NCAA Football

Alabama Football: Breaking Down the Potential Replacements for Blake Sims

If you’re looking for an experienced hand or a sure thing, Alabama’s 2015 quarterback competition is not for you.

Of the five candidates expected to be on campus during spring practice, none of them has at least a year of experience in the system and a pass attempt in a real, live game.

That means that whoever ends up winning the job will be especially green in some way or another.

Much will be written about the fight to be Blake Sims’ replacement at Alabama, just like it was for AJ McCarron’s this time last year.

For now, let’s just get a brief primer on each player, where he’s been and what he brings to the table, in order of class standing:


Jake Coker, redshirt senior

There wasn’t even supposed to be a quarterback competition this year. Coker, a Florida State transfer who lost out to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, was supposed to come in and make for a smooth transition from McCarron.

Instead, Coker got to campus in May after graduating from FSU and couldn’t get enough of a grasp on the offense to see any meaningful first-team snaps.

In his limited game time, he showed promise but also why he wasn’t ready yet. He appeared confused at times getting signals in from the sideline, while showing off the arm strength and mobility that made him a coveted transfer.

Coker will be the de facto No. 1 heading into spring, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the favorite. Can he take the next step in his development? This is his last chance to do so.


Alec Morris, redshirt junior

Morris seemed to be the “next man up” last year before Sims’ emergence and Coker’s transfer. The former 3-star from Allen, Texas, has drawn comparisons to Greg McElroy, coming from similar situations.

Morris has been the No. 3 quarterback for the last two years but hasn’t registered a pass attempt in his very limited game-time action. He appeared in just one game last year and four this year, mostly as Alabama’s backup punter.

What will make him stand out from the pack, like Coker, is his arm strength. The 6’3”, 230-pound quarterback was described as a “gunslinger” by Nick Perry in spring practice. He also was the quarterback wearing the headset on the sidelines, helping offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin signal in plays to the on-field quarterbacks.

Those physical tools combined with an apparent knowledge of the offense could make him a viable candidate for the starting job. If he doesn’t win it this time around, his window at Alabama may be closing.


Cooper Bateman, redshirt sophomore

If there’s a quarterback currently on the roster with the right mix of youth, experience and physical tools, it’s Bateman.

It’s unclear how much Saban and Kiffin will take age into account. They may want to try to develop some continuity at the position so they aren’t in this situation again next year. Bateman, a former 4-star from Salt Lake City, could potentially turn into a three-year starter like McCarron was.

Bateman ran some scout team for Alabama this year, including simulating Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.

“Cooper Bateman is very athletic, very fast, probably runs less than a 4.6 and does a really, really good job,” Saban said of Bateman during MSU prep. “He's been the scout team player of the week several times this year. Certainly has done a really good job this week. You have to have someone that can be that type of guy, or you really can't prepare your defense for what they're going to see.”

Bateman was efficient in pretty much his only public display of passing at 2014’s A-Day, leading the White team to a 17-13 victory. He threw for 156 yards and one touchdown, throwing 17 more passes than his teammate Morris.


David Cornwell, redshirt freshman

A year ago, Cornwell was Alabama’s hot-shot, young-gun quarterback coming in as a true freshman.

That’s not to say he’s fallen off or been a bust or anything like that. It’s just the cycle of how these things go.

Now with a year on campus under his belt, Cornwell will enter the fold likely as a long shot to win the job this time around. As a second-year player, he would go against the precedent of Saban playing older quarterbacks.

Still, the former 4-star quarterback from Norman, Oklahoma, brings a lot of promise and potential with him. He’s been largely limited during his time in Tuscaloosa rehabbing from a knee injury suffered in college and should be ready to show off his stuff in the spring.


Blake Barnett, true freshman

Barnett may be the wild card in this whole ordeal. He and Coker are the only quarterbacks in the mix recruited by Kiffin and seems tailor-made for his offense.

Barnett is a 5-star quarterback from Santiago, California, who can run and pass. Those legs may put him in the mix sooner rather than later.

He is the highest-rated quarterback Saban has signed at Alabama and the only 5-star. So he comes in with a considerable amount of hype (not unlike Cornwell last year).

If Barnett can pick up the offense and translate the skills that made him such a good high school player into college, he could make things interesting.


Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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We Remember: Byron Leftwich Carried Down the Field After Breaking Shin

In honor of his 35th birthday, there's no better time to look back on the moment when Byron Leftwich officially became a warrior. 

On Nov. 2, 2002, Marshall took on Akron in a MAC regular-season matchup. Leftwich broke his left tibia in the early stages of the first quarter and left the game to get an X-ray at the hospital. You would think with a broken tibia, Leftwich would be out for the remainder game, right? 


Wanting to rally his team, Leftwich returned early in the fourth quarter, unable to walk. The QB was literally carried by his offensive linemen to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball. 

Marshall lost, 34-20, but Leftwich finished with over 300 yards. Not bad for a guy with one working shin. 


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Notre Dame Football: Getting to Know the 4 Early Enrollees

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — National signing day is still a few weeks away, but four Notre Dame football commitments got a head start on their college careers this week as early enrollees.

