NCAA Football

Willie Gay to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 4-Star OLB Prospect

The Ole Miss Rebels added a defensive playmaker to their 2017 recruiting class Friday in the form of outside linebacker Willie Gay.

The 6' ½,”, 215-pound Gay is a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and the No. 132 player overall, No. 11 outside linebacker and No. 3 prospect from the state of Mississippi in the 2017 class.

Gay made the decision official on Twitter:

Being from Mississippi, Gay generated plenty of interest from SEC schools during his recruiting cycle.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss were the only schools to garner Crystal Ball predictions from 247Sports, but Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M also showed interest.

It wasn’t just SEC schools that pursued Gay, as Michigan and Oklahoma also recruited the linebacker. Gay discussed what he was looking for in the various programs, per Drew Champlin of AL.com: “I’m just looking for a school that knows what they want to do with me and has a plan and just feels like they can use me in their program.”

Based on talent alone, Gay’s new school should find plenty of opportunities to use him.

The first thing that jumps out is his athleticism, which allows him to drop back into coverage and hang with tight ends, although he is quick enough to pressure opposing quarterbacks on blitzes off the edge as well.

Hudl.com shared some of Gay’s highlights from his junior season in 2015:

Scout.com, which noted “his speed is one of his biggest strengths,” pointed out Gay’s ability to play in space, attack running backs in the box and close on tackles with his speed.

The versatile linebacker has the overall talent to contribute right away for his new school, even in the SEC. He is a three-down type of player and has the potential to develop into a star defender at the next level.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Shavar Manuel, 4-Star FSU DT Commit, Will Attend Junior College

Coveted defensive tackle prospect Shavar Manuel, who signed a national letter of intent with the Florida State Seminoles on Feb. 3, has reportedly opted to attend junior college instead of proceeding with his plan to play for the ACC powerhouse.

Citing a source in Manuel's family, Josh Newberg of 247Sports reported the 4-star stud will enroll at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas.

"The same source says that Florida State has been working with him over the past few weeks in picking a JUCO to attend," Newberg wrote. "Manuel will need to get his AA degree before becoming eligible.  The family believes he could be out of JUCO in a year-and-a-half."

Manuel committed to the Florida Gators on Jan. 3, per 247Sports, but he reversed that decision a month later and latched on with the Seminoles.

He explained his decision in a conversation with Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson: 

The Blake High School and IMG Academy product has been lauded as one of the nation's top high school run-stuffers for some time. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Manuel is the ninth-ranked defensive tackle and 67th-ranked player overall in the 2016 class. He's also the 11th-ranked player in the state of Florida. 

Since Newberg Manuel will ultimately make his way to Tallahassee, head coach Jimbo Fisher and Co. will merely need to exercise some patience before they can get their hands on the potential cornerstone.

 

All recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dream Scenarios for Every 2016-17 College Football Bowl Matchup

It's never too early to talk about the postseason. This is the time of the year when playoff and even standard bowl projections are starting to be published online and in annual preview magazines. Everyone already has their eyes on the prizes.

Fans also talk about dream matchups between certain schools in the offseason. They have a list of which head coaches and powerhouse programs should square off for bragging rights, chances at revenge or chances at a national championship.

Let's take that exercise to its furthest point in terms of the 2016 college football season. I have gone through each FBS conference and sketched out a rough pecking order of teams projected to be bowl-eligible. Then, by using the 2016-17 bowl schedule and tie-ins from FBSchedules.com, I came up with dream matchups for every one of the 40 bowl games for the upcoming campaign.

Some dreams are bigger and better than others, as a team could only be used once. What would be the best-case bowl lineup using the teams that are expected to make it to the postseason in 2016? Past meetings, coach histories, location and program styles all factored into these selections.

To be clear: These aren't my projections for this year's bowls, but I tried to keep the landing spots as realistic as possible for the teams. Preseason Top 25 polls, such as this composite ranking, were good guides.

Which matchups would you want to see the most in this year's college football bowl season? Dream big, and let me hear them in the comments below.

Begin Slideshow

Art Briles, Baylor Reportedly Agree to Settlement: Details, Comments, Reaction

Baylor and head football coach Art Briles have reportedly agreed to terms on a settlement on his contract.

Bleacher Report's Jason King and KWTX 10 in Waco, Texas, reported the two sides agreed to the settlement, though terms were not disclosed.

Earlier this week, Baylor interim president David Garland told Dallas' WFAA-TV (via ESPN.com) that a contingent of people were hoping to get Briles back on the sidelines in 2017: "A lot of fans love what the coach did on the football field, and you can understand that. But other factors have to be taken into consideration."

Dan Wolken of USA Today reported a group of Baylor donors were seeking to have Briles remain the program's football coach by essentially serving a one-year suspension, but the movement was "unlikely to result in any action."

Baylor spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said in a statement Tuesday that the school's "Board of Regents did meet...to discuss a variety of matters. We can confirm, there was no vote regarding the employment status of Art Briles."

Briles signed a 10-year contract extension with Baylor three years ago that runs through 2023. KWTX 10 noted he was still owed around $40 million for the duration of the contract. Baylor hired Jim Grobe as the interim football coach on May 30.

On May 26, per the school's official website, Baylor announced it was suspending Briles with the intent to fire him after results from an independent investigation revealed a "fundamental failure" by the university "to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA)."

Baylor as a whole has come under scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations, particularly those involving football players, which led the school to make sweeping changes—demoting university president Ken Starr and placing athletic director Ian McCaw on probation. Both Starr and McCaw later resigned.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Oklahoma State and head football coach Mike Gundy reached an agreement on a two-year contract extension that was approved Friday by the Board of Regents and will keep him with the program through 2021.

Kyle Fredrickson of the Oklahoman provided the details of the new deal, which the board unanimously approved.

Fredrickson also confirmed through university spokesman Gary Shutt that Gundy will receive a $3.55 million base salary as part of the extension. The coach still has four years left on the eight-year pact he signed with the school following the 2011 campaign, which was worth around $30 million.

"We want to be sure that everybody knew that he was our guy," said Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis in a statement, via Fredrickson. "I think recruits and assistant coaches want to know that the coach that hired you is going to be the coach that’s there. So we thought it was important with just four years left to make a statement in that regard."

Gundy has helped Oklahoma State transform into one of the nation's most consistently competitive programs since he took over in 2005. The Cowboys have qualified for a bowl game in 10 straight years, going 6-4 in those contests, and finished as the country's third-ranked team in 2011.

In all, the 48-year-old former Oklahoma State quarterback has compiled a 94-47 record, including a 56-37 mark in conference games, across 11 seasons in charge. The team's winning percentage since 2010 ranks 13th in the country, according to Team Rankings.

