NCAA Football

Very Quietly, Florida HC Jim McElwain Developing Versatile WR Corps

The days of the "fun and gun" that Steve Spurrier made famous in Gainesville are gone.

Long gone.

Florida hasn't produced a 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs hauled in 71 passes for 1,088 yards in 2002—when the 2016 class was still a year shy of kindergarten.

Some of that had to do with the multidimensional running game former head coach Urban Meyer implemented with star quarterback Tim Tebow, but the absence of game-breakers at wide receiver has become the Achilles' heel of the program for a generation—especially over the last half-decade. Only once since 2010 has Florida's team leader in receiving yards had more than 700 (Demarcus Robinson had 810 in 2014).

That could change in 2016, because very quietly, second-year head coach Jim McElwain has given himself depth, versatility and the ability to get creative with the current corps of wide receivers on the roster. 

Antonio Callaway had a team-high 678 yards last year as a true freshman, including four touchdowns and 23 receptions that went for first downs. The 5'11", 198-pound sophomore from Miami missed out on freshman All-SEC honors due to breakout campaigns from Alabama's Calvin Ridley and Texas A&M's Christian Kirk, but is already considered one of the most important pieces of McElwain's puzzle.

"This is a guy that this conference is going to hear about for awhile to come, and rightfully so," McElwain said prior to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. "Not only what he does as a receiver, but obviously as a return guy. He's energized us and he is a true playmaker. He's a get-it-to-guy and we're going to make sure he gets his touches."

Callaway is a known commodity, as is slot weapon Brandon Powell.

The 5'9", 184-pound junior who moved from running back to receiver prior to last season caught 29 passes for 390 yards and three touchdowns a year ago, and was a big help to former quarterback Will Grier and quarterback-turned-receiver Treon Harris, who were forced to deal with offensive line issues all year. 

Harris is interesting too, because the 5'11", 195-pound rising junior clearly has the athleticism to be a difference-maker, and can be used in a variety of ways by McElwain as a receiver or Wildcat quarterback who is actually a threat to throw.

What's more, three new wide receivers will be in Gainesville this spring—all of whom have the chance to make an immediate impact. Freddie Swain and Joshua Hammond are both 4-star prospects who have the ability to serve as possession receivers or threats downfield, and Dre Massey is a 5'9", 184-pound junior college speedster who gives McElwain even more options in the slot.

"Just to see them interact and just get involved in how we go about our daily business is something that's huge," McElwain said of the early enrollee wide receivers and fellow early enrollee quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask in quotes emailed by Florida. "I'm really proud of those guys. I'm proud of all those guys that chose to do a little extra work, you know, when it's a little uncomfortable to get in here and start their college careers a semester early."

Additionally, Tyrie Cleveland, a 6'2 1/2", 189-pound, 4-star prospect from Houston who was a bit of a signing day surprise, should grow into a big-time possession weapon once he gets into a college strength and conditioning program.

"He's a guy that came by this summer and always had a lot of interest in the Gators, right there in Duval County, before he moved to Texas, so he's not necessarily, you know, stuck and into the Texas part of it," McElwain said on national signing day, according to quotes emailed by Florida.

On top of those weapons, McElwain already has highly touted senior Ahmad Fulwood, who hasn't been able to put it together over three years in a stagnant offense. The 6'4", 208-pounder from Jacksonville, Florida, is a huge target with long arms, and he is joined by fellow receivers C.J. Worton, Alvin Bailey and Chris Thompson.

The combination of experience and talented newcomers should make life easy for the new quarterback—likely Franks, Luke Del Rio or Purdue transfer Austin Appleby. 

Florida has been lacking playmakers outside for a full generation, but McElwain has done a very good job replenishing that cupboard over the last couple of years through recruiting and position changes. That should benefit the Gators in 2016, the players who were already in house and the eventual winner of the battle to become the starting quarterback.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Bailey Hockman Tweets Visits Plan: Which Team Needs 4-Star QB Most?

