NCAA Football

Penn State Fans Will Get a Glimpse of Hackenberg's Replacement at The Opening

Penn State is looking to return to the top of the Big Ten, but it is a crowded group. The Nittany Lions will have to ride on the shoulders of star quarterback Christian Hackenberg. 

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses which Penn State commits will stand out at The Opening in the video above.

How good will Penn State's 2016 recruiting class be? Check out the video and let us know!

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Ole Miss Fans Get a Glimpse of the Future at The Opening 2015

Ole Miss is one of the most exciting football teams in the country, and Hugh Freeze and Co. are looking to use their talented roster to get back to the top of the SEC.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses who he thinks can step up for Ole Miss at The Opening.

How good will Ole Miss' 2016 recruiting class be? Check out the video and let us know!

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Michigan State QB Commit Will Continue Spartans' Strong Showings at Elite 11

The Michigan State Spartans have a long history of great quarterbacks. The tradition continues with Messiah DeWeaver. The signal-caller will be at The Opening in Oregon.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down DeWeaver's game in the video above.

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Oregon Commits Need to Recruit Top Target Nigel Knott at the Opening

The Oregon Ducks have done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail over the years. What will they do in the 2016 recruiting cycle to keep this trend going? 

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder answers that question and more in the video above. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Commits Need to Recruit Top Target Nigel Knott at The Opening

The Oregon Ducks have done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail over the years. What will they do in the 2016 recruiting cycle to keep this trend going? Watch as Bleacher ...

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8 Most Underpaid Coaches in College Football

Prior to the 2001 season, no college football coach made more than $1 million a year. Now, more than half of the 128 coaches in FBS make seven figures, and plenty are far above that threshold.

The massive increase in revenue schools collect from TV deals, merchandise and ticket sales has made it possible for college coaches to cash in, but some seem grossly underpaid compared to their overpaid counterparts.

Several underpaid coaches have garnered contract extensions this offseason, such as Oregon's Mark Helfrich (from $2 million to $3.5 million per year), Mississippi State's Dan Mullen (from $3 million to $4.275 million) Ohio State's Urban Meyer (from $4.5 million to $6.5 million per year), but even with those big boosts, plenty of coaches aren't making nearly as much as you'd expected.

Here are eight of the most glaring examples of underpaid college football coaches, listed alphabetically.

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Michigan Football: Who Is MVP of Wolverines' 2016 Recruiting so Far?

Jim Harbaugh’s tactics have grabbed headlines upon headlines, but don’t forget about the other guys who helped the first-year Michigan Wolverines coach string together the No. 8-ranked class in the nation.

Due to the the efforts of defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley and passing coordinator Jedd Fisch, Harbaugh’s upcoming haul may end up being better than initially anticipated. 

Along with tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh, secondary coaches Mike Zordich and Greg Jackson have also assisted with offers, visits and communications. Their contributions have reflected in Michigan’s growing 20-man pod. 

Sure, Jim Harbaugh pulled off a nearly miraculous eight-man swing this past national signing day. He deserves a few pats on the back. But it was guys such as Greg Mattison, the defensive coordinator under former coach Brady Hoke, who helped keep things from falling apart during the transition phase from late December and into January.

Now the D-line coach, Mattison has the Wolverines in line to land Rashan Gary, the No. 1-ranked player of the cycle, and he has given them a chance to secure a few more before next national signing day.

It’d be easy to tab Jim Harbaugh as the No. 1 recruiting MVP based on his immediate overall impact on the program, but Michigan has greatly benefited from others with lesser-publicized roles, such as recruiting coordinator Chris Partridge, the former Paramus Catholic coach who brings youth, energy and important connections to Ann Arbor.

Plus, he’s another link to Gary, one of the most sought-after defensive tackles in years.

According to 247Sports, Wheatley ranks as Michigan’s best recruiter, coming in at No. 10 in the nation and No. 3 in the Big Ten. His position on the board is based upon several factors, but it boils down to points for players—the higher the player is rated, the higher the composite score, which in turn then funnels to the coach’s score.

Wheatley is credited for getting his son, 4-star tight end Tyrone Jr., and 3-star running back Karan Higdon to sign with the 2015 class. He’s also credited for getting 4-star offensive guard Michael Onwenu and 4-star running back Matt Falcon to pledge to the Wolverines’ 2016 class.

On average, Wheatley scores recruits with a rating of 87 or better, which qualifies him for MVP status. But there is another way to view who’s the most valuable, and that angle involves factoring in need, time, competition and method of recruiting—such as picking up a kid or six on the fly at a satellite camp.

