NCAA Football

4-Star TE and Ex-UNC Commit Chris Clark Set to Visit Michigan, Ohio State

Chris Clark, a coveted 2015 tight end prospect from Connecticut, has big plans for the upcoming weekend. The 4-star recruit is expected to spend time on campus at Ohio State and Michigan, according to ESPN reporter Tom VanHaaren:

The former North Carolina commit received offers from both teams following a junior season that featured 39 receptions for 417 yards and six touchdowns. He backed off his pledge to the Tar Heels last weekend, less than a month after his initial pledge.

Clark's decision to announce a commitment to UNC while his recruitment was really starting to gain momentum puzzled many.

"To a lot of people (the North Carolina commitment is) going to be a big surprise," Clark told 247Sports reporter Steve Wiltfong last month.

The 6'6", 247-pound playmaker also holds offers from Alabama, Penn State, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida, among others. He visited Notre Dame last month.

Clark confirmed he officially backed off the North Carolina pledge Saturday:

He is rated No. 3 nationally among tight ends in 247Sports' composite rankings. Clark is an excellent downfield receiver who displays dominant blocking skills, making him as balanced as any player at the position in this class.

His relationship with Ohio State appears strong, based on recent comments to Cleveland.com reporter Ari Wasserman.

“Coach Meyer and Coach (Tim) Hinton have reiterated to me many times that I am their No. 1 guy they want at my position,” Clark told Wasserman in late February. “It means a lot. Ohio State will definitely be there until the end.”

Michigan's roster is relatively barren when it comes to accomplished tight ends.

Junior A.J. Williams and sophomore Jake Butt are the only players at the position with college receptions, combining for 18 in their respective Wolverines careers.

Clark has the makings of an instant-impact performer at the next level, so it's no surprise Brady Hoke and his staff worked hard to get him to visit Ann Arbor.

The battle for Clark's commitment will be waged nationwide, but this weekend it runs through a pair of Big Ten Conference campuses.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Players Poised to Break out in Week 3 of College Football Spring Games

In many regards, the concept of the spring game is overblown. It is, in effect, a glorified open scrimmage, and some teams opt not to even have one. If the game was really so vital to a team's overall development, that would not be the case.

However, one way spring game has proven useful over the years is in identifying breakout talents. It is the bookend of spring practice—the time of year when players make the most improvement—and a good chance for certain players to showcase how much they have grown.

For proof of this, look no further than spring football season 2013, when Jameis Winston played so well that Clint Trickett transferred from Florida State to West Virginia. He would take that momentum into the offseason, which enabled him to become the player we know today—the national champion and Heisman Trophy winner.

Might the next Winston break out this weekend? Maybe. Probably not, but maybe. There is, however, only one good way to find out.

Here's who we'll be keeping an eye on. 

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7 Spring Practice Position Battles That Are Heating Up

Sometimes, position battles have a way of working themselves out.

Sometimes, one player just outperforms his competition so vastly, so publicly, that coaches have no choice but to name a victor and lock him into a starting role.

Other times, you have what happened last weekend at Clemson. Entering the Orange and White game, the Tigers had a three-way battle to replace record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd in senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and true freshman DeShaun Watson.

All of that changed Saturday. Kelly was pulled from the game after throwing two interceptions and sniping with coaches on the sideline after his team elected to punt on a 4th-and-3 inside the 50. On Monday, Kelly was dismissed from Clemson’s program for what coach Dabo Swinney called in a release “a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program.”

One day later, Swinney named Stoudt the starter over Watson, who missed the game with a cracked collarbone but is expected to contribute this fall regardless.

Not all battles are so easy to resolve. With spring workouts winding to a close this weekend and next, a number of high-profile competitions will stretch into the summer unresolved. Here are seven spring practice position battles that are heating up as spring practice transitions into summer workouts.

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No. 1 OG Recruit Josh Wariboko Decommits from Oklahoma

Oklahoma landed one of its top in-state targets last summer when Josh Wariboko committed to the Sooners. However, the nation's No. 1 junior offensive guard recruit has decided to explore other collegiate options, he revealed to Rivals.com reporter Josh McCuistion on Wednesday.

"I knew I wanted to take some more trips without bringing into question of my integrity or my family's integrity," Wariboko told McCuistion. "I didn't want to say I was committed and take trips, that didn't seem right."

The 6'3 1/2", 330-pound lineman stars at Casady School in Oklahoma City. He was the first 2015 player to pledge to Oklahoma and remained the team's top-rated commit until his departure from the class.

Wariboko initially created a verbal pact with the Sooners in June. Oklahoma was ahead of the crowd during the early stages of this recruiting cycle, but several teams throughout the country extended offers during and after a dominant junior campaign.

Texas, USC, Florida State, LSU and Arkansas are among the programs now clamoring to gain ground in his selection process. Wariboko, rated No. 93 overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, is likely to draw even more offers now that he's officially declared his recruitment re-opened.

He explained part of his motivation to examine various college opportunities is an effort to pair up with his younger brother on the same campus in 2016. Sophomore defensive back Max Wariboko received his first high-level FBS offer from Louisville earlier this week and is expected to be a hot commodity in the 2016 class.

