NCAA Football

5-Star Trevon Grimes Updates Recruitment, Talks Calvin Johnson-Inspired Nickname

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Calvin Johnson’s days playing in the NFL may be over, but his influence is alive and well in the form of 2017 5-star receiver Trevon Grimes

In fact, the nation’s No. 2 wideout and the No. 10 player overall in the 2017 cycle has even used the former Lions legend’s nickname of “Megatron” as inspiration for a nickname of his own.

“Calvin Johnson is a guy I’ve always looked up to and admired. If I had to choose a receiver to be like, I’d pick Calvin Johnson,” Grimes told Bleacher Report recently. “I have a nickname I call myself. I call myself “Tregatron.”

Getting bigger to match his idol on a physical level has been on the top of Grimes’ offseason to-do list, as he now checks in at 6’4”, 201 pounds.

“I just hit the 200-pound mark. I’m trying to get to 210 [before the season]. I just want to add some muscle. I look forward to displaying that during my senior season,” he said.

Grimes is just one of several prospects from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—one of the nation’s premier prep powers.

Raiders head coach Roger Harriott said Grimes has many qualities that make him one of the nation’s most coveted skill talents in the 2017 class.

“He has a great work ethic in the weight room. He pushes himself hard and inspires his teammates,” Harriott said. “Obviously, he’s physically gifted with a big, strong body and a substantial amount of speed. He has an ability to stretch the field and make explosive plays. From an intangible standpoint, he has strong character. He has a very positive attitude. He has a will power and drive that is uncanny.”

Originally from Indiana, Grimes has thrived in the football hotbed of South Florida since relocating.

He’s landed more than 25 offers heading into his senior season, with schools such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Ohio State among the programs aggressively recruiting him.

However, there’s no secrecy involved in identifying the school in the driver’s seat for one of 2017’s most explosive prospects.

“I always keep in contact with [Ohio State head] Coach Urban Meyer. He’s a great guy, and they have a great staff. That’s one of the reasons Ohio State is my leader,” Grimes explained. “I just feel like they don’t look at me like a regular recruit they just want. They look at me more as like a son and they want to mentor me in life and help me with my life goals. I feel like those are the two coaches [Meyer and receivers coach Zach Smith] that stick out to me the most.”

Another school is positioning itself to pose the biggest challenge in preventing Grimes from eventually landing in Columbus.

“Right now, Florida is chasing Ohio State. That’s probably the biggest threat to Ohio State,” Grimes said. “I like a lot of things about Florida. My quarterback here, Jake Allen, he’s committed to Florida, and he’s on me everyday in class about Florida, this and Florida, that. I got to get up there and see what he was talking about and since then, I was amazed. I like everything about it. I like [receivers] Coach [Kerry] Dixon. I like the atmosphere and facilities. Everything is good there.”

For his part, Allen acknowledged being in his teammate’s ear about teaming up again in college.

“That’s my guy. Everyday. I have math with him, so I’ll be like, ‘Tre, what’s up? Go Gators,’ or something like that just to let him know we want him up there,” Allen said.

Grimes visited the Gators in January for the program’s junior day, and he recently took a trip to Miami for a similar visit.

In addition to a return trip to Gainesville, there are a pair of college football titans he wants to visit in the near future.

“One of my major schools I want to get up to soon is Florida State. Another one I want to see is Alabama, and I want to get back to Florida,” he said.

Two things Grimes noted that will be critical in his decision are his relationships with the coaching staff and his comfort level on campus at his school of choice.

He’s not in a rush to make a decision, although he admits it could come at any moment. 

“I really don’t have a timeline, but I’ll do it when I feel comfortable. It could be within the next couple of months if I feel right, but I have to talk with my mom and see when the time is right,” Grimes said. “Whenever I feel like I’m ready to get this thing over with, that’s when I’ll do it.”

 

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

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College Football Programs with the Weirdest Mascots

College football is a game steeped in tradition. Many fans are born into their allegiances, given their rooting interests by their parents at birth. Six to seven times per year, they head to their stadium of choice, taking the same route, setting up in the same tailgating spot and sitting in the same seats they’ve had for generations.