Linebacker Tevon Coney, defensive lineman Micah Dew-Treadway, offensive lineman Tristen Hoge and defensive lineman Jerry Tillery have signed scholarship agreements with Notre Dame and began taking classes Tuesday—the first day of the spring semester—according to a Notre Dame press release.

Tevon Coney, Micah Dew-Treadway, Tristen Hoge & Jerry Tillery on board and begin class tomorrow

Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) January 12, 2015

The four players are set to participate in spring practice, which begins March 2.

What should Irish fans expect from each of the four players, in the immediate future and down the road?


Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

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How 2014-15 Ohio State Compares to Every BCS Champion

Ohio State capped a magical season with a 42-20 win over Oregon, beating the Ducks in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship and bringing the national title to the Big Ten for the first time since 2002-03.

But how did the 2014 Buckeyes stack up with the teams that came before them: the 16 national champions from the BCS era?

To answer that, we've pitted OSU against each team head-to-head and analyzed a number of factors. Most of them are self-explanatory, and those that aren't are easy to understand.

The simple rating system, explained by, measures point differential against strength of schedule. The F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders (only available after 2004) measure several additional factors against strength of schedule.

Basically, we wanted to make sure the schedule was accounted for.

Based on all the numbers, a subjective call was made between the teams. But in many cases, there was room for debate.

Sound off below, and let us know what you think!

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Ohio State Football: How Will Urban Meyer 2.0 Handle a National Championship?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Along with his three children, Urban Meyer stood in the northeast corner of Arlington's AT&T Stadium on Monday night, the familiar feeling of confetti falling accenting his team's latest rendition of "Carmen Ohio."

But as soon as the singing of Ohio State's signature song had concluded, the family of five realized that they were short one, as the Meyer matriarch, Shelley, had gone missing in the sea of celebration.

With tears—the good kind—in her eyes, 24-year-old Nicki Meyer scurried off off to find her mother, while her younger sister Gigi paved an opening among a sea of reporters-turned-paparazzi. Once reunited, the five Meyers—son Nate included—locked in embrace, celebrating the family's third national championship in the past eight years.

Only this one was a little sweeter, and not just because it was their first at the premier program in Urban and Shelley's home state. The Meyers had not enjoyed such elation since Urban's last national title at Florida in 2008, and that "celebration" went a little differently than this one did.

"Urban Meyer stood on the field with his second national championship team, the 2008 Gators, singing the fight song," ESPN's Wright Thompson wrote in his 2012 profile of Meyer. "After the last line, he rushed into the tunnel and locked himself in the coaches' locker room. He began calling recruits as his assistants pounded on the door, asking if everything was okay."

As it turned out, everything wasn't.

Eleven months later, Meyer would suffer a stress-induced health scare following Florida's loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Last fall, Meyer admitted to HBO Real Sports that his pursuit of perfection in Gainesville caught up to him and was ultimately the reason why he prematurely retired from coaching at the end of the 2010 season.

"You build this thing up, and it's hard to sustain," Meyer told HBO's Andrea Kremer. "I remember standing at the SEC [media day] podium, and they said, 'Coach, how does it feel that anything other than undefeated and a national championship, you're a failure?' And I just stared at the person asking the question, and it just sunk through my body. And I said, 'You're right.'"

Meyer would take a sabbatical from coaching in 2011 only to return to the sideline as Ohio State's head coach in 2012. He did so with a promise to his family—in the form of a contract written by Nicki on pink notebook paper—that he would take better care of himself, whether that be dealing better with either winning or losing.

Thanks to a three-game stretch that included two losses at the end of 2013 and start of 2014, we've already seen how the new Meyer handles the latter. But it wasn't the losing that got to Meyer at Florida so much as the pressure to maintain the winning, which is the same challenge that he'll now face with the Buckeyes back on top of the college football world.

It's too early to tell how Meyer will handle Ohio State's recent success with a full offseason and the entire 2015 campaign still ahead of him. But it didn't take long for the third-year Buckeyes head coach to receive his first test, with reporters in the post-championship press conference already inquiring about the likelihood of Ohio State repeating as national champs.

And for what it's worth, Meyer's answers sounded like that of a changed man.

"We'll have that conversation, certainly not today. It's about enjoying it," Meyer said. "Right now we're in the celebration phase. Eventually we're going to get to the 'learn from it' phase, and then the next guys like this wait for the next mission. So that's the pattern we're going to have."

While Meyer's plan sounds good in theory, it should be noted that he also said all of the right things following Florida's championship in 2008. A coach would never publicly admit that he's already looking ahead to the following season so soon, or put the pressure on his team to live up to the expectations set by its predecessor.

But with 14 combined returning starters on offense and defense, the expectations have already been set for the 2015 Buckeyes to continue what appears to be the budding dynasty Meyer is building in Columbus. Their head coach isn't naive about that either, as he'll hit the recruiting trail on Thursday expecting his third national championship to have a tangible effect.

"You move to the front of the line," Meyer said of dealing with recruiting prospects as the reigning national champion. "[OSU assistant] Kerry Coombs and I are sitting there, and I said, 'Man, I can't wait to go out recruiting.' You can't recruit to this now, you're officially a bad recruiter."

How Meyer wraps up his next three weeks of recruiting will go a long way toward determining how long the Buckeyes are able to sustain their success. What will be most important, however, will be his ability to maintain the championship expectations at Ohio State as a positive and not a detriment.