The Cowboys have also produced several high-profile NFL players during Gundy's tenure, including wide receiver Dez Bryant, offensive tackle Russell Okung, quarterback Brandon Weeden and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Bill Haisten of Tulsa World spoke with the Oklahoma native about his status near the end of last season. Gundy stated he regretted looking into opportunities with Tennessee and Arkansas in 2012 and he's now prepared for another decade in Stillwater.

"I'm just as energized now as when I started," he said. "I hit a wall and I kind of fell off, but I've broken through now."

Gundy, who will always be remembered for his "I'm a man! I'm 40!" rant in 2007, has proved to be far more than a great quote over the years. He's a terrific recruiter who's shown the ability to develop talent to make the Cowboys a regular threat in the Big 12.

That's why Oklahoma State is staying ahead of the curve by giving him a new contract now even though there's still time left on his prior deal. It's been a great partnership for more than a decade, and it's set to continue for the foreseeable future.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Summer Enrollees to Watch for

The Notre Dame football roster will grow by 18 players when the remaining 2016 signees arrive on campus in the summer.

Some are headed for redshirts, but that decision won't be made official until after offseason workouts and fall camp concludes. In the meantime, the true freshmen will adjust to elevated competition and attempt to impress coaches in the process.

A few prospects may contribute in 2016, but that's not the only reason to track the newcomers. Others—like early enrollees Kevin Stepherson and Devin Studstill did in the spring—can develop quicker than expected and provide even more hope for the future.

Keep an eye on these players during the upcoming season.

Begin Slideshow

The Case for and Against Alabama Winning the SEC West

For two straight holiday seasons, Alabama has prepared for national semifinal matchups with the SEC championship trophies already in its football facility. 

Could the Crimson Tide make it three in row in the rough-and-tumble SEC West?

Head coach Nick Saban has significant roster holes to fill, including at center, quarterback, running back and middle linebacker. 

Could those holes, coupled with a tough schedule, derail the Tide?

Let's make the case for and against an SEC West three-peat.

 

The Case For...

Come on, this is Alabama.

If any team in the country has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to roster holes, it's Saban's crew.

Nobody's comparing Blake Sims or Jake Coker to Tom Brady. Yet, those two quarterbacks not only led the Tide to SEC titles, but did so in highly prolific offenses—one of which (2014) set a program record with 484.5 yards per game, and the other produced a Heisman Trophy-winning running back and 5.89 yards per play.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is a wizard, and will always find a way. 

While there are legitimate concerns, quarterback contenders Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts are all ultratalented signal-callers who can manage Kiffin's offense. Plus, now's the time for the true No. 1 to shine.

"The summertime, when they come back from Memorial Day, is certainly a time when leadership has a chance to flourish because the coaches aren't around as much and aren't allowed to be out there when they are working out," Saban said at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta in May. 

Yes, the running back corps is as inexperienced as it has been at any point during Saban's 10-year tenure in Tuscaloosa, but Bo Scarbrough is a Derrick Henry clone who's a bit more shifty in space, and former 5-star running back Damien Harris has superstar written all over him after earning backup carries and playing special teams as a true freshman.

"Damien Harris had a really nice day," Saban said of Harris' 114-yard performance in the spring game. "[He] looked quick and explosive and he did a really nice job."

Is there a problem at center? Of course. After all, it's not every year that a center gets drafted in the first round like former Tide starter Ryan Kelly did in 2016. But Ross Pierschbacher's time last year as the starting guard for the Joe Moore Award-winning Tide offensive line should help him recognize protection schemes as he slides over one spot.

Defensively, the Tide shouldn't miss a beat. 

Getting safety Eddie Jackson back after he flirted with the NFL is huge, and Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick are supersophomores who should help the secondary become one of the nation's best. Jonathan Allen is back to lead the linemen in the trenches, and former 5-star Da'Shawn Hand will finally get a shot after learning the ropes for a couple of years.

Tim Williams should evolve into an every-down monster at outside linebacker—just as he was as a pass-rushing specialist a year ago. Yes, middle linebacker is a question, but Reuben Foster, Rahsaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton were all blue-chippers for a reason.

It's Alabama.

The faces may change, but the result stays the same.

 

The Case Against...

All good things must come to an end, and this is the year that Saban goes through a true "rebuilding year" and takes a step back in the SEC West.

After all, there's no veteran leadership at quarterback, the running back corps doesn't have a natural successor, the offensive line is more sizzle than steak and the schedule is much more brutal than it has been in years past—especially for a team with so many questions.

Bateman couldn't beat out Coker last year, Cornwell was an afterthought, Barnett tossed too many interceptions during spring practice sessions and Hurts' youth will prevent him from making a big impact.

"Somebody has got to take the bull by the horns, and sort of win the team over," Saban said in May. "That's not something that I can make happen or something that I can do for them."

In years past, Trent Richardson had experience behind Mark Ingram, Eddie Lacy behind Richardson, T.J. Yeldon behind Lacy and Henry behind Yeldon. Harris and Scarbrough combined for 261 rushing yards a year ago. The only time either had double-digit carries in a game was when both had 10 in mop-up duty against Charleston Southern.

Nothing against Charleston Southern, but the Buccaneers defense is just a bit different than that of LSU, USC, Ole Miss and Tennessee. 

Plus, the loss of Kelly is huge.

His absence in the 2013 Iron Bowl—when the Crimson Tide fell to Auburn in the de facto SEC West title game—was huge. His knee injury suffered in the 2014 loss to Ole Miss played a big part in that upset win for the Rebels. His absence the following game against Arkansas was a big reason the Crimson Tide struggled in a 14-13 win.

What's more, the Crimson Tide can't afford this much uncertainty based on how the schedule plays out.

USC's offense is loaded whether it's Max Browne or Sam Darnold taking the snaps, and can rattle the Tide prior to the start of SEC play. Ole Miss clearly has the Crimson Tide's number, and road trips to Tennessee and LSU will be too much for this relatively inexperienced group to overcome.

 

The Verdict...

Alabama isn't going anywhere.

Are things a bit more uncertain this year than they have been in the past? Yes, without a doubt.

Alabama is far from the invincible force that it is sometimes made out to be, and will have plenty of challenges this year along the way. 

But this crew—even though some new players will be in the mix—is well-versed on what it takes to win championships, which includes overcoming adversity on the field during games and the early losses that the program has experienced over each of the last two seasons.

Will Alabama win the SEC West for the third straight season? I think so, as pointed out in Optimistic, Pessimistic and Realistic SEC predictions

That road might be a little rockier this year, though, considering the amount of questions Saban has to answer.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football Q&A: Who Will Be the B1G's Breakout Quarterback in 2016?

We're nearly two months away from the start of the college football season and for perhaps the first time this offseason, Ohio State has stolen the spotlight from Michigan.