"These 10 months right now to try and find the right place for Max and I," Josh Wariboko told McCuistion. "I want the chance to go through this and to see if my brother and I can find the right place for us."

Oklahoma is left with four players in its 2015 class. Head coach Bob Stoops has secured just one commitment—Texas safety Jamile Johnson—since January.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Recruiting Rule Change Brings Financial Aid Rule Back to Its True Intention

The 2014 recruiting cycle saw the implementation of a new rule that put more power into the hands of the players.

For the first time ever, early enrollees were allowed to sign financial aid agreements (FAA) with schools beginning on Aug. 1 of their senior year. Those agreements allowed unlimited contact between the two parties, allowed schools to comment publicly about prospects and bound schools to prospects.

But it didn't bind prospects to schools. As a result, prospects could sign multiple financial aid agreements. Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone signed agreements with the Vols, Georgia, Florida State and Clemson, according to Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to a new rule interpretation announced on Tuesday by the NCAA following an appeal by the SEC, Georgia, Florida State and Clemson would all be in violation of NCAA rules by publicly commenting on Malone even though he signed agreements with each of them.

As a part of its April meeting, Division I Legislative Council members decided that schools may continue to recruit with relaxed recruiting rules prospects who sign financial aid agreements for mid-year enrollment. But if that prospect does not enroll at the school, the school will be considered in violation of recruiting rules.

The school also must ensure the prospect is already enrolled in all the coursework necessary to graduate from high school at midyear before offering the financial aid agreement.

So essentially, a school could be committing violations that it doesn't know it's committing until after it has already committed them.

Make sense?

On the surface, no. 

The only way a school knew if a player had signed another agreement elsewhere would be if that school had announced it or the prospect not only disclosed that information, but the order in which he signed agreements.

But what this does is bring the rule back to its original intention.

Instead of giving players who plan on finishing their coursework early an incentive, teams were signing players to financial aid agreements in order to lift rules limiting contact and creating a free-for-all in recruiting. 

This wasn't the goal.

Yes, punishing the school retroactively does seem a bit backwards. But it will, at least in theory, reduce the number of financial aid agreements being offered to prospects simply to open an unlimited contact window. Now, the school has to be 100 percent sure the prospect will enroll.

The punishment will have to fit the crime, and with something like this, a slap on the wrist is about as bad as it could get. But it will still serve as a deterrent, which is something that was needed.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.

 


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Oklahoma LB Frank Shannon Reportedly Accused of Sexual Assault

According to a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation report obtained by Jason Kersey of The Oklahomaninside linebacker Frank Shannon, who led Oklahoma with 92 tackles last season, has been accused of sexually assaulting a female student in his off-campus apartment on Jan. 20, 2014.

Kersey provided details from the report:

According to the report, the woman alleges that after a party, she intended to walk home. Shannon offered her a ride, but said he first needed to drop off friends near his apartment.

Shannon allegedly took the woman into his bedroom. According to the complaint, he came up behind her, pulled down her pants and attempted to have sex with her.

The complainant said Shannon became frustrated when she wouldn’t cooperate.

Shannon allegedly asked if she was menstruating, and when she said yes, he went to the bathroom. At that time, she left and met a friend in the parking lot, whom the woman had texted to come get her. The friend called the police.

Shannon was a conspicuous absence from the Sooners' practice last Thursday and spring game on Saturday.

At the time, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he was "not at liberty to discuss" Shannon's absence, adding that the "linebacker position is something that we need to gain some depth there. ... That's a little bit scary for us," per Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World.

According to Kersey, the Norman Police are investigating the allegations but did not have a comment when reached Wednesday. As of Wednesday evening, there was also no record of charges being filed against Shannon with the Cleveland County District Court.

Still, these allegations are serious for obvious reasons, and Shannon is at risk of no longer being part of the program—and that would be the least of his problems. For all intents and purposes, OU might have to operate under the premise of his dismissal or suspension.

Sophomore linebacker Jordan Evans enjoyed a fine performance in the spring game, earning the praise of head coach Bob Stoops, who said he's been "making that improvement all spring" and called him "a really good player," according to the team's official Twitter account.

Evans may now be counted on to start. 

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former USC QB Stephen Garcia: Gamecocks Will Play in SEC Championship Game

South Carolina spring practice is wrapped and who better to break down the biggest stories than former Gamecocks QB Stephen Garcia?

Fifth-year senior QB Dylan Thompson has some huge shoes to fill now that Connor Shaw has left for the NFL. Thompson knows the system, but does he have the skills to lead South Carolina over the hump to reach the SEC Championship game?

The Gamecocks defense will have a brand new look this season after losing some key players, most notably Jadeveon Clowney. Which players will step up on defense?

Stephen Garcia from HuddlePass broke down what to expect from the Gamecocks in 2014 with Adam Lefkoe.

 

Highlights courtesy XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football: QB Jeff Driskel Is Perfect Fit for New OC Kurt Roper's Offense

The Florida spring game is in the books, and the Gators looked sharp. Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel looked 100 percent after a season-ending injury in 2013, completing 19 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown in the scrimmage.

Why does Driskel fit so well with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper? Who should be on your radar going into the fall? Which freshmen early enrollees could see playing time right away for the Gators?

