NCAA Football

Malik McDowell Finally Signs with Michigan State: 5-Star Set to Dominate Big Ten

It took nearly two months longer than expected but Malik McDowell is officially a member of Michigan State's 2014 recruiting class. The 5-star defensive lineman, who dealt with resistance from family following his signing day decision, sent a completed letter of intent to East Lansing late Tuesday evening:

The Southfield High School senior has been at the center of a recruiting firestorm since declaring his intentions to attend the university Feb. 5. The 6'7", 290-pound prospect put himself on the map with strong play and a powerful frame, but recent events have kept McDowell in the spotlight for much different reasons.

McDowell visited Ohio State and Michigan State during the final week of January, heightening speculation of where he would end up at the next level. The process featured several programs, including Florida State, LSU and Florida.

Signs of a house divided were evident during the final stretch toward signing day. Greg McDowell, Malik McDowell's father, told 247Sports writer Steve Wiltfong shortly before signing day: 

We’re basically at the same point, his mother and I, as long as he gets away from Michigan we don’t care where he goes...I want him out of Michigan. I don’t care if that’s Ohio State or Florida State.

Still, when Malik McDowell's announcement occurred and he settled on Michigan State, his father willingly co-signed the presumed letter of intent. His mother, Joya Crowe, took a different approach.

She didn't attend his signing day ceremony at school and refused to approve the decision, which is paramount because of her reported role as a sole-custody parent. NCAA regulations require a signature from Crowe, setting the stage for a dramatic stretch that sparked rampant speculation.

Crowe told MLive.com:

No one knows what we as a family are going through at all, no one. They are just guessing, everyone is making accusations that aren't even true. One thing they are out there hollering about, (that) I'm offered money, that's not true.

The drama lasted eight weeks, with the coveted prospect's collegiate future hanging in the balance. One way or another, Malik McDowell is now seemingly signed, sealed and delivered to the Spartans.

Michigan State understands he's worth the wait.

There were never expectations of Malik McDowell enrolling on campus early, so he hasn't lost any ground on fellow 2014 signees set to arrive in East Lansing this summer. Amid recent rumors and confusion, his skill set has been a secondary story.

Malik McDowell is rated No. 3 nationally among 2014 strong-side defensive ends in 247Sports' composite rankings, which also lists him as the top prospect in Michigan. He totaled 89 tackles, seven sacks and three forced fumbles during his senior season.

Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio quickly took to Twitter to formally welcome his newest addition. He also shared a video produced by Michigan State that's been waiting to reach its audience for far longer than the program would've preferred:

The Spartans welcome a top-level talent who displays enough versatility to become a factor in a variety of roles. Malik McDowell is a massive specimen who can hold down the outside edge with authority or rotate inside to provide a presence up the middle.

From a physical standpoint, he is strong enough to command immediate consideration for playing time in a defense that ranked among the nation's best last season. An early rotational role could quickly lead to Malik McDowell's emergence as a mainstay along the Michigan State front.

Big Ten opponents Ohio State and Michigan made strong efforts to secure a signature from the disruptive defender, but instead must contend with him during autumns ahead. Malik McDowell already played with intensity but should be further fueled by the events that occurred in the aftermath of his commitment.

It would surprise no one if he arrives on campus with a chip on his shoulder, intent on legitimizing his steadfast devotion to the Spartans. A strong career at Michigan State would help make this stunning saga a distant memory.

Coach Dantonio and his staff can also move forward, knowing they've finally landed a long-established recruiting target. Now that they have him, the Spartans won't waste time implementing Malik McDowell into future defensive plans.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Expect David Ash to Start, Max Wittek Not 'Savior' for Longhorns

The Texas quarterback battle is heating up, with USC QB Max Wittek visiting Austin recently. Wittek plans on transferring after he graduates from USC this spring and should compete for the starting job at Texas, if he chooses the Longhorns. 

Wittek would join David Ash, Tyrone Swoopes and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard in an intense QB battle. Does Wittek have what it takes to win the starting job in Austin? Will David Ash's injury concerns affect his chances at starting in 2014?

Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman broke down Wittek's current situation and what a QB battle at Texas would look like if Wittek joined the Longhorns. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

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10 College Football Teams and Players Primed for Huge Bounceback Years in 2014

With spring football in full swing across the nation, another spring tradition is also well underway.

Each college football season brings surprises and disappointments, good and bad, yin and yang.

Spring brings hope that last fall’s mistakes and downfalls can be erased, replaced by hope and progress toward success that lies just over the bend.

Coaches and players are positive. Everything is in front of them. This is the year.

And why not believe it? Spring is all about renewal and fresh excitement.

For various reasons, these players and programs suffered through disappointing 2013 seasons. But they believe that this fall will be different.

Here are 10 players and programs primed for huge bounceback years in 2014.

 

 Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

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Texas A&M Doesn't Need Texas on Its Schedule, but Longhorns Need the Aggies

Remember when Texas toppled Texas A&M on a 40-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Aggies 27-25 on Thanksgiving night in 2011?

That memory is going to have to last a while.

According to ESPN.com's Max Olson, a rekindling of the rivalry with Texas A&M isn't at the top of new Texas athletic director Steve Patterson's priority list. That list apparently includes international games, including a football game in Mexico City and a sporting event in Dubai.

"There's a lot of great tradition with Texas A&M. At some point in time, does it make some business sense, some branding sense to play again? I don't know," Patterson told Olson.

"It's not at the top of my list. I'm really more focused on how we grow the footprint of the department."

It wasn't due to lack of effort from the Aggies.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle noted that former Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin famously reiterated, "anytime, anywhere" in regards to playing the Longhorns, but conceded last year that not everybody in A&M's administration shared the same feelings.

Maybe it's time for Patterson to rewrite his list and make the effort, because Texas needs Texas A&M now—not the other way around.

While it's understandable that Texas—or any high-profile program—would want to expand its visibility to an international audience, refusing to play Texas A&M has allowed the Aggies to gain a chunk of the market in its own country and state.

Four anonymous Texas high school coaches told William Wilkerson of LonghornDigest.com last month that Texas was not only behind A&M in the state pecking order, but behind Baylor.

A&M will have a new-look Kyle Field to play in once a $450 million renovation is complete prior to the 2015 season, has been in the national spotlight ever since it officially made the jump to the SEC prior to the 2012 season and has stayed in the spotlight thanks to the electric play of former quarterback Johnny Manziel, the most polarizing player in college football.

All Texas has been doing during that crucial time in the landscape of college football in the state is spinning its wheels.

Texas A&M has successfully rebranded itself to the state, regional and national audience. As I wrote in March, even in down years, that's not going to change.

Texas A&M will still be the SEC program in the talent-rich state, and that's only going to resonate further with high school and middle school kids who become more familiar with A&M's conference affiliation.

Because of that, Texas has to get Texas A&M back on the schedule. 

The Longhorns will always be a national brand and the most visible program in the state of Texas, but that hasn't been the case nationally over the last few years. A game against A&M would give the state and nation a tangible result between two national powers to gauge the strength of the two programs.

A&M isn't the "little brother" anymore. It could be Texas' cousin, but it's not the "little brother." The only way to prevent that cousin from achieving success is to knock him down every once in a while. 

Do you think this picture Manziel posted to Instagram over the weekend—which was accompanied by "Sorry Charlie...you're not part of the regime"—was a harmless joke?

Think again.

It was yet another sign that Texas A&M isn't going to take it anymore. Of course, that's not exactly breaking news. That was apparent from the moment Texas A&M announced it was jumping to the SEC.

You'd think that Patterson, an "outsider" who was announced as Texas' new athletic director on Nov. 5, 2013, would have brought a little perspective to Austin.

Apparently, he missed that memo.

 

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


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Mark Richt Sends Intricate, Hand-Drawn Portrait to Georgia Recruit

Update: April 2, 2014. 11:56 a.m. ET

Michael Carvell of AJC.com reports that more recruits are posting hand-drawn portraits from Richt to social media.

Rashad Roundtree of Lakeside-Evans High School tweeted an image of his portrait.

Roquan Smith of Macon County High and Chuma Edoga from McEachern High also received the hand-drawn treatment.

---End of Update---

In any other context, this could be unsettling.