At least that's the case for those of us no longer wowed by Jim Harbaugh's wardrobe choices—as a jersey aficionado, I personally don't include myself in that category—and who are more impressed with Ohio State's landing of the nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 class (more on him later).

But regardless of where you allegiances lie, we can all agree that the actual college football season can't get here soon enough. With that in mind, let's get to this week's Big Ten Q&A, where we'll tackle the conference's breakout signal-caller, the Buckeyes' impending quarterback conundrum, Nebraska's recent Big Ten run and a star Michigan player's Heisman odds.

As always, you can send me your questions each week on Twitter @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.

 

In a year where the Big Ten has an odd mix of proven, unknown and somewhere-in-between quarterbacks, I'd argue only three signal-callers in the conference are disqualified from this discussion: Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, Iowa's C.J. Beathard and Minnesota's Mitch Leidner.

The rest are either entering their first seasons as starters, still fighting it out in quarterback battles or have enough room for improvement that a big 2016 would qualify for a breakout year.

And while I do think the reader's pick here, Illinois' Wes Lunt, is a viable candidate who should show plenty of growth under the direction of head coach Lovie Smith, I'm going across town for my own selection with Northwestern's Clayton Thorson.

In his first season as a starter in Evanston, Thorson enjoyed a mixed bag of results. On the one hand, the 6'4", 220-pounder led the Wildcats to a surprise 10-2 regular-season record, despite only being a redshirt freshman. On the other, Northwestern ranked last in the league in passing yards, as well as total offense, with Thorson throwing for just 117.1 yards per game.

But despite his shortcomings in his debut season, I'd expect for the Wheaton, Illinois, product to take a step forward in his development as a passer in his sophomore season. Already, Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald has praised the accelerated progress of his starting signal-caller entering the 2016 campaign, both physically and mentally.

"You can tell, even though he's a redshirt freshman, he's a wily veteran going through 13 battles of highs and lows, and good play and bad play, and wins and losses," Fitzgerald said, per Inside NU. "It's exciting, but he knows he's got a lot of things to improve in his game and I know they're working on it."

Add in that Thorson has arguably the best running back and one of the top defenses in the Big Ten to lean on, and it'd be a surprise to see him endure a sophomore slump. Other potential breakout QBs include Michigan State's Tyler O'Connor, Michigan's John O'Korn and, yes, perhaps even Lunt, but for now, Thorson's the pick to take his game to the next level in 2016.

 

The short answer: Urban Meyer.

The long one: Urban Meyer can really, really, really recruit.

In case you missed it, the Buckeyes bolstered what was already the nation's top-ranked 2017 class on Sunday when Tate Martell, the country's No. 1 overall dual-threat signal-caller, committed to spend his college career in Columbus. Assuming Martell's commitment sticks, that could leave Ohio State with a QB depth chart that consists of Barrett, Joe Burrow, Stephen Collier, Dwayne Haskins, Martell and fellow 2017 commit Danny Clark.

Of course, a lot can change between now and then, including Barrett turning pro and/or Clark decommitting. But what's perhaps most scary is we've seen Meyer stockpile this type of talent at quarterback before, even if a clear line of succession never came to fruition.

After all, this is the same head coach who once recruited Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and 5-star signal-caller John Brantley in consecutive classes during his time at Florida. Despite only one quarterback being able to play at a time, the reality remains that Meyer is going to try to add one in each class, and with his recruiting prowess, more times than not, it's going to be a highly touted player.

Plus, if there's one head coach in the country who realizes the value of having as many talented quarterbacks on a roster as possible, it's the one who's just over a year removed from having won a national title with his third-string signal-caller.

Transfers may happen, players may depart early and circumstances can switch on the drop of a dime. But one thing that won't change is the star power behind center in Columbus, so long as Meyer's around to recruit it.

 

First of all, I'm not sure I necessarily agree with this premise. While Johnny Manziel did provide some excitement in 2012 and 2013, Texas A&M is 36-16 in the past four seasons—a solid mark, albeit one that doesn't necessarily scream outright success.

Conversely, Nebraska's 43-23 mark in the past five years is comparable, although last year's 6-7 debut season under head coach Mike Riley did include some cause for concern.

But as I wrote earlier this week, the Cornhuskers possess plenty of promise entering 2016. For a variety of factors—including returning starters, a likely reversal of bad luck and a manageable but impressive schedule—Nebraska could very well be the Big Ten's sleeper team in the coming season, a bit like rival Iowa was a year ago.

As far as obtaining long-term success is concerned, the Huskers still have work to do. While glimpses of Big Ten contention have been seen here and there, none of it has been sustainable, whether it's been Bo Pelini or Riley on the sideline.

What's most promising for Nebraska is that Riley has recruited well since arriving in Lincoln a year ago, landing a top-25 class in 2016, with another on its way next February. But what would help the Cornhuskers the most would be a breakout year on the field, and it might only be a matter of a few months until one arrives.

 

I feel like I've answered questions and written stories about Jabrill Peppers on multiple occasions throughout this offseason, but he remains one of the most fascinating players in all the Big Ten. How often does one of the most—if not the most—talented players in a conference undergo a position change on a team expected to compete for a national title in the coming year?

(Although now that I think about it, I guess the same could have been said for Braxton Miller at Ohio State a year ago.)

Nevertheless, Peppers' position switch from safety to outside linebacker should increase his Heisman odds, seeing as his new role in defensive coordinator Don Brown's system should lend itself to more eye-popping stat lines. At the moment, the Michigan standout is unlisted on Odds Shark's Heisman odds, but a strong start to the season while playing for one of the country's most high-profile teams could certainly change that.

But no matter how impressive of a year Peppers puts together, actually making it to New York will be an uphill battle, as the Heisman voting process typically favors offensive players. Peppers does, however, possess the potential to pull a Manti Te'o and parlay his star power throughout the year into a late Heisman push, and as long as the Wolverines remain in the limelight, he will as well.

Right now, don't count on Peppers winding up in New York this December, but stranger things have happened. Between his talent and Michigan's new defensive coordinator's stat-friendly scheme, the numbers might simply be too good to ignore, regardless of which side of the ball Peppers plays on.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Summer Enrollees to Watch for

Tennessee's 2016 football recruiting class probably won't have the same immediate, necessary impact as the previous hauls corralled by coach Butch Jones, because the Volunteers don't have as many needs.

But that doesn't mean all the summer enrollees who've recently arrived in Knoxville will be standing on the sideline for a year as bystanders to a season many expect to be excellent. Several newcomers have an opportunity to play key roles.

Whether because of immense talent or some lingering shallow areas of depth that haven't quite been replenished, the Vols have some prospects who could secure vital roles on the team once the games begin.