All of those factors, plus momentum, will influence the final verdict as this piece takes a look at the rest of the efforts put forth by Harbaugh’s staff.

 

Greg Mattison

No. 26 nationally, No. 10 in the Big Ten

Along with Partridge, Mattison is Michigan’s most important recruiter at the moment. Really, the pair of coaches is the most important in the country, as it appears to have the best chance of securing the 6’4”, 311-pound blue chip that resides in New Jersey.

If successful, Mattison and Partridge might as well crown themselves—they’ll be it. Case closed. They get Rashan Gary, they get to call themselves the Wolverines’ best recruiter. That’s how it goes. As of now, Partridge isn’t ranked by 247Sports. But in all likelihood, that will soon change.

Nearly two years ago, Mattison was partly responsible for acquiring Jabrill Peppers, a 5-star phenom who was widely considered the best athlete of the 2014 class. As for this cycle, Mattison has all but sealed the deal with 4-star offensive tackle Ben Bredeson, 4-star defensive end Ron Johnson and 3-star athlete David Reese, giving him an average player rating of 91.98 for 2016.

That mark, of course, will gain a few points if and when he gets Gary to commit to the Wolverines. Then it’ll be on to the moment of truth: Making sure they all sign in February.

Consistently one of the best in the nation, Mattison certainly deserves consideration as Michigan’s No. 1 recruiter. There aren’t many coaches who possess Mattison’s combination of personality and approachability; his results speak for themselves.

 

Tim Drevno

No. 36 nationally, No. 14 in the Big Ten

Not quite in shambles but far from mint condition, Michigan’s offensive line has long been the topic of heated discussion. As it turned out, Drevno was the lucky man who inherited one of the most underachieving units in all of college football. Well, he didn’t only inherit the thing, he’s tasked with getting it on the road.

Progress isn’t absent up front; it just hasn’t been overly visible up to this point. Despite being split into mixed squads, the line, as a whole, didn’t appear to be in too bad condition during the spring game in April. There was certainly something there. Drevno will find out this fall as he continues to build what could be Michigan’s best OL class ever.

When it comes to team needs, Drevno wasted little time in sinking his hooks into the best available options in the country, one of which was Bredeson. A team effort on the part of Drevno and Mattison helped Michigan charm a yes from the 6’5”, 293-pound Wisconsin prep standout.

Add in 4-star offensive tackle Devery Hamilton of Baltimore and 4-star quarterback Zach Gentry of New Mexico, and Drevno has quite the resume for 2016. Considering that he’s uprooted from the Pac-12 and essentially starting from scratch, Harbaugh’s longtime friend and colleague has certainly pulled his weight on the trails.

 

D.J. Durkin

No. 83 nationally, No. 26 in the Big Ten

In 2013, ESPN Recruiting Nation tabbed Mattison as the No. 1 recruiter in college football. The year prior, Durkin won the honor while with the Florida Gators. Two of the best recruiters, plus “two of the best defensive coordinators in the country” per senior linebacker Joe Bolden, gives the Wolverines a strategic advantage.

Thus far, Durkin has maintained par by getting four players to commit to Michigan’s upcoming class: 3-star athlete Rashad Weaver (formerly a 2-star defensive end), 3-star cornerback Antwaine Richardson, 3-star safety Devin Gil, who flipped from Miami (Fla.), and 2-star safety Josh Metellus—and each of their commitments were products of Harbaugh’s “Swarm Tour,” giving Durkin a little more to brag about than some of his contemporaries.

Judging by sheer volume alone, there is a strong MVP case for Durkin, one of the most active talent-seekers on Harbaugh’s staff.

 

Jedd Fisch 

No. 34 nationally, No. 13 in the Big Ten

As the passing-game coordinator, Fisch will always be heavily involved in courting quarterbacks, the position otherwise known as the essence of coach Jim Harbaugh’s game plan. One quick look at Harbaugh’s past shows one thing: The better the quarterback, the better the team—see San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick and former Stanford star Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts for further proof of Harbaugh’s influence.

As for Fisch, he’s been around the NFL and collegiate game since 1999 and knows how to formulate passing schemes, execute them on game day and how to identify talent. Given his resume, he’ll likely have similar success at Michigan with Jim Harbaugh.