Watch as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee answers these questions and hits on coach Will Muschamp's job security going forward.

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Offseason Arrests Shouldn't Be an Indictment of the Program

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is having one of those kinds of offseasons.

No, not one littered with massive roster turnover, although the departure of superstar quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel certainly kept him busy during spring practice.

Off the field, the Aggies have been bitten big-time by the arrest bug.

That trend continued on Wednesday when three more Aggie arrests came to light. According to Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle, defensive end Gavin Stansbury was arrested last week and charged with assault for an incident on March 16 when he allegedly poured a beer on a Rice University student's head and then punched him in the eye. He was suspended from the program following the arrest but has been reinstated.

Two more Aggies, safety Howard Matthews and wide receiver Ed Pope, were booked on April 10 for failure to appear in court. The two players were not suspended by head coach Kevin Sumlin.

It was the continuation of a trend in College Station. 

Wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones was arrested earlier his month for disorderly conduct, quarterback Kenny Hill was booked late last month for public intoxication (after taking an early-morning nap on top of a planter full of rocks in front of a bar), linebacker Darian Claiborne was booked for a noise violation in late February, defensive lineman Isaiah Golden was booked for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana and Claiborne was suspended for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl for possession of marijuana

The school announced on Wednesday that Claiborne, Hill and Golden have since been reinstated to the team, per Andrea Salazar of the Bryan-College Station Eagle).

"Kenny Hill, Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden have been released back to the football team but they still have disciplinary obligations to fulfill," associate athletic director for media relations Alan Cannon said in the statement, via Salazar.

Should the rash of arrests reflect poorly on the program?

No, it's just a bad offseason in College Station.

Assault and possession charges are not excusable, especially if they're part of a pattern of bad behavior—as is the case with Claiborne.

But a kid having too much to drink isn't something that Sumlin, or any head coach, can control. It happens at every program, every weekend. It just doesn't always result in that player passing out on a planter.

A player getting a little heated in front of cops isn't ideal, but it happens. College students with their windows down and their systems up happens every night of the week. Failure to appear in court is just laziness, plain and simple.

Getting booked because of those things is a poor reflection of those individuals, not the program.

Sumlin doesn't have a program that's out of control, he has a program that has some—some—kids making bad decisions; and those decisions all seem to be coming in the same offseason.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 

 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: What Alabama Transfer, Chad Lindsay, Would Mean to Wolverines

It’ll take a lot more than the landing of a Chad Lindsay to cure the woes of Michigan’s offensive line.

However, the addition of a Chad Lindsay—or in this case, the Chad Lindsay who’s looking to transfer from Alabama—would certainly make easier the lives of O-line coach Darrell Funk and head coach Brady Hoke.

And it’d probably ease the transition for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, the Tide’s ex-OC who coached Lindsay and an incredibly dominant front from 2012 to 2013.

We’re talking about NFL-like O-lines here: Chance Warmack, a guard, went No. 10 overall in the past draft. D.J. Fluker, a tackle, was selected immediately after. At the very least, Nussmeier had one of the closest things to "pro" that you'll see at the collegiate level. 

Lindsay can play guard, has Sunday size and is familiar with his former coach's teachings—these are all positives. However, this past season, the 6’2,” 302-pounder started four games at center, which is an even greater need for the Wolverines, who have nothing but youthful hopefuls to plug in the trenches. 

Filling in here and there for two years, Lindsay helped the Tide produce a trio of 1,000-yard rushers. Michigan hasn’t had such a runner since 2011—that’s when Fitz Toussaint broke loose for 1,064 yards as a sophomore.

Just something to think about. 

Again Lindsay’s backup resume is just that—a backup’s resume. He spent a total of three years with Nick Saban’s national title factory, which says a lot about his dedication and drive. But his brief history in Tuscaloosa doesn't mean that he'll blow away the Big Ten and be the answer to Hoke's prayers. 

Nonetheless, he'd fit in well with the Wolverines, who are an experienced O-line piece away from giving fans a little hope of progress.

Youth, youth, youth. That's the buzz word of the offseason...again. It's time to insert some proof. 

Odds of getting the former 'Bama big boy may not be sky high. But they're probably better than 50-50, given his ties with Nussmeier and Michigan's current needs. 

On paper, it fits. 

 

Tide Cred

As a sophomore, Lindsay played garbage time against the Wolverines. The Tide flooded Hoke at Jerry's World, 41-14, and the young O-liner was essentially a stand-in while the starters took a breather.

But he also saw the field against Auburn and played in Alabama's 2013 BCS title win over Notre Dame. That has to count for something. 

Other than the four starts in the middle this past year, he hasn't done a whole lot. And that has to count for something, too. But he's competed against elite foes and knows what it's like to be part of a winning culture.

In all likelihood, Nussmeier and Hoke see Lindsay's upside. Why else would they go after him? 

Back in the September, Ryan Kelly, the Tide's starting center, stretched his MCL. Lindsay was pulled from the pen for a relief effort. A proven track record helped Saban call upon the relatively inexperienced hopeful, via AL.com's Andrew Gribble:

"Chad has been in the program. He's a hard worker. He's a strong guy, very smart, understands. We have a lot of confidence in Chad, that he can go in there and do the job because he's done a good job for us in the past."