Months after decommiting from the Georgia Bulldogs, coveted quarterback recruit Bailey Hockman plans to expand his process during upcoming weeks.

The 4-star prospect, rated No. 7 overall among pro-style passers in the class of 2017, shared that outlook Tuesday on Twitter:

Hockman, a 6'2", 210-pound junior at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, backed off his sixth-month verbal pledge to the in-state Bulldogs on Dec. 14. The decision occurred shortly after the departure of former Georgia head coach Mark Richt. On Twitter, Hockman expressed motivation to "open back up my recruitment and make sure I am at the best place for myself and development as a student-athlete."

He received scholarship offers from Michigan and Arizona State within days of his decommitment, presenting him with several options a year shy of national signing day. Hockman commanded widespread collegiate interest with a breakout 2014 campaign, recording 3,597 passing yards and 42 touchdowns, according to Jeff Sentell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Among his scheduled visits, all four coaching staffs are still searching for a quarterback who can become the centerpiece of their 2017 offensive hauls. Though each program is fresh off signing at least one 2016 prospect at the position, it's imperative for teams to stockpile talent, given the propensity for injuries, transfers and, inevitably in some cases, underwhelming play from former prized prospects.

Hockman is set to start his four-school tour Feb. 16 at Auburn. The Tigers welcome a pair of passers to the roster entering 2016 after signing junior college standout John Franklin and 4-star Orlando product Woody Barrett

Following a 2015 season that featured just 11 total touchdown tosses and 12 interceptions, the Tigers must improve passing efforts in order to contend for SEC titles. Auburn made strides by signing three of the nation's top 20 wide receiver recruits earlier this month, but the situation behind center remains murky.

"Our quarterback position is wide-open," Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn said last week, via Brandon Marcello of

While this disarray is troublesome for Auburn fans, necessity for improvement in the passing game could prove extremely attractive for Hockman. The Tigers lost grips on a commitment from 4-star 2017 passer Lowell Narcisse in January, further intensifying Malzahn's search for a future offensive catalyst.

Auburn does claim a commitment from highly regarded 2018 Florida quarterback Joey Gatewood but that's a long-term process that doesn't exactly offer much when it comes to certainty. Like Narcisse or Hockman, Gatewood could ultimately elect to change course during the second half of his high school career.

Fellow SEC possibility Tennessee will punctuate this upcoming stretch of visits. The Volunteers seemed to secure a stud at quarterback in August, when No. 1 overall 2017 passer Hunter Johnson pledged to the program, but he flipped to Clemson this winter. 

Tennessee signed top-rated 2016 dual-threat quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. The New Jersey native is a sensational athlete and Elite 11 finalist, but various injuries prevented him from completing a full season as a starter at Bergen Catholic, and there has to be at least mild concern about his ability to stay on the field as an eventual full-time SEC playmaker.

Volunteers head coach Butch Jones has done an excellent job redefining the culture for recruits in Knoxville, and his tenure features results on strong signing day. Coming off a nine-win campaign (his best through three years with Tennessee) and back-to-back bowl victories, his staff can sell a squad on the rise during discussions with Hockman, which can't exactly be said for Auburn after a 2-6 season against conference opponents. 

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has played a part in the development of four first-round NFL draft picks at quarterback, including Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall selection Jameis Winston. Fellow No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell flourished in his offensive attack at LSU, while Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel preceded Winston at Florida State.

Given Fisher's track record at the position, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that the Seminoles aren't exactly desperate for talent at quarterback. Florida State signed Deondre Francois (No. 3 pro-style passer in 2015 class) and Malik Henry (No. 4 pro-style passer in 2016 class) during the past two cycles.

Both young gunslingers are on campus this spring and look ahead to four seasons of collegiate eligibility apiece.

North Carolina presents another ACC destination. Junior Mitch Trubisky is expected to take over as starting quarterback following the departure of Marquise Williams after consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons. 

The Tar Heels passing attack has been predominately on point since head coach Larry Fedora arrived in 2012, producing 117 touchdown tosses in the past four seasons. Trubisky is now the trigger man but is left with two years of eligibility (one remaining when Hockman would enroll). 

