NCAA Football

James Conner Announces He Is in Remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma

Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner announced Monday his cancer is in remission.

Doctors diagnosed Conner with Hodgkin lymphoma in December.

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Malcolm Askew Tweets Top 10 Schools: Breaking Down 4-Star's Top Contenders

Impressive Alabama athlete Malcolm Askew has collected more than 50 scholarship offers during his football career at McAdory High School.

Following a lengthy evaluation of the recruiting scene that featured several campus visits, the 4-star prospect puts an in-state program atop his list of collegiate options. Askew unveiled a top-10 list Sunday afternoon with the Auburn Tigers sitting a stride ahead of other suitors:

Aside from naming Auburn his official leader, the 5'10 ½", 183-pound playmaker revealed another nine universities under consideration. This collection, listed in order of preference, includes Clemson, Ole Miss, TCU, Alabama, Florida, California, Oklahoma, Miami and Oregon.

Askew, who reports he holds 54 total offers, received his first from Georgia when he was a freshman. Now a rising senior, he's focused on finalizing plans well in advance of early enrollment at the university of his choice in January.

"I would like to make my decision real soon," Askew tweeted. "[These 10 schools] have recruited me and stayed in contact with me the most throughout this spring. These schools have shown the most love and I can see myself playing at each one of them. So, these 10 will be my focus moving forward."

Earlier this spring, he told B/R's Sanjay Kirpalani a decision could occur before his senior season.

"[I want to] decide between August and October,” Askew said in late March.

A two-way standout at McAdory, he's drawn interest as a receiver and defensive back.

Askew collected 85 tackles and six interceptions during the past two seasons, according to Tony Crumpton of TigerNet.com. He added 65 receptions, including 13 touchdown catches, during that span.

Ultimately, Askew's intentions are to line up on defense during the next phase of his playing career.

“I’m leaning more toward DB because of the longevity," he told Kirpalani. "Defensive players usually last longer playing the game in comparison to offensive players, and that’s why I’m leaning toward defense right now."

Auburn has long been entrenched as a top contender for his commitment. The Tigers coaching staff identified Askew as a premier in-state priority early and continues to sustain a strengthening relationship.

Top Auburn defensive assistants Kevin Steele and Wesley McGriff both attended his spring game earlier this month, according to Drew Champlin of AL.com.

"They stay in contact every day," Askew told Champlin. "Coach (Gus) Malzahn and I talk every other day and I can see myself there even if I wasn't playing football."

That's a strong statement for any athlete to make while assessing a possible collegiate landing spot. Like Auburn, Clemson has also been a mainstay in this recruitment.

He enjoyed a firsthand look at the team's ACC title run last fall when he traveled to campus for a pivotal game against Florida State.

"It was a big game for them and the atmosphere was great. Fans were loud the entire game and some of them actually knew who I was. My family and I really enjoyed the whole visit," Askew told B/R.

Again, rapport with the coaching staff is a key piece of this equation.

"They made it clear how much they want me to become a part of the program," he said. "Coach Dabo (Swinney) preaches about family there and every member of that staff is going to treat you like a son. Clemson has a great graduation rate and some of the best facilities in the country. There's a lot of good things going on there."

Ole Miss rounds out his top three, presenting another SEC opponent to overcome for another in-state suitor at Alabama. Crimson Tide coaches compared Askew to a current standout defensive back this spring.

"They say I remind them a lot of Eddie Jackson," he told Champlin. "They signed three corners [in 2016] so they aren't really looking to bring in corners. They say if I come there, they'd use me more as a safety."

Indications during his recruitment point toward a preference to play cornerback so this could be a sticking point that prevents Alabama from climbing much higher on Askew's list. However, Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was the first college coach to present Askew with an offer during his Georgia tenure and that carries clout.

TCU, one of the newest offers on his sheet, is a fast-rising contender worth monitoring moving forward.

"TCU is climbing up there now," he told Champlin, who also notes Askew may use an official visit with the Horned Frogs. "I've been talking to (secondary coach Paul Gonzales) a lot. He came to the (spring) game so that shows they have a lot of interest in me so I'm going to show a lot of interest in them."

With 10 teams still in the picture, expect upcoming visits to alter his outlook toward his variety of choices. Auburn remains the team to beat and, at this stage, it appears the Tigers could be quite difficult to catch.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow Tyler via Twitter @TDsTake.

 

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star CB Darnay Holmes Has 2 Official Visits in Mind

Recruiting for members of the 2017 college football class is beginning to see its turn of events. More athletes are setting their summer visit schedules, and a handful of players are finalizing official visits for the fall and winter seasons.

Here are the latest updates from some of the nation's top athletes in the 2017 class:

 

5-Star CB Holmes to Take 2 B1G Official Visits

Look for Big Ten country to host Calabasas, California, 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes at least twice in the fall. Holmes told Bleacher Report that two of his official visits will be Ohio State and Michigan.

It's fitting that one of college football's most active rivalries will include a fight for the nation's No. 1 cornerback and No. 8 overall player in the 2017 class.

"Ohio State's been there for me. Michigan's in it now," Holmes said. "Ohio State is definitely my type of school. I've been there three times, and I always have a great time. I like how they produce NFL draft picks every year and the great things going on there. I also like the coaches and the great environment.

"Michigan's getting my best friend David Long up there. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh is a great guy; I'll talk to him here and there. Plus, I like what they're doing with Jordan Brand. I'm taking an official visit to see what they have going on there."

Holmes added he also may take an official visit to Miami, a school that's intrigued him for a few years.

"My cousin [Desean Holmes] said they have a great receiver coach [Ron Dugans]. Plus, the new head coach [Mark Richt] seems like a great guy," Holmes said. "Since I was a kid, I've always like the Ed Reed and Ray Lewis eras. Miami's a place I'm interested in seeing."

This summer, Holmes said he's looking at unofficial visits to Oregon and Washington. He also said he is considering attending a camp at Ohio State. Holmes will compete at The Opening in July in Beaverton, Oregon.

 

Two Primary Targets for New LSU Pledge Deculus

Cypress, Texas, 4-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus ended his recruiting process Friday evening by verbally committing to LSU over offers from Michigan, Tennessee and others. Deculus said he isn't wasting any time in trying to recruit elite uncommitted targets to join him in the 2017 class.

For the immediate future, Deculus said he has his eyes on recruiting two top-15 players in Marvin Wilson, the nation's top-ranked defensive tackle, and Cam Akers, the nation's No. 2 running back.

LSU moved into the top 10 of 247Sports' composite team recruiting rankings with the help of Deculus' commitment. The Tigers could make a huge jump in the rankings by landing either Wilson or Akers—or both.

"Having Marvin commit will put the two most dominant interior defensive linemen next to each other to feed off each other and destroy other teams," said Deculus, who hopes Wilson can team with LSU commit Tyler Shelvin, the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle.

