NCAA Football

Grading Top Big Ten Recruits' Performances at the Opening 2014

Last week, we identified the top high school prospects at Nike's "The Opening" on whom the Big Ten had set its collective sights.  Now that the emerging premiere summer football camp for the nation's elite recruits is behind us, it's time to take a look back and see just how these recruits performed.

We'll be grading these Big Ten prospects on an A-F grading scale.  No, we won't be grading on a curve, so there are no guarantees here.  Each player will be graded on the merits of his performance at "The Opening," and we're pretty tough in our grading.

Although these members of the Class of 2015 are among the best players in the nation, suffice it to say that earning an "A" from us this early in the process means that the recruit is indeed living up to the hype and should perform—at a bare minimum—at or above his expected level come his collegiate years.

Note: All recruit rankings and star levels are from 247Sports.com, unless otherwise noted.

 

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10 Uncommitted College Football Recruits Sure to Stay in-State

Summer is in full swing, which means uncommitted recruits will see their recruitment only heat up even more. Some prospects will be looking to leave home to experience college life elsewhere.

However, several recruits appear to love the idea of staying inside their state to play within their native borders. A 4-star receiver from Florida is just about a lock to stay inside the Sunshine State for college while a 5-star defensive tackle will not even leave his city.

Plus, it'll be one of the Oklahoma schools for a powerful offensive lineman.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Georgia Football: 5 Backups Critical to the Bulldogs' Success in 2014

There are many factors for a team to win a conference and a national title. The star players have to play at a high level consistently, the team has to remain relatively healthy, and luck has to be on their side.

But as good as the starters need to be, the backups have to be just as effective because they are only one play away from being part of the No. 1 group.

And that is no different for the Georgia Bulldogs. As much as they need players like Todd Gurley and Ramik Wilson to be at an all-star level, the reserve players will have to do their jobs and more to help the Bulldogs win the SEC.

Here are five backups critical to the Bulldogs' success in 2014.

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What Nick Marshall Can Learn from Johnny Manziel's SEC Media Days Experience

HOOVER, Alabama — Up until late Friday afternoon, SEC Media Days was lacking intrigue, drama and the circus-like atmosphere that typically litters the annual event at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall changed that in a hurry.

The rising senior signal-caller and Heisman Trophy candidate for the Tigers was cited Friday afternoon in Reynolds, Georgia, for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and having illegal tinting on his windows, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com.

Brandon Marcello of AL.com reported Sunday that Marshall was very regretful and "teary-eyed" during the incident.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn commented on the incident late Friday night.

"I am aware of the situation that happened earlier today with Nick. I'm very disappointed and I will address it with him accordingly," Malzahn said, according to Erickson.

"Addressing it" is a little more complicated than it would be for other players at other times, though, because Malzahn, Marshall, center Reese Dismukes and defensive lineman Gabe Wright are slated to be the first four people, other than commissioner Mike Slive, to make the rounds at SEC Media Days on Monday afternoon.

Does this storyline sound familiar? 

It's quite similar to the one former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel faced this time last year, when the then-reigning Heisman Trophy winner—fresh off his early departure from the Manning Passing Academy, where he "slept in"—turned the Wynfrey into a three-ring circus.

For the most part, Manziel handled that situation well.

He stuck to the party line that was built around his time in Thibodaux, Louisiana, at the camp, sold his story to the media and didn't shy away from tough questions—even comparing himself to NBA star LeBron James in the process.

Now, Marshall finds himself in a similar boat. No, he's not James, nor has he had the rock-star offseason that Manziel has, but he's the most high-profile quarterback at the event and he's playing for a team that is expected to be in the national-championship picture, just as Manziel was last year.

So, how should Marshall handle this?

He doesn't seek out the spotlight like Manziel did, but as the quarterback of the defending SEC champs, a Heisman candidate and a national title contender, the spotlight is going to seek him out. 

Because of that, Marshall should view it as an opportunity.

An opportunity to be a leader and face his critics head-on, several of whom will likely be looking for any reason to chastise him in columns, on radio and on television.

He shouldn't let them.

SEC Media Days has evolved into a made-for-television college football convention, and that exposure provides Marshall an opportunity to make fools of his critics before they make a fool out of him.

Own it. 

Apologize to the fans.

Take the heat.

Don't shy away from the spotlight, because if all goes according to his and Auburn's plan, he will see a lot more of it during the season—albeit in a slightly different and more pleasant way.

Being a leader and owning the moment will make those columns published Monday night and the radio fodder that follows seem silly and outlandish. 

Marshall should take advantage of the cards he dealt himself, not fold when the stakes are high.

In the process, he'd show his team that, even though it's the hunted now and not the hunter, he's still the cool customer who led Auburn to within 13 seconds of a national title before even playing in a spring game for the Tigers.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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Jarran Reed Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and More on Alabama DL

Alabama defensive lineman Jarran Reed was arrested on charges of driving under the influence after a traffic stop early Sunday morning.    

Tuscaloosa police have confirmed the news, per AL.com's Michael Casagrande.

An incoming junior-college transfer, Reed had 0.13 percent blood alcohol content, well above Alabama's 0.08 percent threshold. Police pulled Reed over after he was spotted crashing into another vehicle in a parking lot and then attempting to leave the scene. He was then put through a field sobriety test before complying with the officer's request for a breathalyzer. 

WSFA 12 News provided a look at Reed's mugshot:

Tuscaloosa police are holding him on $1,000 unsecured bond, according to Casagrande.

Reed, one of the highest-touted JUCO transfers in the nation, committed to the Crimson Tide last December. He spent the 2013 season starring at East Mississippi Community College, where he made 66 tackles and 3.5 sacks en route to leading the Lions to the NJCAA championship.

Tuscaloosa is slated to be the latest in a series of fits and starts for the talented lineman. He has bounced from Chatham Hargrave Military Academy to East Mississippi Community College and nearly to Florida, where he'd signed previously in 2013 before being unable to fulfill transfer requirements.

247Sports' composite rankings had Reed 13th among junior-college transfers. He was ranked second among defensive tackles and was considered a 4-star recruit. Alabama had the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation by nearly every nationally recognized service.

It will be interesting to see how this arrest affects his status with the program. Neither head coach Nick Saban nor the university has released a statement on Reed's arrest as of publication. Alabama law states a person found guilty of his or her first DUI offense may face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,100. Reed's license will also be suspended for 90 days.

In 2013, cornerback Geno Smith was suspended for the Tide's season-opening win over Virginia Tech due to his DUI arrest. The suspension wound up being a precursor to a jettisoning out of the cornerback rotation, as Smith failed to make a significant impact after being slotted as a starting nickel corner.

Linebacker Dillon Lee, who was arrested for DUI in April, has not been handed a punishment. It's unclear if the team will take disciplinary action against the expectant starting linebacker.

Reed, who will be a defensive end in Saban's 3-4 scheme, was expected to battle for a starting spot this season. He made a start in the team's spring game and has been impressive since his arrival in January.

"Reed is a monster," linebacker Reggie Ragland told reporters in the spring. "If you see our practice and the way he handles the offensive line, Reed's going to be a big-time force this year."

Jonathan Allen and A'Shawn Robinson will provide formidable competition on the outside and are the most likely Week 1 starters at this point. The arrest will put Reed in a difficult spot—especially if it results in a suspension.

Reed is the second Alabama player arrested this month. Running back Kenyan Drake was booked on charges of obstructing government operations, though further details of his crime were not provided. Saban said he would handle the situation when "appropriate" in a statement sent to reporters

The team will likely take a similar stance in this case. While driving under the influence is a serious crime, allowing the legal process to play itself out is typically best for all parties. Alabama will open training camp next month.

We'll have to see if Reed's legal troubles affect his trajectory.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Former LSU Running Back Jeremy Hill Gets Large Tigers Tattoo on His Back

Jeremy Hill is now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals after being drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, but he clearly still has a strong connection to his roots.

Hill showed off his very LSU-themed back tattoo on his Twitter account. Not only can he be seen in his No. 33 LSU jersey, but there is also a tiger and a large backdrop of Tiger Stadium.

If you gone go hard why not go the hardest #inky#tigerstadium#maserati#donthateonthebrodiepic.twitter.com/uBgavoRjId

— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) July 13, 2014

You geaux, Jeremy.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Re-Evaluating Texas A&M's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Texas A&M had seven members of their 2015 recruiting class in attendance at the 2014 edition of The Opening along with a number of recruiting targets. Their performances against some of the top athletes in the country reaffirms that the Aggies are going to bring in one of the nation's elite recruiting classes.

The Aggies currently have the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in the nation, but recruiting in college football is more of an art than a science. You are trying to project what teenagers will look and play like in four to five years.

The rankings and evaluations of recruits are inexact, even by the coaches who are paid to do it. When you have an event like The Opening where a number of the top prospects in the country get together and compete with one another, it provides a bigger picture of where these recruits stack up against one another.

The Aggies have a core group of elite players in the 2015 class who performed very well on this big stage. They need to land some of their targets in order to bring in the type of talent needed to compete with Alabama and LSU on a yearly basis.

  

Top Targets

The Aggies have a nice class right now but still need to add some difference makers on the defensive side of the ball. A couple of the top players left on the Aggies' recruiting board showed well in Beaverton, Oregon.

Malik Jefferson blew the competition away with his athleticism and range in the 7-on-7 games. The 6'2", 225-pound outside linebacker turned in a 4.39 second time in the 40. That is elite speed for any position, but it is freakish for an athlete of his size.  

Jefferson continues to make his case to be one of the top five recruits in the nation. The Aggies are right in the mix along with Alabama and Texas for Jefferson's services. He is the No. 2 ranked player in the Lone Star state and is expected to wait until signing day to make his decision. 

Kendall Sheffield showed his elite speed in Oregon. The 5'11", 180-pound cornerback was solid in coverage against some of the top receivers in the nation. 

Some people consider Sheffield the top recruit in Texas. The Aggies appear to be in the driver's seat to gain a commit from one of the top cornerback recruits in the nation. 

Christian Kirk made the All-Opening team for his play at wide receiver. The 5'11", 180-pound receiver developed a nice chemistry with Aggie quarterback commit Kyler Murray. 

 

Texas A&M's Commits

The Aggies' verbal commits performed well at the opening. At this point, none of them appear to be wavering on their pledges to sign with the Aggies in February. 

The Aggies did not pick up any commits during the week, but having their targets in such close proximity with seven commits has to help their chances. A few of the Aggies' commits drew rave reviews for their play. 

Defensive tackle Daylon Mack and safety Justin Dunning both performed well in the testing and the competitions. Mack turned in a 40 time of 4.98 after weighing in at 330 pounds. Dunning measured in at 6'3.5" tall and ran a 4.59. 

Quarterback recruit Kyler Murray impressed with his play in 7-on-7. He continues to prove that he deserves his ranking as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation. 

The Aggies are going to sign one of the top recruiting classes in the nation in 2015. The performances by their current commits at The Opening just re-affirmed the quality of their class. 

 

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SEC Media Days 2014: Full Schedule, Live Stream, TV Info and Particpants

Major college conference media days mean one thing: Football season is close.

The Southeastern Conference has set its schedule for media days and participants. From the looks of the lists of players set to appear, fans and members of the media will get an opportunity to hear the thoughts of a few of the most prominent members of each program.

Here's a look at the schedule, viewing information and a list of participants, per SEC Sports.

 

What: SEC Football Media Days

When: July 14-17

Where: Hyatt Regency Birmingham—The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.

Viewing Info: ESPNU, and live streamed on Watch ESPN.

 

Monday July, 14
Session I: 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive
Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Session II: 2:40 - 5:40 p.m.
Florida - Will Muschamp
Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

Tuesday, July 15
Session I: 9 a.m. - Noon
South Carolina - Steve Spurrier
Mississippi St - Dan Mullen

Session II: 1 - 4 p.m.
Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin
Tennessee - Butch Jones

Wednesday, July 16
Session I: 9 a.m. - Noon
SEC Officials Steve Shaw & Justin Connolly
Missouri - Gary Pinkel

Session II: 1 - 4 p.m.
LSU - Les Miles
Arkansas - Bret Bielema

Thursday, July 17
Session I: 9 a.m. - Noon
Georgia - Mark Richt
Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

Session II: Noon - 3 p.m.
Alabama - Nick Saban
Kentucky - Mark Stoops

 

It's good to see the players on the list, but this event is more about the coaches. It's especially about the guys who are taking over new roles. This season, there's only one rookie head coach in the SEC, and that's the Vanderbilt Commodores' Derrick Mason.

He leads the list of people that fans should look out for during the event.

 

The Commodore Project

Mason is taking over for James Franklin who had held the head coaching spot for Vanderbilt since 2011. Franklin has since moved on to Penn State to lead that program. Mason steps in looking to continue the program's momentum.

Franklin led the school to back-to-back nine win seasons. That was something that had never been done before in program history.

Mason's ability to motivate will be key for the transformation from the Franklin era. If the speech he gives at the beginning of this hype video is any indication, Mason could be entertaining at media day, and all season.

 

Heisman Candidates to Speak

Auburn's Nick Marshall, Alabama's Amari Cooper and Georgia's Todd Gurley are all scheduled to represent their programs at media day.

All three players are at least dark horse candidates for the Heisman Trophy. Cooper may lose votes to his teammate T.J. Yeldon, but he is arguably the best wide receiver in the nation.

Gurley seems primed for a huge season at Georgia, and coming off a dynamic 2013 campaign, Marshall seems more prepared to carry the load for Auburn.

This may sound like a crazy endorsement, but Marshall has the athleticism, work ethic and talent around him to have a big year. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated stated:

Johnny Manziel. AJ McCarron. Aaron Murray. Zach Mettenberger. A host of last season's star SEC quarterbacks are set to enter the NFL, leaving many to suggest that the conference has no big names remaining at the position in 2014.

Don't sleep on Auburn's Nick Marshall.

He's right. If Marshall can improve upon his passing accuracy, continue to use his legs to make plays and mature as a leader, he can be in the Heisman conversation by midseason.

Cooper, Gurley and Marshall's interviews at media day will almost certainly center around their potential for the upcoming season. We might just hear someone set a goal, or make a statement we hearken back to during their Heisman Trophy acceptance speech.

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Elite 11 2014: Ranking the Top 5 QBs Following Star-Studded Competition

The top high school quarterbacks in America tested their skills in Beaverton, Oregon, this week. Challenges at the Elite 11 finals and The Opening revealed plenty about each passer.

The collection included several committed standouts and a strong collection of California prospects. We were on the sidelines for all of the action at Nike's world headquarters and ranked the top five quarterbacks in attendance based on their performance and potential. 

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The Biggest Takeaways from Clemson's Recruits Performance at the Opening

Clemson represented well at Nike's The Opening camp this week, with four commits taking part in the week's activities. Each of the four performed well in their respective events and could see a jump in the next recruiting rankings. The Tigers had some potential targets at the camp as well.

 

Deon Cain Is an 'Elite Talent'

ESPN ranks Deon Cain as the No. 4 overall athlete, but the 4-star could be moved higher in the rankings. Per Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, Cain is an "elite talent" and could have an immediate impact for the Tigers.

Cain is a guy who could potentially get that jump to being regarded as a 5-star prospect by recruiting sites. He looked very good in the seven-on-seven tournament as well, according to ESPN's Tom VanHaaren.

This is a great sign for the Tigers, who signed four quality receivers in the 2014 recruiting cycle. No Sammy Watkins or Martavis Bryant? No problem for the Tigers, who look to be set at the position in the coming years.

 

Noah Green and Mitch Hyatt Present a Bright Future

Even better news for Clemson is the fact that Noah Green and Mitch Hyatt did well at the camp. The pair of offensive tackles, along with Jake Fruhmorgen, will give Clemson a solid signing class at this position.

Per Jamie Newberg of Scout.com (subscription required), Hyatt had "two terrific reps against Austin Bryant." He won both of those matchups with Bryant and also had good reps against Byron Cowart, one of the nation's top defensive linemen.

ElevenWarriors.com recruiting director Jeremy Birmingham took to Twitter to show the level of respect for Hyatt from Josh Sweat, a top defensive lineman.

Scout.com's Greg Powers added that Green was able to hold off Rasheem Green, another big-time defensive lineman.

All of this is good news for the Tigers, who enter 2014 with some question marks about the overall consistency of the offensive line. Green is likely to see a jump in the recruiting rankings, as he is a 3-star prospect by Scout right now.

Hyatt, the nation's No. 2-rated offensive tackle on Scout.com, is less likely to see a jump in the rankings, but he definitely proved that he is worthy of the 5-star hype.

 

Chad Smith Is Underrated and a Guy Who Could Rise

Chad Smith is one of the guys the Tigers have committed who is a bit under the radar. He finished fourth in the SPARQ Championship—which tests athleticism through events such as vertical jumping and the 40-yard dash—with a score of 138.93.

ESPN's Jeremy Crabtree was impressed with Smith's performances during the week.

Smith is rated by Scout as the No. 51 overall outside linebacker, but the 3-star could be another guy who jumps up the rankings to a 4-star rating before signing day.

 

Other Potential Targets

Other Clemson targets who were participating at the camp were Tim Settle, Ray-Ray McCloud, George Campbell and Austin Bryant.

Settle decided to put recruiting to the side for now and focus on football, but Clemson should still feel solid about its chances.

B/R's Felder had good things to say about Campbell's performance at The Opening, saying he made "dynamic catches."

Also worth noting is that McCloud set a decision date for July 28 and will decide upon a list of schools that includes Clemson.

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Tennessee Football: 8 Best Recruits from the BCS Era

Elite defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie's commitment to Tennessee on July 10 was a huge get for the Volunteers, and he joins a long list of standout athletes who chose to spend their college careers in Knoxville.

Throughout most of his tenure as head coach of the Vols, Phillip Fulmer was widely regarded as a top-notch recruiter who pulled in elite talent to Rocky Top. In fact, he inked the No. 2-ranked class in 2002, the No. 4-ranked class in 2005 and the No. 3-ranked class in 2007, per Rivals. 

Lane Kiffin also managed to assemble classes that were highly ranked (but ultimately full of busts), landing the Vols at No. 10 in the 2009 team rankings. Derek Dooley salvaged much of the No. 9-ranked 2010 class after Kiffin's departure, but his classes slid down the rankings each year after that. 

Now that Butch Jones is working on his third class as head coach of the Volunteers and stocking it with talented players, it's time to take a look back at some of Tennessee's most elite recruits. These men established themselves at all three levels of the game: high school, college and professional. 

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Nick Marshall Reportedly Cited for Tinted Windows, Marijuana Possession

Nick Marshall was one of the biggest breakout stars in college football last season. His follow-up to that brilliant 2013 campaign has already hit its first snag.

Although the Auburn Tigers quarterback wasn't arrested, he was reportedly cited for tinted windows and marijuana possession equaling less than one ounce, per WSFA 12 News in Alabama, via Rick Karle of WBRC Fox6 in Birmingham:

Joel A. Erickson of AL.com has a few more details:

Marshall, the returning quarterback who was supposed to be part of Auburn's SEC Media Days contingent on Monday, was pulled over due to a possible window tinting violation at 12:45 p.m. on Highway 96 in Reynolds.

According to (Reynolds police chief Lonnie) Holder, the officer detected an odor of marijuana coming from the car, and upon search of the vehicle, police found "8-or-9" grams of marijuana, which is less than an ounce.

Marshall is due in court on Sept. 10 but will avoid that step if he pays the fines stemming from the two citations.

This isn't his first run-in with the law. In 2012, he was kicked off the Georgia football team after violating team rules, which ESPN.com's David Ching reported to be theft of money.

According to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, Marshall could be looking at a stiff punishment from Auburn:

Brandon Marcello of the Alabama Media Group pointed out that Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn has remained silent about Jonathon Mincy's June arrest for marijuana possession and wondered if the case will remain the same with this most recent incident:

On Monday, Marshall is supposed to speak at the SEC media day, which gives him a chance to clear the air a bit if he does step to the podium:

There's no question that Malzahn had high hopes for Marshall as Auburn looks to build on last year's BCS National Championship loss. The senior signal-caller threw for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and ran for another 1,068 yards and 12 TDs last year.

With Tre Mason gone, even more pressure will be heaped on Marshall's shoulders in 2014.

Although these citations are relatively minor in nature, the drama they create off the field will undoubtedly make things a bit tougher for both Marshall and the Tigers as a whole.

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