NCAA Football

Josh Rosen Wows at Elite 11 Camp, 'Best UCLA QB Commit Since Troy Aikman'

Josh Rosen is the top quarterback in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports composite. This California native has decided to stay on the West Coast and take his talents to the UCLA Bruins...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Florida State Football: 2014 QB Fall Practice Preview Depth Chart and Analysis

Jimbo Fisher has an eye for quarterbacks. The Florida State coach has recruited and mentored a Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston.

But he's also coached Clint Trickett, who will start for West Virginia this fall. And Jacob Coker, who graduated from FSU in May, is competing for Alabama's starting quarterback job.

FSU has Winston, but there's plenty of talent behind him. Sean Maguire was also a member of the 2012 signing class (along with Winston), and the Seminoles added John Franklin III in the 2013 class and JJ Cosentino in February.

Here's a look at FSU's four quarterbacks in 2014.

 

Jameis Winston

Winston turned in one of the finest seasons in college football history by a freshman quarterback, completing 257 of 384 passes for 4,057 yards, a school-record 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

FSU returns four of five offensive linemen, ensuring stability up front and comfort for Winston when he drops back. And all five starting linemen will likely be seniors as Austin Barron is the leading candidate to start at center. Winston's biggest adjustment is establishing a rhythm with the young receivers after FSU lost Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL.


Sean Maguire

The 6'3'', 220-pound Maguire is good enough to be a starter on many college football teams. The 3-star prospect from West Orange, New Jersey, had interest from schools like Syracuse, Boston College, Penn State, Rutgers and Connecticut before choosing FSU.

The redshirt sophomore has a strong, accurate arm and has good touch. Maguire was clearly the No. 4 quarterback in the spring of 2013 but has moved up the depth chart after both the transfers of Trickett and Coker as well as his hard work in the offseason.

Maguire may get his chance to compete for the starting job in 2015 if Winston opts to enter the NFL draft early. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 116 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions last season. Maguire displayed more confidence this spring, writes Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat, running the No. 2 offense. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 203 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the spring game.

 

John Franklin III

The 6'0", 180-pound Franklin was on the scout team in 2013, and his biggest contribution was playing the role of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall as the FSU defense prepared for the national championship game. Franklin, a 3-star prospect from Plantation, Florida, helped FSU win the 4x100-meter relay at the ACC Outdoor Championships in April.

Franklin was the No. 3 quarterback this spring, and he completed five of 10 passes for 103 yards and one touchdown in the spring game. He has spent time this summer working with a personal quarterbacks coach, Ken Mastrole, writes Tim Linafelt of 247Sports. He doesn't have enough experience to challenge Maguire to be the Seminoles' backup in 2014, but Franklin could be in the mix (if Winston departs) for a potential wide-open competition in 2015.

 

JJ Cosentino

The 6'4'', 220-pound Cosentino has been in Tallahassee just a few weeks. But he already made a name for himself by throwing a football over an apartment complex, writes Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel. So, yes, Cosentino has a strong arm.

This fall will likely see the 4-star prospect from Pittsburgh lead the scout team, just as Winston did in 2012 and Franklin did in 2013. But Fisher has also said that he's considering using Cosentino as a punter if Cason Beatty struggles.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats from Seminoles.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Ducks 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has to go into preseason camp feeling pretty confident about his starting quarterback. 

After all, Helfrich had no guarantee he would embark on his second season leading the Ducks with a proven starter leading their uptempo offense—not with two-year starter Marcus Mariota projected as a possible first-round draft pick in this year's NFL draft. 

Mariota's decision to forgo the pros for at least one more year at Oregon doesn't just mean stability at quarterback. The Ducks have a Heisman Trophy contender already with two years of Heisman-worthy statistics to his credit. 

The Ducks lost two reserves to transfer in May: Jake Rodrigues and Damion Hobbs. Their departures cast some uncertainty over the depth chart. But if all goes according to plan, and Mariota remains healthy for the duration of the season, that won't be an issue. 

 

1. Redshirt junior Marcus Mariota

In his two seasons captaining the Oregon offense, Mariota has etched his name in the annals of program history alongside such Duck greats as Dan Fouts, Akili Smith and Joey Harrington. Not bad for a quarterback with 26 total games under his belt. 

Mariota returned to Oregon for his redshirt junior season to play in 15 more, the total the Ducks would face with berths in the Pac-12 Championship Game and College Football Playoff. 

Mariota played valiantly through a knee injury in the final month of the regular season. Certainly, the MCL sprain limited his productivity and directly contributed to the Ducks' 2-2 record in November. 

And yet, even with a critical element of his game hindered—Mariota's ability to scramble—he still registered 1,131 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in the final four regular-season outings. 

Mariota's exclusion from the Heisman ceremony each of the last two seasons is one of the more egregious oversights in college football. But playing behind an offensive line that returns five starters, and having one of the nation's deepest running back corps alongside him, should finally punch Mariota's ticket to New York. 

 

2. Redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie

Coming out on top of a quarterback competition at Oregon is no small feat, as Jeff Lockie explained to Ryan Thorburn of The Register-Guard in April.

We’re at one of the top five programs in the country playing at a high, high level with high, high caliber players. I think at that point in the competition, it is not easy. ... It’s a high level. Everyone’s good. [Rodrigues] can play, I can play, Taylor [Alie] can play, Damien [Hobbs] can play.

Lockie heads into preseason camp as Oregon's No. 2 quarterback. Aside from Mariota, he's the only player with game experience—limited as it may be. 

Lockie appeared in nine games in 2013 but attempted just 13 passes. He did, however, rush for a touchdown in mop-up duty. 

 

3. Redshirt freshman Taylor Alie OR freshman Morgan Mahalak  

Walk-on Taylor Alie turned heads in spring practice. Starting tackle Tyler Johnstone was among those singing his praises. 

"[He is] one guy that gets talked about a lot on the sidelines. He makes plays out of nothing, a lot," Johnstone said of Alie to 247Sports' Matt Prehm

Morgan Mahalak was one of the centerpieces of Oregon's 2014 recruiting class. A 4-star prospect from Marin Catholic in Kentfield, California, Mahalak's skill set compares favorably to Mariota's. 