It should be noted that the next game was against Georgia State, hardly a powerhouse. But given the situation at The Big House, Lindsay is an ideal transfer candidate. He couldn't arrive in Ann Arbor any sooner. 

 

What Does Team 135 Have?

Roster via MGoBlue (other than Graham Glasgow, a 6'6," 308-pound redshirt junior, the majority of the O-line lacks game-time experience). 

Ordinarily, one backup from an SEC school wouldn't ignite an overnight change for any offensive line. But this isn't just any line, it's the ailing, hobbling and barely surviving front that faces a make-or-break season in 2014. 

A year ago, it didn't protect quarterback Devin Gardner, who was sacked 34 times, the third-most among FBS signal-callers. It didn't produce a 1,000-yard back, either. And Hoke has backs, which is the problem. It's almost painful to watch Michigan struggle while running the ball. That's not supposed to happen in Ann Arbor. 

Imagine the sophomore punch of Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, aided by the services of one Lindsay. That'd give enough reason to expect efficient production on the ground, wouldn't it? At least a little.

Imagine Gardner, more comfortable, roping darts down the field to his set of receivers. Or Shane Morris, your pick. 

Also, consider the fact that the Wolverines lose Taylor Lewan, an All-American and surefire first-round left tackle, along with Michael Schofield, a right tackle with pro potential.

Help is necessary. Get Lindsay to do it. 

 

Stat Break

Note: There aren't libraries of online footage of Lindsay, so this recruit video will have to suffice. He can be spotted in Alabama highlights every so often, too. But this recruit-me tape nicely showcases his skills.

During the recent two-year stretch, Tide quarterback AJ McCarron completed 67 percent of his passes, threw for 58 touchdowns, just 10 interceptions and averaged a near-first down per throw.

Granted, McCarron had some assistance; Lindsay wasn't a major factor, but he contributed. 

It's just mind-boggling to view statistics from other teams. It serves as a reminder of the miles and miles Michigan must travel in order to get something close to a powerhouse offense, such as the one routinely fielded by Saban each season. 

 

Enemy Territory

Lindsay is planning on visiting Ohio State, which stands to offer a little more than the Wolverines. The opportunity for a longer playoff run and Big Ten Championship presents itself in Columbus. Right now, it's only an idea at Michigan. 

Lindsay will likely take that into account. 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arkansas Football: Have Faith in Quarterback Brandon Allen

It sure does seem like it's been ages since the Arkansas Razorbacks had one of the best air attacks and quarterbacks in all of college football. Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson provided four years of Hogs fans knowing they had a capable signal-caller under center.

Those days are now gone, though.

Reality hit hard last season in Bret Bielema's first year guiding the program. There were endless issues all over the field, but the most documented of the Razorbacks' struggles was quarterback Brandon Allen.

To say he had a rough go in his first year as the starter would be a vast understatement. A percentage under 50, a near 1-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and countless mistakes enveloped Allen's dismal campaign. 

As bad as it was, now isn't the time to completely give up on him. In fact, now is the time to have faith in this kid and get behind him.

Before you start hurling insults and rioting, hear me out. Then, if you still disagree, you can grab your pitchforks and torches.

You have to think about the quarterback depth and experience of the guys battling him this offseason for the starting gig. Behind him are redshirt freshman and younger brother Austin Allen, senior A.J. Derby, redshirt freshman Damon Mitchell and true freshman Rafe Peavey. Excluding Peavey, who was part of the '14 class, the other three quarterbacks have combined for one start.

In fact, because Austin and Mitchell both redshirted last year, Derby is the only other quarterback to have even attempted a pass. He made his lone start against Rutgers in 2013 after Allen went down the previous game against Southern Miss with a shoulder injury.

Whether you like it or not, Allen has the most experience, and that counts for something.

Also, that shoulder injury I mentioned affected Allen's production a great deal. He may have only missed one game because of it, but he dealt with lingering effects for the rest of the season. As it got better, so did he. The numbers don't lie.

In his four starts following the injury, Allen completed just 45 of 114 (39.4 percent) pass attempts with three touchdowns and six interceptions. However, in the final four games as his shoulder healed and he got more comfortable, Allen connected on 57 of 100 passes (57 percent) for five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Allen got much better late in the season and showed real poise in the finale at LSU where he nearly led the Hogs to victory, completing 65.5 percent (19-of-29) of his throws for two touchdowns and one interception. 

The good thing is he has carried that momentum into the spring. Yes, it's just spring ball and an actual game is a huge step up. But it's encouraging to see Allen performing at a high level.

In the team's first big scrimmage, he was very accurate, hitting 17 of 20 (85 percent) of his targets for 242 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He followed that up in last Saturday's 100-play scrimmage by throwing for 157 yards on 17-of-25 passing with five touchdowns and two picks.

His performance last weekend was enough for Bielema to tell HawgSports.com's Trey Biddy that he's the clear No. 1 right now (subscription required):

(Allen) is our number one quarterback. That kind of separated itself from the time we had our last game to the our first two weeks of practice. There isn't anybody in our program now that's at his level. Really trying to stress him and make him understand that. Got to get him to be uncomfortable. I want to really try to press him on.

