NCAA Football

Ohio State Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With baseball season in full swing, Ohio State football is rounding third base and heading home at spring practice. The Buckeyes will host their annual spring game this Saturday at Ohio Stadium, but even Urban Meyer knows there's only so much he'll be able to take away from it.

"Spring ball must not be very interesting," the Ohio State head coach said as he made note of a smaller-than-usual media contingent at his Monday press conference. "And I agree with you."

That doesn't mean this spring—or this Saturday, for that matter—won't wind up being valuable to the Buckeyes as they embark on their defense of the national title. Although plenty of experience returns from a year ago, Meyer is still breaking in some fresh faces and will use this Saturday as a way to gauge who he can count on.

"The thing that spring games give you at a place like Ohio State is a crowd," Meyer said. "A lot of times you'll see a player that comes out [on the practice field] when no one's around and plays well and then he goes out in front of a crowd and locks up. And that's real...I can't say it's going to be pleasant all the time, because you're going to have some young guys who aren't quite ready to play yet."

 

Spring Starters

With 14 combined starters returning on offense and defense from a season ago, the Buckeyes entered spring practice with only eight starting spots—quarterback aside—up for grabs. And while there's still time between now and the start of the season for circumstances to change, most of those vacancies appear to have been filled.

Right tackle Chase Farris, wide receiver Noah Brown, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Gareon Conley will each leave spring football with significant edges in their respective races to replace the starting seniors from last season's championship squad. The other two openings come at tight end, where senior Nick Vannett is a lock to replace Jeff Heuerman, and wide receiver, which will be filled by a shift of personnel.

"A lot of guys get the mentality that, 'I'll go get the job in August,'" Meyer said. "A spot in August is already done and we're trying to go win a football game."

Of course the irony of that mentality is that the Buckeyes' most important position battle won't be settled until the start of fall camp at the earliest. With J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller still recovering from their respective injuries, neither will be able to fully compete with Cardale Jones for the starting quarterback job until the summer—although Barrett has already gotten somewhat of a head start.

"I don't know who our quarterback's going to be," Meyer admitted on Monday. "We're exactly where we need to be. At the end of spring practice we've gotten J.T. Barrett a billion reps, probably more than I thought we'd get him [coming off a fractured ankle]. Cardale didn't have a particularly great day today but he's had a good spring and we're getting him as many reps as we can. And Braxton's getting healthy."

Although Barrett may be ahead of schedule, he will not be participating in this Saturday's spring game. The only two scholarship signal-callers who will be on the field will be Jones and redshirt freshman Stephen Collier, with college football's biggest quarterback battle of the offseason yet to truly take form.

 

Dominant D-Line?

While the losses from last season's national title team are minimal, one unit that has been undergoing somewhat of an overhaul in Columbus this spring has been the Buckeyes defensive line. Gone are defensive tackle Michael Bennett, who is expected to be a second-to-third-round pick in the upcoming draft, and the combination of Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, meaning that Ohio State will be replacing half of its starting defensive line this season.

The half that is returning for the Buckeyes, however, happens to be pretty good, with defensive end Joey Bosa and defensive tackle Adolphus Washington reclaiming their starting spots from a year ago. Neither of the 2016 NFL prospects has seen significant snaps this spring, having little left to prove to Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson, but both have stated a desire to make the most out of this offseason.

"Not much physical reps, but me and Adolphus have been down working with [graduate assistant] Vince [Oghobaase] and Coach Johnson on bags, so we've definitely been getting our work this past week," Bosa said. "We've been doing a lot more contact, so we've definitely been getting back in the swing of it."

As for the openings, Schutt and Lewis will enter fall camp as the front-runners to replace Bennett and Lewis. A former 4-star prospect, Schutt has provided depth on the Buckeyes defensive line for each of the past three seasons but now appears ready to take hold of a starting spot.

As for Lewis, the redshirt sophomore has been one of the more pleasant surprises for Ohio State this spring, after only seeing limited action in 2014. As opposed to the platoon of Miller and Frazier, which was steady but not spectacular, the 6'4", 260-pounder offers a dynamic skill set that could especially shine with the amount of attention offensive lines are forced to pay to Bosa on the opposite side.

"He's doing an unbelievable job this spring, just out there killing it, going hard every day," Bosa said of Lewis. "I'm excited to have another end like that on the other side."

In addition to Schutt and Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Joel Hale have all been mentioned by coaches and teammates as defensive linemen who are having big springs for the Buckeyes. According to Meyer, the plan is to rotate 10 players on the unit, a goal that now appears attainable, as opposed to a year ago.

"Last year we didn't feel too comfortable with putting some backups in," Bosa admitted. "This year's a completely different feel. We have a bunch of guys ready to go."

 

Receivers Ready

Much like the Ohio State defensive line, the Buckeyes wide receiving corps will also feature a new look this fall. Gone are Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, starters for the better part of each of the past two seasons, replaced by a talented albeit inexperienced group that has only seen its reps increased with the absence of Michael Thomas, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery.

Brown, a 6'2", 222-pound sophomore by way of Sparta, New Jersey, has stood out as the best of the bunch thus far.

"Noah Brown has had as good of a spring as I could have wanted," Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. "He's dropped 25 pounds, and he's on a different level than he was in the fall. I'm really, really pleased with where he's at."

With the Buckeyes opting to showcase his ability as a run-blocker even a year ago, Brown appears to be a natural fit to replace Spencer, who was known for his do-it-all nature. As for replacing Smith, who led the nation in yards per catch with a 28.2 average, OSU has been experimenting with shifting H-Back Jalin Marshall from the slot to the outside, at least in the spring.

