NCAA Football

Virginia 5-Star Early Enrollee Andrew Brown to Miss Rest of Spring with Injury

Virginia early enrollee Andrew Brown, a 5-star defensive tackle who was the top-rated interior lineman and No. 11 overall player on the 247Sports composite, has sustained a turf toe injury and will be sidelined for the rest of spring camp.

Cavs Journal tweeted the report from head coach Mike London:

Brown and fellow 5-star defender Quin Blanding, the top-ranked safety in the class, both played high school football in Virginia—Brown at Oscar Smith, Blanding at Bayside—and made the atypical decision to stay in-state with the Cavs and not the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Blanding was the No. 6 overall player in the class, but did not enroll early. He will instead join the team in the summer.

Although the top-ranked player from Virginia, 5-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge), committed to Alabama over the Cavs and the Hokies, the 2013 class was a seminal one for London and his staff in terms of recruiting kids from in-state.

Among the other notable Virginia commits are 4-star athlete Jamil Kamara (Bishop Sullivan), 4-star offensive guard Steven Moss (Chancellor) and top-rated prep school quarterback Corwin Cutler (Ocean Lakes).

Brown is expected to step into the lineup and give UVA a formidable presence at defensive tackle as soon as next season—if not by the end of fall camp, then not long after. Turf toe injuries are pesky, but it shouldn't affect Brown's status at the end of the summer.

He is still the most physically impressive front-four player on the roster and, barring continued poor health, he will not be kept off the field for long.

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No. 1 WR Damarkus Lodge Reveals a Surprising Top 3

Damarkus Lodge is arguably the top 2015 prospect in Texas but doesn't appear intent on staying in the Lone Star State during his college career. The 5-star wide receiver told 247Sports reporter Ryan Bartow he views three options to the east as preferred destinations.

Lodge named Ole Miss, LSU and Clemson as favorites, leaving in-state institutions to fight an uphill battle for his services. 

Texas and Baylor offered the Cedar Hill High School standout last April, during the final stretch of his sophomore year. Texas A&M and Texas Tech followed with scholarships in May.

The 6'2.5", 190-pound playmaker is one of the hottest commodities of his class. Lodge is listed as the nation's No. 1 receiver in 247Sports' composite rankings after a dominant junior season.

He helped lead Cedar Hill to a state championship, electrifying the offensive attack with big-play ability. Lodge caught 72 passes for 1,255 yards and 22 touchdowns in 16 games.

His wide range of skills has warranted understandable national interest. Lodge carries offers from dozens of programs, including Alabama, Cal, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Florida.

He identified LSU as his clear favorite at this stage, citing the program's success rate at his position as an alluring element.

"They are putting out great receivers," Lodge told 247Sports. "LSU is looking pretty good with me right now. ... They need some deep receivers like myself to come in and do good things.”

Lodge plans to take advantage of multiple official visits later this year, so it's probably safe to pencil him in for a trip to Baton Rouge. The Tigers extended an offer in February and have already made up enough ground in the race to be considered a front-runner.

SEC rival Ole Miss is also strongly in the mix.

Lodge, who lived in Mississippi through middle school, appreciates the proximity to his old stomping grounds and is greatly enthused by the Rebels passing game.

"I think they are going to dominate the SEC," he told 247Sports. "Especially (wide receivers) Quincy Adeboyejo and Laquon Treadwell. I’m picking them to win it.”

Adeboyejo is a 2013 Cedar Hill graduate. He didn't receive as much notoriety during his recruitment process as a 3-star prospect but saw the field in Oxford last fall as a true freshman.

Lodge told 247Sports he plans to spent time at Ole Miss this summer. He is also set to attend the team's Oct. 4 matchup against Alabama, representing the only concrete plans of his official visit slate, per the report.

Lodge hasn't traveled to Clemson yet, but the Tigers are still in his top three. The team has established an outstanding track record at receiver under head coach Dabo Swinney, producing first-round NFL talents in consecutive drafts.

The Houston Texans selected former Clemson star DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th overall pick in 2013. Orange Bowl MVP Sammy Watkins is the consensus No. 1 receiver this year.

Their success undoubtedly helped put the Tigers in position to round out Lodge's list.

