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Theo Howard to Oregon: Ducks Land 4-Star WR Prospect

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Yale RB Tyler Varga Balancing Ivy League Education with NFL Dreams

Going through the NFL draft process, from all-star games and workouts to meetings with teams, requires a busy schedule. Being a pre-med student, especially at an Ivy League university, does too.

Somehow, Yale running back Tyler Varga is doing both simultaneously.

A three-time All-Ivy League selection (first-team in 2012 and 2014, honorable mention in 2013) who participated in this year’s Senior Bowl and was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, Varga is well within the mix to be a Day 3 selection in this year’s draft. But pursuing his NFL dream has not stopped Varga from continuing his education at Yale, where he is on track to graduate with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology this spring.

“It’s definitely challenging,” Varga said in an interview with Bleacher Report last week. “You go to the Senior Bowl, you go to the combine, you talk amongst these guys and 99 percent of them are done with school. They’re focused on training, focused on getting ready for the draft and their testing and all their pro days … I’m training hard, trying to get ready for all that but I’m at the same time trying to balance all this other stuff.”

That “other stuff” includes spending 10-15 hours per week in medical research labs and finishing up his senior thesis.

“I’m actually doing some insulin-based research: We’re investigating a gene in mice that plays a role in energy efficiency in the body, and hopefully that’ll have human application down the road and help us better understand Type II diabetes,” Varga said. “I’m doing some independent research on the shoulder actually as well, along with taking a couple classes just to tie up my degree.”

Prior to the Senior Bowl in January, Varga spent a week training at Athletic Edge Sports Performance Conditioning at Bradenton, Florida, and he has returned to Florida to train this month during Yale’s two-week spring recess.

For the rest of the semester, however, Varga has had to continue training at Yale. While most other NFL draft prospects have had the privilege of working out in posh facilities and warm weather, Yale does not even have an indoor football complex, which has forced Varga to micromanage his schedule during a cold, snowy winter in New Haven, Connecticut.

“There is an indoor bubble that we’ve been training at, I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. in the morning to go and train some days during the week,” Varga said. “It’s a huge puzzle. It’s just a matter of fitting in all the workouts, all the speed training, all the field work and all that stuff into my schedule of classes and other stuff that I’ve got going on at Yale that isn’t as flexible.”

Juggling Yale academics and football, both now and during his collegiate career, has not left Varga much free time.

“If you want to have free time, you want to spend time with your friends, you better be pretty efficient with your schedule, and get your work when you need to get it done and not kind of lollygag around and wander on,” Varga said. “It’s definitely a challenge, definitely been something that I think will serve me well down the road.”

Varga was one of the first players recruited to New Haven by Tony Reno, who became Yale’s head coach in January of 2012. Reno said that Varga’s intangibles—specifically, his work ethic—stood out right away.

“He’s like a lot of guys we have that are very driven, very goal-oriented,” Reno told Bleacher Report. “He sets things out in front of himself and he sets them out with a logical way to accomplish his goals, and he goes and gets them.”

Despite his full plate, Varga has succeeded in all aspects. On the field, Varga ran for 2,985 yards and 31 touchdowns in his three-year Yale career.

In the classroom, Varga carries a 3.56 GPA, according to his bio on Yale’s athletics website.

Varga has even found time to give back to the Yale community. He served on the executive board for the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive, which “organizes, promotes and conducts the largest bone-marrow drive in the nation each spring,” according to the National Football Foundation.

For his impressive work in each of those aspects, Yale’s Council of Masters honored him with the F. Wilder Bellamy Jr. Memorial Prize, which is given to students “who best exemplify the qualities for which the alumnus is remembered, including personal integrity, loyalty to friends and high-spiritedness in athletics, academics and social life,” according to Yale’s athletics website.

“He’s got an infectious personality,” Reno said of Varga. “He’s positive in all situations and I think he’s one of those guys who’s able to really deal with any challenge that comes his way.”

Reno also noted that Varga has “been a member of [the Yale football team]’s leadership council since the moment he walked on campus.”