At Florida, they consumed him and ultimately led to his departure. But as evidenced by Monday night's celebration, so far, it's been so good for the Meyers in Columbus.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of, and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Marcus Mariota's College Football Legacy

The last time we saw Marcus Mariota in one of the many versions of the Oregon Ducks uniform, he was walking off the field at AT&T Stadium having come up short in his quest to bring a national championship to the Pacific Northwest.

It's about the only time during his storied collegiate career that Mariota didn't come through.

Mariota, who officially announced Wednesday that he would pass up his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, will leave school as the most decorated player in program history. But beyond being the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Mariota leaves behind a reputation as one of the most well-liked athletes in recent memory.

Let's take a look back at the legacy that Mariota leaves behind as he sets out on a pro career.


On the Field

College stats don't always tell the whole story, but with Mariota they do a darn good job of it. In three seasons with the Ducks, the 6'4", 219-pound Mariota started 41 games and threw a touchdown in every one of them. Overall, he threw for 10,796 yards and 105 TDs, with only 14 interceptions in 1,167 pass attempts.

Known as much for his mobility as his arm, Mariota also ran for 2,237 yards and 29 TDs, with 15 rushing scores in 2014. All told this past season, he was responsible for 5,250 yards and 58 scores, numbers that made him one of the most overwhelming Heisman winners in history.

"It's been an honor to watch Marcus develop over the last four years, and I'm excited to see what his future holds," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said in a statement released by the school. "He's given this program everything we could have asked, and he'll be the standard by which others are judged."

A 3-star recruit out of Hawaii who was the 19th-best dual-threat quarterback in the 2011 class via the 247Sports composite rankings, Mariota redshirted that first year at Oregon. In 2012, he won the starting job and went on to win 36 games in three seasons. He holds eight school career records, and his 105 passing TDs ranks him second all time in the Pac-12 behind USC's Matt Barkley. 

In addition to winning the Heisman in 2014, Mariota also won the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards given to the national player of the year, as well as the Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm quarterback awards. Mariota was also a unanimous All-American this past season, just the second player in school history to achieve that honor. 


Off the Field

In an era where many of college football's best and brightest players have struggled to keep their noses clean and maintain a positive reputation, Mariota was as close to a squeaky-clean athlete as their ever was. When a speeding ticket is the biggest blemish on the resume, you know you're dealing with one of the good guys.'s Ted Miller noted that Mariota is so well liked he went against the grain for what has become the expectation for high-profile players, particularly those at his position:

Along the way to becoming a national figure who further validated Oregon as an elite power, he also became known for being quiet and nice, which isn't very quarterback-y. He's not a carouser. You don't get much swashbuckling with him. In fact, with so few obvious holes in his game, his quiet niceness has apparently become a worry for some NFL scouts, at least an anonymous one took who that position during the season in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

Recent Heisman winners such as Florida State's Jameis Winston, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Auburn's Cam Newton all had checkered off-field lives, while 2005 winner Reggie Bush is no longer recognized by the Heisman Trust after the NCAA determined he'd received gifts while in college.

None of that existed with Mariota, a humble, team-first player whose win this year helped return some prestige to an award that briefly dropped "with integrity" from the description listed on the Heisman website. Though this was due to a redesign error, it served as a reminder of how the award's reputation had been tarnished by the actions of recent winners.

Mariota helped fix that.

He's also a big deal in Eugene-area schools, as we learned when O'Hara Catholic School 12-year-old Charlie Pape spoke during an Oregon press conference earlier this season:


Overall Impact

Thanks to its connection to Nike—which has enabled the school to become a sports fashion icon, among other things—Oregon has been a national brand for some time. But Mariota elevated the Ducks to another level, one that wasn't based entirely on flash and flair but also got credit for performance. Though Oregon came up short in Monday's national championship game, falling 42-20 to Ohio State, it was the program's second appearance in the final in the past five years.

Oregon wouldn't have gotten there without Mariota, and though the Ducks have a talented roster coming back, they're not considered a favorite to return in 2015-16.

But even with his college career over, Mariota's legacy at the school is expected to have an impact for quite some time. According to Richard Read of The Oregonian, the exiting quarterback has created a "Mariota Magic" boom in applications to the school. It's similar to the "Flutie Factor," the name given to the spike in enrollment that Boston College had after Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass to beat Miami (Florida) in 1984.

"Spectacular success on the football field often translates to increased applications and giving, university managers and fundraising consultants say," Read wrote. "For the University of Oregon, such spikes would be timed perfectly, coinciding with the campaigns for donations and for out-of-state students who pay higher tuition."

Many of the buildings and athletic facilities at Oregon are named after members of the Knight family, major donors to the school and principles in Nike. But after what he's done for the school, it shouldn't be long before there's a structure with Mariota's name on it. 


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Marcus Mariota's College Football Legacy

The last time we saw Marcus Mariota in one of the many versions of the Oregon Ducks uniform, he was walking off the field at AT&T Stadium having come up short in his quest to bring a national championship to the Pacific Northwest...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

DeForest Buckner Returns to Oregon: Latest Details and Reaction

Oregon Ducks star defensive end DeForest Buckner could have entered the 2015 NFL draft but instead announced on Wednesday that he'll stay in Eugene for his senior season.