"Cam is another freak of an offensive player, and having him run behind the holes me and Edward Ingram create would make those two players the pieces of the puzzle to build a legacy along with the past recruiting class."

 

4-Star Kelly-Powell Likes Michigan...and Others

Detroit 4-star defensive back Jaylen Kelly-Powell has heard that his college future ultimately runs through Ann Arbor, Michigan, and with the Michigan Wolverines. Kelly-Powell reconfirmed his recruitment status Sunday and asked for one simple request: When it comes to his recruiting process, never assume anything.

"Personally, I'm open to every school," Kelly-Powell said. "It's OK if that's what people think, but I'm going to tell you that I'm still open to every school...because I am."

Kelly-Powell, a safety who can cover like a shutdown cornerback, has made recent unofficial visits to Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Florida State, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio State, USC and UCLA. Kelly-Powell said he doesn't have any major summer plans as of yet, but he would like to visit Oregon.

With 39 offers, Kelly-Powell said he's been chatting with coaches and weighing all options to see where he fits best. A place with a quality degree is important to him.

"There's no such thing as a bad education, but there is such a thing as an elite education," Kelly-Powell said. "I'm looking for a great education. I know that you can't play football forever, so I want to have a good degree to fall back on. I'm also looking for a place with good people and a good environment."

 

Visits Coming for Rising 3-Star CB Johnson

It's safe to say Fresno, California, 3-star cornerback Jaylon Johnson had a good day Sunday at The Opening Oakland. Johnson has nine reported offers, but his recruiting stock could rise after Sunday's performance.

Johnson has offers from USC, Oklahoma, Cal, Florida and other programs. He told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani that he recently took an unofficial visit to USC but doesn't have any major plans for set visits yet.

"I am in the process of lining up some visits in the next few months," Johnson said. "I want to go to some of the out-of-state schools I'm interested in. I just don't know [the visits] yet."

Johnson told Kirpalani that, as a California athlete, he'd like to hear from Big 12 schools Baylor and TCU, as well as SEC power LSU. He's looking for a school that produces quality defensive backs each year.

The X-factor in his recruiting process, however, could be academics. He told Kirpalani that he wants to open up his own business, possibly a sports training facility.

Look for Johnson to not only focus on being a standout defensive back but to also continue to improve as a student-athlete. He has plans of giving his already respectable grade-point average an 11th-hour boost.

"At the moment, it's a 3.5," he said of his GPA. "I'm trying to get it to 3.8 by the end of the semester."

 

DeeJay Dallas to Miami...Who's Next?

With 4-star Brunswick, Georgia, athlete DeeJay Dallas' commitment to Miami on Saturday, the Hurricanes moved to No. 3 in 247Sports' composite team recruiting rankings. Miami holds a narrow lead over Alabama and is trailing Ohio State and Oklahoma.

The Hurricanes have 15 hard commitments and still have room to add elite-caliber players. Among the guys head coach Mark Richt is targeting are linebacker De'Andre Wilder, defensive end Jarez Parks and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy—all 4-star athletes.

Another 4-star player to keep an eye on is Fort Lauderdale, Florida, offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert. Per 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections Florida is believed to be a front-runner in the race for Herbert, but he recently spoke with Nate Adelson of 247Sports about Miami's program, which includes head coach Mark Richt and offensive line coach Stacy Searels, two coaches who have been recruiting Herbert.

"Coach Searels and Coach Richt say I'm wanted but also that I'm a priority for them," Herbert told Adelson. "They've communicated very clearly how big their need is at tackle. The job would be there for me to go at as soon as I would get on campus. Of course I need to earn it, they don't hand it off, but the opportunity exists to grab that starting spot."

Miami has nine offensive commits, four defensive pledges and two commits classified as athletes.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon on Twitter: @DamonSayles.

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Top 10 College Football Wide Receiver Duos for 2016

Several college football teams boast a superstar target, but a select group of programs will showcase one of the nation's best wide receiver duos.

Productivity is the key factor for inclusion. Power-conference teams may have a "better" tandem when discussing NFL prospects, but they may not put up numbers like small-school players.

Additionally, though a young receiver like Ole Miss' Van Jefferson has immense potential, that's not a focus, either. Each of the following duos are proven at the college level. Anticipated larger roles were considered, but only for established wideouts.

While most of the duos starred in 2015, a couple of programs are anticipating the return of players who were injured last year—and in one case, a standout transfer.

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Top 5 Quarterback Recruit Performances from 2016 Oakland Elite 11 Regional

EL SOBRANTE, Cal. — There was plenty of anticipation in the air for the group of quarterbacks assembled to compete at the Oakland Elite 11 Regional.

That’s because it included field generals who have already committed to schools such as Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan and Washington State.

Additionally, four 4-star prospects and a 5-star talent served as the group’s headliners.

With four prospects earning invites to next month’s Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles, it’s safe to say the group lived up to expectations.

Yogi Roth, who works as an analyst for the Pac-12 Network and doubles as one of the quarterback coaches on the Elite 11 staff, noted that the Bay Area has traditionally produced its share of top-flight passers, and this year’s group strengthened that pipeline. 

“[The quarterback field] was loaded. Northern California traditionally is, and it’s been that way since my first year being involved with this camp and even in Trent’s first year,” Roth told Bleacher Report. “These guys made each other better. You’d see Jack Sears make a throw, and then Tua Tagovailoa would go right behind him and fire a dime. Everybody just kept raising their game all day. Those top guys just kept firing, and it was cool to see them rise to the occasion.” 

Indeed, both Sears and Tagovailoa punched their tickets to Los Angeles for the finals.

They will be joined in Southern California by one elite talent and a relative unknown in recruiting circles. 

Which quarterbacks stood out among the decorated segment of field generals assembled in Oakland?

Let’s take a look at the top five QB performers from the Oakland Elite 11 regional.

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B/R 5th Down: Urban Meyer Lifts OSU's Ban on Blue, Dabo Swinney Goes Undercover

Editor's Note: Bleacher Report's 5th Down captures the top social college football stories of the week. As this long, bitter offseason continues, we'll focus on moments from the schools, coaches and players that kept us entertained as we wait for actual college football to make its highly anticipated return.

 

1. Ohio State's ban on blue to be lifted for one special day

Don't wear the color blue around head coach Urban Meyer or Ohio State's football facility. Lou Holtz learned that the hard way, as well as one unfortunate Ohio State student at a scrimmage earlier this year.

Meyer has banned blue—the main color of hated rival Michigan—at practices and events with his Buckeyes, but he's going to make an extremely rare exception this upcoming week.