However, barring a doomsday scenario, Mahalak should follow Mariota's first-year path and redshirt. 

 

Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Ducks 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has to go into preseason camp feeling pretty confident about his starting quarterback...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

10 College Football Teams Implementing New Offensive Systems in 2014

Sometimes, all a program needs is a new offensive direction.

Such was the case at Auburn last season, when the Tigers, fresh off an embarrassing 3-9 year, hired Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee, implemented a unique strain of the uptempo spread offense, averaged more than 500 yards per game, won the SEC and came within 13 seconds of being crowned national champions.

It is more than a bit unrealistic to expect such a drastic turnaround—from any team—in 2014, but it's just as crazy to not acknowledge the possibility. We have all seen what a new offensive system can do.

On that note, let's preview 10 FBS teams that are introducing new schemes this upcoming season. Primary consideration was given to teams in the power conferences, although one reigning "group of five" conference champion was added to the list as well.

One note before we continue: This is not a simple list of teams with new offensive coordinators. Even if they were outside hires, and even though that may mean new terminology and subtle schematic differences, only teams making a marked systematic change were included. This is explained in more depth on the following slide.

Sound off below, and let me know which team from the list you think will have the best—or most improved—offensive output in 2014.

 

Note: All pace of play stats courtesy of CFB Matrix.

Begin Slideshow

PSU Commit Brandon Wimbush Blows Away Elite 11 Camp, Boasts 'Best Arm in Camp'

Brandon Wimbush is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 class. A New Jersey native, Wimbush has decided to play college football for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Wimbush is out in Oregon for the Elite 11 camp to show why he will be a player to watch in the future. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is in Oregon with a full breakdown of this future Nittany Lion. How well do you think he will do? 

Check out the video and let us know.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

When Everett Golson returned to campus this winter after a semester-long suspension, Notre Dame finally had a quarterback that was capable of leading the Irish back to the apex of college football. But as spring football played out, sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire revealed himself as a candidate as well, out-playing Golson in front of a national television audience during the Blue-Gold game and giving Irish fans water cooler chatter to last the entire summer. 

Competition is the lifeblood of Brian Kelly's football program. So the fact that Zaire was actually competing with Golson, and not a prop devised by a savvy head coach, is a blessing. And while the starting quarterback job is Golson's as the team enters training camp next month, having a duo capable of leading the Irish—something Notre Dame didn't have last year—will be critical. 

Joined by incoming freshman DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame's three scholarship quarterbacks share a skill set that will allow Kelly and new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock to fully re-install Kelly's spread offense that's been on the shelf since he got to South Bend. 

With a team that'll need to score a lot of points to win, let's take a look at the most important position on the roster. 

 

Everett Golson

Golson has been back working with the team since January, participating fully in strength and conditioning sessions, while reacclimating himself to college life. He stepped back in as the team's top quarterback for spring practice, though Kelly has been slow to call the competition at the position over.

That's likely a sign of respect for Zaire's talents, because there's little chance that a healthy Golson isn't behind center when the Irish kickoff against Rice. After leading the Irish to an undefeated regular season in 2012 and a date in the BCS title game, Golson represents the closest thing to the prototype quarterback that Kelly's had at Notre Dame. 

As he showed in glimpses during his debut season, Golson has the arm to make every throw in the playbook. He also has the legs to escape trouble and to make plays on his own. Far from a true running quarterback, Golson's preference is to pass—just like his head coach's. But when the pocket breaks down, Golson seems to be at his best, an accurate quarterback on the move and deadly as a scrambler. 

After an academic violation of Notre Dame's Honor Code kept him out of school for a semester, Golson's 2013 season was spent fine-tuning his craft in San Diego, while also working to put an extra coat of armor on for the 2014 season. The additional 15 pounds he added will serve him well, hopefully helping him hold up for a full season after missing the BYU game and segments of others as he spent most of 2012 battling injuries. 

This summer has been critical for Golson's development. After being spoon-fed the offense as a redshirt freshman, Golson will be expected to have complete mastery of the playbook. Tweaked NCAA rules have allowed the coaching staff to re-install the offensive system this summer before fall camp begins, a huge help to all the quarterbacks on the roster. 

Irish fans are hoping to see a new and improved Golson come autumn. Early word is coming from the Elite 11 camp, where Golson is serving as a counselor, that he's already looking the part. 

That's music to Irish fans' ears, as Golson holds the keys to Notre Dame's season. 

 

Malik Zaire

Zaire officially redshirted last season, though Kelly kept that decision internal until late in the season. While it kept opposing coaches on their toes, it also made for a frustrating season for the young quarterback from Ohio, who enrolled early with the expectation of competing for playing time.

Zaire wasn't given that opportunity, with Kelly preferring to save a year of eligibility to help the long-term health of a position group that suffered significant turnover with Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Gunner Kiel all exiting in the past 18 months.

But 2014 will be significantly different for Zaire. After taking limited practice reps and watching from the sideline, Zaire is one snap away from being the Irish's starting quarterback. He showed promise in the Blue-Gold game, completing 18 of 27 passes for 292 yards, including 15 of his first 19. But an intra-squad matchup is different than playing when it counts. 

Zaire is the team's most gifted running quarterback, and at 208 pounds he's sturdy enough to be a weapon as a ball carrier. While he was off limits during the Blue-Gold game and quarterback runs weren't allowed, he'll likely start his playing career as a change-of-pace runner, capable of handling a heavy option load, while also throwing the ball well enough to keep opponents honest. (Andrew Hendrix wasn't able to do that last season, and he's playing out his fifth year for Chuck Martin at Miami instead of backing up Golson.)

Not yet a good enough practice player for his head coach's liking, Zaire has performed well in the past two spring games, a telling sign that could be a hint that the young quarterback's best comes out when the lights are on. 

We'll likely see that theory put to the test sometime this season, though for Notre Dame's sake, it's dictated by game plan, not an injury to Golson. 