In Marshall's absence at H-Back, the Buckeyes have turned to Curtis Samuel, who spent his freshman season in 2015 backing up Ezekiel Elliott at running back. Samuel, however, has emerged as one of Ohio State's top playmakers this spring, and Meyer has vowed to get him on the field for 40-50 plays per game this fall.

"Curtis is really talented. Curtis could play a lot of different spots," Smith said. "He's been meeting in my room as we just try to saturate him at this position."

While it's currently a temporary setup, keeping Marshall on the outside could become permanent if Samuel proves to be the Buckeyes' best option at H-Back. What's promising is the number of options Ohio State appears to have, as despite its departures it appears to only be adding options.

"We had to go get more people that fit [our] type of system because we wanted to spread the field horizontally," Meyer said. "That's the Jalin Marshall-, Dontre Wilson-, Curtis Samuel-type player. We're still looking for more."

 

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 CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Ranking the Top 25 Juniors Heading into the 2015 College Football Season

In the hierarchy of college football classes, the juniors stand atop the mountain.

The junior class is where we usually find the next wave of NFL stars, and as a result, the best of the best from this group end up turning pro after the season. It's somewhat like the free-agent year for college players, as a strong performance can dictate what their future holds.

The future is now, though, for college football's top juniors, and the competition to be ranked among the 25 best in that class was fierce. We factored in past results, expected performance this fall and their overall impact on the game in how we've listed them, and the resumes of those who didn't crack the top 25 were almost as impressive as the ones of those who made the cut.

Check out our top 25 juniors heading into the 2015 season, and give us your thoughts in the comment section.

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Which SEC Team Can Dethrone Alabama with the Best Recruiting Class in 2016?

Alabama sits atop the college football recruiting world, having the best class in the country for five straight years. Could Bama's reign be challenged by someone in their own conference?

Stephen Nelson is joined by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani to discuss a possible SEC contender for the top recruiting class in 2016.

Who will have the No. 1 class in 2016? Check out the video and let us know!

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Which Notre Dame QB Needs a Bigger Spring, Everett Golson or Malik Zaire?

Here's what we know about Notre Dame's quarterback competition between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire: Barring an injury or some unforeseen circumstance, it will rage on into preseason camp. 

This Saturday's spring game on April 18th isn't going to change that, either. Spring games are essentially glorified scrimmages that the public sees. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, on the other hand, has been closely monitoring Golson and Zaire for weeks on end. He knows what they're capable of doing. 

That said, Golson has to be feeling the pressure to have the better spring. He has one more year of eligibility remaining and has been the subject of transfer rumors, namely to LSU, which he's denied on his Twitter account. 

Spring drills provide an opportunity to bounce back from disappointments and block out distractions. Whether you're talking about an early-enrollee freshman or a fifth-year senior, everyone for the most part starts with a new slate.

Even though Golson is a longtime starter, that's just what he needs. 

According to J.J. Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com, Golson has been battling hard with Zaire for the No. 1 spot. Golson could transfer at the end of spring and be eligible to play right away next year. However, his actions actually indicate he's working hard to be the best player he can be for Notre Dame, despite conjecture to the contrary. 

"If I sensed (Golson eyeing a transfer) at all, I would pull the plug on it myself because we’re wasting our time,” Kelly said via Stankevitz. "I’m not going to jeopardize our program, our staff, our livelihood, what we do, if somebody’s not bought in and 100 percent committed. So that’s the most honest answer I could give you from that standpoint."

For example: Golson hasn't spoken to the media in months and was scheduled to speak last week, according to The Associated Press. However, a school spokesperson said Golson opted not to instead: 

Notre Dame spokesman Michael Bertsch said Golson decided against talking with the media, saying he wants to focus on football and school. Bertsch said Golson is aware that some people will speculate about what his decision not to talk to the media means. When he receives his degree he is eligible to go to another school and play immediately.

Yes, people will take Golson's silence as a sign of his commitment—or lack thereof. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Millerhas also been quiet when it comes to media availability, which has only fueled similar transfer rumors over the past few months. 

But that doesn't mean those are the correct assumptions. 

The past two years have been filled with more downs than ups for Golson. He missed the entire 2013 season because of an academic issue and had ball-security issues last year. He was benched in the Irish's final regular-season game of '14 against USC, and Zaire got the start in the Music City Bowl against LSU. 

This is Golson's last chance to make an impact, to finish on a more positive note. If football and school are his biggest priorities as Kelly has indicated, then that's where he needs to put his focus. Kelly is willing to give him that, as he said via Stankevitz: 

He doesn’t want to talk about it, he doesn’t want to do media and stuff like that because he’s focused on his academics and graduating and I’m OK with that. I’m fine with that. He’s had his share of living in the bright lights of it.

Now in the fall, he’s going to have to do what everybody else does in the fall and when it’s media time, he’s going to sit in front of you guys and answer questions. We’ll give him his space.

That makes sense. Kelly and Golson have worked together for a long time. At this point, Kelly should know what his quarterback needs and what will make him successful. Critics can wonder why a senior still hasn't found the right balance of on-the-field success, academic success and media success, but it doesn't always click the same way at the same time for everyone. 

What matters is that Golson is concentrating on the things that are important. If anything, that should tell you he's committed to turning things around at his current school. 

If Kelly was to announce a starter after the spring game, publicly or privately, it would make sense to fuel the Golson rumors. As long as it's an open competition that will carry on for another few months, it means Golson has a chance. It's not a guarantee, but it's not nothing, either. 

That's all Golson needs. And it doesn't sound like he cares one bit if anyone says anything to the contrary. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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SEC Players Who Have Surprised This Spring

Spring is a time for players to get better, and oftentimes, that means unknown or underrated players lay the groundwork for fall superstardom.