According to Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch, Meyer will allow his players to wear red, white and blue for a workout on the Friday before Memorial Day. The special workout will cap a "Patriot Week" of seminars about voting and democracy. Meyer explained:

That's going to be what we call a Memorial Day workout. The players are going to be wearing red, white and blue, and we'll have some fun with it. They'll also take a test on what they’ve learned the previous four days, and before they leave on Friday for the holiday weekend, they've got to pass that test.

Hunter writes that Meyer will make a special exception for the usually forbidden blue on that Friday. After that, though, expect the hatred of the hue to resume normal operations at Ohio State.

 

2. Dabo Swinney becomes an "Undercover Boss"

Clemson is building a stunning new football complex, and head coach Dabo Swinney decided to have a little fun while giving an update on the construction's progress.

The Tigers spoofed the CBS show Undercover Boss by sending Swinney into the construction crew as "Fred from Albuquerque," complete with a hilarious fake mustache:

While Swinney doesn't quite make for a believable construction worker, his interactions with the crew are quite funny, especially the outtakes at the end of the video. The foreman who told "Fred" that Swinney wasn't that great of a dancer deserves some sort of acting award. 

Swinney is one of the most entertaining coaches in college football, and he might have a future in acting once his football days are finished. Construction? Not so much.

 

3. Marco Rubio wants a Tim Tebow statue in the U.S. Capitol 

The state of Florida is looking for a new statue to represent itself in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall after removing a long-standing one of a Confederate general. 

Florida state senator and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio has what he thinks is the perfect replacement idea—a statue of Florida Gators football legend and Sunshine State native Tim Tebow:

Rubio is a huge Florida football fan, and Alex Kirshner of SB Nation noted earlier this month that the senator used to live-tweet Gators games from his account. He mostly sticks to nonsports tweets these days, but he made a special exception for this statue debate.

Unfortunately for Rubio and any Gator fans jumping on board with this idea, Florida's online survey states that it will only consider Floridians who have "been deceased for 10 years or more, as of January 1, 2017." Tebow is, of course, alive and working as an analyst for the SEC Network.

Don't worry, though, senator. Tebow already has a statue in Gainesville.

 

4. Top class of 2017 recruit pulls off incredible juke

Najee Harris, a 5-star running back and Alabama commit, didn't necessarily need more attention heading into The Opening regional in Oakland this past weekend.

But the nation's No. 1 overall recruit made sure everybody knew who he was with this stunning juke of a helpless defender during a one-on-one drill, as B/R The Future shared on Twitter:

Harris, a 6'2", 220-pound running back from Antioch, California, has been committed to the Crimson Tide for more than a year. While he is more known for his immense size and power out of the backfield, he definitely has the moves to embarrass defenders and run past them, captured here by Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani:

Harris' highlight-heavy weekend in Oakland showed why Alabama was high on him early on in his recruitment, and why top programs from all over the country want to get him to flip his commitment.

 

5. Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall is living in an RV

Bronco Mendenhall made a big move this offseason, deciding to take the head coaching job at Virginia after a long tenure at BYU.

It was also a huge move for Mendenhall's wife and his three sons, who are now all living in an RV, according to a great feature story from Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com: 

Mendenhall, who drives a motorcycle to work, surfs and owns livestock, is not somebody you would call conventional. He tried the old standby coaching move of landing in a hotel for a while with his family. But as nice as the local Residence Inn was, it wasn't long until the Mendenhalls agreed to an unorthodox idea from Dad: Let's move into an RV!

Mendenhall had assistant coach Marques Hagans drive him an hour to Richmond to pick up the Fuzion Chrome 44-foot fifth-wheel camper, a sweet temporary family home that came in two different shades of blue.

He parked the RV on the property of their future home in Ivy, Virginia. (They're having the property completely renovated, which was slated to take five months.) 

In a time when Power Five head coaches get multimillions each year from their respective programs, hearing about one living in an RV with his family is quite strange. But the Mendenhalls are making it work—even the long trips across the property to the bathroom of their under-renovation house.

"You trek across the property," Mendenhall told Adelson. "I walked across one night in just my underwear, but no one's out there. ... When that room is targeted for demolition, we hope the hot water's working in the RV by then."

Hey, it beats living in a van down by the river.

 

6. Houston's mayor predicts a huge UH win over Oklahoma

In a week in which ESPN announced the kickoff time for Houston's Week 1 showdown with Oklahoma, the mayor of the Cougars' hometown is standing firm with his bold prediction for the game.

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner told the University of Houston Magazine's Mike Emery earlier this year he would be at Houston's opener against the defending Big 12 champions, and predicted that Cougars "[will] win by 14 or possibly 21 points."

After the kickoff time of 11 a.m. CT was announced last week, Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World contacted Turner to see if he would be at his alma mater's opener—even with the earlier-than-expected start. Turner confirmed he would be there and didn't back down from his score prediction.

"It is not a subjective assessment," Turner told Bailey. "I’m being very objective. They are just that good!"

Houston is coming off a 13-1 campaign that featured an AAC title and a Peach Bowl victory over Florida State, so Turner should have plenty to be excited about in 2016. But the visiting Sooners went to the College Football Playoff last year and will undoubtedly be the favorites coming into Houston.

Plenty of opinions and picks for Oklahoma-Houston will fly between now and this September matchup at NRG Stadium. But it'll be hard to find a prediction as bold as this one from Houston's proud mayor.

 

7. Nick Chubb's knee surgery scar is gnarly

Georgia star running back Nick Chubb went down with a devastating knee injury early in a game last season against Tennessee, and he's still on the long road to recovery.

This past week, Bulldogs fan Greg Jones snapped and tweeted a picture of Chubb alongside a young supporter at a Georgia baseball game. Jones' picture gave everyone a close look at just how jaw-dropping Chubb's scar is from the major knee surgery:

Chubb has been one of the best running backs in college football over the last two seasons when healthy, and the Bulldogs are hoping he'll be back in time for the season opener in September against North Carolina. He's worked hard this offseason to make it back in time, giant scar and all. 

 

8. Steve Spurrier jabs Ole Miss and rocks a sweet jacket

The concept of a college football commissioner is becoming a hot topic this offseason, with media members everywhere wanting coaches' opinions on if they would want one.

That extends to former coaches, too, as the great Steve Spurrier was asked about it—and his interest in the job—at last week's Regions Tradition pro-am golf tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. His response was vintage Spurrier, as he took a shot at a former conference foe in the SEC: 

"That sounds like a lot of work, traveling around the country trying to keep up with Ole Miss and whoever else has been under investigation right now," Spurrier says in the above video from Nic Gulas of WIAT-TV. "But that might be something that would be good for college football, to have one guy with some common sense make decisions."

Later in the week, Spurrier showed that there probably wouldn't be a better-dressed candidate for college football commissioner than the Head Ball Coach himself. Spurrier was spotted by Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell at the Preakness Stakes wearing a black fedora and a slick lemon-colored jacket:

If swag is on the checklist of a hypothetical commissioner, college football already has a winner.