Whereas a couple of seasons ago, Jones needed some players to believe in his "brick-by-brick" philosophy of rebuilding the program, high schoolers are coming to Knoxville for different reasons now. 

They're expecting to be part of something spectacular.

"When I was making my decision on which school to pick, I looked at teams that could win a national championship," said Ja'Quain Blakely, who won back-to-back state titles at Colquitt County in Georgia's largest classification level and the 2015 national title, according to SEC Country's Mike Griffith. "Winning a national title back home in high school makes me hungry to see what it's like to win a national title at the college level."

Blakely is a speedy linebacker who could find himself in the mix on special teams this year, but he may not play a significant role on coordinator Bob Shoop's defense because of all the depth on the outside.

Let's take a look at five of his fellow summer enrollees who may find themselves getting important snaps.

 

Nigel Warrior

You'll find few SEC prospects with a better pedigree and frenzied fanfare surrounding him than Warrior, Tennessee's prized legacy commitment who is one of the most college-ready players in the entire '16 class.

The 6'0", 186-pound 4-star safety from Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia, was coveted by all of the nation's top programs. Auburn, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Florida and others tried to woo him to their campuses. 

Ultimately, he chose to follow in his father Dale Carter's footsteps at Tennessee, where Carter was an All-American who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and became an NFL All-Pro. Warrior wants to make his own name on Shields-Watkins Field.

"I want to make my own path," he told Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Patrick Brown. "I want to follow his footsteps, but I want to do it in a different way. I want to do it better."

He'll have to bust open a loaded depth chart to do that this year, which takes a special player. Warrior certainly has that ability. The hard-hitting defensive back is versatile enough to play on the back end, but he also is fast enough in coverage where he could move over to corner.

He'll get his first crack at safety, where the Vols boast potential star players like Todd Kelly Jr., Rashaan Gaulden, Evan Berry and Micah Abernathy—all of which were once top-notch prospects.

Warrior has the highest ceiling of any of them, though. And while it may be asking a lot for a true freshman to overtake guys who have logged years in the program, you can't keep alpha dogs off the field. 

Warrior is an alpha. He'll command playing time before the season is over, and probably a lot of it.

 

Jonathan Kongbo

Another player with the ability to nestle a comfy depth-chart spot for himself in a crowded cluster of possible playmakers is Kongbo, the nation's top-ranked JUCO player who chose Tennessee over a host of competitors on the afternoon of national signing day.

The roller coaster that was Kongbo's recruitment played out in an ulcer-inducing manner for the Vols, who secured his commitment in the fall, watched as he decommitted and opened things up, seemed as if he'd stay out West, then flirted with Florida State, Ole Miss and Alabama.

During all that time, UT kept the heat applied, and Kongbo wound up choosing where he originally elected to go this time around.

Now with three years of eligibility remaining, the 6'5", 265-pound defensive end has the kind of upside that makes college coaches drool. He has the speed and burst to play off the edge, but he is also strong and big enough to shift inside and play defensive tackle situationally.

Kongbo certainly isn't shy about his aspirations. He wants to come in and dominate, and he also likes to take calculated jabs at rivals such as Alabama and Florida.

"Jonathan Kongbo got a little lecture from Coach Jones on the way over here from the airport of being humble, and just come in and stay off of Twitter," Jones told the crowd at one of his Big Orange Caravan stops, according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan.

Don't let the coach speak fool you, though. The Vols love the swagger, and that's the kind of attitude that can come in and join Derek Barnett in the starting lineup. UT has potentially dynamic ends in Corey Vereen, Kyle Phillips, Darrell Taylor, Austin Smith and LaTroy Lewis, but don't count out Kongbo.

He has the potential to be as good as anybody on the team if he can hone his raw skills in a hurry.

 

Tyler Byrd

Was Byrd's immediate playing-time stock helped or hurt when he announced via Twitter that he'd begin his Tennessee career as a wide receiver?

That remains to be seen, but the path to the field is unquestionably clearer on offense. 

The obstacles ahead of him on the other side of the ball already have been detailed in the Warrior discussion, but at receiver, the Vols have been looking for playmakers for three years. Tennessee should feel solidly about Josh Malone, Josh Smith and Preston Williams at the position, but, beyond that, it's open auditions.

A dynamic athlete from Naples, Florida, looked like an absolute star in the U.S. Army All-American Game every time he stepped on the field, no matter what side of the ball. While his upside may be higher as a defensive back, he has elite ability and change-of-direction on offense.

If his catching ability and route running get to where they need to be, it's not out of the question that the 4-star prospect who flipped from Miami in the 11th hour could work his way onto the field this year.

His work ethic was never questioned in high school, and 247Sports National Director of Scouting Barton Simmons raved about the leadership of Byrd (who was then committed to the Hurricanes) at the All-American Game.

Not only did Miami cornerback commit Tyler Byrd have a great game on Saturday and a strong week of practice, he also seems to have the character piece in place. Byrd was well-spoken and when the team was involved in some charity work during the week, Byrd was picking up trash and showing some real leadership off the field.

The Vols didn't turn up the pressure on Byrd to join his close friend, Carlin Fils-aime, in UT's recruiting class to stand over on the sideline and watch. Even if he doesn't quite know what he's doing out there just yet, you can get him the ball in space and watch him shine.

Tennessee needs difference-makers under passing game coordinator Zach Azzanni on offense. There have been too many players such as Marquez North and Von Pearson who never lived up to their potential in Jones' tenure. This new crop of receivers could. 

This list is filled with pass-catchers because that's where the greatest immediate need lies, and Byrd just may be the most physically gifted prospect in UT's entire class.

 

Marquez Callaway

The most polished receiver in Tennessee's class was a target for the longest time for the Vols before finally choosing them over Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and others.

At 6'2", 185 pounds, the 4-star Warner Robins, Georgia, native has solid size and speed, but while he's not a tree or a blazer, he just does everything well. Callaway runs solid routes, has adequate hands and is a good enough athlete that several teams tried to recruit him as a defensive back.

His versatility also will make up for what rawness he possesses in his skill set.

Receiver is where Tennessee saw his future, and he'll step in and be able to compete for a spot in the rotation right away. He looks like a perfect fit for the slot receiver position with his wiggle and ability to change direction in space.

Callaway is the kind of player who can take a short pass, make a defender miss and get a lot of yards in a hurry. He has been impressive so far, according to GoVols247's Wes Rucker:

Anyone who has watched or read Moneyball knows that someone looking like a great player doesn’t always mean they’re a great player, but the fact is Callaway in particular looks like one to watch going forward. He absolutely aces the eyeball test. He physically resembles an older player, and the hope is that he’ll play as good as he looks.

If that happens, the Vols may wind up being pretty strong in the receiving corps, after all, even with a bunch of new faces.