In the landscape of college football, however, Mark Richt might have just broken the mold on creative recruitment.

Judging by a recent tweet from one of his recruiting targets, the University of Georgia coach is sending out hand-drawn portraits to the players he’s hoping will join his team in 2015.

D’Andre Walker, a 4-star recruit out of Fairburn, Georgia, tweeted out a picture of the freehand masterpiece Richt sent him in the mail. Mike Foss of For The Win spotted the tweet, which shows Walker wearing half a Georgia jersey.

The portrait is signed by Richt and reads “D’Andre, Red & Black looks good on you!”

This begs the question: Is Richt an artist? Has he been holding back on us all these years, drawing happy little bushes and working tirelessly under the televised tutelage of Bob Ross?

Odds are an art student or UGA staff member handled the job of drawing this detailed piece of work. Regardless, this is an outstanding effort by Georgia to keep within the rules and make an impact on a player.

It doesn’t get much more customized or personal than a hand-drawn portrait of your future with a program.

Bravo, Mark Richt. The only problem now is everyone you know will be asking you to draw them like one of your high school recruits/French girls.

 

Join me on Twitter for more sports news.

 

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Michigan Football: WR Drake Harris Suffers Hamstring Injury

After tweaking the hamstring that kept him out of his entire senior season at Grand Rapids Christian in 2013, freshman wide receiver Drake Harris has been limited in recent days at Michigan's spring practice and confirmed on Tuesday that he likely won't play for the rest of camp or in the spring game.

Harris said the following, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:

It's nothing too major, I pulled it, so I think I'm probably going to sit out the rest of spring. It's nothing major. I'm just still trying to get stronger in the weight room and get back.

It's pretty frustrating, but I've played basically the whole spring (until now). I've learned a lot. So I'll stay focused and stay positive.

It's a good sign that Harris has dismissed the severity of the hamstring pull, also saying that "The way I felt it this time was a lot different from what I did in high school." If he's telling the truth, he should be a full go for fall camp and be ready for the start of the season.

That would be big for the Wolverines. Per the 247Sports composite, Harris was the No. 7 receiver, No. 67 overall player and No. 3 prospect from the state of Michigan this past cycle, ranking higher than each of Michigan's other early enrollees and second highest in the class behind 5-star athlete Jabrill Peppers.

At 6'4'', Harris has the size to become a target on the outside as immediately as his true freshman season. Especially with four of the five leading wide receivers gone from last season—chief among them Jeremy Gallon, but also including Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds—there is opportunity for a player to see the field no matter his age or experience level.

In Harris' wake, even more opportunity will be afforded to fellow early enrollee Freddy Canteen, who has enjoyed a strong camp to date and is making a push for early playing time. He is shorter (6'1'') and faster than Harris, angling more to replace Dileo in the slot than Gallon on the outside, but now, at the very least, more coaching attention can be focused on Canteen's development.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was never afraid to play true freshmen at Alabama—e.g. Amari Cooper in 2012.

If Harris or Canteen (or both) earn their spot on the field, they will not have to wait long before seeing it.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Odds on Where 2015 No. 1 DE CeCe Jefferson Lands

The nation's No. 1 defensive end, CeCe Jefferson, is an absolute beast on the field and will make an instant impact wherever he ends up at the college level. The top programs in the country are recruiting this 6'2", 250-pound stud. 

Mark Stoops and Kentucky landed huge defensive lineman Matt Elam from the 2014 class. How will that affect CeCe Jefferson's recruitment?

Check out Adam Kramer break down the odds on where Cece Jefferson will play in 2015.  

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Rankings and stats from 247Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Malik McDowell Officially Joins Michigan State's 2014 Recruiting Class

Nearly two months after national signing day Malik McDowell is officially a member of Michigan State's 2014 recruiting class. The arrival of his paperwork ends a long and winding saga.

McDowell announced on Twitter that he submitted his letter of intent late Tuesday night, which was the final signing date for the period:

Mike Griffith of MLive.com confirms the paperwork was received by Michigan State and McDowell finally became a member of the class:

McDowell was a highly coveted recruit. The 5-star prospect ranked inside the top 40 nationally and was one of the top five strong-side defensive ends available, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The outlet lists 20 programs as have shown interest.