“He’s a vocal leader. He sets a great example,” Reno said. “Tyler’s a team-first guy as well. I mean, you could have asked Tyler I think at any point in the season how many touchdowns he scored and how many yards he had, and he wouldn’t have had any idea.”

All of those qualities should enhance Varga’s appeal to NFL teams, at least among those who are confident his skills can translate to the next level.


From the Ivy League and from North of the Border

Getting a Division I football scholarship was not easy for Varga, in part because the Swedish-born tailback grew up in Canada.

At Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, Ontario, Varga was a four-time team MVP who played five positions and scored more than 100 touchdowns. Still, Varga noted that it was tough to get noticed, despite those accolades, because he played his high school football north of the border.

“Being a Canadian player … I think that’s given me a different type of perspective to the game,” Varga said. “If you want to go to college and play football as a Canadian player, it’s getting better now but you really, really have to stand out. You really have to make a big splash, you have to make waves so that people notice you.”

Before transferring to Yale in 2012, Varga played his first year of college football at the University of Western Ontario, where he won the Peter Gorman Trophy as Canada’s national freshman football player of the year.

Now, Varga finds himself in a similar position to where he was in high school. In spite of his three years of excellence at Yale, Varga’s production could be discounted by some NFL teams, on the basis that he played against lower-level competition in the Ivy League than prospects who are coming out of Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

Since 2000, there have only been 16 players drafted from the Ivy League, and only four from Yale. None of those players were top-100 draft picks, and only eight of those players—just one of the four from Yale—were selected before the seventh round.

Varga, personally, rebuffs the notion that his Ivy League competition was substandard. He believes that hailing from the Ivy League will be an advantage, not a disadvantage, in his transition to the NFL.

“Being an Ivy League student-athlete, I think that makes you even more draftable if you have the physical attributes and you showed you can play the game,” Varga said. “It trains you to be able to handle a lot of stress, a lot of stuff coming at you at once. There’s definitely not a lowered expectation for the athletes at Yale—and I’m sure all the other Ivy Leagues are the same—so you got to really learn how to balance.”

When Varga had a chance to play against prospects from the big schools in the Senior Bowl, he felt that “the level of play was not that much different” from that which he faced in the Ivy League.

“There was maybe a little bit of a difference in competition, but not as much as everyone claims there is,” Varga said. “I mean we’ve got some great players in the Ivy League as well. We got great competition there as well.”

Varga certainly didn’t look to be in over his head at the Senior Bowl. To the contrary, Varga ran for 13-yard and seven-yard touchdowns, executed a lead block on a four-yard touchdown run by teammate David Cobb and also caught three passes for 39 yards.


Raised to Be an Athlete

Beyond the game itself, another highlight of Varga’s Senior Bowl week came at the weigh-in, where the 5’10”, 227-pound running back’s chiseled physique drew oohs and aahs from the crowd of NFL scouts and media members in attendance.

Walking across a stage in his underwear to have his musculature evaluated might have been a new experience for Varga, but it was certainly not an experience unfamiliar to his family. 

Varga’s parents, John Varga and Hannele Sundberg, were both competitive bodybuilders.

Growing up as the son of competitive athletes—Hannele actually still competes in alpine skiing, and she finished second in her age group of the slalom at the Winter World Masters Games this February—played a “huge role” in Varga achieving his own success in sports.

“They got me into sports at a young age … I was in gymnastics when I was less than a year old,” Varga said. “Sports has been a huge part of my life, thanks to them, since I’ve been little.”

Seeing what his parents endured in their own athletic endeavors helped ingrain an attention to detail in Varga that he said has served him well.

“Just being able to take a small chunk of that, of the bodybuilding world, and being able to bring that to like another sport, like football, I think has really helped me out,” Varga said. “Because you look at bodybuilding, you eat like one tablespoon too much salt or something like that, and you could screw up like two months worth of training. I think being able to be that detail-oriented in preparing for what I do on the football field gives me an advantage, so I credit my parents for passing all that down to me.”

Simply being born into a family of athletes helped put Varga on track to become a professional athlete.

“Genetic factor, definitely, I think helped me out a little bit,” Varga acknowledged.