North Carolina landed two quarterbacks in the 2016 cycle, with 3-star Logan Byrd already on campus and 4-star Chazz Surratt entering the mix this summer. 

Given current quarterback situations and rising talent on rosters, Auburn would appear to edge out North Carolina as the program most in need of Hockman's services.

The Tigers could present an immediate opportunity to compete for the starting role if aerial efforts don't significantly rebound next season. Barret, Auburn's lone incoming high school quarterback, may only have a seven-month head start on 2017 preparation if Hockman manages to enroll early.

While Auburn, Florida State, North Carolina and Tennessee enter the spotlight with this round of visits, expect others to push for Hockman's pledge as things progress.


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Why Jehu Chesson Will Be Michigan's Most Important Playmaker in 2016

Jehu Chesson emerged as Michigan's top big-play threat last season and will have the heaviest influence on the offense's success in 2016.

It's not simply because the senior wide receiver is an explosive player, though. Chesson provides a dynamic the Wolverines cannot create otherwise.

Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the program is slowly working toward a run-heavy offensive system. However, the personnel didn't quite match the desired scheme during his first year in Ann Arbor and won't be ideal next season.

While the offense—and Chesson himself—certainly took encouraging developmental steps forward, the losses of center Graham Glasgow and quarterback Jake Rudock will hurt initially.

Michigan returns four starting linemen, including standout left tackle and two-year starter Mason Cole. He might move inside to replace Glasgow, and the trio of Ben Braden, Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson should retain their roles up front.

That experience will help guide the new starting quarterback, who should be confident in the collective pass-blocking prowess of the offensive line.

But the running game may once again be inconsistent.

Early in 2015, the Wolverines had a balanced offense that regularly reached the 28-point mark while the defense locked down opponents. Still, Michigan sometimes needed a boost to waltz past UNLV and shake Maryland. Chesson provided that spark on jet sweeps, recording 36- and 66-yard touchdowns, respectively.

The team won't require anything different in its opening stretch, considering its foes include Hawaii, UCF and Colorado—none of which ranked better than 99th versus the run.

After that favorable stretch, Big Ten play begins against Penn State and Wisconsin. Michigan better be ready to pass the ball.

Last year, the Wolverines basically limped through the conference opener with Maryland, managed a decent day against Northwestern—against which Chesson returned a kickoff for a touchdown—and then mustered 3.3 yards per carry through the duration of the regular season.

Michigan survived as a 1.5-dimensional offense because of Rudock's progression, which paralleled Chesson's emergence. Coincidence? I think not.

Over the final seven games of the 2015 campaign, Chesson averaged 5.3 receptions for 90.3 yards and 1.3 touchdowns. He torched Indiana for 10 catches, 207 yards and four scores and eclipsed the 100-yard barrier against Ohio State—and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is still looking for Chesson.

Rudock won't be throwing the passes anymore, though, and there's no clear-cut replacement on the roster. Among others, Wilton Speight, John O'Korn and Brandon Peters will compete for the No. 1 job.

Weekly viewers of the Wolverines surely noticed how it took nearly seven weeks for Rudock and Chesson to find their timing on downfield shots. Now that process starts all over again for the fastest player on the team.

It's critical Michigan avoids that half-season lull and enters Big Ten action with its quarterback and primary deep threat on the same page—and not just in practice.

The Wolverines will be seeking a conference championship and should have national title aspirations. However, they don't have the luxury of easing into Big Ten games.

Penn State has surrendered fewer than four yards per carry every year since 2011, and Wisconsin is riding a four-season streak of top-25 run defenses. Penn State loses two key starters in Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel, but Wisconsin returns a majority of its front seven.

Dropping either matchup won't necessarily derail Michigan's conference hopes, but it sure would sting in the larger picture.

Unless the offensive line takes a dramatic step forward as a run-blocking unit, the Wolverines will rely on the to-be-determined quarterback. And he'll be hoping Chesson, the top playmaker, consistently breaks through.