Rob Moseley of reported the news, including a statement from Buckner regarding his decision, which featured a glowing review of defensive line coach Ron Aiken:

After sitting down with my parents and weighing all the pros and cons, I have come to the conclusion that it is best for me to return to school for my senior year. I am close to finishing my degree and that is very important to me. That is the reason I came here in the first place. 

I love the University of Oregon and see big things for us next year. Plus I feel that another year of experience here and under Coach (Ron) Aiken can only help my development and better prepare me for the next level.

This is great news for head coach Mark Helfrich's Oregon program, which just lost the national title game to Ohio State 42-20.

In addition to losing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota to the NFL on Wednesday, per Moseley, another dynamic player on the Ducks' front seven in Arik Armstead declared for the draft as well. Chantel Jennings of reported that development on Tuesday.

The Register-Guard's Ryan Thorburn favored Buckner over Armstead as a player in his analysis of the former's somewhat surprising move to stay in school:

NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah also compared the two Oregon defensive playmakers, hinting that Buckner indeed has the tools to excel in the pros now:

Buckner was projected as a second-round draft pick and was ranked No. 50 overall as the eighth-best defensive end on's prospect rankings. That goes to show how deep the 2015 draft class is expected to be at the position.

With how big Buckner's frame is, though, he is capable of shifting inside to defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment. Combine that with his immense athleticism, and Buckner may have indeed made the proper decision to play one more year of NCAA football.

While there is some concern to be had that playing another season at Oregon could present injury hazards, Buckner has a chance to improve his stock and emerge as a consensus 2016 first-rounder if all goes according to plan.

On a Ducks team that will be seeking leadership amid an uncertain post-Mariota era, retaining Buckner is all the more critical for Oregon to avoid a post-College Football Playoff down year.

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DeForest Buckner Returns to Oregon: Latest Details and Reaction

Oregon Ducks star defensive end DeForest Buckner could have entered the 2015 NFL draft but instead announced on Wednesday that he'll stay in Eugene for his senior season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Why College Football Must Make an Early Signing Period

The creation of an early signing period for college football recruiting has been a topic that’s been thoroughly discussed in recent years, but there’s never been a significant push by the decision-makers in control of that process to make it a reality.

On Tuesday at the American Football Coaches Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, the most significant step to date was taken to establish a second signing date for prospective college football recruits, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Crabtree.

Crabtree reports that a committee created for the purpose of investigating the merits of an early signing period, which was formed by the Conference Commissioners Association in June, is leaning toward endorsing the addition of a signing period in mid-December.

That period is likely to coincide with the current midyear junior college transfer signing date.

While nailing down an exact date is something that will and should be debated, an early signing period is beneficial for both recruits and universities for a number of reasons.

For starters, the current recruiting model is hamstrung by archaic rules that fail to account for the changes that have occurred to the process in recent years—most notably the acceleration of the timeline between when prospects are offered and when they commit.

The early signing period would eliminate the clutter for recruits who have already made their decisions a long time ago.

A quick glance at the 247Sports Team Rankings for the 2015 cycle shows that 18 of the Top 25 schools have already secured at least 20 commitments—with the other seven programs having at least 15 pledges less than a month before signing day.

With so many recruits already committed, a midyear signing period allows those student-athletes the chance to enjoy the last moments on the prep level before heading off to college instead of stressing during the buildup to signing day.

Also, with a majority of schools already having classes that are close to being full, allowing recruits to sign early would also help programs save resources if they didn’t have to continue to aggressively recruit committed prospects for another two months.

Former Akron coach Rob Ianello told Crabtree that he likes the current proposal on the table and it’s something that the college coaching community has clamored about for quite some time.

“We'll have something that people can look at and examine the pluses and minuses and come up with some feedback on it,” Ianello said. “It's something a lot of coaches have wanted for six years. I like mid-December because it doesn't change the calendar and it allows kids some chances to take official visits in December before they would sign.”

Critics against an early signing period may argue that some of the luster normally reserved for the first Wednesday in February would be lost.

However, with the attention that has been generated from a fan perspective, recruiting is already a year-round industry regardless of when recruits announce their decisions. That factor is unlikely to change, especially in the case of highly rated prospects.

Regardless, the creation of an extra signing period is a positive step in helping to alleviate some of the issues that have plagued the recruiting process in recent years.


Sanjay Kirpalani is a national recruiting analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.


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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Coaching Silly Season, Dak's Return

SEC Coaches Playing Musical Chairs

The coaching movement among assistant coaches this offseason has been mind-boggling, and in some ways, a flow chart of departures and arrivals will look eerily similar to a circle that consists solely of SEC teams.

John Chavis made a lateral move from LSU to Texas A&M to become the new Aggie defensive coordinator; Kevin Steele moved from a position coach at Alabama to take Chavis' place at LSU; and Crimson Tide outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson moved across the state to become the linebackers coach for Gus Malzahn at Auburn—who recently hired former Florida head coach Will Muschamp to head up his defense along with defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson.


It has been quite the wild ride around the coaching silly-season carousel. So what do we make of it?

For LSU, it's all about scrambling. Head coach Les Miles wasn't happy about the Chavis rumors in the press conference following the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, mostly because the timing wasn't great.