In spite of that, Varga admitted that playing in the NFL seemed like a long shot when he was a child growing up in Canada.

“The NFL’s always been kind of a dream of mine since I’ve been a little kid,” Varga said. “Did I see myself playing in the NFL? I don’t think, if you take out the dream factor, probably not. I think it really became a reality probably midway through college … That hasn’t changed my work ethic whatsoever, it’s been there all along, but just that has kind of come up on the road map.”

Now less than two months away from the 2015 NFL draft, Varga is on the verge of making that dream a reality. But there are still obstacles that remain in Varga’s path to prove that he can be a successful NFL player.


Where Does Varga Fit on an NFL Offense?

A tailback throughout his career at Yale, Varga also has experienced playing quarterback and returning kickoffs. Some evaluators, however, believe that Varga’s future in the NFL will require a transition to the fullback position.

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft Lead Writer, ranked Varga as the No. 4 fullback and No. 260 overall player on his post-combine big board. ranks him more favorably, at No. 169 overall, but likewise considers him to be a fullback, and the No. 2 prospect in this year’s draft class at that position.

If the team that drafts Varga or signs him as an undrafted free agent expects him to make that transition, Reno believes that Varga will have to spend time “honing the skills that are required to be a fullback in the NFL,” but ultimately expects his pupil to succeed.

“In my opinion, what makes him so much of a commodity is that he can do both [playing running back or fullback] well,” Reno said. “I think his ability to adapt to different systems—it might be multiple positions—would be something that fits in well for him.”

While Varga feels as though he is most prepared to play as a tailback, he said he is more than willing to make the transition to fullback if asked to do so.

“I’m used to handling the ball a lot, so I’m definitely comfortable in that role. But to be honest with you, I think the position that would make me the happiest is the one that would allow me to help the team in the biggest way,” Varga said. “I went to the Senior Bowl as a fullback, obviously I have some things to learn but I feel like I’m athletic enough to do both.”

Viewed as a running back, Varga might face questions about his athleticism and explosiveness, but a projected position change brings about its own set of questions, including the idea that Varga, as noted by’s Lance Zierlein, is “small for a fullback.”

That suggestion is one that Varga takes exception to.

“The truth is, I never was a fullback, I was asked to play fullback and I more than gladly accepted the challenge and accepted that role at the Senior Bowl, because I just wanted the opportunity to play football,” Varga said. “But then people say ‘oh, well he’s undersized,’ as a fullback … I’ve been a tailback my whole career.

“Obviously if I’m going to play fullback, I’m totally capable of putting on weight if I need to,” Varga added. “Even despite the fact that they say I was undersized, I still think I held my own against much bigger opponents, 240-pound, 250-pound linebackers.”

One aspect that Varga does feel he needs to work on is that he can be “a little bit overaggressive sometimes.”

“You probably ask how you can be over-physical in football, well, there’s some things in football that require a little bit more of a passive approach,” Varga said. “Something like pass protection, instead of trying to go knock a head off or trying to knock the guy out, you got to sit back a little bit more. Sometimes I do get a little overaggressive in that type of a situation, and I need to learn how to tone that back a little bit more, and use my hands a little bit more, in some of those situations where you just use body positioning.”

With the exception of the bench press, in which he posted 23 repetitions of 225 pounds, Varga was unable to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a bone spur in his ankle. He says he will be ready to go, however, for his pro day on March 31.

The pro day could be an opportunity for Varga to prove he is athletic enough to continue playing running back, and/or that he has learned the nuances of playing the fullback position. That said, Varga said he is not putting any more pressure on himself to perform at the pro day just because he was unable to work out at the combine.

“I’m just going to go in there and do my best,” Varga said. “There’s lots on the line, but you just got to go out there and run fast, jump high, be athletic. I think it’s a good opportunity to showcase my ability.”

After the pro day, Varga will have one month to wait—though he certainly won’t sit around idling—before finding out whether he will be selected in this year’s draft, which will be held April 30-May 2 in Chicago.

Getting drafted, Varga said, would be “a dream come true.”