For others, it's a chance to hit the reset button after struggling in the hopes of turning things around.

Which players in the SEC have surprised this spring? Our picks, based on track record, depth chart movement and talent, are in this slideshow.

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4-Star Jarrett Guarantano Breaks Down Finalists Ohio State, Tennessee & Rutgers

Coveted quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is closing in on a collegiate decision with three programs in contention for his commitment. The 4-star passer will pick either Ohio State, Rutgers or Tennessee on Wednesday, April 15 during an announcement ceremony.

Guarantano, a junior at Bergen Catholic High School, received his first scholarship offer before high school. That list expanded to include more than 30 universities during the past three years.

"It will be kind of strange to put the recruiting process behind me after all this time, but it will also be a relief," Guarantano told Bleacher Report. "I can focus on football and becoming a better quarterback without some of the stress recruiting can create. It's going to be fun to just go out and play without thinking about all the other stuff."

There are unique reasons why each of his three finalists remain in the equation. Guarantano admits it's a difficult decision.

"All three schools really did a great job showing me love and made me feel like they want me to be a part of their program," he said. "It's a tough choice because they've each made me feel like family and I have a lot of respect for those coaches."

Guarantano spent time on all three campuses this year, developing and enhancing longstanding rapports with each program. 

"I have a strong relationship with these head coaches so it's going to be tough to tell two of them I'm not coming," he said. "Butch Jones coached my dad in college and has always made me feel welcome at Tennessee; Urban Meyer and I have become extremely close; Rutgers has always felt like home and Kyle Flood has made it seem even more like that during the past few months. Regardless of which school I pick, those two phone calls are going to be hard."

Guarantano, who also holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, LSU and Notre Dame, is rated sixth nationally among pro-style passers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is second on that list when it comes to uncommitted prospects.

While some players leave things open-ended after commitment announcements, Guarantano aims to stick with his decision during the next nine months before arriving on campus next January.

"When I decide Wednesday, I think I'm just going to shut it down for a while," he said. "I don't think I'll take any unofficial visits this summer or even when the opportunity to take official visits comes around. I plan to enroll early, so my goal is to have everything pretty set when next season starts."

The 6'4", 200-pound playmaker, who tallied 1,227 total yards and 12 touchdowns in seven games last season, broke down each of his options during a recent conversation with Bleacher Report. 

 

Ohio State

Guarantano spent the early stages of spring break at Ohio State. His final assessment of the school took place last week, when the campus still seemed to be celebrating a title-game victory that occurred three months ago.

"It's still rocking in Columbus," he said. "I was hanging out with Cardale (Jones) and there were people jumping all over him, asking for autographs and taking pictures. The atmosphere is one-of-a-kind there, especially after winning a national championship. Being there in person just showed me how much a title can change the culture of a university."

Jones is one of three high-profile passers competing for first-string snaps at Ohio State, along with Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. The trio follows in line with other quarterbacks who've flourished in Meyer's offensive attack, including first-rounds NFL draft picks Alex Smith and Tim Tebow.

At least two of the Buckeyes quarterbacks are likely to make a leap to the NFL in 2016, but the depth chart is star-studded throughout. Ohio State welcomes freshmen Torrance Gibson and Joe Burrow to campus this year.

Guarantano won't shy away from a crowded competition.

"The success of quarterbacks under Urban Meyer is incredible, so I'm not surprised about the amount of talent at the position there," he said. "If I went to Ohio State, there would be about three or four other very good quarterbacks on the team. You have to compete in college no matter where you go, and it's just a matter of finding out where you want to have that competition."

He credits Meyer for spearheading a championship run that ended with his third-string quarterback playing the starring role. Guarantano referred to him as "one of the all-time greats" among coaches at any level.

"The amount knowledge he has is ridiculous," he said. "You can tell he's learned so much about football and life from his time at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. It was a great pickup for Ohio State when they hired him and I knew he would be successful there because of his background of leading teams and training big-time quarterbacks."

Now Guarantano could be next in line to join that esteemed list.

"They've been telling me that 'the best go to the best', so if I'm confident in my abilities there's a chance for me to play early at the highest level of college football," Guarantano said.

 

Rutgers

Rutgers has always had an edge in proximity, located within a short car ride from his home and high school. The Scarlet Knights extended an offer to Guarantano during the summer after his eighth-grade year, becoming the first program to formally join an eventual nationwide pursuit.

His father, James Guarantano, is a member of the Rutgers Hall of Fame and finished his college career as the program's all-time receptions leader. Despite that strong connection to the school and countless campus visits, head coach Kyle Flood found his team on the outside looking in last season when it came to this recruitment.

"I'm going to be honest, looking back at September and October they weren't even a thought because they had kind of backed off a little bit since they knew how close I already was to the program," Guarantano said. "They gave me some space then, but ever since it's been totally different. I've had a chance to really learn how great the program is and all about its history. That put them back in my mind as a contender."

Gary Nova, a four-year starter who wrapped up his career at Rutgers in 2014, is the team's all-time leader in touchdown passes. He and Mike Teel (2005-2008) are the most successful passers since the program's stature elevated under former head coach Greg Schiano, though both players went through their ups and downs without claiming an outright conference championship.

Consistency at quarterback is an essential part of Rutgers' aim to climb the ranks as a Big Ten newcomer. Guarantano feels he would fit the bill and could earn an opportunity to lead the program past new challenges toward new heights.

"The chance to be one of the first to do something always gets you excited," he said. "We're talking about the chance to bring back the first Big Ten championship to Jersey or even chase after the first national championship. That's something I've always thought about with Rutgers. It isn't just the opportunity to follow my dad's path and become another Guarantano who played there; it's the chance to become a legend forever. That would be something special."