 

Latrell Williams

The biggest wild card on this list is a player that many Vols fans who follow recruiting religiously hadn't even heard of a month before national signing day.

Williams, then, was a little-known South Florida commitment from Lake City, Florida, who'd flown under the radar. But flying on the football field is what ultimately got him noticed.

Miami came calling first, and the 5'11", 171-pound speedster receiver from Columbia High School pledged to the Hurricanes in January, flipping from the Bulls. The Vols wound up calling with new assistant Larry Scott, though, and Williams changed his mind and signed with UT on national signing day.

In what was a class tight on numbers, UT felt like it couldn't pass up on speed like Williams'. There's nobody like him on Tennessee's entire roster.

So, even though 247Sports has him as the No. 714-ranked overall player in the class and a 3-star prospect that is mired among commitments from third-tier schools, Williams is a prospect everybody who follows the Orange and White should be excited about.

Williams is raw, but you just can't teach speed like he has, running somewhere in the 4.3s, according to his 247Sports profile. That's the kind of player you just throw quick hitches to and watch what happens next.

Given that UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs will make his living in the short passing game this year, Williams seems to fit right in. Also, if necessary, he has the wheels to stretch the field.

Callaway may be more polished, and Byrd may be the better athlete, but Williams has something that few wearing the Power T have: He can change the game with just a few strides. That may be his ticket to 2016 playing time.

 

All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can 5-Star CB Stanford Samuels Make Immediate Impact for Florida State?

The Florida State Seminoles secured another elite defensive back recruit on Thursday, landing a legacy commitment from coveted cornerback Stanford Samuels III.

The 5-star prospect publicly revealed his intentions via Twitter:

He is the son of Stanford Samuels Jr., a former Florida State starter at cornerback who played with the program through 2003. The elder Samuels is approaching his first season as head coach at Flanagan High School (Broward County, Florida), where the Seminoles' newest pledge is a rising senior.

Samuels Jr. replaced fellow former Florida State standout Devin Bush Sr., who joined the University of Michigan staff shortly after his son, Devin Bush Jr., signed with the Wolverines over the Seminoles.

There won't be a repeat performance of a lost legacy this time around, as Samuels III confirmed Thursday what analysts have widely anticipated since early stages of his high school career.

All 21 expert predictions in Samuels' 247Sports Crystal Ball projected him to spend college in Tallahassee. More than 40 universities extended a scholarship, including Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan and UCLA.

Expectations will be immense when he arrives on campus, as noted by Scout.com analyst Chad Simmons:

Rated No. 3 nationally among cornerbacks and No. 23 overall in the 2017 class, Samuels becomes the crown jewel of an impressive Florida State talent haul.

As he revealed via Twitter, 4-star safety Daniel Wright committed to Florida State on Wednesday. The Seminoles now carry 10 commitments in a class that rates No. 6 overall and No. 1 among ACC programs in 247Sports' composite rankings.

The Seminoles staff has done an outstanding job of stockpiling prized prospects throughout a star-studded secondary during recent cycles. Despite serious competition, Samuels has the size and skill set to rapidly surge up Florida State's depth chart.

Following an early-March conversation with the cornerback, Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani pointed out that Samuels studies film of current Florida State star Derwin James and No. 5 overall 2016 NFL draft pick Jalen Ramsey, who reigned in the Seminoles' backfield from 2013 to 2015. 

“[The Seminoles] are used to winning," he told Kirpalani. "They are always going to win and produce great players. They always develop guys that go on to the NFL."

James, a rising sophomore safety, should have NFL scouts salivating throughout the remainder of his college career. Fellow class of 2015 signees Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis may be poised for breakout campaigns at boundary cornerback.

While these emerging young players have a strong chance to develop into mainstay secondary members through at least 2017, there will be room for Samuels to make an immediate impact.

Standing at 6'2", 175 pounds, this rangy defender is well prepared for the rigors of college football and attacks opponents with exceptional technique.

“I’ve been playing football since I was born,” he told Kirpalani. “[My father] put a football in my hands. Since I was born, that’s what I’ve loved to do. I always expected to be here because that was what was expected of me growing up.”

Marquez White, a returning Florida State starter at cornerback, is a senior. Upon his departure, the staff could look to Samuels as a promising candidate to carve out an expansive role in the positional rotation.

B/R broke down the newest Seminoles acquisition this past winter during its CFB Future 100 series:

The first thing you notice about Samuels is his physical nature. His aggressive play and overall tenacity oftentimes lead to jarring hits that belong on his highlight tape. ... Although he hits like a safety or linebacker, his coverage skills quickly remind coaches he's a pure cornerback. He is comfortable on an island and uses his length to make plays in the air. He has the measurables of a solid cornerback and can be a big-time playmaker at the next level.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter @TDsTake.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

25 Best Overall Position Groups for 2016 College Football Season

Superstars grab the most attention, but a select group of college football teams stocked their rosters with outstanding talent at one position.

These programs either boast an elite starter complemented by excellent backups—such as at quarterback, for example—or built a dangerous starting unit composed of a few players.

Four schools placed two units on the list, which is organized alphabetically and factors in a team's competition, so "Group of Five" squads are not shut out.

Being included doesn't necessarily mean the units will be the most productive in 2016, but their talent levels are unmatched on paper.

Begin Slideshow

Stanford Samuels to FSU: Seminoles Land 5-Star CB Prospect

Florida State secured the commitment of 5-star cornerback Stanford Samuels III on Thursday.

Samuels took to Twitter to announce his decision:

The 6'2", 175-pound corner from Charles W. Flanagan High School in Hollywood, Florida, is considered the No. 3 cornerback in the nation, the No. 5 player from the state of Florida and the No. 23 prospect overall, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Scout.com offered the following report on the big corner:

Samuels III is how you draw up big-time corners in today's game. Size can be looked at as a strength or area for improvement because his length is off the charts, but yet he is thin, so he needs to add mass/strength. He gets his hands on a lot of passes and his recovery speed is a real strength. Not afraid to come up and make a play against the run. Very instinctive player, can bait the quarterback, and then make a play on the ball.

Samuels has been catching the eye of major college recruiters for some time now and spoke with Bleacher Report in March 2015 about his inspirations and his style of play:

Samuels' father, Stanford Samuels Jr., played his college football at Florida State and won a national championship with the Seminoles in 1999. Samuels called his father "my hardest critic and my biggest fan," per Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat, so the college experience shouldn't be a major adjustment to Samuels, who will have his father's experience to lean on.

He certainly has the look of an impact player at the next level, especially if he bulks up. The Seminoles will be expecting him to become a star at the cornerback position and lock down opposing wideouts during his time on campus.