“Whatever team I go to, it would be something that’s really cool,” Varga said. “I know it would mean a lot to my school, it would mean a lot to my family, it would mean a lot to my hometown, my high school, everybody who’s been supporting me and watching me growing up.

“Rest assured that if I do get picked up, if I do get drafted, that I’m going to pour everything I’ve got into this opportunity and make the most of it,” Varga added.


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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BYU Football: Ranking the Cougars' Top Recruiting Targets for 2016

Spring ball has just picked up for BYU, and the Cougars are completely focused on the upcoming season. Although next year's national signing day is nearly 11 months away, it's never too early to look at the incoming recruiting class.

BYU has already received commitments from five 2016 recruits, and surely more will follow. But the biggest challenge for the Cougs will be landing some of the high-star guys they are going after.

Here are a few of the top targets in BYU's 2016 class.

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.


3. Alec Simpson 

  • Position: Inside Linebacker
  • School: Palisades HS (Pacific Palisades, CA)
  • Rating: 3-star
  • Offers: Nevada

BYU started showing interest in Simpson after his sophomore season, but he has not yet been offered a scholarship. Simpson received his lone offer from Nevada, but he has garnered interest from Louisville, Ohio State, Oregon, Cal and Washington State, among others.

In Bronco Mendenhall's 3-4 system, Simpson could flourish as a solid middle linebacker. Keep an eye out for his decision in the coming months.


2. Troy Warner 

  • Position: Cornerback
  • School: Mission Hills HS (San Marcos, CA)
  • Rating: 3-star
  • Offers: Arizona, Boston College, BYU, Cal, Notre Dame, Utah, San Jose State, Stanford, UCLA, Utah

Troy Warner is arguably the best defensive back that BYU has offered in the 2016 class. As the little brother of current Cougar linebacker Fred Warner, Troy is familiar with the program and could be a huge steal.

BYU was the first team to offer Warner and is one of the front-runners at this point. With the impressive list of schools going after Warner, it won't be easy to get him to Provo.


1. Garett Bolles 

  • Position: Offensive Tackle
  • School: Snow College (Ephraim, UT)
  • Rating: 4-star
  • Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Arizona State, BYU, Florida State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah

As undoubtedly the top commit of BYU's 2016 class, Bolles' stock will only increase during the upcoming months. He has already received offers from SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC schools, and it will be tough for BYU to hang on to him.

Bolles emerged as an elite JUCO lineman last fall at Snow and is a returned LDS missionary. As the No. 3 junior college recruit in the nation, it would be huge for the Cougs land him.

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Jim Harbaugh Uses Recruit's Prom Sign to Lure Him to Michigan

Boss Tagaloa is one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the class of 2016, sitting 10th on's composite rankings.

The De La Salle (Calif.) product has offers from more than a dozen colleges, per, but Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh likely had the most clever (and funny) recruiting tactic to lure the 295-pounder to the Wolverines.

Harbaugh hilariously replicated a sign Tagaloa used for prom, with a few edits, of course:

"UM will be SOUR without you so let's make it SWEET. MICH?"

Will this be enough to get Tagaloa to commit? 

[Boss Tagaloa

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Reporter Gets Pied After Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs Names 48 Digits in Pi

If you didn't know, March 14 is Pi Day, honoring the mathematical constant π. It falls on this day because the first three digits of the sequence are 3.14, hence Saturday's date, 3/14.

There are reportedly five trillion numbers in pi and Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs knows about 48 of them, if not more. 

After Dobbs rattled off 28 numbers in pi during an interview last year, a reporter bet him that he couldn't name 45 digits this year. If he failed, she would throw a pie in his face. If he succeeded, however, she got pied.

Hopefully the reporter learned her lesson, because Dobbs ended up naming 48 numbers. For his efforts, the reporter received a pie in the face.

Who said football players aren't smart?



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De'Runnya Wilson Arrested: Latest Details, Comments and More

Mississippi State wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson was reportedly one of four people arrested following a traffic stop in Alabama on Friday night.

River Falls police chief Greg Jackson told WSFA that officers detected the scent of marijuana after the vehicle the four were traveling in was pulled over for speeding. A K-9 unit was brought in to the stop, which occurred around 9 p.m.:

Wilson, Artis Cleveland, Keith Middleton, and Isaiah Maston were charged with possession of marijuana second degree and possession of drug paraphernalia and booked in the Covington County Jail.