You get the sense that Rutgers is tugging at Guarantano's heartstrings more than Tennessee and Ohio State. It remains to be seen whether that's enough to land the top in-state target.

"Rutgers is a place I've always loved and it's been a big part of my life," Guarantano said. "That coaching staff has made me feel like family more than anyone else in the country. Rutgers will forever be a great place in my heart."

 

Tennessee

 The Volunteers hosted Guarantano on campus in late March. He left with an extremely positive impression of the program and those who support it.

"I had a chance to become more familiar with the campus and Knoxville. What really stood out was the atmosphere," he said. "I don't think there's a fanbase that cares more about their football team than at the University of Tennessee. I've never seen anything like it."

Despite a longstanding commitment from 4-star North Carolina quarterback Austin Kendall, the team remained in hot pursuit of Guarantano throughout his junior year. Kendall decommitted last month and has since pledged to Oklahoma, leaving things wide open at the position in Tennessee's 2016 class

Head coach Butch Jones was a Rutgers graduate assistant when Guarantano's father played for the Scarlet Knights. The Volunteers leader has used impressive recruiting hauls and improved play on the field to help get things back on track in Knoxville.

Many view the program as a candidate to make significant strides in the SEC East this season. Guarantano could see himself being part of a potential program rebound.

"It's kind of crazy how Coach Jones came in there and really changed the game with these recruiting classes," he said. "'Brick-by-brick' is a great philosophy because they are building something special there with talented players and I think that will continue. Coach Jones does a great job selling that vision to recruits like me and makes it feel like he'll be a second dad for the next four years, taking care of you on and off the field."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Who Will Be College Football's Breakout Freshmen in 2015?

Last year, we had some incredible performances from freshmen, especially at the running back position. This year is chock-full of incoming freshmen who could make a huge difference. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate which freshmen will break out this season. 

Who will be the best freshman in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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10 College Football Players Who Dazzled in Early Spring Game Action

Spring football games have technically been going on since February, but only in the past week have they really started to pick up.

For anyone craving a football fix, this is the best—and last—opportunity for several months. And because optimism is at an all-time high in spring, there are always breakout performances that have fans filled with excitement for the future.

These are the football players who dazzled in the early weeks of spring practices.  

The only thing that matters here is that the player saw the field. Stats, while helpful, don't always tell the full story. What matters just as much is context. What does the depth at a certain position look like? How productive was this player (or position) last year? Remember, these are glorified scrimmages that focus more on situations than on box scores. 

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4-Star LB Curtis Robinson Commits to Stanford, Says It 'Just Felt Like Home'

Academics mean the world to Curtis Robinson. It so happens that he's just as good a football player as he is a student.

When discussing college football recruiting, the 4-star linebacker from renowned Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, always put academics and athletics on an equal playing scale. Monday morning, Robinson ended his recruiting process by verbally committing to Stanford via social media.

Choosing to announce on Twitter, Robinson picked the Cardinal over offers from UCLA and Notre Dame. He became Stanford's fourth overall pledge and second in roughly 48 hours. Another 4-star talent—Texas tight end Kaden Smith, the nation's No. 2 tight end—committed to Stanford Saturday.

For Robinson, Stanford was the school he's always wanted to go to.

"[Stanford] just felt like home," Robinson said. "After visiting, I realized that there wasn't another place that could give me the same opportunity academically or athletically. Also, this school was my dream ever since I was a child."

It was only last week when Robinson tweeted a top seven of Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Duke, Ohio State and Washington. Per his 247Sports timeline, he took an unofficial visit to Stanford the weekend of April 4. He was recruited by assistant coaches Lance Anderson (director of defense) and Mike Bloomgren (associate head coach/director of offense).

At 6'3", 205 pounds, Robinson has great size and solid speed. As the nation's No. 10 outside linebacker, he's a playmaker at the position.

Perhaps more importantly, Robinson is the kind of athlete who will be a great student-athlete ambassador at Stanford. At Mater Dei, he maintains a 4.1 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale with the help of AP courses.

Robinson's looking to obtain a business degree upon finishing his undergraduate studies. If the NFL calls, as well, then so be it.

Robinson is excited about suiting up for coach David Shaw next season. He's also excited to say his process is now a part of his past.

"The process was fun, but it's a relief," he said. "It's good to know where I'm going and [to] be able to focus on spring ball and my senior year."

 

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

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Insider Buzz: USC Sleeper Who Will Have Breakout Season for Trojans

USC is looking to have one of the most potent offenses in the country next season, led by Heisman hopeful Cody Kessler at quarterback. 

Adam Lefkoe is joined by Los Angeles Times USC beat writer Lindsey Thiry to discuss USC's potential sleeper on offense. 

How good can the Trojans offense be next season? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Insider Buzz: USC Sleeper Who Will Have Breakout Season for Trojans

USC is looking to have one of the most potent offenses in the country next season, led by Heisman hopeful Cody Kessler at quarterback...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

4-Star J.P. Urquidez Commits to Baylor: 'I'm Ready to Recruit State of Texas'

Sometimes, being first means something to a college football recruit.

Texas offensive lineman J.P. Urquidez claimed Baylor as his first offer on March 22, 2014. Nearly 13 months and 25 offers later, Baylor still is No. 1 to land Urquidez, as the 4-star offensive tackle verbally committed to the Bears during a ceremony Monday morning at Copperas Cove High School.

Urquidez became Baylor's seventh commitment of the 2016 class. Ranked as the nation's No. 20 offensive tackle, Urquidez chose Baylor over Texas, Oklahoma and Miami.