Furthermore, he was the top-ranked prospect in the state of Michigan. So Michigan State seemingly landed a major piece of its class on national signing day. Instead, his letter of intent never showed up and questions were raised about his status.

It turned out his mother originally prevented him from making his commitment official. James Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press reports Joya Crowe thought her son should have chosen a different school and wouldn't sign the letter:

McDowell verbally committed to MSU on Signing Day in early February, but his mother, Joya Crowe, refused to sign his letter of intent, preferring that he attend one of his other finalists: Ohio State or Florida State. McDowell also strongly considered Michigan, especially early in his recruiting process.

The report notes it's unclear what changed that led to McDowell officially joining the Spartans.

Regardless, it's a huge boost for Michigan State after an extended period where it wasn't clear where the talented defensive lineman would land following the chaos.

McDowell is still a bit raw, but his combination of size and athleticism makes him an extremely intriguing prospect with plenty of upside. He should be ready to play a rotational role right away before moving into a more prominent role once he gains experience.

Landing with Michigan State is also good for him because of its strong defensive system. The Spartans ranked third in the nation in points against per game last season. It should allow him to showcase his potential sooner rather than later.

There were probably some tense moments over the past few months for the Michigan State staff. Now they can rest easy. McDowell is on his way.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: TE Jeff Heuerman Out for Spring with Injury

One of the most underrated players on Ohio State's offense, senior tight end Jeff Heuerman, had successful surgery on the foot he sprained last week, which will keep him in a boot and on the sideline for the remaining portion of spring practice.

Head coach Urban Meyer confirmed the news Tuesday evening, per Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:

Heuerman finished last season third on the team with 26 receptions and 466 receiving yards. All six of his 50-yard receiving games came in the second half of the season, starting with a career-high 116 yards on five catches against Purdue Nov. 2.

The absence of the senior tight end might affect the rest of the team more than Heuerman himself. Having been through this now multiple times, Heuerman doesn't need the reps as much as the younger players on the roster need a leader.

Here's what Doug Lesmerises of the Columbus Dispatch wrote before spring practice when he listed Heuerman as one of five Buckeyes "on the spot":

With quarterback Braxton Miller and receiver Evan Spencer sidelined, the only senior starters on offense who will be out there for the first day of practice are Heuerman and receiver Devin Smith.

Heuerman may never catch a ton of passes, but he has the build and skills to be a high-round NFL pick with a strong senior season.

First, he’ll have to rally the troops. Leadership was a major topic for Urban Meyer last year. If players like Heuerman and Smith on offense and Michael Bennett, Doran Grant and Curtis Grant on defense fill their senior roles, Meyer may not have to talk about it so much this year.

Nick Vannett, a junior who caught eight passes for 80 yards and a touchdown as Heuerman's backup last season, will now likely get the majority of tight end reps for the rest of fall camp and in the spring game. Also in the mix is Marcus Baugh, a top-100 recruit in the class of 2013 who redshirted last year but has been arrested for underage drinking twice since arriving last July—most recently in January 2014, according to Austin Ward of ESPN.com.

Ohio State will hold its spring game Saturday, April 12 at 1:30 ET.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Nebraska Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker

Nebraska football fans know that one of the best parts of spring is watching position battles, trying to get an idea of who will be starting in the fall and leading the Cornhuskers (hopefully) to gridiron glory.

While the starters at some positions are relatively obvious, there are a number of ongoing battles. Make no mistake, starting jobs will be won by performances in spring and fall practice.

Here are five position battles that are still in various stages of play. 

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Florida Gators Football: Will This Be the Season of a 1,000-Yard Wide Receiver?

One of the most mind-boggling stats involving the Florida Gators is that the program hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002. That’s more than a decade ago. Just sit back and let that soak in for a few minutes.

To put that in a little better perspective, 2002 was the year Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol. She’s now working on her seventh studio album, and the popular television series is still running strong. On a football scale, 44 receivers last season topped the 1,000-yard mark, and four of them were in the SEC.