Jackson also told WSFA the group was headed for a birthday party before the arrests. The police chief explained to a separate outlet, WAAO, that "all four occupants inside the vehicle admitted they couldn't pass a drug test."

Wilson led Mississippi State in receiving last season with 47 catches for 680 yards and nine touchdowns. The production was nearly double what he put up during his freshman campaign. He's expected to play a key role in the Bulldogs' passing game again next fall.

No word on whether the incident could lead to any potential discipline from the school. The report also didn't note when he's due in court to face the charges.


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SEC Football: Biggest Obstacle Each Team Faces in Competing for League Title

SEC football is now mired in a two-year national-championship drought.

All the league participants had to watch (or, in Auburn's case in 2014, lose) while Florida State and Ohio State hoisted the biggest prize after the conference's seven-year run atop college football.

The SEC has its flaws again this year on the surface, but the reality is all the participants are trying to get to where the Alabama Crimson Tide stood last year after a domination of Missouri for the SEC title.

It will likely take that to get into the four-team playoff.

Every single league member has something it has to correct if it's going to compete for the SEC title this year. It could be something small, or it may even be something so widespread that it's difficult to imagine it being fixed in a year.

But with spring practice just getting going around the Southeast, now is a good time to take a look at each team and dissect what's standing in its way of celebrating while the confetti falls in Atlanta.

Let's take a look at what every SEC team needs to do in order to compete for the league title.

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Don't Expect Alabama's Quarterback Competition to End Any Time Soon

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you were hoping for a resolution to Alabama’s second quarterback battle in as many offseasons, you might just want to turn away now.

This will be a long process, just like it was a year ago. Nick Saban made that clear when he got his first question about a quarterback after spring practice opened on Friday.

“Well you know we’ve only had one practice, and you guys act like we’ve been practicing illegally everyday in the offseason, which we haven’t been doing,” Saban said. “So as much as I’d like to be able to tell you that the guy has done great since January, we really can’t because all we’ve done is run around cones and jump over bags and that kind of stuff.”

The difference between this year and last, though, is that now all of the candidates are on campus for spring practice. Jake Coker, the presumed favorite for last year’s job, couldn’t transfer from Florida State until he had graduated in May.

Now, what you see is what you get.

Coker, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett all were going through drills on Friday in various orders and configuration.

It’s hard to tell just how the reps will be split throughout the spring. You don’t want to narrow the field already right now, but it’s hard to get much done with reps being split among five guys.

The only insight Saban would offer was that they’re simplifying things for the quarterbacks.

“We’ve tried to make it a little easier with what we’re doing at that position so that they don’t have to burden as some of the guys in the past have had so that the inexperienced players can develop a little more quickly,” Saban said.

Indeed, inexperience abounds.

Coker is the only one on the roster who has thrown a pass in a game. Morris has seen a handful of snaps at the end of FCS blowouts but only to hand the ball off.

Saban laid out a handful of things he wants to see from his quarterbacks this spring.

“I think I want to see what every coach would want to see and what every fan would want to see and everyone sitting in this room would want to see, is that the guy can go in and provide leadership for our team, make good choices and decisions about what he has to do to play winning football as his position, which means he makes good judgments out there,” he said.

“Takes care of the ball, is accurate enough to throw the ball to the skill guys we have and make throws that allow us to make big plays and is not going to be a guy that doesn’t take of the ball, is careless with the ball, turns the ball over and makes good choices and decisions about all those things.

"I think that’s what we look for in a quarterback anytime: leadership, judgment, accuracy, good decision-making in terms of where he delivers the ball and how he distributes it and that’s what we’ll look for. And the guy that does that the best for us is going to be the best guy that will have the opportunity to play that position.”

Barnett is the sexy pick right now from fans and pundits alike. He is the hotshot 247Sports 5-star coming over from the West Coast, with the arms and (and legs) that propelled him to big heights in high school.