"I feel great, completely relieved," Urquidez said. "It's been a crazy journey with recruiting and seeing each side of the programs, but I was ready to shut it down.

"It started early with Baylor being my first offer. I looked at each school and thought about which one I saw myself fitting the best at. I asked for 365 [days], can I live there?"

Urquidez's commitment is huge for Baylor, as the 2016 class now has Urquidez and 5-star Patrick Hudson spearheading the offensive line. Hudson is the nation's No. 2 offensive tackle and the No. 12 overall player.

Many believed Urquidez's decision came down to Baylor and Texas, as the 6'5.5", 300-pounder from Copperas Cove, Texas, visited both schools multiple times during his recruiting process. Urquidez has built great relationships with coaches from both schools, but he said he likes where Baylor's been in recent years. More importantly, he chose Baylor because of where he feels the program can be in the immediate future.

"Baylor's the new kid on the block; they're here, and they're now," Urquidez said. "They are back-to-back Big 12 champs and one of the best teams in the country. I have great relationships with the coaches there. I just like the feel of it all."

Urquidez has made unofficial visits all over the country, and since mid-February, he's made stops to all four of his finalists. He took in junior days at Oklahoma (Feb. 15) and Texas (Feb. 28), and he spent part of his spring break in Miami (March 16-18).

Most recently, he visited Baylor for its Friday Night Lights spring scrimmage on March 20. Urquidez has been recruited by assistant coaches Randy Clements, Kendal Briles and Jeff Lebby, and all three have sold the program and the school to him.

"To me, it's not just about winning national championships," he said. "I can't predict the future, but I want to know what I'll be doing when I get there."

Urquidez is committed to play tackle, but he said he is open to playing guard in the system. Urquidez's first mission is to see playing time as early as possible.

"If the coaches came to me and said I could play guard and start right now, I guess I'd get used to playing guard," he said.

Baylor won a recruiting battle against a school that’s been a childhood favorite of Urquidez's in Texas. He said he likes how head coach Charlie Strong runs the program and how offensive line coach Joe Wickline has sent multiple lineman to the NFL.

For his future, however, Baylor proved to be the best fit. And now, Urquidez said, it's time to find additional players to help boost the class.

"Now that my decision is made, it's final," he said. "I'm ready to recruit the state of Texas to bring powerhouses to the school."

 

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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Ryan Buchanan May Lead, but Chad Kelly Will Be Ole Miss' Starting QB

Chad Kelly was the sizzle this spring in Oxford, but apparently Ryan Buchanan is the steak.

Buchanan, a 6'3", 208-pound redshirt sophomore from Jackson, Mississippi, exited spring practice with a slight lead over Kelly, the 6'3", 220-pound dual-threat junior college transfer, and redshirt sophomore DeVante Kincade.

"In the totality of spring, going back before today, I would say that Ryan Buchanan had a lead in my mind," head coach Hugh Freeze said in quotes released by Ole Miss following the spring game on Saturday. "That certainly doesn't mean that he is going to be the starter."

If Buchanan was the leader going into the Grove Bowl on Saturday, Kelly did all he could to close the gap.

Buchanan completed five of his 16 passes for 49 yards, zero touchdowns and one pick on Saturday, while Kelly completed nine of his 19 for 104 yards, one touchdown and one pick, according to stats released by the school.

The highlight for Kelly was a 43-yard touchdown strike to Taz Zettergren to get the scoring started.

As Brad Logan of Rebel Nation and 96.3 The Ticket in Tupelo, Mississippi, points out, Kelly looked sharp in Freeze's offense:

So why is Buchanan in the lead?

Experience, plain and simple.

This is Buchanan's third season under Freeze at Ole Miss, and he not only knows what Freeze expects, but also what many of his teammates are thinking. He has the luxury of being on the same page with pretty much everybody in the program, while Kelly has had to pick that up on the fly.

While Kelly ran virtually the same offense at East Mississippi Community College last season, won a national title, threw for 3,906 yards and rushed for 446, he has been forced to play catch-up this offseason due in part to a re-dedication to tempo by Freeze and his staff.

The Rebels ran 69.6 plays per game last year after running 78.3 plays per game in 2013 and 74 plays per game in Freeze's first season in Oxford in 2012.

"We have gone back to my Arkansas State days," Freeze said. "What I found out last year is that you cannot go from slow to fast, but you can go fast to slow. We have definitely made an emphasis on getting our tempo back. I think our kids handled it well. I think that it helped make us more effective and efficient."

If Ole Miss is going to play faster, of course that favors the quarterbacks who have been there longer and are more comfortable with the scheme and personnel.

In the end, though, Kelly will be the man in Oxford.

He showed on Saturday that he has a big arm, is consistent on the timing routes underneath and has the dynamic running ability that Buchanan simply doesn't have. That's important, because Ole Miss not only needs to find another weapon on the ground opposite edge threat Jaylen Walton, but Kelly can add an even bigger wrinkle off the read-option with Jordan Wilkins, Eugene Brazley or Akeem Judd providing the threat between the tackles.

Kelly may not have the lead, but he's in a heated race and has far more upside. That should earn him the starting nod when toe meets leather in Ole Miss' season opener versus UT-Martin on Sept. 5.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

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

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: How High Is Michael Thomas' Ceiling as Buckeyes No. 1 WR?

On the road in a prime-time game against Michigan State last year, Ohio State was on the ropes and in need of a big play when Michael Thomas stepped up.

