NCAA Football

Michigan Wolverines Quarterback Shane Morris Throws Long Pass to Himself

This time, it's real.

We recently saw Manvel High School recruit Gary Haynes post a video in which he sprints to catch a long pass he had thrown. That video was deemed to be fake—likely with another person throwing the eventually-caught football—as Haynes 'threw' his ball out of shot to the side.

Michigan rising sophomore quarterback Shane Morris decided to try his hand at the real thing. Perhaps the ball goes higher and not quite as far, but it's still impressive.

[Shane Morris, Vine]

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Former College Stars Whose 2014 NFL Draft Stocks Dropped in Their Final Seasons

We talk often about draft risers, players such as Blake Bortles and Greg Robinson who emerge seemingly from nowhere to become potential top-five draft picks.

But what about the flip side of the coin?

Just as Bortles and Robinson used a breakout 2013 season to put themselves in this position, players who began the year on NFL scouts' radars used poor 2013 seasons to play themselves out of it.

The results of this can be seen in the work of B/R's Matt Miller, who put out a first-round mock draft last June and another—his final seven-round mock of the season—last week. Some of the differences in player stocks are amazing.

For the purposes of this list, we will only count players who hurt their stock by playing poorly. Not included will be players such as Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who dropped from No. 19 in the June mock to No. 112 in the May mock but enjoyed a fine season in 2013. His drop had more to do with the rise of other running backs and the devaluation of his position in NFL scouting circles.

Other exclusions from this list will be anyone, like Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who has dropped because of an injury. Instead, this list will focus on players who did not post the same game tape in 2013 as they did in the season prior—that being the reason they'll slip.

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NFL Scouts Reportedly Favor Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston for 2015 Draft

It's the morning of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, and yet, here we are, talking about who might go first in 2015—just as Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman warned would be the case.

According to anonymous scouts who spoke with Pete Thamel of SI.com, the consensus in the league is that Oregon junior Marcus Mariota will be the top quarterback taken in the 2015 draft, while Florida State sophomore and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston reminds some people more of noted bust Vince Young.

"I'd take him over [Johnny] Manziel," said one scout of Mariota, who could have declared for the draft in 2014 but opted for a return to school. "He's more accurate. He's bigger and I think he's faster, not as elusive, but more durable. A lot of upside there."

A lot of upside, indeed. Mariota played through a sprained MCL in the latter part of last season, and even though it took a visible toll on his performance, he still finished the year with 3,663 passing yards, 715 rushing yards, 40 total touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Winston, meanwhile, has never lost a game in his college career and has the size (6'4"), mobility and arm talent to become a high draft pick.

Off-field concerns are beginning to cripple his stock, however, as his most recent arrest for stealing crab legs from a supermarket comes on the heels of a much more serious sexual assault investigation last fall and even a few suspicious incidents before that.

"It's repeat behavior," said a NFL scout for a quarterback-hungry team, according to Thamel. "He's not learning from it. That's a problem."

That sentiment echoes what Freeman reported earlier this week, when he quoted an NFL scout saying: "We're talent whores. But we're not total whores. It's almost impossible, at this point, to trust Winston."

If he plans on declaring for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, Winston has but 12 months left to win back that trust.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Ohio State, Ole Miss Latest to Offer Scholarship to Evander Holyfield's Son

Evander Holyfield made millions of dollars and became a global icon for his ability to dish out contact in the boxing ring. His son, Elijah Holyfield, hopes to spend his foreseeable future avoiding contact out of the offensive backfield.

The 5'11", 190-pound sophomore running back continues to see his collegiate options expand.

Ohio State and Ole Miss are the latest programs to plunge into his recruitment process, as both teams extended offers on Wednesday:

Holyfield has enjoyed a busy May, previously receiving offers from Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. Mississippi State, Virginia, Wake Forest and Wisconsin were already in the mix.

Interest increased after his first season at Woodward Academy in Atlanta. Holyfield rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown in the 2013 season opener and remained highly effective throughout his sophomore campaign.

His freshman year featured 645 yards and 10 touchdowns at Riverside Military Academy (Gainesville, Georgia). Holyfield transferred to Woodward last year.

He isn't a burner, but excels at finding space after working his way between the tackles. His agility also suits him well off the edge, where Holyfield appears patient as rushing lanes form.

"He's going to be a big power back," Woodward assistant coach Matt Brennan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. "I definitely think all the SEC schools are going to come take a look him. He'll be an excellent recruit for sure."

Holyfield displays an impressive set of lateral movements in the open field that allow him to evade defenders. He finishes plays moving forward, fighting for extra yards before defenders complete the tackle.

According to Carvell, Holyfield mentioned in-state Georgia and Michigan as favorites last October. Those squads haven't offered yet, but he certainly isn't lacking for opportunities at the next level after two high school seasons.

The son of the only four-time World Heavyweight champion continues to chart a course for his own success in athletics.

Count Ohio State and Ole Miss among those who hope that path leads to their campus.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.

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SEC Football vs. Power 5 Conference Games We'd Love to See

The headaches associated with realignment forced the SEC to go to a "bridge" schedule format over the last few seasons. But last month, one of the top annual offseason questions was answered, when the SEC announced its long-term schedule format, which starts in 2016.

That format isn't much different than the current one. The eight-game conference schedule will be in the same "6-1-1" format, where each team from a division will play all six of its other division mates, one rotating opponent from the other division and one permanent cross-division rivalry.

Also included in that format is a requirement that each SEC team play at least one out-of-conference game against team from a different "Power Five" conference—ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12—per season.

That's not much different than what currently happens. Ten of the 14 SEC teams will play at least one "Power Five" team this season, with Ole Miss having Boise State—a team that isn't from a Power Five conference but has a solid reputation—on their schedules. 

But what home-and-home series' and neutral site games can we create that will be fun for the fans? Our picks are in this slideshow.

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College Players Will Reportedly Receive Compensation for Working Camps

The NCAA has drawn up a piece of legislation that will allow college football players to be compensated for working on campus during summer football camps, according to an anonymous director of football operations who spoke with Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com.

Roussel elaborated on how the arrangement would work:

In the past, college coaching staffs have mainly relied on high school coaches and even lower-level college coaches to assist with summer camps. …

At the moment, coaches suspect that the compensation will be very similar to the way in which high school coaches are typically paid for working camps – either hourly or by the camp session.

No colleges will be allowed to advertise that a star player will be serving as an instructor during a summer camp. For example, if Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston were to serve as part of the staff for Jimbo Fisher’s football camp, the Seminoles staff is prohibited from advertising that Winston will be present and/or coaching a group of quarterbacks.

It is hard to say for sure, but this—more much than the Unlimited Pasta Act of April 2014—feels like it should be a seminal moment in the movement for labor reform in college athletics.

Even if the payment is small, the gesture is large. College football players will be paid money for doing football activities on a college campus, and the NCAA would not find it impermissible.

On principle alone, that is remarkable news. If it forges and flows down a slippery slope, it is potentially paradigm-shifting.

If college players are paid for doing something—even something as small as coaching high schoolers during a positional workout—and the world does not promptly explode, it might only be a matter of time before the NCAA is forced to pay them for more.

Of course, the rule also brings with it some questions. Roussel wonders how coaches will go about employing this provision—whether they will invite the star players to coach at camp or the players most in need of financial support.

Personally, I wonder whether the rule is just for football players. And if that is indeed the case, I wonder how long it is before high-level basketball players start lobbying for the same privilege.

 

Note: A previous version of this article stated that the rule was in its proposal phase, when in fact it was passed last year. This summer, however, will be the first when it takes effect.

The story has been changed to reflect that.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Alabama Football: Crimson Tide Poised for Another Record-Setting Draft

Even though he will not get anything out of attending the first round of the NFL draft in New York other than being there for his former players and promoting the football program, this could be another record-setting day for Nick Saban and the University of Alabama.

As noted earlier this week in the Crimson Tide draft preview, by having 12 players invited to attend the NFL Scouting Combine, which is a pretty strong indicator for whether someone will get selected, Alabama appears to be on the cusp of at least tying the school record of 10 selections in a single draft. That dates back to 1945, when its last player went in the 32nd round.

Nowadays, the draft is just seven rounds, but Alabama had nine players taken last year and eight in 2012—the most chosen from a school that year.

But that’s just the beginning.

Through the 2013 NFL draft, 111 players Saban either coached or recruited had been selected over the years, an average of just under one per round (.933). Among them were 33 Crimson Tide players chosen between 2009-2013, whose initial contracts combined added up to more than $280 million.

During those same five years, Alabama led all teams with 14 first-round selections after not having any between 2000 (Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander) and 2009 (Andre Smith), and no draft picks at all in 2008. 

The 11 first-round picks from 2011, 2012 and 2013 alone equaled the output of the previous six Alabama coaches and 22 years combined.

“Remarkable,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said last year about the back-to-back four first-round selections in 2011 and 2012. “It’s up there with one of the more impressive feats from a school that we’ve seen in a long time.”

With that in mind, here are six other ways Alabama and/or Saban can make history during Thursday night’s first round (Note: Draft statistics are credited to the coach from the previous regular season, so the 2014 draft counts toward the coach from 2013): 

 

1. Most first-round draft picks by an active coach

This is already a given because Mack Brown, who recently stepped down at Texas, was the active leader with 21 first-round selections, followed by Saban with 19 and Steve Spurrier with 16.

Defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney will be a top pick for South Carolina on Thursday, but the only program that appears to be a lock to have more than one first-rounder this year is Texas A&M with quarterback Johnny Manziel, tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans.

 

2. Highest career average of first-round selections by any active coach

Right now, Les Miles has a better career average at 1.17, compared to Saban’s 1.12.

Since Miles took over LSU in 2005, the Tigers have had 12 first-round selections, although at least six of them were were recruited by Saban. Miles also had two first-round selections at Oklahoma State (2001-2004).

Should wide receiver Odell Beckham be a first-round pick as expected, Miles will have 15 in 14 years, for a 1.07 average.

If Saban has two first-round selections Thursday night, his career average will be 1.17.

3. Most first-round selections for an Alabama coach 

Should Alabama have only one first-round selection in this draft—and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, linebacker C.J. Mosley and offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio are all strong candidates—he’ll be Saban’s 15th first-round selection at Alabama, a program record.

Paul W. “Bear” Bryant had 14 when he was at Alabama (1958-1982), although Joe Namath was a first-round pick in both the AFL and NFL before the leagues merged.

Factor in the schools they coached previous to Alabama, and both Bryant and Saban have had 19 career first-round selections.

 

4. Longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections

If either Clinton-Dix or Mosley ends up as a top-10 pick, Alabama will set the record for longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections during the common draft era (since 1967).

It’s currently tied with Southern California (1993-1997) with five straight years, while LSU and Texas A&M both have active three-year streaks.

5. Unprecedented first-round numbers

Saban is averaging 2.33 first-round draft picks per draft at Alabama (2007-2013). No one in college football history compares.

Pete Carroll had a 1.6 average at Southern California, and Jim Tressel was 1.4 at Ohio State, but both programs ran into trouble with the NCAA.

Otherwise, only three other prominent coaches have averaged at least one first-round selection a year: Frank Leahy (1.23, mostly at Notre Dame), John McKay (1.13, USC) and Barry Switzer (1.00, Oklahoma).

 

6. Saban could move into the top five for all-time first-round selections.

Joe Paterno, who coached for 46 years at Penn State, had the most first-round players with 33, just edging Bobby Bowden’s 32 at Florida State. 

At his current pace at Alabama, Saban will catch Paterno during the 2018 draft.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Former College Football Walk-Ons Who Could Be Picked in NFL Draft

College football teams can have as many as 105 players on their rosters, yet no more than 85 can be on scholarship. The rest must pay their way and are known as walk-ons.

By and large, walk-ons are former standout high school players who weren't considered good enough to earn a free ride but still possess enough value to help a team out in terms of depth and practice flexibility. When a school finds itself with some extra scholarships, sometimes a select few walk-ons will pick up an award for a season or two.

And then there are the success stories, the players who go from nobody to key contributor to star to...the NFL?

Each year, the NFL draft features a few players who began their college careers as walk-ons, completing the ultimate rags-to-riches journey. That list includes current NFL stars such as Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

We've identified eight such former walk-ons who have a shot at hearing their names called in New York City this weekend.

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Power Ranking the Scariest Defenders in Pac-12 Football

Nobody seems to care about defense in the Pac-12 anymore. It's all about the experienced quarterbacks, the up-and-coming crop of receivers and the powerful offensive lines at schools like Stanford and UCLA.

You'll see the occasional note about a pass breakup or tackle for loss during spring practice, but that's not what gets fans going anymore. Who had the most dazzling performance on offense? How much better is QB1 or RB1 than he was last season? And what's the 40-yard time of the guy returning punts?

All of those questions are hot topics, but you aren't going to win without getting stops. Believe or not, offenses still have to game-plan for opposing defenses; they don't just shred 'em without preparation.

Which defenses are the hardest to prepare for? And more specifically, which guys keep players like Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Nelson Agholor up at night?

That's the subject of today's piece, which takes a look at the five scariest defenders in the Pac-12. Buckle up!

 

All stats via cfbstats.com

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Power Ranking the Scariest Defenders in Pac-12 Football

Nobody seems to care about defense in the Pac-12 anymore. It's all about the experienced quarterbacks, the up-and-coming crop of receivers and the powerful offensive lines at schools like Stanford and UCLA...

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Pros and Cons to 4-Star ATH Jerome Baker's Top Schools

Jerome Baker is a 4-star athlete from Cleveland who has many schools after him. The 6'1", 205-pounder can excel on offense as a running back, but he may have a brighter future as an outside linebacker.

Baker has many options, yet he revealed to Blake Alderman of InsideTheGators.com (subscription required) in April that several programs were high on his list. 

Baker will ultimately have to decide on one school, but he'll need to weigh the pros and cons of his top suitors to make the right choice.

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2015 College Football Recruits with NFL Genes

Just about every prospect in the country aspires to play in the NFL. However, several 2015 college football recruits possess NFL genes.

Being a great prospect is one thing, but when a family member has already paved the way to the professional ranks, a recruit can have an advantage. A 5-star offensive lineman is the nephew of a former NFL defensive tackle, while a guard for the Tennessee Titans has a brother following his path.

Plus, an NFL draft prospect is the relative of a dual-threat quarterback.

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Meet Jake Waters, the Best-Kept Secret in the Big 12

Bill Snyder has a knack for finding the best-kept secrets, just ask Collin Klein or Darren Sproles.

Jake Waters is the next one you'll be asking about. 

Waters has been successful everywhere he's gone. In high school, he won two state titles and went 37-2 as a starter. He won a national title at Iowa Western Community College, and he became the first quarterback since 2002 to win a bowl game at Kansas State.

So why has Waters been so overlooked in his career? 

Well, in high school, he was a three-sport star at a small-town school in Council Bluffs, Iowa, an area not seen as a hot-bed for blue chips. 

So in the age of recruitment rankings, Waters was never able to fully commit himself to the recruiting process. 

"Because he was a three-sport star he wasn’t able to go to all these camps," said Scott Strohmeier, Waters' head coach at Iowa Western. "He felt a little bit that people were missing out on him. They thought he didn’t play high enough level of ball.”

 

Iowa Western gives Waters a chance

Waters was forced to go to JUCO route to pursue his football career. Scott Strohmeier noticed immediately that Waters came into his team with something to prove. 

"Once he got here, he had a chip on his shoulder," Strohmeier said. 

In his first season at Iowa Western, Waters went 9-2 with the Reivers. But he was still getting adjusted to the college game that first year in 2011. 

So Waters decided to fully dedicate himself to football for the first time in his life—pouring over film and attacking the weight room. 

"He prepares the way Peyton Manning prepares. That’s the approach he took," Strohmeier said.

After his first season, the dam blew and Waters exploded. 

The Reivers went undefeated and won the NJCAA National Title in 2012. He was the National Player of the Year and set the national JUCO record for completion percentage (73.3 percent), a mark previously held by Heisman winner and NFL superstar Cam Newton. 

 

Still overlooked, Waters chooses Snyder

Christian Corona of The Dallas Morning News called Waters the nation's best JUCO quarterback after that 2012-13 season. But still, according to 247sports, Waters was rated as just a three-star prospect. His only three offers from BCS conference schools were from Kansas State, Penn State and Houston. 

"He was under recruited," Strohmeier said. "But I'll tell you what, if I was ever in the situation I could start a team, he’s the guy I want. If you’re trying to start something, the guy that does absolutely everything, outworks everybody and its pretty dang talented, it’s him.”

Waters' choice came down between the Wildcats and Nittany Lions. In the week before Waters' commitment, he hosted Bill O'Brien at his house. 

Uncertainty overcame Waters during his recruitment. Strohmeier says that shortly before he chose Kansas State, he sat with Waters for hours to try and make the right decision.

"The big thing was that K-State recruits JUCO kids, that’s a huge benefit of what maybe steered him a little bit," Strohmeier said. "I know it came down to the wire, and I didn’t know two nights before he announced, I’m at his house with his mom and dad till 11:00 at night going over different things."

They walked away with the Wildcats in mind, but there was still waffling. 

“He made the decision pretty much that night, but he was going back and forth," Strohmeier said. "That night when we left, the next morning I texted him and asked are you still good, and he was pretty much set."

So on December 13, 2012, Waters selected Kansas State. He enrolled that following spring and immediately began competing with Daniel Sams for the starting job. 

The competition dragged on all the way until the week leading up to Week 1 of the 2013-14 season, when Snyder announced that Waters would be the starter. 

But Waters didn't get off to a great start in Manhattan.

 

Growing pains

In Waters' first start for K-State, the Wildcats fell to FCS North Dakota State at home. After two wins against bottom-feeder FCS teams, Waters and Co. dropped the first three games of the Big 12 season. 

In Week 6 against Oklahoma State, Snyder had seen enough and, although he "started," Waters was benched for most of the game in favor of Sams. The same was true the next week against Baylor. Both games, though, were losses. 

Up to that point, Waters had just four touchdown passes, five interceptions and was throwing for fewer than 175 yards per game.  

“At the beginning of the year last season...I was trying to get that home run ball," Waters said. 

He was trying to do too much. Waters wasn't letting the game come to him like he had in high school and with the Reivers. 

"It wasn’t that he wasn’t confident, he was unsure of some things," Strohmeier said. "He tried to do too much early on." 

Snyder echoes Strohmeier's sentiments, saying that if Waters was going through a rough adjustment process to the college game, that it was his fault and not Waters'. 

“If he was trying to do too much, that’s because we put too much on his plate," Snyder said. 

 

The waters calm

With Kansas State sitting at 2-4 and at risk of missing a bowl game, they squared off against Big 12 bottom-feeder West Virginia. It was that game that saw Waters slowly but surely come out of his shell. 

He completed 10-of-13 passes that afternoon for 198 yards and also had three touchdowns in the 35-12 win.

"I am proud of him," Snyder said after that game. "When things don't go your way that is what you are supposed to do. We are all supposed to do that. That is what life is all about." 

The Wildcats went on to win four of its next five games, giving the team bowl eligibility. Over that span, Waters took more and more control of the offense away from Sams. His best game arguably came in the team's only loss in the second half of the season: a 348-yard, three touchdown showing against Oklahoma. 

The reason for Waters' turnaround? He wasn't going for that home run ball anymore. He started to let the game come to him.

If anything, that opened up the deep ball for Waters. Against TCU, he had two touchdown passes of over 70 yards. Against the Sooners, he found Tyler Lockett for a 90-yard score. 

In the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan, Waters continued to find his stride and torched the Wolverines to the tune of 271 yards and three touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing. He became the first quarterback to win a bowl game for the Wildcats since Ell Roberson back in 2002. 

"It was my feeling going into the bowl game that Jake is gonna have a breakout day," Strohmeier said. "He was starting, and I just had a feeling that that was gonna be the start of it." 

"Now, his confidence is rolling over."

 

The next step

It was Waters' second season at Iowa Western that saw him breakout. So is he poised for the same type of season in 2014, his second year in Manhattan? 

Snyder thinks so. 

“I like his approach right now,” Snyder said. “He really is all business, he’s dedicated to continuing the improvement that he has made." 

Not only does Waters have a year of experience under his belt, but he has one less person nipping at his heels this year. 

Sams, the guy who was vying for playing time over Waters, is switching to wide receiver after it became apparent that Waters had taken the reins over for good. 

"Having me kind of be the guy, I can take that next step and leadership role," Waters said. "That gives me a little bit more confidence in knowing that if I make a bad play here or there, we’re not going to bring me out or something. I’m just trying to take control and get us where we need to be.”

That hasn't necessarily hurt the connection between him and Sams. The two connected on a pass in Kansas State's spring game, and the two were best friends last season, high-fiving each other after one took the other out. 

Now Waters is the team's ambassador. When Snyder put in Kaiden Schroeder, a 9-year-old battling cancer, to run the ball in for a touchdown in the spring game, it was Waters that guided him. 

Waters is trying to put last season's acclimation to the Big 12 behind him, and he appears well on his way. 

"You’ve got to settle down and just play," Snyder said. "He’s just made headway throughout, and I don’t anticipate it will be any different other than he’s got a great foundation to build on based on last year.”

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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BYU Football: NFL Draft Projections for Former Cougars

The NFL draft is only hours away, and several former Brigham Young Cougars hope to hear their names called. Despite an extremely deep draft class, there are a few Cougs that have a great chance of being selected.

But where will they land? No one knows for certain, but several experts have predicted solid placements for the BYU players. Read on to find out where they may be drafted.

 

Kyle Van Noy

Kyle Van Noy left BYU as arguably the best linebacker in Cougar history, although his placement in the draft may not suggest so. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller predicted that Van Noy will fall to the 52nd pick (second round) and be drafted by Arizona.

The Cardinals currently have John Abraham as their starting weak-side linebacker, so unless they have plans to deal him, Van Noy may be stuck as a backup for years to come. Arizona primarily runs a 3-4 defense, similar to BYU, but there are better fits for Van Noy.

Van Noy definitely has the potential to be taken as high as the first round. It will come down to which teams need a pass-rusher and are willing to use an early pick.

 

Cody Hoffman

Statistically speaking, Cody Hoffman is the best receiver in BYU history. But with a poor performance at the combine and questionable potential, he may fall all the way to the draft's final round.

Matt Miller predicts that Hoffman will be selected with the 230th pick, going to Pittsburgh. The Steelers started two receivers in 2013 who stand under six feet tall (Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown), so a 6'4" target like Hoffman may be exactly what they need.

Hoffman may not immediately start, but wearing black and yellow could be beneficial.

 

Uani 'Unga, Daniel Sorensen and Eathyn Manumaleuna

Unfortunately, Miller predicted that only two former Cougars will be taken in this year's draft—Van Noy and Hoffman. The other three Cougs who received combine invitations will hope to hear their names called over the weekend, but if that doesn't happen, a free-agent contract could be possible.

The NFL is a business. For athletes, all they can do is work their hardest on the field and hope for good results. I'd bet that every former Cougar has done all they can to be drafted, and the best of luck goes out to them.

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