Just think of all the great recruits to come through Florida over the years and all the solid pass-catchers. From Percy Harvin to Aaron Hernandez to Louis Murphy, none have come close to reaching the four digits. Riley Cooper has come the closet to reaching the mark, as he finished with 961 receiving yards in 2009. Heck, a Florida receiver hasn’t even cracked 600 receiving yards in the last five years.

Will this be the year Florida has an elite receiver who can take over games single-handedly?

It’s probably best to think baby steps after Florida finished last season ranked dead last in the SEC in total offense. Jeff Driskel remains a question mark at quarterback, and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is entering his first season with the club. It’s also nearly impossible to forget that the Gators have countless receivers jockeying for the position after nobody emerged as the go-to guy.

This looks like a recipe for another year added to such a bizarre streak. This has got to be a statistic that could stump the Schwab.

Ahmad Fulwood, a receiver who is fighting for a starting job this spring, recently addressed this issue to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports:

I'm sure every team would like that (600-yard guy), but we're all right now just trying to contribute as much as possible, Fulwood said. If we have eight 300-yard receivers, that's just as good as having one 600-yard receiver.

Fullwood has got a point. After all, LSU's Jarvis Landry, Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews put up eye-popping receiving numbers last season, and none of those programs reached the SEC Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Missouri Tigers had three receivers with more than 600 receiving yards, and they ended up being the surprise team in the SEC.

So, maybe the 1,000-yard thing is overrated a little. Still, it’s an individual goal that’s cool to fulfil and has turned into a streak that has to be broken sooner or later, right? Florida brings in too much talent each season for such a drought.

If you’re somebody hoping this streak gets put to bed soon, you may be in luck with Roper calling the shots as offensive coordinator. Roper is a coach who works with what he has and harps on his players’ strengths over and over until the defense figures out a way to stop it.

Last season, Jamison Crowder, a Duke receiver who topped 1,000 yards, caught 108 of the team’s 298 receptions. That’s good for a little over 36 percent of the Blue Devils' passing game. In 2012, Duke had two receivers top 1,000 yards (amazing, right?), and those two guys combined for more than 45 percent of the team’s receptions.

In other words, if Florida can find that one receiver who can separate himself from the pack, there’s a good chance this statistic won’t pop up on Jeopardy.

While Andre Debose has a chance to finally thrive in his last season, the player with the best chance of becoming that true game-breaker is sophomore Demarcus Robinson. Forget last year's suspensions and the disappointment—Robinson has made the coaching staff proud during spring practice and has coach Will Muschamp bragging a little, according to a Goldkamp report:

I think he has done some fantastic things in the passing game, Muschamp said. He’s an explosive receiver. He’s a tough match one-on-one because of his size, his athleticism. He’s got really good ball skills down the field.

I think, again, sometimes (it takes) maturing a little bit. We mature at different times. I think we’ve seen some strides there.

Robinson has elite receiver written all over him. You know, the type of talent it would take to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. With his size, hands, speed and the fact he’s going up against a top tier cornerback in Vernon Hargreaves III in practice, there’s no excuse for Robinson not to blossom into an all-conference receiver.

So, when will this streak become a thing of the past? Who knows? What I do know is that Florida has easily its most talented receiver on campus since Harvin and an offensive coordinator who knows how to put guys in position to thrive. 

Why not this season? 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

11 College Football Teams That Give Opposing Quarterbacks Nightmares

Even in today’s era of dominant offenses in college football, certain defenses still leave opposing quarterbacks—and offensive coordinators—waking up with night sweats before big games.

Defenses can be dangerous to quarterbacks for several reasons—strong secondary play, takeaway ability, pass rush or ability to turn offenses into single-minded attacks.

Programs like Alabama, Stanford and LSU continue winning in volume with help from dominating defenses and power run games.

It’s no coincidence all three will find their names on this list.

However, the old cliché about defense winning championships no longer holds water.

Virginia Tech, for instance, fielded one of the strongest defenses in the nation this year. Yet the Hokies could never find consistent answers on offense and, therefore, finished the season 8-5.

That Michigan State struggled to a 7-6 campaign in 2012 wasn’t indicative of the team’s strong defensive prowess but rather its offensive ineptitude. The Spartans found a better, more polished attack in 2013. They won the Big Ten—and the Rose Bowl—as a direct result.