One important part of those traditions is the team mascot. Mascots play a key role in college football fandom. They adorn the gear fans wear, elicit emotional responses and provide sideline entertainment. While many programs have classic mascots such as Lions, Tigers and Bears (oh my!), others have more of an eclectic nature. While the University of California at Santa Cruz doesn’t offer football, it’d be worth it just to see the Banana Slug mascot (immortalized by John Travolta’s T-shirt in Pulp Fiction) sliding along the sidelines.

Weird mascots make college football fun. Here’s a look at some of the game’s strangest mascots, both by name and by the actual mascots themselves.

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Bill Cubit Fired by Illinois: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

The University of Illinois announced the dismissal of head football coach Bill Cubit on Saturday following one year as the program's interim boss. 

The team's official Twitter account relayed a statement from new athletic director Josh Whitman: 

Freshman quarterback Eli Peters expressed his shock at the decision:

Meanwhile, offensive lineman Joseph Spencer thanked the coach for his work:

Cubit took over as interim head coach last August after former head coach Tim Beckman was fired in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the reporting of injuries and the medical treatment of members of the football team.    

The Illini went 5-7 under Cubit during the 2015 season, and as USA Today's Erick Smith noted, the dismissal came on Whitman's first day as the school's athletic director. 

However, ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg theorized Whitman may not have made the move in hasty fashion: 

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel provided another perspective through the prism of Cubit's appointment to the position of head coach: 

Illinois also announced Ryan Cubit was relieved of his duties as the program's offensive coordinator, while all other assistants currently with the team will be afforded a chance to retain their jobs via interviews with the next head coach. 

The school's statement mentioned that Bill will receive the remaining $985,000 on his deal, while Ryan will take home $361,000. 

With the 2005 MAC Coach of the Year out in Champaign, the team will need to find a replacement fast. As Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer noted, the Illini are scheduled to start spring practice in six days.

And with the personnel shuffle just beginning, Illinois could be in for another long year as it searches for stability that has long been elusive. 

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Shilique Calhoun Among the Best, and Safest, Pass-Rushers in 2016 NFL Draft

In NFL draft discussions, there’s occasionally a rift between a player perceived as "safe" and a player who has "upside." Too often, players narrowly fit into one of these categories, grouped as either NFL-ready with limited growth potential or prospects who need ample work before their teams can trust them.

Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun is proof a prospect can be both. Teams don’t have to sacrifice upside and production for relative safeness all the time in the draft process.

Calhoun isn’t the sexiest of athletes and may never be a top-five pass-rusher in the NFL, but it’s his reliability, future impact and persistent activeness as an edge player that should force NFL teams to ignore their desire for pure “upside” and draft the future long-term starter in round one. 

 

Run Defender: Active Yet Controlled

In today’s NFL, the focus is on defensive ends or outside linebackers who can rush the passer. Sacks and tackles for loss are the gold standard for edge-rusher success, which has some merit; there aren’t many pass-rushers who can consistently cause consistent pressure, just like there are few NBA players who can effectively create their own shot.

It’s a rarity, and when you find a Von Miller or a Stephen Curry type who can win on their own, it’s important to properly appreciate it. 

But few college edge players enter the NFL with as refined and consistent run-defending skills as Calhoun boasts as he departs Michigan State. Working as a strong-side defensive end the last three seasons, Calhoun has dealt with all types of offensive focuses against him in the running game. 

Calhoun has grown into a complete edge run defender, offering remarkable consistency in two key areas: edge setting and in-space finishing.

The 23-year-old is rarely pushed off balance when working on the perimeter, utilizing a strong core to re-engage after the initial block and work toward the running lane with momentum. As in the play below, Calhoun plays with a violent activeness with his hands while also maintaining balance and meaningful steps as he works down the line:

Notice how he erased the tight end's hand placement, baited and slipped underneath the pulling center and eliminated any hope of a cutback lane for the running back. He not only eliminated the value of two blockers but also inhibited any potential cutback lane for the running back. With so many teams valuing the outside zone run as a part of their horizontally stretching offense, having a strong-side defensive end who can neutralize it like this is supremely valuable. 