He tried to get Penn State's Bob Shoop but settled on the combination of Steele and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. That's good enough.

"Ed has done a great job at every coaching stop he’s made," Miles said in an emailed statement from LSU. "His teams are always well-prepared, played hard on every snap and fed off the enthusiasm and excitement that he brought to the field."

For Alabama, the news isn't great. 

They weren't going to keep Steele after he got a coordinator gig, but Thompson's move hurts more than Steele's departure. Thompson is ranked as the fifth-best recruiter in the country by 247Sports, was third in 2013 and was instrumental in Alabama's reeling in some top-tier-prospects.

Despite that, as Aaron Suttles of notes, he might have been nudged out the door:

Could Alabama's defense use a tweak?

Absolutely. After giving up a country mile (well, 230 yards) to Ezekiel Elliott on the ground in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and dealing with pass defense issues for two years, maybe a slight change will work wonders. It's a risk, though. Now Thompson will be across the state with Alabama's biggest rival and a grudge in tow, which will add some heat to an already spicy rivalry.

For Auburn and Texas A&M, it's all about recruiting.

Chavis' presence got the Aggies back in the mix for 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, who decommitted from the program last month. As Justin Hokanson of notes, Auburn is putting the full-court press on defensive end CeCe Jefferson with its coaching hires:

Essentially, the combination of Muschamp's being on the market and Chavis' move to College Station has set off a mad scramble of defensive coaches during the recruiting dead period. 

Thankfully, it has settled down. As Dan Wolken of USA Today notes, Auburn could be considered the big winner:


Return of the Dak

Quarterback play was more of a problem than a power this season in the SEC, but don't blame Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, because it wasn't his fault.

The junior signal-caller for the Bulldogs announced his return to Starkville during a press conference on Wednesday.

A national title may be a bit much, but his return will keep the Bulldogs competitive.

Another double-digit-win season would be a bit of a stretch, especially since three members of the defensive line moved on, linebacker Benardrick McKinney and running back Josh Robinson declared early and the schedule-makers decided to send the Bulldogs to Auburn, Texas A&M, Missouri and Arkansas in 2015, in addition to tough home games vs. Alabama and Ole Miss.

Personnel turnover and a tougher schedule will make things harder for Mississippi State in 2015. But it's well-coached, made the right choice turning to defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in the wake of Geoff Collins' departure to Florida and has a bona fide superstar taking the snaps. 

That will keep the Bulldogs around the eight-win mark, and in most of the ballgames they lose. Even though, technically, that would be a step back, it wouldn't be a collapse. That'd still be progress for a team that has historically struggled to sustain success.


Big News for the Tide

Three chairs were up front when Nick Saban took to the podium last week in the annual Alabama junior press conference. They were occupied by running back T.J. Yeldon, wide receiver Amari Cooper and safety Landon Collins.

Saban is lucky there weren't too more, because that makes it more likely that linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive lineman Jarran Reed will be sticking around.

That's important, because those two will become the centerpieces of a new-look Crimson Tide defense that will feature fresh faces including safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones. As the Anniston Star's Marq Burnett and B/R Alabama lead writer Marc Torrence point out, Jones is the one who really needs to step up:

Ragland finished second on the team with 93 tackles, and Reed added 54 of his own. With those two back, Saban's defense has a solid foundation to build on and should keep the Crimson Tide in the thick of the SEC West title race.



One of the more under-the-radar coaching moves this offseason was Shannon Dawson's move from West Virginia to Kentucky to become the new offensive coordinator for head coach Mark Stoops.

He's a perfect fit.

Stoops went old-school when he got the job prior to the 2012 season, bringing in Neal Brown to run the air raid that Hal Mumme made popular when he was Kenucky's head coach from 1997-2000. Dawson is a Mumme protege—one that Mumme tried to run out of the program, as Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal notes, via such extreme measures as not paying him and giving him every bad job he could think of.

Dawson talked to Mumme after he got this new role in Lexington.

"I really was talking to him more and thanking him for the nice things he said about me because there were some bad things he could have said about me too," Dawson said in quotes released by Kentucky. "I was really appreciative. I talked to him after the fact, not before the fact.”

Dawson's West Virginia offense finished 12th in the nation in total offense (499.8 yards per game) in 2014, and his air raid style has worked at a high level in stints as the offensive coordinator at Stephen F. Austin and Millsaps.

More importantly, though, it keeps the identity of Kentucky intact. The Wildcats are fighting a personnel battle with the rest of the SEC, and because of that, the unique nature of the offense gives opposing defenses something different to look at during game week.

That gives Kentucky a puncher's chance.


Quick Outs

  • Arkansas is going to be a trendy choice to make some noise in the SEC West next year, but let's not hype the Hogs too much quite yet. The offense will return almost intact, but the defense has to deal with major losses including defensive end Trey Flowers, linebacker Martrell Spaight and defensive tackle Darius Philon, who declared for the draft early. Arkansas will be competitive, but SEC West champs? Too soon.
  • Is the SEC fighting an uphill battle with the Big Ten? Not yet, but the emergence of Ohio State, presence of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and James Franklin recruiting his tail off at Penn State certainly make the top end of that conference formidable. More parity around the country may prevent the SEC from winning titles, but it is good for the sport—which, in turn, is good for the SEC.
  • No team has won back-to-back SEC titles since Tennessee in 1997 and 1998. Will Alabama change that? The uncertainty of the SEC will lead to some bizarre predictions in 2015, but don't count out the Tide.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Don't Rush to Expand College Football Playoff Despite Record Ratings

The first-ever College Football Playoff received record television ratings, and it has many fans clamoring for more. 