The Spartans had just blown an opportunity to take a two-score lead late in the second quarter, setting the Buckeyes up at their own 21-yard line. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Thomas faked an outside go-route before darting inside for a quick slant. J.T. Barrett hit him with a perfectly placed pass, and Thomas shrugged off a would-be tackler and raced 79 yards for the game-tying score.

That was the kind of play Thomas made as the Buckeyes' No. 2 option at wide receiver last year, serving as an excellent counterpunch to the quick-striking Devin Smith.

This fall, though, the rising redshirt junior is primed to not only become the Buckeyes' top pass-catcher, but also emerge as one of the nation's best wideouts. 

Thomas had an outstanding sophomore campaign—catching 54 passes for 799 yards and nine touchdowns. But as the nephew of legendary receiver Keyshawn Johnson, the expectations for greatness are there.

"I think Mike's doing well," Johnson told Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer last October. "He's just scratching the surface. He has to keep doing everything the coaches are asking him to do, continue to keep getting better each week. I think eventually, at some point in time, he'll come into his own, but Mike's still learning how to play."

It took a while for Thomas to get there.

After a surprising performance in the 2012 spring game when he caught 12 passes for 131 yards, many thought he would contribute as a freshman in Urban Meyer's wide-open system. But that fall, he only caught a meager three passes for 22 yards. A year later, he hadn't earned the right to see the field and was eventually redshirted. 

"He was the mistake guy," Meyer said of Thomas leading up the '13 season, according to Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone. "Every third play he would go the wrong way or make a mistake and come up with some excuse."

But Thomas showed what he was made of during his year off—taking it as an opportunity to grow.

"It was a tough season redshirting because I knew I probably wasn't going to play, but I'm all about looking forward at my opportunities for this year," Thomas said, via Wasserman. "I just took last season as like a developmental year. That motivates me."

Something clicked as he stood on the sideline. 

In a receiving corps loaded with options like Smith, Evan Spencer, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, Thomas rose up as Ohio State's most consistent pass-catcher, leading the team with 54 receptions last season.

But now, he won't be looked at as a complement to someone else in the passing game—by the Buckeyes coaching staff or opposing defenses this fall. He'll be Ohio State's go-to guy, and to his credit, he's up for the challenge. 

"I feel like the whole time I was getting ready for this type of moment, this situation," Thomas said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "Over the years, watching, sitting down, I just had to stay patient and keep working."

So how good can Thomas be this year? Will he be able to thrive while every defense keys in on him? 

He's expecting that, and even still, he's setting lofty goals this fall. 

Like becoming the first Buckeye receiver to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since 2002.

"Yeah, I think about it all the time," Thomas said, via Seger. "It's definitely what I want, but I wouldn't say a 1,000—a 1,000-plus."

The coaching staff certainly believes in him. Even though Thomas has been held out for most spring practice as he recovers from a sports hernia, wide receivers coach Zach Smith thinks the sky's the limit.

“His ceiling is where he sets it,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said, via Patrick Murphy of The Ozone. “It's really limitless. He's a very talented guy.”

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

When news broke last week that 4-star defensive tackle Jordan Elliott had decommitted from Baylor, it almost seemed like a forgone conclusion that the interest in him would swell.

The first school to tender him afterward was the Miami Hurricanes, as noted by Bleacher Report’s Damon Sayles.

Al Golden and his staff have jumped out to a fast start, having landed 20 verbal commitments—all of which are homegrown products in Florida.

Included in that group are a trio of defensive ends, but the ‘Canes have yet to land a commitment from a defensive tackle.

The 6’4”, 305-pound Houston standout rates as the nation’s No. 12 defensive tackle and the No. 93 player overall in the 2016 cycle.

Given that Miami has the luxury of having most of its class already filled, Golden and his staff can afford to go all in and swing for the fences with elite talents such as Elliott.

Elliott—who also picked up an offer from Arkansas last week—has schools such as Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, TCU, Texas and Texas A&M among the group of programs he is considering.

While it will be a battle to get him to leave the Lone Star State, Miami presents Elliott with an intriguing option given the ‘Canes need for playmakers along the interior of their defensive line.

 

Florida After Texas A&M Commit

Elliott’s teammate at Westfield High School in Houston is 4-star receiver and current Texas A&M pledge Tyrie Cleveland.

While the ‘Canes came after Elliott, another Sunshine State powerhouse threw its hat in the ring for Cleveland: the Florida Gators.

Jim McElwain’s club has a big need at the receiver position in the 2016 cycle, despite already having a pair of commitments at that position. 

Getting Cleveland to back off his pledge to the home state Aggies will be tough, but similar to Miami’s pursuit of Elliott, the Gators have little to lose in offering one of the most explosive talents in the Lone Star State.

 

Michigan, Notre Dame Offer Florida WR

The state of Florida is loaded with stud recruits, but it’s also a haven for schools outside of the Southeast who are looking to poach talented prospects that have flown under the radar. 

Both Notre Dame and Michigan jumped into the race for Jacksonville (Florida) First Coast pass-catcher Kevin Stepherson.

The 6’2”, 180-pounder also has offers from LSU, North Carolina and West Virginia, among others.

Given the wave of interest from powers such as the Irish and the Wolverines, expect Stepherson’s profile to continue to grow in the coming months.

 

Nebraska Offers Stud 2017 QB

The last stud passer to emerge from St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, was Marcus Mariota.

However, the Crusaders' current trigger man, 2017 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, is poised to become a national recruit.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Nebraska tendered the 6’1”, 190-pounder last week.

The ‘Huskers join the likes of Ole Miss, Texas Tech, UCLA and USC as early offers for Tagovailoa.