“If LSU is one, who would be two and three?" Lodge said. “I’d have to say Ole Miss two and Clemson three.”

Although Lodge's top three choices are sensible opportunities for any premier pass target, the glaring lack of a Texas team in his favored group is certainly a surprising development.

247Sports' Crystal Ball lists Baylor as a heavy favorite, with Texas and Texas A&M as the next likely contenders. He attended an Aggies junior day in February and remains a top offensive target for Charlie Strong's new regime in Austin after Mack Brown laid the groundwork for his recruitment.

An early commitment from Lodge appears unlikely, so there's still time for an in-state program to push its way to the top of his pack before a decision is made. For now, news of this freshly revealed surprise trio of favorites will resonate quite differently at LSU, Clemson and Ole Miss.

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Penn State Football: Why DEs Are Poised to Be Heart of Defense in 2014

The Penn State coaches are doing their best this spring to fit guys into different spots on the defensive side of the ball, looking for the best combinations and skill sets for the jobs. 

Newcomers Antoine White and Tarow Barney are in the mix at tackle, whereas Anthony Zettel hopes to solidify himself as a starter.

The linebacker combinations are constantly in motion while Jordan Lucas and Adrian Amos are the lone sure things in the secondary—although where Amos will play may not be such a sure thing.

The lone area on the defense where depth is an asset and the starters are both written in pen is defensive end, where bookends C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes return for what should be another productive season.

As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Barnes' production demanded playing time and the rangy Philadelphia native was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year while earning an All-Conference Honorable Mention.

His five sacks and 10 tackles for loss were both tops on the squad.

Back for his third year as a starter, Barnes has gained some weight in his upper body and has All-Big Ten ability.

Olaniyan became a full-time starter for the first time last season and had a stellar year, outperforming his counterpart in Barnes.

As an every-down player, Olaniyan recorded 11 tackles for loss and led the team with five sacks, including two-and-a-half against Michigan.

His 33-yard interception return against Wisconsin proved vital in helping Penn State hold on to a winning record in 2013.

Barnes and Olaniyan are a dynamic pair of ends that will prove to be among the top in the conference.

And they're just the tip of the iceberg.

After having an impact in the rotation as an end last season, Zettel was able to bulk up and move to tackle—partly because of the lack of depth inside, but also because of the strength at end.

Former walk-on Carl Nassib and redshirt freshman Evan Schwan each recorded tackles for loss last season, but they'll have to fight to see the field in 2014.

High school All-American Garrett Sickels is fresh off his redshirt campaign and has been turning heads in spring camp. After gaining the weight required to play the position, he has trimmed down and is going to be in the rotation.

Also a member of the 2013 recruiting class, redshirt freshman Curtis Cothran has put on some weight and drastically improved his explosiveness.

Similarly to Barnes, Cothran is longer than he is big, so it will be interesting to see if he can hold his ground at the point of attack.

With at least five more-than-capable defensive ends at his disposal, new defensive line coach Sean Spencer should always have fresh bodies on the edges.

With most of the defense undetermined at this point, the one thing that's certain is Penn State will be as good at defensive end as it's been in some time.

 

All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Ohio State's Spring Injury Problem Isn't as Bad as It Seems

Ohio State has had a tough stretch of injuries this spring, dating back to their Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game and it happens to just about every team at one point or another. 

This time, the football gods' roulette wheel just happened to land on Columbus, Ohio. 

Via Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Disptach, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer confirmed Tuesday that tight end Jeff Heuerman will miss the rest of spring practice after having foot surgery for a sprain on Monday. 

"It’s six weeks in a cast (and then) boot, and we should have him ready to go full-speed in June," Meyer said (via The Dispatch). 

In a text message to The Dispatch, Heuerman—who finished third on the team last year with 26 receptions and 466 receiving yards—said the procedure was "just minor surgery" and that he would be "back in no time."

In addition to Heuerman, Ohio State is without quarterback Braxton Miller (shoulder), receiver Evan Spencer (leg) and defensive back Vonn Bell (knee). There are other injuries, of course, but those are the biggest losses. 

So how big of a deal is this really? It's not ideal, that's for sure. It's also not as bad as it could be. 