But we may have to pump the brakes a little bit on the Barnett train.

“Today's really the first day we've seen him play quarterback,” Saban said of Barnett. “We saw him in the offseason program. He's done a great job. He's got great leadership qualities. He's a great person. I'm sure as all the freshmen—we have eight new ones out there, seven freshmen and a transfer—they've all got a lot to learn.”

If last year is any indication, this race is far from over.

Blake Sims was the guy throughout the spring, then split reps once Coker got to school.

Even then, Saban never officially declared the quarterback race “over.” Sims just kept starting. And starting and starting and winning and winning.

That’s likely what will happen in this cycle. Maybe two or three favorites emerge in the fall. They go back and forth during camp. One starts the opener and then…just keeps starting.


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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Odds Where Stud 5-Star DT Rashard Lawrence Lands at Next Level

Rashard Lawrence is a 5-star defensive end, as per 247Sports' composite rankings, who has many teams around the country drooling at the chance to land his services. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his odds where Lawrence ends up next season.

Which college do you think Lawrence will attend? Check out the video and let us know!

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Notre Dame Football: 5 Position Battles to Watch Heading into Spring Practice

With spring break winding down and spring football starting next Wednesday, Notre Dame football will officially move forward from 2014's disappointment to the optimism surrounding 2015.

Long gone is the November disaster, reminiscent of the season's final month that doomed the Charlie Weis era. A stacked roster nearly overflowing with talent returns, as Brian Kelly and his revamped coaching staff figure out how to get their team into the second edition of the College Football Playoff. 

Roster battles will take center stage. Some obvious, some not as much.

Before hearing from Kelly next week as Notre Dame's 15 spring workouts begin, let's take a look at some key position battles. 



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South Carolina Gamecocks' 2016 Dream Recruiting Class

South Carolina has struggled in the past few seasons, but the Gamecocks are looking to turn things around with their next recruiting class.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discusses South Carolina's dream recruiting class for 2016.

Who are the must-have recruits for South Carolina next season?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Joshua Tupou Arrested on Assault Charges: Latest Details and Comments

Joshua Tupou, a defensive lineman at the University of Colorado, was arrested and faces assault charges stemming from an incident at a party in February. 

According to Mitchell Byars of The Denver Post, Tupou turned himself in to police Thursday after they claimed he assaulted three men:

Tupou, 20, turned himself in to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office on Thursday after a judge issued a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, criminal mischief, trespassing and reckless endangerment, according to court records.

According to Boulder police, officers were called at 1:30 a.m. Feb. 14 after a large fight between multiple people that started at a nearby party spilled out onto College Avenue between 10th and 13th streets. 

The school was made aware of the alleged incident days after it is said to have occurred, with Colorado athletics spokesman Dave Plati telling Byars in a separate report for the Daily Camera at the time that "there is nothing to substantiate that any of our players were involved."

In the arrest report from Byars, citing the affidavit, Tupou is said to have made a hole in a privacy fence and tackled a guest at the party before punching him multiple times. 

Tupou has been a starter on Colorado's defense for three years, recording three sacks in 12 games last season. There have been no reports at this point about what, if any, possible punishments the 325-pounder could face from the school or football team. 

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Ohio State Pro Day 2015: Recap, Reaction for Devin Smith and Top Buckeyes

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With Ohio State still possessing several premier NFL prospects on its roster for the 2015 season, the biggest stars at this year's Buckeye pro day may have been standing on the sideline.

But that didn't stop the current OSU prospects from trying to put on a show, with all 32 NFL teams represented and a total of 76 personnel members in attendance. The Buckeyes won't have the heaviest presence in this year's draft, but they'll try to maintain a strong one coming off of last season's national championship.

And this year's pro day seemed to help that cause.


Devin Smith

Of the Ohio State prospects who worked out at pro day, no one drew more attention than wide receiver Devin Smith. Arguably the best deep threat in the country a season ago with the nation's best 28.2 yards-per-catch average, Smith came to pro day set on proving he's capable of doing more than just stretching the field.