 

DeShone Kizer

If Zaire was redshirted last season, it'd take something pretty serious to get Kizer on the field in 2014. But that reality is a bad break or two around the corner, and summer and fall camps will be dedicated to getting the youngster up to speed as quickly as possible. 

Kizer gives Kelly a different body type at quarterback, and at 6'5", he's got the height that'll help him distribute the football from the pocket—something that isn't so easy for Golson or Zaire. And while offers from Alabama, LSU, Nebraska and Penn State point to an intriguing prospect with plenty of fans, Kizer was still waiting on offers from Ohio State and Michigan when he pulled the trigger and committed to the Irish last June.

Kizer's best football is likely a year or two in front of him. But a look at his high school highlights points to another athletic quarterback that can beat teams with his arm or legs. Part of the reason Kelly decided to hire quarterback coach Matt LaFleur instead of an established coordinator was to work with Kizer and Zaire, two quarterbacks with four years of eligibility remaining.

LaFleur will have the future of the program in his hands this fall while Kelly and Denbrock will likely spend their time tutoring Golson and preparing him for Saturday. That's two very moldable pieces of clay for LaFleur to shape. They are key roster pieces that might not be called on to do much in 2014, but developmental prospects that'll likely determine the future of Notre Dame football.  

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

3 SEC Teams That Could Make a Surprise Run at a College Football Playoff Berth

By now, you've heard all the names.

Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and LSU will all likely land in the preseason top 15, and they'll all be considered either legitimate contenders for a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff or, at the very worst, dark horses.

That doesn't make it impossible for some of the outsiders to make a run at the event. 

Who's this year's "Auburn," and could that team make a surprise run at the College Football Playoff?

 

Florida Gators

Yes, Florida was a joke last year, complete with a loss to then-FCS Georgia Southern and the embarrassment of two Gators blocking each other that will live in college football infamy forever.

As we saw with Auburn last season, it doesn't always have to be that way.

One tweak here and there is all a team like Florida—with top end talent up and down the depth chart—needs to get back in the title mix.

They made that tweak this offseason when they waved goodbye to former offensive coordinator Brent Pease and welcomed in former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to Gainesville.

Yes, it would take a monumental turnaround from the Gators offense to get into position to make the playoff, but the problem in Gainesville wasn't a lack of talent, it was a lack of scheme.

Driskel, was the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2011, and is finally in an offense that suits his ability. Demarcus Robinson has the potential to be a game-breaker, Quinton Dunbar has the experience to help the Gators during the transition and Andre Debose has the ability to be a dangerous weapon in the slot once he's at 100 percent.

The schedule is tough, and that trip to Alabama on Sept. 20 is looming large. Get by that with a win or even an impressive loss, and it could set the tone for the season and charge back into SEC East contention.

 

Texas A&M Aggies

Before you cry foul about Texas A&M's defense, take a step back.

I know it's bad. In fact, it's worse than that. It's downright embarrassing.

But, as is the case with Florida's offense, it doesn't have to be that way.

If Texas A&M can catch lightning in a bottle with one or more of its potential stars on defense, that's all the Aggies need to do to become a playoff contender. Defense doesn't win championships anymore, "just enough defense" does. That's a blessing for head coach Kevin Sumlin, regardless of who his quarterback is.

Whether sophomore dual-threat Kenny Hill wins the job this August or true freshman pro-style passer Kyle Allen earns Sumlin's trust, the Aggies head coach has proven during his time at Houston and Texas A&M that he can win with either a dual-threat or pro-style quarterback.

It's unrealistic to expect that this year's Aggies offense will be comparable to the one led by former quarterback Johnny Manziel—one of the most dynamic college football players in recent college football history. But if it's close, all that defense needs to do is force some turnovers for the Aggies to be successful.

Besides, four of the last five national title winners and seven of the last 10 participants in the national title game have had first-year starters taking the snaps. A quick turnaround isn't the most outlandish prediction in the world.

 

Ole Miss Rebels

"But...but...Ole Miss hasn't played in an SEC Championship Game yet. Now it's a playoff contender?"

Ole Miss would certainly be a surprise, but what shouldn't be a surprise is the defense. The Rebels could boast one of the toughest defenses in the SEC, thanks to All-American safety Cody Prewitt, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and a ton of raw talent that is primed for a breakout.

The Rebels offense has been pretty solid over the last two seasons with quarterback Bo Wallace taking the snaps, but the rising senior has struggled to fight through nagging shoulder injuries that were exacerbated by his role as a runner between the tackles. Thanks to Jordan Wilkins and Mark Dodson, he might not have that responsibility anymore. A healthy Wallace is dangerous, especially with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram outside.

Ole Miss has the potential to boast a surprisingly stout defense and a high-scoring offense that is multi-dimensional. That's a recipe for success.

The Rebels get Alabama and Auburn at home, and they have a manageable draw out of the East with the road trip to Vanderbilt and home stint against Tennessee. 

Ole Miss making the playoff would be a long shot, but that's exactly what we're talking about here. Long shots. 

Hey, it's better than "no shot."

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 1 Picks: Texas A&M Aggies vs. South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina Gamecocks junior running back Mike Davis has averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his career, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 college football picks, as he prepares to take on the Texas A&M Aggies at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Sports bettors will find that the Gamecocks are 14-point home favorites in the NCAA football odds, with no betting total available in the marketplace.

Let's take a closer look at this Southeastern Conference matchup from a betting perspective, while offering up a prediction along the way.

 

Gambling stats via SBR Forum 

Begin Slideshow

Oregon QB Commit Travis Waller Stars at Elite 11 Camp

Travis Waller is out in Oregon at the Elite 11 Camp, and he's showing the world what he has to offer.

A recent Oregon Ducks commit, Waller has all the tools that will allow him to succeed at the next level. 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is in Oregon with a full breakdown of this future Duck. How much success do you think Waller will have in college?

Watch the video and let us know.


Rankings from 247Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon QB Commit Travis Waller Stars at Elite 11 Camp

Travis Waller is out in Oregon at the Elite 11 Camp, and he's showing the world what he has to offer. A recent Oregon Ducks commit, Waller has all the tools that will allow him to succeed at the next level...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

LSU Football 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

The backup quarterback might return as the most popular person at LSU in 2014. 