Thus far, Fisch has helped Harbaugh reel in a pair of big-armed pro-stylers—4-star Zach Gentry, who joins the Wolverines this fall, and 4-star Brandon Peters, who’s committed to the 2016 class; he’s also responsible for piling 4-star all-purpose back Chris Evans and 3-star Kiante Enis into the next class. The pair was offered shortly after impressing during Harbaugh’s satellite stop at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis.

Along with Drevno, Fisch is in the midst of an aggressive battle for 5-star wide receiver Dylan Crawford, a 6’1”, 175-pounder who ranks No. 80 in his class and holds offers from Arizona State, UCLA and USC, among others. He’s nabbed quality athletes so far, but getting Crawford would certainly improve Fisch’s stock.

 

MVP Time

Having four years at Michigan—this time around—gives Mattison an advantage over the rest of Michigan’s staff, so the MVP award will go to the staff member who’s done the most since Jim Harbaugh took over on Dec. 30.

Mattison is one of those guys, there’s no denying that. He's been one of the most active members of Harbaugh's staff. But he’s not the MVP. Not until Gary pledges to Michigan, and Gary’s college decision won’t be known until this fall.

Mattison has to wait.

So for the time being, the MVP of Michigan recruiting is Drevno, who has padded his six-month resume with pledges from four 4-star recruits and three of Michigan’s top four O-liners for 2016. The Wolverines are on the brink of signing their best OL haul in history.

That's saying something, and it's certainly worthy of a writer-manufactured MVP award. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Recruiting information was obtained from 247Sports.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Elite 11 2015: Power Ranking This Year's Finalists

Heralded high school quarterbacks from across America make their way to Beaverton, Oregon, on July 6 for Elite 11 finals, commencing a weeklong competition at Nike's world headquarters.

Days of individualized drills are followed by team-oriented activities at The Opening, highlighted by a star-studded seven-on-seven tournament. These passers join an impressive collection of Elite 11 alumni that include eventual No. 1 NFL draft picks Matthew Stafford, Jameis Winston and Andrew Luck.

The group of 18 rising seniors features several collegiate commitments who carry varied grades from national recruiting analysts into the event. We set star ratings aside and ranked each Elite 11 finalist based on film study and in-person assessment, adding commentary from camp coaches and experts.

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The Opening: Ohio State Has Opportunity to Add Elite DBs to Star-Studded Class

Ohio State won the national championship in 2015, and it is continuing its success on the recruiting trail by landing some top recruits.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives his expectations for Ohio State's 2016 targets.

How good will the Buckeyes' 2016 recruiting class be? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 College Football Players Who Will Reach Elite Status in 2015

With the amount of coverage that college football gets nowadays, it's hard to imagine there are potential superstars who go unnoticed heading into a season. But every year, it happens, and before you know it, a relative unknown player has suddenly risen to elite status.

At this time last year, players like Trevone Boykin, Rashard Higgins, Gerod Holliman and Samaje Perine weren't well-known from a national perspective, but by the end of 2014 they'd all become (college football) household names.

Who will follow suit this year?

This takes a bit of speculation of projection to come up with a list of players who will take their games to the next level in 2015. They could have had good years in the past but just not really good ones, or they've been biding their time and waiting for the opportunity to shine.

We used a few criteria to make our selections. For one, they can't be blue-chip recruits set to make their debuts, because the recruiting trail has already shined a bright light on them. They also cannot have made their league's all-conference team in the past two seasons, since returning all-league selections tend to head into the following year with plenty of notoriety.

With that in mind, here are our picks for this year's crop of college football players who will join the ranks of the elite.

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Florida Football: Gators' Most Important Players at Each Position

In a quick two months, the Florida Gators will open up their season against New Mexico State on September 5 in Gainesville. 

This season will mark the beginning of the Jim McElwain era in Gainesville, and Florida fans are anxiously awaiting the debut of the new-look Gators after several years of disappointment under former head coach Will Muschamp.

However, McElwain won't be the only new face on the field for the Gators this season. They return some key players on both sides of the ball, but a few freshmen and transfers are sure to have an impact this season as well. 

It might not be the most talented player at each position that proves to be the most important for Florida.

Rather, a player's importance also depends on his opportunity this fall and how much his performance may affect the team's success this season.

Let's take a look at the most crucial players at each position for the Florida Gators in the 2015 season. 

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Power Ranking Auburn's 2015 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

It's finally July, meaning Auburn fans only have to flip their calendars two more times before the Tigers return to action.

The long offseason is starting to wind down with SEC Media Days right around the corner, and plenty of preseason picks and projections are popping up all over the Internet and the newsstands. Auburn has been picked to be anywhere from a College Football Playoff finalist all the way to a middle-of-the-road team in the SEC West this season.