 

Best of the Rest

  • Pryor’s teammate at Lawrenceville (Georgia) Archer High School, 2017 4-star athlete Jamyest Williams, picked up offers from Stanford and Miami.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Mark Richt's 4 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

The G-Day Game was played on Saturday, and the Georgia Bulldogs were able to give the fans a show before the team gears up for fall camp and the 2015 season.

Head coach Mark Richt should be pleased with a lot of things he saw during the spring game. A.J. Turman ran the ball well, the linebackers were making plays and quarterback Faton Bauta made strides from the start of spring practice to G-Day.

With that said, there are still some concerns for Richt and his coaching staff, and those things will be addressed when the Bulldogs return to work in the summer.

So here are Richt’s biggest concerns as the team ends spring practice.

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College Football Players with Most Pressure Riding on Their Shoulders

In college football, pressure is a relative term. When your sport is the biggest moneymaker on campus, the engine that fuels athletic department coffers across the nation, you’re going to feel pressure to consistently perform and win.

With only 12 regular-season games each season, every game matters, whether it’s the opener or a random midseason, nonconference road game. Any slip-up will dearly hurt a team’s quest for a coveted College Football Playoff berth. But some players will be feeling the pressure a bit more than most this fall.

These are players who’ll be depended upon heavily for a variety of reasons this fall, be it the crucial position they occupy, the key player they’re replacing or a lack of a supporting cast around them. Here are 10 players who’ll be feeling the most pressure in 2015.

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Why Ohio State Students Should Beware of Joey Bosa

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even with his new haircut, it's not hard to spot Joey Bosa on Ohio State's campus.

At 6'6" and 275 pounds, the Buckeyes star defensive end is much larger than most college students. But it's not just Bosa's size and celebrity status that has gotten him recognized around campus lately, as classmates have been treated to a firsthand look at some of his newest pass-rushing moves for the 2015 season.

"It will be random, out at night, and there will be two people walking in a row and I'll flip on one and flip on the other," Bosa said as he mimicked the motion of a defensive lineman's swim move. "[They're] probably a little scared or shocked."

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native said he's constantly been working on his repertoire of moves since the 2014 season came to a close, whether it's been refining old ones or thinking of new ones. "It's pretty much in your mind, 24/7, so you're pretty much always working on it," Bosa said.

It's hard to imagine Bosa would even have much to work on after a 2014 campaign that saw him named a unanimous All-American in what was just his sophomore season. In 15 games, the Sunshine State product tallied 55 tackles, 21 of which came for a loss, and 13.5 sacks, and he was responsible for perhaps the most memorable play during Ohio State's run to the national title.

Yet despite his ability to control a game from the defensive end position in just the second year of his college career, Bosa insists that he has plenty of improving to do.

So much so, in fact, that when asked what he's been working on this spring, Bosa declined to name a single element of his game. Rather, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year said that he's been working to improve on everything in his skill set, despite seeing just limited reps for precautionary purposes this spring.

"I can't really pick one spot in my game that I can get better at because I think I can improve at every part of my game," he said. "That's the plan—not just getting better at one thing but improving in every aspect of my game."

And while Bosa may be right, it's hard to imagine a player getting much better when he would likely be a high first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft if he were draft eligible. Instead, Bosa will have to wait until next year's annual selection show, where he's already in the running to be the first player selected.

WalterFootball.com currently projects Bosa to be the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, while CBSSports.com lists him as the No. 1 overall defensive end in the 2017 class. That's because as a junior, he could always opt to return to Ohio State for a fourth and final season in 2016, although with the hype he's already receiving, that's highly unlikely.

Bosa's even admitted that he's aware of the draft-related expectations that are following him into the upcoming season. But rather than letting them become a distraction like Jadeveon Clowney did in 2013, he's attempting to use it as motivation to live up to the hype.

"I'm not really thinking about it much," Bosa insisted. "I have my goals set just to get better."

Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson concurred.

"It will not happen," Johnson said of the possibility of Bosa taking plays off to guard against injury and protect his draft stock. "Because he wants to be great. Great players do not shut down. Great players go forward and that's what we hope Joey will do."

Judging by his impromptu on-campus pass-rush practice, that's the path Bosa appears to have chosen. Johnson said he's even been used as a prop by his star player in such drills around the halls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as Bosa prepares for his highly touted junior season.

"We can't write the story now. We'll write the story at the end of the season," Johnson said. "He has a chance to be a really special player."

With all he's already accomplished in the first two years of his college career, one could argue he already is.

But the idea of Bosa being even better than he was a year ago? That might be even scarier than being the target of one of his random pass-rush sessions.

 

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 CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Not every spring practice is perfect, and that certainly extends to a Tennessee football team that has had a near-month of praise-filled drills despite being extremely short-handed thanks to injuries.

But a week after the refrain was refreshing around the Vols' progress, Saturday brought a particularly perturbed coach Butch Jones after a subpar practice.

Though much of spring has centered around the emergence of some fresh faces (such as Alvin Kamara and Shy Tuttle) and the development of quarterback Joshua Dobbs, some little-used contributors have begun to take serious strides toward helping the Vols in 2015.

Last week, Jones praised defensive backs Rashaan Gaulden and Evan Berry. This week, two more had done enough to get public recognition.

All that and more will be discussed in this week's stock report.

 

Saturday's Malaise 

All the hurt players have seriously hindered UT's ability to participate in game-like situations this spring, but that hadn't damped the team's ability to install much of the concepts from new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord or turn up the tempo.

"We're pushing tempo, and people know the plays like the back of their hand and more than they did last year, so we're able to go faster and do things on offense," Dobbs told B/R last week. "We're installing various concepts and stuff, so we're definitely growing as an offense and growing the arsenal we have.

"Tempo, that's something that's always been a part of our offense. We're picking that even more this offseason."