Following his father to Tallahassee has to be a thrill for Samuels, and he should have an edge as he gears up for all that playing at FSU's high-profile program entails. With a strong pedigree, a familiarity factor with the school and a high-end skill set on his side, Samuels seems destined for success as a Seminole.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top 10 Nike Uniforms in College Football

What name is the most prominent in college football right now? Some might say defending national champion Alabama. Others may say Jim Harbaugh. People will also argue for players such as Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey or Deshaun Watson.

But the real answer might be Nike.

According to Zach Barnett of Football Scoop, Nike entered 2015 with contracts for 68 of the 128 FBS schools in college football—a little more than half. That's more than twice as many as the second-biggest brand, Adidas. And the apparel giant is always looking to add more, as Michigan will be the first college football program to be outfitted with Nike's Jordan brand later this year.

Nike is the king of college football uniforms, and it has some of the most unique and innovative designs in the country. Every season, dozens of programs get tweaks, alternates or brand-new base uniforms from Nike.

As we're in the doldrums of the offseason, let's take a look at the 10 best uniforms from Nike in college football. Keep in mind that this ultimately comes down to the opinion of one writer, and everyone has their own personal taste for what they like in a uniform. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that includes college football unis.

Shout out your favorite Nike threads in the world of college football in the comments below.

Begin Slideshow

Justin Sweet Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and More on Colorado State DB

Colorado State defensive back Justin Sweet was arrested early Wednesday on suspicion of drunk driving in Larimer County, Colorado. 

Kelly Lyell of the Coloradoan reported Sweet was booked on charges of "speeding, driving under the influence/driving while ability impaired by drugs or alcohol and driving a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or more."

Arrest Nation passed along the defender's mugshot:

The Coloradoan noted sheriff's spokesman David Moore stated Sweet was arrested at an intersection near the Colorado State University campus. He was released on bond shortly before 8 a.m. local time Wednesday.

A school spokesman told the outlet Rams head coach Mike Bobo was unavailable to comment on the matter because he's away at a satellite camp. A full arrest report with further details about the incident also hasn't become publicly available yet.

Sweet joined Colorado State as a 2-star prospect out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas in 2013, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

The redshirt junior has played sparingly, registering just six total tackles in five games last season, but he's expected to compete for a starting safety job this fall.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest College Football Locks of the Year for 2016

There are few certainties in life. Good thing the same isn't the case for college football.

We're still a few months away from the start of the 2016 season, but thankfully we can get a jump on handicapping the game thanks to early lines that have been released. A quick scan of what's out there shows there are some sure things during the opening week of action, often referred to as “locks,” that can be had if you know what to look for.

If not, we've got your back. Based on what we know at this point, we've picked out a few “locks” for Week 1, as well as some sure-to-happen predictions for the entire 2016 season.

Feel free to add your “locks” in the comments section.

 

NOTE: All odds are courtesy of OddsShark.com unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Why Nebraska Will Be the Sleeper of Big Ten Football in 2016

As time expired inside of Memorial Stadium on college football's opening weekend, BYU backup quarterback Tanner Mangum rolled out and heaved a 42-yard pass into the arms of Mitch Mathews, completing a game-clinching Hail Mary to seal a 33-28 Cougars comeback victory over Nebraska.

At the time, it seemed like nothing more than bad luck—a brutal way for the Cornhuskers to lose their first game of the Mike Riley era.

What it wound up being was a microcosm of Nebraska's 2015 season.

"I'd have to look back a ways, I don't think I've ever really seen this before," Riley told reporters after a 23-21 loss to Wisconsin sealed a fourth defeat by a combined 11 points six games into the season.

But with the 2016 season now approaching, good news could soon be on the horizon for the Huskers. Despite its poor fortune a season ago, Nebraska appears to possess all of the makings of a Big Ten sleeper team with a logical pathway that could ultimately send the Huskers to the College Football Playoff.

Why has Nebraska, coming off a losing season, emerged as the best bet to become this year's version of last year's Iowa?

 

Returning roster

In some cases, a college football team getting "another crack at it" is relative, given the turnover that happens on each roster from season to season. Even with returning star power, the reality is that no team in the sport is truly the same from one year to the next.

But in 2016, Nebraska will be pretty close.

Returning a combined 14 starters from the depth chart used in their season-ending victory over UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl, the Huskers will bring back 78 percent of their overall production from last year's team, according to SBNation's Bill Connelly—the second-highest return rate in the entire Big Ten.

Offensively, there won't be a team in the conference more capable of relying on experience than Nebraska, with eight starters and a Big Ten-high 94 percent of its output from a year ago back in the fold—including quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., running back Terrell Newby and its top six leading receivers from 2015.

In a year where significant losses among the conference's top contenders are commonplace, the Huskers' proven production will serve as one their most valuable assets.

And with another year of experience in Riley's pro-style system, an already impressive offense should only improve in the coming year.

"Having a full year under our belts with this new staff—it's been a crazy ride so far," said receiver Jordan Westerkamp said, per Eric Olson of the Associated Press. "It's been a good one and we've learned a lot, gone through a lot with this coaching staff. It was huge for us this winter, coming off that win against UCLA."

Defensively, Nebraska finds itself less fortunate when it comes to returning talent—especially on a defensive line replacing all four starters from a year ago, including Dallas Cowboys third-round pick Maliek Collins.

But the Cornhuskers bring back all three of their starting linebackers and three of their four starters in the secondary to a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally against the run and showed flashes in between its inconsistencies against the pass in 2015.

Much like its offensive counterpart, Nebraska's defense should benefit from another year in defensive coordinator Mark Banker's system.

It may be too early to proclaim the Blackshirts as "back" just yet, but if the Huskers once again fall short in 2016, talent won't be the reason why. 

 

Luck's got something to do with it

Even with all of its returning talent from a year ago, this reality for Nebraska remains: All of that experience returns from a team that accumulated just a 5-7 regular-season record in 2015, before a technicality allowed it into postseason play.

In other words, what good are all these returning players if the players didn't live up to expectations a year ago?

While that's a fair question, advanced stats show a 2015 Nebraska team that was better than its record indicated. According to Connelly, the Huskers' profile was more consistent of a team with a 7-5 record than a 5-7 mark. That would have only increased the optimism for Nebraska coming off a bowl win over UCLA, which ranked seventh in the nation at one point in the 2015 campaign.

Despite their top-10 rushing defense and one of the Big Ten's top offenses, the Huskers never quite seemed capable of evading the same bad luck that plagued them in their heartbreaking opener.

Five of Nebraska's seven defeats on the season came by fewer than five points, with neither of the other two exceeding a margin of 10.

The Huskers managed to keep games close despite ranking 117th out of 128 teams in turnover margin, a game-altering indicator that at least in some part can be attributed to luck. Per Connelly, Nebraska's adjusted turnover margin—which accounts for luck—would have ranked closer to 61st in the country, a difference of nearly 12 turnovers throughout the Huskers' season.

