NCAA Football

Arkansas Football: Razorbacks' New Year's Resolutions

A lot has happened in 2013. Some things were good and some were bad, but the end of each year marks the beginning of a new one. 

With the new year comes an opportunity for a fresh start, a time to make resolutions and set new goals. Resolutions can be for individuals, offices, classrooms, families and, in this case, the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The 2013 season was not very nice to the Hogs, but it's now in the past. With 2014 come hopes and dreams of turning around what was a very rocky debut for head coach Bret Bielema, to say the least.

The Razorbacks didn't win a conference game for the first time since joining the SEC in 1992 and endured their first nine-game losing streak in program history. But, as stated, 2014 is a whole new year, so there's no need to pout, moan or drown in self-sorrow.

Bielema has a lot of young talent to build on, and putting in the work in the offseason should make for a much better season in his second year. 

With that said, here are the Razorbacks' top-four New Year's resolutions that should make for a better ending.

For more information on the Arkansas Razorbacks football team, follow Bryan Heater on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.

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Ohio State Football: Noah Spence Not with Team, Dealing with 'Personal Issues'

The No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes have arrived in Florida ahead of their Orange Bowl matchup with No. 12 Clemson, but one of their top players hasn't made the trip.

According to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, Urban Meyer told reporters that defensive end Noah Spence is at home dealing with "personal issues."

“Noah didn’t fly down with us,” Meyer said, via Rowland's article. “He’s working through some personal issues at home. I hope [he will be here].”

With kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday, January 3, time is ticking on Spence's return, and he's certainly missing out on pivotal bowl practices.

If Spence doesn't rejoin the team, Ohio State will be losing one of its most disruptive defenders.

The sophomore standout from Harrisburg, Pa. had a fantastic season, recording 52 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and a team-high eight sacks, according to Ohio State's official website. Spence lines up as the Buckeyes' primary pass-rusher in a position the coaches dubbed the "Viper," and his speed off the edge is one of Ohio State's biggest advantages.

Replacing Spence won't be easy, but if the Buckeyes need to, they'll turn to another sophomore in Jamal Marcus.

Marcus is Spence's primary backup, and with Ohio State's heavy rotation along the defensive line, he received a good amount of playing this year. Marcus played in 12 games and registered 15 total tackles, including two sacks, according to the team's official website.

Facing Clemson's high-powered offense, Spence's potential absence would be a huge blow.

The Tigers, led by senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, boast one of the country's most explosive offenses. Clemson is No. 11 in total offense, averaging 502 yards, while ranking ninth with more than 40 points per game. Much of that damage is done through the air as the Tigers average 329 passing yards per outing.

Ohio State has given up big yards to opposing quarterbacks, ranking 103rd in the country after surrendering an average of 260 yards per game. The Buckeyes need dramatic defensive improvement to slow down the Tigers, and now the playing status of one of their key players is up in the air.

The Buckeyes, of course, are looking to bounce back from their first loss under Urban Meyer after falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. 

If Spence can't make the trip, bouncing back will be much more difficult.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NCAA.com

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

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Oregon vs. Texas: Whose 2014 Recruiting Class Is Better Right Now?

In what will be the final game for a pair of admired coaches, Oregon and Texas will dual in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Monday.

Mack Brown will coach his last game for Texas, while this will also be the last ride for Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. The Longhorns and Ducks did not have the seasons they both wanted, but they're each going to want to end this year with a victory.

What also makes this such an intriguing contest is that both programs are enjoying solid recruiting years. Which program should be the happiest with recruiting right now? 

 

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports

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Notre Dame Football: 2013 Grades for Brian Kelly

Notre Dame's 2013 season is officially in the books, and the numerous performance reviews are arriving in droves.

For head coach Brian Kelly, any meeting with athletic director Jack Swarbrick regarding the Irish's 2013 season should be a pleasant one, as Kelly guided the program to what should be considered a successful campaign, despite a 9-4 record not living up to the fanbase's mountainous expectations.

While a slew of factors contributed to the Irish's underwhelming follow-up of their appearance in last season's BCS National Championship Game, providing a detailed performance review for Kelly will inject clarity in the postmortem of the 2013 season.

 

Offense: B

As has been discussed ad nauseam since former starting quarterback Everett Golson was expelled from the university in May, Kelly was essentially forced to scale back his playbook and alter the Irish's plan of attack with Tommy Rees at quarterback.

As Kelly would typically prefer, he wasn't able to run the zone read with Rees at the helm but was able to combat that impossibility by implementing elements of the pistol offense, as well as a no-back set on obvious passing downs.

However, Notre Dame's running game significantly regressed from its 2012 form, as the Irish finished the 2013 season ranked 80th nationally in rushing offense, averaging just 151.3 yards per game on the ground. To the average fan, Kelly would be the man to blame but not in this case.

Fair or unfair to state, opposing defenses stacked the line of scrimmage during appropriate down-and-distance situations, making it virtually impossible for the Irish to effectively run the football.

Despite that deficiency, Notre Dame averaged approximately two points per game more than it did last season. Given that impressive feat under the circumstances, Kelly deserves the "B" for the Irish's offensive performance in 2013.

What prevented Kelly from being bumped up a letter grade was his continued difficulty within the red zone. As has been a common theme during his tenure at Notre Dame, Kelly's offense continually sputtered inside the 20s. Simply put, a red-zone offense percentage of 78 won't get the job done.

 

Defense: C

The best defenses in any league play as a cohesive 11-man unit, with the loss of a single player not having drastically negative effects, but such was the case with the Irish's defense in 2013.

With former linebacker Manti Te'o beginning his professional career with the San Diego Chargers, the spine of the Irish defense withered.

Notre Dame ranked 69th nationally in rushing defense, yielding an average of 168 yards per game on the ground. Keep in mind that Notre Dame returned eight of its 11 starters from last season's dominant unit that carried the program to its first national title appearance in 24 seasons.

Even prior to nose guard Louis Nix's season-ending meniscus tear, his presence along with Stephon Tuitt, Sheldon Day, Jaylon Smith, Carlo Calabrese, Prince Shembo and Dan Fox simply couldn't build on what the unit accomplished a year ago.

Their collective regression combined with a wholly unsatisfactory 17 takeaways resulted in what should certainly be considered a porous defense.

 

Special Teams: D

A grade of "F" could be considered for the Irish's special teams performance during the 2013 season, but placekicker and punter Kyle Brindza brings the grade to "D."

Dating back to Kelly's initial season on the job, Notre Dame has shown time after time that special teams haven't been a priority. 2013 was an especially horrific season for the Irish's kick-coverage unit, as it finished in the cellar of the FBS, ranking 121st nationally (25.68 yards per kickoff return allowed).

Clearly, opposing offenses were allowed excellent field position on a consistent basis due to Notre Dame's failure to execute on that front.

Aside from kick coverage, Kelly and Co. continued to display a failure to piece together even a semblance of an effective punt-return unit. Despite senior receiver TJ Jones' decision to add punt returner to his list of duties, his team saw no tangible improvement, as the Irish averaged an abysmal 7.07 yards per punt return.

The lone bright spot for Notre Dame's special teams was Brindza, who converted 20 of 26 field-goal attempts while also adding on the responsibility of punting with former punter Ben Turk having graduated in May. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Hurricanes' Offseason Primer

The Miami Hurricanes enter the offseason following a 36-9 drubbing at the hands of Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Offensively, the 'Canes could not overcome a very talented defensive line, struggling to find open running lanes and failing to provide quarterback Stephen Morris time in the pocket. Without Duke Johnson and Herb Waters, Miami was simply not able to counteract the Cardinals' speed.

After a strong initial effort, the Hurricanes' defensive unit was overpowered by one-time Miami commitment and top NFL draft prospect Teddy Bridgewater. Seven scoring drives later, 'The U' had surrendered at least 483 yards for the sixth time in eight games and a season-worst 554 yards.

Clearly, the offseason will be a wild ride, considering 24 seniors graduate and coaching changes appear to be very likely.

 

Out With the Old

One season after losing just two senior starters—both of whom were drafted—the Hurricanes' lineup will undergo some major shakeup.

Quarterback Stephen Morris, wide receiver Allen Hurns and fullback Maurice Hagens have run out of eligibility, while the trio of Brandon Linder, Seantrel Henderson and Jared Wheeler will no longer be on the offensive line.

On the other side, middle linebacker Jimmy Gaines and defensive end Shayon Green, the second- and third-leading tacklers, respectively, are the key losses. Curtis Porter, Justin Renfrow, Luther Robinson, David Gilbert, Tyrone Cornelius, A.J. Highsmith and Kacy Rodgers II each played significant time, so the 2014 defensive two-deep will have lots of new faces.

Additionally, junior linebacker Denzel Perryman will make his decision of whether or not to return to school, so the 'Canes could lose their top tackler as well.

Second-team All-America (USA Today) punter Pat O'Donnell averaged a school-record 47.1 yards per punt, so his contributions will be sorely missed. O'Donnell constantly flipped field position, blasting 12 punts of at least 55 yards, including a long of 71.

Casual fans may not be familiar with them, but long-snapper Sean McNally and short-snapper Paul Kelly will also leave, and the pair combined for just one truly bad snap this season.

Though the seniors were largely underwhelming at times, Miami still must replace such a large number, and that has not been easy to do in recent years

 

In With the New

Al Golden and his coaching staff addressed offensive skill positions on the recruiting trail very well.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya was locked up before he exploded onto the scene, and local stud running backs Joseph Yearby and Brandon Powell are making the short trip to The U. Braxton Berrios, Darrell Langham and Tyre Brady highlight a solid haul at the wide receiver spot.

Overall, it's not an eye-popping group, but each player fits specific needs for Miami.

On the line, however, it is a slightly different story.

A trio of four-star players, Kc McDermott, Trevor Darling and Reilly Gibbons, appear to be firm commitments to Golden. Add Nick Linder to the incoming unit, and the Hurricanes are replacing the departing seniors admirably.

Considering Miami is currently holding pledges from eight prospects, recruiting defensive linemen has been a priority.

What's more, three of the eight commits will arrive at Miami via the junior college ranks. Though recruiting JuCo players is not the preferred method, the 'Canes need immediate help on the D-line. Players like Michael Wyche and Calvin Heurtelou already have the size necessary to clog the interior.

At the high school level, Golden will attempt to keep Travonte Valentine from flipping to LSU while locking up local products Chad Thomas and Anthony Moten.

Behind the three linemen, linebacker Darrion Owens and safety Kiy Hester are the key recruits; plus, Juwon Young is a raw talent at linebacker. Mike Smith can be groomed to be used in the role Shayon Green and Al-Quadin Muhammad occupied this past season as an edge rusher who can drop into coverage.

As Hester recently tweeted, "the future is bright."

With that being said, it's time for the Hurricanes to actually reach the light, too.

 

Coaching Changes

Following the Russell Athletic Bowl, Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes Golden said he will "re-evaluate everything" about his staff this offseason.

Recently, many Miami fans have been calling for defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio's job. The Hurricanes were absolutely dreadful defensively for the past three seasons, but much of the difficulty is because of a barren cabinet left Golden by his predecessor.

Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post notes Miami has been unable to contain ranked teams over the past two years.

Should D'Onofrio return, he will be on the hottest of hot seats during 2014.

But, if Golden chooses to part ways with D'Onofrio—and that is a big if—expect a coordinator who knows everything about a 3-4 defense. The 'Canes have been making a steady transition to that scheme, but it probably will not take full effect until Golden possesses a roster entirely of his own recruits.

First-year offensive coordinator James Coley's inaugural season calling plays seemed to flatline after Miami beat Georgia Tech. Of course, missing Duke Johnson certainly limited his ability to open the playbook as 2013 progressed.

Coley's job is more than likely safe, but he definitely needs to improve next year.

It's probably not a popular opinion, but it may be time for offensive line coach Art Kehoe to be replaced. Kehoe has been a part of every national championship in Miami history, but the O-line folded against top competition this season.

Louisville (four), Virginia Tech (three) and Florida State (two) combined to drop Morris for nine of his 15 season sacks, and he completed just 44 of his 84 attempts (52.4 percent).

Yes, Morris was not stellar against the 'Canes' best competition anyway, but he often was hurried or knocked down, and that did not help at all.

There are no definite answers as to which coach will be replaced, but something is probably going to happen.

 

Extra Tidbits

Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel notes superstar running back Duke Johnson is likely to miss spring drills. The bright side, though, Duke's absence would give early-enrollees Yearby and Powell valuable reps during spring practice.

No, Duke missing any practice time is not a good thing, but there is a silver lining, no matter how small it may seem.

Additionally, a quarterback battle is expected, with the leading candidates being senior Ryan Williams and redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen.

For an unknown reason at this time, Olsen was left at home during the bowl game. As of Dec. 29, Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald reports the university says no player has been dismissed from the team.

Olsen is pegged as the quarterback of the future, so that will be an important situation to follow—if it actually is one.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

VT vs. UCLA: Can Logan Thomas Save His NFL Draft Stock in Sun Bowl?

At 6'6" and 254 pounds, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas looks like the ideal NFL QB. Thomas, who came to Blacksburg as a tight end, is extremely athletic for a man of his size and possesses one of the strongest arms in all of college football.

No doubt, Thomas should be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, right?

Not so fast.

After an outstanding sophomore season in 2011—his first year as a starter—Thomas has been one of the most inconsistent players in college football the past two years.

However, on Tuesday, Thomas and the Hokies will play No. 17 UCLA in the Sun Bowl. The Bruins, led by outside linebacker Anthony Barr, have an impressive defensive front, and a solid performance by Thomas against UCLA could revive his declining draft stock. 

In 2011, Thomas completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards and tossed 19 touchdowns to go along with 10 interceptions. He led the Hokies to an appearance in the ACC title game—something Hokies fans were accustomed to—and an overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

The arrow was definitely pointing up for Thomas until a 2012 campaign that saw the Hokies have their worst season in 20 years. Thomas completed just 51 percent of his passes, and his interception total rose to 16. 

Many VT fans were optimistic that 2012 was an aberration and Thomas would rebound this season. It didn't happen. Much like last year, Thomas had some big moments where he showed tremendous potential, while there were other games—like Alabama and Duke—where he looked like he didn't belong on the field. 

And for the first time since the inception of the ACC Championship Game in 2005, the Hokies haven't won the Coastal Division once in a two-year period.

No, everything isn't Thomas' fault. The offensive line has been bad. The Hokies have been unable to replace David Wilson the past two years, and losing the top two receivers in school history, Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, after 2011, hurt Thomas tremendously. 

Also, much more is asked of Thomas than most QBs. He led the team in rushing last season and was second on the team this year. 

But through it all, many draft observers have felt Thomas will go much higher than his on-field performance would dictate. In fact, there is a definite split in the scouting community on Thomas.

Legendary Dallas Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt, who now works for NFL.com, believes Thomas needs to change positions at the next level.

However, the folks at Optimum Scouting believe Thomas is more of a victim of the youth and lack of talent around him.

With his size, arm, athletic ability and experience, Thomas will find at least one NFL team, or perhaps more than one, that will take a chance on his vast physical talent. A team with a good, solid veteran QB can afford to put Thomas on the bench for a few years and allow him to develop.

A strong performance on New Year's Eve would go a long way in improving Thomas' stock. He is facing a stout defense in a game facing little opposition on other networks. Scouts from across the country will be watching this game intently.

If the Hokies are to have a chance at beating the Bruins, they need a strong performance by their senior signal-caller. 

With Trey Edmunds out for Tech, J.C. Coleman will get the bulk of the workload in the Hokies running game. Thomas will be heavily featured, too.

Thomas must get the ball out of his hands quickly, and when he gets chances to make a play downfield, he must connect. Remember, Thomas is set to play in the Senior Bowl next month, so a strong performance in his team's bowl game followed by a strong week in Mobile could do wonders for Thomas.

Remember how well it worked out for EJ Manuel last year?

Manuel was viewed as no more than a third-round pick after the 2012 season. Then he had a strong Orange Bowl performance followed by a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl in front of NFL coaches. Manuel went on to become the first QB selected in the 2013 NFL draft.

Thomas will not be the first QB taken in the 2014 draft. He could, however, get himself into the first-round discussion, and that will begin in earnest this Tuesday when the Hokies face UCLA in the Sun Bowl.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Under Armour All-America Game 2014: 10 Recruits with Best NFL Skill Sets

The 2014 Under Armour All-America Game takes place on Thursday, so get ready. Many of the country's best high school football players and future stars of college football will be on the field. Plus, a couple of major commitments will be made.

Speaking of future stars, several recruits have advanced skill sets and NFL potential. These standouts have some varying combination of size, speed, instincts, quickness and athleticism to play professionally.

A running back is the total package at his position, while several defensive backs already look like NFL prospects. Also, an offensive lineman and defensive tackle are on this list.

 

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports

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Texas Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

The Texas Longhorns' 2013 season will come to an end on Monday in the Alamo Bowl. No matter how it ends against Oregon, there were plenty of moments where Texas looked like the program we thought it would be.

While losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor will define this year's 'Horns, they do not lessen the excitement that came with steamrolling Oklahoma and Texas Tech. 

There was Jackson Jeffcoat's transcendent senior year, and Johnathan Gray's pre-injury breakout. Even fullback Alex de la Torre gave this team a jolt this season

Here is the best of Texas' 2013 campaign.

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Texas Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

The Texas Longhorns' 2013 season will come to an end on Monday in the Alamo Bowl. No matter how it ends against Oregon, there were plenty of moments where Texas looked like the program we thought it would be.

While losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor will define this year's 'Horns, they do not lessen the excitement that came with steamrolling Oklahoma and Texas Tech. 

There was Jackson Jeffcoat's transcendent senior year, and Johnathan Gray's pre-injury breakout. Even fullback Alex de la Torre gave this team a jolt this season

Here is the best of Texas' 2013 campaign.

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