Bell, Heuerman, Miller and Spencer should all be back in time for fall practice. Bell could really have used the reps during spring considering the youth in the secondary, but Heuerman, Miller and Spencer are all veteran players. This isn't their first go-around in spring drills. While every practice is an opportunity to get better—an opportunity these players are missing—no one is doubting Miller's or Heuerman's ability. 

It's not like these jobs are largely up for grabs. 

In other words, the Buckeyes' offense shouldn't miss too much of a beat in 2014 because some parts were missing in the spring. As B/R's Michael Felder previously pointed out, Miller can still grow in the mental aspect of the game, even if he's not physically taking part in drills. 

According to Meyer, Heuerman will still play a prominent role in developing other players.  “He’ll be a captain of our team and a guy who leads our team,” Meyer said, courtesy of Kyle Rowland of ElevenWarriors.com

You have to feel a little for Ohio State. Injuries are the worst. However, Meyer doesn't seem too concerned about them since the numbers are about the same as in previous years. 

Until Meyer expresses more anxiousness, there's not much for Buckeye fans to worry about. 

 

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

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Penn State Linemen and Coaches Give It Their All in Punt-Catch Competition

There is no better time for a college football player to have fun than during spring practice. The season is still months away, so spring practices can be a little loose.

New Penn State coach James Franklin mixed things up a bit this spring. In what turned out to be a fantastic idea, Franklin had linemen and members of the staff show what they can do in a punt-receiving competition.

Some of the participants looked fairly natural catching the ball, but there were those who proved that they don't have a future in returning punts. Offensive lineman Derek Dowrey provided the highlight of the competition:

[GoPSUTV, h/t Dr. Saturday]

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Complete Previews for the 1st Week of College Football Spring Games

Odd-ball schools such as Duke and BYU jumped the gun on spring practice and played their spring game in March, but the offseason exhibition season begins in earnest this weekend and extends to the first Saturday of May.

And we'll start off with a doozy.

Right off the bat, the first Saturday of spring-game season brings the culmination of this round of quarterback battles at two of the country's biggest programs: Michigan and LSU. Who among Devin Gardner and Shane Morris (Michigan) and Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris (LSU) will take the momentum into summer workouts?

Elsewhere, 30 percent of the Big 12 finishes up its spring workouts on Saturday, as does the reigning champion of the MAC (Bowling Green) and MWC (Fresno State).

With #NoDisrespectTo South Alabama, Florida Atlantic and FBS newcomer Appalachian State, which will all take the field this weekend as well, we previewed the 12 most important spring games—or open practices in lieu of spring games—on the docket.

Happy football!

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BYU Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker

BYU's spring practices are currently in full swing with the first public scrimmage taking place last week. There are several positional battles underway, and plenty will get interesting by fall.

From offensive and defensive battles to special teams competitions, Bronco Mendenhall will have several tough depth chart decisions to make. Here are four of them.

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For College Football Playoff, Scheduling Will Be Truest Test of Success

In the first few seasons of the College Football Playoff, the greatest determinant on its impact on the health of the sport will not be the four-team field or the champions crowned. Rather, the best sign as to whether the move was a positive will come through monitoring scheduling practices.

Currently there exist two opposing ideals, best epitomized by the likes of Baylor and LSU. The Bears are continuing to smart schedule, ensuring wins and looking to tiptoe through the non-conference, win the league and best be setup for the postseason. Recent news that Baylor would be playing the University of Incarnate Word sent a wave through the system as folks ridiculed the future schedules in Waco.

On the very opposite side of the spectrum, the LSU Tigers drew the praise of the masses for scheduling future dates with both UCLA and Arizona State out of the Pac-12. Les Miles' team already has been celebrated for being willing to open up the season with tough games, Oregon in 2011, Wisconsin in the upcoming campaign.

The Big Ten has been lauded for setting a rule in which its members do not play games against FCS squads and the league is moving to a nine-game conference schedule, two measures that will boost the view of the schedule strength, even if the FCS squads are replaced with bad MAC, Sun Belt or Conference-USA teams.

In the ACC, while the league voted against going to a nine-game schedule, the conference did add five yearly contests against Notre Dame which will serve to boost schedule strength for the teams involved. For teams like Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech, that means eight conference games, plus the SEC rivalry date, in addition to locking horns with the Irish; that means ten formidable foes, at least in theory, guaranteed in some years.