Factor that into Nebraska's steady rate of one-score games, and it's not hard to see how last season could have ended with a much more favorable bottom line in Lincoln.

 

Strong slate

This is where it might get tricky for the Huskers in the coming year.

While the numbers suggest a team more likely to show vast improvement than repeat a disappointing outcome, Nebraska still has to get it done on the field, and its 2016 schedule is hardly a cakewalk.

After topping off their out-of-conference slate with a game against Oregon, the Huskers' first nine-game Big Ten schedule will feature six bowl teams from a year ago, including a cross-divisional game against mighty Ohio State.

What's more is, outside of Wisconsin, you may not find a team in the conference with three tougher road games ahead than Nebraska, which will travel to Madison to play the Badgers, Columbus to take on the Buckeyes and Iowa City to play rival and defending Big Ten West champ Iowa at season's end.

But a strong schedule can also serve as a double-edged sword, as the Huskers will possess no shortage of quality wins should they manage their slate successfully.

Split the back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State, and Nebraska could very well control its Big Ten West destiny heading into its regular-season finale against the Hawkeyes. Win the Big Ten Championship, and at the very least, the Huskers will find themselves in the discussion to qualify for the College Football Playoff.

Of course, accomplishing all of that while coming off a 5-7 season will be easier said than done. It might even take some luck.

But if there's a team in the Big Ten due for some good fortune in the coming year—and dating back to last year's Hail Mary defeat—you'd be hard-pressed to find a more qualified candidate than Nebraska.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Extra Points: Should Florida Fans Be Angry with Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer?

With one graphic, Florida fans went mad.

Tim Tebow—legendary Gator, 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion—was featured on a recruiting graphic spread for Ohio State and former Gator and current Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer.

This, predictably, has left Florida fans and those paid to give opinions a bit conflicted.

I get the frustration.

In an ideal world, Tebow would be associated with Florida and only Florida for the rest of his life. Plus, Ohio State and Florida occasionally swim in the same recruiting pool for 5- and 4-star players, which only would add to the tension.

But college football is a transient world where coaches jump to other jobs on a regular basis and players develop loyalty to a variety of different programs and people who helped them along the way.

It's OK for Tebow to help out Meyer and Florida at the same time.

It's not like he's just a former college football star. He's a megastar. He's a lightning rod. He's somebody who is widely known across the sporting and entertainment worlds, and the primary reason is his success from his college football days at Florida.

Show me a high school player who sees Tebow's face and doesn't initially think of the Florida program, and I'll show you a liar.

Tebow should be proud of his time at Florida—a place where a statue of the former superstar stands alongside fellow Heisman Trophy winners Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel. He also should be proud of his time with Meyer—a man who made him a two-time national champion and one of the most decorated quarterbacks in SEC history and who revolutionized SEC offenses thanks to Tebow's ability.

He doesn't have to be one or the other.

Besides, if current head coach Jim McElwain isn't talking up Tebow when prospects are in Gainesville, he's doing it wrong.

 

It's That Time Of Year

The SEC Network tweeted some superlatives from ESPN The Magazine's college football preview, and its picks for Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year are rather chalky.

Kelly put up the third-best offensive season in SEC history last year at Ole Miss when he gained a total of 4,542 yards and scored 41 total touchdowns (31 passing, 10 rushing). Garrett led all SEC players with 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss last year for Texas A&M and is as close to a Jadeveon Clowney clone as there is in the SEC right now.

You could make an argument that some other players like LSU running back Leonard Fournette or Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor could take those titles, respectively, but it's tough to have an issue with the publication siding with Kelly and Garrett.

I do have a couple of issues with its predicted order of finish in each division, though.

What has become clear over the course of the offseason is that LSU is this year's version of Auburn circa 2015: That team that has a load of talent that people will assume will solve some roster holes without much actual indication that it actually has.

Did I miss the part of the offseason when head coach Les Miles became more creative offensively and chose to unleash an effective downfield passing attack that takes pressure off Fournette, and when quarterback Brandon Harris became more consistent in the passing game?

LSU can boast as much returning talent defensively as it wants. That's not the issue.

Alabama has earned the benefit of the doubt in the West, and Ole Miss has to a lesser extent. LSU has not, which makes its ceiling far from its floor (as described in Optimistic, Pessimistic and Realistic SEC predictions from earlier this week).

On the East side, Vanderbilt is getting criticized for simply being Vanderbilt, yet again.

The Commodores—who did finish fourth in the SEC East last year, which apparently went unnoticed—will not finish last in what is a transition year for several division foes.

When you have a guy like Ralph Webb—who broke the 1,000-yard mark on the ground in a painfully one-dimensional offense—a solid defense led by linebacker Zach Cunningham and defensive backs Oren Burks and Torren McGaster, you're going to be in every game. 

A full offseason should benefit likely quarterback Kyle Shurmur, who just has to find a way to be a threat downfield in order for the Commodores to make a bowl game.

 

Fraternizing With The Media

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hosted a dinner at his house for the members of the Auburn beat Tuesday night, which led some—including Chadd Scott of GridironNow.com—to criticize the fourth-year coach of the Tigers and suggest that it's a sign that he's feeling the pressure of being on the hot seat.

That's a bit of a reach.

While it is a bit unusual for a head coach to invite members of the media over to his house, and certainly can be perceived as an attempt to curry favor heading into a critical year, it isn't that big of a deal.

Not one of the 15 people who were there with the Malzahns will or should be swayed by a night out with somebody who they see and talk to on a professional basis every week. If they are, then they should be fired.

Media members are loyal to themselves and their own livelihood. If a beat writer gets a tip about a player's injury that he or she can confirm, that's going to get out whether the school wants it to or not. That's the job of said member of the media.

The thought, "Hey, maybe I shouldn't publish this because of that dinner that I had one time at the Malzahn's house" would never under any circumstances enter his or her mind.

Now if certain members of the media don't feel comfortable going to the house of somebody they cover because they feel it's unethical, that's fine. I disagree but certainly understand that side of the argument. There's also a very simple solution to that problem—just don't go.

It's just dinner. 

Besides, there are way more than 15 people who will have opinions and insights into his status as Auburn's head coach this fall, none of whom enjoyed a night out with the Malzahns.

 

Foley's Replacement

Florida threw a curveball this week when it announced that longtime athletics director Jeremy Foley will retire effective October 1, ending 25 years at the helm of the program.

During that time, Florida has established itself as a monster. Gator athletic programs won 27 national titles during Foley's time in Gainesville, including football national titles in 1996, 2006 and 2008. 