The second aspect of Calhoun’s game that makes him an NFL-level run defender is his ability to finish in space. Too often, defensive ends can get to their spot and eliminate blockers, only to be just a minor delay in a running back’s big play. Calhoun, who may be considered by some teams as a 3-4 outside linebacker, is able to evade second-level blockers, stay linear in his pursuit and breakdown to finish in space.

In the play above, Calhoun effectively read the underneath screen thanks to the right tackle pushing upfield after the snap. Calhoun dips into the flat, evaded the receiver’s poor block and worked to get into position. His tackling form and finishing here should be the go-to play when considering whether Calhoun can play 3-4 outside linebacker.

As in these two instances, Calhoun has displayed effectiveness as a run defender who's more than just being physical, active or having the inherent skill set to do so. The upside is there to add bulk, improve hand alignment and diagnosis even quicker, but he’s NFL-ready in the two areas that generally give rookie defensive ends trouble in the NFL.

 

Pass-Rusher: Impact Without Risk

As alluded to earlier, the breadwinning skill of any highly valued edge player is his ability to rush the passer. Calhoun doesn’t dominate with elite athleticism or explosiveness, as some of his 2016 draft counterparts are able to. But Calhoun can win with refined technique, hand placement and positioning, as well as with dynamic counter-rush moves and straight-line bursts to the quarterback. 

For a strong-side edge player as a pass-rusher, Calhoun needs to prove he can take advantage of one-on-one matchups without blitzing support, can counter rush to maximize the handful of opportunities and still generate disruption against double teams. Calhoun, especially as a senior, has consistently displayed all three of those pass-rushing dynamics.

Despite rushing a bit high at times and not playing with a consistently low-centered pad level, Calhoun is able to dip on the perimeter initially and work underneath edge-blockers with plus-shoulder technique and an underneath rip. Calhoun’s ability to run the arch, get position on kick sliding tackles without giving up ground and finish in the backfield is exemplified in the play below:

Along with winning on the perimeter in his senior year, something he’s drastically improved upon since his 2013 and 2014 seasons, Calhoun has also become more effective as a counter rusher inside. He’s developed well-defined and effective outside-in rip move setups as well as a sharp spin move, both of which should translate nicely to the NFL level in time.

As in the play below, Calhoun works outside initially, gets the left tackle to overcommit only slightly, then uses a push and inside rip move, coupled with a balanced, linear approach to the quarterback, to finish the sack. Staying linear and more under control as a pass-rusher allowed Calhoun to be a far more effective backfield tackle finisher than in the past.

Finally, Calhoun has willingly accepted double teams in his time at Michigan State. In the past, it was to support the host of NFL prospects at linebacker and defensive line to generate their own pressure with as many as one-on-one opportunities as possible. This season, as the defense’s feature defender, he was asked to continue to generate pressure despite the added attention, and he answered the call.

In the play above, Calhoun first executed a perfectly stepped (though a tad high) spin move, keeping his back exposure minimum and stepping the blocker’s full width in his footwork. He moved past the blocker with upfield penetration, split the aiding running back block and forced the quarterback into a throwaway.

Calhoun’s aggressiveness was on display throughout the 2015 season, and his campaign to prove to NFL teams he could be a feature pass-rusher has paid off based on his play as a senior.

 

Worth a 1st-Round Pick?

After producing middle-of-the-road NFL Scouting Combine numbers—4.82-second 40-yard dash, 23 reps on the bench press and a 6.97-second three-cone drill— Shilique Calhoun’s performance reiterated to NFL teams he’s not an elite-level athlete. But that was expected. He won’t have the terms "high upside” or “developmental” tied to his name, and that’s great news. 

More than few teams should be coveting an NFL-ready strong-side edge defender. While there are a handful of free-agent options to fill the void, such as Chris Long, William Hayes and Courtney Upshaw, they’ll cost a pretty penny and may not be much more effective in 2016 than Calhoun.

Just because a prospect such as Calhoun doesn’t possess elite upside as a pass-rusher doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be considered a first-round pick. First-round values are players who can make an impact early in their NFL career and grow into one of the cornerstones of the team.

Calhoun could provide immediate starting capabilities in the NFL, and his growth as a senior along with completeness as a prospect should make him a key cog in any defensive line.

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