Lines are being drawn and, in the first couple years of the playoff, one side will be rewarded. In theory the side with great schedules and tough matchups will earn the respect of the committee and grab the spots in the four-team postseason. Reality does not always jibe with the ideal or the theoretical practice. Especially when the reality is keeping an undefeated team out of the mix in favor of a team with a blemish on its record.

Until the committee looks down the barrel at an undefeated team and, due to their strength of schedule, puts a team with a loss in ahead of them in seeding, or omits them all together, wins are worth more than losses. More accurately, wins over Appalachian State or Rice or Florida Atlantic are worth more than losses to higher level power conference teams.

However, it is not merely the undefeated element that will settle the scheduling score, the one-loss problem will be the biggest bear for the committee to tackle. 2013 saw nine teams finish with one loss, five from power conferences. In 2012, there were four one-loss teams from power leagues.

In both years, Stanford finished with two losses on a schedule. Four close losses, two each season, on the road. Three to Pac-12 opponents, and in 2012 the second loss was to an eventually 12-0 Notre Dame team.

Does the Cardinal get the break over an Auburn team whose non-conference gem was against Washington State? In 2012, does David Shaw's team get invited to the playoff instead of Kansas State or the Oregon team the Cardinal beat in Eugene?

These will be the muddy waters which the committee is forced to tread in order to decide just how important strength of schedules, and bad wins versus good losses, are to the final equation. If a school like Baylor, with a weak non-conference schedule and limited quality wins, gets the nod, then all the talk of making scheduling important becomes a moot point.

The committee, and the College Football Playoff itself, has to make a stand early. The group in charge has spent ample time talking about scheduling being paramount. Early in the process, the folks running the show must send a clear message that tough scheduling will be rewarded.

Rewarded far more than simply piling up wins.

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Florida Football: Demarcus Robinson's Spring Development Huge for Gators in 2014

The most important spring practice session in the SEC is taking place in Gainesville, as head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper have to get the pieces of the offensive puzzle in place this spring so the Gators can hit the ground running in fall camp.

Several of those pieces are already falling into place.

Fresh off a leg injury that cost him the majority of the 2013 campaign, quarterback Jeff Driskel has put to bed any thoughts of a quarterback controversy, according to Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. Another piece of that puzzle is wide receiver Demarcus Robinson.

The 6'2", 201-pound sophomore from Fort Valley, Ga., caught only six passes for 43 yards during his true freshman campaign. This spring, however, he has been impressing the coaching staff with his ability to stretch the field. 

"He has done some fantastic things in the passing game,” Muschamp told GatorZone.com's Scott Carter. "He’s an explosive receiver. He’s a tough matchup one-on-one because of his size, his athleticism. He’s got really good ball skills down the field."

That's huge for the development of the Gators' passing game, because a legitimate, consistent downfield threat is something that the offense has been sorely lacking for the better part of the Muschamp era. 

He caught 101 passes for 1,984 yards and 22 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Peach County (Ga.) High School, and came to Florida with the size and route-running ability of a seasoned veteran.

Where he wasn't a veteran, though, was between the ears.

He was suspended twice for a total of three games during his first season in Gainesville for violation of team rules, including for the final two games of the regular season. That apparently has changed too, according to Carter.

"We mature at different times," Muschamp told GatorZone.com. "I think we’ve seen some strides there. I’ve been pleased to this point. There’s no question from a matchup standpoint, he’s a guy that can do some things."

If Robinson can become the star he was recruited to be, it would settle a lot of the issues surrounding he offense. 

The coaching staff already appears to be comfortable with Driskel running the offense, and I mentioned last month how Roper's presence may finally allow slot receiver Andre Debose to live up to the seemingly insurmountable hype that followed him to Gainesville once he returns to full speed.

Florida had to answer a lot of its offensive questions this spring, in order to allow Roper and the offensive staff to fine-tune the offense this summer. Robinson's emergence as a threat could allow them to do that in a very important year for the Florida program and Muschamp's continued employment.