There have also been some recent developments in spring practices that are pointing to Allen winning the starting job. According to Danny West of HawgSports.com (subscription required), coaches now have Mitchell working at receiver and Derby at tight end. 

Those moves have Allen's younger brother, Austin, taking the second-team snaps, which shifts Peavey from the No. 5 quarterback to the No. 3. 

Bielema is going to choose the guy who gives Arkansas the best chance to win. Right now, that's Allen, which means there's no point in ridiculing the kid or going out of your way to post on message boards and Twitter about how horrible and mad you are about the situation. 

A wise person once said that you can't worry about things you can't change, which in this case is Allen winning the starting job. At this point, it seems inevitable. Instead, get behind him and believe that last season doesn't define him as a quarterback. Players get better, and Allen is working hard to do just that this offseason. 

After last season, it's understandable that a lot of fans couldn't see him leading this team. But Allen is making significant strides and is looking forward, something all fans should do too. 

Last season was last season, and it's in the past. Allen is separating himself from the pack and showing he's determined to make 2014 much, much better. So, have some faith in him and the progress he's making.

 

All stats courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com.

Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pros and Cons to 5-Star WR Damarkus Lodge's Top Schools

Damarkus Lodge is a 5-star receiver from Texas who is 6'2.5" and 190 pounds. He has solid speed to threaten defensive backs, but Lodge's hands are what make him such a fantastic receiver.

Earlier this month, Lodge revealed a group of schools to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports (subscription required) that were thought to be his leaders. However, a report on April 10 by Greg Powers of Scout.com (subscription required) claims Lodge is still open.

A Texas native, Lodge may be feeling some in-state pressure from people around the Lone Star State. However, he named the schools he revealed to Bartow for a reason. Those programs will likely be the main suitors for Lodge until the end.

He'll have to weigh the pros and cons of each one before making a difficult decision.

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Pac-12 Football: 5 Freshmen Who Will Steal a Starting Spot in Fall Camp

Spring football in the Pac-12 is a time for buzz to be created and for fans to read about actual football being played, even if it's only on a practice field. 

Then the reports start coming out and all of the excitement starts to slowly fade as coaches talk about how they're "improving" and how so-and-so "is really starting to put it together." In other words, it's the same old song and dance until the real games begin.

One thing you can count on, however, is a few new faces to emerge as viable contenders for playing time in the fall. Oftentimes, that involves the freshmen, both first- and second-year players, who are too good to be ignored.

So, which freshmen will have the most impact this year? Can someone duplicate the defensive efforts of Myles Jack, or will another back be as successful as Thomas Tyner was in his first season?

Here are five players who could earn starting spots in fall camp.

 

All recruiting info via 247Sports.

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Pac-12 Football: 5 Freshmen Who Will Steal a Starting Spot in Fall Camp

Spring football in the Pac -12 is a time for buzz to be created and for fans to read about actual football being played, even if it's only on a practice field...

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The NFL Comparison for Top 10 DE Recruits from Class of 2015

The 2015 class has several excellent recruits at the defensive end position. While they're known in recruiting circles, comparing them to NFL players will only help paint a clearer picture of their skill sets.

A defensive end in Florida compares favorably to a defensive lineman with the Seattle Seahawks.

Another recruit at the same position plays a lot like a new member of the Oakland Raiders, while a former Raider appears to be an older version of a 5-star defensive end from Illinois.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports.

Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Penn State Football: James Franklin's 5 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

When James Franklin took over at Penn State in early January, he wasn't too familiar with his current roster. 

Being a head coach in the SEC doesn't leave much time for scouting Big Ten teams not on the schedule.

Just three months later, he has been able to observe his Nittany Lions through a winter conditioning period and, as of Saturday, has spent 15 practices with those players. 

There's no doubt he has a better feel now for the strengths of his team, as well as the issues he'll have to work with this fall.

With depth concerns across the board and no established front-line wide receiver in place, Franklin has plenty on his plate. 

What are the top issues for the new Nittany Lions head coach now that spring practice is behind him?

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NCAA Adds 15-Yard Penalty for Hitting QB Below Knee in Passing Situations

Starting in the 2014 season, a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty will be assessed when a defensive player hits a quarterback below the knee, provided the quarterback is in a "passing posture" with at least one foot on the ground.

The rule was agreed upon Wednesday during a conference call by the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel after being previously discussed and going un-acted upon at the Football Rules Committee’s February meeting, according to the official release announcing the rule via NCAA.org.

The release goes on to explain the rule's assessment:

The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below.

Exceptions for these types of hits occur when:

  • the passer becomes a runner, either inside or outside the tackle box;
  • the defender grabs or wraps the passer in an attempt to make a conventional tackle;
  • the defender is not rushing unabated or is blocked or fouled into the passer.

Since the rule was first discussed in February, all 10 major conference commissioners have lobbied on its behalf, per the release. It was formally submitted for further consideration by Jon Steinbrecher, the commissioner of the Mid-American Conference and chair of College Football Officiating, during a conference call on March 5.