In other words, finding dominant defenses is no longer a matter of simply perusing the win-loss records of teams. More complicated factors must be examined instead—such as the ability to get after the passer, ability to create turnovers and a proven knack for holding teams below their season passing averages. 

With that in mind, this is a list identifying the 11 defenses most capable of making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. This list examines teams that will scare quarterbacks in 2014—not which defenses scared them in 2013.

Arizona State and South Carolina would have been ranked highly if this was a 2013 list. Both lost so many players—and so many impact players—that reloading seems like a tremendous challenge.

Here is our list: 

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.cfbstats.com/2013/national/index.html.

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Ranking the Top 25 Freshmen Heading into the 2014 College Football Season

The last two Heisman Trophy winners have been freshmen. Redshirt freshmen, but still players in their first year of college football.

Who's to say this isn't the start of an annual trend, as it's starting to become in college basketball, that the best players in the game are often the ones with the least experience at that level?

Impact freshmen are a big part of college football nowadays, and this year shouldn't be any different. Dozens of the top recruits from the 2013 recruiting class saw significant time last season, and the same will likely happen this fall.

But there's also a solid crop of players who redshirted last year. Now with a full year of practice and development under their belts, they are ready to run, throw and tackle wild.

Here's our look at the top 25 freshmen heading into the 2014 season, factoring in their chance to start and make an instant impact. Becoming Heisman-worthy is entirely optional.

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Penn State Football: Grading Each Early Enrollee's Spring Performance

The bulk of Penn State's 2014 recruiting class isn't on campus yet, but the players who are have already been put to work. 

In January, the Nittany Lions welcomed five early enrollees—defensive tackle Tarow Barney, quarterback Michael O'Connor, wide receiver De'Andre Thompkins, defensive tackle Antoine White and offensive tackle Chasz Wright. All five are currently taking classes and participating in spring practices under the tutelage of new head coach James Franklin.  

While the adjustment period has been easier for some, the group in general has done a relatively good job. Some have even raised enough eyebrows to warrant consideration for regular playing time come August. 

When grading how each player has performed this spring, those two factors were taken into consideration—how well they've acclimated themselves to life in college, and their level of play on the field. 

Here's how each early enrollee has fared so far this spring.

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Big Ten Football: Updating Every Team's Quarterback Situation

It might seem as if college football is the sport farthest removed from springtime, but the most dedicated college football fans know that a team's fortunes can be won or lost during spring football practices, especially when it comes to the quarterbacking situation.

Quarterbacks are often the difference between winning and losing in today's game.  Even in April, coaches, fans and the media keenly watch for any signs of instability or change at the position.

With quarterbacks being so critical to the success of college football teams, it might be a good idea to get an idea about where each Big Ten team stands as we begin 2014 spring football in earnest.

Class years reflect the player's 2014 status.

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Michigan Football: What Should Fans Expect from Amara Darboh in 2014

Think of Amara Darboh as a figment of the imagination.

Time-wise, he’s approaching year No. 3 at Michigan—the 6’2,” 214-pound redshirt sophomore receiver signed with the 2012 class, coach Brady Hoke’s first.

But playing-wise, he’s been absent.

However, it hasn’t been his fault.

As a true frosh, Darboh played four games but was essentially shelved for later use.

When it came time for later use, an injury to his right foot—one which required surgery—threw the sophomore into a wayward course of recovery and waiting.

Then there was more recovery accompanied by more waiting.

Time-wise, he’s certainly due for something.

Team 135 will need at least that, especially since Jeremy Gallon’s career has come to an end. After a record-setting senior season, "Mr. Security Blanket" is NFL-bound.

Needless to say, the Wolverines are on an active search for their next play maker—and plenty of talent resides within their wideout depth chart.

Devin Funchess, a junior, could outgrow his conference star-in-the-making status and enter the national realm.

A close-to-proven commodity, Jehu Chesson, is also on the ascent. The redshirt sophomore will likely be on the end of several plays this fall. 

Assuming he makes a healthy return, sophomore Jake Butt should take a prominent role in the passing game. He’s a tight end. But why nitpick? He can catch, and Doug Nussmeier, the offensive coordinator, needs guys who can do that, regardless of position title.