 

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

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LSU Football: 5 Players to Watch in LSU Spring Game

The LSU spring game is fast approaching, which means football-hungry fans in Baton Rouge will be reunited with the Tigers. Saturday will be the first time the public will get to see the 2014 Bayou Bengals.

The spotlight will centered on quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris. They are battling to be the replacement for Zach Mettenberger, who threw for over 3,000 yards last season. 

But LSU has position battles all over the field. Players who are currently backups will have their last chance to impress before heading into summer. LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander dominated the spring game last year while playing with the second unit. Alexander started the season opener against TCU.  

Here are five players to keep an eye on for Saturday's spring game. 

 

*Stats, depth charts and rankings provided by 247Sports and LSU Sports Information.  

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Altee Tenpenny Arrested: Latest Details, Comments and More on Alabama RB

Altee Tenpenny was hoping to make his way up the depth chart for Alabama in 2014, but an off-field incident might slow his rise to the top.   

During the school's spring break, the sophomore running back was arrested for marijuana possession. Andrew Gribble of AL.com provides the details of the incident:

According to the incident report, Tenpenny was pulled over March 24 because of an "inoperational license plate light." After the officer detected "the odor of burnt marijuana," Tenpenny, who was described by the arresting officer as "extremely nervous," told the officer he "smoked a blunt" earlier in the night but initially denied that there was any in the vehicle.

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban had this to say about the situation, per Gribble:

I’m aware of the situation with Altee and this is obviously not the kind of behavior we expect from our players. In addition to any punishment he may receive from a legal standpoint, we will have some internal discipline as well as education that he will be responsible for working through.

Alex Scarborough of ESPN provides a look at the court date, confirming a report from Justin Acri of The Zone in Little Rock:

Tenpenny came to Tuscaloosa in 2013 as a highly touted recruit out of Arkansas. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, he was considered as the No. 7 running back in the class and the No. 52 player overall. Unfortunately, that class also included Derrick Henry, who stayed ahead of Tenpenny on the depth chart.

As a result, the freshman was limited to just 82 rushing yards on 22 carries plus one catch for four yards. He scored his only touchdown of the season in a rout against Kentucky. 

With T.J. Yeldon coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and players like Kenyan Drake and Henry returning, Tenpenny appears unlikely to gain too much of a bigger role going forward.

Adding in this latest incident with some "internal discipline," as Saban described, things are unlikely to get much better for Tenpenny, at least in the near future.

Still, the running back has loads of talent with great size at 6'0", 207 pounds. With three years of eligibility remaining, there is plenty of time for him to turn his career around and become a key contributor in future seasons.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Alabama Football: Jarran Reed Bringing Marcell Dareus-Like Size, Versatility

The exchange between coach Nick Saban and the media following the University of Alabama’s practice Monday afternoon signaled that the pleasantries were over for this spring.

Reporter: “Nick, you have what appears to be some quality depth along the defensive line. I was just wondering how you would assess that group so far?”

Saban: “Why would you … we lost two starters there, is that right?”

Reporter: “I would just … it appears that you have.”

Saban: “Well, what’s appear mean? It just means you’ve dreamed about it and it’s there?”

Reporter: “I said that it appears that you have quality depth.”

Saban: “What, on paper?"

Reporter: “Yeah.”

Saban: “What it looks like on paper? We’ve never seen these guys play or seen them take on an SEC lineman or anything like that. But it appears. I like that, it appears. That’s how we form public opinion because someone appears to be good so everyone believes it.”

Reporter: “I asked how you would assess it.”

Saban: “Well, they’ve got a long way to go. I’m not satisfied with the way any of them are playing, if you want to know the truth about it. They’ve got to be more aggressive, physical, play with better leverage, hold the point better, rush the passer better. I didn’t think that last year was one of our best years up front, and even though we have a couple new players competing and Dalvin Tomlinson back, I think all of them have a ways to go.”

Thus, the first strong message of the spring was sent by Saban to both the media and his players. For the reporters, it was to stop making assumptions about anyone who has yet to even compete in a scrimmage, never mind a game, and for the players it’s keep your focus: “You haven’t done anything yet.”

That was a problem that plagued the Crimson Tide when it lost the final two games last season and failed to become the first program of the modern age to win three straight national championships. It’s also something that Saban is determined to keep from happening again.