So much so, in fact, that the Massillon, Ohio, product opted not to run the 40-yard dash.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Smith's speed is hardly questioned and he had already run a 4.42 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. But for the 6'0", 196-pounder, his primary objective remained showing off improved route running and consistency with catching.

"I really wanted to focus on running routes. That was the main focus for me," Smith told Bleacher Report and's Austin Ward. "There's a few coaches that did know I could run all the other routes and a few others just wanted to see it. It's just a matter of me showing it. I did it at the Senior Bowl, then at the combine and then here at the pro day. I thought my route running was very good."

It certainly seemed that way, with Smith hauling in catches on a number of different routes thrown by former Buckeyes Heisman-winner Troy Smith. He did have one noticeable drop that went right through his hands on an out-route, but other than that, Smith seemed to catch everything clean, including a few of his signature deep balls.

Following pro day, Smith met extensively with his hometown Cleveland Browns and also said he's been hearing from the Dolphins and Chargers. Most mock drafts have Smith being selected in the second round, although he could sneak into the first, especially if there's a big run on wide receivers on the first day of the draft.

Until then, Smith will remain working out in San Diego, waiting for the April 30 first round to approach. In the Golden State he's been training with a former rival in Michigan State wideout Tony Lippett and another former Big Ten star who's stopped by the facility.

"[Wisconsin running back] Melvin Gordon was down there training with us and I kind of gave him hell [about the Ohio State's 59-0 Big Ten Championship Game win over the Badgers]," Smith said, laughing.


Michael Bennett

Another former Buckeye who has been projected by some to be a first-round pick, defensive tackle Michael Bennett saw his pro day cut short when he pulled up lame with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring in his second attempt at the 40-yard dash. The 6'2", 293-pounder didn't participate in any other drills that were open to the media for the rest of the day, but per Jeff Rapp of WTVN 610 in Columbus, Bennett is doing just fine.

Bennett's pro day—or lack thereof—shouldn't affect his draft stock too much, although it's worth noting he also sat out the NFL Scouting Combine due to a groin injury last month. Injuries cost Bennett the majority of his sophomore season in 2012, and given that he's lighter than the prototypical defensive tackle, questions about his durability are fair.

Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine Bennett would slide past the second around after a senior season that saw him record seven sacks, including five in the Buckeyes' final five games. With the versatility to also play defensive end, Bennett would fit in most NFL schemes and served as one of the primary leaders on Ohio State's national title team.


Jeff Heuerman

Tight end Jeff Heuerman didn't speak with reporters after pro day as he was busy meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he did do plenty of talking on the field, encouraging fellow pass-catchers during wide receiver and tight end drills. Heuerman also caught some passes of his own, showcasing his hands on short, intermediate and deep routes.

The 6'5", 254-pounder had trouble getting to one of the deeper balls thrown his way, although it's worth noting Smith didn't have a particularly accurate day when it came to distributing passes. Heuerman wouldn't be asked to blow by defenders much anyways, as he's most effective as a possession receiver and elite blocker.

Heuerman's measurable results at pro day are unclear—Ohio State doesn't release them—but his 26 reps on the bench press at the combine bode well for his draft prospects. currently projects Heuerman as a fourth-round pick, and one team that may make some sense for the Naples, Florida, native is the tight end-needy Browns.


Doran Grant

Like Smith, cornerback Doran Grant didn't run in the 40-yard dash on Friday after a stellar showing at last month's combine. The Akron, Ohio, native clocked a 4.44 40 in Indianapolis and said that some coaches clocked him at a 4.38 and 4.37.

Grant still managed to potentially help his draft stock, showcasing strong hands and smooth running as he didn't drop an interception in defensive back drills. The 5'10", 200-pounder said he was pleased with his performance, although he still hasn't gotten a good grasp on where he'll be selected.

"All positive so far," Grant said when asked about the feedback he's received from NFL teams. "I'm not sure what round [I'll be drafted]. I've been hearing a lot, so I'm not sure what's going to happen. There's still a lot of time before the draft." currently ranks Grant as a third-round selection after a strong combine showing that included 21 reps on the bench press, a 33-inch vertical jump and a 116-inch broad jump. Grant also mentioned that he's been hearing from San Francisco, Indianapolis, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Pittsburgh throughout the draft process.