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee to discuss expanding the CFP next season.

Do you think they should expand to an eight-team college football playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Jalin Barnett Commits to Nebraska: What 4-Star OG Brings to Huskers

Nebraska beat out contenders from multiple conferences for a commitment from coveted Oklahoma offensive lineman Jalin Barnett on Wednesday, according to Josh McCuistion of Rivals.

The 6'4", 315-pound prospect picked the Cornhuskers from a collection of favorites that also included Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Arkansas. After multiple official visits, Nebraska was last in line with a mid-December trip. 

Rated sixth nationally among offensive guards, he is the biggest recruiting pickup to this point for a new coaching regime in Lincoln. Barnett attends Lawton High School, the alma mater of former Nebraska star and eventual College Football Hall of Fame inductee Will Shields. 

Barnett emerged as a premier prospect early in the 2015 recruiting process. He collected offers from Tennessee, Texas Tech and Alabama before the end of his junior year.

You'll be hard-pressed to find many young players of his stature who move with the fluidity Barnett flashes. He glides like a lighter man, using nimble footwork to stay in front of oncoming pass-rushers or pull around to seal off a gap.

At his finest when moving downhill, he establishes a low base off the snap and motors through his initial target before advancing to the second level. Barnett's ability to blow up two defenders on one play places him among the most dominant run-blockers in this cycle. 

He earned a spot in the Under Armour All-America Game and served as an anchor at right tackle for a perennial state title contender. Barnett is versatile enough to remain on the perimeter in college, but his talents would be best served in an interior role. 

Nebraska now holds 16 prospects in a class that currently rates 27th nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. Barnett gives the group three commits along the offensive line.

He joins linebacker Dedrick Young, running back Devine Ozigbo, linebacker Tyrin Ferguson and tight end Matt Snyder as players who've committed since the arrival of new head coach Mike Riley.


Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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Dak Prescott Returns to Mississippi State: Latest Details and Reaction

Far from a prototypical or finished pro product, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott could have still entered the 2015 NFL draft with rather high hopes due to a dearth of elite prospects at the position.

Instead, the dynamic Bulldogs signal-caller will remain with the Bulldogs for his senior season. 

MSU Football announced the decision:

They also posted video of Prescott speaking about the decision at the podium:

Bob Carskadon of passes along more comments from Prescott:

Prescott rose from relative obscurity to stardom in 2014, leading the Bulldogs to the top of the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings. As a junior, he had 41 total touchdowns (27 passing, 14 rushing) and threw for 3,449 yards while running for 986 more.

Only a road loss to Alabama and an Egg Bowl defeat at Ole Miss in the regular-season finale kept Mississippi State out of the playoff picture.

When he was still in the process of deciding whether to stay in college or not, Prescott could see a silver lining no matter what he opted to do.

"It's a blessing," said Prescott, per The Clarion-Ledger's Michael Bonner. "To have success, to have that chance that I have, I still have another year to come back and improve get better if I need to."

The hard-nosed running style Prescott has, along with his thick frame and rawness as a passer, has drawn comparisons to former Heisman winner Tim Tebow, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

Although Prescott has better natural accuracy as a passer than the former Florida star, he is still a project at the NFL level.

Thanks to his running ability, Prescott has the luxury of bailing if his first or second read isn't available. His tendency to seek out contact and violent collisions doesn't bode well for a long-lasting pro career.

Exercising better caution as a runner and working on mechanics and showing a better ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes will help Prescott boost his NFL stock as a senior.

Mississippi State also runs a spread offense, a system that simplifies the game for quarterbacks. Prescott has the arm talent to fit throws into NFL windows. The question is whether he'll have the know-how to digest a far denser playbook in the future.

If Prescott is able to hone in on the fundamentals in his final NCAA season and lead the Bulldogs to success in the SEC, though, he stands a chance to be among the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2016 NFL draft.

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Jalin Barnett to Nebraska: Cornhuskers Land 4-Star OG Prospect

Nebraska has landed one of the best offensive linemen in the class of 2015 after securing the commitment of Jalin Barnett. Josh McCuistion of Rivals reported the news: 

Barnett, a 4-star prospect who measures in at 6'4" and 315 pounds, ranks 61st among all 2015 recruits on 247Sports' composite rankings and sits No. 6 overall among offensive guards. The product of Lawton High School is also the best recruit in the state of Oklahoma.

Below, you can see a Vine of Barnett facing off with blue-chip defensive tackle Daylon Mack at the Rivals Camp Series. Although it's an extremely small sample, you can see some of his power and footwork.

Speaking of those feet,'s Derek Tyson snapped a photo of how large Barnett's feet truly are:

Barnett possesses a wealth of strength, and once he gets into a conditioning regimen at the next level, he'll become a major road-grader.

He excels in run blocking. One of the things that stands out most about him is his ability to continue driving a defender into the ground. Barnett isn't happy until his opposite number is one with the turf.

