junior year.

Penn State is the latest powerhouse to jump in the mix for Griffith, who netted an offer from the Nittany Lions last week.

Given his size, athleticism and bloodlines, Griffith figures to become a national recruit sooner than later.

 

Best of the Rest

2017

 

2018

 

2019

 

2020

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Fans Need Patience Despite Hype Building Around Bo Scarbrough

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was media day for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Arizona and a radio show had asked University of Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand if he would participate in a live interview.

The players were all wearing their jerseys, but the person introducing him obviously never saw the name on his back. It led to an awkward moment when the first question was about the other guy who wore No. 9 for the Crimson Tide.

“Yeah, Bo Scarbrough, how does it feel to be behind Derrick Henry?” Hand said while telling the “crazy” story. Needless to say he was taken aback while the co-host quickly jumped in with, “Well, I don’t know about that, but he might be hitting Derrick Henry in practice. He’s one of the 14 guys on the D-line.”

Hand can joke about it now, but he still shakes his head at the memory. At least the radio personalities didn’t say he looks like a young Mike Tyson.

“Awww, man. C’mon. Don’t do me like that,” Hand said about the slight resemblance.

“I like to think I just look like Da’Shawn Hand.”

Players tying to make a name for themselves can be tough enough at Alabama, but some come in with an expectation level that borders on the ridiculous even though they can go unrecognized when walking down the street.

Crimson Tide fans in particular are guilty of the over-optimism regarding big-time prospects, especially at high-profile positions. For example, this time a year ago every Alabama beat reporter was asked nearly non-stop about new quarterback Blake Barnett like he should have been starting already.

This spring there have been comparable comments like, “Hey, I hear Jalen Hurts is pretty good,” but it hasn’t been as relentless.

They always seem to ignore the fact that every quarterback Nick Saban has brought in has redshirted his first year to give him a chance to develop, get accustomed to the college game (and lifestyle) and learn the offense.

AJ McCarron was nearly the exception to that when Greg McElroy suffered cracked ribs against Florida in the 2009 SEC championship game. Instead, he helped lead Alabama to back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, and with the extra year nearly pulled off the three-peat.

For Hurts to play this season it would likely be because either 1) Alabama had numerous injuries at quarterback, 2) he beat out every else on the depth chart, and/or 3) the dual-threat player brings such a unique element to the offense that the coaches felt it’s worth giving up a year of eligibility to play him.

But Scarbrough falls into a different category when it comes to fan buzz: big playmakers who they can’t get enough of. We’re talking about Julio Jones- and Henry-kind of hype.

Even his own teammates have regularly drawn physical comparisons between Scarbrough and last year’s starting running back.

“There’s not really a difference,” said linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, who practiced for two years against Henry. “They have the same body style.”

During his testing at the NFL combine, Henry measured 6’3” and 247 pounds, and still ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds.

Scarbrough is listed as being 6’2” and 240 pounds, although he came into the spring having lost 10 pounds because Alabama believes 230 to be his ideal playing weight.

“We give everybody a muscle mass, body fat, hydration, functional movement test,” Saban explained. “We try to work hard with [team nutritionist Amy Bragg] to come up with what’s the most efficient, effective weight for a guy. We see how this guy’s moving, how he’s running relative to how he used to run.

“Sometimes these guys keep lifting weights and they just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I think at certain positions, especially skill positions, that’s not always advantageous.”

It also signaled one important thing everyone needs to remember: Scarborough isn’t Henry and it’s unfair to expect him to be.

Maybe eventually he’ll post comparable or even better numbers, but for now here’s what Scarbrough’s done: Seven games, 18 attempts, 104 rushing yards (5.8 average per carry), and one touchdown. His longest carry was just 24 yards.

He’s still learning the offense, the blocking schemes, his teammates, the opposition and so forth. It took Henry two years to put all together to the point he could make his Heisman Trophy run, but if Alabama had to open the 2016 season tomorrow, Damien Harris would probably start at running back.

He was a consensus 5-star recruit as well in 2015, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, and has a little more experience at this level.

“I certainly see a more confident and knowledgeable guy in Damien this spring so far," Saban said.

Together the two could potentially form quite a combination this season, especially if Alabama’s offensive line takes a step forward as many believe could happen. But for now the key word is "potential" because no one knows things like how they’ll hold on to the ball on third-and-short and pick up blitzes until they do it.

Consequently, take last Saturday’s scrimmage when Scarbrough had a 95-yard touchdown and was credited with 132 yards on nine carries, as verification that he’s fully arrived.

Consider it an important first step in following his own path, albeit one of which few will want to get in the way.

“Man, he brings it, so you better bring it,” Hand said. “He’s a man.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh. 

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Biggest College Football Stories You Likely Missed During March Madness

If March Madness has been completely consuming your sports brain over the last several weeks, we don't blame you. 

One of the most exciting NCAA men's basketball tournaments of all time ended Monday night with one of the greatest plays in championship game history for any sport—a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Villanova's Kris Jenkins to take home its first title since 1985. It was the perfect end to a tourney that included other last-second winners, crazy end-game sequences and more than a few Crying Jordans

But now that March Madness is in the books, it's time for many college sports fans to switch back to football.

From the time the NCAA tournament's first round tipped on March 17 until last night's grand finale, college football has been making some headlines of its own. They might not have gotten much attention nationally as brackets or Buddy Hield, but there wasn't a total shortage of news from the spring practice cycles.

In case you completely checked out on offseason college football news during the NCAA tournament, here's a refresher on the top stories from the past few weeks.

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