Granted, he’s been talking about the team’s maturity level and focus since the Crimson Tide returned to the practice fields in mid-March, but this was the first time he’s called out a position group or specific players.

Part of the reason is because even the reporters can see some of the defensive line’s potential.

Although reserve nose tackle Darren Lake is out for the rest of spring after having surgery to fix a pectoral muscle, Alabama’s defensive line already has a very distinct look to it that can’t be ignored.

“Strong and big,” described senior right tackle Austin Shepherd. “They've gotten bigger every year.”

In particular, the Crimson Tide has better size at the end positions, which is reminiscent of when Marcell Dareus played for Alabama in 2008-2010.

This isn’t to suggest that either junior-college transfer Jarran Reed or sophomore A’Shawn Robinson will be as powerful or explosive as Dareus or could develop into the same kind of player (they also don’t have the luxury of playing next to two-time All-American Terrence Cody).

But they do have similar size and versatility.

Dareus was 6'3", 300-plus pounds at Alabama, and he weighed 319 when he was the third-overall selection by the Buffalo Bills in the 2011 draft.

Reed, who played defensive tackle last season for junior college national champion East Mississippi Community College, is listed as 6'4", 310 pounds. Robinson, Alabama’s sack leader last season as a freshman, is 6'4", 320.

“A’Shawn Robinson has a lot of ability, but I think we need to get him in shape and he’s got to play with better focus and intensity, down in and down out, to be more consistent,” Saban said. “Defensively we have a ways to go to improve to get back to the level and our standard of what we like to play here.” 

In other words, sure, they might pass the eye test, but at Alabama, that won’t even get you through the second week of spring practice.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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Oregon Football: Familiar Faces but New Perspective Shape Ducks' 2014

Oregon Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Marcus Mariota sported a bulkier frame at the first day of spring practices Tuesday. Mariota's attention-garnering weight gain is an indication of the adjustments the Oregon coaching staff is emphasizing to improve the Ducks' existing formula.  

In the three months since Oregon last took the field, the Ducks heeded new defensive coordinator Don Pellum's words that they needed to "push more weight," per GoDucks.com.

Mariota is just one of numerous Ducks to check in for spring practice with more mass. Duck Territory, 247Sports.com's Oregon site, notes some of the significant weight gains made in the winter. 

Oregon made its bones over the last seven seasons with speed, but in 2014 it looks to take the next step by adding size to the mix.  

This renewed emphasis on strength is one of the ways in which second-year head coach Mark Helfrich is making his mark on the program. The Ducks offensive coordinator for four years under predecessor Chip Kelly, Helfrich followed in the order of progression that is an Oregon tradition.

University athletic brass seems to follow the adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But that doesn't mean longtime Ducks staffers shy away from making adjustments.  

Such is the case with Pellum, who after more than two decades as an assistant was promoted from linebackers coach to replace Nick Aliotti in January. 

Aliotti made his own tweaks to the Oregon formula after spending some time in the program. His 15-season tenure is a prime example of how a familiar face at Oregon can change the way in which the Ducks operate.

After nearly a decade in the program, Aliotti crafted a 3-4 defensive scheme reliant on cycling through numerous players and generating turnovers to complement Kelly's torrid offensive pace. 

Continuity with a twist; that's the Oregon way. Ducks coaches have been adept at tailoring their game plan to their individual players' talents, but to compete at college football's highest level in 2014, Oregon must also adapt to the competition. 

Per The Register-Guard, "Pellum said he will stress discipline and fundamentals while doing his best to solve the Stanford problem." 

The "Stanford problem" refers to Oregon's consecutive losses to the powerful Cardinal, winners of the last two Pac-12 Conference championships. 

Stanford imposed its physical will on the Ducks in each of their last two meetings en route to the North-division title. The 2014 meeting promises to be another crucial step in the road to the Pac-12 championship.

And Stanford again promises to stake its game plan to size and physicality. A Facebook post claiming star offensive tackle Andrus Peat was also practicing at tight end proved to be an April Fools' Day prank, but the Cardinal will continue to employ jumbo formations on offense and tenacious blitz packages on defense.  

If a few tweaks to Oregon's otherwise tried-and-true formula means conquering this one problem, then that new perspective is certainly a welcome thing for the Ducks. 

