David Ash is inching closer to a return, but that doesn't lessen the need for the Longhorns to get both of their backups ready to contribute in a big way. And that's not the only position where Charlie Strong will have to lean on his bench.
Through and through, the Longhorns are solid at the skill positions and at linebacker. The spots are stocked with reliable starters and enough backups that Charlie Strong can handle an injury or a bad game.
The rest of the defense and the offensive line are somewhat less stout. The secondary has no depth and only one reliable starter, the defensive line has talent without any reinforcements, and the offensive line is replacing three starters.
Because these groups are thin on experience and/or talent, the top backup from each one will be absolutely critical to how Texas performs this season. With the exception of the quarterbacks, each of these five guys will have to play, and play well, every single week of the season.
Six weeks from now, the 2014 college football season will kick off, and with it, a number of marquee nonconference games.
Games such as Michigan State-Oregon, LSU-Wisconsin, Clemson-Georgia, Florida State-Notre Dame, Texas-UCLA, Auburn-Kansas State and Notre Dame-Arizona State will be fascinating intersectional confrontations along with traditional rivalries such as Clemson-South Carolina, Notre Dame-Southern California, Notre Dame-Michigan, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Army-Navy.
With the new College Football Playoff, strong schedules are as important as ever, but realignment and the advent of the nine-game schedule have changed college football scheduling, breaking up some classic rivalries and making others difficult to fit into the schedule, especially on a regular basis.
Here is a look at some college football home-and-home series that need to happen to make the game a more interesting and engrossing experience for fans.
Where in the world will Chris, Herbie and Coach Corso end up this season?
The games themselves are what get us most excited about college football every fall, but there's also the added drama each week that comes with finding out where ESPN will be sending its famous traveling pregame show, College GameDay. If a program like that is coming to campus, it must mean two things: it's a big game, and it's time to come strong with your sign-making game.
Most sites are chosen on a week-to-week basis, with ESPN gauging the importance of the matchups and other factors to determine where to send host Chris Fowler, analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit and the massive crew that builds the set either somewhere on a college campus or to a nearby off-campus venue.
Because it's often based on the marquee matchups being played that week, it's not surprising that the usual suspects end up hosting on a regular basis, and some teams end up being featured in multiple games in the same season.
But some wild cards can pop up, too, such as last year when College GameDay went to Fargo, N.D. in September to spotlight two-time (and eventual three-time) FCS champion North Dakota State.
Using all of these factors, we've picked our spots for where College GameDay will head during the 2014 season. There are plenty of old standards on the schedule, as well as some first-time locales.
Read on to see where Washington State alumni will need to head to get their flag on national television each Saturday.
Thanks to Tennessee coach Butch Jones' dogged pursuit of the nation's top players, the Volunteers are prominently on the minds of many who participated in The Opening last week.
Following the ESPNU on-air commitment of 5-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie to the Vols, UT now has three pledges who took part in the best-against-the-best camp. Several other prospects who were in Beaverton, Oregon, are in Jones' future plans.
Thanks to McKenzie's commitment in the midst of a dominating performance at the event, the Vols yet again have momentum to fill out a class with an extremely limited number of spots.
UT currently has 20 pledges in a 2015 recruiting class that is ranked seventh in the 247Sports composite. Now, it seems the biggest question facing Jones isn't whether the Vols will fill spots with stars, but if there is enough room for everybody who may jump into the fold.
Let's take a look at what The Opening did to enhance UT's recruiting efforts and re-evaluate the position the Vols now find themselves in with the targets who participated.
Because of the ripple effect of McKenzie's commitment, some star prospects who didn't have Tennessee on their periphery are now giving the Vols a closer look.
Case in point: The nation's No. 5 offensive tackle, Matthew Burrell, wasn't heavily considering UT prior to The Opening. He hooked up with McKenzie at the event, the two earned a mutual respect for one another, and they went at it during one-on-ones with UT's newest pledge handling him.
On Saturday, a couple of days after McKenzie's pledge, Burrell tweeted that he is going to reconsider the Vols, along with Virginia. Currently, Alabama and Ohio State are among the favorites to land him.
Elite players want to play with other elite players, and McKenzie's much-publicized performance could be a big boost to UT's recruiting efforts.
Getting in the thick of the race for Burrell would give UT another offensive tackle target on its board to go along with in-state lineman Drew Richmond. The Memphis product told BamaOnline's Charles Power (subscription required) that UT was one of the seven teams recruiting him the hardest.
McKenzie knows how big a need offensive tackle is for the Vols, and he already has begun to recruit Burrell as well as Richmond.
Some of Tennessee's top targets who showed out—such as Josh Sweat and Christian Kirk—may be long shots to sign with the Vols, but UT had plenty of more interested and attainable prospects participating.
In-state 4-star receiver Van Jefferson recently has received a flurry of 247Sports Crystal Ball projections for UT that have put the Vols in front of Ohio State as the favorite to land his verbal pledge.
247Sports' Josh Newberg (subscription required) said of Jefferson following the seven-on-seven pool play:
"Wide receiver Van Jefferson didn't get thrown to as often as others, but when he did he made it count. Nearly every catch Jefferson made went for a score, usually on a deep ball."
Jefferson told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) he hopes to decide by the end of the month after returning from trips to his other two finalists, Ohio State and Georgia.
If Tennessee can survive those two visits, it seems to be trending.
Another Opening participant who is close to deciding on his college destination is quick Georgia linebacker Quarte Sapp, a 6'1.5", 200-pound outside 'backer who has 93 percent of his Crystal Ball projections pointing toward Knoxville.
He told 247Sports' Luke Stampini (subscription required) he has two July visits scheduled to Texas A&M and Tennessee and plans to make a decision before his senior season.
Despite this whiff on Texas running back Soso Jamabo, Sapp participated in events all week at The Opening, which isn't normally the best setting for linebackers to shine.
The recruitment of quarterback/athlete Torrance Gibson continues to be an odd one, as he went from participating in the Elite 11 as a quarterback to moving over to receiver some at The Opening, according to 247Sports' JC Shurburtt (subscription required).
The Florida product is the nation's No. 2-ranked athlete and a 5-star player. He's also a unique talent who has the ability to play quarterback but is such a dynamic athlete that he can play several other spots as well.
Gibson announced via Twitter on Sunday that he'll commit to his school of choice on Oct. 20.
Though UT has two quarterback commits, Gibson told SB Nation last week the Vols not only want him but also are recruiting him as a signal-caller. It's going to be interesting watching how his recruitment plays out over the course of the next three months.
Other UT targets such as 5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle and 4-star running back Bryce Love also participated in The Opening, as well as UGA defensive back commit Rico McGraw, who told 247Sports' Barton Simmons (subscription required) he was "still exploring my options."
All three of the Vols' commitments who earned invitations to The Opening are firm in their pledges right now, but it's the newest Vol who is becoming the most vocal recruiter.
Much like Vic Wharton, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr. last year and Jack Jones and Andrew Butcher this season, McKenzie is burning up social media to recruit for UT.
After barking in the direction of Burrell and Richmond, McKenzie responded to a tweet from Pulaski, Tennessee, cornerback Cameron Ordway that he's going to visit Florida State.
After McKenzie committed to UT on Thursday night by putting on his signature bucket hat (orange and white to match the occasion), fellow 5-star defensive tackle Shy Tuttle tweeted this. He's heavily considering the Vols along with North Carolina.
The impact McKenzie's pledge already has had on recruiting is incredible. He's simply one of those charismatic characters everybody gravitates toward, and he's a vocal presence on social media.
Couple that with the fact that his father, Reggie, is an NFL general manager, and that exposure and networking capability bodes well for UT's recruiting efforts.
Following a week where McKenzie dominated on his way to winning the Defensive Lineman MVP of the camp, all the buzz surrounding him becomes even louder across the recruiting nation.
Simmons told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) that even though McKenzie is already 247Sports' 10th-ranked player, he should move up in the next rankings:
"When we address the rankings, he will absolutely be in the discussion for moves up. I don't want to put a number on it or anything like that, but he helped himself, for sure, with his performance."
Not only is McKenzie's commitment supremely important on the field, it could pay immediate dividends on the recruiting trail.
Another UT commit who performed incredibly was 5-star receiver Preston Williams. Bleacher Report's Michael Felder said Williams put on a show and "showed that he's a dynamic pass-catcher that, in that Volunteers offense, is going to make big plays."
Here he is going up against 5-star cornerback Kevin Toliver.
Simmons told Callahan in the linked story from above that even though Williams ran a 4.6, he didn't expect the Lovejoy, Georgia, receiver to fall too much (if at all) from his No. 1 receiver ranking:
Heading into the week with Preston Williams being the number-one receiver in the country, I don't think we feel like we're wrong in that ranking. Other receivers were more productive, and I think we're going to have to have a discussion about who the number-one receiver is. But I think, when you talk about size and skill set, and just athletic ability, there's still no doubt that Preston Williams a freak. He is who we thought he was. He is that guy that we thought he was—just a different breed, a different specimen on the outside.
Simmons also discussed UT linebacker commit Cecil Cherry, who, despite some limitations in his lateral game, is a punishing interior linebacker who will be a big hitter on the next level.
Though some of the faster runners were difficult matchups for the 6'0", 230-pound linebacker, one of the plays of the week was when Cherry closed on running back Mike Weber and forced a fumble in one-on-one action.
Given their myriad needs all over the field even after a huge 2014 recruiting class, the Vols are swinging for the fences with some of the top prospects in the country.
Of course, UT won't finish with all of its top targets from The Opening. But if Jones can land a few of them to close the class, the Vols will finish once again ranked in the nation's top 10 classes. Most importantly, they'll be one step closer to competing on the field.
All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports composite.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:
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The 2015 recruiting cycle is moving along, and so far there have been several shocking commitments.
Analysts and fans of recruiting make predictions on where they think a recruit will go, but some prospects surprise everyone with their decisions.
An offensive tackle from Georgia was thought to be a lock to sign with an SEC team only to commit to a Pac-12 school. And a Big 12 school came out of virtually nowhere to snag a 4-star running back.
Then there's the 4-star receiver who spurned the chance to be a legacy player at his hometown school.All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.com, Rivals and 247Sports.
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.
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.com, Rivals and 247Sports.
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.
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.
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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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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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.July 13, 2014
You geaux, Jeremy.
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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.
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.
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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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
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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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.