One of the biggest factors in the wide variety of opinions on these Tigers is their schedule, which is filled with intriguing tests both at home and away against conference competition and a Power Five opponent at a neutral site.

Which game is the toughest on Auburn's schedule this season? How do you rank the trio of road games inside the division? Here is a look at the Tigers' 2015 slate of games from easiest to toughest, chosen by opponent strength, venue and place on the calendar.

Sound off on these rankings in the comments below, Auburn fans, and tell us which 2015 game you think will be tougher than expected.

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What's the Best College Football Team of the 21st Century?

The 21st century has given us some spectacular teams that were crowned national champions but also great teams that came so close to the prize.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee join Stephen Nelson to debate which is the best team from the era.

Who do you think was the best team of the 2000s? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Baylor and TCU Are Hijacking Recruiting in the State of Texas

It's well established that Texas head coach Charlie Strong has his work cut out for him in rebuilding the Longhorns on the field. As it turns out, though, he's in a separate battle with 2015 preseason Big 12 favorites Baylor and TCU on the recruiting trail. 

And it doesn't look like that battle will end anytime soon, either. 

The Bears and Horned Frogs picked up huge quarterback commitments for the class of 2017 late last month. Baylor received a verbal pledge June 24 from 4-star dual-threat quarterback Kellen Mond.

Two days later, TCU got a commitment from 5-star dual-threat quarterback Shawn Robinson

Mond is the No. 24 player in Texas and the No. 6 ranked dual-threat quarterback, while Robinson is the No. 1 overall player in Texas and at his position. Granted, these are nonbinding commits; players can change their mind at any time, and a lot can happen between now and National Signing Day on Feb. 1, 2017. 

But Baylor and TCU clearly aren't content to just enjoy the ride or give up their place atop the Big 12 mountain when Texas and Oklahoma turn things around. No, no—these two programs are very much keeping the pressure on the Longhorns and Sooners on the recruiting trail.

Over the past few years, the state of Texas has become less of of a Big 12 stronghold in recruiting and more of an open-season hotbed that every Power Five conference has utilized. This threatens the Big 12's ability to put teams in the College Football Playoff more than anything else. However, as TCU and Baylor are showing, Texas and Oklahoma aren't the only Big 12 programs that can make an impact in Texas recruiting. 

Quality matters more than quantity in recruiting this time of year, but TCU and Baylor have an edge in both categories for the 2016 class. Just three of the 31 total verbals Baylor and TCU have for 2016 and '17 are from outside the state of Texas. 

So why the surge? 

Baylor has been steadily growing its recruiting prowess during the last few years under head coach Art Briles. But what has really helped is Baylor's investment in top-notch facilities, namely McLane Stadium. In an interview with Colt Barber of 247Sports, Mond said Baylor's facilities were the best he had come across: 

In June alone, Mond has been on campus at Baylor, Auburn, Clemson and Texas A&M, not to mention multiple trips to Austin to see the University of Texas and other programs throughout. But when it came down to it, the 80, 90 and 100,000 seat stadiums in the cities of each of those programs weren’t what impressed him the most.

...

“I would probably say the stadium and the locker room,” Mond said. “This summer I visited a lot of stadiums and a lot of schools and there are a lot of schools that have bigger stadiums, but not nicer.”

That's high praise coming from Mond. Recruits commit to schools for a variety of reasons, but there's no doubt facilities play a role. Baylor's investment in football, beyond Briles, has been something to see. 

As for TCU, the Horned Frogs' new high-powered offense isn't just paying dividends on the scoreboard and stat sheet. Robinson's recruiter was co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie, the man responsible for the eye-opening development of current quarterback Trevone Boykin. 

"Since my first visit to TCU I knew in the back of my head it was the place for me," Robinson told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. "Just the relationship I built with the staff and the family atmosphere."

When you put it all together, Baylor and TCU are positioning themselves for playoff runs, now and in the future. With Baylor and TCU as early playoff favorites in the Big 12, recruits like Mond are thinking about national championships—and it's no longer a long shot like it used to be.   

Is this bad news for programs such as Texas and Oklahoma? Sort of. None of this is to say that Texas or Oklahoma can't finish strong. In fact, that's how the Longhorns finished the '15 class, and that's more of Strong's style anyway. 

