NCAA Football

Alabama's Richie Petitbon Impresses at The Opening, 'Anchor for Offensive Line'

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the most elite recruits in the country. The Alabama Crimson Tide have some big-time commits and targets in Beaverton who are showing they can be huge assets to Nick Saban and his coaching staff in the future. How well do you think these linemen will do for the Crimson Tide?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these Crimson Tide recruits at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Florida 5-Star Targets Ivey and Cowart Destroy at Opening, Must-Get for Muschamp

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to show they are elite recruits in the 2015 class. The Florida Gators have some big-time targets in Beaverton who are showing they can be huge assets to Will Muschamp and his coaching staff at the next level.

Do you think these two studs will end up in Gainesville?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these Florida Gator targets out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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LSU 5-Star Commit Kevin Toliver Is Impressing at The Opening

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best. The LSU Tigers have a big-time commit out in Beaverton showing that he can be another name added to that elite secondary in Baton Rouge.

How well do you think this 5-star stud will do at the next level? 

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this LSU commit out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

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USC's 5-Star Target Iman "Biggie" Marshall Is Best CB at The Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the country. The USC Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton who is showing that he can make a huge impact immediately at the next level. Do you think he is a lock to USC?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this USC target at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports.

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USC's 5-Star Target Iman "Biggie" Marshall Is Best CB at The Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the country. The USC Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton who is showing that he can make a huge impact immediately at the next level...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Commits Blake Barnett, Calvin Ridley Will Be SEC's Next Big QB-WR Combo

The college football world is getting a glimpse of the future this week in Beaverton, Oregon, as America's top high school seniors participate in The Opening on the campus of Nike's corporate headquarters.

For the Alabama Crimson Tide, the future looks bright—really bright.

Blake Barnett shocked the recruiting world last month when he committed to the Crimson Tide over Oregon with B/R's Adam Lefkoe on Team Stream Now.

The 6'4", 200-pound dual-threat quarterback from Corona, California, is rated as the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, has tremendous accuracy downfield and can make plays on the run.

An Elite 11 finalist, Barnett has been impressing the masses in Oregon since the start of the camp

Guys who've impressed during 7-on-7 include Blake Barnett, Justin Dunning, Brady White, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Will Gragg and Calvin Ridley.

— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014

Blake Barnett (@BlakeBarnett_8) has looked very impressive at times in game one. Here's a back shoulder strike #RTRhttp://t.co/YCwoz7s8Ka

— Brian Stumpf (@Stumpf_Brian) July 9, 2014

Bama commit Blake Barnett just threw a strike to future teammate Calvin Ridley in the back of the end zone for a TD

— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 9, 2014

That last tweet is important, because of all the receivers in camp, Calvin Ridley—a 6'2", 170-pound, 4-star prospect from Pompano Beach, Florida—has been one of the most impressive. 

ESPN's Tom Luginbill was very impressed with Ridley during ESPNU's broadcast of the SPARQ national championship on Tuesday, saying that he has the speed, frame and route-running ability that compares favorably to current Tide wideout Amari Cooper.

#Bama commits Barnett and Ridley connect on a 2 pt conversion https://t.co/W31ScAf79t

— Charles Power (@CharlesGPower) July 9, 2014

A fellow member of the seven-on-seven Team Apocalypse at the event, Ridley and Barnett have connected early and often, already establishing a chemistry that will benefit both of them once they arrive in Tuscaloosa. 

B/R's Tyler Donohue got more from Barnett on the instant connection:

QB Blake Barnett tells me being on same team as fellow Bama commit WR Calvin Ridley helps develop chemistry before they head to Tuscaloosa.

— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014

Since head coach Nick Saban took over in 2007, Greg McElroy has hooked up with Julio Jones for plenty of success, and the AJ McCarron-Amari Cooper combination provided the sequel when Cooper got to T-Town in 2012. The Barnett-Ridley connection will be the next great quarterback-wide receiver combo to hit Tuscaloosa. 

If Alabama continues its run-first approach with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (and there's nothing to suggest it won't), that means plenty of play-action opportunities for Ridley, plenty of chances for that crisp route-running to shine and that connection with Barnett to flourish.

Alabama is never going to be the type of team that slings it all over the field. With the athletes it has at running back and the way it recruits up front, the running game will always be the focal point of the offense.