Otherwise, Michigan will be missing the most important element of an offense it hopes will be championship-worthy.


All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Meet the 10 Teams That Have a Chance to Win the College Football Playoff

National signing day is behind us. College football’s 2015-16 coaching carousel has rolled to a close. Spring practice is still ahead. It’s never too early to think about what lies ahead. Specifically, the national title picture.

2015 showed that unexpected teams can make a real run at the College Football Playoff. Iowa finished 12-0, and Clemson went from good to great, going into the national title game 14-0 before dropping a 45-40 decision to Alabama. However, the pool of teams that have a legit chance of winning the national title remains relatively finite.

Here’s a look at 10 teams that actually have a chance to win the College Football Playoff in 2016. These projections are based on what the teams have previously proved on the field, their returning starters and their incoming recruits.

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Ohio State Football: Underclassmen with Best Chance to Earn Starting Spot in '16

Ohio State has to identify 16 new starters before kicking off its 2016 campaign against Bowling Green next September, and with that attrition, a number of underclassmen have a golden opportunity to earn spots in the starting lineup. 

Urban Meyer signed the country's No. 7 recruiting class after winning the national title last year, but the Buckeyes redshirted 20 of their 25 freshmen because their roster was so loaded.

Those redshirt freshmen could make a huge impact this fall, and Meyer vowed to play more of his first-year Buckeyes on national signing day—when he predicted that 18 of Ohio State's 25 new players will see the field.

Here's a guess at which underclassmen will make the first team to start the year.



Despite the need for eight new starters on defense, only two will be underclassmen.

The Buckeyes lost three starters on their defensive line and in the secondary, and that's where the pair of underclassmen will emerge. But even those two players—defensive end Sam Hubbard and safety Malik Hooker—are entering their third years of the program as redshirt sophomores. 

Hubbard should be a familiar sight for Buckeyes fans. The converted safety prospect bulked up in his first year with the Buckeyes and moved to the defensive line, and during last year's 12-1 run, he backed up Joey Bosa admirably and became a formidable force in the rotation. He ranked second on the team with 6.5 sacks, and with Bosa's departure, he's in line to step into a starting role.

Hooker should emerge from a thin group of safeties to join Gareon Conley, Erick Smith and Damon Webb in Ohio State's secondary. Hooker was one of the guys who saw extended action in the Buckeyes' bowl practices last December, and the coaching staff is grooming the hard-hitting safety out of New Castle, Pennsylvania, to play a big part on the defense this fall.

Freshman defensive ends Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper, linebackers Justin Hilliard and Jerome Baker and defensive backs Eric Glover-Williams, Denzel Ward and Jordan Fuller are other young players who should factor into the two-deep rotation.



Ohio State lost all three of its starting wide receivers and one of the most productive running backs in school history, and it'll replace that playmaking ability with a wave of talented underclassmen. 

On the perimeter, true freshman Austin Mack will surge as an early enrollee this spring and lock down a starting spot this fall. Redshirt sophomore Noah Brown will accompany Mack. Brown was in line for a breakout year in 2015 before a leg injury in fall camp derailed his season.

In the backfield, redshirt freshman Mike Weber will join J.T. Barrett. The powerful running back is more in the mold of Carlos Hyde than Ezekiel Elliott, and he'll bring the bulldozing running style back to an offense that will need steady production from the ground game in 2016.

A pair of redshirt freshmen will be opening lanes for Weber on the right side in guard Matthew Burrell and tackle Isaiah Prince. 

But the Buckeyes will go deep into their roster in 2016 to find as many playmakers as possible. At wideout, redshirt freshmen Torrance Gibson and K.J. Hill and true freshmen Binjimen Victor and Demario McCall will get playing time. And with the No. 2 spot at tight end wide open, true freshmen Jake Hausmann and Luke Farrell should battle to see the field.

With only six seniors on the team and 25 upperclassmen total, there will be a lot of opportunities for younger guys to see the field in 2016.


All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Ole Miss NCAA Allegations Are Concerning, but Won't Derail Program Trajectory

In this week's edition of "As Oxford Turns," Ole Miss takes more public hits thanks to new information regarding the NCAA investigation that involves the football program under current head coach Hugh Freeze, former head coach Houston Nutt, the women's basketball program and track and field.

Lots of hits. 

According to David Brandt of the Associated Press, a source close to the football program confirmed that the notice of allegations sent to the school by the NCAA last month includes 13 football-related violations of the 28 total allegations—nine of which occurred under the Freeze regime.

That's quite a jump from ESPN's report prior to national signing day, which suggested that most of the allegations involved other sports and the majority of the football-related allegations were from the Nutt era.

From a public relations standpoint, this is a killer.

The college football world piled on Ole Miss when the notice of allegations was first delivered, assuming that there had to be all kinds of nefarious activity going on to lure top-tier talent to Ole Miss—which has never won the SEC West—on a consistent basis.

This new report only will further that notion, because the potential presence of Level I violations—the most serious classification under NCAA rules—on top of the uptick in football-related allegations gives cynics enough ammunition to last for years. 

Plus, you never want the NCAA turning over rocks, because they might turn over the wrong one and really open up the floodgates. 

As Dan Wolken of USA Today noted, the reluctance to release some of the serious charges is concerning.

If you're waiting for the hammer to fall on Freeze and the Rebels, though, you might want to stock up on food and drinks. You probably should consider packing chargers for your electronic devices.

You're going to be waiting for awhile.

As noted by, four of the football-related allegations that involve the current staff were already self-reported, and include a "bump rule" violation, improper lodging (which is now legal) of a family member, improper transportation and an improper video made outside the locker room. Four others are from the Nutt era. 

Taking those eight violations out of the equation, that leaves five football-related violations left in the equation that involve the current staff, which ESPN notes are related to Tunsil.

Tunsil was suspended for seven games to start the 2015 season, which means that the program knew about what was going on, took severe action and then Tunsil was reinstated by the NCAA.

"Nothing has changed from our last statement on Jan. 30." athletics director Ross Bjork told on national signing day. "We are still working through the process."

Don't get caught in the trap of assuming that NCAA cases are always "the school vs. the NCAA." Most of the time, it's "the school with the NCAA."

This situation appears to be the latter.

The ongoing NCAA investigation didn't prevent Freeze from reeling in a top-tier class in 2016 that included 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson, 5-star offensive tackle Greg Little, 5-star defensive tackle Benito Jones, stud wide receivers D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Tre Nixon, safety Deontay Anderson and more.

Could there be a few scholarships lost? Of course, especially if there is something that Ole Miss and the NCAA didn't discover during the process.

But Ole Miss is still loaded with talented players, Freeze has improved his win total every year and there doesn't appear to be much in the notice of allegations once you look at the numbers to suggest impending doom.

Ole Miss is here, and it isn't going anywhere.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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The Growing Feud Between Jim Harbaugh and the SEC Is Great for College Football

Aside from the typical drama that often accompanies national signing day, it's been a relatively quiet month for college football since the 2015 season officially came to an end.

Unlike a year ago, there haven't been any surprise returnees like Cardale Jones, any juicy graduate transfer speculation as there was with Everett Golson and Braxton Miller or even any new head coaches making a significant splash by generating publicity at their new schools. Even national signing day was relatively quiet, with the usual suspects of schools—Alabama, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State—winding up with the nation's top-ranked classes.

But if you've been following college football for the past 13 months, you knew it wouldn't be long before Jim Harbaugh made some noise.

While the Michigan head coach's name has certainly stayed in the headlines thanks to his usual antics, nothing this offseason has built a buzz like the news of Harbaugh's intentions of holding the first week of the Wolverines' spring practice in Florida.

"Our plans for spring football are to go to Florida our first week while the university here is on spring break," Harbaugh revealed on national signing day. "We'll go to Florida and have four practices down there. We're going to work hard, but we'll have fun doing it."

That news, in and of itself, was noteworthy—the revelation of an unprecedented tactic, clearly aimed at gaining a recruiting advantage in the talent-rich Sunshine State.

But while Harbaugh's spring practice plans are surely exciting for his players, they aren't as highly thought of in the SEC, where the conference has already made an attempt to block Michigan's trip to Florida from ever happening.

According to's Dennis Dodd, the SEC has put in a request with the NCAA to prevent any program from holding its spring practice during spring break. Logistically, it would likely be impossible for the Wolverines to hold their spring practice anywhere except for Ann Arbor if they were forced to do so while class is in session.

"Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we've got one program taking what has been 'free time' away," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said, via Dodd. "Let's draw a line and say, ‘That's not appropriate.'"

It's not the first time Harbaugh has ruffled feathers in the South, and it likely won't be the last.

A year ago, it was the then first-year Michigan head coach's well-publicized tour of satellite camps—which included stops in Alabama, Florida and Texas—that drew the ire of the SEC's coaches. Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Gus Malzahn and Dan Mullen were among those to speak out against the practice of satellite camps, which SEC teams weren't permitted to hold on their own until last spring.

Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze went as far as to admit that his stance—like that of his conference counterparts—was a selfish one, meant to protect his program's own interests and little more. If the league was worried about Harbaugh's tactics opening up the floodgates, it was with good reason, as Ohio State went on to hold a satellite camp of its own in Florida later in the summer.

And while it was actually Penn State's James Franklin who first brought the practice to prominence in 2014, Harbaugh was on the front lines of the matter a year ago, defending his right to host camps away from his home campus as if it was a constitutional freedom.

"In my America, you're allowed to cross the state borders," Harbaugh said last summer, via USA Today's George Schroeder last summer. "That's the America I know."

With the Wolverines' big summer helping them attract the nation's fifth-ranked recruiting class, it was Harbaugh 1, SEC 0—and that was before Michigan beat Florida by a score of 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl to close the 2015 season.

But while Harbaugh won his first go-round with college football's top conference, this offseason's battle might not be so successful for him, at least not in the long term. According to Dodd, a "high-ranking" source anticipates that while the Wolverines will be allowed to carry on with their plans for the spring this year, "an effort similar to Michigan's will most likely be prohibited in the near future."

It makes sense. Holding mandatory practices during a time in which all other students are on vacation seems to go against the spirit of being a "student-athlete"—even if that's not what this is really about for either the Wolverines or the SEC.

For Michigan, holding a week of spring practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is likely intended to build the brand of his program on fertile recruiting ground while creating maximum exposure—which would fall right in line with Harbaugh's recruiting strategy with the Wolverines over the past year.

From last year's satellite camps to his extravagant, celebrity-aided signing day celebration, Harbaugh has had no issue keeping Michigan in the spotlight since arriving at his alma mater.

"I think it gives a chance to win on a lot of different levels," Harbaugh said of his spring practice plans.

For the SEC, it's about preventing a rising threat from doing that in its own territory, adding a second chapter to one of college football's most unique feuds.

Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, it'd be tough to argue that these offseason spats aren't good for college football, keeping the sport in the headlines during dead periods like the current one between signing day and spring practice.

Harbaugh will always find a way to create headlines—it's in his nature, but roping coaches like Saban, Sumlin, Mullen and Freeze into the discussion only ups the ante.

When it comes to the Big Ten and the SEC, a rivalry will always be natural, given their respective histories and geographical differences. For the past few years, it's been Urban Meyer and not many others manning the battle for the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes head coach has found an unlikely—and unspoken—ally in his chief rival in Ann Arbor.

Much of it may just be fodder that leads to little or no tangible results on the field, but even that can be good for the sport this time of year. Just ask the NFL how beneficial becoming a 365-day news generator can be.

College football's not quite there yet, but Harbaugh is doing his best to change that, from innovative recruiting tactics to timely offseason tweets.

Add the SEC to the mix, and it takes the attention received to a whole new level for what is growing into college football's favorite offseason rivalry.


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

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CFB Future 100: Top 5 Defensive Tackle Recruits in Class of 2017

After a thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report national recruiting analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the 2017 class. Here, we present the Top Defensive Tackles.


How important are defensive tackles? The last two recruiting cycles have had defensive tackles as their No. 1 prospects, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Trent Thompson was the top-ranked player in the 2015 class, while Rashan Gary took top honors in 2016.

An elite defensive tackle can alter a game in so many ways, and the 2017 class has its share of playmakers in the trenches. With the 2016 recruiting cycle having come and gone, college coaches are now focusing on finding defensive linemen who can shut down the run and make passing situations difficult for quarterbacks.

Here's our breakdown of the top-ranked 2017 prospects at defensive tackle. Players were assessed using various criteria, including their pass rushing, tackling, explosive strength, run defense, hands and overall motor.


All prospects were scouted by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Damon SaylesPlayers are ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings

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Tennessee Football: Realistic Goals for Quarterback Joshua Dobbs in 2016

Analysts around the nation are picking the Tennessee football team to be a lock for a big 2016, and quarterback Joshua Dobbs holds the key.

The senior-to-be signal-caller will be the unequivocal starter in his final season on Rocky Top, but how far the player nicknamed Rocket rises will determine how high the Volunteers can go in the rankings.

A step forward in 2015 was noticeable when Dobbs passed for 2,291 yards and 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions to go along with 671 rushing yards and another 11 scores. At times, he displayed the necessary leadership to carry the team through pivotal moments of big games.

In others, however, he was inconsistent. The 6'3", 207-pound Alpharetta, Georgia, native averaged 176 passing yards per game and completed 59.6 percent of his passes, sputtering to post passing numbers strong enough for a balanced attack against Oklahoma and Florida.

Those stats were solid, but the Vols struggled to maintain any consistent downfield attack throughout the year. Their ability to manufacture first downs with the run game was due largely to the pressure Dobbs' legs put on defenses. 

But his arm rarely kept opponents honest.

Many are enamored with Dobbs' seemingly limitless physical capabilities and mental makeup that could make him the face of the SEC. But all that must materialize in the ability to stretch the Vols' passing threat window and ultimately produce chunk gains. He hasn't been able to do that yet.

UT finished ninth in the SEC in passing plays of more than 30 yards.

Every single player in the country needs to improve various aspects of their play, so regardless of what kind of polarizing figure Dobbs is as a nontraditional quarterback, one thing is certain: Tennessee is fortunate to have him.

That's something most will agree on, including GoVols247 reporter Wes Rucker, who reminded fans not to lose sight of what kind of special talent the Vols have at quarterback:

Dobbs will be a seasoned, supertalented star in 2016. But where should the measuring sticks show major gains in Dobbs' game next year? Let's take a look at some realistic goals for the UT signal-caller.


Goal 1: 3,800 total yards

You may think expecting a quarterback to increase his total yardage by nearly 800 yards in a single season is a bit outlandish, but Dobbs has that kind of untapped potential.

In 2015, he finished with 3,020 total yards (if you count the 58-yard reception he had against Florida). Considering that the Vols are going to retailor their receiving corps to utilize more yards-after-catch guys, speedy targets who can turn short passes into big gains, that could benefit Dobbs.

He won't have to be elite throwing 20-yard passes if he has more receivers who can turn five-yard swings and slants into big gains. That should be the case with Josh Smith, Vincent Perry, Marquez Callaway, Latrell Williams and Corey Henderson now battling for reps.

"I think anytime you look at the elite of the elite in college football, they're usually the fastest teams that are left standing at the end," UT passing game coordinator Zach Azzanni told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan. "We really tried to address our speed on the perimeter, and we're going to keep doing that."

Having those blazers in the rotation should help Dobbs, but how much?

This may wind up being the most far-fetched goal of the group through no fault of Dobbs. When you have Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara in the backfield, you simply must hand the ball off—a lot. And that will diminish Dobbs' personal touches.

But if he tunes up his passing game, this number isn't out of reach. 

If Dobbs gets to 800 rushing yards (and he should), he'd have to average just over 230 passing yards per game to reach the 3,800-yard mark. That number would have put him fourth in the league this past year. There's also the possibility that the Vols could play one (or more) games than they did in 2015 (more on that later).


Goal 2: 35 total touchdowns

For all the heat first-year offensive coordinator Mike DeBord took for his conservative play-calling, the Vols offense was rather prolific. 

Tennessee finished third in the SEC with an average of 35.2 points per game, trailing only Ole Miss and Arkansas. Dobbs was a huge reason for that, finishing with a combined 26 touchdowns.

With the ground-tilling triumvirate back in 2016 along with an O-line that lost only left tackle Kyler Kerbyson, those numbers should get even better. Dobbs' rushing scores shouldn't go down if the Vols are in the red zone as often as they should be.

So, if the passing game improves the way it should with a better grasp of DeBord's scheme in Year 2, finishing with nine more touchdowns shouldn't be out of the question for the signal-caller.

If Dobbs is a part of UT crossing the goal line 35 times, it's going to be a season to remember on Rocky Top. How well had he begun to grasp the concepts toward the end of the year? Check out this highlight-reel run against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, as shared by Fox Sports Knoxville:

That was one of the best plays of the entire bowl season.

Some people want to toss around comparisons for Dobbs and use former Mississippi State star Dak Prescott as a gauge for him, but that's not fair. Dobbs won't put up the kind of numbers the former Bulldog did during his final two seasons in Starkville, nor will he be asked to.

Dobbs has tons of offensive weaponry around him. He just needs to be the one who knows which triggers to pull at what time.


Goal 3: SEC Offensive Player of the Year

The last quarterback to win the league's Player of the Year award was Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel back in 2012. Dobbs may just break that streak this coming year.

If he does, he'll have to beat out a bunch of good players, but the league isn't as stacked with top-shelf stars as usual.'s Steven Lassan recently rated all of the projected starting quarterbacks in the country, and Dobbs ranked 12th on his list, trailing only Ole Miss' Chad Kelly in the SEC:

Dobbs is a better all-around offensive player than Kelly, though the Rebels star holds the upper hand in passing ability. If Dobbs can approach his ceiling in the passing game, he could overtake Kelly.

Then there's the tall task of overcoming the SEC's stable of star runners, led by LSU's Leonard Fournette, Georgia's Nick Chubb and Hurd. 

Beyond that, though, there are few guaranteed stat hounds. Sure, several will emerge—they always do—but Dobbs is in the top group of playmakers. If he has a big year and, more importantly, the Vols are successful, he could carry home the hardware.

Everybody is enamored with a dual-threat quarterback on top of his game. Dobbs won't have to put together a Deshaun Watson-type season to win the award, but he has a skill set that is similar to the Clemson star's abilities. He just hasn't put everything together.


Goal 4: National champion quarterback

Finally, Dobbs' biggest goal is the ultimate team goal, but a selfless player would want it that way.

In the end, the Vols can't attain their wildest expectations without a dynamite finale by Dobbs. Make no mistake, this team is talented enough to win it all, as crazy as that may sound to some.

The biggest goal for Dobbs should be playing better against top-tier competition. Though he improved considerably in that regard in 2015, he's still never beaten Florida or Alabama. He'll have to go on the road to play Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina next year, too.

An early-season tilt at the Battle at Bristol against Virginia Tech will be a litmus test as well.

If Dobbs shows out in those games, the Vols will be in the SEC Championship Game. If they get there and win, the College Football Playoff could be close behind.

It's a leap to think a team can go from 9-4 to contending for a national title, but the Vols aren't that far away. They lost four games by a combined 17 points in '15, and Dobbs was mediocre in three of those contests. They held fourth-quarter leads in all but one game.

Elevating his play will lead to big wins in important games. 

Dobbs has to get better against the best. If he does, Tennessee will find itself among the best at season's end.


All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All individual stats gathered from and conference stats gathered from unless otherwise noted.

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

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