But these clearly aren't the days when the Longhorns or Sooners automatically get any blue-chip player from Texas they want. Baylor and TCU, two programs on the rise, are proving they don't plan on having short-lived success. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dillon Sterling-Cole: The QB Recruit Who Could Blow Up at The Opening

With every football thrown and every drill completed, Houston's Dillon Sterling-Cole used the same motivational tactic to push him.

"I want to show everyone what they're missing," he said.

Since the beginning of the spring, Sterling-Cole has gone from a virtual unknown once ranked as the nation's No. 27 dual-threat quarterback to one of the most sought-after pro-style prospects in the 2016 class.

Now a 4-star and ranked No. 9 at his position, Sterling-Cole will prepare to further silence his critics as he travels to Beaverton, Oregon, for The Opening and the Elite 11 finals next week.

"I think about it every day," Sterling-Cole said. "How things could blow up so fast for me...it just amazes me."

Sterling-Cole remembers not long ago when he couldn't get a coach to pay attention to him. There was a time when the 6'2 ½", 183-pound Westfield High School gunslinger couldn't garner attention at a local camp, let alone be in discussion for a major scholarship. Even as the son of a former Texas A&M standout who went on to play professionally, Sterling-Cole was overlooked.

Now, as he prepares for what is dubbed "Football Heaven," Sterling-Cole will make the trip to Oregon with 14 reported offers, a top-eight list of schools to choose from and, more importantly, the respect of his peers, the Elite 11 coaches and much of the recruiting world.

"It's been kind of frustrating for him trying to prove himself," said Marques Teel, Sterling-Cole's stepfather and mentor. "He always seemed to start behind the 8-ball in getting ahead. He was working out in the back yard; he wasn't really venturing out to many camps at first. He wanted to show he could compete, and now he wants to show he's a top-tier quarterback."

Of the 18 quarterbacks competing next week, Sterling-Cole arguably has seen the greatest ascension since the start of the spring. Roughly two months ago, he barely cracked the top 1,000 nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's now No. 219 overall. 

One thing the Elite 11 coaching staff loves to reiterate is how stars and rankings are irrelevant in their selection of athletes for their national event. Brian Stumpf, vice president of football events for Student Sports and one of the leaders for both the Elite 11 and The Opening, said Sterling-Cole had a certain "it factor" about him when the staff watched his film. Getting him to the Elite 11 Dallas regional in March was a must.

"I think all of our guys, especially [Elite 11 head coach] Trent [Dilfer], liked his film a lot more than some of the early recruiting rankings around the time of the Dallas camp," Stumpf said. "He only came in with a few offers, but I think we saw him as a lead dog coming in."

Sterling-Cole not only won MVP honors at the regional but also stood tall against several Power Five-bound quarterbacks in attendance, including Shane Buechele (Texas commit), Tristen Wallace (Ohio State), Jett Duffey (Texas Tech), Nick Starkel (Oklahoma State), Jalen Hurts (Alabama) and a host of others.

What the Elite 11 staff also liked about him was that he managed to impress while keeping a steady demeanor and a quiet-but-confident attitude. He kept a poker face throughout the event, whether he connected on a long bomb or missed on a short route. Nothing seemed to faze him.

Sterling-Cole addressed the event in businesslike fashion, and he's done the same with his recruiting process. Earlier this month he announced a top eight of Houston, Mississippi State, Florida, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Boise State, UCLA and Washington. He even had a little fun with those following his process at the Elite 11 semifinals in Los Angeles regarding his top eight.

Selling Sterling-Cole's greatness is something that comes easily to Westfield teammate Tyrie Cleveland, a 4-star receiver. Cleveland teamed up for roughly half of Sterling-Cole's offensive production for the 2014 season (2,206 passing yards, 24 touchdowns) with 53 catches for 1,105 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's best quarterback in the country," Cleveland said. "He separates himself from most quarterbacks. He's got the height, the weight and the skill set. He loves the game of football, and he's still learning. He can do it all."

Sterling-Cole participated in the Elite 11 semifinals in Los Angeles last month and put on a consistent showing. Stumpf said you could notice a change in Sterling-Cole, perhaps more mentally than physically, during his 7-on-7 performance.

"He probably didn't have a wow moment like a few others," Stumpf said, "but you could see a pretty quiet kid starting to open up and feel more comfortable in the setting and around his peers."

Those are the guys to watch out for when it's time for finals competition. They are usually the athletes who sneak up on everybody when nobody is paying attention. That's how Sterling-Cole won the Elite 11 Dallas regional.

He called his upcoming trip to Oregon "a business trip" and said he's excited about his shot at proving that he's among the elite quarterbacks.

"He has a chip on his shoulder," Teel said. "Winning in Dallas motivated him a whole lot. It's kept him working. That's what I like about him. He's never lost focus on what he's trying to do as far as achieving his goals go.

Cleveland added: "He's so competitive. He wants to win, and his work ethic is amazing. He's never gonna settle for less. You want to keep playing for him because you know he's going to keep pushing and staying positive."

While in Oregon, Sterling-Cole said he's considering trimming his top eight to a top five. He doesn't let the pressures of recruiting bother him, but he is enjoying the fact that he's a topic of discussion with followers of several schools.

Sterling-Cole's latest visit came a couple of weeks ago at Florida. Texas A&M always has been a player in the process, as his father is Chris Cole, a former receiver for the Denver Broncos who played college ball for the Aggies. And then, there's the local crowd that hopes he stays home and attends Houston.

Finding a college that fits is a primary goal for Sterling-Cole. Winning the Elite 11 would put an exclamation point on an outstanding run for a player on a mission to permanently hush his critics.

"I still feel like I have to prove a point to everybody," Sterling-Cole said. "I went into the [Elite 11 regional] with no hype surrounding my name. Being able to get invited was great, but it's not enough. I'm going to Oregon to prove to myself that I'm better than some of the big-time names out there. I know it would really spark my confidence."

 

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Predicting Every Team's 2015 MVP

The SEC is loaded with stars in 2015, many of whom are absolutely vital to their team's success.

But just because there's plenty of star power on teams across the conference doesn't exactly mean that those stars are going to be their team's most valuable player.

The MVP of a team is someone who is vital to its success, whether they light up the stat sheet or not.

Who will be the MVP of each team in the SEC in 2015? Our picks, based on talent, scheme and depth, are in this slideshow.

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Ohio State and Cardale Jones' Lasting Impression on Alabama DC Kirby Smart

When the Sugar Bowl matchup between Ohio State and Alabama kicked off, Kirby Smart's Crimson Tide defense wasn't ready for Cardale Jones and a "buzz saw" Buckeyes offense.

That much became clear the moment Ohio State took the field. On their first offensive drive of the game, the Buckeyes netted runs of 12, 13 and 54 yards against the vaunted Alabama defense, setting up a red-zone opportunity that eventually led to a field goal.

Urban Meyer's offense continued to chew up yards against the nation's top-ranked team, but that wasn't enough to prevent Alabama from building a 21-6 lead midway through the second quarter. But even with that two-score lead, Smart knew his Alabama defense was in a world of trouble.

In a radio interview with Atlanta's 680 the Fan on Monday (h/t Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone), Smart reflected on the Tide's 42-35 season-ending loss to the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff Semifinals.

"I knew early," Smart said. "We were leading, but we weren’t leading. We had not slowed them down. We had two red area stops, which were six points, could have been 14. We had a turnover, we stripped the ball. We had not slowed them down, and I’m thinking this could be 21 but it’s six."

It didn't take long for the Buckeyes to catch up. Jones led a Buckeyes surge to close out the second quarter, orchestrating two touchdown drives of 71 and 77 yards to make it a 21-20 game at the break. Despite a costly pair of turnovers and two drives stalling inside the 5-yard line, Ohio State had amassed an incredible 348 yards of total offense through 30 minutes of game action.

"They score right before the half, which we thought was deadly," Smart said. "They had a good two-minute drive and scored, and I knew we were in trouble."

Ohio State's offense picked up in the second half right where it left off in the first. On the opening drive of the second half, it only took the Buckeyes a little over two minutes to cover 75 yards—a touchdown drive that would give them a lead they would never surrender. The drive was capped by a perfectly run route by Devin Smith, who burnt the Alabama defense deep before hauling in a perfectly placed 47-yard pass from Jones.

Alabama didn't expect Jones to beat them so consistently.

After the game, Smart asked three of his top defenders—Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams—where the Tide had gone wrong.

"All three of them said they did not respect the quarterback," Smart said, as he recalled the conversation. "They heard from everybody that he was a third-string quarterback. How can a third-string quarterback beat Alabama?"

It's not as hard as one would imagine when that third-string quarterback has first-round NFL Draft potential.

Jones showcased that potential in a big way against the Tide. He was efficient, completing 60 percent of his passes after missing on his first five targets. He threw for 243 yards and a touchdown and added 43 tough, hard-nosed yards on the ground as well.

"[The Coaching Staff] didn’t promote [Jones] enough and they didn’t value his talents enough," Smart said. "We had not seen him run the ball—and not a runner like Blake (Sims) and not a runner like their other guy, just big.

"This guy was just lumbering and big and ran through arm tackles, even on our big, physical defense."

That Jones was entering the game as a relative unknown wasn't a secret, though. The Crimson Tide had plenty of time to scout the Buckeyes' other playmakers, such as Smith and Ezekiel Elliott, but they underestimated their abilities as well.

"I’m faulting us because we didn’t do a good enough job selling our kids," Smart said. What [the Buckeyes] did, they brought an unbelievable running back to the forefront, because they weren’t trying to run the quarterback as much. They had three great wideouts who nobody ever saw because the quarterbacks that were there didn’t have great throwing skills. That kid, No. 9, I don’t remember his name, he’s a great player. A great player. He’s super fast."

After the Buckeyes blew past Alabama, they went on to beat Oregon in Arlington, Texas, to claim the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship.

With the 2015 season nearing, both Ohio State and Alabama are shaping up as contenders for this year's playoff. And if the stars align and pair these two teams against each other again, it's safe to bet Smart and the Crimson Tide defense will take the Buckeyes a bit more seriously.

 

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Why a Move to Wide Receiver Makes the Most Sense for Braxton Miller

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Urban Meyer adamantly claimed at a May press conference that Braxton Miller would be returning to Ohio State this fall, the speculation surrounding the Buckeyes quarterback seemed to finally be coming to an end.

But with a little less than two months to go until the start of the 2015 season, it now appears that Miller's future will be revealed with a bang, and not a whimper.

After posting on Twitter that he had just undergone a successful checkup with Dr. James Andrews and physical therapist Kevin Wilk, Miller revealed to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch that he'll publicly comment on his future for the first time since tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder as soon as next week.

Per May: "In response to a question from the Dispatch about what it means for his future, Miller wrote back that he expects to announce his immediate plans next week."

It remains unclear what form Miller's announcement will come in and, more importantly, what the content of that message will be. But if the two-time Big Ten MVP is just sticking with the status quo and preparing to take part in an unprecedented quarterback competition alongside Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, an "announcement" would seem strange, which is why speculation is once again surrounding Miller's name.

As opposed to last winter, however, it's probably too late for Miller to realistically take advantage of his ability as a graduate transfer and spend the 2015 season playing for another school. Furthermore, ESPN.com's Joe Schad reported on Thursday that Miller will indeed be staying at Ohio State.

But what about a move to a different position?

That's intriguing—and would very well warrant an announcement from the Huber Heights, Ohio, native.

Fantasy position switches are nothing new when it comes to Miller, who fans have often envisioned playing a spot other than quarterback, thanks to his dynamic ability as a runner. The possibility of him playing either wide receiver or running back in Meyer's spread offense only seemed to gain momentum last season, when it was revealed the Buckeyes have two other viable options at quarterback in Barrett and Jones.

"All of our conversations are about health of the athlete. I just want to see him get healthy," Meyer said in March when it was suggested to him that Miller could potentially play a new position. "To sit there and start saying how about safety or cornerback or H-back or receiver? No, we haven't had that conversation."

The three-time national champion head coach, however, went on to add: "I think he's athletic enough to."

Not many would debate Meyer on that point, given that Miller has rushed for 3,054 yards and 32 touchdowns over the course of the first three seasons of his college career. Meyer may not have had a conversation with Miller about a position change back in March, but three months have since passed and the reality is that he's still behind Barrett and Jones when it comes to both his health and momentum, having not played a down of football for 18 months.

Factor in that a position switch would give Miller the best chance at securing an NFL career and it makes even more sense that the 6'2", 215-pounder would consider no longer being a signal-caller. Miller has shown bright spots as a passer, but as a player he's not unlike former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who recently had to make the move to wide receiver in order to prolong his professional career.

Converting to wideout could similarly behoove Miller, even though his skill set would appear best suited for a transition to running back. But when you take into account the presence of Heisman front-runner Ezekiel Elliott, the ability to get as many as five wideouts on the field at a time and Miller's injury history, wide receiver would appear to be his best bet—and would also allow him to attempt the occasional rush, or even pass.

If Miller can catch—maybe the biggest "if" in all of this—it's not hard to envision a world where Meyer puts his speed to use in the passing game, most likely as a downfield threat. There simply aren't many players in college football faster than Miller, who has run a reported 4.32 40-yard dash, and it wouldn't take much time to learn how to run routes that would require him to do little more than run in a straight line.

Four recruiting cycles into the Meyer era, Ohio State has no shortage of talented wideouts already on its roster. But if the Buckeyes head coach has shown one thing, it's that he'll always have a place for a player with speed like Miller's.

And with the passing prowess that Barrett and Jones displayed in his absence, that place may simply no longer be at quarterback. Having passed on the NFL (twice) and the opportunity to transfer almost anywhere else in the country, Miller will do anything it takes to get on the field this fall and boost his draft stock, even if it means stepping outside of his comfort zone.

It certainly remains possible that Miller will stay the course, give the quarterback competition his best shot and go from there. After all, when asked about his signal-caller situation at his annual youth camp on Wednesday, Meyer included Miller in the conversation, stating that the fifth-year senior is close to full strength.

But soon enough, we'll have answers—answers that many of us have been seeking for almost a year. In one way or another, however, next week's announcement will make an impact—something that Miller's no stranger to doing.

Whether he'll make that impact throwing passes or catching them in 2015 remains to be seen.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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The Commitment: Megastar Recruit Pulls 16,000-lb Bus to Announce College Choice

The decision is here.

Parker Boudreaux—the 2016 recruit with the most Division I offers—had narrowed down his decision to Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Georgia Southern. Where will the 4-star offensive lineman continue his football career?

Watch as Boudreaux reveals his decision in this exclusive B/R video, which includes a 16,000-pound bus.

 

Personalized Song by Ghetty 

Music Courtesy of Entertainment One Music
Artist: Zardonic
Song: Bring it on
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Meet the Top Uncommitted QBs at 2015 Elite 11

For college coaches who are searching for an elite passer in the 2016 cycle, the pickings are slim.

Illustrating that is the fact that only two of the passers who will make the trek out to Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, next week for the Elite 11 remain uncommitted.

However, between 4-star dual threat Jawon Pass and 4-star pro-style standout Dillon Sterling-Cole, coaches are still scrambling to land two quarterbacks who have as much upside as any signal-callers in the 2016 cycle.

What is the next step for both players in their recruitments, and what makes them special talents in the making?

Find out in this breakdown of the top uncommitted quarterbacks who will compete in the 2015 Elite 11.

 

Jawon Pass

When it comes to passers who possess the potential to be freakish talents in college, Pass is among the few quarterbacks who fit the bill in this cycle.

Blessed with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash on a 6’5”, 220-pound frame, Pass has elicited comparisons to former Heisman Trophy winner and current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

As a junior, the U.S. Army All-American threw for 2,197 yards with 23 touchdowns while adding another 404 yards and 11 scores on the ground.

Among the schools in the running for the Peach State standout are Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Pass plans to make his commitment on July 16—less than a week after he returns from Oregon.

Bartow notes that a visit to Alabama on July 14-15 is a possibility.

His older brother, Khane, was a 3-star safety in the 2015 class who signed with Louisville in February.

As Barton Simmons of 247Sports notes, Pass will head to Oregon with the goal of showing why he deserves to regain his status as a 5-star prospect.

Regardless of what happens this week, Pass is a prospect with a tremendous amount of upside moving forward.

 

Dillon Sterling-Cole

One of the biggest revelations of the spring camp circuit has been the rise of Sterling-Cole.

As noted by Bleacher Report’s Damon Sayles, Sterling-Cole punched his ticket to The Opening with an MVP performance at a loaded Dallas Nike Opening Regional camp.

Sterling-Cole acknowledged that he entered the regional camp in Dallas with motivation to make a name for himself.

"[Being regional MVP] means a lot,” Sterling-Cole told Sayles. “It's a great opportunity for me to represent my school and where I come from," he said. "I felt like I had to come out and prove a lot. With my background, I didn't come with the most hype around my name.”

Over the last two seasons, Sterling-Cole has combined to rack up more than 5,300 yards of total offense with 65 touchdowns (50 passing and 15 rushing).

The Houston, Texas, native is the son of former Texas A&M and Denver Broncos receiver Chris Cole.

The Aggies are one of eight schools still in the running for the 6’2”, 183-pounder, joining Arizona State, Boise State, Florida, Houston, Mississippi State, UCLA and Washington, according to Brian Perroni of 247Sports.

While he has connections to the Texas A&M program, it’s Florida that appears to be gaining traction in his recruitment, as evidenced by the recent shift in his Crystal Ball page.

His recruitment could move later into the summer and even into the fall after he cancelled plans to announce at The Opening, as noted by GatorBait’s Luke Stampini.

 

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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