It's becoming increasingly important for offensive linemen as a whole to be much more athletic. It's not enough to simply be big and strong anymore. Players have to be light on their feet and move well laterally.

Barnett isn't a statue on the offensive line, but his lateral quickness leaves a little to be desired, and that in turns limits his skill when protecting the quarterback.

That's the only real knock in his game, though, so all things considered, it's not a massive flaw.

His footwork is still good enough that he can be a tremendous blocker when confined to a smaller space.

JC Shurburtt of 247Sports made it clear on how good he thinks Barnett can become:

Because of his occasional problems in pass protection, Barnett will likely play on the inside once he hits college, despite having experience playing offensive tackle in high school. Playing him on the inside means covering up his biggest deficiencies and taking advantage of his biggest strengths.

If he is lined up at tackle, he'll have a hard time getting outside and keeping pace with speedy pass-rushers. Over time, Barnett's game could develop to a point where he can handle that duty, but putting him at guard makes the most sense at the moment.

No matter where he plays in college, Barnett will become an anchor on Nebraska's offensive line in a few years.

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UCLA Football: Deon Hollins Primed to Be Bruins' Next Breakout Linebacker Star

UCLA football has been home to plenty of standout linebackers over the years, including the recent trio of Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack and Anthony Barr. In 2015, get ready to add Deon Hollins to the list of standout Bruins linebackers. 

Who could be the next Barr? That was one of the burning questions facing UCLA football a year ago at this time. 

Hollins heads into UCLA's 2015 offseason poised to be the sack machine that Barr was for the Bruins in 2012 and 2013, coming off a three-sack night in the Alamo Bowl win over Kansas State. 

His huge outing in the final game was the perfect culmination to the trajectory Hollins rode throughout his sophomore campaign.

Each week was another positive step in the season-long upswing that has Hollins looking like one of the Pac-12's best defensive playmakers for 2015. 

Put simply: "He was our most improved defensive player this year," head coach Jim Mora said in his Alamo Bowl press conference, via ASAP Sports

The void Barr left and Hollins helped fill was glaring early in the season. Though the Bruins' front seven did an adequate job generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks, UCLA managed just four sacks through the season's first month. 

It was a considerable drop-off for a defense that produced 31 sacks in 2013 and 46 in 2012. 

But as the year went on, Hollins made his own adjustments. His play at linebacker sometimes resembled more a defensive lineman's role, as he put his hand down on the turf when the situation called for it. 

"I really have the freedom to stand up or get down," Hollins said in late October. "I just feel like I have a little more exposure when I get down."

Hollins went to the four-point stance on many straight blitzes but did not abandon the upright technique.

"I can stand up," he said, and his ability to do so served him well in containment of zone-read offenses. "From a technical [standpoint]…when you’re standing up, playing in space more; [it's] not freelance, but that’s kind of your mindset. You have a freelance technique."

Whether keeping a hand on the ground or freelancing, Hollins broke out in the second half of the season. Seven of his 10 tackles for loss came in the final month as well as six of his team-high nine sacks. 

And as he improved, so too did the overall pressure for the Bruins. They finished 2014 with a healthy 29 combined sacks, just two off the 2013 pace with Barr in the lineup. 

It took some adjustment for UCLA to find its groove, both without its star and with a first-year defensive coordinator, Jeff Ulbrich.

There was an initial feeling-out period that paid off down the stretch. 

"Coach Brick did an excellent job mixing up the calls…[Opposing offenses] don’t know where the pressure’s coming from," Hollins said late in the season.

Hollins described a defense that sounded quite a bit like a shark. 

"We smell blood," he said following UCLA's win over Arizona. 

Fitting phrasing indeed, especially for Hollins' own individual style, which is oftentimes frenzied. Plenty of blockers learned firsthand of Hollins' tenacity. 

And that same spirit is what made Hollins such an integral part of the UCLA defense. 

As Barr pursued an eventual first-round selection in last year's draft, Hollins was something of an afterthought in the competition for Barr's starting outside linebacker job. 

He played sparingly in 2013. And, at 6'0", 225 pounds, he lacked the size of teammate Kenny Orjioke, who at 6'4", 238 pounds, is closer in stature to Barr (6'5", 255 pounds). 

But Hollins has excelled through a quality without measurement, which Jack described after the Alamo Bowl via ASAP Sports.

"His level of determination," Jack said. "This year, he really put it all together."

Next year, Hollins will take it to another level on his road to becoming the next in UCLA's lineage of star linebackers.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of

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UCLA Football: Deon Hollins Primed to Be Bruins' Next Breakout Linebacker Star

UCLA football has been home to plenty of standout linebackers over the years, including the recent trio of Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack and Anthony Barr. In 2015, get ready to add Deon Hollins to the list of standout Bruins linebackers...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ohio State Parade 2015: Date, Location, Venue for Celebration Victory

First comes the championship, then comes the celebration. Ohio State is fresh off winning the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship with a dominating 42-20 victory over Oregon. The Buckeyes returned to Columbus on Tuesday, but they will get to celebrate with their fans on Jan. 24.    