LSU has uncertainly at quarterback for the first time in two years. Zach Mettenberger was the unquestionable starter for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. This stability was a breath of fresh air for Tigers fans who were always torn between Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson in years prior.

But now, LSU is back in a quarterback quandary. Head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron must choose between two youngsters to lead the team. They know whoever they pick will probably go through growing pains, thus making the backup the big man on campus. 

Miles and Cameron also have some adjusting to do. The two players likely to replace Mettenberger have the ability to make plays with their legs, which will make Miles change up his philosophy, according to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee

Here is an early look at how things might shape out this fall. 

 

Brandon Harris 

Early enrollee freshman Brandon Harris started and finished as the most buzz-worthy player at spring practice, and for good reason. Harris proved he has all the tools to be the starting quarterback.

He throws a spectacular deep ball and can move the chains with his legs. But his pocket awareness and accuracy for a player who is barely scratching the surface is amazing.

LSU fans got a brief, yet favorable, glimpse of Harris at the spring game. His four combined touchdowns and no interceptions were the highlight of the afternoon. 

This offseason, Harris worked with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who already thought highly of the talented gunslinger before the summer began. Whitfield said in mid-April that Harris reminds him of a young Jameis Winston, per Shea Dixon of Geaux247.com.

Harris was joined by fellow freshman and 5-star receiver Malachi Dupre at Whitfield's "Shark Week," per Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com. And he has continued working with Dupre. The duo both tweeted a photo after a workout that also featured former LSU receiver Jarvis Landry, who led the Tigers in receptions, yards and touchdowns last season.

  

Anthony Jennings

LSU sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings has proved to be a clutch college quarterback. 

Jennings' signature moment came against Arkansas as a backup after Mettenberger was sidelined with an injured knee late in the fourth quarter. Down by four with less than two minutes remaining, he orchestrated a 99-yard touchdown drive for the win. 

Jennings was not able to replicate the success in his only start, which happened the game after against Iowa in the 2014 Outback Bowl. He went 7-of-19 for 82 yards and an interception, and he was also sacked four times. 

The struggles continued the next time he played in front of LSU fans. He threw two interceptions in the spring game, both of which were returned for touchdowns. 

Jennings has a year of experience learning from Cameron, which is certainly valuable. He can fit the ball into tight spaces, and his mobility makes him dangerous when a play breaks down, but he is far from a finished product.

Jennings ran with the first unit to start spring practice. But his snaps will be shared more with Harris as spring ball progressed. 

 

 

The Rest

LSU would be in some trouble if Harris and Jennings were to get injured. Quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Stephen Rivers transferred this offseason, which leaves three quarterbacks left on the roster.

Junior Brad Kragthorpe, son of LSU special assistant to the head coach Steve Kragthorpe, is likely the third-string quarterback. Following him is transfer Brandon Bergeron, who is in his first year in Baton Rouge. Redshirt freshman Jake Clise rounds out the group.

The Tigers also have senior Rob Bolden, who made the switch from quarterback to receiver over the offseason. Bolden was a former starting quarterback at Penn State who could get the nod before Kragthorpe or Bergeron if need be. 

 

Conclusion 

Miles said he is not opposed to playing both Harris and Jennings next season, per Scott Rabalais of The Advocate. But Harris' performance at the spring game proved he has more potential in every aspect of quarterbacking. 

LSU would be in good hands with Jennings if Miles and Cameron chose the talented sophomore. Either way, expect the Tigers to pound the football on the ground behind an experienced offensive line and talented running back trio of Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. 

 

*All statistics and rankings were provided by LSU Sports Information, CFBStats.com and 247Sports.com. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Elite 11 Buzz: Florida State Emerges as Leader for 4-Star QB Deondre Francois

Deondre Francois is one of the few uncommitted quarterbacks left in the 2015 class. He is currently showing interest in two big-time programs that would both love to have his talents on campus.

Francois is out in Oregon at the Elite 11 Camp, and he's showing exactly why he is such a dynamic player.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder is in Oregon with a full breakdown of Francois. Where do you think he will land?

Watch the video to find out.

Rankings from 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

With a horde of highly touted youngsters sprinkled throughout its offensive depth chart, Tennessee has enough talented playmakers to improve significantly in 2014.

The Volunteers just have to find somebody to get them the football.

A four-man, free-for-all quarterback battle in the spring failed to yield a clear starter. Then, one of those candidates near the top of the list—redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson—abruptly and surprisingly transferred.

That leaves senior Justin Worley as the most likely candidate to start. He was the leader in the clubhouse for the job anyway, with the most experience and a keen grasp of the offense.

Considering talented but inexperienced players Josh Malone, Jalen Hurd, Von Pearson, Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm are expected to play huge roles in UT's offense, having a seasoned quarterback at the helm is important.

But reversing the fortunes of last year's putrid offense that ranked 12th in total offense, next-to-last in passing yards and 11th in points scored in the SEC begins with improved quarterback play.

Let's take a look at Tennessee's depth chart once fall practice begins a month from now.

 

Quarterback No. 1: Justin Worley

Worley finally has started looking like a leader.

A season ago, the Rock Hill, South Carolina signal-caller struggled mightily to begin the season as Tennessee's starter. He was even benched prior for the Florida game before taking over again after Nathan Peterman's forgettable half at the helm.

Fans clamored for Butch Jones to play one of his ballyhooed freshmen (Ferguson or Joshua Dobbs) and put Worley on the pine.

But a funny thing happened on the way through Worley's abbreviated season: He got progressively better, even if the stats didn't bear it out.

Maybe it was his willingness to take shots, but the progression was obvious in the workload Jones put on his quarterback's shoulders.

In a close-but-shaky win over South Alabama, a narrow miss against Georgia, a signature win over South Carolina and a half before an injury ended his season against Alabama, Worley tried to command the offense.

He wasn't always successful, but he looked like he'd at least shed the training wheels.

Worley enjoyed his best stretch of football in the Vols' comeback against the Bulldogs that forced overtime. 