As for where he'd like to be selected, the All-Big Ten corner said that he has no preference. "Just a kid from Akron, Ohio," as LeBron James once said, he simply can't wait to play his first game at the next level.

"Just making a roster," Grant answered when asked what would make him happy.

Reporters laughed.

"No, seriously. Making a roster."


Quick Hits

  • Other ex-Buckeyes who worked out at pro day on Friday included Evan Spencer, Darryl Baldwin, Curtis Grant, Steve Miller, Kyle Clinton, Russell Doup, Drew Basil, Chris Fields, Marcus Hall and George Makridis.
  • Of the bunch, Spencer stood out the most. The wide receiver appears to have added a significant amount of muscle since the end of the season and caught everything thrown to him except for one deep ball on a tough throw. With his abilities as a blocker, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team take a late-round flier on the 2014 Ohio State captain.
  • Baldwin, the Buckeyes' starting right tackle last season, noted he has a workout scheduled with the Carolina Panthers.
  • In addition to the Jaguars, Heuerman was scheduled to meet with the San Francisco 49ers today.
  • While today's pro day may have been lackluster, next year's in Columbus could be the biggest in college football. Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones and Taylor Decker will likely headline the bunch as potential first-round picks and could be joined by the likes of Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Joshua Perry, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett and Michael Thomas, among others.


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

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Tennessee Volunteers' 2016 Dream Recruiting Class

Tennessee is adding building blocks for the future that will make the Volunteers a very formidable opponent in the SEC. The Volunteers have been placing top defensive recruits in recent classes, and 2016 will be no different.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discusses Tennessee's dream recruiting class for 2016.

Who are the must-have recruits for Tennessee next season?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Bleacher Report is joined by Alloway to discuss who he models his game after, what separates him from the pack and his love of Cinnabon. 

What kind of impact can Damian Alloway have on a college team in 2016? Check out the video and let us know!

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College Football's 10 Highest-Paid Assistant Coaches in 2014

They don't make as much money as their bosses, but college football coordinators earn enough to make us all reassess some life decisions.

This has been the case for a while, which is scary since the contracts grow each season. When I assembled this list in March 2014, only five FBS assistants made seven figures. This year, that number ballooned to nine. Next year, there's a good chance it passes 10.

Assembling this list relied heavily on the USA Today salary database. However, those numbers reflect what coaches made in 2014, which means they don't reflect new hires and reworked contracts.

Thus, this list required a boatload of additional research. I am confident in the 10 names that follow, but there's a chance, however slight, that some coach slipped through the cracks. In that case, feel free to post his name in the comments, and I will edit if his contract checks out.

Also of note: The salaries that follow reflect what each coach will make next season. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster ranked No. 1 on the USA Today database for 2014, but that was only because of a one-time payment in his contract. The deal he signed this offseason will pay him $900,000 in 2015, per Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Timeswhich does not rank among the national top 10.

For that reason, he and others like him have been omitted.

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SEC Football: Ranking the Conference's Best Rivalries

The SEC is known for having some of the best rivalries in college football, both inside the conference and outside with state schools from other conferences.

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Cyler Miles Takes Leave of Absence from Washington Football

The University of Washington announced Friday that quarterback Cyler Miles is taking a leave of absence from the football team for personal reasons and will not participate in spring ball.  

Christian Caple of the Tacoma News Tribune passed along a statement from the school, which stressed this was not a disciplinary action:

Miles has appeared in 20 games over his first two seasons with the Huskies. He's thrown 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions while completing better than 65 percent of his passes. He led the team to an 8-6 record last season, including a loss to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl.

While he's away, it opens the door for the team's other quarterbacks to get some extra work. Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning all figure to get their chance to shine during spring practices.

The statement didn't include any potential timetable for Miles' return to the football program. It did note he remains enrolled at Washington while dealing with the personal matter.


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Cyler Miles Takes Leave of Absence from Washington Football

The University of Washington announced Friday that quarterback Cyler Miles is taking a leave of absence from the football team for personal reasons and will not participate in spring ball...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...