 

9. And, finally, Frank Beamer is doing retirement the right way

Frank Beamer was a college football coach for a long, long time. Before he was Virginia Tech's head man from 1987 to 2015, he spent several years as a head coach at Murray State and nearly a decade as an assistant.

Coaching football is in his blood, so it wouldn't be a stretch to say his first few months away from the job would be tough on him. People come to grips with retirement in different ways.

Well, as a viral picture of Beamer from this past Saturday shows, he's handling post-coaching life the right way. Beamer was spotted by a fan getting a pedicure and drinking what appears to be a Cook-Out milkshake:

That is the picture of a retired legend and noted milkshake fan who is straight-up crushing life right now. And, trust me, if Beamer was enjoying a Peanut Butter Banana shake from Cook-Out, I can guarantee that no one in these United States was having a better Saturday than him.

 

Recruiting info courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, and he wants to know where Steve Spurrier got that yellow jacket. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Best- and Worst-Case 2016 Scenarios for Each Top 25 College Football Team

For college football fans, summer is a time for hope. Every team is undefeated. New recruits, coaches and schemes will make a difference in the fall. Unproven players will fulfill their potential and lead programs to bowl games, league titles and the College Football Playoff. As fans thumb through preseason magazines, it’s easy for minds to wander and think about fall glory before the first down is played.

That’s the beauty of summer. As players sweat through offseason workouts, fans are free to imagine how those hours in the sun will pay off, for better or worse. That’s what we’ve done here. We’ve examined each program’s 2016 schedule, returning roster and recruits, and determined a best- and worst-case scenario for the Top 25 preseason programs.

The Top 25 we’re using is a composite of available preseason polls, compiled by Bleacher Report. These are not hard and fast predictions but simply an examination of what could happen, for better or worse. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

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Ranking Toughest SEC Football Environments to Play In

In the SEC, road teams run into hostile environments virtually every weekend. 

Whether it's Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Tiger Stadium at LSU or the recently renovated Kyle Field at Texas A&M, 18-22-year-old young men must be prepared for the biggest stages in football—pro or college—on virtually a weekly basis. 

Which environments are the most hostile? 

Our picks based on results, capacity, hostility and more are in this slideshow.

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Power Ranking Toughest Big Ten Football Environments to Play In

The college football season is just over three months away and certain games on the 2016 slate are already beginning to stand out. 

That rings especially true in the Big Ten, which recently learned which of its games will be featured on the prime-time schedules of both ESPN and Big Ten Network programming.

But while it's the teams that often make for interesting matchups in the same way that styles make fights, one point of intrigue that often gets overlooked is where each game is being played. And the Big Ten just happens to lay claim to some of college football's top venues, including the nation's top two stadiums in terms of average attendance.

With that in mind, let's rank the Big Ten's best environments based on the home-field advantages they provide for their respective teams heading into the 2016 season. Attendance figures are via the NCAA, while team records are courtesy of TeamRankings.com.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Toughest QBs Volunteers Will Face in 2016

Having a dynamic quarterback can separate the good teams from the great, and that's a key reason why the Tennessee football program needs capable senior Joshua Dobbs to take a giant leap in 2016.

It's also why the Volunteers should feel pretty strongly about their chances to win a lot of football games at first glance of this season's schedule. There are exactly zero proven star quarterbacks among the 12 opponents UT has on the docket.

It's truly an astounding list. 

Normally for these exercises, you've got to look at a body of work and extrapolate expectations from that, but in an examination of the top signal-callers on Tennessee's schedule, potential must be projected. There's simply not enough experience among the opposing quarterbacks.

Among the players on this list, there are three transfers, including a JUCO prospect and another player who couldn't cultivate playing time at Alabama or Oregon State. One of the trio left his school because he couldn't beat out the incumbent.

Then, there's a promising prospect who isn't even guaranteed the starting job at his school in Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason. But his upside is too great to leave off.

Players such as Missouri's Drew Lock, Vanderbilt's Kyle Shurmur and Appalachian State's Taylor Lamb—the reigning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year—just missed the list because there aren't enough quality playmakers around them to make them a real threat to a strong UT team.

That's why new Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and a hungry bunch of Vols pass-rushers must be licking their chops.

Let's take a look at the most unproven list of opposing quarterbacks you're ever likely to see in the SEC and try to come up with a list of those who could give the Vols trouble in '16.

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Highlights and Analysis from the Opening Oakland Regional

EL SOBRANTE, Calif. — The Nike Opening Regional camp circuit made its latest stop in Oakland as a number of the elite prospects on the West Coast showed up to compete for a spot at the nation’s premier summer camp showcase.

A picturesque backdrop at De Anza High School in El Sobrante with mild and comfortable temperatures greeted the hundreds of athletes in attendance. 

In all, nine athletes earned an invite to The Opening while four quarterbacks punched their ticket to the Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles next month. 

The number of instant invites was a direct reflection of the amount of talent on hand, which matched up favorably with some of the more loaded fields earlier on this year’s tour.

Which players rose to the occasion and what other news and notes emerged from the Oakland regional?

Let’s get into it.

 

QB Group Lives Up to Hype

With a field that included quarterbacks committed to schools such as Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan and Washington State, the arm talent on display was evident from the get-go.

Led by head coach Trent Dilfer, The Elite 11 coaching staff were energetic throughout the event in doling out praise and offering tips to the passers in attendance.

Three known quantities lived up to their billing in 5-star Michigan pledge Dylan McCaffrey, 4-star Alabama commit Tua Tagovailoa and 4-star Jack Sears—who is uncommitted and also earned MVP of the quarterback segment. All three consistently performed at a high level and made their selections for the Elite 11 finals a mere formality.

“It feels fantastic. It’s been a dream of mine to get to the Elite 11 since I was little,” McCaffrey told Bleacher Report. “When I heard my name called, my face lit up with a big smile, so I’m really happy right now.” 

While those guys were known in recruiting circles, the last recipient of the bunch was 3-star Jake Haener.

The 6’0”, 180-pounder out of Monte Vista High School in Danville, California admitted he entered the event with plenty of incentive to make a name for himself.

“I wasn’t expecting [the Elite 11 invite]. I came in here today just wanting to compete with some of the best guys in the country,” Haener said. “I’ve been working hard for this moment and I’m just happy to see it pay off.” 

Haener reports that he has seven offers, but none from Power 5 schools. Of the bigger schools, he mentioned USC, UCLA, Cal, Oregon State and Wake Forest as schools he’s interested in.

For now, he will focus on spring football with his teammates and preparing for the big stage of the Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles next month.

Don’t expect him to enter that event lacking for confidence, either.

“I just wanted to do the best I could. I knew that if I come in and throw the ball the way I know I can throw it, it’s up there with the top guys in the country,” Haener explained. “I’m not scared of competing with them. They are all great guys. I’m just glad I performed well.”