Then, against the Gamecocks, he had the guts to throw a heave-and-hope prayer answered by Marquez North to set up the game-winning field goal.

This spring, Worley led the offense much better at times. While he didn't make the spectacular plays, he didn't make catastrophic ones either. His maturation was evident in the Orange and White Game as he meticulously made all the passes, was more crisp with his timing and accuracy and took care of the ball.

Dobbs stole the show, but Worley's steady work came against the first-team defense.

You aren't ever going to get superstar numbers from Worley, but he may be just what this UT offense needs this year—a steadying force to distribute the ball to the weapons around them and let them do the rest.

 

Quarterback No. 2: Joshua Dobbs

Few collegiate athletes are more impressive off the field than UT sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who is going to school to be an aerospace engineer while playing in the SEC.

His career at Alpharetta High School was strong enough for Dobbs to be ranked as the nation's No. 10 pro-style passer, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Now, he just has to translate all of that success to the college field. For one April afternoon at UT's spring scrimmage, he looked like he wasn't far from doing that. 

Dobbs finished the Orange and White Game 6-of-9 passing for 199 yards, three touchdowns and a long rushing touchdown. Though most of that work came against the second-team defense, it wasn't the numbers that were the most important aspect.

His touch on the deep ball, zip on other passes and post-snap progressions were extremely polished, and those areas had been major issues for Dobbs throughout his brief UT career.

Jones told GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required) it was Dobbs' "best performance of the spring in the spring game."

It was a glimpse of what Dobbs can be, but he hasn't put it all together yet.

In 2013, Dobbs was forced into action before he was ready. He showed flashes of ability, but he never strung together enough plays to prove he was able to be an SEC-caliber quarterback.

With a bowl game in play, Dobbs played his worst game against Vanderbilt, and the Vols couldn't get bowl-eligible. His only win as a starter came in a meaningless finale against Kentucky.

Still, all the tools are there. Dobbs has worked on his arm strength and packed on weight, now checking in at 203 pounds. He also traveled to California to participate in the Whitfield Quarterback Academy with Worley, according to 247Sports' Brad Pope

Even after stellar spring finales, the duo went to work even harder. That's a good sign for the Vols.

Dobbs has put in the work to make a run at the starting job once fall camp starts. At worst, his 2013 experience and considerable skill set gives Tennessee fans comfort knowing if Worley is hurt or falters, Dobbs has been through the battles.

If he keeps making strides, Dobbs will be the Vols' quarterback of the future. Many more days like the spring finale, and it may be this year.

 

Quarterback No. 3: Nathan Peterman

Very few SEC teams have a third-string quarterback with starting experience, even if Peterman would probably like to forget last year's Florida game.

The 6'2", 225-pound redshirt sophomore is a former 3-star prospect and the nation's composite No. 17 pro-style quarterback.

The light hasn't come on yet for the Jacksonville, Florida product, but from a physicality and arm strength standpoint, there are tools on which to build. While the physical elements are present, Peterman makes too many mistakes. 

Jones has never ruled Peterman out of the quarterback race, so it's not out of the question that once a light comes on, the sophomore could become a bigger factor. There just haven't been any concrete signs that is ready to happen yet.

With prospects like Quinten Dormady and Jauan Jennings on the way in 2015, Peterman could get lost in the shuffle. But having a big, strong-armed quarterback who is athletic enough to run a little as this season's third-stringer is not a bad position in which to be.

The Vols are fortunate to have somebody with experience that far down the depth chart, and Peterman still has three seasons to progress and compete.

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports Composite

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

@Brad_Shepard

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Maxwell Award Watch List 2014: Full List and Bleacher Report Favorites

The start of the 2014 college football season is still nearly two months away, but the preseason watch list releases are in midseason form. 

On Monday, the Maxwell Football Club released its annual watch list for the Maxwell Award, given to the college player of the year. Last year's winner was Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, meaning there's going to be a new winner this December. 

But the watch list itself is packed with familiar names, including Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, a finalist for last year's Maxwell Award. Can Winston add another trophy to his already impressive resume? Here is a list of the 75 other players he's up against:

Who are some of the early favorites from this year's watch list? A short list follows. Keep in mind that these names are subject to change at any time based on performance or other factors so as to let us completely off the hook. 

 

Jameis Winston: How can he not be? The reigning Heisman winner will be under an intense microscope, but he's more than talented enough to repeat last year's success. Winston also has what should be another excellent supporting cast around him. If he puts up numbers that are anything like last year's, Winston will likely be a finalist in 2014. 

Braxton Miller: Miller is one of the most gifted runners in college football at any position. He has a rocket for an arm too, so he's a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. In college, that's tough to stop, and there's little reason to believe Miller won't light it up on the field again—except for injuries. Miller was banged-up last year with knee and shoulder injuries. If he can stay healthy—and that's an if behind the Buckeyes' new-look offensive line—he has a great shot. 

Marcus Mariota: It might be too early to tell, but Mariota is being tabbed by some, including B/R's Matt Miller, as the best quarterback in next year's class—not Winston. Mariota can put up video game numbers in Oregon's offense, though the Ducks have questions at wide receiver. Will that put more pressure on Mariota in the running game? It will be interesting to see how his role adapts this season. 

Todd Gurley: There are plenty of running backs on the watch list, but few feature backs like Gurley. On the contrary, it can be hard for a running back to win the Maxwell, since running backs can be complementary role players. The last running back to win the Maxwell was Larry Johnson from Penn State in 2002. But Gurley is the whole package: powerful and fast with great vision and pass-catching skills. If he can stay healthy, he can have a monster year. 

Bryce Petty: Baylor has done as good a job as any program over the last several years of recruiting and developing quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence and now Bryce Petty have put up ridiculous numbers in the Bears' high-powered offense. Petty recently received rave reviews at the Elite 11 camp for being a workout warrior, via ESPN's Travis Haney. If the Bears can reload on offense, Petty will be in the discussion for major awards by year's end. 