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Oregon Football: Familiar Faces but New Perspective Shape Ducks' 2014

Oregon Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Marcus Mariota sported a bulkier frame at the first day of spring practices Tuesday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Nick Saban's Comments on Players' Rights Will Appeal to Recruits

Though they are separate causes with different demands, the unionization push by Northwestern football players and an increase in compensation for athletes fall into a Venn diagram of sorts. 

Almost always, there's an overlapping question: Are student-athletes, specifically football players, treated fairly considering what's asked of them on a daily basis?

If you ask Alabama coach Nick Saban, he'll give you an answer. Sort of. 

Following Tuesday's practice, here's what Saban had to say when he was asked about players' rights and compensation. (H/T Michael Casagrande, AL.com.) 

I've always been an advocate of players' rights. I've always been an advocate of players being compensated the best that we can to help them. Whatever the NCAA rule is and whatever they decide to do, I've always been an advocate of the player and the quality of life that a player has. I think that having a voice in what happens, I think, is something that the players probably ought to have. ... And I'm really not opposed to that at all. I do think that it's not what it seems.

Saban has a particular set of skills allowing him to say a lot without really saying anything. Basically, though, he's in favor of athletes having more than what they have right now. 

It's just vague enough to play it safe, but just specific enough to be considered the coach who has the players' backs in this whole situation. 

Unionization and player compensation are two hot-button topics in college football. Does anyone think recruits aren't taking notice?

What's more is that Saban's comments are contrary to the likes of Clemson's Dabo Swinney. 

"We've got enough entitlement in this country as it is," Swinney said about unionization via Aaron Brenner of the Post and Courier last month. "To say these guys get nothing totally devalues an education. It just blows my mind people don't even want to quantify an education."

Stanford's David Shaw was skeptical of the unionization push as well. From Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News

Of course, it's unlikely (at best) that any one recruit is going to play for Saban over Shaw or Swinney solely because he favors athletes having a louder voice or more money in their pocket. 

However, certain changes in the collegiate system "appear" inevitable, regardless of what drives them. CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd obtained a document this week outlining several new concepts should the NCAA go to new governance structure. That structure aims to grant autonomy to the five most powerful conferences. 

Among the proposals are: redefining the value of a scholarship to cover the full cost of attendance, a lifetime opportunity for an undergraduate education, and more health and nutritional benefits. Many of these ideas cross over into the unionization push. (B/R's Michael Felder has more on that HERE.) 

Point being, Saban is getting behind something that, in some form or another in the not-too-distant future, is likely to happen anyway. Even in promoting the value of an education, Saban takes a pro-player stance. 

Everybody knows what a scholarship is worth. That's pretty easy to figure out. But to do on a per-player basis, what we invest in the player to try to help them be successful. We spent like $600,000 last year on personal development programs. All things that directly affect the player having a chance to be successful. 

Keep in mind that Saban is an influential voice in college athletics. Though he put plenty of distance between himself and the failed "10-second rule," Saban has been outspoken about the pace of play for some time. In February, a plan to slow the game down was drafted. 

You can be the judge if that was a coincidence or not. 

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, another pace-of-play advocate, has made his platform all about player safety. That's something recruits and their families will appreciate. Saban is essentially doing the same thing on a different topic by taking a pro-player stance without really getting into the nitty-gritty details. 

Maybe the NCAA will notice, but recruits definitely will notice. Not that Saban needs help, of course. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Odds Texas A&M Remains No. 1 in 2015 Recruiting Rankings

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has accomplished quite a lot since accepting the position less than 30 months ago. He's ushered the Aggies into a new era as an SEC member, claimed two bowl victories, produced a Heisman Trophy winner and solidified the program's top two Coaches' Poll finishes since 1998. 

The success has greatly altered his team's recruiting landscape, rewriting expectations in a state traditionally stocked with high school stars. Texas A&M is suddenly outclassing Texas in a region where the Longhorns have seemingly had first pick while filtering through prospects.

This trend may not last forever, but it's the unmistakable truth whether you bleed orange or maroon. It also appears to be seeping into the 2015 recruiting cycle.