 

Rising DB Racks Up Awards

There were a handful of elite defensive backs on hand with lengthy offer lists.

However, one rangy defender stole the show: 3-star corner Jaylon Johnson from Central East High School in Fresno, California. 

Johnson started his day blowing the doors off the testing period at the beginning of the camp. He won the ratings MVP with a score of 132.42. 

He doubled down by winning the camp’s fastest man challenge by running a 4.49 against three other touted defenders. 

His day ended with MVP honors for the defensive backs segment and an invite to The Opening.

“It’s a true blessing from God. I know a lot of big-time players have come through this event. It definitely feels good to put my name on that list of guys,” Johnson said.

Furthermore, he made an emphatic statement in his quest to be rated among the nation’s elite defensive backs.

“I think I showed that I’m a competitor,” Johnson said. “I think nobody really knew how good I was, but to come out here and show what I can do, it’s definitely a good feeling and shows that I’m one of the best athletes in the country.” 

He’ll get another chance on the biggest of stages in July at The Opening.

 

DL Segment Shines

It was a banner day for the defensive side of the ball as seven of the nine invites to The Opening came from players on that side of the ball. 

Half of that group was represented by players who will line up with their hands in the dirt at the next level.

A trio of defensive tackles in 4-star Washington pledge Marlon Tuipulotu, 4-star Greg Rogers and 4-star Jay Tufele lived up to their lofty ratings entering the event. 

“It feels really good to get open. I’m really hyped right now,” Rogers exclaimed. “I just wanted to show them what I can do and build on the film I’ve got up. I just came out here to dominate and handle my business and I feel like I did that. I’m glad that it was enough for me to get that invite.”

Joining them in Oregon will be 4-star defensive end and UCLA pledge Hunter Echols.

The 6’4”, 220-pounder, who rates as the nation’s No. 11 weakside defensive end and the No. 154 player overall, was a blur off the edge for offensive linemen to deal with. 

“It’s a blessing. I get to rep UCLA at The Opening with my boy Jaelan Phillips. I’m just excited about that opportunity,” Echols said. “I was able to show the coaches my game speed and determination to get to the quarterback. I’m ready to compete against the best offensive linemen in the country in Oregon. I’m looking to make my coaches and family proud out there.”

 

Stanford TE Pledge Represents Position Segment

One of the more underrated segments in terms of talent on hand was the tight end group.

At the head of that group was 4-star pass catcher and current Stanford commit Colby Parkinson

The 6’6”, 225-pounder is currently rated as the nation’s No. 2 tight end prospect, but he made his case to challenge for the top spot.

His hard work paid off with an invite to The Opening. In the process, he fulfilled a dream he’s had since he entered the high school level. 

“Since my freshman year, I’ve been watching it on TV. I was like, ‘there’s no way I’ll be able to get there one day,’ ” Parkinson said. “Now, I just got the invite and it’s so surreal. I’m really excited about it.”

Before the camp began, Parkinson was enjoying getting to hang out with a group of his peers that included fellow Stanford pledge and 3-star Tucker Fisk and 4-star Jimmy Jaggers among others.

“It’s so fun. I love those guys. They are a bunch of fools,” Parkinson said. “There’s like five or six guys here who are top of the line tight ends so that’s pretty cool. It was fun competing with all of them.”

 

Other News and Notes

During the final showcase portion of the camp that pits the best of the best, one prospect made Dilfer peel his eyes away from the quarterbacks: 5-star running back and Alabama pledge Najee Harris

After a series of impressive catches, Dilfer gushed about his physicality and his ability to make tough catches in space.

Harris lived up to his billing as the nation’s top overall prospect in the 2017 cycle, earning his second straight trip to The Opening in the process.

While Dylan McCaffrey was busy showcasing his skills, most observers entered the event hoping to get their first glance at the youngest of the McCaffrey brothers clan: 2019 quarterback Luke McCaffrey.

However, Dylan confirmed that his younger brother suffered a fractured collarbone recently and was unable to make the trip.

Of course, the brothers are the younger siblings of the McCaffrey clan that includes Stanford running back sensation Christian McCaffrey and former Duke receiver Max McCaffrey.

While most of the campers in attendance had their sights on getting to The Opening, one of the prominent alums from the 2016 class was in attendance to support them: 4-star linebacker and Washington signee Camilo Eifler

Eifler went public with his commitment to the Huskies at The Opening last year.

With the Oakland camp now in the rear view, this coming weekend’s camp in Seattle represents the final stop of the 14-city Nike Opening Regional circuit.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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Predicting the Winner of Each College Football Conference in 2016

The offseason is the time for optimism, so fans are looking ahead to the 2016 college football season with dreams of at least a conference championship.

But only 10 of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision programs will eventually hoist their respective league's trophy. We're here to predict which schools will ultimately earn that opportunity, also including the opponent in the conference title game.

Although a championship generally means more nationally for a Power Five faction, Group of Five teams are vying for the spot in a New Year's Six bowl game.

For ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC squads, though, a conference championship is merely a necessary step toward claiming a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Successful Coaches of Tomorrow Are Paying Their Dues on Alabama's Staff Today

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For those who have been around the University of Alabama football program for a while, he’s already a familiar face.

Ed Marynowitz has been at the football complex a lot this spring, including during the Crimson Tide’s pro day, and even though he isn’t listed as having a position with the program, no one would be surprised if that changes in the near future.

Marynowitz used to be Alabama’s director of player personnel. Most football fans outside of Tuscaloosa are more familiar with his last job, running the personnel department for the Philadelphia Eagles when Chip Kelly was the head coach.

There’s a reason why Alabama has the reputation of having the best support staff in college football. It’s almost certainly the biggest, yet it is usually in flux because so many people use it as a springboard.

That's normal for a major college football program, although just a quick glance at some of the staff directories in the Southeastern Conference demonstrates how no two are alike.

For example, Arkansas’ athletic department has a director of clinical and sport psychology on staff, Dr. Michael Johnson. The Ole Miss football staff has its own graphic designer. Texas A&M has sports performance coaches, a fancy term for the weight room staff.

When it comes to staff limitations, the NCAA mandates that a football program can have nine coaches and four graduate assistants. There’s no limit on anyone else.

“I think that there is a place for 10 coaches on a staff,” said head coach Nick Saban, who would like to see the maximum raised by one. “The numbers just work out better with a special teams coach, that you could have nine and a special teams coach.”

For 2016, Alabama has tweaked the staff’s responsibilities, with Bobby Williams stepping down and Brent Key being added as an offensive line coach. While he’s overseeing the guards and centers, Mario Cristobal is responsible for the tackles and tight ends.

Although his job title hasn’t changed, running backs coach Burton Burns is overseeing special teams, but he’s getting a lot of help.

"Me and Coach Burns, we'll meet sometimes and just kind of talk about special teams and stuff,” punter JK Scott said. “We really don't meet a lot with Coach Burns just because he's got running backs and stuff. We usually meet with Coach Farrell. But Coach Burns, it's been good so far with him."

If you’re wondering who Coach Farrell is, Scott was referring to Brendan Farrell, who is one of the Crimson Tide’s analysts. Among his previous positions are the assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Northwestern State, which competes at the FCS level. 

They’re the guys who take care of everything so the coaches can focus on doing just that—coaching. Alabama has eight, and each one sees his time in Tuscaloosa as an investment in his future:

  • Dean Altobelli: The former Michigan State player put his legal career on hold to work for the Crimson Tide. The attorney was a principal member at Miller Canfield, a Detroit-based law firm.
  • Shea Tierney: Most recently was an analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Wes Neighbors: A familiar name for Alabama fans, the former defensive back was a third-generation player for the Crimson Tide, and his grandfather, Billy, is in the College Football Hall of Fame.
  • William Vlachos: The former Alabama center was a three-year starter who initially rejoined the Crimson Tide as a graduate assistant.
  • Charlie Weis Jr.: You may have seen his father celebrating on the field after Alabama won the national championship. Weis held a similar position for him at Kansas.
  • Garrett Cox: Former linebackers coach at Texas Southern.
  • Mike Locksley: Former Maryland offensive coordinator and head coach at New Mexico from 2009-11.

If you’re thinking Alabama is simply throwing money at them to stack the deck, it’s not. According to figures Jon Solomon of CBS Sports acquired from the University of Alabama Division of Financial Affairs, their positions paid just between $23,462-$47,409 last year.

“We love it that we can have some extra guys around that are young guys that aspire to be coaches, and I think one of the most difficult things about our profession is how do you get experience so that you can grow and develop as a coach,” Saban said.

Despite the low wages, the analyst jobs and other low-level positions in the program are highly sought.

For example, in 2013, Joe Palcic accepted the special teams coordinator job at Miami (Ohio), his alma mater, but resigned for an opportunity to serve as an Alabama analyst. Jake Peetz did that as well. He went from that to joining the Washington Redskins as an offensive quality control coach to quarterbacks assistant with the Oakland Raiders last year. 

In 2015, former Kansas offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau was on the Alabama payroll. At the end of last season, he was named Fresno State’s offensive coordinator. On the defensive side, Glenn Schumann followed Kirby Smart, who called him his “right-hand man,” to Georgia to become his linebackers coach.

“Regardless of where they need to start professionally, I think this is a great thing for our profession, to be able to help develop coaches, and I think those guys now have created a role and a niche for themselves that's very important to every program because we all depend on them,” said Saban.

Some even come back to Tuscaloosa.

Before he was hired as a graduate assistant in 2010, Derrick Ansley had five years of coaching experience at Division III Huntingdon College. He left to be the secondary coach at Tennessee (2012) and Kentucky (2013-15), where he was named co-defensive coordinator in January. A month later, he returned to coach the defensive backs.

Similarly, Bill Napier was Alabama’s offensive quality control assistant in 2011 before following Jim McElwain to Colorado State to be his quarterbacks coach. In 2013, Jimbo Fisher hired him to be Florida State’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, but then Saban needed a receivers coach.

As for Marynowitz, he was a scouting assistant for the Miami Dolphins under Bill Parcells, but he joined the Alabama staff in December 2008. He left at age 30 to join the Eagles’ scouting department.

"Ed did an outstanding job for us when he was here and made a great contribution to our program as director of player personnel,” Saban said in a release when Marynowitz was promoted last January. “The thing I was most impressed with was how much he wanted to learn in the area of player evaluation, and his knowledge in that area really expanded during his time at Alabama.”

Marynowitz has the kind of organized football mind that Saban likes to have around, regardless of his position, and is already well-versed in how the coach does things.

When he left, Saban initially hired someone from the outside to replace him, which didn’t work out so well. Paul Gonnella departed after one year, went to South Florida and has since started his own recruiting service named (and I swear I’m not making this up) “The Process.”

The next person to hold that job turned heads, as it was one of Saban’s former defensive coordinators, Kevin Steele.

Needless to say, having worked for Saban in any capacity stands out on a resume.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Ohio State Football: 5 Toughest QBs Buckeyes Will Face in 2016

The Ohio State football team will be challenged by a number of elite teams this fall, headlined by Oklahoma on the road in Week 3, but the Buckeyes won't have to defend an elite group of quarterbacks.

The departures of Connor Cook from Michigan State, Nate Sudfeld from Indiana, Christian Hackenberg from Penn State and Jake Rudock from Michigan has created a void of experience in the offenses Ohio State will face this year.

All four of those quarterbacks heard their names called in the NFL draft a few weeks ago, so the Buckeyes will be facing a lot of good teams with a new signal-caller behind center.

However, this next group of five quarterbacks should challenge Ohio State the most due to their skill level, experience and/or the coach they're learning from. 

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Stephen Guidry to LSU: Tigers Land JUCO WR Prospect

The LSU Tigers received a major boost Saturday when they received a commitment from receiver Stephen Guidry.  

Guidry, 247Sports' top-ranked junior college receiver, announced his decision on Twitter.

According to Ross Dellenger of the Advocate, Guidry decided to commit after a visit to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Saturday.

Guidry's choice is a bit of surprise after it appeared that Alabama was the favorite for his services. He told SEC Country's Chris Kirschner earlier this week that the Crimson Tide were his top option and that he nearly committed to the school after a visit last weekend.

LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig led the charge for Guidry. Craig was hired away from Auburn's staff in February, and this was a massive recruiting get for him, which was acknowledged by 247Sports' Shea Dixon:

Guidry will be a huge addition to a Tigers program that has struggled with the passing game in recent years. 

LSU finished 108th in passing yards in 2015 and 109th in 2014. This is a considerable drop from the dynamic air attack the team featured in 2013 with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Zach Mettenberger.

However, the Tigers have the potential to form one of the SEC's best receivers group in 2017. Guidry will join a position room that already boasts budding star Malachi Dupre. If Dupre, a junior, returns for another year, LSU will have two receivers who are speedy and stand above 6'3".

The full impact of Guidry will depend on the development of LSU's quarterback situation. Junior Brandon Harris is the presumed starter after throwing passes for the team in 2015, but he will need to improve on the 13 touchdowns and 53.8 percent completion rate to lift this offense.

According to Gridiron Now's Tony Barnhart, head coach Les Miles believes in Harris, but until he proves he is a quality quarterback, there will still be questions around LSU's passing game. Guidry's addition should help, though, as he gives the secondary a reason not to double-team Dupre, assuming he is still around.

 

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com. 

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Deejay Dallas to Miami: Hurricanes Land 4-Star Athlete Prospect

Deejay Dallas remains a man without a position, but he has at least sorted out his school of choice for the next few years. Dallas committed to the University of Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, per Chad Simmons of Scout.com.  

According to Simmons, Dallas explained his decision to play for head coach Mark Richt after initially committing to Georgia when Richt was still the Bulldogs' coach:

I have committed to Miami. This is the perfect time for me to commit because I am comfortable with my decision and my family is at ease. I asked my family if I could go through with it, they gave me the green light, so that was that. I had been second-guessing myself since late February and into early March, but this month kind of sealed the deal for me.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the Brunswick, Georgia, native is the No. 12 athlete in the 2017 class. He's also the 222nd-best player overall and 27th-best in the state of Georgia.

Dallas originally committed to Georgia in July 2015 but then decommitted in December shortly after the school hired Kirby Smart. In a piece for USA Today on April 11, Dallas wrote how the new coaching staff in Athens wasn't exactly rolling out the red carpet for him:

I have only been on one visit to Georgia since Coach Mark Richt was let go. That one visit was Junior Day, and I was there with all the top prospects in Georgia from the class of 2017. It was a fun day and I got to see a lot of friends that day and it was the first time the new staff was able to make a first impression. That being said, I rarely hear from the staff and they don’t make me feel like a priority, but it is understandable, I guess. It seems as though they have other priorities. I guess I’ll never know though, but I am going to see how the process plays out and I will always consider Athens a place where I can call home. Go Dawgs??

Judging from those comments, the Bulldogs didn't stand a chance at getting Dallas' commitment a second time around.

Richt's first task will be figuring out Dallas' best position. He has had his hand in a little bit of everything offensively for Glynn Academy as a junior, per MaxPreps:

Eliminating quarterback as a possibility would be sensible. Dallas is far more dangerous with his legs than he is with his arm. He could line up under center for a few trick plays to throw off the defense, but putting him at QB on a full-time basis wouldn't get the best out of his dynamic skill set:

According to Hudl, Dallas clocked a 4.52 40-yard dash. Using the phrase "deceptively fast" is somewhat cliche, but it feels appropriate in this situation. Dallas looks quicker on the field than his 40 time would lead one to believe.

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Sentell, Dallas revealed quarterback would be his personal preference but remains flexible.

"If quarterback isn't in God's plan for me then I am going to listen and see what God's plan is for me," he said. "Wherever I feel comfortable, that is where I am going to end up going. Put me on offense and I'll change a game. Put me on defense and I will control the game and keep the other team's points down so we can win."

With his acceleration and agility, he can be a weapon in the return game immediately upon his arrival in Miami, and over time, he might grow into a versatile two-way star.

Whether safety, cornerback or wide receiver becomes his primary position, Dallas is bound to create some highlight-reel plays at Miami.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Toughest Nonconference Game

As college football enters the third season of the College Football Playoff, it has become clear that having a strong schedule is as important as it has ever been. The playoff doubles the number of teams with a legit shot at the national title following the regular season (from two to four), but it’s still incredibly tough to make the four-team field.

There is margin for error; after all, in two years, only two teams (Clemson and Florida State) have finished the regular season unbeaten. But when you lose a game, you fall into a pool of similarly accomplished teams. Strength of schedule matters: The College Football Playoff selection committee explicitly lists it as one of three key factors, alongside winning conference championships and head-to-head results, when comparing similar teams.

Getting marquee teams on your schedule makes the road to the playoff tougher, but succeeding in those big moments is a major plus for your resume. That’s why having a tough nonconference slate is crucial. Here’s a look at the toughest nonconference game for every Power Five team.

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​How Clemson QB Deshaun Watson Can Earn Spot Atop 2017 NFL Draft​

Year-round followers of the NFL draft are already well aware that Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson is among a handful of prospects in contention to be the No. 1 pick in 2017 NFL draft. 

ESPN.com's Mel Kiper recently ranked Watson No. 4 overall on his early big board, and as the only quarterback in Kiper's top 10, that clearly makes him a favorite for the No. 1 pick. 

But it's important to remember that this is still an early projection, especially for a 20-year-old quarterback coming off his true-sophomore campaign. 

When an early favorite to go No. 1 overall ends up falling in the following draft, we often hear comments along the lines of: "well, if he turned pro last year he would have been a top-10 pick." But these sentiments are almost always complete fiction and solely based off preseason mock-draft positioning. 

What gets lost in these hindsight assessments is the fact that early big boards and mock drafts aren't solely about what a player is today—they're about what he will be 11 months from now.

Watson is a legitimate candidate to go No. 1 overall in next year's draft, but there are two distinct factors in this assessment.

The first factor is based on the quarterback Watson is today. He is among the most talented quarterbacks in the country and has already shown some NFL traits. But the second factor—perhaps the most important factor—is about the trajectory of his career path. 

As of May 2016, Watson is not ready to play at the NFL level. However, he has shown considerable growth during his first two seasons at Clemson, and we assume that will continue into the 2016 season. So based on where he is today and the trajectory of his career, it's reasonable to assume that by April 2017, Watson will be ready to advance to the pro game as a top pick. 

Think of it like a young company's stock. After two steady years of growth, there is optimism for the future. But you wouldn't yet assume it has Google's level of stability based on a small two-year sample. And that's where we stand with Watson. He has the potential, and he's shown the growth, but there's still more to prove. 

So rather than break down why Watson is a top prospect, let's focus on what he needs to accomplish this season to ascend to the next level and truly earn his spot atop draft boards in 2017. 

When watching Watson during the 2016 college football season, here are a two of the most important areas to focus on to asses his continued development. 

 

Anticipatory Throws

Unlike many young quarterbacks with his athleticism, Watson is a pocket passer first. While he does rack up yardage on the ground, a significant percentage comes on designed runs. So when he drops back to pass, Watson is genuinely looking to throw, which is a significant step in a quarterback's development.

Unfortunately, Watson hasn't quite reached the stage where he trusts what he sees from the pocket. Like many young quarterbacks, he's more comfortable throwing to the receiver who is already open, rather than the one who can become open if the throw is placed correctly.

Below is an example from the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Alabama where Watson passes up an opportunity to throw his receiver open. 

This a 3rd-and-4 situation late in the first quarter. Wide receiver Artavis Scott lines up wide and shows a slant route for about five yards, which forces Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland to pass him off to the deep safety in that area of the field. But Scott then cuts back toward the sideline and gets behind Ragland.

At this point, Watson has a clear window to throw over Ragland and lead Scott toward the sideline for a big gain. As the image above shows, Watson sees Scott and is ready to throw but can't bring himself to pull the trigger. He ends up tucking the ball and running himself into pressure, before eventually escaping for a five-yard gain.

These are the types of anticipatory throws that Watson needs to become more comfortable making before he's ready for the NFL. By NFL standards, Scott is wide open based on where he will be when the ball arrives, and Watson will be expected to make this throw every time. 

 

Decisions Under Pressure

As demonstrated above, Watson has a tendency to hesitate when he's in a clean pocket. But when facing pressure, he runs into the opposite issue. 

As soon as Watson feels as though his option to tuck and run has been taken away, his decision-making becomes erratic and his movements more panicked. 

Perhaps the best example of this came at one of the biggest moments of Clemson's season in 2015. 

During the College Football Playoff against Oklahoma, Watson is faced with 3rd-and-8 deep in Sooners territory while trailing 17-16. 

Watson sees almost immediate pressure and rolls to his right. At this point, he could throw the ball away or even take a sack, and Clemson would have an opportunity to kick a field goal to take the lead. 

Instead, Watson essentially tosses a Hail Mary into the end zone that gets intercepted by Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez. 

These types of poor decisions under pressure were a common theme throughout Watson's 2015 season. 

CFB Film Room recently shared Watson's stats under pressure and offered up Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield as a comparison:

Deshaun Watson vs Baker Mayfield under pressure last season pic.twitter.com/uUP0aKZ8wW

— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) May 18, 2016

Obviously the two quarterbacks faced different competition, but that doesn't change the fact that Watson's numbers are cause for some concern and an area he will look to improve in 2016. 

 

Final Thoughts

This assessment of Watson might sound overly negative, but keep in mind the intent is to highlight the areas for improvement. Both of these aspects of Watson's game are related to decision-making—an area in which quarterbacks are constantly working to learn and develop, well into their pro careers. 

As a true sophomore in 2015, it would have been unreasonable to expect Watson to consistently display the decision-making ability of a veteran NFL quarterback. And even by the end of his 2016 season, pro scouts won't expect perfection in these areas. 

But scouts will be watching closely to see that Watson continues to show growth. 

As long as Watson improves in these areas and continues to ascend as a prospect, he should land near the top of the first round when he chooses to enter the NFL draft. 

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Austin Deculus to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The LSU Tigers added a marquee piece to their 2017 recruiting class on Friday in the form of offensive lineman Austin Deculus.

Nick Krueger of Rivals.com reported the talented tackle's decision to join the Tigers.

“It’s just always been my dream since I was little,” Deculus said about playing for LSU, per Krueger. “The offense that they run suits me well; they just line up and smash you in the mouth every play.”

Deculus is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 45 overall prospect and No. 10 offensive tackle in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also checks in as the fifth-best recruit from Texas.

“[Offensive line coach Jeff] Grimes has a good persona, and what I like about him is that he gives freshmen chances and doesn’t hold them back,” Deculus said, per Krueger. “If he has a guy that he thinks can be an All-American, he’ll give him a chance to shine.”

The Cy-Fair High School standout has displayed all the tools college football programs look for in a budding tackle. His combination of size (6'6", 323 pounds), first-step quickness and raw power gives him the look of a future blindside protector.

Gerry Hamilton of ESPN provided a look at Deculus in action:

Deculus' technique could use more polish, and his movement should become more fluid at the collegiate level. Those concerns are of the minor variety, though. The overall outlook is overwhelmingly positive.

Landon Wright of Today's U passed along comments the coveted prospect made in January about some of the things recruiters told him throughout the process.

"They say that for me being my weight, I don't show it," Deculus said. "I'm at 325 right now and in very good shape. I play with a nastiness that they don't see in many players. I have a very quick first step, and footwork-wise they say I'm one of the best."

Ultimately, he decided LSU gave him the best opportunity to further develop those traits. The Tigers edged out several high-profile programs that showed interest in Deculus, including Michigan, Notre Dame and Alabama, per 247Sports.

LSU needed additional depth along the offensive line, and depending on how quickly Deculus can impress the coaching staff, the path to playing time is reasonably clear. With that said, it's probably still going to take some time before he cracks the starting lineup.

“When I went to the game against Texas A&M last year, the atmosphere sold me as much as anything else,” he said, per Krueger. “Right then, I could see myself playing in Death Valley in front of all those people—and the amount of support from all those people was awesome.”

 

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4-Star OT Austin Deculus Picks LSU: 'Coaching Staff Was Like No Other'

Last month, Cypress, Texas, 4-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus told Bleacher Report that while he would publicly announce his college plans immediately following his team's spring game, he already knew where he was headed.

Friday was the big day, and at the annual Cy-Fair High School spring game, Deculus ended his recruiting process by verbally committing to LSU. Deculus, the nation's No. 10 offensive tackle in the 2017 class, chose LSU over offers from Michigan and Tennessee.

Deculus is LSU's eighth overall commit and second offensive linemen pledge for the 2017 cycle. He currently is the highest-ranked offensive pledge for LSU. He joins fellow Texan, 4-star guard Edward Ingram, the nation's No. 9 guard, in the class. Jeff Grimes, LSU's offensive line coach, had a major part in recruiting both athletes.

"It feels really good to have that school behind my name," Deculus said. "When people talk about me, they'll think about that. I'm happy that I don't have to be stressed out with making a decision anymore."

Deculus earlier in the spring announced a top five of LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers are getting an athletic, 6'6", 323-pound lineman who can play either left tackle or right tackle and is football savvy enough to play guard early if necessary. Deculus plays with solid pad level and lateral agility and is expected to compete for a starting job early in his college career.

Before he heads to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Deculus first will travel to Beaverton, Oregon, in July for The Opening. He qualified for the national competition at The Opening Houston regional.

Deculus showcased his speed and quickness at the regional by running the 40-yard dash in 5.09 seconds. He was the fastest 2017 offensive lineman in the 40 at the camp and one of only three offensive lineman at the event—the others being 2018's Colten Blanton and Casey Phillips—to finish the dash in less than 5.1 seconds.

Deculus, recruited by both Grimes and special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto, reportedly last visited the LSU campus to attend a scrimmage April 9. He also was in Baton Rouge in February for LSU's "Boys From the Boot" junior day. He was originally offered by the Tigers as a sophomore.

"The environment around the campus and game day ... I love how it gets," Deculus said. "The coaching staff was like no other. [Grimes] told me facts; he didn't tell me stuff I knew wasn't true. That's what I like about him. He always gives people chances."

Athletes like Trai Turner, Andrew Whitworth, La'el Collins and Joe Barksdale are recent success stories as LSU offensive lineman alumni who are in the NFL. Deculus is hoping to one day add his name to the long list of Tigers who have had the opportunity to play in the league.

Deculus said he's planning on shutting down his recruiting for good and is excited about helping the Tigers recruit players who will help the program.

"I know some coaches will still try to recruit me," he said. "Even though I'm committed, I know some won't stop. But it feels good to have it come to an end. Going to The Opening and now being able to represent my next school, it feels good."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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