Freddy Canteen, a true frosh, has impressed during spring drills. At the moment, he’s among contenders for a regular gig.

Another "up-sider," Drake Harris, Canteen's fellow early enrollee, was supposed to provide a boost to the receiving corps. However, due to a hamstring injury, 2013’s "Prize of Michigan" recruit will likely miss the rest of spring, including Saturday’s scrimmage at "The Big House."

Michigan has a lot in the cupboard. But Nussmeier and Hoke need a hero to get things cooking.

So why not Darboh? He’s completely willing to step into the mix. However, according to his coaches, he's not yet ready.

“Right now I feel like I’m 100 percent, but they’re keeping me out,” said Darboh to MLive.com’s Kyle Austin. “By the time fall camp comes around I should be 100 percent.”

Offensive progress hinges on the fingertips of the receivers. A challenging hand was dealt to Darboh, but don't discard him just yet. He represents a fraction of Michigan's untapped talent. 

 

Darboh Refresher

Hello... again... 

In the recruiting world, "a few years ago" seems like forever. Basically, anything that's not at least a year ahead of the current class is old news.

That being said, Michigan’s gone through some changes since 2012. For Darboh, the biggest change, of course, has to be the swapping of OCs—going from Al Borges to Nussmeier could present a few roadblocks.

Or it may open up things for the eager, former West Des Moines Dowling Catholic star looking to make a name for himself this fall. 

But before that conversation gets started, take a second to get reacquainted. Please find the following table useful while doing so.

Here's the link to his 247Sports profile. 

What Can He Do?

The following video from YouTube user kdutch98 looks about right...

It's a fair question...

What does he bring to the table? 

He's big.

But he's not a Megatron-like target.

At 214 pounds, he has enough mass on his 6'2" frame to absorb a few tackles and break through linebackers and defensive backs. With a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, he has the speed to get away from them, too. 

Pegging him as a sideline specialist seems about right. He's nimble and has reliable mitts. Those guys move chains and use every last horizontal inch of the field. 

But he can get vertical as well. 

The following report is from Allen Trieu of Scout.com.

Above average size and speed ratio. Maybe not a burner, but has solid deep speed. Excellent hands, ball skills, and ability to go up and get the ball in traffic. He tracks the ball well and has good body control. After the catch he has good ability and is a pretty strong kid that can break tackles in the open field. - Allen Trieu

Sold. 

All of that sounds perfect. Michigan will take two. 

What's not to like about Trieu's assessment? It gives reason to anticipate Darboh's arrival. However, he has zero catches for zero yards and zero touchdowns. As mentioned above, he's played just four games as a receiver. 

Thanks to special teams, his three-year resume boasts all of 11 games. 

 

Quality, Not Quantity 

Former OC Al Borges saw Darboh's potential from the start...

OK, so basically, Darboh is unproven stock. But if Hoke and Nussmeier invest proper resources, they could be in for a surprising return in 2014. 

Sometimes, the best and most useful players don't lead on the stat sheet. That much was true for Butt, who slipped into the rotation on a regular basis after a late-season surge. Statistically speaking, Gallon, who reeled in 89 receptions for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns, was Michigan's "leader and best" in 2013. 

But there's a strong argument for Funchess, who finished the year with 49 catches for 748 yards and six touchdowns. Gallon was the go-to, but Funchess, who is 6'4" and 230 pounds, was a great bailout option for Gardner, who could find a similar friend in Darboh this fall. 

It's not all about numbers. Inflated values mean nothing when compared to efficient, steady production. 

Imagination time is about to expire. Darboh is a concept-player who's one step closer to becoming a finished product.

 

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

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Ohio State Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker

The Ohio State Buckeyes need 10 new starters for the 2014 season and with spring practice winding to a close, the competition is heating up.

While the Buckeyes are fortunate to return senior quarterback Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer will need to replace Carlos Hyde (the team's leading rusher), Corey Brown (the leading receiver) and Ryan Shazier (the top tackler), along with a host of leaders from the offensive line and secondary.

Here's a breakdown of Ohio State's spring position battles.

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