Still 10 months shy of signing day, the Aggies have assembled America's top-rated class in 247Sports' composite team rankings. Texas A&M holds nine commitments, including 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack and seven fellow Texas recruits who each carry 4-star distinction.

Among the state's top 20 prospects, Sumlin has picked up five pledges. Offensive guard Patrick Vahe, rated No. 17 on the list, is the lone Longhorns commit of the bunch.

The Aggies landed a top-five 2014 class in February, securing signatures from three 5-star recruits and 11 4-star prospects. It was a second straight top-10 class for Texas A&M.

For the record, Texas finished 17th. That placement matched the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting haul.

Sumlin extended his reach to procure top-tier talent from beyond state borders. Arizona quarterback Kyle Allen and Louisiana wide receiver Speedy Noil enrolled early and are already on campus trying to fill roles left behind by Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans.

Texas A&M continues to take advantage of the exposure created by Johnny Football's mystique. The Aggies' 10-6 record against SEC opponents since joining the conference signals has also turned heads.

Sumlin signed a six-year contract extension with the university in December, while Texas dealt with an occasionally messy high-profile coaching change. The move stabilizes his team's position as an upper-echelon recruit magnet and even a slight slide in on-field success this season shouldn't change the situation.

"We have only just begun to lay the foundation for sustained, long-term success here at Texas A&M, and we will work hard every day to make this great institution and the 12th Man proud," Sumlin said in a statement after agreeing to the extension (h/t ESPN.com).

Texas A&M bids farewell to college football's most publicized player since Tim Tebow, but the path has been paved for further strides in the near future. Last spring, the school approved a 20,000-seat expansion at Kyle Field that reportedly carries an anticipated tab of $450 million.

When a university wholeheartedly commits to an athletic program and a coach's vision, it becomes much easier for young prospects to do the same.

The most significant threat to a No. 1 recruiting ranking isn't internal issues. It's the collection of teams nipping at the Aggies' heels atop that list.

Penn State has quickly capitalized on its regime change, securing 11 commitments since mid-February. An impressive season under first-year head coach James Franklin would add more recruiting fuel for a program nearing the conclusion of Paterno-era sanctions.

Florida State will remain in the spotlight during the foreseeable future. The Seminoles' bid for a second straight national championship stars reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who takes the mantle from Manziel as the new face of NCAA football.

LSU is always in the mix. After finishing the 2014 cycle on a high note, Les Miles is currently the only coach in the country to hold commitments from two 5-star prospects (cornerback Kevin Toliver and offensive tackle Maea Teuhema).

SEC rival Alabama owns an incredible recruiting streak, with four consecutive No. 1 classes. The Crimson Tide rank third nationally right now but 3-star defensive end Anfernee Jennings is the only prospect to commit since signing day.

Even Nick Saban's top targets have noticed the Aggies' rise in recruiting.

"I just hope we finish ahead of Texas A&M," 5-star Alabama pledge Mekhi Brown told Bleacher Report in February.

That's certainly the challenge facing coaching staffs across the country in months to come. Texas A&M is suddenly the team to beat in recruiting, and program momentum shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.

 

Odds Texas A&M Stays at No. 1 through signing day: 3-to-1

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Who Will Man Middle of Irish Linebacking Corps?

It has begun abundantly clear that Brian VanGorder's defense will look very different than the one Bob Diaco played. But for all the schematic tweaks and pressure packages, there remains one universal truth: The Irish need a building block in the middle of their defense. 

As spring reveals new contenders for starting jobs and emerging players make their cases for a rebuilt coaching staff, the inside linebacker position still seems to be the one most in flux. After having Manti Te'o, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese essentially lock down the position for the Brian Kelly era, the Irish head coach is taking a wait and see approach as the contenders for playing time sort themselves out. 

"I really think it is really too early to tell where we are at that position," Kelly said last week. "I think to use the spring to determine who the middle linebacker is with a lot of new things going in is not something that we’re concerned with at this point. 

"It’ll take time to round itself out. That includes dipping into freshmen that will come in in the fall as well. I think this is a question that is not going to be answered until we move ourselves into the preseason."

Let's try to make some sense out of a position that remains one of the biggest question marks on the Irish roster. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Follow @KeithArnold on Twitter. 

 

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