The Crimson Tide is at its best when it has a couple of solid receivers that can get open downfield to take the top off a defense. Ridley is that guy, and Barnett is the guy to get him the ball.

Get used to "Barnett to Ridley," because it will be a dominating theme in the SEC for years to come.

 

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


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Wisconsin Football: 5 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

On the heels of a disappointing finish to the 2013 season, the Wisconsin football team looks to return to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship Game in 2014.  From receiver to the front seven, the Badgers have plenty of holes on both sides of the ball.

But even when the Badgers have returning starters and plenty of skill, there are still freshmen who can come in and contribute with a strong showing during fall practice.  The Badgers will only be able to win the Big Ten West and have a shot at the inaugural playoff if these five freshmen shine in fall practices.

 

1. Krenwick Sanders

Even though the Badgers lose a number of key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, it is receiver where the Badgers need the most help from the freshmen.  Sanders, a 4-star recruit according to 247Sports, has the complete package to play right away.

Sanders will likely be in the mix with Kenzel Doe, Jordan Frederick and Robert Wheelwright for the spots on the outside, with Sanders having as good a shot as any of them to be playing on day one.  Sanders stands at 6'2" and has the ability to make all the tough catches and then some.  From what's been seen on tape of him, it'd be surprising if he didn't emerge as an impact player early in his Badger career.

 

2. Natrell Jamerson

That's right. There's not one, but two wide receivers on this list.  The Badgers have a lot of holes in their receiving corps, and both Sanders and Jamerson can contribute right away if they play well enough in fall practices.  While Dareian Watkins may end up being the most talented of the bunch, it is Jamerson's speed that will get him on the field quickly.

If Jamerson can establish himself as a kick and punt returner, and can maybe work in the slot, it will take the pressure off battery mate Kenzel Doe, who has been an excellent kick returner himself but has struggled fielding punts.

Jamerson supposedly ran the 100-meter dash in 10.6 seconds, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, and that straight-line speed will help the Badgers immeasurably in the return game along with incoming transfer Serge Trezy.

 

3. Jeremy Patterson

Dipping into Georgia was a huge step for the Badgers recruiting effort.  But the Badgers didn't settle for just establishing a pipeline with lesser players.  Bringing in Patterson was huge for them as the departure of Beau Allen leaves a chasm at nose guard that only a man of Patterson's size could fill.

Patterson, a 3-star recruit according to 247Sports, is at 310 pounds with room to grow.  Patterson also has a remarkably quick first step for someone of his size and can really move the pile.  Furthermore, if Patterson can develop quickly, it would give defensive coordinator Dave Aranda flexibility with Warren Herring, as he could then move back to a 3-4 end and would create a massive problem for opposing offensive lines.

 

4. Rafael Gaglianone

The kicking game for the Badgers has been a nightmare for the past two seasons.  Even though Jack Russell hit nine of his last 11 field-goal attempts, he only hit 2-of-4 during the spring game while also never looking particularly confident in any of his attempts.

In walks Gaglianone, who has the strongest leg of any Wisconsin kicker I've seen.  The 3-star kicker, according to ESPN, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, will provide much-needed competition for Russell and should be able to take the job with a strong showing in the fall.

Gaglianone's ESPN scouting report (subscription required) calls him "a young Sebastian Janikowski" and goes on to say that he is an "FBS kicker who should start four years in college."  After a season and a half of Kyle French, Badgers fans will rejoice at the concept of having a young Sebastian Janikowski on their team, a freshman or otherwise.

 

5. Taiwan Deal

Last but not least, while running back is not a position of need in the slightest, the third-string back on the Badgers has been a spot for up-and-coming stars to showcase their talents.  Corey Clement picked up 547 yards on only 67 carries in that spot in 2013, Melvin Gordon picked up 621 yards on 62 carries in 2012 and in 2010, the Badgers were four Montee Ball yards away from having three 1,000-yard rushers.

With that in mind, Deal, a 4-star back according to 247Sports, could fill the hole of between-the-tackles mop-up rusher.  Deal, who sits at 225 pounds, looks to be one of the best hidden gems, though at four stars, he shouldn't really be under the radar.

Deal is a powerful runner who evokes memories of past Wisconsin power backs.  With a strong showing during the fall practices, Deal could grab that third running back spot behind Gordon and Clement, and see the field quite a bit as the season progresses.

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Recruits Who Exploded on Day 2 of The Opening

The top high school football athletes in the nation are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best. These studs are putting it all on the line to show the world that they will be dominant forces at the next level. A few big-time recruits have stood out amongst the rest on Day 2 of The Opening.

How well do you think these monsters will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these top athletes who were the most impressive at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

 

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2014 Stat Predictions for Every Pac-12 Football Starting QB

With 10 starting quarterbacks returning to the Pac-12 in 2014, you can expect another season filled with explosive offenses and gaudy statistics.

Only Arizona—who has yet to name a starter—and Washington—who will likely fill the void left by Keith Price with Cyler Miles—don't have players with significant experience returning to the position.

After that, it's a who's who of the nation's best signal-callers, from 2013 Heisman candidates Marcus Mariota of Oregon and UCLA's Brett Hundley to big-armed stats guys like Oregon State's Sean Mannion and Connor Halliday out of Washington State.

There's even a special group of promising young guns led by Cal's Jared Goff and Colorado's Sefo Liufau.

How will these playmakers fare in 2014, and what kind of numbers will they put up?

Given the wild stats we saw in 2013, and assuming that no one will experience a major regression, things could get crazy on offense in the Pac-12.

We're taking a stab at their end-of-season stat lines—partly so you'll have an idea about what to expect in the fall, but mostly so we can all look back at this and laugh come December.

Predictions are based on the assumption each QB will start all of his team's games. While that's not likely for all 12 teams, there's no way to predict injuries—nor would we want to.

 

All stats via cfbstats.com.

 

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2014 Stat Predictions for Every Pac-12 Football Starting QB

With 10 starting quarterbacks returning to the Pac -12 in 2014, you can expect another season filled with explosive offenses and gaudy statistics...

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Clemson Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

Every year across college football, new stars are born. When upperclassmen bolt to the NFL, youngsters are ready to step in and make an impact. For the Clemson Tigers, who lost several talented players in the 2014 NFL draft, the time is now for a group of talented freshmen.

While the Tigers were able to replace Tajh Boyd at quarterback with senior Cole Stoudt, other positions will experience an infusion of youth.

Fall camp is just weeks away for Clemson. The season opener at Georgia is approximately seven weeks away. Which freshman is ready to impress coaches and push his way into the starting lineup?

Here's a look at four freshmen who need a strong fall practice before the Tigers head to Athens on August 30.

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The Beasts Who Blew Up the Opening Lineman Challenge

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the nation. The lineman challenge has some of the biggest monsters grinding to show they can be a huge asset at the next level. Which of these studs do you think will become the most successful?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the top linemen out in Beaverton competing in the lineman challenge.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

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Michigan Football: 5 2016 RB Recruits Who Could Be Game-Changers

If a team's winning in the Big Ten, it's winning on the ground; and in order for Michigan to regain its hold of the conference, it must restore its once-powerful rushing attack. 

In the not-so-distant past, the Wolverines gashed opponents with their running backs. However, that hasn't been the case as of late. But coach Brady Hoke has done a job second to none when it's come to recruiting, so the emergence of a dynamic power back should be right around the corner. 

As usual, Michigan has its eyes set on the country's elite. This slideshow will take a look at the best running backs of 2016 while breaking down their games and analyzing their interest in the Wolverines.

 

Note: 247Sports will serve as the guide for information such as ranking, height, weight, school and visits/offers.

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Every Top 25 College Football Team's Most Under-the-Radar Player

The 25 teams projected to appear in the preseason polls this summer are expected to do so, more than any other reason, because they have superstars and established players and big-name recruits all over their depth charts.

But even—nay, especially—the best teams must get contributions from their lesser-known players each season. If the supposedly weaker parts of the roster are rescued by a dark-horse contributor or two, the bigger-name players should look all the better because of it.

The whole team should look better because of it!

In reading this list, it's important to remember that "under the radar" is relative. A well-known player to you and the fans of your team might be anonymous to everyone else. Each player included on this list is expected to contribute next season, so obviously the local media are talking about them. The national media, however, might not be.

The basis for the rankings on this list was the projected Associated Press preseason top 25 that Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee put together in April. Obviously, everyone has a different opinion on which teams will be ranked—and that opinion, in most cases, dogmatically includes their own school—but this seemed like the fairest template.

Kindly direct all complaints to @NobodyCares, or, if you prefer, sound off in the comments for some reasonable discourse. Enjoy!

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2014 SEC Football Media Days Attendees Announced

The SEC released the full list of attendees for its 2014 Football Media Days Wednesday afternoon, which can only mean one thing: It's officially almost almost-football season!

The four-day spectacle, which will take place this year from July 14-17 in its usual location, the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, features press conferences from league commissioner Mike Slive, all 14 SEC head coaches and three players from each team.

Here is whom each program is bringing along:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee hit on some of the notable player absences earlier in the day, listing the following as his top five:

  • QB Jacob Coker, Alabama
  • RB Mike Davis, South Carolina
  • QB Hutson Mason, Georgia
  • QB Brandon Harris, LSU
  • RB Kelvin Taylor, Florida

The quarterback omissions are disappointing but understandable. Coker, Mason and Harris are charged with replacing AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, respectively, and no matter how prepared they are to face an SEC pass-rush, none of them is ready for the tsunami of reporters that waits in Hoover.

Seriously. Go ask Johnny Manziel.

Of the six quarterbacks who will not avoid the limelight of Media Days—Nick Marshall (Auburn), Jeff Driskel (Florida), Bo Wallace (Ole Miss), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Maty Mauk (Missouri) and Dylan Thompson (South Carolina)—only Mauk and Thompson have never been full-time starters. But they have started a few games apiece, including one against each other last season.

Also worth mentioning: Texas A&M has decided to bring its punter, Drew Kaser. I guess that's a fair reward after using him so infrequently last season, when the Aggies punted just 45 times.

Whose inclusion at Media Days are you guys most excited about? And which exclusion bums you out the most?

Sound off in the comments below.

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Why NCAA Powers Won't Actually Need to Change Scheduling Strategy in Playoff Era

Perception is reality in college football.

While it may seem like perception will become less important in the age of the College Football Playoff, where the title will be "settled on the field" (even though it was during the BCS era, too), it actually will become more important thanks to the selection committee.

Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com detailed four critical questions that will determine the playoff participants: the eye test, strength of schedule, importance of conference championships and the specific analytics that will be made available to the 13-member committee.

That speaks to the overall subjectivity involved with this entire thing. Every member will have their own preferences on what matters and what doesn't.

As a result, schools are left guessing this offseason when it comes to how they want to approach future scheduling. We've seen Georgia and Notre Dame ink a home-and-home series, LSU announce home-and-home series with UCLA and Arizona State in March and Florida and Michigan agree to play in the 2017 Cowboys Classic.

Of course, part of the reason we've had a wave of out-of-conference matchups announced is because two conferences—the SEC and ACC—announced they'd stay at eight conference games but also require at least one out-of-conference power-five matchup per year.

But there are other schools that have gone the other way. 

Baylor scheduled "football power" Incarnate Word in 2019. As Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer pointed out, athletics director Ian McCaw doesn't really care if you care.

Schools don't have to change their scheduling plans to appease the College Football Playoff just yet.

Sure, some might. 

After all, one of the most important items in Mandel's piece is Wisconsin athletics director and selection committee member Barry Alvarez discussing "intent of the schedule."

When Alabama agreed to play West Virginia in one of two 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games, it thought it would get something close to the team that just hung 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl—not a 4-8 mess that lost back-to-back games to Kansas and Iowa State to close the year.

Until we see the playoff committee in action, though, it'd be nothing more than an educated guess to schedule out-of-conference games with the selection committee in mind.

If it turns out that the selection committee puts a disproportionate amount of emphasis on conference titles—which sometimes, but not always, are an indicator of championship-worthy teams—then beefing up a schedule isn't going to help all that much. Sure, there could be a few instances where it comes into play, but those would be the exceptions, not the rule.

Besides, for most schools, strategies have remained the same regardless of postseason format. 

Alabama has played games against Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Michigan under current head coach Nick Saban. Oregon has gone to Boise State and played Tennessee and LSU in recent years and will host Michigan State in 2014. LSU has played the likes of Oregon, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington since 2008.

The most important goal for any team is to win its games, no matter who they're against. 

Beefing up strength of schedule now, with no real working knowledge of how much the committee will weight it, is just an insurance policy.

Teams don't need to change their policies, they need to adapt with the times. If a conference's prestige seems like it's taking a hit, maybe that's the right time to make a major point to schedule big. If a conference is down in the dumps, you go big because you have to.

That's not something that changes because of the playoff, it's something that changes with the playoff.

 

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

 


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5 Players We Wish Were Coming to SEC Media Days

After a long wait, the list has finally arrived.

The SEC announced the players who will be attending next week's circus known as SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel, and the headliners shouldn't surprise.

Alabama safety Landon Collins, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel will all be there representing their schools. But there will be some players sitting at home who we wish were making the rounds at the Wynfrey.

Our top five players we wish were coming to Media Days are in this slideshow.

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The Opening Providing Proof Texas and Oklahoma Are in a Recruiting Slump

The traditional top teams of the Big 12 should be worried. Recruiting may still be won and lost on national signing day, but it's a 24/7/365 event. 

Right now, Oklahoma and Texas are falling behind. 

The Opening, Nike's annual showcase of the nation's top high school talent in Beaverton, Oregon, is in full swing this week. Some of the most ridiculous athletes anywhere are on display. For example: Virginia defensive end Josh Sweat, he of the 6'5", 240-pound body, ran a 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds, per B/R's Tyler Donahue

That kind of athleticism is simply unfair.

"Josh is just a freak athlete," fellow Opening participant Kirk Merritt told Donohue, who was on location. "I knew I would be tough to beat him. He's the kind of athlete you never really see and I thought he was pretty amazing."

Of course, a blazing 40 time doesn't mean a prospect is going to flourish at the college level. For that matter, the recruiting star system is an inexact science, as explained by B/R's Kynon Codrington

For one, size isn't everything in July. It's more about quality over quantity. The 2015 classes for the Longhorns and Sooners are small but solid. 

Perusing the top 25 players at this year's Opening (via Donohue), the words "Texas" and "Oklahoma" appear infrequently, however. As Paul Myerberg of USA Today tweets, a sizable chunk of the prospects at The Opening are going to one of three schools:

That's a bit worrisome if you're a fan of Oklahoma or Texas.

Kendall Sheffield, a 5-star corner and the No. 1 player in the state of Texas, has the Longhorns as one of his two favorites. Suffice to say, he'd be a major addition for first-year coach Charlie Strong. Malik Jefferson, another one of the Lone Star state's top recruits, is considering Oklahoma. 

But by and large, that's it for the Big 12's perennial programs.

It's worth pointing out that verbal commitments mean nothing until signing day and that The Opening roster is well over 150 players strong, some of whom are seriously considering Texas and/or Oklahoma. There's still plenty of time between now and signing day 2015.

What's bothersome for Texas and Oklahoma is not consistently being in the conversation for the nation's top recruits. 

There is a correlation between recruiting and competing at a championship level. Looking at the past few national champs—Florida State, Alabama and Auburn—it's no surprise to see that their recruiting classes finished in or around the national top 10 or 15. 

Texas and Oklahoma finished just outside the top 15 in 247Sports' composite rankings in 2013. In February, the Sooners closed as well as anyone to land the No. 14 class nationally. Texas, transitioning to new coach Strong, did its best to hold its class together (finishing 17th). 

The surprising part was seeing Texas, and Oklahoma to a much greater extent, be beaten out in the state of Texas. The Longhorns signed eight of the top 50 in-state players this past signing class, but the Sooners had just one. 

Compare that to 10 who committed to Texas A&M and even six who committed to surging Baylor. 

2015 classes are obviously incomplete, but there's no doubt the Aggies are off to another blistering hot start in-state. Texas, with four commits, and Oklahoma, which has three, have work to do. 

This is an anxious time for two programs with championship aspirations. What neither program wants is for Texas to become SEC territory. It's more than possible that the Horns and Sooners close well and reclaim their spot back among college football's best destinations. 

For now, both programs are recruiting at a good but not great level. 

Sometimes, that's not good enough.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports 

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Florida State Football: Constructing the Seminoles' All-BCS Era Team

The Bowl Championship Series is gone, but not forgotten. For the Florida State football team, it was a system that worked well as far as putting the Seminoles in position to win a national title.

FSU played in the first three designated BCS title games, falling to Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl in January 1999 before defeating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in January 2000 and then losing to Oklahoma in January 2001 in the Orange Bowl.

FSU capped the BCS era with a 34-31 win over Auburn in January 2014 in the BCS title game. 

Those FSU teams were loaded with talented players. So we decided to construct FSU's All-BCS Era team, a collection of players from 1998-2013 that includes a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and a large group of All-Americans.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of FSU media guides, seminoles.com and profootball-reference.com. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Notre Dame Football: Stud WR Recruit C.J. Sanders Looks Like Answer in the Slot

Notre Dame fans got a sneak peek at future wide receiver C.J. Sanders on Tuesday, and the diminutive speedster might finally be the answer at slot receiver that Brian Kelly has been looking for since arriving in South Bend. 

Sanders, who committed to Notre Dame in early May, was one of the top performers at The Opening, Nike's elite summer football camp, where the SPARQ National Championships took place. Running a blazing 4.32 on the 40-yard dash and a ridiculous 3.80 on the 20-yard shuttle, Sanders made the event's finals and cemented his place among the most electric athletes in the country.

At 5'8.5" and 175 pounds, Sanders looks like a prototype slot receiver. And he could quickly find his way onto the field for the Irish, playing a position where the Irish have struggled to find a natural fit. 

After getting great success from the position at Cincinnati, Kelly has mixed and matched as he's searched his roster high and low for a good fit. In 2010, the Irish moved Theo Riddick from running back to the slot, with Kelly predicting dynamic results that never came. Riddick put up just 414 receiving yards, modest production considering Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph were also on the field. Riddick's numbers flatlined in 2011, managing a meager 436 yards before finishing the year in the backfield as a running back. 

In 2012, the Irish essentially gave up on a traditional slot receiver. They platooned journeyman Robby Toma with Daniel Smith, pairing the miniature Toma with the jumbo-sized Smith, who served primarily as a blocker while only chipping in seven catches in 13 games. 

The Irish have had bad luck at the position as well. Top recruit Davonte Neal, who looked like the future of the position, transferred after one season. Smith's season-ending injury early last year turned the spot into a revolving door, with Kelly and then-offensive coordinator Chuck Martin putting tight ends Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack on the edge, mostly to block. 

Heading into 2014, Notre Dame has converted running back Amir Carlisle platooning with converted safety C.J. Prosise in the slot. They're hardly traditional choices. And while many expected incoming freshman Justin Brent or sophomore Torii Hunter Jr. to get a shot at the inside receiver, neither spent any time there in the spring and both will currently provide depth from the outside. 

Getting back to Sanders, his performance in Oregon will likely see the undervalued receiver's stock jump exponentially. A ratings boost is almost assured, with 247's Composite rankings viewing Sanders as just the 364th best player and 47th best receiver in the country. And with Michigan and Ohio State both kicking the tires on Sanders but not offering him, the blazing speed he showed—combined with a pretty impressive highlight reel—should translate to a few more offers coming his way. 

But if Sanders' performance in testing tells us anything, it's that Kelly and the Irish coaching staff do a very good job identifying receivers early in the recruiting cycle. While skeptics point to Kelly's struggles landing top blue-chip prospects at receiver, Kelly has done just fine with below-the-radar recruits. 

While DaVaris Daniels profiles as the closest thing to an elite receiver that Kelly has signed, the Irish look to be in great shape with Chris Brown, Corey Robinson and Will Fuller. That trio will likely play a very large role for the Irish in 2014, and at the time of their commitments, you'd have thought the Notre Dame staff was reaching for all three players. 

Sanders will play his final year of high school football in California, transferring to Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks after playing previously in the Nashville area at Brentwood Academy. The step-up in competition (not to mention the matching school name and uniforms) should better prepare him to walk onto campus and compete immediately. 

Entering his fifth season, Kelly has recommitted to the spread attack he ran at Cincinnati. While there's still another season to go before Sanders takes the field for the Irish, he looks like he could play an integral part in the high-powered passing offense. 

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