"So many memories," Foley said in an emailed statement. "Of championships won. Of teams setting goals and then achieving them. The passion shown by Florida fans across the state, nation and world. Those letters or emails from student-athletes after they receive their degrees, so appreciative of their Gator experience."

So where will Florida go from here? 

There have been plenty of names tossed out there, including, as Robert Judin of CampusInsiders.com pointed out, Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity and former Florida and South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier.

Both of those names are way too high-profile for what Florida needs.

Foley was a rarity in college athletics. He owned every decision—good (like hiring Meyer in 2005) and bad (like hiring Will Muschamp to replace him and hiring Ron Zook to replace Spurrier). He rarely used search firms, kept things in-house and treated all sports as equal, which helped the entire athletic department thrive.

The people who can best replicate that are the people who learned from him. 

Yes, McGarity is one of those people. But would he really make a lateral move? A good gig is a good gig, and he has found a home in Athens.

Adam Silverstein of OnlyGators.com put together a comprehensive list of candidates, and many of them are people you've probably never heard of. That's because three of the top six worked under Foley and should be able to step in without missing a beat.

It certainly won't be Spurrier, though. Do you really think he wants to run an athletic department? That would take way too much time away from the golf course for the Head Ball Coach.

 

Quick Outs

  • After banning the bands of opposing teams from playing at halftime of football games last year due to safety issues with getting them on the field, LSU has pulled a 180 and will continue to allow them to perform, according to Ross Dellenger of the Advocate. It's a good move. If the opposing team brings its band, let those students have their moment on the field of one of the great stadiums in college football. After all, who are they really hurting by playing?
  • Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin isn't holding back, defending his program from what he feels is a blatant misconception about the state of everything Aggie. "A lot of people don’t think we’re very good," he said late last week, according to Olin Buchanan of TexAgs.com. "A lot of people think this organization is in disarray. It’s far from it." The coaching staff might be the best Sumlin has had during his time in College Station, but with games against UCLA, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee before the mid-October bye week, perception could become reality if Sumlin's crew doesn't get off to a hot start.
  • Former Georgia wide receiver/quarterback/athlete and Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward weighed in on Georgia's quarterback battle and wants head coach Kirby Smart to start true freshman Jacob Eason, according to WXIA 11 Alive in Atlanta. I'm with him. The upside for Brice Ramsey and Greyson Lambert isn't that high, and letting Eason learn on the fly will set Georgia up well for the future.

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ty'Son Williams Transferring from UNC: Latest Comments and Reaction

After just one season, sophomore running back Ty'Son Williams is transferring from North Carolina.

According to Andrew Carter of the News & Observer, UNC football spokesman Kevin Best revealed the Sumter, South Carolina, native's decision.

Williams was used sparingly as a freshman last season, rushing for just 57 yards on 19 carries and failing to find the end zone.

He ranked sixth on the team in rushing and was slated to be behind returning leading rusher Elijah Hood as well as T.J. Logan on the depth chart.

Neither Williams nor Best announced where the 6'0", 220-pound running back intends to transfer.

The former Crestwood High School standout was rated a 4-star recruit and ranked as the No. 22 running back and No. 280 overall player in his class by 247Sports.

Losing him doesn't figure to have much of an immediate impact on the Tar Heels since Hood is a reigning All-ACC selection, but Williams' departure could come back to haunt them down the line if he lives up to his potential elsewhere.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Daniel Wright to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

Florida's best prep safety is staying in the state. Daniel Wright, a 4-star recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, committed to Florida State on Wednesday:

Wright chose the Seminoles over offers from Alabama, Florida and a number of other major southern programs. The 6'1", 187-pound safety is considered the No. 129 player overall, the No. 12 player at his position and the No. 26 player in the state of Florida, per 247Sports' composite rankings. He'll join fellow 4-star safety Cyrus Fagan, who committed to FSU in February.

”My ability on the field is something special,” Wright said in 2015, per Jason Higdon of Scout.com. “I give my all from the start to the finish 120 percent.” 

Like all early commitments, Wright's verbal is nonbinding. He can reopen his recruitment at any point between now and national signing day in February. While that's a point to note with all verbals, Wright's recruitment has not been much of a surprise.

247Sports' crystal ball rankings gave Florida State a 100 percent chance of landing him, and he's long been a target of head coach Jimbo Fisher. The in-state ties made trips to Tallahassee much easier than out-of-state official visits, and Fisher has been accommodating to Wright throughout the process.

“It almost is like another home so I can get along there,” Wright said, per the Palm Beach Post's Tom D'Angelo.

In the end, Wright choosing Florida State is a major early boost to its recruiting efforts. The Seminoles have been a recruiting hotbed under Fisher, bringing in touted recruits at rates only rivaled by Alabama and Ohio State. There's no question Wright will be among the building blocks of the 2017 class and could put FSU on pace for a ranking inside the top 10.

247Sports currently has the Seminoles 10th in its rankings.

As it stands, Florida State is getting a ready-made prospect who might step in immediately if he adds some bulk. He has the speed and understanding of complex defenses necessary to get the job done, so it'll be up to him to put in the work over the next year before his arrival.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Corey Robinson, Notre Dame WR, Will Not Play Senior Season Due to Concussions

Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson announced Wednesday that will not play his senior season for the Fighting Irish because of concerns over repeated concussions.

"After much contemplation and prayer, I have decided not to continue playing football due to multiple concussions," Robinson said. "I couldn't have come to this difficult personal decision without the incredible support from so many within the Notre Dame football program.

"I am extremely thankful to Coach [Brian] Kelly and his staff for the life-changing opportunity to play football at the greatest university in the world. I will continue to help our team as a student assistant and look forward to a great senior year." 

Robinson, the son of Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson, suffered three concussions over the past year. He suffered his most recent during spring practice and announced in April that he was considering his future in the sport. 

"This was an extremely tough decision for Corey," Kelly said in a statement, per Nick Ironside of 247Sports. "He's such a committed kid to everything he does—whether it be academics, football, community service or campus leadership initiatives—that he wanted to finish his four-year career on the field. He was so excited to lead a group of young receivers this fall."

Robinson would have been the Irish's second-leading returning receiver in 2016. He made 16 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown as part of a Notre Dame team that reached the Fiesta Bowl last season. Overall, Robinson made 65 receptions for 896 yards and seven touchdowns over the course of his three-year career.  

The Irish receiver's decision is just the latest in a series of concussion-related early retirements from the sport. Texas quarterback David Ash and Michigan center Jack Miller have prematurely walked away in recent years due to concussions. In the NFL, the likes of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland and Buffalo Bills linebacker A.J. Tarpley have retired over their fears of their long-term health.

According to Jason M. Breslow of Frontline, a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University found that 96 percent of NFL players' brains they studied showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition linked to repetitive head trauma. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages