NCAA Football

Florida State Football: Kareem Are Latest of 'Noles JUCO Success Stories

Few Florida State football players impressed Jimbo Fisher this spring more than junior college offensive lineman Kareem Are.

The 6'6'', 335-pound guard was quick to learn the Seminoles blocking schemes. Are, a former Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College standout, saw extensive work on the second team and also on the first-team offensive line with Tre' Jackson slowed by injury.

"I think Kareem Are has a chance to be one heck of a player," Fisher said in March. "I think he's doing a great job of coming along very nicely. I'm very pleased."

Are could be the next junior college prospect to make an impact at FSU. Three recent JUCO standouts—defensive back Mike Harris, defensive end Cornellius Carradine and defensive tackle Anthony McCloud—weren't on campus four years like most recruits, but they contributed from the start and are all in the NFL now.

Harris, who played at El Camino (California) Community College, didn't start at FSU in 2010 but saw significant playing time as a nickel corner and had 41 tackles while grabbing four interceptions (tied for the team lead). He started seven games as a senior and finished with 58 tackles and an interception. Harris is now in his third season with the Jacksonville Jaguars after making a combined 74 tackles in 2012 and '13.

Carradine, who played at Butler (Kansas) Community College, made 38 tackles and had 5.5 sacks as a backup in 2011. He stepped into the starting lineup in week 2 of 2012 after a foot injury to Brandon Jenkins, and Carradine was one of the ACC's top pass-rushers (11 sacks) and had 80 tackles. He was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers but missed his rookie season with a knee injury.

McCloud, who spent a season at Itawamba (Mississippi) Community College, was a backup in 2010 and then started 23 games in 2011 and '12. He had 84 career tackles at FSU. McCloud spent 2013 on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.

The Seminoles also had fullback Debrale Smiley, a former Itawamba prospect who saw most of his FSU playing time at fullback. And offensive lineman Jacob Fahrenkrug, who played at North Dakota State College of Science, started 12 games in 2011 for FSU before moving into a reserve role.

FSU has a few other junior college prospects on the roster. Desmond Hollin only had four tackles and a sack as a junior in 2013 but will likely see more playing time in the defensive tackle rotation this fall. And offensive lineman Chad Mavety, a junior college prospect from Garden City (New York) Community College, told 247Sports' Josh Newberg (subscription required) that he was completing an online math class and would be in Tallahassee in July.

With four returning starters on the offensive line and senior center Austin Barron taking over for Bryan Stork, Are will likely see playing time on the second-team line. But if FSU has any injuries, Are is versatile enough to play guard or center and would be able to fill in capably.

"He is a big boy," FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett said on national signing day. "He will put you on your back. I really like this kid."

So do FSU's defensive linemen. Are may have been one of the new kids on campus, but he has already been a tough matchup for Mario Edwards Jr.

"He's definitely aggressive, that's one of the good things I've noticed about him," Edwards Jr. said. "He loves to pile you in the ground if you let him, and he has strong hands."

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats are courtesy of seminoles.com and NFL.com. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Have College Football Fans Become Completely Jaded to NCAA Investigations?

The most striking thing to come from the announcement that the NCAA will revive its investigation of North Carolina wasn't the news itself. It's that it wasn't perceived as news at all.

In fact, no one—outside of handful of North Carolina brass breaking back into the bourbon it only recently tucked away—seemed to care. Perhaps it's because we're sanctioned-out, or perhaps our perception of the investigated (or the investigators) is so skewed, so far gone, that we no longer know how to feel when handed matters like this.

We are, in many ways, numb to the process, for better or for worse. Make no mistake about it, however; this is news. Or at least, it used to be.

The original investigation into UNC—which began in 2011—centered on academic misconduct. The fallout from Round 1 of the NCAA's involvement included a postseason ban for the 2012 football season, vacated wins, a reduction of 15 total scholarships and three years of probation (which the school is still serving).

The university also took on the academic criticism head-on, launching an independent investigation focused on the "academic irregularities." Ken Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, recently provided an update on the ongoing investigation, a reminder of sorts that it is a work in progress and will be free of university influence when completed.

Even before it was able to peruse Wainstein's final report, however, the NCAA announced on Monday that it was reopening its investigation in a statement released on the NCAA website.