What a difference in tone a week makes.

With Kamara missing his third consecutive practice with a thigh bruise and other offensive weapons missing, the Vols failed to please their coach on Saturday.

In situational work and under difficult circumstances that any team will face during the course of its season, they struggled to perform.

"I did not like our offense's approach," Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free-Press' Patrick Brown. "I thought we were stale. I thought we had no mental effort. I thought we had no intensity about ourselves, and I think it showed.

"We started off putting them in some demanding situations."

UT didn't fare very well in those, reportedly. But the injuries can't be discounted. With Jalen Hurd limited this spring, Kamara and Dobbs generated the most positive publicity among offensive players. With Kamara out, the offense sputtered.

The Vols miss the running backs a lot when they aren't out there, but Jones indicated Kamara's injury isn't anything to worry about.

Despite his general unhappiness with the way the Vols handled every situation, Jones noted the practice was productive because of the varying situations in which his team gained experience.

Even so, Dobbs wasn't real chipper when asked about the general sloppiness of the passing game or about drops, according to GoVols247's Wes Rucker. It has been a long spring with injuries and trying to push through short-handed, and maybe it got to him a little after a less-than-stellar day.

 

Defensive Duo Making a Move

Injuries have equaled opportunities this spring, and it isn't just newcomers taking advantage.

Most of the excitement entering the spring centered around redshirt freshman Dillon Bates moving to middle linebacker to perhaps seize a wide-open spot and solidify that position for the next few years. 

Gavin Bryant was another redshirt freshman everybody wanted to see, and while true freshman Darrin Kirkland Jr. is out with an injury, he is expected to have a say-so in that race before the season starts.

Bates isn't yet healthy, however, and he has yet to wrestle the job away from redshirt junior Kenny Bynum, who started in the place of Jakob Johnson in the TaxSlayer Bowl and hasn't relinquished the job yet.

The 6'1", 243-pound linebacker isn't anywhere near the most athletic of the bunch, but Jones said, via Volquest's Twitter account, that his knowledge of the defense and ability to get everybody lined up are major assets in his attempt to win the job.

Another player who's a bit of a forgotten man in the defensive tackle battle is Kendal Vickers.

The 6'3", 288-pound former defensive end has worked on his body all offseason to take advantage of a wide-open opportunity to help inside, and he continues to make good on a storybook career.

Vickers was an extremely late addition to Jones' first recruiting class at Tennessee as a lightly recruited defensive end out of Havelock, North Carolina.

Though UT wound up getting a higher-ranked prospect from the same school in Derrell Scott last year, the running back already has transferred while Vickers stuck around.

He may be rewarded with playing time. 

With Danny O'Brien missing the spring, Vickers has joined Tuttle as players who are turning heads on the interior. Jones told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan that Vickers' success stems from a technical improvement— he's using his hands more:

And he's starting to really use his athletic ability, and he's very explosive. That shows in the weight room. But now it's transferring the weight room onto the football field, and he's been able to do that. Now you're starting to see the volume of repetitions really starting to improve his play.

He's very prideful, but I can see his first step off the football. He's playing with much more explosiveness. He's playing with much more confidence, and he’s using his hands and his technique better.

Shoring up the middle of its defense is the biggest question mark on that side of the ball for Tennessee. Everybody may be talking about elite recruits such as Kirkland and Kahlil McKenzie, but it never hurts to have players improving who have been in the defense for a number of years.

Bynum is going into his fourth season at UT, and Vickers is entering his third. Getting them to consistently play well is huge for coordinator John Jancek's defense.

 

Mixed Bag for Blair

One of the brightest spotlights the past two seasons on any player has stayed firmly on former 4-star JUCO offensive tackle Dontavius Blair.

At 6'8", 300 pounds, he certainly looks the part. But after a redshirt season a year ago, he still hasn't cracked the starting rotation. Knoxville native Brett Kendrick has enjoyed a stout spring at right tackle, and when Coleman Thomas returns from his suspension, he should be in the mix for snaps, too.

Then this summer, instate recruiting star Drew Richmond gets to campus, and he will battle for the job, too.

But everybody's wondering about Blair, and whether he'll ever really be able to help the Vols.

Offensive line coach Don Mahoney told GoVols247's Callahan this week that Blair must be more consistent:

I told him the thing he needs to focus on is just working to get better each and every day, and he's got to be a guy that is providing us valuable play. He's more focused right now than he's been because of the hype and all that, that came into this thing.

Now it’s just a matter of staying focused. Eliminate the clutter and focus on what you need to. He's not as consistent as he needs to (be). That's the thing that's frustrating both he and I right now that has got to improve. 

He's one that he's got to be technically and fundamentally (sound) and fanatical with the way he plays, and it's not as consistent as it needs to be right now, so that’s what we’re working toward.

 

Rocky Top Roundup

  • One of the biggest objects of obsession for UT fans is Hurd, so when it was reported that the rising sophomore running back who's been limited this spring is between 235-240 pounds and hasn't lost a step, it was big news. 
  • Spring practice is serious business, but that doesn't mean there can't be a little good-natured ribbing, especially between coaches. So, it was an extremely popular retweet this week when UT tight ends/special teams coach Mark Elder tweeted a video that showed offensive line coach Mahoney falling to the ground with an apparent calf cramp.
  • After missing all of last season, UT receiver Cody Blanc suffered another setback this spring. He will miss the remainder of drills after breaking ribs, according to Jones.
  • Former Vols coach Johnny Majors offered a couple of hilarious soundbites on Saturday directed at the media.

 

All statistics gathered from UTSports.com unless otherwise noted. Quotes and observations obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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