According to Harrison Hove of NBC 4 in Columbus, the official Ohio State celebration will take place at The Horseshoe with anyone and everyone welcome to attend:

As Hove's tweet notes, Columbus is going to be the hub of the sports world on Jan. 24. In addition to the Buckeyes' celebration, the NHL All-Star Skills Competition is also taking place on that date at the Blue Jackets' home in Nationwide Arena. 

The official time hasn't been announced for Ohio State's celebration. However, if it's an early afternoon event, fans will be able to attend the Buckeyes' parade and go straight from there to Nationwide Arena, where the NHL event starts at 7 p.m. ET.

Now, the big question for this celebration is if it will be able to top what Ohio State put on following the 2002 National Championship win over Miami. The most memorable part of that event was linebacker Cie Grant singing Carmen Ohio. 

This year's team did get an early start on practicing the song, performing a rendition as a team following the victory over Oregon, via

While Columbus has to wait another 10 days before officially celebrating these Buckeyes, star running back Ezekiel Elliott offered his thoughts on how the school could help everyone properly take part in this joyous moment:

The NCAA might not like seeing one of its student-athletes demand classes be put on hold for a sporting event, but some Ohio State professors may have been in agreement with Elliott, as ESPN's Kaylee Hartung suggests:

Even though players like Elliott and Cardale Jones will be focal points of the celebration, head coach Urban Meyer will be the star of the show. He's brought all those recruiting juices that made him so successful at Utah and Florida to Ohio State, finding instant success, losing just three games in three years and producing one of the most unpredictable champions in recent memory. 

There was some talk that Meyer could become an object of desire for NFL teams with this championship, but he said, "I love what I'm doing. Not right now," via While that's not a 100 percent denial, the list of professional jobs is closing fast, so the Buckeyes don't have to worry for at least one more year. 

Meyer has turned into a magician. Ohio State seemed like a mess when he took over, coming off the Jim Tressel debacle with players being suspended, but he came in and fixed everything instantaneously. That's not the kind of thing you see in sports at any level. 

It's not crazy to think Meyer could run for Mayor of Ohio right now and win in a landslide. That may not be a good career move for him, but it speaks to how passionately the fans in that state feel about Ohio State football. They will get to show it in front of this team at the end of the month. 


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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Why Michael Bennett Will Be the Best Pro Taken in the 2015 NFL Draft

Unless you have a prospect of the level of Andrew Luck or John Elway, the NFL draft isn’t won at the top. It’s won it the later rounds, when those diamonds in the rough are discovered for not as huge a price.

Tom Brady was famously drafted in the sixth round of the draft, and he has gone on to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. The Seattle Seahawks won last season’s Super Bowl on the shoulders of a number of players they selected later in the draft.

So while this Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are the clear top draft prospects, it is those that are going to go behind them that represent the real value of the draft.

One player who has gone about his game quietly all season but will provide a huge boost to whatever NFL team decides to draft him is Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett.

The senior capped off his final season in Columbus with a national championship and finished the season on a number of All-American and All-Big Ten teams.

The biggest issue for Bennett, though, who is considered a second-round prospect this year, has been the focus on another Buckeyes lineman.

Joey Bosa, who isn’t eligible for the draft until next year, has many scouts drooling over his skill set and body size, and that has left Bennett seemingly out to dry.

The Centerville, Ohio native has tallied 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season and has been a force inside for the Buckeyes in their title run.

As Dane Brugler of CBS Sports says, Bennett “displays outstanding balance and coordination through contact to work off blocks and keep his feet to be a factor in plays. He ‘wins’ with quickness out of his stance and uses his leverage, leg drive and strong grip to latch-and-rip past blockers and penetrate the backfield.”

Although Bennett is coming off of a successful senior season, he didn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding him heading out of last year.

If Bennett had elected to leave school at the end of last season instead of staying for his senior year, many outlets had him projected as a top 10-15 prospect. But inconsistent play at the beginning of the season saw him drop too far down draft boards for a late rally to truly make a difference.

Following Ohio State’s game against Michigan State this year, during which Bennett recorded two tackles for loss and a sack, Bleacher Report’s lead draft analyst Matt Miller raised Bennett back up a little from where he had fallen.

“Ohio State’s Michael Bennett started the season ranked as my No. 1 defensive end but saw his ranking dip due to inconsistent play,” Miller wrote. “That changed against Michigan State. Bennett showed the promise and production that made him a high-ranking preseason player.”

It was a switch around that time, not a metaphorical one, but a literal switch from nose guard to 3-technique that saw Bennett recapture his form from the previous season.

“For whatever reason, that was where we fit best,” Bennett said of the position switch, per Bill Landis of “It worked out really well.”

The new role allowed him to use speed to beat guys, instead of having to go through them like he had to do earlier in the season.

It clearly paid off, with Bennett recording six sacks after the switch, compared to only one in the first eight games of the year.

But despite all the physical tools that Bennett brings to the NFL team that will draft him, it is another aspect of Bennett that makes him stand above the rest.

“I’m talking about his development as a leader and a guy that I can count on,” Urban Meyer said per Patrick Maks of “A guy that doesn’t whine and moan and complain about stuff because that’s kind of how he got through it in the old days and that’s not the case at all right now.”

From his demeanor to his ability to his physicality, Bennett seems like a can’t-miss prospect in a draft full of question marks. When he does get drafted, the team that takes him will not regret it.

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