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was cited by the Division I Committee on Infractions in 2012 for violations in its athletics program, including academic misconduct. As with any case, the NCAA enforcement staff makes clear it will revisit the matter if additional information becomes available. After determining that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might be willing to speak with the enforcement staff, the NCAA has reopened its investigation. The enforcement staff is exploring this new information to ensure an exhaustive investigation is conducted based on all available information. The NCAA will not comment further to protect the integrity of the investigation.

This surprising revelation hit social media mid-Monday. After a flurry of tweets from college football writers and fans, discussion hit a wall shortly after. The update that the NCAA would conduct a major investigation into a major program came and went without causing more than ripple.

Regular programming resumed.

Two years ago, when we were less numb to the process, that wouldn't have been the case. When news of the Miami, Ohio State and USC sanctions hit the wire—and the NCAA stuck its flag in the ground to say it would stay a while longer—the sporting world stopped spinning on its axis.

Granted, these were high-profile teams, and the issues featured high-profile players. Yahoo Sports' lengthy investigation into the Hurricanes' copious amount of program disobedience read more like a feature film than a few years with a football team.

But over time, regardless of the severity, our intrigue in these cases has slowly faded. And the Miami situation, in many ways, could be the catalyst for our disinterest.

It took the NCAA 798 days to reach a decision on sanctions following Charles Robinson's detailed report. In that time, information had to be tossed after the NCAA obtained it illegally, and the NCAA had to launch an investigation into its own investigation. This undoubtedly hindered the time and delivery of the decision.

Miami applied some self-imposed sanctions on itself while it waited—most notably, sitting out two bowl games—and the NCAA basically offered up a "you're good" when it was finally down with its assessment.

That case has single-handedly altered the way we view enforcement. The NCAA, by its own admission, realizes a dramatic overhaul is necessary on the front. President Mark Emmert alluded to this very notion on the stand when he testified in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit a few weeks ago. This lawsuit, which could alter collegiate athletics in its entirety, is also playing a role in our response.

After a stretch of turbulent PR, why should we care about another enforcement case when the NCAA is seemingly fighting for its life in court? The stakes have changed, the tables have turned, and the NCAA is viewed profoundly different than it once was.

While the situation at Chapel Hill could turn nasty if once-quiet voices decide to speak up, recent history tells us that nothing is a given. After all, here we are, ready for another cycle with North Carolina. It's the lack of defined checkmarks that make this difficult to comprehend.

But perhaps it's something more, something we can't truly define. It's not as if we endorse academic wrongdoings. These are serious allegations on the spectrum of university misconduct, certainly more so than the wide-ranging "violations" that have been addressed in recent years.

It's that we're simply tired of caring.

The infraction cases are exhausting, regular reminders of the flaws in the sport and an overall lack of procedure. Instead of emotionally investing ourselves in the unsettling details, it's become much easier to push it aside, keep far away from behind the curtain and wait for actual football.

This callous, wave-the-white-flag approach is a product of overexposure. We've been handed an industrial-sized serving of Novocain, and the effects simply haven't worn off. 

From the players, to the schools, to the fractured system watching over it all, the press releases and press conferences are no longer newsworthy. They are almost assumed. 

We should be more interested in the latest developments at North Carolina, and perhaps—eventually—we will be. For now, however, we'll go about our football lives, business as usual, waiting for the actual games to return.

It's what we've been trained to do.

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How Notre Dame Can Move on After Missing on Jashon Cornell & Justin Hilliard

It wasn't unexpected, but that doesn't mean it didn't hurt.

Notre Dame finished runners-up in the recruitment of defensive end Jashon Cornell and linebacker Justin Hilliard on Wednesday morning, missing on two of their top defensive prospects. According to ESPN Big Ten, Cornell and Hilliard both pledged to Ohio State and Urban Meyer, a huge recruiting victory for the Buckeyes. 

The Irish had both prospects on campus multiple times. They hosted Hilliard two weekends ago, where he was spotted riding around on Brian Kelly's golf cart. While Cornell's Cretin-Derham Hall High School has produced multiple players, including Irish greats Ryan Harris and Michael Floyd, and his cousin James Onwualu plays on the current roster, he just never came around to the recruiting pitch that worked so well in the past. 

There's no question that missing on two priority targets stings. But in case you've been under a rock the past month, the Irish recruiting machine is rolling along with or without the dynamic duo, and don't expect it to stop for Kleenex to dry the tears now.

Since Memorial Day weekend, the Irish have doubled the size of their 2015 recruiting class, collecting the pledges of eight targets, including six on the defensive side of the ball. Keeping the focus on stocking new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's coffers, the Irish staff has eyes on several elite replacements for both Cornell and Hilliard. 

At defensive end, Notre Dame's still after a handful of elite prospects. That's after landing Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner, Kolin Hill, Andrew Trumbetti and Jhonny Williams in the last recruiting cycle, all freshmen who profile at the same position.

Top among this group is Florida's Byron Cowart. A 5-Star prospect who's Rivals.com's No. 1 player in the country, Cowart visited campus in June and plans to have an official visit for October. Another top Irish prospect at defensive end is Georgia's Austin Bryant. After attending the Irish Invasion camp, Bryant plans on having an official visit this fall as well. 

It's no easy task pulling elite talent out of the Southeast. (The Irish staff is also making a charge at Alabama commitment Mekhi Brown.) But Notre Dame's also got eyes on the West Coast, with California pass-rushers Keisean Lucier-South and Joseph Wicker also planning official visits. 

Lucier-South is among the nation's elite, and Notre Dame will battle USC, UCLA and Michigan for his services. Wicker's a bigger body like Cornell who could slide inside or play on the strong side. Utah's Porter Gustin is another player who could be a great edge-rusher for the Irish. He'll be among a handful of Irish targets at Nike's The Opening. 

Finding a linebacker to replace Hilliard might not take long, as Indianapolis' Asmar Bilal looks like an Irish lean. Over 90 percent of 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions have him heading to South Bend to play college football. 

Another top target for the Irish on the interior is Florida's Tevon Coney. One of the headliners at the Irish Invasion camp, Coney has offers from Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn but plans to get back to South Bend for an official visit, seeing clearly the opportunity for playing time in front of him. 

Again, linebacker was another position that the Irish recruited hard in 2014, with top signee Nyles Morgan joined by early Irish target Greer Martini and Nile Sykes. And as the prototype changes as VanGorder's defense demands different skill sets than the previous scheme, expect the staff to see what happens with Bilal and Coney before extending any new offers. 

Since Kelly and his staff came to South Bend, they've chased after some elite prospects. While they've landed their fair share, more than a few have gotten away. That's life in the big leagues. 

So while Irish fans are likely smarting over the loss of two prospects that appeared perfect fits for Notre Dame, it's back to the grind for the Irish staff. And it won't take long for Notre Dame to get back on track.

 

All recruitment information courtesy of 247Sports.

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The One Unit That Will Decide Auburn's College Football Playoff Fate

Robenson Therezie had it in his fingertips.

In his first season as the "star" in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense, the hybrid safety/linebacker and the rest of the Auburn secondary had a national title within their reach, containing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the rest of the Florida State wide receivers for the majority of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game following the 2013 season.

Then the fourth quarter happened, and one final drive where it all became unraveled.

Cornerback Chris Davis and safety Ryan Smith missed tackles on wide receiver Rashad Greene, as he scampered 49 yards down the sideline to set up the game-winning score—a perfect strike from Winston to Kelvin Benjamin that Davis couldn't get to.

Thirteen seconds remained on the clock. Therezie and the rest of the Auburn secondary aren't going to forget about them.

WE FELL 13 SECONDS SHORT... EVERY MORNING I WAKE UP AND THINK ABOUT THIS.. WONT HAPPEN AGAIN.. #GRIND#TOGETHER#AUpic.twitter.com/4XWwuVTlXj

— ROBENSON THEREZIE (@cadilac_34) February 27, 2014

The pass defense that finished next-to-last in the SEC (257.7 YPG) showed up in the final frame of the national title game, and it cost the Tigers a title.

Davis and Smith are gone, but Therezie is back along with boundary corner Jonathon Mincy (assuming his recent arrest doesn't cost him too much time) and safety Jermaine Whitehead. The trio has lot of help alongside them and, perhaps more importantly, depth.

Josh Holsey is back after injuring his ACL last year, and will likely push for playing time at boundary safety along with junior college signee Derrick Moncrief. Holsey could also move around to boundary corner or "star" if needed according to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, via AL.com's Joe A. Erickson.

"Josh is big enough to play boundary safety and big enough to play star," Johnson told Erickson this spring. "Boundary corner, that’s the really critical spot in our roster. Mincy has made a good transition so far, but Josh may end up moving back to boundary corner if we have to move Mincy around. We’ve got a lot of flexibility and moving parts."

Trovon Reed, once a 5-star wide receiver prospect, moved over to cornerback for his senior season on the Plains and played well as a starter in the spring game. He may not stay as a starter, though, because T.J. Davis, Jonathan Jones and three 4-star freshmen—Kalvaraz Bessent, Nick Ruffin and the versatile Stephen Roberts—could all push for playing time.

In just one offseason, Auburn has found depth and created flexibility in a secondary that lacked both during the SEC championship season of 2013.

These guys don't have to be great. They have to be opportunistic. Auburn's going to move the football and put up points, and in this day and age of fast-break football, simply putting your offense in a good position once or twice a game changes the landscape of the game entirely.

They can do that. The Tigers notched 13 interceptions last year, which placed them in the middle of the SEC pack (seventh). That was nearly good enough to get the job done, and that was without the depth and flexibility that the Tigers have in 2014.

Plus, they'll get help up front. 

Auburn's defensive line is loaded with talent and, like the secondary, is remarkably flexible. If the Tigers want to drop defensive end Elijah Daniel down to tackle in passing situations, they can do that. If they want to move defensive tackle Gabe Wright to defensive end to create mismatches, they can do that. Auburn will be able generate pressure with four, which will be a huge benefit on the back end.

The Tigers will be in the mix for a College Football Playoff berth regardless, and if the secondary takes just a small step forward, it will go a long way toward securing one of those four coveted spots.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Ranking Big Ten Football Teams Now That Maryland, Rutgers Are Official Members

Maryland and Rutgers became official members of the Big Ten Conference Tuesday afternoon, pushing the total number of programs in the league up to 14.

With their arrival, the conference will realign its divisions from the farcically named Legends and Leaders to the geographically based East and West. It joins the ACC and SEC as the third power conference with 14 overall members and two seven-team divisions.

Because of this official transition—and even more so now that the season is less than two months away!—now seems like a fitting time to take stock of where each football program stands heading into an important Big Ten season.

Based on how they performed last season (and in previous seasons) and whom they return in 2014, here is a power ranking of all 14 current Big Ten members. This does not take the future into account, and it disregards the schedule. It is not a ranking of which teams are most likely to win the conference but an order of which teams would stand the best chance against another on a neutral field.

Can't wait to look like an idiot for these come December!

 

Note: All references to F/+ rating courtesy of the numbers at Football Outsiders. All recruiting information via the 247Sports composite rankings.

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What Programs Like USC and Texas Can Learn from Oklahoma's New Uniforms

Safety isn't guaranteed for tradition. Not even a little bit. 

Oklahoma, one of college football's perennial powerhouses, has had a classic uniform that went hand-in-hand with those of Texas, USC, Penn State and Alabama. The Sooners will continue to sport the traditional crimson and cream, but have added an alternate uniform to their wardrobe. 

The university released a photos and videos of the new unis, which feature a pair of new helmets, jerseys and pants. It's not a huge departure from the traditional look, and the unis will only be used in a supplementary role, but Oklahoma has nevertheless joined the uniform party.  

The reaction on social media has been amazing. Yes, it may be fueled by the offseason, but opinions on the new unis have been polarizing. If nothing else, it gets folks talking about the Sooners in July. 

In the end, what matters is that the players love them. And this sort of thing appeals to recruits. 

"I think recruits are always excited about uniforms, helmets and any of the looks that you might put on the field," said head coach Bob Stoops in a statement through OU's website. "(The additional uniforms) won’t be something we do constantly, but it will be a nice changeup and will be positive in recruiting, with our players and with our fans.”

Players and recruits simply don't view tradition through the same lens as fans do. Unless a recruit grew up in an Oklahoma household, he probably has little interest in the Bud Wilkinson era of the 1950s. While the unis pay homage to the program's history, the bottom line is they also look sharp. 

That's all that really matters to the players. 

As George Schroeder of USA Today tweeted, the time has come for other traditional programs to tinker with their threads too. 

It's not necessarily about abandoning ship on tradition. It's about adapting to what's hot. Alternate uniforms are in, and players from Texas to Minnesota enjoy things that are new and different. 

The changes can be subtle, like Alabama's Nike Pro Combat uniforms in 2010, or they can be louder, like Notre Dame's and Michigan's in 2011. 

It matters little if a school has a deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas. If programs like Notre Dame or Oklahoma have shown us anything, it's that no classic uniform is safe from change. But, as long as the players like it, that's all that should matter. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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