Like almost any rule introduced to college football, this one will not come without its detractors. The rule is noble in nature—its goal is to protect quarterbacks' knees from injury, which is definitely a good thing—but when enforced improperly, it could lead to ticky-tack 15-yard penalties that alter the course of a game.

Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell is already complaining about its passage:

In the end, this rule will draw ire from fans when their team is flagged for committing it. However, it won't draw half as much ire as a torn ACL to their quarterback.

In my mind, that makes it a good thing.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Conference Can Close the Gap on SEC Football's Recruiting Dominance?

Florida State enters the 2014 season as the defending champ, but make no mistake—the SEC is still king of the castle in college football.

The conference claimed seven of the final eight BCS National Championships. It produced four Heisman Trophy winners and three No. 1 overall NFL draft picks during that span.

The SEC reign also has deep roots in recruiting. According to 247Sports' composite team rankings, the conference boasted seven of the top 10 classes on signing day 2014.

An SEC squad has finished No. 1 in national recruiting rankings every year since 2008 when independent Notre Dame snagged the top spot. Alabama is currently in a class of its own when it comes to the recruiting trail, racking up four consecutive top-ranked classes.

Florida State finally put an end to the conference's national title game win streak with a win over Auburn in Pasadena. Perhaps the Seminoles or another non-SEC contender like Oklahoma or Oregon will keep the dominant conference off the pedestal again next January.

Postseason trophies aside, you have to wonder if there's even a shred of a threat to the SEC's supremacy in the recruiting spectrum. Programs have settled for slim pickings in SEC territory for years, while conference members routinely extend out of the region for top-tier talents.

Few conferences are able to put the borders up like the SEC. Now that Texas A&M and Missouri are in the mix, that landscape has quickly grown.

The Aggies gave offers to 13 Georgia juniors through the third week of February, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. That's five more scholarship offers to players in the Peach State than Texas A&M extended during the past two years combined.

College Station is nearly 900 miles from Atlanta. Do you think Michigan is putting the same kind of effort into its recruitment of players from Maryland, the home of its new Big Ten Conference foe?

For the record, Ann Arbor is approximately 600 miles away from Baltimore.

The SEC's geographical expansion has widened its recruiting reach, extending across states known for producing perennial blue-chip prospects. We're talking Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia.

A quick rundown of recent recruiting cycles provides a clear picture of the current situation.

There's the SEC. Then there's everybody else.

So which of the cluster of teams formerly known as BCS conferences stands the best chance of making inroads?

Put my vote down for the Pac-12 where star coaches, conference expansion and a growingly intriguing Southern California storyline have the conference on an upswing.

Think about the kind of head coaches this conference has cultivated and kept in recent years.

David Shaw has maintained momentum at Stanford without pause, even after the departure of Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck. He's turned down high-profile opportunities elsewhere to stick with his squad.

The same can be said for Jim Mora Jr., who has swiped significant SoCal limelight away from USC during his tenure at UCLA. Saddled with sanctions and an unsettled situation, Lane Kiffin struggled to gain stability with the Trojans and quickly drew detractors during his underwhelming tenure.

Steve Sarkisian, another member of the Pete Carroll coaching tree, returned to USC in December after turning around Washington's fortunes during a five-year stretch. He managed to secure commitments from three of South California's top 2015 prospects on signing day (Adoree' Jackson, John Smith and Damien Mama) to solidify the Pac-12's top-ranked class.

The successful flurry of commitments gives USC immediate hope for continued strides under the direction of Sarkisian. The coach quickly got to work on his 2015 class, flipping 5-star quarterback Ricky Town from Alabama in January.

UCLA responded in a big way by securing a pledge from fellow 5-star passer Josh Rosen two months later. That development sets the stage for a fresh, compelling dynamic in the rivalry between USC and the Bruins.

Rosen and Town are rated the top two pro-style quarterbacks in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

The Pac-12 has benefited as a whole because of a strong 2015 class of West Coast passers.

Washington, who responded to the loss of Sarkisian by prying head coach Chris Peterson from Boise State, picked up 4-star California quarterback Jake Browning.

Brady White, another 4-star recruit from the Golden State, remains uncommitted but is likely to land in the Pac-12. His top contenders include Cal, Arizona and Washington State.

California is home to five of the top seven pro-style passers in 247Sports' rankings. Aside from Blake Barnett—a Notre Dame pledge—they seem set to square off as conference rivals for years to come.

The state also features two 4-star dual-threat quarterback prospects.

Anaheim standout Travis Waller is a top target for Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, who has kept his explosive offensive game plan on track with the Wildcats. Fellow Southern California star Sheriron Jones also has Arizona in hot pursuit along with Arizona State and Colorado.

If Pac-12 members manage to scoop up these regional quarterback recruits, the future looks bright—and very high-scoring—out west.

While the Pac-12 doesn't rival the SEC's recruiting reach, conference title contenders have proven their ability to pluck premier talent from other regions.

New Orleans defensive back Mattrell McGraw signed with Oregon in February, spurning offers from Texas A&M, Miami and LSU. Defensive end Solomon Thomas, a 5-star recruit from Texas, picked Stanford over Arkansas, Ohio State and the Longhorns.