Nick Marshall: The former Georgia defensive back is a perfect fit in head coach Gus Malzahn's offense at Auburn. He showed as much last year, with nearly 3,000 yards of total offense and 23 total touchdowns. The SEC loses a handful of its best quarterbacks from a year ago, meaning Marshall is the main attraction among the conference's signal-callers this year. Another big year running and passing, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Marshall as a Maxwell finalist. 

 

Honorable Mentions: Melvin Gordon, Tyler Lockett, Chuckie Keeton, Amari Cooper. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Auburn has been no stranger to quarterback controversy over the last several seasons.

The dismal 2012 campaign began with new starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who was benched midway through the season in favor of backup Clint Moseley and later true freshman Jonathan Wallace.

Barrett Trotter opened 2011 as Auburn's new starter under center, but Moseley took over midway through the season before passing the reins back to Trotter for the Tigers' Chick-fil-A Bowl win.

Although he eventually won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship, no one truly knew what to expect from junior college transfer Cam Newton heading into 2010, his first and only season at Auburn.

Before Newton's heroics, Chris Todd was Auburn's top quarterback in 2009. He took the spot from Kodi Burns, who lost the starting job due to an injury in the 2008 opener but later reclaimed it for the second half of the season.

Some Auburn fans who were upset at senior Brandon Cox's play chanted Burns' name in 2007, when he was a true freshman. Burns, who ended his Auburn career as a wide receiver, scored the game-winning touchdown in another memorable bowl victory in the Georgia Dome.

While 2013 started in familiar fashion for Auburn—another dual-threat JUCO star originally from an SEC school winning the quarterback job—Nick Marshall made sure the Tigers would open 2014 with the luxury of an established starting signal-caller.

After leading Auburn to an unforeseen bounce-back season that ended with an SEC title and a berth in the national championship game, Marshall is back on the Plains to lead Gus Malzahn's patented offense for one more year.

He had an entire offseason to work on his accuracy issues and develop a better connection with his receivers, and the senior has Tiger fans excited about the team's chances at another magical year.

Fans will also be excited about the future of the position as the Tigers return all three quarterbacks who saw action last season. With the addition of a top signee, Auburn will venture into somewhat unfamiliar territory: having experience and depth at the helm of the offense.

 

Starter: Nick Marshall

Marshall did not blow anybody away with his passing numbers in his first season at Auburn, but his offensive production still made him one of the SEC's top playmakers.

His athleticism makes the Tigers' top-ranked rushing attack and developing passing game even more dangerous for opposing defenses. He can use his impressive speed to race past defenders on option keepers, buy extra time in the backfield for passing plays or just scramble for the first down. 

But the Tigers want Marshall to throw the ball more this season, and he must improve on his middle-of-the-road completion percentage from 2013. While a more experienced set of receivers could give him the intermediate threat he was missing last season, he will have to cut down on his recurring personal errors such as overthrown deep balls.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee set a goal for Marshall to complete "between 65 and 70 percent" of his passes during spring practices—a high mark that the senior met.

"He was 64 percent in 7-on-7 all spring, and he was almost 70 percent in team setting in practice," Lashlee said in May, per the Montgomery Advertiser's James Crepea.

If Marshall can carry that level of success through the air into the fall while continuing to be an effective weapon in the passing game, he could emerge as a contender for the Heisman Trophy as the Tiger offense sets its sights on smashing more records.

 

Backup: Jeremy Johnson

Johnson raised a few eyebrows last season when he made the final cut in Auburn's preseason quarterback battle.

Although he lost the starting job to Marshall, the true freshman was surprisingly not redshirted and recorded a pass in five different games as the No. 2 quarterback on the roster.

He got his first career start against FCS opponent Western Carolina, wowing the homecoming crowd with his excellent touch on long passes in a 62-3 smashing of the Catamounts.

Johnson later came in for an injured Marshall against Florida Atlantic, once again impressing through the air against weaker collegiate competition. After Marshall got back to full health midway through last season, Johnson was used sporadically in special packages. 

Johnson, Alabama's Mr. Football in 2012, was listed as a 4-star pro-style quarterback out of high school, but he has enough athleticism to be a solid rushing threat for the Tigers. Marshall is a smaller, speedier type of running quarterback, but the 6'5" Johnson reminds Auburn fans more of the powerful Cam Newton when he takes the snap.

Only time will tell what kind of impact a more experienced Marshall will have on Johnson's play count in 2014. But if Marshall goes down with an injury, the Auburn faithful should have plenty of confidence his backup to take over and showcase his own set of dual-threat talents against tougher opponents.

 

Third-String: Jonathan Wallace

Wallace will be a true junior this season, and he has already had a wild career on the Plains.

Hailing from nearby Phenix City, Alabama, Wallace was a signing-day surprise in 2012 and managed to get on the depth chart for his true freshman season. He was even Auburn's first-choice quarterback toward the end of the dismal season, trying to provide a spark for the lackluster offense.

He did not make the cut in Auburn's four-way battle for the starting quarterback spot last fall, sliding into third on the depth chart following Frazier's move from the position. The former starter saw little time behind Marshall and Johnson in 2013 as his biggest production came on a six-carry, 36-yard night against lowly Florida Atlantic.

If Marshall and Johnson somehow are not able to occupy the No. 1 and No. 2 roles on the depth chart at any point this season, Auburn will have some starting experience with Wallace. He is also a running quarterback who could fit right into Malzahn's offense after showing some promise in Scot Loeffler's pro-style scheme.

Wallace will have an opportunity to make a difference in 2014, although it probably will not be on the offensive side of the ball:

As a quarterback who has played against SEC defenses, he could be a valuable weapon if Malzahn and company want to get more creative in the popular "Batman" 2-point conversion package.

 

Newcomer: Sean White

White was not the highest-rated quarterback in the class of 2014—he was the nation's No. 8 pro-style signal-caller—but he stood out in his final year of high school with a pair of prestigious MVP awards.

The Florida native was the MVP of the Elite 11 quarterback camp last July and committed to Malzahn and the Tigers days after winning the award. A few months later, he was named the Under Armour All-America Game MVP after completing 10 of 12 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Unlike Auburn's current starting quarterback, White is a pure passer known for his deadly accuracy in the pocket.