UCLA reeled in 4-star linebackers Zach Whitley (Houston) and Kenny Young (New Orleans) during the last cycle and has already extended far beyond Hollywood for 2015 talent.

The Bruins landed electric Virginia athlete Jaason Lewis in February and added Jacksonville linebacker Victor Alexander late last year.

If Pac-12 teams continue to follow suit with strong out-of-area recruiting efforts, the conference will continue to see a rise in national prominence. Superstar prospects don't always equate to on-field success, but they sure do give you a better shot at piling up wins.

The SEC is untouchable when it comes to recruiting prowess right now as it's continuously replenished with elite talent. It's an undeniable fact that translates annually during bowl season and the NFL draft alike.

Still, this is a sport of ebbs and flows. Remember, the SEC won just one national championship between 1999 and 2006.

In order for college football to maintain competitive balance, another conference is due to rise up and challenge the SEC in the fight for future stars. Right now, the Pac-12 appears to be the best bet.

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LSU, Syracuse Officially Set Home-and-Home Football Series

According to Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com, LSU and Syracuse announced on Wednesday that they have finalized a deal to play a home-and-home football series in 2015 and 2017.

The Tigers will travel north to the Carrier Dome on Sept. 26, 2015 and the Orange will voyage south to Tiger Stadium on Sept. 9, 2017.

It will be the first regular-season meeting between the schools, which have previously split two postseason contests: the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl (won by Syracuse) and 1965 Sugar Bowl (won by LSU).

Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross shared his thoughts on the news:

We are thrilled to enter into this home-and-home agreement with a premier program like LSU. Student-athletes come to Syracuse to play on the biggest stage possible, and this gives our coaches and young men the chance to battle one of the standard-bearers of the SEC on our home turf.

It is a complicated process to arrange games of this magnitude, and I couldn't be happier for our fans and for all who will be involved in this upcoming series.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva gave a statement as well:

This is another attractive nonconference series that our fans will enjoy and our football program will benefit from. To be able to bring LSU football to the northeast part of the country for a football game will be a unique experience and then to have Syracuse return the trip to Tiger Stadium in 2017 will be a nice addition to our home schedule.

Syracuse and LSU have been among the best in the country at scheduling difficult nonconference games.

The Tigers played North Carolina in 2010, Oregon and West Virginia in 2011, TCU in 2013, and will play Wisconsin in 2014, while the Orange have scheduled Penn State and USC on multiple occasions in the past five years and have partial ACC member Notre Dame on the schedule this season.

This series will be different for Syracuse, however, because the high-profile opponent will visit the Carrier Dome—its actual home field—instead of playing on a neutral field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

For once, Scott Shafer's team will get to be a proper host. If recent history repeats itself, however, LSU will not be a well-groomed house guest.

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LSU Football: Why Tigers Will Reclaim DBU Title in 2014

LSU has turned DBU into a prestigious institution. 

Louisiana State University has earned the title of "Defensive Back University." The run of defensive backs under Les Miles has been nothing short of spectacular. DBU has become a mantra the Tigers secondary takes seriously. 

In 2011, LSU became the first school to have a pair of cornerbacks named Associated Press first-team All-Americans. Those two, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, were also recipients of the Jim Thorpe Award and Chuck Bednarik Award, respectively. Patrick Peterson won both awards in the same season the year before. 

LSU has had seven defensive backs selected in the past three NFL drafts, three of which were in the first round. Two of those three, Peterson and Eric Reid, have already made a Pro Bowl.

LSU's defensive backs could be yearly labeled as the most talented unit in the country. But over the past two seasons, DBU has lost a bit of its luster.  

The Tigers gave up 229 and 219 passing yards per game in conference play in 2013 and 2012, respectively, which puts them in the middle of the pack of the SEC. 

Those numbers are not atrocious, yet they are not elite, either.

The Bayou Bengals secondary suffocated opponents the two seasons before. LSU held its conference foes to under 160 yards per game in 2011 and 2010. 

Dominant. 

LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White said after the spring game that it is time for the current defensive backs to make their mark on history.

"It's a tradition we have to live up to. Guys like Corey Webster, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and guys like that, they came before us, made DBU," said White. "We want to be like them." 

LSU fans should expect the Tigers to join the ranks of the elite again this season. Honors classes will be back in session for DBU in 2014 for a variety of reasons.  

 

Experience 

LSU's secondary had a good deal of playing time under its belt before the 2013 season began. But the Tigers did not play that way. 

The defensive backs often had coverage breakdowns in the secondary that were exploited. The lack of communication cost them dearly in big games. 

White says he expects those to go away now with the current crop of sophomores and juniors.  

"We now have experience under our belt...We have so many concepts in our defense, we have to know how to play everything," said White. "We have to understand what the linebackers and defensive line are doing. That is making me more confident in my game."

White said he feels the unit is more cohesive than last season's. If that is the case, expect the big mistakes to go away. 

  

Elite Cornerbacks

Defensive coordinators have the freedom to do more when cornerbacks can lock down receivers on the outside. LSU has two shutdown threats who have All-American potential. 

White and Rashard Robinson both started games as true freshmen last season. Once the duo shook off early jitters, it became a menace on the outside. The Tigers also have serviceable backups in early enrollee Ed Paris and seasoned veteran Jalen Collins. 

A big reason why LSU's corners were so magnificent in 2010 and 2011 was their aggressive coverage tactics. The Tigers were fearless against the other team's receivers, often standing no further than a yard or two from the receiver pre-snap.

White said after the spring game that the corners' technique has begun to look more like that. 

"We have gotten more physical and aggressive at the line of scrimmage," said White. "The tradition around here is to play bump-and-run coverage and get in the receiver's face to throw off their timing."

LSU has the personnel and experience on the outside to be special. This will free up more opportunities for the Tigers to make game-changing plays by forcing the quarterback to hold on to the ball longer.    

 

Blitzing Playmakers

For defensive coordinator John Chavis' system to run at maximum productivity, he needs at least six defensive backs who can contribute consistently. 

Chavis loves running packages that call for one or two extra defensive backs, which is also known as the nickel or dime. Mathieu and Ron Brooks were dynamite playing these positions in 2011, but LSU has since not found a consistent playmaking threat there. 

The Tigers might have finally found their answer for nickel and dime defensive backs. 

Sophomore Dwayne Thomas was productive playing the role in limited snaps in 2013. Thomas finished with three sacks, which include his game-winning forced fumble against Arkansas. 

Jalen Mills could be another playmaking threat. Though he made the move from corner to safety, do not be surprised if Chavis moves him to the dime on 3rd-and-long. Mills also raked in three sacks when asked to play the position, highlighted by a crucial fourth-quarter sack against Florida.  

Chavis needs to find playmakers who can wreck havoc in the backfield while also having the ability to play man coverage on slot receivers. The nickel and dime can be a headache for a quarterback's pre-snap read. 

 

Corey Raymond's Third Season

Former LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper left after the stellar 2011 season to coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Former LSU defensive back Corey Raymond replaced him and has yet to replicate the success Cooper had.

Raymond is a great coach who should now have himself acclimated in his role. He has more than enough talent at his disposal to produce All-SEC-caliber defensive backs. 

Raymond's No. 1 goal this offseason is finding safeties he can trust. The Tigers started six different safeties in 2013, which partially explained the secondary's poor alignment and erratic play. 

The pressure is on for Raymond to have the secondary be more consistent. He is in no danger of losing his job, but the spotlight will be brighter on him now more than ever. 

 

Quarterback Exodus

The SEC lost some great quarterback this offseason. Alabama's AJ McCarron, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Vanderbilt's James Franklin and South Carolina's Connor Shaw are all NFL-bound. 

Rules favor the offense, which gave the magnificent quarterbacks from last season an even bigger advantage. Expect the crazy passing statistics from last season to come back to earth in the SEC. 

LSU does play three of the better quarterbacks returning in the conference. Auburn's Nick Marshall, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Ole Miss' Bo Wallace all had some success against the Tigers. 

Marshall, Prescott and Wallace are brilliant playmakers, but LSU should have them figured out for next season. The Tigers will also get to play Prescott and Wallace in Tiger Stadium. 

The conference's signal-callers are not on the same level as last year's. The Tigers should not be eviscerated like they were at times, especially on the road. 

 

Better Pass Rush

LSU's pass rush was not good last season. 

The Tigers defensive ends combined for only 9.5 sacks. Twenty-three players across the country matched or did better than that on their own. The Tigers averaged 3.2 pressure plays (sacks, hurries or tackles for loss), which is their lowest mark since 2010, according to Matthew Harris of The New Orleans Advocate

LSU returns most of its top defensive ends from a season ago. Danielle Hunter had a spectacular spring, raking in two sacks and two quarterback hurries in the spring game. Jermauria Rasco, who led the team in sacks, should be better as well. 

The defensive line as a whole should be better at pass rushing after a sluggish 2013. If not, expect more struggles in the secondary. 

 

Conclusion

The Tigers in 2010 and 2011 were not good or even great in the secondary. 

They were legendary.

No one should expect the current Tigers defensive backs to challenge for the Heisman. Getting back to elite status in anything is an arduous task. But the bar has without a doubt been lowered, which should be unacceptable for the current group.   

White believes LSU will get back to its glory days next season. 

"I am 100 percent confident in all the guys we have here now," said White. "We are eager to learn, always in the film room, we can always get better. Like coach Raymond said, we can never have too much knowledge." 

The DBU mystique and the professional success of players such as Peterson excite recruits. LSU's top 2015 commitment, cornerback Kevin Toliver II, has DBU on his Twitter page. In the video below, fellow 5-star corner Kendall Sheffield says he looks up to Peterson. 

LSU cannot afford to lose the DBU mythology. 

White, Robinson, Mills, Paris, Collins, Dwayne Thomas, Ronald Martin, Corey Thompson, Rickey Jefferson and Jamal Adams are all capable of being superb playmakers. The depth chart is plentiful to choose from for Raymond, but he will need some players to step up and become stars. 

LSU certainly has the talent to be great. If the Tigers secondary can even come close to replicating its success in 2011, it can lead Les Miles back to the SEC Championship Game. 

 

*Stats and rankings provided by LSU Sports Information, 247Sports and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

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