"It's an NFL type of ball that he throws," former pro quarterback Trent Dilfer told 247Sports (subscription required) at last year's Elite 11 camp. "He throws an artistic ball. He doesn't just throw a skinny post, he sends a message with the skinny post. It blows your mind, his passing proficiency."

If Auburn continues to put a stronger emphasis on the passing game in the next few seasons, White will have an advantage in future quarterback battles thanks to his top-level arm. He also boasts great ratings in pocket presence and footwork, so he has the potential to turn into a dual-threat player during his time on the Plains.

White will most likely redshirt in 2014 and have an opportunity to compete for the starting job in 2015 against Johnson and any quarterbacks the Tigers might sign in this year's recruiting class. He might not become a starter early in his Auburn career, but Auburn fans should be excited for when he gets the chance.

 

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Wolverines 2014 QB Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

Devin Gardner enters fall practice as Michigan’s presumptive starter at quarterback. While signs point to him leading the team as it tries to bounce back from a disappointing 7-6 record, there are some nagging doubts about whether Gardner’s position on the top of the depth chart is completely solid.

Gardner is being pressed by a talented group of players who may be a better fit for coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s offense. He has been complimentary of Gardner, but as the team prepares to open fall camp, all eyes will be fixed on the Michigan offense that is being retooled after the departure of former offensive coordinator Al Borges.

Nussmeier has been tasked with revitalizing the Michigan running game that last season relied on Gardner’s scrambling ability. With running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith locked and loaded for the upcoming season and transfer Ty Isaac waiting for word of eligibility from the NCAA, the running game appears be significantly upgraded.

Gardner will need to prove that he can drive the offense—allowing others to run the ball, passing to a gaggle of unproven receivers and playing behind an offensive line that is attempting to rally from last season’s epic failure as a position group.


Devin Gardner

Senior Devin Gardner (6’4”, 218 lbs) is the starting quarterback—for now. Despite tallying impressive statistics last season, there are reasons to question whether he is the best quarterback for Nussmeier’s offense.

Gardner’s strengths include a wealth of experience under what will be his third offensive system at Michigan and a toughness that he exhibited playing hurt last season versus Ohio State.

Unfortunately, that injury begs the question whether he’s fully recovered, after spending nearly two months of the offseason on crutches. His performance during the team’s public spring practice was unspectacular.

Gardner sparked last season’s attack with his legs, while the offense this season will feature the team’s running backs. His ability to move in the pocket could be valuable since the offensive line is again expected to be weak this season.

“Coach Nussmeier is really aggressive,” said Gardner following practice earlier this spring. “He demands perfection and nothing less.”

Can Gardner be accurate enough as a passer (last season 60.3%, career 59.7%) to run this offense?

That’s the question that will determine how long he remains atop the quarterback depth chart. He has a history of misreading coverages and throwing easy interceptions. Gardner will need to cut back on the turnovers while breaking in a number of new receivers. If he struggles, Nussmeier may be tempted go with a younger quarterback by the start of the Big Ten season.


Shane Morris

Sophomore Shane Morris (6’3”, 202 lbs) was pressed into service last season after Gardner’s injury. He gained valuable experience as Michigan prepared for its bowl game in which he made the sole start of his young career.

Morris was impressive under difficult circumstances, and he entered spring practice pressing Gardner for the starting quarterback position.

“Everyday is a competition,” said Morris of his sparring with Gardner during spring practice. “Everyday we compete to be the number one quarterback.”

Morris has a strong arm and will be ready off the bench to replace Gardner if he falters.


Wilton Speight

Freshman Wilton Speight (6’6”, 230 lbs) emerged as an intriguing talent during spring practice. An early enrollee, he impressed Devin Gardner, “…Wilton has game, he can play…he’s definitely a threat for Shane and I,” despite being an unheralded three-star recruit

Speight is the wild card in the quarterback competition. He doesn’t have the emotional baggage of Gardner and has just as much time working with Nussmeier as Morris.


Russell Bellomy

There was a time when junior Russell Bellomy (6’3”, 210 lbs) was on track to compete for the starting position at quarterback.

But that was before a disastrous 2012 appearance versus Nebraska and before missing last season because of an ACL injury. The good news is that he recovered in time to practice for last season’s bowl game. Gardner’s injury freed up more repetitions for both Morris and Bellomy.

Bellomy is on the edge of the quarterback battle, but he’s overcome adversity and is still competing for a place on the depth chart.


All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

Follow
@PSCallihan

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bednarik Award Watch List 2014: Full List Released

The Maxwell Football Club has officially announced the college football stars who've earned consideration on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award. 

The Bednarik Award has been given to the best defensive player dating back to 1995. Notable past winners include Charles Woodson, LaVar Arrington, Julius Peppers, Ndamukong Suh, Manti Te'o and Patrick Peterson.

The honor isn't a guarantee of pro success, but most of those players have gone on to have productive NFL careers, while Te'o and last year's winner, Aaron Donald, look primed for strong 2014 seasons.

This year's watch list features plenty of defensive standouts who will likely hear their name called on draft day very soon.

Here's a look at the full 2014 Bednarik watch list.

 

Stars to Watch

Leonard Williams, DL, USC

Leonard Williams was one of the best defensive linemen in the country last year, and he wasn't even 100 percent. In fact, he may have been closer to "65 to 70 percent" in 2013, according to Rahshaun Haylock of FoxSportsWest.com after surgery for a torn labrum.

"I'm just expecting to just be a lot better than I was last year," Williams said. "My last season was a lot better than my freshman season so I just want to gradually continue to get better."

The USC junior is equally capable of playing on the inside or outside of the defensive line. In his two years as a Trojan, he's compiled 13 sacks and 26 tackles for loss.

 

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

It's always scary when a freshman establishes himself as the best at a certain position. You can only wonder where he might go from there.

Vernon Hargreaves III needed only one season to emerge as one of the best lockdown cornerbacks in the country. In his first year at Gainesville, he intercepted three passes and broke up another 11. Those 11 breakups tied Janoris Jenkins' school record for a freshman.

Teams may be a bit more wary of throwing Hargreaves' way, which could lead to a drop in production. His talent will never be in doubt, but if he doesn't have the numbers, Bednarik voters might not look his way, either.

 

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

Devonte Fields' freshman season couldn't have gone much better. He was named Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and earned a first-team selection on the All-Big 12 team.

It wasn't hard to see why Fields earned so many plaudits, as he racked up 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.

Injury derailed Fields' sophomore campaign, though, so the hype train has slowly idled into station for 2014.

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer believes that with a clean bill of health, the TCU star will get back to the player he was in 2012:

Whether you want to call it a breakout season or a comeback year, Fields is primed to return to form after a disappointing 2013 campaign. Injuries and a few off-the-field issues limited him, and he was barely present when he was on the field. He's had a good spring and looks to be even stronger than he was when he had a terrific freshman year. If he's 100 percent, he's a nightmare for opposing offenses.

The Horned Frogs should be a title contender in the Big 12, and Fields' performance will go a long way toward getting them near the top.

 

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Myles Jack may be considered a two-way player, but he's a much better linebacker than he is a running back.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora said that Jack will get touches in the backfield, but he sounded far from committed to the idea, per Pac-12 Networks:

The Bruins sophomore was named to Phil Steele's preseason All-American team, via ESPN.com, and the college football writer believes that Jack may be destined for New York:

Last year Jack became the first player in Pac-12 history to be named the conference's freshman of the year on both the offensive and defensive sides. His 75 tackles were the second-most by a UCLA true freshman in school history and on offense he scored seven rushing touchdowns. If he exceeds that type of production this year, he could be a dark horse candidate to get an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

In a way, being a two-way player may benefit Jack in the Bednarik discussion, much Tyrann Mathieu's prolific punt returns helped him in 2011.

The more attention drawn to Jack's snaps on offense will invariably lead to more voters seeing him on defense and truly appreciating how great a player he is.

 

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

Expectations were high for Vic Beasley last season, yet he somehow managed to exceed them, registering 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and six defended passes.

The Clemson senior could've easily entered last year's draft and made a good account of himself. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller tweeted back in January that Beasley could've earned a first-round grade:

Instead, he returned to school for his senior season and enters 2014 as one of the premier pass-rushers in the country. The Tigers lost a ton of offensive talent last year, but with Beasley leading the defense, they may be all right after all.

The only potential snag for Beasley's Bednarik campaign may be that constant double teams will lead to a drop in stats.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top SEC Recruits to Watch at Nike's The Opening 2014

The annual recruiting extravaganza known as "The Opening" will hit Beaverton, Oregon this week, as the top prospects in the class of 2015 will show off their skills to coaches and television viewers on Nike's campus.

You'll see several of the nation's top football players considering SEC schools.

Which SEC recruits will steal the show at The Opening? Here are our top 10.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: 3 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

The Ohio State football team will receive a huge boost in a few weeks when members from the country's No. 3 recruiting class report for fall camp.

With the coaching staff searching for playmakers, freshmen such as Damon Webb, Marshon Lattimore and Jamarco Jones will compete for a spot in the Buckeyes' two-deep rotation.

Despite the influx of new talent, Urban Meyer is hoping for big contributions from a trio of freshmen who enrolled early for spring camp. Whether they're providing a boost to a depleted unit or replacing a longtime starter, these three players must step up.

 

Raekwon McMillan

The Buckeyes had big issues at linebacker last season, so Meyer hit the recruiting trail hard in order to fix them.

That turned out to be a successful endeavor. Ohio State pulled in a 5-star and three 4-star linebackers this February, giving Meyer the kind of depth at the position he needed.

Raekwon McMillan was the crown jewel of the group.

The 6'2", 242-pound bruiser was the rated the nation's top inside linebacker after piling up 159 tackles, 35 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks during his senior season. He chose the Buckeyes over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Georgia.

With the loss of Ryan Shazier, who was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ohio State's linebacker unit needed a playmaker. McMillan came in this spring and competed with senior Curtis Grant at middle linebacker.

McMillan will take that position battle into fall camp. A strong month could end with a starting role in Ohio State's defense.

 

Johnnie Dixon

Ohio State's most inconsistent unit on offense lost its most consistent performer when wide receiver Corey Brown graduated last year.

Meyer will look to seniors Devin Smith and Evan Spencer to provide steady production, but more help could come in the form of Johnnie Dixon.

The 4-star blazer out of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, came to Ohio State because of Meyer's past success with receivers. According to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern, Dixon knows what he needs to do in order to see the field this year.

“I feel like if I work hard enough, I can hit the field and I can make an impact,” Dixon said.

Zach Smith, Ohio State's wide receivers coach, was impressed with Dixon this spring, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.

Johnnie’s been impressive. He is a lot like Dontre [Wilson]. He’s a grown man for an 18-year-old. He comes in and handles his business. He handles his business outside of this facility, he handles his business in the classroom. So I’m excited about where he is going to be.

Now, he is a typical freshman. He’s still learning and still trying to figure everything out. He has the commitment to be great, and he is doing everything we are asking him to do right now. That’s usually a formula for success.

If Dixon keeps working through that formula, Ohio State could get a much-needed boost on the perimeter.

 

Sean Nuernberger

It isn't glamorous, but the kicker plays a pivotal role on every team. The Buckeyes have a huge hole to fill with the loss of three-year starter Drew Basil.

Basil provided a steady leg to the Buckeyes, going 33-of-40 on field-goal attempts in three seasons. Ohio State's offense was dynamic enough to reduce his contributions over the years (he kicked just 10 field goals in 2013), but he had big moments. His four field goals pushed the Buckeyes past Michigan in a 26-21 victory to cap a perfect season in 2012.

Senior Kyle Clinton was the early favorite to replace Basil, but 3-star Sean Nuernberger surged down the stretch. That was capped by an impressive spring game, when he connected on seven of his eight field-goal attempts. Clinton was successful on just half of his eight tries, which opened the door for the true freshman. 

If Nuernberger continues his strong play this fall, he could be kicking field goals against Navy in Ohio State's season opener.

 

All recruiting information per 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages